Unexpected Treasures on Nebraska’s High Plains: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska features much, much more than fossils. Bob Pahre photo. In the ranching country of western Nebraska lies a small national park unit with a big name, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument . It emphasizes two treasures, but it also holds some unexpected riches on this prairie landscape. “Agate” is named after James Cook’s Agate Springs Ranch, a privately-owned working ranch that still lies just outside the park. Cook was an adventurer of the Old West who eventually settled down in this country when it was still Indian land. A man of diverse […]

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Tiny fossils hint at effects of ocean acidification

Image Slideshow Scanning electron microscope image of rock surfaces collected from the Bass River core in New Jersey. Paul Bown Close-up of intact micron-sized calcite plates that surround coccolithophores embedded in clay. Paul Bown Coccolithus pelagicus, one of the dominant species found during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the best […]

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Artificial Intelligence Used to Home in on New Fossil Sites: Scientific American

In the desert, researchers demonstrate that an artificial neural network can pinpoint new fossil-rich sites, paving the way for more efficient digs By Charles Q. Choi FREIGHTER GAP, Wyo.—On blisteringly hot desert sands, researchers crawled on their hands and knees avoiding fist-size cacti littering the ground. Their goal: collecting bones […]

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CT scan and 3-D print help scientists reconstruct an ancient mollusk (w/ Video)

Reconstruction of a 390 million year-old multiplacaphoran. Credit: Jakob Vinter/University of Texas at Austin. (Phys.org)—Using a combination of traditional and innovative model-building techniques, scientists in the U.S. and a specialist in Denmark have created a lifelike reconstruction of an ancient mollusk, offering a vivid portrait of a creature that […]

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Search for diamonds turns up rare tree fossil in Canada’s far north

The image at right shows the well-preserved specimen described in the study. The wood was split when removed from the ore, revealing a sliver of opaque amber. At left is a picture of another specimen for comparison. (PLoS ONE)   A search for diamonds in Canada’s far north turned […]

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Strudiella devonica could significantly narrow that gap in the fossil record

Strudiella devonica is an eight-millimeter invertebrate that seems likely to significantly narrow a large gap in the fossil record, specifically a period known as the Hexapoda Gap (between 385 and 325 million years ago).  Until now there have been minimal if any confirmed insect fossils found from this period.

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This is truly a great discovery that helps paint a better picture of our Earth’s natural history.


Discovery of Underground Fossil Forest Offers Answers to Climate Change

The largest fossil forest ever discovered has been unearthed in the dark and clammy depths of an Illinois coal mine. Scientists are saying it is more than fifty times larger than any other fossil forest. This fossilized forest dates back to the carboniferous era, about 307 million years ago, just before the first great forests in the world were wiped out by global warming.

Credit: Scott Elrick. William A. DiMichele in the Springfield Coal. The light colored shale above is interupted by the stump of a fossil tree.

According to the New York Times, the fossilized forest is located in the Springfield Coal Mine, which has been one of the nations largest energy resources for over ten years and underlies Illinois and two neighboring states. Over millions of years layers of rock have crushed the forest to varying depths of 250 to 800 feet below ground. Scientists are unsure of its exact size, but samples from the vicinity of Galatia, Illinois make them think it extends over 100 miles.

With the find of this fossil forest stretching hundreds of miles scientists will be able to undertake an analysis of the ecosystem in a way never before possible in ancient landscapes. The studies and evidence they will gather will help them predict the effects of global warming today.

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“With our own CO2 rises and changes in climate, we can look at the past here and say, ‘It’s happened before'” said Scott D. Elrick, a team member of the Illinois State Geological Survey.


New York Times. By W. Barksdale Maynard. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/underground-fossil-forest-in-illinois-offers-clues-on-climate-change.html?ref=fossils

Disputed Tarbosaurus Dinosaur Fossil Auctioned for $1M in NYC

Tarbosaurus Fossil, Credit: Wikipedia

The Heritage Auction house recently sold a cousin of the tyrannosaurus for $1,052,500 despite a court order to not do so. The completely assembled Tarbosaurus fossil came with very little documentation, casting a shadow of speculation on where the remains were found. It seems this dinosaur fossil appeared out of thin air.

In 1955 paleontologist Evgeny Maleev found the first fossil of a Tarbosaurus in the Gobi Desert, and every specimen thereafter has also been found in Mongolia. There is little doubt where this skeleton came from, and Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia, questioned the legality of selling the dinosaur fossil two days before the auction. The Mongolians have strict regulations and heritage laws to prevent the poaching of fossils. All paleontology expeditions must receive formal permission and every find remains in the country, although the Mongolian Academy of Sciences makes loans to academic institutions.

Heritage Auctions is claiming the dinosaur fossil entered the United States legally and went on to sell the fossil, despite the outcry from paleontologists and the Mongolian government. Lawyer Robert Painter obtained a temporary restraining order for the sale of the Tarbosaurus from Judge Cortez. Painter actually rushed in to the auction with Cortez on the phone and Heritage Auctions President Greg Rohan asked Painter to leave and refused to speak with Cortez.

