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A bull male Eastmanosteus placoderm. Placoderms were the first creatures to evolve paired reproductive organs with a bony skeleton called claspers. A bull male Eastmanosteus placoderm. Placoderms were the first creatures to evolve paired reproductive organs with a bony skeleton called claspers. Brian Choo & John Long, Flinders University.

The first vertebrate sexual organs evolved as an extra pair of legs

We humans use the euphemism for sex that “we like to get a leg over” but the first jawed vertebrates – the placoderms – they liked to get a leg in. They were the first back-boned creatures to evolve male…
The Lark Quarry dinosaur trackway is the world’s only fossilised dinosaur stampede. But the fossils could fetch a lot of money if sold, so how do we keep them safe? The Lark Quarry dinosaur trackway is the world’s only fossilised dinosaur stampede. But the fossils could fetch a lot of money if sold, so how do we keep them safe? AAP/Tourism Queensland

It’s time to stop the fossil trade in its tracks – and here’s how

Collecting fossils helps raise interest in palaeontology and the natural history of Australia, and many important fossil discoveries have been made by members of the public collecting unusual specimens…
Can you smell what the dino is cookin'? Can you smell what the dino is cookin'? eschipul

Chemical ghosts of dinosaurs may help reveal new secrets

Life as we know it is carbon-based, that is, organic. These organic molecules containing mostly carbon and hydrogen are delicate to the ravages of time, relatively speaking. They aren’t usually preserved…
Owls and birds of prey spew bones and remains, which are extremely useful for determining local extinction patterns. Owls and birds of prey spew bones and remains, which are extremely useful for determining local extinction patterns. Flickr/Georgie Sharp

Looking forward to the past: what fossils tell us about extinction

The impact of European settlement on Australia was so massive that many mammals disappeared before anyone noticed they were there, but fossils from the past 10,000 years offer excellent evidence of pre-European…
Why did they always have to go in groups? Why did they always have to go in groups? Martin Ezcurra

How I found the world’s oldest communal toilets

Fossils can tell us lots about animals – their size, age or sex, which is mostly physical characteristics. Evidence about how they may have behaved is rare. But the 240m-year-old fossil dung that I found…
I’ve put on a bit of weight in the last 4 million years, obviously. I’ve put on a bit of weight in the last 4 million years, obviously. Mr Mo-Fo

Prehistoric world’s missing big cats revealed in fossil finds

The fossil record of early humans is punctuated by gaps, voids in our understanding of all the transitions from the common ancestor of humans and other apes to modern day Homo sapiens. While working in…
At more than a metre long, this platypus doubles the size of modern platypus. At more than a metre long, this platypus doubles the size of modern platypus. Reconstruction / Illustration by Peter Schouten

Fossil of giant platypus unearthed in Riversleigh

A new study by Rebecca Pian, Mike Archer and Sue Hand, published today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, describes the tooth of a new, giant species of extinct platypus. The fossil history of…
Finding Entelognathus is a revelation comparable to the discovery of Archaeopteryx. Finding Entelognathus is a revelation comparable to the discovery of Archaeopteryx. Brian Choo

Extraordinary ‘missing link’ fossil fish found in China

A spectacular new “missing link” fossil has been unearthed in China. The 419 million year old armoured fish, called Entelognathus, meaning “complete jaw” solves an age-old debate in science. For palaeontologists…
Marine life during the Cambrian explosion. A giant Anomalocaris investigates a trilobite, while Opabinia looks on from the right, and the ‘walking cactus’ Diania crawls underneath. Marine life during the Cambrian explosion. A giant Anomalocaris investigates a trilobite, while Opabinia looks on from the right, and the ‘walking cactus’ Diania crawls underneath. Katrina Kenny & Nobumichi Tamura

Evolution’s ‘big bang’ explained (and it’s slower than predicted)

The sudden appearance of a range of modern animals about half a billion years ago, during evolution’s “big bang”, has intrigued and puzzled generations of biologists from Charles Darwin onwards. A new…
A reconstruction of a ptyctodontid fish, one of the groups of placoderms studied from which well-preserved muscles were found. A reconstruction of a ptyctodontid fish, one of the groups of placoderms studied from which well-preserved muscles were found. John A Long

