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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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"A fossil hunter needs sharp eyes and a keen search image, a mental template that subconsciously evaluates everything he sees in his search for telltale clues. A kind of mental radar works even if he isn't concentrating hard. A fossil mollusk expert has a mollusk search image. A fossil antelope expert has an antelope search image. ... Yet even when one has a good internal radar, the search is incredibly more difficult than it sounds. Not only are fossils often the same color as the rocks among which they are found, so they blend in with the background; they are also usually broken into odd-shaped fragments. ... In our business, we don't expect to find a whole skull lying on the surface staring up at us. The typical find is a small piece of petrified bone. The fossil hunter's search therefore has to have an infinite number of dimensions, matching every conceivable angle of every shape of fragment of every bone on the human body."
—Describing the skill of his co-worker, Kamoya Kimeu, who discovered the Turkana Boy, the most complete specimen of Homo erectus, on a slope covered with black lava pebbles. Taken from Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (1992), 26.


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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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