Blogs & Videos: Fossils

Newly-discovered dinosaur had “T. rex arms” that evolved independently

Scientists still aren’t sure why T. rex had those absurdly small forelimbs, but apparently the look was all the rage in the Late Cretaceous. A newly-discovered dinosaur from Patagonia has similar short, two-fingered claws, even though it’s not closely related to the tyrannosaurs.

Four Fossil Sharks That Are Cooler Than Megalodon

Megalodon is the T. rex of the prehistoric shark world—it might have looked like a Great White, only way, way bigger, and it’s everybody’s favorite. It’s had its moment in the sun, even starring in a fake Shark Week documentary saying that it’d been found in modern waters (don’t worry—megalodon has been extinct for millions of years). But The Field Museum is home to some really bizarre sharks that lived millions of years before dinosaurs were even a twinkle in the universe’s eye.

Two images, one showing the outside of a rock and the other showing the cross section, which is speckled tan, black and gold

A Breakup with Lasting Impact: Meteorites from a 470-Million-Year-Old Split

The residents of a Chicago suburb were jolted awake just before midnight on March 26, 2003—by meteorites falling through their roofs and windows. The Park Forest meteorite, named for the area at the center of the shower, fell in one of the most heavily populated areas to see meteorites in recent history.

Zoomed in photo of a fly-like insect trapped in orange amber

Revisiting “Jurassic Park”: Could dinosaurs really be cloned?

“Where do you get 100-million-year-old dinosaur blood?” asks Dr. Ellie Sattler, a character in the original “Jurassic Park” movie. In the film, dinosaurs are cloned from DNA preserved in amber. More specifically, from dinosaur blood inside mosquitoes that are trapped in the amber. Spoiler alert: things get a little out of hand as the cloned dinos wreak havoc on Isla Nublar.

Mammals began their takeover long before the death of the dinosaurs

It’s a familiar story—the mighty dinosaurs dominated their prehistoric environment, while tiny mammals took a backseat, until the dinosaurs (besides birds) went extinct 66 million years ago, allowing mammals to shine. Just one problem—it’s not true. A new article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B reports that mammals actually began their massive diversification ten to twenty million years before the extinction that ended the age of the dinosaurs.

Drawing of an animal that looks like a large cat with small ears and long, sharp teeth

Dueling sabers: What this marsupial has in common with a cat

Saber-toothed cats such as Smilodon are easy to recognize, thanks to their long, sharp canine teeth. But saber-toothed cats had an unexpected lookalike: something more closely related to a kangaroo than a cat. Thylacosmilus was a saber-toothed mammal most closely related to marsupials, living in South America between seven and three million years ago. The marsupial’s young would continue developing after birth, while the placental saber-toothed cat gave birth to developed offspring.

Strange sea-dwelling reptile fossil hints at rapid evolution after mass extinction

Two hundred and fifty million years ago, life on earth was in a tail-spin—climate change, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels contributed to a mass extinction that makes the death of the dinosaurs look like child’s play. Marine life got hit hardest—96% of all marine species went extinct. For a long time, scientists believed that the early marine reptiles that came about after the mass extinction evolved slowly, but the recent discovery of a strange new fossil brings that view into question.

“Hammerhead” creature was world’s first plant-eating marine reptile

In 2014, scientists discovered a bizarre fossil—a crocodile-sized sea-dwelling reptile that lived 242 million years ago in what today is southern China. Its head was poorly preserved, but it seemed to have a flamingo-like beak. But in a paper published today in Science Advances, paleontologists reveal what was really going on—that “beak” is actually part of a hammerhead-shaped jaw apparatus, which it used to feed on plants on the ocean floor. It’s the earliest known example of an herbivorous marine reptile.

Tully monster mystery SOLVED!

How is it that a Museum can have 1,200+ fossils of a particular species in its collection since the 1960's... and not even know what it is? For decades, it was thought the 'Tully monster' -- a bizarre animal that lived 307 million years ago -- was an invertebrate, like a kind of worm. But in March, Field Museum scientists helped finally crack the mystery of the monster, to reveal it's actually related to lamprey fish. BOOM.

How to Beat Extinction: Live Fast, Die Young

When you don’t know if you have much of a future, you focus more on the now—there’s no point in biding your time and waiting when you could die any day. It seems that evolution follows this rule too—a recent study published by Field Museum scientists in Scientific Reports reveals that for Lystrosaurus (pygmy hippo-sized mammal relatives that lived with the dinosaurs), when the going got tough, the tough got busy.

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