Pending the results of the legal dispute, there is still some hope that the fossil may be returned to Mongolia. The United States has returned smuggled fossils in the past, and in 2009 the US government returned to China the ancient bones of a saber-tooth cat and dinosaur eggs dating back 100 million years. Fossil poaching is a serious issue, and Heritage Auctions should have respected the wishes of the Mongolian Government.


Smithsonian Magazine. “Tarbosaurs on Trial” by Brian Switek. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/dinosaur/2012/05/tarbosaurus-on-trial/

Oldest Known Fossil of Flying Insect Discovered

Credit: Jacob Benner, Tufts University

The 300 Million year old fossil is from the Carboniferous Period. Paleoichnologists say it is likely to be an ancestor of the may fly. This is the oldest known full body impression of a flying insect ever discovered.

According to National Geographic News, fossil hunters found the imprint excavating the woods behind a shopping mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Finding a specimen of this quality “is like winning the lottery,” said study leader Richard Knecht, a geology student at Tufts University.

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This is such a valuable find because the nature of insect bodies. They’re usually not preserved well due their soft and fragile bodies. Scientists tend to find only the remains of insect wings because they are not easily digested by predators.

Credit: Richard Knecht, Tufts University. A sketch of the fossil imprint shows the directions that the insect's appendages moved (green arrows) while it was trapped in the soft mud, part of an ancient freshwater habitat in what is now Massachusetts.

This 3 inch, ancestor of the may fly made this fossil with a near perfect impression by landing in mud for a brief second before flying away. More information and the study can be found on the oldest flying insect can be found at the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tufts University (2011 April 7) Late Carboniferous paleoichnology reveals the oldest full-body impression of flying insect. National Geographic. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/pictures/110407-science-fossils-insects-bugs-mayflies-mayfly-flying/#/01-flying-insect_34246_600x450.jpg

Ancient Sea Monster Discovered, Dubbed “Godzilla Fossil”

The smooth, round, and mysterious fossil up close. Credit: Photo by Lisa Ventre

Approximately 450 million years ago the area of Cincinnati was covered by shallow seas. In these seas lived some very large organisms, and despite their size no one has found a fossil of the Godzilla sea monster until recently. The Dry Dredgers, a dedicated corps of amateur paleontologists, made the puzzling discovery.

The fossil discovered is elipitical in shape with multiple lobes, reaching almost ten feet in length. The specimen was unveiled on April 24th 2012 in Dayton, Ohio at the 46th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. Ron Fine will be taking part in the presentation, he is the paleontologist who originally found the specimen, along with Carlton Brett and David Meyer who are Geologists from University of Cincinnati.

Fine says, “I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil. Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.” Ron Fine belongs to the Dry Dredgers paleontology club. They are based at the University of Cincinnati and celebrated their 70th anniversary this year in April.

Godzilla fossil was found in a layer of clay rich rock known as shale. This zone in Covington, Kentucky, is known to produce a lot of concretions and nodules. Fine went on to say, “While those nodules can take on some fascinating, sculpted forms, I could tell instantly that this was not one of them. There was an organic form to these shapes. They were streamlined.”

Fine could instantly tell that he had something more than a nodule because the surface texture. He said,”Nodules do not have surface texture, they’re smooth. This fossil had an unusual texture on the entire surface.”

For over 200 years the Cincinnati area has been an epicenter for paleontology. More rocks and fossils have been studied here than anywhere else, and this new discovery of a large, unknown sea monster has professionals looking for answers.

David Meyer of the University of Cincinnati said, “It’s definitely a new discovery, and we’re sure it’s biological. We just don’t know exactly what it is.” Meyer, Datillo, and Brett are working with Fine to answer this question. They are reconstructing a timeline working backwards from the fossil, from preservaton, to burial and death, to how it lived its life.

UC Paleontologist David Meyer, left and Carlton Brett, right, flank Ron Fine, who discovered the large fossil spread out on the table. (Credit: Photo by Lisa Ventre)

Fine has meticulously reassembled the entire fossil. The specimen is in hundreds of pieces, making this task extremely challenging. “I’ve been fossil collecting for 39 years and never had a need to excavate. But this fossil just kept going, and going, and going. I had to make 12 trips over the course of the summer to excavate more material before I finally found the end of it.”

Working together to study the Godzilla fossil, Meyer, Datillo, Brett and Fine have found a clue to its life from another fossil. The mysterious fossil has several segmented and small animals known as primaspid trilobites attached to its lower surface. These tiny trilobites have been found in the past on other fossilized animals, on their undersides most likely seeking shelter. The paleontologists hope to learn more about the new mystery fossil by better understanding this trilobite’s behavior.

According to sciencedaily.com, the Cincinnati team is reaching out to specialists all over the world, but no one has been able to find any evidence on anything similar being found. This unknown sea monster fossil defies all facts we know and leaves us many more questions than answers, according to Fine. “We hope to get a lot of people stopping by to offer suggestions,” Meyer said.

You can read the entire article here


University of Cincinnati (2012, April 24). Mysterious ‘monster’ discovered by amateur paleontologist. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/04/120424121738.htm