. Scientific Frontline: Paleontology
Showing posts with label Paleontology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paleontology. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Shrimps and worms among first animals to recover after largest mass extinction

Reconstructed sea bed scenes (A) Pre-extinction, (B-D) Induan (early Early Triassic), (E) Smithian, (F) Spathian
Credit: Yaqi Jiang

Researchers studying ancient sea bed burrows and trails have discovered that bottom burrowing animals were among the first to bounce back after the end-Permian mass extinction.

In a new study, published today in the journal Science Advances, researchers from China, the USA and the UK, reveal how life in the sea recovered from the event, which killed over 90 percent of species on Earth, from their observations of trace fossils.

Life was devastated by the end-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago, and recovery of life on Earth took millions of years for biodiversity to return to pre-extinction levels. But by examining trails and burrows on the South China sea bed, the international team were able to piece together sea life’s revival by pinpointing what animal activity was happening when.

Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, a collaborator on the new paper, said: “The end-Permian mass extinction and the recovery of life in the Early Triassic are very well documented throughout South China.

“We were able to look at trace fossils from 26 sections through the entire series of events, representing seven million crucial years of time, and showing details at 400 sampling points, we finally reconstructed the recovery stages of all animals including benthos, nekton, as well as these soft-bodied burrowing animals in the ocean.”

New Kangaroo Described from Papua New Guinea

Artist's impression of Nombe Rockshelter Megafauna, showing the Nombe kangaroo on the Right.
Image resized using AI by SFLORG
 Credit: Artwork Courtesy Peter Schouten

Australian paleontologists from Flinders University have described a new genus of giant fossil kangaroo from the mountains of central Papua New Guinea.

The new description of the fossil kangaroo has found that, rather than being closely related to Australian kangaroos, it most likely belongs to a unique genus of more primitive kangaroo found only in PNG.

The kangaroo, first described in 1983 by Professor Tim Flannery, is known from fossils around 20,000-50,000 years old. They come from the Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and paleontological site in Chimbu Province, Papua New Guinea.

Nombe is already known for multiple extinct species of kangaroo and giant four-legged marsupials called diprotodontids.

Flinders University researchers have renamed the animal Nombe nombe, after the location of its discovery – and plan to return to PNG for further excavations and research next year.

The squat, muscular Nombe lived in a diverse montane rainforest with thick undergrowth and a closed canopy. Here, it evolved to eat the tough leaves from trees and shrubs, with a thick jaw bone and strong chewing muscles.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ may be more than a million years older than previously thought

Darryl Granger of Purdue University developed the technology that updated the age of an Australopithecus found in Sterkfontein Cave. New data pushes its age back more than a million years, to 3.67 million years old.
Purdue University photo/Lena Kovalenko

The earth doesn’t give up its secrets easily – not even in the “Cradle of Humankind” in South Africa, where a wealth of fossils relating to human evolution have been found.

For decades, scientists have studied these fossils of early human ancestors and their long-lost relatives. Now, a dating method developed by a Purdue University geologist just pushed the age of some of these fossils found at the site of Sterkfontein Caves back more than a million years. This would make them older than Dinkinesh, also called Lucy, the world’s most famous Australopithecus fossil.

The “Cradle of Humankind” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa that comprises a variety of fossil-bearing cave deposits, including at Sterkfontein Caves. Sterkfontein was made famous by the discovery of the first adult Australopithecus, an ancient hominin, in 1936. Hominins includes humans and our ancestral relatives, but not the other great apes. Since then, hundreds of Australopithecus fossils have been found there, including the well-known Mrs. Ples, and the nearly complete skeleton known as Little Foot. Paleoanthropologists and other scientists have studied Sterkfontein and other cave sites in the Cradle of Humankind for decades to shed light on human and environmental evolution over the past 4 million years.

