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The mass extinction that might never have happened

Posted on 19 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

Should the “big five” really be the “big four”? For decades, we have recognised five devastating mass extinctions that punctuate the last half-billion years of evolution. But now two geologists are controversially arguing that the end-Triassic extinction has no place on that list. Image: Sparkle Motion

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We’ve drawn iconic sail-wearing Dimetrodon wrong for 100 years

Posted on 13 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism, Palaeontology

Dimetrodon, one of the most recognisable of the pre-dinosaur predators, is due a makeover. For more than a century, it has been depicted as a sluggish, belly-dragging beast with sprawling legs – but it might actually have held its legs in a more upright position and kept its stomach off the ground as it walked. Image: puuikibeach

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Exploding stars could have kick-started our ancestors’ evolution

Posted on 9 Oct 2017 in Environment, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Was the rise of humankind written in the stars? A nearby star exploding 8 million years ago might have triggered more frequent lightning on Earth. Wildfires ignited by that lightning could help explain the rise of east African savannahs – which many researchers think provided a vital backdrop for the early evolution of hominins. Image: USFWS/Southeast

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Ankle fossil suggests our ancient ancestors leapt like acrobats

Posted on 9 Sep 2017 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Featured, Journalism

For years, many biologists have argued that the common ancestor of all primates was a small animal that scampered along thin tree branches. Now a fossil discovered in France suggests the first primate might actually have been a bizarre monkey-like animal capable of acrobatic leaping. Image: Shinagawa

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Controversial footprints suggest we evolved in Europe not Africa

Posted on 4 Sep 2017 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

A set of ancient footprints has been found on a Greek island. They are extremely old – 5.7 million years – yet they seem to have been made by one of our hominin ancestors. At that time, hominins are thought to have been confined to Africa. The discovery supports the controversial suggestion that they may also have been living in eastern Europe. Image: zbigphotography

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Our species may be 150,000 years older than we thought

Posted on 7 Jun 2017 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Has our species been hiding its real age? Fossils found in Morocco suggest the Homo sapiens lineage became distinct as early as 350,000 years ago – adding as much as 150,000 years to our species’ history. Image: Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig

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