Questions tagged [palaeontology]

Palaeontology is the study of organisms that lived in prehistoric times.

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Examples of species whose extinct common ancestor is well documented?

If we follow the ascendence line of two closely related species we can build a "Theoretical" common ancestor, whose characteristics were inherited with few differences by the offspring. <...
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What were the mammal ancestors like 65 million years ago?

What we know about our mammal ancestors that were alive (and survived) at the extinction event 65 million years ago?
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Oldest Triceratops fossil

In most books, Triceratops is listed to live between 68-66 MYA (million years ago), however some books list Triceratops as living between 70-66 MYA. The Campanian age ended about 72 MYA and then came ...
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Were there any marine/aquatic dinosaurs?

Most dinosaurs were terrestrial, but there were a couple of groups of arboreal and flying dinosaurs (microraptors, birds etc). I have read that the theory that Brachiosaurids were aquatic has been ...
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Are there any known plesiomorphies of all living mammals relative to a newer trait state in all living reptiles?

If I understand how a "trait" is defined, a turtle's shell is a synapomorphy relative to mammals and the common ancestor of living amniotes. The same would go for a snake's limblessness, etc. But are ...
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Can you identify this fossil?

I found this fossil near a beach in Victoria, Australia. Can anyone identify it? It is roughly the size of an Australian 20 cent piece (~30 mm). I think it might have been washed down from an eroding ...
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What is this fossilized claw found in a Belgian forest?

What is this fossilized claw found in a Belgian forest? It is 14.5 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter.
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Is there more biomass on earth today than there was in the past?

Is there more, (or less) matter on earth sequestered as a part of biological systems than there was at any(arbitrary) time in the past? Edit: I realise I don't have a specific question, and was ...
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Is Urea excretion a shared ancestral trait of amphibians and mammals relative to synapomorphic Uric Acid excretion in living reptiles?

Is the ancestral condition of prehistoric amphibians and early amniotes urea excretion? Would it follow then that the lineage leading to living reptiles went on to evolve uric acid excretion as a ...
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Identifying Some Kind Of Fossil

This was found off the coast of Ireland by a friend of mine. The running gag is it's some kind of fetish or totem and should be immediately discarded, but we're interested in whether it's perhaps a ...
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Were there any vertebrates with 6 or more limbs?

My question is actually a bit more broad than what's in the title, but I don't know how to put it succinctly. When I was trying to find the answer to that question, I found that all known terrestrial ...
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What's this fossil?

I've no experience on the field. The picture below is a gift given to me and I've completely forgotten what was the name of it. I think it was something like "umanite" but I don't know. It was found ...
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What is the current thinking on the typicality (or otherwise) of fossils as representatives of their species?

Since fossil records represent a tiny percentage of species populations, how do paleontologists determine how typical those specimens are? Is there any research or analysis to determine how the ...
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How old would seashells be if I found them 9 ft deep 30 miles from the ocean while digging a pond in North Carolina

This is a picture of some specimens that I found while digging a pond. I'm 30 miles from the coast in Wilmington, North Carolina and dug down about nine feet past the blue clay and hit a layer of ...
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Is there a way tell apart dinosaurs from similar extinct reptiles?

When I was a child, I thought I knew what a dinosaur was. But, as I grew older, I was told that many of the extinct species that I thought were dinosaurs (dimetrodons, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, etc.) ...
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Why are mammals the only animals with pinnae / outer ears?

Yes, I know owls have feathery "ear tufts", but these are less suited for hearing and more for display. And I find it hard to believe that animals like dinosaurs or other cursorial archosaurs would ...
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Is the Lucy fossil really what scientists claim it is?

The New Scientist has an article talking about how a baboon bone was found in the Lucy skeleton. Creationist sites like this, https://christiannews.net/2015/04/23/evolutionary-embarrassment-part-of-...
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How many different species have existed on Earth?

NOTE: Someone else asked this same question a few years back, but it was incorrectly marked as a duplicate and so the question may not have been answered satisfactorily. I'm asking it again, in hopes ...
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Were there any flying dinosaurs?

I've seen some articles which came in contradiction with each other. The first article was talking about flying dinosaurs, dinosaurs with feathers and so on. A couple of other articles are talking ...
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What sauropod genera had a double row of chevron bones in the tail?

I know that Diplodocus is marked by the feature of having a double row of or "double-beamed" chevron bones in the tail, but how diagnostic is this feature if several other sauropods have it? I mean, ...
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Limbs in synapsids

Within synapsids, there was a change from a lizard-like sprawling posture (like in pelycosaurs) to a more erect stance. Non-eucynodont eutherapsids seem to have had a facultatively erect hindlimb and ...
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How do we know that ammonites are a kind of cephalopod rather than another type of mollusc?

On a recent fossil hunting trip, I found a small fossil that an expert identified for me as an ammonite beak. He told me such fossils are not uncommon, but are not normally found with their parent ...
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Is this an imprint of a fossil?

I found this stone in the arizona desert. Sort of far from humans on the side of a Butte
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What is the etymology of “moura” in Mourasuchus?

Mourasuchus is a unique species of prehistoric crocodile so far discovered. It is a filter-feeder and has shared its habitat with Gryposuchus and the more fearsome Purussaurus in the Miocene Era -- ...
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How do biologists discover information from fossils? [closed]

I have a query about the study of fossils (palaeontology). Let me know about the study of fossils. How do biologist discover "DNA" information from dead and old fossils such as a dinosaur? (answer ...
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Up to date, extensive documentary about dinosaurs? [closed]

I just finished reading the Wikipedia page about dinosaurs, and I very much enjoyed it. I knew that much of what I learned in the 80's as a child is (and was) incorrect, and now that I am a parent, I ...
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Are Triceratops and Eotriceratops similar enough to be considered as the same genus?