Darryl Granger, a professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences in Purdue University’s College of Science, is one of those scientists, working as part of an international team. Granger specializes in dating geologic deposits, including those in caves. As a doctoral student, he devised a method for dating buried cave sediments that is now used by researchers all over the world. His previous work at Sterkfontein dated the Little Foot skeleton to about 3.7 million years old, but scientists are still debating the age of other fossils at the site.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Triassic revolution: animals grew back faster and smarter after mass extinction

The diversification of the saurichthyiform fishes (‘lizard fish’) in the Middle Triassic of South China (eastern paleo-Tethys), reflecting the establishment of a complexly tiered marine ecosystem (or marine fish communities) with intensive predator-prey interactions along the food chains.
Credit: Drawing by Feixiang Wu

Paleontologists in the UK and China have shown that the natural world bounced back vigorously following the End-Permian Extinction.

In a review, published today in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science, scientists reveal that predators became meaner and prey animals adapted rapidly to find new ways to survive. On land, the ancestors of mammals and birds became warm-blooded and could move around faster.

At the end of the Permian period, 252 million years ago, there was a devastating mass extinction, when nearly all of life died out, and this was followed by one of the most extraordinary times in the history of life. The Triassic period, from 252–201 million years ago, marks a dramatic re-birth of life on land and in the oceans, and was a time of massively rising energy levels.

“Everything was speeding up,” said Professor Michael Benton of the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences, the lead author of the new study.

“Today, there is a huge difference between birds and mammals on the one hand, and reptiles on the other. Reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning they do not generate much body heat themselves and, although they can nip about quite quickly, they have no stamina, and they cannot live in the cold, said Prof Benton.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Researchers discover long-extinct giant dwarf crocodile species

Researchers led by the University of Iowa have discovered two new species of crocodiles that roamed parts of Africa between 18 million and 15 million years ago and preyed on human ancestors. The Kinyang giant dwarf crocodiles (in gold) were up to four times the length of their modern relatives, dwarf crocodiles (shown in green). The new species discovery comes after analysis of the skull of a Kinyang specimen.
Credit: Christopher Brochu, University of Iowa.

Millions of years ago, giant dwarf crocodiles roamed a part of Africa with a taste for our human ancestors.

In a new study, researchers led by the University of Iowa announced the discovery of two new species of crocodiles that roamed east Africa between 15 million and 18 million years ago before mysteriously disappearing. The species, called giant dwarf crocodiles, are related to dwarf crocodiles currently found in central and west Africa.

But the giant dwarf crocodiles were a lot bigger—hence, the name—than their modern relatives. Dwarf crocodiles rarely exceed 4 or 5 feet in length, but the ancient forms measured as long as 12 feet and likely were among the fiercest threats to any animal they encountered.

“These were the biggest predators our ancestors faced,” says Christopher Brochu, professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Iowa and the study’s corresponding author. “They were opportunistic predators, just as crocodiles are today. It would have been downright perilous for ancient humans to head down to the river for a drink.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Pioneering study shows climate played crucial role in changing location of ancient coral reefs

Pre-historic coral reefs dating back up to 250 million years extended much further away from the Earth’s equator than today, new research has revealed.

The new study, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates how changes in temperature and plate tectonics, where the positions of Earth’s continents were in very different positions than today, have determined the distribution of corals through the ages.

Although climate has often been regarded as the main driver of the location of coral reefs, this has yet to be proven due to limited fossil records. Now, for the first time, a team of international scientists used habitat modelling and reconstructions of past climates to predict the distribution of suitable environments for coral reefs over the last 250 million years.

The researchers, from the University of Vigo, in Spain, the University of Bristol and University College London in the UK, then checked their predictions using fossil evidence of warm-water coral reefs. They showed that corals in the past, from 250 to about 35 million years ago, existed much further from the equator than today, due to warmer climatic conditions, and a more even distribution of shallow ocean floor.