From bone to brawn: ancient fish show off their muscles

Fossilised soft tissues, such as skin and muscle, are exceptionally hard to come by. When you think the chances of an animal being fossilised is less than one in a million - and these usually have only…
Reconstruction of Aurornis xui, a new basal avialan theropod from the Middle/Late Jurassic of China. Reconstruction of Aurornis xui, a new basal avialan theropod from the Middle/Late Jurassic of China. Masato Hattori

Cheep thrills: new dinobird puts Archaeopteryx back on its perch

A new feathered fossil, Aurornis – introduced in today’s Nature – has the potential to resolve a debate about bird evolution that’s had evolutionary biologists in a bit of a flap in recent years. The origin…
Barren and isolated, Riversleigh is actually one of the most important fossil sites in the world. Barren and isolated, Riversleigh is actually one of the most important fossil sites in the world. Riversleigh from Shutterstock.

Unknown wonders: Riversleigh

Australia is famous for its natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, the Kimberley. But what about the places almost no one goes? We asked ecologists, biologists and wildlife researchers…
Fossils found in Queensland have added another gigantic creature to Australia’s prehistoric mammals. Fossils found in Queensland have added another gigantic creature to Australia’s prehistoric mammals. Peter Schouten/PloSONE

Fossils reveal Australia’s tree-top heavyweight herbivore

In Australia today, the biggest tree-dwelling mammals are our iconic and much loved koala and the enigmatic Bennett’s tree-kangaroo. The largest males of both species weigh a mere 14 kg. But a study of…
Guess what: we did not evolve in a gradual, step-like progression. Guess what: we did not evolve in a gradual, step-like progression. DryHundredFear

New fossils confirm diversity was the rule for human evolution

New fossils described in the journal Nature this week seem to close the door on a controversy that has raged for 40 years. They also confirm that the beginnings of the human genus more than 2m years ago…
A fleshed-out reconstruction of the early tetrapod, Ichthyostega. A fleshed-out reconstruction of the early tetrapod, Ichthyostega. JuliaMolnar

Shift to shore: new model shows off extinct tetrapod’s land moves

Palaeontology has gone high-tech: no more wax and plaster-cast models. Instead, 3D data from computed tomography (CT) scans is overturning long-held views of how the earliest land animals moved. Research…
Artist’s impression of an individual Yutyrannus. Artist’s impression of an individual Yutyrannus. Dr Brian Choo

Dinosaurs of a feather: meet T-Rex’s fluffy cousin

It’s taken a century of debate, but in the past two decades we’re finally understanding where birds came from. Now, with a new study published in the journal Nature, Chinese and Canadian researchers have…
We now know the exact age of a species that confounds scientists. We now know the exact age of a species that confounds scientists. Lee Berger/University of the Witwaterstrand

Putting meat on the bones of Au. sediba, our oldest ancestor

Since its discovery in August 2008, the site of Malapa in Johannesburg has yielded more than 220 bones of early hominins representing at least six individuals, including the remains of babies, juveniles…
Coelondonta thibetana, an ancestor of the above, is a revelation and a paradox. Coelondonta thibetana, an ancestor of the above, is a revelation and a paradox. thejanehorton

New woolly rhino in Tibet causes itch for Ice Age theorists

Fossils from a new species of woolly rhinoceros found in Tibet have the potential to rock several cherished theories. According to the authors of a new paper published today in Science, the rhino showed…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (24)

A bouquet of Triassic fossils

Newly-discovered fossilised pollen grains found in Swizerland have set the evolution of flowers to 100 million years earlier…

Ancient ‘croc dog’ discovered

A newly identified crocodile species thought to have lived 70 million years ago has been discovered in a small town in Brazil…

Ancient turtle survived meteorite

The remains of a turtle that survived the 65 million-year-old meteorite impact that wiped out the dinosaurs have been found…