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Cloudina

Cloudinidae is an early metazoan family containing the genus Cloudina, which lived during the Late Ediacaran period and became extinct at the base of the Cambrian. They formed millimeter-scale conical fossils consisting of calcareous cones nested within one another; the appearance of the organism itself remains unknown. The name Cloudina honors the 20th century geologist and paleontologist Preston Cloud. Cloudinids had a wide geographic range, reflected in the present distribution of localities in which their fossils are found, and are an abundant component of some deposits. They never appear in the same layers as soft-bodied Ediacaran biota, but the fact that some sequences contain Cloudinids and Ediacaran biota in alternating layers suggests that these groups had different environmental preferences. It has been suggested that Cloudinids lived embedded in microbial mats, growing new cones to avoid being buried by silt. However no specimens have been found embedded in mats, and their mode of life is still an unresolved question. Cloudinids are among the earliest and most abundant of the small shelly fossils with mineralized skeletons, and therefore feature in the debate about why such skeletons first appeared in the Late Ediacaran. (Read more...)


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Paul Sereno is an American paleontologist who is the discoverer of several new dinosaur species on several continents. He has conducted excavations at sites as varied as Inner Mongolia, Argentina, Morocco and Niger. He is a professor at the University of Chicago and a National Geographic "explorer-in-residence." Sereno's most widely publicized discovery is that of a nearly complete specimen of Sarcosuchus imperator (popularly known as SuperCroc) at Gadoufaoua in the Tenere desert of Niger. Other major discoveries include Eoraptor - the oldest known dinosaur fossil, Jobaria, the first good skull of Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis, Afrovenator, Suchomimus and the African pterosaur. (Read more...)

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"An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal."
Richard E. Leakey. Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.


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Beipaiosaurus 2009 multi

A composite picture of Beipiaosaurus above [image from Xu et al. (2009)], and a close-up of its neck region is shown at bottom left of the composite. The image at bottom right in the composite is the tail of another specimen. Scale bar in A = 50 mm]. Beipiaosaurus. Beipiaosaurus is a genus of therizinosauroid theropod dinosaur. The discovery of Beipiaosaurus, which translates as "Beipiao lizard" after a city in China near the location of its discovery, was announced in the May 27, 1999, issue of the journal Nature. These fossils were found in Liaoning Province, China and have been dated to the Early Cretaceous Period, about 125 million years ago. It is known from a single species, B. inexpectus, named for "the surprising features in this animal.". A significant number of fossilized bones for this species were recovered, including: cranial fragments, a mandible, three cervical vertebrae, four dorsal vertebrae, a caudal vertebra, the scapula and scapulacoracoid, a complete forelimb, and a complete pelvis with hindlimb. A second specimen was described by Xu et al. in 2009, which preserved a complete skull as well as a significant covering of unique, elongated feathers.

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