“Our work demonstrates that warm-water coral reefs track tropical-to-subtropical climatic conditions over geological timescales. In warmer intervals, coral reefs expanded poleward. However, in colder intervals, they became constrained to tropical and subtropical latitudes,” said first author Dr Lewis Jones, a computational paleobiologist research fellow at the University of Vigo.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Mastodon tusk chemical analysis reveals first evidence of one extinct animal’s annual migration

A mounted skeleton of the Buesching mastodon, based on casts of individual bones produced in fiberglass, on public display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor. The Buesching mastodon is a nearly complete skeleton of an adult male recovered in 1998 from a peat farm near Fort Wayne, Indiana. A new study, led by Joshua Miller of the University of Cincinnati and Daniel Fisher of the University of Michigan, uses oxygen and strontium isotopes from the mastodon’s right tusk to reconstruct changing patterns of landscape use during its lifetime.
Image credit: Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

Around 13,200 years ago, a roving male mastodon died in a bloody mating-season battle with a rival in what today is northeast Indiana, nearly 100 miles from his home territory, according to the first study to document the annual migration of an individual animal from an extinct species.

The 8-ton adult, known as the Buesching mastodon, was killed when an opponent punctured the right side of his skull with a tusk tip, a mortal wound that was revealed to researchers when the animal’s remains were recovered from a peat farm near Fort Wayne in 1998.

Northeast Indiana was likely a preferred summer mating ground for this solitary rambler, who made the trek annually during the last three years of his life, venturing north from his cold-season home, according to a paper scheduled for online publication June 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Europe’s Largest Land Predator Unearthed

Illustration of White Rock spinosaurid.
Credit: Anthony Hutchings 

Research involving paleontologists from the Universities of Portsmouth and Southampton has identified the remains of one of Europe’s largest ever land-based hunters: a dinosaur that measured over 10m long and lived around 125 million years ago.

Several prehistoric bones, uncovered on the Isle of Wight, on the south coast of England, and housed at Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown, belonged to a type of two-legged, crocodile-faced predatory dinosaur known as spinosaurids. Dubbed the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – after the geological layer in which it was found – it was a predator of impressive proportions.

“This was a huge animal, exceeding 10 m in length and probably several tons in weight. Judging from some of the dimensions, it appears to represent one of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever found in Europe – maybe even the biggest yet known”, said University of Southampton PhD student Chris Barker, who led the study. “It’s a shame it’s only known from a small amount of material, but these are enough to show it was an immense creature.”

The discovery follows previous work on spinosaurids by the University of Southampton team, which published a study on the discovery of two new species in 2021.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Paleontologists Discovered Teeth and Bones of Ancient Animals in the Urals

Credit: Ural Federal University

Paleontologists from the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Ural Federal University Dmitry Gimranov and Anton Kisagulov together with volunteers discovered teeth and bones of ancient Eocene animals in the Sverdlovsk Region (the Sugat River near the village of Talitsa). Most of the finds are 40 million years old. There are also later finds dating back to the Middle or Late Pleistocene (0.75-0.02 million years). The oldest finds were numerous and consisted mainly of shark and ray teeth and fish bones. The "mammoth time" finds were few and include bones of frogs, birds and mammals. Late finds will have to be dated by radiocarbon analysis.

Shark and ray teeth will be transferred for study to Tatyana Malyshkina, a Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Stratigraphy and Paleontology at the Zavaritsky Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The finds will enrich her collection with new specimens and possibly serve as a basis for the description of new species. The mammal finds will be studied by Dmitry Gimranov, a Senior Researcher at the Paleoecology Laboratory of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Laboratory of Natural Science Methods in Humanities of the UrFU.

Friday, June 3, 2022

How plesiosaurs swam under water

Anna Krahl (front) and Ulrich Witzel used a model made of bone copies and material from the hardware store to reconstruct the muscles. This analog model consists of casts of the front and rear fin, wooden slats, chandelier clamps, eyelets and ropes.
Credit: Ruhr University Bochum

The plesiosaurs are characterized by four uniform fins. Whether they rowed or flew under water could be reconstructed thanks to the combination of paleontological and engineering methods.

Plesiosaurs, which lived around 210 million years ago, have adapted in a unique way to life under water: their front and rear legs have developed into four uniform, wing-like fins in the course of evolution. How they could get on with it in the water, Dr. Anna Krahl worked out in her dissertation supervised at the Ruhr University Bochum and the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. Among other things, by using the finite element method, which is widespread in engineering, it was able to show that the fins had to be twisted in order to advance. Using bones, models and muscle reconstructions, she was able to reconstruct the movement. She reports in the PeerJ journal from 3. June 2022.

