The wingspan of Pelagornis sandersi dwarfs that of today's biggest flier, the royal albatross, whose span measures a "mere" 11.5 feet (3.5 meters). And it rivals that of the largest flying bird on record: Argentavis magnificens—a South American condor with a 23-foot (7-meter) wingspan that glided among the mountaintops of the Andes six million years ago.
"Pelagornis was certainly much lighter and a better 'flier'" than the vanished giant condor, says paleontologist Antoine Louchart of France's Institute of Functional Genomics in Lyon, who was not involved with the study.
Most geneticists agree that Native Americans are descended from Siberians who crossed into America 26,000 to 18,000 years ago via a land bridge over the Bering Strait. But while genetic analysis of modern Native Americans lends support to this idea, strong fossil evidence has been lacking.
Now a nearly complete skeleton of a prehistoric teenage girl, newly discovered in an underwater cave in the Yucatán Peninsula, establishes a clear link between the ancient and modern peoples, scientists say.
King Richard III's rediscovered resting place is turning out more mysteries this summer. Excavators finally lifted the heavy lid of a medieval stone coffin found at the site in Leicester, England, only to reveal another lead coffin inside.
The cave has already been used in research on Saharan dust transport across the Atlantic since its depths make an ideal sediment trap, and now new work has confirmed the inference from other sources that the Maya civilisation fell after a series of long droughts. They used a series of sediment samples from the epoch of their demise (around 800-1000 CE) and compared the changing ratios of aluminium and titanium, which reveal periods of heavy rainfall from tropical cyclones (the source of most of the water that kept the Mayans alive).
These indicated several long periods of drought at the time of their slow downfall that eked out over two centuries as the inter tropical convergence zone shifted north and south, taking the rain giving cyclones with it. The science is simple, in times of greater rain, more of the volcanic rocks in the area are weathered, and the water flows into the sea dumping its sediment and accompanying titanium with it. Analysing through the core allows the shifting rainfall densities to be tracked over time.
It's been millions of years since T. rex took its last breath, but a team led by Ohio University scientists is breathing life back into dinosaurs using high-powered computer simulations to model airflow through dinosaur snouts. The research has important implications for how dinosaurs used their noses to not only breathe but to enhance the sense of smell and cool their brains.
Prehistoric cave paintings of animals and human hands in Indonesia are as ancient as similar paintings found in Western Europe, according to a new study that suggests humans may have carried this art tradition with them when they migrated out of Africa.
"Until now, we've always believed that cave painting was part of a suite of complex symbolic behavior that humans invented in Europe," says archaeologist Alistair Pike of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. "This is actually showing that it's highly unlikely that the origin of painting caves was in Europe."
In 7,500 BCE, this city in the Mesopotamian region (now Turkey) held thousands of people and is believed by many to be one of the world's earliest urban settlements. But the culture of the people here was unlike anything we know today. First of all, they built the city like a honeycomb, with houses sharing walls. Homes and buildings were accessed by doors cut into the roofs. People would stroll on the streets across these roofs, and climb down ladders to get to their living quarters. Doorways were often marked with bulls' horns, and dead family members were buried in the floor of each home. It's not clear what happened to the culture of the people who lived in this city.