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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS WEEKLY

A 'More Nuanced Picture' of the Dinosaurs' End

Three young scientists examined the fossil record over the 12 million years leading up to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous geological period and concluded that a huge asteroid is still the central villain in the dinosaurs' extinction.

In other news of the ancient past, the smallest mammoth ever known roamed the island of Crete millions of years ago, researchers say. Adults were roughly the size of a modern baby elephant.

A newfound crocodile species may have been the largest to ever roam the Earth. Some 25 feet long, it trolled East African waters between 4 million and 2 million years ago and may have snacked on human ancestors, researchers said.

For centuries, scientists trying to describe the earliest life have relied on evidence provided by biology, studying what features modern life-forms have in common to deduce the most primitive components of cells. By working backward, biologists have developed proposals describing when and where such simple forms of life could have arisen.

Putting a place and date on the domestication of horses has been a challenge for archaeologists. Now a team of geneticists studying modern breeds of the animal has assembled an evolutionary picture of its storied past. Horses, the scientists conclude, were first domesticated 6000 years ago in the western part of the Eurasian Steppe, modern-day Ukraine and West Kazakhstan.

Dinosaurs may well have been tortured by large, flealike bloodsucking insects. Scientists in China have discovered Pseudopulex jurassicus and its cousin, Pseudopulex magnus--magnus as in "great."


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