Plesiosaurs belong to a group of dinosaurs, the Sauropterygia or paddle lizards, who have adapted to a life in the sea again. They developed in the late Triassic 210 million years ago, lived at the same time as the dinosaurs and died out at the end of the Cretaceous period. Plesiosaurs are characterized by an often extremely elongated neck with a small head - the Elas mosaic animals even have the longest neck of all vertebrates. But there were also large predatory shapes with a rather short neck and huge skulls. In all plesiosaurs, the neck sits on a teardrop-shaped, hydrodynamically well-adapted body with a very shortened tail.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Great white sharks may have contributed to megalodon extinction

Tooth size comparison between the extinct Early Pliocene Otodus megalodon tooth and a modern great white shark. 
Credit: MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology

The diet of fossil extinct animals can hold clues to their lifestyle, behavior, evolution and ultimately extinction. However, studying an animal’s diet after millions of years is difficult due to the poor preservation of chemical dietary indicators in organic material on these timescales. An international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, applied a new method to investigate the diet of the largest shark to have ever existed, the iconic Otodus megalodon. This new method investigates the zinc isotope composition of the highly mineralized part of teeth and proves to be particularly helpful to decipher the diet of these extinct animals.

Megatooth sharks like Otodus megalodon, more commonly known as megalodon, lived between 23 and 3.6 million years ago in oceans around the globe and possibly reached as large as 20 meters in length. For comparison, the largest great white sharks today reach a total length of only six meters. Many factors have been discussed to explain the gigantism and extinction of megalodon, with its diet and dietary competition often being thought of as key factors.

Palms at the Poles: Fossil Plants Reveal Lush Southern Hemisphere Forests in Ancient Hothouse Climate

For decades, paleobotanist David Greenwood has collected fossil plants from Australia – some so well preserved it’s hard to believe they’re millions of years old. These fossils hold details about the ancient world in which they thrived, and Greenwood and a team of researchers including climate modeler and research David Hutchinson, from the University of New South Wales, and UConn Department of Geosciences paleobotanist Tammo Reichgelt, have begun the process of piecing together the evidence to see what more they could learn from the collection. Their findings are published in Paleoceanography & Paleoclimatology.

The fossils date back 55 to 40 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch. At that time, the world was much warmer and wetter, and these hothouse conditions meant there were palms at the North and South Pole and predominantly arid landmasses like Australia were lush and green. Reichgelt and co-authors looked for evidence of differences in precipitation and plant productivity between then and now.

Since different plants thrive under specific conditions, plant fossils can indicate what kinds of environments those plants lived in.

By focusing on the morphology and taxonomic features of 12 different floras, the researchers developed a more detailed view of what the climate and productivity was like in the ancient hothouse world of the Eocene epoch.

Reichgelt explains the morphological method relies on the fact that the leaves of angiosperms — flowering plants — in general have a strategy for responding to climate.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Taking dinosaurs’ temperature with a new biomarker

Allosaurus bone extracellular matrix: microscopic view of bone soft tissues of one of the dinosaur specimens (Allosaurus) that were investigated for metabolic signals (metabolic crosslinks) in the fossilization products of the proteinaceous bone matrix. Fossilization introduces additional crosslinks that, in combination with metabolic crosslinks, generate the characteristic brown color of the fossil extracellular matrix which holds bone cells and blood vessels in place. The extracellular matrix also holds the crystalline, white bone mineral, apatite, in place.
Credit: J. Wiemann

A Yale-led research team has turned up the heat on dinosaur metabolism — establishing that the earliest dinosaurs and pterosaurs had exceptionally high metabolic rates and were warm-blooded animals.

The findings, published May 25 in the journal Nature, also show that dinosaurs’ metabolism did not decide their fate after an asteroid strike wiped out most animal species on the planet 65 million years ago.

