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Origin of Life

Prehistoric ghosts revealing new details: Synchrotron helps identify previously unseen anatomy preserved in fossils

Scientists at The University of Manchester have used synchrotron-based imaging techniques to identify previously unseen anatomy preserved in fossils. 

 

Their work on a 50-million-year-old lizard skin identified the presence of teeth (invisible to visible light), demonstrating for the first time that this fossil animal was more than just a skin moult. This was only possible using some of the brightest light in the universe, X-rays generated by a synchrotron. 

Dr Phil Manning, Dr Nick Edwards, Dr Roy Wogelius and colleagues from the Palaeontology Research group used Synchrotron Rapid Screening X-ray Fluorescence at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in California to map the chemical make up of a...

New way to look at dawn of life: Focus shifts from 'hardware' to 'software'

One of the great mysteries of life is how it began. What physical process transformed a nonliving mix of chemicals into something as complex as a living cell?

For more than a century, scientists have struggled to reconstruct the key first steps on the road to life. Until recently, their focus has been trained on how the simple building blocks of life might have been synthesized on the early Earth, or perhaps in space. But because it happened so long ago, all chemical traces have long...

Ancient microbes found living beneath the icy surface of Antarctic lake

While Antarctica's Lake Vida will never be a vacation destination, it is home to some newly discovered hearty microbes. (Credit: Courtesy of the Desert Research Institute.)

1000pa (Nov. 26, 2012) — This week a pioneering study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and co-authored by Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen of Nevada's Desert Research Institute (DRI) reveals, for the first time, a viable community of bacteria that...

Hearty organisms discovered in bitter-cold Antarctic brine

Scientists take a core sample from Lake Vida. (Credit: Courtesy of the Desert Research Institute.)

1000pa (Nov. 26, 2012) — Where there's water there's life -- even in brine beneath 60 feet of Antarctic ice, in permanent darkness and subzero temperatures.

While Lake Vida, located in the northernmost of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica, will never be a vacation destination, it is home to some newly discovered hearty microbes. In the current issue of...

Greenland rocks provide evidence of Earth formation process

View of the Isua range (south-west Greenland) taken in August 2010 during the sampling mission. (Credit: © Hanika Rizo)

1000pa (Nov. 8, 2012) — Rocks dating back 3.4 billion years from south-west Greenland's Isua mountain range have yielded valuable information about the structure of Earth during its earliest stages of development. In these rocks, which witnessed the first billion years of Earth's history, a French-Danish team led by researchers from the 'Magmas...

Nature's misfits: Reclassifying protists helps answer how many species remain undiscovered

Sphaeroeca, a colony of choanoflagellates (aproximately 230 individuals). (Credit: By Dhzanette (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choanoflagellate) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

1000pa (Sep. 27, 2012) — Since the Victorian era, categorizing the natural world has challenged scientists. No group has presented a challenge as tricky as the protists, the tiny, complex life forms that are neither plants nor animals. A new reclassification of eukaryotic life forms...

Large bacterial population colonized land 2.75 billion years ago

A drill core from the 2.5 billion-year-old Mount McRae Shale formation in Western Australia, which originally was fine-grained ocean sediment, shows high concentrations of sulfide and molybdenum. That supports the idea that most of the sulfate came from land, likely freed by microbial activity on rocks. Some data for the research came from the Mount McRae formation. (Credit: Roger Buick/U. of Washington)

1000pa (Sep. 24, 2012) — There is evidence that some microbial...

How life arose on Earth: Researchers brew up organics on ice

Researchers are brewing up icy, organic concoctions in the lab to mimic materials at the edge of our solar system and beyond. The laboratory equipment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is seen at right, and a very young solar system, with its swirling planet-forming disk, is shown in the artist's concept at left. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

1000pa (Sep. 18, 2012) — Would you like icy organics with that? Maybe not in your coffee, but researchers...

Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars

1000pa (Aug. 9, 2012) — Wichita State University associate professor Mark Schneegurt recently had a paper published in the journal Astrobiology. His paper focused on bacteria that live in environments that are salty, but not with sodium chloride -- the kind of salt we're used to. It has to do with magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt. Share This: See Also: Plants & AnimalsMicrobes and MoreSoil TypesSpace & TimeMarsSpace MissionsFossils &...

How life turned left: Meteorite fragments help explain why living things only use molecules with specific orientations

1000pa (July 25, 2012) — Researchers analyzing meteorite fragments that fell on a frozen lake in Canada have developed an explanation for the origin of life's handedness -- why living things only use molecules with specific orientations. The work also gave the strongest evidence to date that liquid water inside an asteroid leads to a strong preference of left-handed over right-handed forms of some common protein amino acids in meteorites. The result makes the search for extraterrestrial...

It took Earth ten million years to recover from greatest mass extinction

1000pa (May 27, 2012) — It took some 10 million years for Earth to recover from the greatest mass extinction of all time, latest research has revealed.

Life was nearly wiped out 250 million years ago, with only 10 per cent of plants and animals surviving. It is currently much debated how life recovered from this cataclysm, whether quickly or slowly.

