Vertebrate Paleontology

Newsworthy

Fossil Discovery Sheds New Light on Evolutionary History of Higher Primates
An international team of researchers has announced the discovery of Afrasia djijidae, a new fossil primate from Myanmar that illuminates a critical step in the evolution of early anthropoids—the group that includes humans, apes, and monkeys. The 37-million-year-old Afrasia closely resembles another early anthropoid, Afrotarsius libycus, recently discovered at a site of similar age in the Sahara Desert of Libya. The close similarity between Afrasia and Afrotarsius indicates that early anthropoids colonized Africa only shortly before the time when these animals lived. The colonization of Africa by early anthropoids was a pivotal step in primate and human evolution, because it set the stage for the later evolution of more advanced apes and humans there. Click here to read the press release of June 4, 2012. 

Juramaia: juramaiaEarliest known eutherian, ancestor of placental mammals
A remarkably well-preserved fossil discovered in northeast China provides new information about the earliest ancestors of most of today’s mammal species—the placental mammals. According to a paper published August 25, 2011, in the prestigious journal Nature, this fossil represents a new milestone in mammal evolution that was reached 35 million years earlier than previously thought, filling an important gap in the fossil record and helping to calibrate modern, DNA-based methods of dating the evolution. Former museum curator Zhe-Xi Luo led the research team. Art (at right) by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here to read full press release.  

Fedexia: FedexiaEarly Terrestrial Amphibian
A team of researchers from Carnegie Museum of Natural History has described a new genus and species of carnivorous amphibian from western Pennsylvania. The fossil skull, found in 2004 near Pittsburgh International Airport, was recovered from rocks deposited approximately 300 million years ago during the Late Pennsylvanian Period. Named Fedexia striegeli, it is one of only a very few relatively large amphibian fossils to display evidence of a predominantly terrestrial life history so early in geologic time, suggesting that the expansion and diversification of this group occurred much earlier than had been recognized previously. The paper was was co-authored by Curator Emeritus of Vertebrate Paleontology David S Berman, PhD, Vertebrate Paleontology Collection Manager Amy C. Henrici, Adjunct Associate Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology David K. Brezinski, PhD, and Invertebrate Paleontology Collection Manager Albert D. Kollar, all of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Art (at right) by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here to read the press release of March 15, 2010. 

Maotherium: maotheriumEar structure shows how mammalian ear evolution occurred while dinosaurs dominated the world
An international team of paleontologists has discovered a new species of mammal that lived 123 million years ago in what is now the Liaoning Province in northeastern China. The newly discovered animal, Maotherium asiaticus, comes from famous fossil-rich beds of the Yixian Formation. This new remarkably well preserved fossil, as reported in the prestigious journal Science, offers an important insight into how the mammalian middle ear evolved. Former museum curator Zhe-Xi Luo led the research team. Art (at right) by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here to read the press release of October 9, 2009. 

Ganlea: ganlea72Suggests the Common Ancestor of Primates Originated in Asia, and Challenges the Role of “Ida"
According to new research published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) on July 1, 2009, a new fossil primate from Myanmar (previously known as Burma) suggests that the common ancestor of humans, monkeys and apes evolved from primates in Asia, not Africa as many researchers believe. The research was led by museum paleontologist Chris Beard. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here to read the press release. 

Puijila: "Missing Link" in pinniped evolution
PuijilaA 2007 fossil-hunting expedition in Canada’s High Arctic led to the exciting discovery of Puijila darwini. Puijila is a transitional fossil—a missing link in the evolution of pinnipeds (the group that includes seals, sea lions and walruses). Entirely new to science, this carnivorous mammal provides insight into what pinnipeds looked like before they were adapted to hunting in the ocean. The fossil is 24 to 20 million years old and was found in the Haughton Crater on Devon Island by a research team led by Dr. Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature and including Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Curator Emeritus of Vertebrate Paleontology Mary Dawson. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here to read the press release of April 23, 2009. 

Teilhardina: Oldest fossil primate from North America
teilhardinaThe 55.8 million year–old fossils, excavated at a site near Meridian, Mississippi, are from a previously unknown species of extinct primate named Teilhardina magnoliana. Because different species of Teilhardina once inhabited all three northern continents at roughly the same time, it has been difficult to reconstruct how these tiny primates dispersed over much of the globe at a time when global climate was changing rapidly while sea levels were also fluctuating. The discovery by museum paleontologist Chris Beard sheds new light on how the earliest primates migrated to North America during a major global warming event 55.8 million years ago. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release of March 3, 2008. 

Pseudotribos4Pseudosq: Ancient mammal with new teeth
This new find sheds light on the earliest mammalian evolution, especially the convergent evolution of the important tribosphenic teeth among early mammals. Published in the November 1, 2007, issue of Nature, the new discovery by a team of American and Chinese paleontologists led by former museum curator Zhe-Xi Luo suggests that mammals were far more diverse in the age of dinosaurs than previously thought. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release. 

Yanoconodonyanoconodon: Chinese and American paleontologists discover a new Mesozoic mammal
International teams of paleontologists have discovered a new species of mammal that lived 125 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era in what is now the Hebei Province in China. This new mammal, documented in the British journal Nature, provides first-hand evidence of early evolution of mammalian middle ear—one of the most important features for all modern mammals. Named Yanoconodon after the Yan Mountains in Hebei, the skull revealed a middle ear structure that is somewhere between those of modern mammals and those of near relatives of mammals. The team was led by former museum curator Zhe-Xi Luo. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the 2007 press release. 

gansusGansus: Superbly preserved fossils provide new evidence of how modern birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors
A Chinese-American research team, co-led by Carnegie Museum of Natural History Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Matt Lamanna, PhD, Dr. Hai-lu You of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, and Dr. Jerry Harris of Dixie State College of Utah, has unearthed approximately 40 new specimens of Gansus from Early Cretaceous (~110 million years old) lake beds near the tiny, remote town of Changma in northwestern Gansu Province. Several of these specimens are nearly complete skeletons; some preserve rarely fossilized soft-tissues like feathers and skin. The team's findings are published in the journal Science with art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release of June 15, 2006. 

laonastesLaonastes: New family of mammal really a living fossil
Laonastes aenigmamus, a rodent first described in 2005, made international headlines as the sole member of a new family of mammals. But according to a paper published by a team of international researchers led by Carnegie Museum of Natural History paleontologist Mary Dawson, the animal is actually a surviving member of the rodent family Diatomyidae, thought to be extinct for 11 million years. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release of March 9, 2006. 

castorocaudathCastorocauda: New fossil of the earliest swimming mammal discovered
Carnegie Museum of Natural History preparator Alan Tabrum and former curator Zhe-Xi Luo were on the research team that discovered a brand new species of swimming mammal, Castorocauda lutrasimilis, from the Jurassic lakebeds of China. The description appears in the February 24, 2006, issue of Science, with cover art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release. 

akidosqAkidolestes: Unusual relative of marsupials and placentals
Former curator Zhe-Xi Luo was on the research team that discovered an extinct relative to the more modern therians including marsupials and placentals. The description appears in the January 12, 2006, issue of Nature, with cover art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release. 

Fruitafossor: Earliest Mammal
popeyeCarnegie Museum scientist John Wible and former Carnegie curator Zhe-Xi Luo discovered a new species of early mammal, dubbed "Popeye" because of its massive forearms. It shows some very unique features that would be otherwise known only in armadillos, but it is older than the armadillo lineage by 100 million years and unrelated to them. Art by Carnegie Museum Scientific Illustrator Mark A. Klingler. Click here for the press release of March 24, 2005. 

Click here for an archive of previous discoveries.