“While modern ecologists tend to emphasize the importance of metabolic rate to ensure that animals survive environmental perturbations, we showed that metabolism is not the reason why birds were the only group of dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period,” said lead author Jasmina Wiemann, a former Yale paleontologist who is now at CalTech. “Many dinosaurs with metabolisms as efficient as those in modern birds went extinct.”

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Discovery of 'ghost' fossils reveals plankton resilience to past global warming events

Ghost nannofossils (left) with virtual casts (right). The fossils are approximately 5 µm in length, 15 times narrower than the width of a human hair.
Credit: S.M Slater

An international team of scientists from UCL, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the University of Florence and Natural History Museum have found a remarkable type of fossilization that has remained almost entirely overlooked until now.

The fossils are microscopic imprints, or “ghosts”, of single-celled plankton, called coccolithophores, that lived in the seas millions of years ago, and their discovery is changing our understanding of how plankton in the oceans are affected by climate change.

Coccolithophores are important in today’s oceans, providing much of the oxygen we breathe, supporting marine food webs, and locking carbon away in seafloor sediments. They are a type of microscopic plankton that surround their cells with hard calcareous plates, called coccoliths, and these are what normally fossilize in rocks.

Declines in the abundance of these fossils have been documented from multiple past global warming events, suggesting that these plankton were severely affected by climate change and ocean acidification.

Paleontologists Found the Jaws of an Extremely Rare Bear in Tavrida

The bones of an Etruscan bear in the cave were discovered by Dmitry Gimranov and Aleksandr Lavrov.
 Photo: Anastasia Mavrenkova

Ural paleontologists discovered the lower jaws of an Etruscan bear from the Early Pleistocene (2-1.5 million years ago) in the Taurida Cave (Crimean Peninsula). The finding is extremely important, because it is rare and indicates that the territory of Crimea almost 2 million years ago, most likely lived an ancestor of modern man, early Homo. Scientists reported the finding in the international journal of paleobiology Historical Biology.

Remains of Etruscan bears (which is the ancestor of brown and cave bears) as part of the fauna of large mammals of the Early Pleistocene were found in Western Europe, in Asia, as well as in North Africa, but not in Russia. The fact is that in Russia, Early Pleistocene faunas with remains of large terrestrial vertebrates were practically not known before. Crimea in this regard is an attractive and informative place for scientists.

"Our finding, on the one hand, extends the geography of the distribution of the Etruscan bear in Eastern Europe, and on the other hand, indicates that the "Crimean" bear is a link between Asian and European counterparts. It also helps to characterize the evolutionary features within bears and the historical biogeography of this species," says Dmitry Gimranov, senior researcher at the Laboratory of Natural Science Methods in Humanities at Ural Federal University and the Paleoecology Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Tooth unlocks mystery of Denisovans in Asia

Views of the TNH2-1 specimen
Credit: Flinders University

What links a finger bone and some fossil teeth found in a cave in the remote Altai Mountains of Siberia to a single tooth found in a cave in the limestone landscapes of tropical Laos?

The answer to this question has been established by an international team of researchers from Laos, Europe, the US and Australia.

The human tooth was chanced upon during an archaeological survey in a remote area of Laos. The scientists have shown it originated from the same ancient human population first recognized in Denisova Cave (dubbed the Denisovans), in the Altai Mountains of Siberia (Russia).

The research team made the significant discovery during their 2018 excavation campaign in northern Laos. The new cave Tam Ngu Hao 2, also known as Cobra Cave, is located near to the famous Tam Pà Ling Cave where another important 70,000-year-old human (Homo sapiens) fossils had been previously found.

The international researchers are confident the two ancient sites are linked to Denisovans occupations despite being thousands of kilometers apart.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Fossils reveal tropically hot North America 95 million years ago

Cretaceous oysters of the genus Pycnodonte investigated in the new study. These specimens were collected in San Miguel County, Colorado (top left), Kane County, Utah (top right), Big Horn County, Wyoming (bottom left), and Natrona County, Wyoming (bottom right), with a penny for scale.
Image credit: Matt Jones

A new University of Michigan study that used fossil oyster shells as paleothermometers found the shallow sea that covered much of western North America 95 million years ago was as warm as today’s tropics.