Recent evidence for a rapid bounce-back is evaluated in a new review article by Dr Zhong-Qiang Chen, from the China...

Fossil raindrop impressions imply greenhouse gases loaded early atmosphere

1000pa (Mar. 28, 2012) — In ancient Earth history, the sun burned as much as 30 percent dimmer than it does now. Theoretically that should have encased the planet in ice, but there is geologic evidence for rivers and ocean sediments between 2 billion and 4 billion years ago.

Scientists have speculated that temperatures warm enough to maintain liquid water were the result of a much thicker atmosphere, high concentrations of greenhouse gases or a combination of the two.

Now...

New evidence that comets deposited building blocks of life on primordial Earth

1000pa (Mar. 27, 2012) — New research reported in San Diego on March 27 at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) provides further support for the idea that comets bombarding Earth billions of years ago carried and deposited the key ingredients for life to spring up on the planet.

Jennifer G. Blank, Ph.D., who led the research team, described experiments that recreated with powerful laboratory "guns" and computer models the conditions...

Hazy shades of life on early Earth

1000pa (Mar. 18, 2012) — A 'see-sawing' atmosphere over 2.5 billion years ago preceded the oxygenation of our planet and the development of complex life on Earth, a new study has shown.

Research, led by experts at Newcastle University, UK, and published March 18 in the journal Nature Geoscience, reveals that Earth's early atmosphere periodically flipped from a hydrocarbon-free state into a hydrocarbon-rich state similar to that of Saturn's moon, Titan.

This switch between...

Meteorites reveal another way to make life's components

1000pa (Mar. 9, 2012) — Creating some of life's building blocks in space may be a bit like making a sandwich -- you can make them cold or hot, according to new NASA research. This evidence that there is more than one way to make crucial components of life increases the likelihood that life emerged elsewhere in the Universe, according to the research team, and gives support to the theory that a "kit" of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by impacts from meteorites...

First plants caused ice ages, new research reveals

1000pa (Feb. 1, 2012) — New research reveals how the arrival of the first plants 470 million years ago triggered a series of ice ages. Led by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, the study is published in Nature Geoscience.

The team set out to identify the effects that the first land plants had on the climate during the Ordovician Period, which ended 444 million years ago. During this period the climate gradually cooled, leading to a series of 'ice ages'. This global cooling...

Life beyond Earth? Underwater caves in Bahamas could give clues

1000pa (Jan. 26, 2012) — Discoveries made in some underwater caves by Texas &M University at Galveston researchers in the Bahamas could provide clues about how ocean life formed on Earth millions of years ago, and perhaps give hints of what types of marine life could be found on distant planets and moons.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology at the Texas A&M-Galveston campus, and graduate student Brett Gonzalez of Trabuco Canyon,...

1000pa (Jan. 26, 2012) — Discoveries made in...

Novel chemical route to form organic molecules

1000pa (Jan. 13, 2012) — An international team of scientists led by University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Professor Ralf I. Kaiser, Alexander M. Mebel of Florida International University, and Alexander Tielens of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, discovered a novel chemical route to form polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- complex organic molecules such as naphthalene carrying fused benzene rings -- in ultra-cold regions of i...

1000pa (Jan. 13, 2012) — An international team of...

Early Earth may have been prone to deep freezes, study finds

1000pa (Dec. 5, 2011) — Two University of Colorado Boulder researchers who have adapted a three-dimensional, general circulation model of Earth's climate to a time some 2.8 billion years ago when the sun was significantly fainter than present think the planet may have been more prone to catastrophic glaciation than previously believed.

The new 3-D model of the Archean Eon on Earth that lasted from about 3.8 billion years to 2.5 billion...

1000pa (Dec. 5, 2011) — Two University of Colorado...

Setting the stage for life: Scientists make key discovery about the atmosphere of early Earth

1000pa (Nov. 30, 2011) — Scientists in the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have used the oldest minerals on Earth to reconstruct the atmospheric conditions present on Earth very soon after its birth. The findings, which appear in the Dec. 1 edition of the journal Nature, are the first direct evidence of what the ancient atmosphere of the planet was like soon after its formation and directly challenge...

1000pa (Nov. 30, 2011) — Scientists in the New...

Date and rate of Earth's most extreme extinction pinpointed: Results stem from largest ever examination of fossil marine species

1000pa (Nov. 17, 2011) — It's well known that Earth's most severe mass extinction occurred about 250 million years ago. What's not well known is the specific time when the extinctions occurred. A team of researchers from North America and China have published a paper in Science which explicitly provides the date and rate of extinction.

"This is the first paper to provide rates of such massive extinction," says Dr. Charles Henderson,...

1000pa (Nov. 17, 2011) — It's well known that Earth's...

First Bird

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Evolution

Timeline: Human Evolution

Biggest Dinosaurs

The 10 Biggest Dinosaurs

Fossils 

Fossil Formation: How Do Fossils Form?
 

Book review

Dinosaurs Encyclopedia

Book Review

Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages ... WRITTEN BY A PROFESSIONAL paleontologist specifically for young readers, this guide to the Dinosauria is packed...