How Rare are Stone Age Artifacts? A Visit to a Stone Tool-Making Center at Kathu, South Africa

Hand-axe-insitu2-Kathu-townland-stone-age

Hundreds of millions and possibly billions of stone artifacts sit just under parking lots and homes in Kathu, South Africa.  Artifacts in this area were examined a few years ago in a vacant lot scheduled to be developed into a shopping plaza.  Explorations in this lot revealed a very dense collection of artifacts referred to […]

A Flock of Genomes Reveals the Toothy Ancestry of Birds

Image credit: Julie McMahon / University of Illinois

A tidal wave of genomic information came ashore this week in the form of 45 new genome sequences of birds. In a series of papers released in Science hundreds of researches combine to analyze the hundreds of billions of pieces of genetic code of representatives of all the major groups of birds.  Prior to this only […]

Ancient DNA Redux: 700-Year-Old Virus Resurrected from Frozen Caribou Dung

caribou-ice-core-dung

Under nine feet of ice, frozen for 700 years, from DNA extracted from bits of caribou dung, a viral genome has been recovered and brought back to life.   Don’t worry this isn’t a case of mad scientists resurrecting the black plague for nefarious purposes.  This is the story of some inquisitive scientists investigating past environments […]

Fossil Virus Found in Hamsters Points to an Ancient Origin of Ebola Virus

The Ebola Virus. Like most viruses, the Ebola virus is not a cell but rather just a protein capsule with a very small genome (a single strand of RNA in this case rather than DNA as found in all "living" things).

The Ebola virus has captured headlines around the world.  One of the big questions that I see being asked frequently is – where did it come from? Does it have a recent origin or has the virus been with us for a long time but simply not recognized? Clearly it didn’t come into existence in […]

NH Notes: Fossilization Caught in the Act – A Mammoth from Texas

An impressive wooly mammoth skeleton.

Does fossilization require rapid burial as the result of catastrophic global flooding?  Literalist creationists would have us believe so for they point to the fossil record as being proof of a cataclysmic global flood.   Look a bit deeper though and you will find that creationists frequently concede there are thousands of exceptions to this general […]

The Age of the Reptiles: A New Dinosaur Fossil Trackway Near Moab

Dinosaur footprints on a block of rock that became dislodged from higher above.  Two of my boys are serve as size references.  Image: Joel Duff

Moab will have yet another dinosaur attraction coming this fall.  More than 200 reptilian footprints scattered over an area less than a football field have been uncovered after a resident discovered a few tracks while hiking.  Dinosaur tracks are known from dozens of locations in this area but this site is unusual because of the […]

NH Notes: Natural Trap Cave – An Ice Age Fauna Snapshot

Grate over Death Trap Cave entrance.

A 15-foot-wide metal grate covers a hole in a bare rock outcrop in the high desert of the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.  Beneath the grate lies a 80 foot vertical drop to into a cavern with no other exit.  At the base of cavern situated below the hole in the ceiling are up to 30 […]

Exceptional Dinosaur Tracksite in Denali National Park Reveals Herd of Hadrosaurs

Figure showing 127  measured hadrosaur footprints from the Denali site in Alaska.  This figure if from Fiorillo et al. Geology 2014.

Thousands of dinosaur footprints have been found on a steep mountain slope in Denali National Park in Alaska.  These are not the first dinosaur tracks to be found in Denali but the size of the tracksite – at least 500 by 150 feet – and the exceptional preservation of the tracks makes this a notable […]

The Earth on Show: Encountering Lost Worlds Through Fossil Displays

A "Young Mammouth" unearthed by Charles Willson Peale on display at the Philadelphia museum in 1821.

Most of us remember our first life-like encounter with dinosaurs sitting in a theater watching Jurassic Park (1993).  Although dinosaurs had been very popular in picture books for many years the vivid recreation of them on the screen rekindled a sense of awe of these amazing creatures of a past age.  Today, movies with depictions […]

We’re Going on a Fossil Hunt to Find a Herpes Virus

virus-blue-background

There is a very recent form of fossil hunting that I have gotten to partake in to some small extent, and I can do it while sitting in front of a computer screen! With some computer skills and some knowledge of animal genomes it isn’t difficult to join this hunt for fossils inside the genome of living organisms.

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