Biology news

Dinosaur ribbing

At ... which concerns the discovery of a dinosaur rib bone in Yunnan Province in China that contained proteins inside the vascular canals (where blood vessels and nerves would have been present when it was alive). This is a remarkable find as fossilised bone is usually rock like. Organic matter is normally decomposed. It is therefore a surprising discovery - and useful (as it will enable scientists to understand dinosaur make up).

Microbes in Space

Gary sent in this link (aliens in the comments so beware). At ... we have a report on an experiment by students from the University of Houston. They are going to release high altitude balloons in the upper atmosphere fitted with a devilish device. This will open as the balloons reach a high enough point in the atmosphere and close on the descent. The hope is to avoid contamination of samples. They intend to reach altitudes of 18km to 50km (11 to 31 miles in old money). 


Trilobites look like ancient woodlice but they differ in that they lived in the sea and had soft parts. They go back 450 million years ago - very old on the tree of life ...


Fascinating post by Dr Wile at ... we have all succombed to the reasoning put abroad in the media and by earnest people in the health industry warning us about the danger of indulging in too many antibiotic treatments. We have all been constantly bombarded with the claim that over use of antibiotics is leading to the mutation of bacteria resistant to antibiotics and eventually they will overcome them and make the use of antibiotics obsolete - but do the biologists agree with this populist argument?

Galapagos Chain

At ... the Galapagos islands are home to some unusual plants and animals that show it must have been isolated from the mainland for a considerable period of time - but for how long? A new study alleges they have cracked it. They can pinpoint when all the biology was set in motion.

Amber capture

At ... a segment of the tail of a juvenile dinosaur, complete with feathers, as been found trapped in amber as reported in Current Biology (December 8th, 2016) and see also

Catastrophe survivors

At ... when did the dinosaurs evolve? Silly question as the dinosaur evolution went into zoom mode when the Triassic epoch set in. Okay, look at it from another angle - how could dinosaurs have filled so many ecological niches so quickly. The answer - some dinosaurs, possibly quite small examples, survived the mass die-off associated with the Permian-Triassic boundary. This appears to be the conclusion of a new paper in Biology Letters (but not in so many words).


At ... leaf fossils from Patagonia display evidence of insect feeding at the Cretaceous/Palaeogene boundary. AQs such, researchers claim that the ecosystem in South America recovered earlier than it is thought to have done in North America after the K/T boundary event. This appears to be a somewhat roundabout argument as it is only the uniformitarian dating of sediments just before and just after the hypothetical asteroid strike that allows mainstream to suppose a long period of time is relevant.

Dinosaur Brains

At ... and ... we learn that a fossil hunter in Sussex found a pebble of unusual dimensions and put it into his pocket and took it home. He then sought to find out what it was and it turns out it was part of a dinosaur brain - preserved over millions of years. Various theories exist to account for its survival as soft tissue is rarely found in a fossilised state. Instant burial in a swamp is one idea put forwards. It belongs to a member of the Iguanadon family - a browser with a long neck.

Early Humans

There was an excellent TV programme a few weeks ago featuring Alice Roberts and human history (the Denisovans, Neanderthals, and the arrival of modern humans etc). Whilst it seemed to glaringly omit earlier but related versions of humanity it did serve to update her earlier TV programme (and book) 'The Incredible Human Journey' - which kept strictly to the BBC propaganda line on 'Out of Africa' (for better or worse).