Everybody knows Triceratops, the horned dinosaur from Late Cretaceous North America, who lived 68-66 MYA. In 2007, Eotriceratops xerinsularis was named and described (Wikipedia). It lived in (what is ...
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How could this fossil's soft tissue be preserved so well?

I found this article for non biologists like myself. It describes, how astounding fossils were found in China. They belong to a crustacean like animal that lived more than 500 Ma ago. The exciting ...
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What is the term for a given interpretation of a fossil record?

There exists a term, that I have heard and forgotten it appears, for taking a described species in paleontology and creating a version of what it was like in life. For example, a prior ...
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How do we predict the lifespan of dinosaurs?

Of course, they are fossils now. I found a link here which states that herbivors lived far longer than carnivores. The example being a T-Rex being "old" at 29, and a herbivorous Bothriospondylus ...
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The size of the Triceratops specimen Lane in the Houston Museum of Natural Science

In 2012 the Houston Museum of Natural Science published they discovered an almost complete fossil of Triceratops including fossilized skin, see HMNS post, and nicknamed it "Lane". I am interested to ...
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Why is history not called science even though palaeontology is? [closed]

In the scientific method, we propose models to explain a phenomenon and propose falsifiable tests for it. In palaeontology, we cannot do direct tests to verify our models, but we still make ...
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What is this row of pits along the “upper lip” of theropod skulls?

Consider the row of pits visible in the "upper lip" area (and to some extent, the "lower lip" too) of this T-Rex skull at the Palais de la Découverte, Paris (picture from Wikipedia): I noticed ...
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Bite Force of Triceratops

Estimations (or measurements) of bite force is usually conducted for toothy predators like sharks, theropod dinosaurs and crocodiles. For example: Tyrannosaurus had a bite force of about 57 kN (about ...
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Palaeontology and Palaeobotany

Could someone please clarify the roles and differences between palaeontology and palaeobotany. My textbook says the palaeobotanists study plant and animal fossils, but other sources say that this is ...
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How is the first Triceratops born?

To clarify at first, I have very little knowledge in biology and paleontology so there might be very obvious things I overlook. According to the evolution theory, there must be a graduate evolution ...
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Size of Apatosaurus

What are the current and up-to-date estimates of the size of the big sauropod dinosaur Apatosaurus (the biggest species of it) in terms of mass range (weight) and total length? I prefer the answer in ...
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Size of Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum

In most books the size of long-necked sauropod Mamenchisaurus is stated as about 26 meters. Recently, a huge specimen of Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum was discovered. However, Gregory S. Paul ...
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What does it mean for a type of plant to “vegatatively dominate” as opposed to “taxonomically dominate”?

I'm reading Plants and the K-T Boundary, by Douglas Nichols and Kirk Johnson. On page forty-seven the authors write the following: "By the Campanian many floras were vegetatively co-dominated by ...
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MLE estimation with Mk model in ape or phangorn?

When doing MLE with the R package ape or phangorn, is it possible to set the substitution model to Mk? If so, how does one do this?
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What species of Cerapoda lived during the Jurassic?

So far, I've found eleven species of Cerapoda that lived during the Jurassic period. Are there any other known species that I've missed? The eleven that I've found out about are: Agilisaurus ...
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Resources for the study of the environment of Laramidia in the Late Cretaceous

I'm looking for resources (book, web, article, etc.) to learn in detail about the environment of Laramidia in the late Cretaceous, including flora, fauna, landscape, and climate. My goal is to get a ...
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Has the most recent common ancestor of all living birds lived after dinosaur mass extinction?

I wonder if one or more phylogenetic threads of dinosaurs survived the mass extinction. In other words, are all living birds equally related to any given ancient dinosaur, or do some birds relate ...
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How exactly is the wood fossil process?

I would like to know in deep how exactly is the wood fossilisation process. I am fascinated how after millions of years the fossil wood preserves its microscopic characteristics. Look at this cross ...
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Have skeletons of “failed” animals been found yet?

I don't know what the correct term for "failed animals" is, but I mean those animals which wheren't able to survive due to their "failed" evolution process. Because evolution, as we see it today, has ...
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How can paleontologists identify morphologically different fossils as members of the same species?

I recently saw a documentary about Tyrannosaurus rex, which detailed the growth stages of the dinosaur. Apparently, it underwent a huge growth spurt at around 14 years of age, growing into the massive ...
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How did palaeontologists discover the age of the Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue?

I'm trying to understand how they discovered or speculated the age of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex to be about 28–29 years old. How do they know exactly the age of Sue? Could it be wrong? Could it be ...
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What are the chances that Tyrannosaurus Rex could roar? [closed]

Tyrannosaurus Rex is now thought to have possibly had lips. Less of chance of it roar though I was told by a friend just because there are birds doesn’t mean they can’t. Evolution isn't linear, just ...
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How did hydrophilic plants become established on an isolated island with an arid coastal zone?

I find unconvincing the existing explanation of how several hydrophilic endemic plants became established at St Helena. This is one of the most isolated islands in the world, has an arid semi-desert ...
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What are the abilities, sizes, and appearance of tyrannosaur rex? [closed]

Size height 15-20ft tall weight 7-9tons length 40-42ft long did the flim of jurassic park had some corrections of the reality I beilve there many things they gotten right on the trex