The study provides the first direct temperature data from that vast mid-latitude sea during the height of the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, one of the planet’s hottest climate intervals of the past several hundred million years.

The findings, published online May 9 in the journal Geology, also hint at what may be in store for future generations unless emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are reined in.

“These data indicate that the North American interior during the peak of the Cretaceous greenhouse was as warm as the hottest conditions in the modern-day tropics—imagine the climate of Bali, Indonesia, in places like Utah or Wyoming,” said study lead author Matt Jones, a former University of Michigan postdoctoral researcher now at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Large bodies helped extinct marine reptiles with long necks swim, study finds

3D models of aquatic tetrapods
Credit: S. Gutarra Díaz

Scientists at the University of Bristol have discovered that body size is more important than body shape in determining the energy economy of swimming for aquatic animals.

This study, published today in Communications Biology, shows that big bodies help overcome the excess drag produced by extreme morphology, debunking a long-standing idea that there is an optimal body shape for low drag.

One important finding of this research is that the large necks of extinct elasmosaurs did add extra drag, but this was compensated for by the evolution of large bodies.

Tetrapods or ‘four-limbed vertebrates’, have repeatedly returned to the oceans over the last 250 million years, and they come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from streamlined modern whales over 25 meters in length, to extinct plesiosaurs, with four flippers and extraordinarily long necks, and even extinct fish-shaped ichthyosaurs.

Dolphins and ichthyosaurs have similar body shapes, adapted for moving fast through water producing low resistance or drag. On the other hand, plesiosaurs, who lived side by side with the ichthyosaurs in the Mesozoic Era, had entirely different bodies. Their enormous four flippers which they used to fly underwater, and variable neck lengths, have no parallel amongst living animals. Some elasmosaurs had really extreme proportions, with necks up to 20 feet (6 meters) long. These necks likely helped them to snap up quick-moving fish, but were also believed to make them slower.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Dense Bones Allowed Spinosaurus to Hunt Underwater

Dense bones in the skeleton of Spinosaurus strongly suggest it spent a substantial amount of time submerged in the water.
Artwork credit: Davide Bonadonna

Spinosaurus is the largest predatory dinosaur known – over two meters longer than the longest Tyrannosaurus rex – but the way it hunted has been a subject of debate for decades.

In a new paper, published today in Nature, a group of paleontologists have taken a different approach to decipher the lifestyle of long-extinct creatures: examining the density of their bones.

By analyzing the density of Spinosaurid bones and comparing them to other animals like penguins, hippos, and alligators, the team found that Spinosaurus and its close relative Baryonyx from the Cretaceous of the UK both had dense bones that would have allowed them to submerge themselves underwater to hunt.

Scientists already knew that Spinosaurids had certain affinities with water – their elongate jaws and cone-shaped teeth are similar to those of fish-eating predators, and the ribcage of Baryonyx, from Surrey, even contained half-digested fish scales.

Scientists discover when beetles became prolific

 Credit: Vladimka production

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that beetles first roamed the world in the Carboniferous and later diversified alongside the earliest dinosaurs during the Triassic and Jurassic.

Using a previously published and carefully curated 68-gene dataset, the scientists ran a battery of mathematical models to reconstruct the evolution of protein sequences - the results of which have been published today in Royal Society Open Science.

After a year and a half of running on a supercomputer at the University of Bristol’s Advanced Computing Research Centre, the scientists were able to build a robust evolutionary tree of beetles which also included data on 57 beetle fossils to contain the timescale of beetle evolution. Their findings provide one of the most comprehensive evolutionary trees of beetles.

Different beetle clades diversified independently, as various new ecological opportunities opened up. “There was not a single epoch of beetle radiation, their secret seems to lie in their remarkable flexibility,” explained author Professor Chenyang Cai of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences. “The refined timescale of beetle evolution will be an invaluable tool for investigating the evolutionary basis of the beetle’s success story.”

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