Blogs & Videos: Fossils

The Origin of Mammal Movement: Harvard Adventures, Part I

Paleontologists today look at more than just fossil evidence to learn about organisms that lived millions of years ago. In this case, we're seeking to answer the question: how, and when, did mammals evolve their specialized movements? Turns out, the next step in this process involves dissecting a giant weasel.  This is part one in a three-part series supported in part by The Field Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and The National Science Foundation (!!!!). 

“Fire Frogs” and Eel-like Amphibians: Meet The Field’s Newest Fossil Discoveries

Two hundred and seventy-eight million years ago, the world was a different place. Not only were the landmasses merged into the supercontinent of Pangaea, but the land was home to ancient animals unlike anything alive today. But until now, very little information was available about what animals were present in the southern tropics.

“Scarface”: The Dachshund-sized Pre-mammal with a (Possibly) Venomous Bite

Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, huge volcanic eruptions triggered a mass extinction bigger than the one that ended the dinosaurs, changing life on earth forever. Field Museum scientist Ken Angielczyk and his colleagues are now studying this event, the Permian-Triassic Extinction, to learn about how communities bounce back after falling apart. And one newly discovered ancient mammal relative is helping them get closer to their answers—meet “Scarface.”

The First Brachiosaurus

Joyce Havstad, PhD holds the title Philosopher-in-Residence at The Field Museum.* We had the joy of interviewing her about some of the fascinating concepts she researches and explores -- in this case, what is a holotype? And how can paleontologists determine new species of prehistoric life based off of incomplete fossil skeletons?

*It's probably the only job title that can compete with 'Chief Curiosity Correspondent', really. 

Monsters Storm The Field

Invertebrate paleontologists aren’t afraid of anything, so when Collections Manager Paul Mayer was offered a chance to add hundreds of monsters to The Field’s collections, he jumped at the opportunity. The monsters in question, Tully monsters, are just a small part of the enormous donation of Thomas V. Testa’s collection of Mazon Creek fossils that The Field Museum just received from Field Associate Jack Wittry.  

An Early Nocturnal Ancestor

A majority of living mammals today are nocturnal—and conventional wisdom tells us that this transition to nocturnality occurred as mammals evolved from their early mammal ancestors, synapsids, about 200 million years ago. It’s largely assumed that those synapsids were diurnal—active mostly during the daytime—but The Field Museum’s Kenneth Angielczyk, Associate Curator of Paleomammalogy and co-author Lars Schmitz, Assistant Professor of Biology, Keck Science Department, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps Colleges, wanted to put it to the test.