NSTA News Stories

Because paleontologists study fossils to learn about life on Earth, we're bringing you news stories that reveal how wide a field of study that really is. Read about how significant recent discoveries and rediscoveries of Neanderthal bones are teaching scientists about life in the Ice Age. Another story highlights the muddle surrounding human evolution and how each new discovery complicates the issue further. A 350-million-year-old fossil might prove to be from one of the first creatures to leave the water and crawl onto land. Our last story is about dinosaurs because we just can't learn enough about them!

Two New Neanderthals Turn Up (Nature)

It was a good week for paleontologists: first the skeleton of a baby Neanderthal was rediscovered in a Paris museum (see http://abcnews.go.com/wire/SciTech/ap20020904_1176.html); then another jumble of Neanderthal bones was found in the valley that gave them their name. Best of all, the site also included stone tools and animal remains. The first Neanderthal "had always been a floating fossil—it lacked a context," said one paleontologist. The week's discoveries will add some depth to our understanding of these Ice Age hominids.

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http://www.nature.com/nsu/020909/020909-1.html

Skulls Found in Africa and in Europe Challenge Theories of Human Origin (The New York Times)

Two recent skull discoveries, both reported last month, are forcing scientists to make major revisions to their favorite theories on human evolution, the above article reports. One of the skulls, found in Africa, dates from nearly 7 million years ago, close to the moment when the human lineage diverged from the chimpanzee branch. The other specimen, found in the republic of Georgia, dates back about 1.75 million years and is raising new questions about the ancestry of modern humans.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/06/science/06SKUL.html


New Fossil: Link Between Fish and Land Animals
(National Geographic)

What four-legged creature first emerged from the seas to conquer the land? This question has baffled scientists for years. But now a British research has found a very rare fossil—one dating back almost 350 million years—that might bridge the gap between our aquatic ancestors and modern tetrapods.

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http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/07/0703_020703_TVtetrapod.html

Comets May Have Led to Birth and Death of Dinosaur Era (National Geographic)

Live by the comet, die by the comet. Many scientists believe that a comet or asteroid collision with Earth triggered the end of the dinosaur era 65 million years ago. But now, a study in the May 17 issue of Science suggests that it was another such collision—one that occurred 200 million years ago—that may have enabled dinosaurs' rise to power in the first place.

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http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/05/0516_020516_dinocomet.html