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End of Year Recap: Archeology News July 2009
Posted In: Other Exciting News  12/30/09
By: Yona Williams

What can you learn by taking a look at the fossilized teeth of dinosaurs and the last meals of our ancestors? In this article, news headlines from July 2009 concentrate on tree-dwelling invertebrates, the eating habits of hominids, and dinosaur teeth analysis.

Tree-Dwelling Invertebrates

The Field Museum reported in July that long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, ancient creatures lived during the Late Paleozoic era (260 million years ago) and could possibly have been the precursor to the mammals we see today. These animals lived in the trees, feeding on leaves and living high above any predators that posed a threat. The Suminia getmanovi is thought to have possessed elongated fingers, an opposable thumb, and a tail that could grasp branches when in trees. Researchers are studying the small plant-eating synapsid and dubbing it the earliest known tree-climbing vertebrate.

From its nose to the tip of its tail, the Suminia was relatively small – measuring about 20 inches. Able to reach food sources high off the ground allowed the creatures a way to survive and avoid becoming prey to larger creatures. A large block of red mudstone in central Russia's Kirov region has revealed a handful of well-preserved skulls and complete skeletons – plenty for researchers to investigate.

Analyzing Last Meals

An international team of scientists descended upon the French cave of Arago and found fossils of herbivorous animals that were once hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. This find marked the first instance that an analytical method has led to the assessment of just how long humans lived at particular archeological sites. Helping to unlock the clues…the last meals of the hominids.

For ages, scientists have wanted to find a suitable way to pinpoint the actions and mobility of groups of hominids. They wanted to learn how long they spent in their caves or how long they ventured outside. Researchers of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona are conducting studies that involve the analysis of dental fossils of animals the hominids ate.

The microscopic particles of opaline silica in plants serve as effective indicators of time, as they leave behind evidence of what was eaten last while erasing traces of previous meals. Animals that commonly served as a last meal includes the Eurasian wild horse and the reindeer.

Analyzing Dino Teeth

By taking a look at the scratches found on dinosaur teeth have helped scientists learn more about what a major group of dinosaurs ate when they were roaming the earth millions of years ago. A study conducted by a team from the University of Leicester (and in conjunction with the Natural History Museum) has learned information concerning the duck-billed species of dinosaurs called the Hadrosaurs, which had an interesting method of eating. If you would like to learn more about the findings, seek out the issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was published during the month of July.


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