Blogs & Videos: Science Newsflash

Science Newsflash brings you the most current scientific news stories from The Field Museum. 

Close-up of ants on the forest floor

Ant Genomics Help Reshape Biological History of the Americas

Scientists have long believed that the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the ocean three million years ago, triggering a massive interchange of species between the Americas in its wake. However, recent conflict in both geological and biological literature suggests that this simple story is insufficient to explain the available evidence.

Chihuahua-sized fossil "beardogs" shed new light on evolution of dogs and their relatives

Fossil discoveries don’t always happen out in the field, with scientists armed with pick-axes realizing they’ve found something special. Sometimes, fossils lie in wait in museum collections until the right researcher comes along and realizes there’s something unusual about them. That’s what happened this time, and the fossils in question are prehistoric dog relatives called “beardogs.”

SUE Lends a Hand: Field Museum Scientists Remove T. rex’s Arm for Argonne Study

Two Field Museum scientists are leaving their labs and going face-to-face with SUE, the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, armed only with a wrench. And they’re going to take her arm off. SUE’s not just the world’s biggest T. rex—she’s also the best-preserved and most complete one. And that means that she contains a treasure trove of information for paleontologists to learn from.

Ridiculously cute mouse lemurs hold key to Madagascar’s past

Today, Madagascar is home to a mosaic of different habitats—a lush rainforest in the east and a dry deciduous forest in the west, separated by largely open highlands. But the island off the southeast coast of Africa hasn’t always been like that—a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announces that these two ecologically different portions of the island were once linked by a patchwork of forested areas. And to figure it out, the scientists analyzed the DNA of some of the cutest animals on earth—mouse lemurs.

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.

Bringing Neanderthals to Life: The Sculptures of Elisabeth Daynès

There’s a lot to see in The Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibition—a rock bearing traces of life from a billion years ago, a seventy-two-foot-long Apatosaurus, a towering prehistoric giant sloth. But two new displays in the section on human evolution have been literally stopping visitors in their tracks. Two new sculptures, created by French paleoartist Elisabeth Daynès, give a breathtakingly lifelike look at human relatives—Homo ergaster and Homo neanderthalensis.

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.

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.