June 15, 2021


Scientists Find a Fossilized Ancestor of ‘Dinosaur Food’

Before the first mammals, before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, a plant grew in Gondwana, a huge continent in the Southern Hemisphere.

Almost 280 million years later, in what is now Brazil, scientists have identified the fossil remains of that plant as an early member of a lineage called cycads, or cycadales, that continues to this day. The discovery expands scientific understanding of the resilience of these plants, which persisted through two mass extinctions.

“The vegetative anatomy of this plant is remarkably similar to the ones that live today,” said Rafael Spiekermann, a graduate student at the Senckenberg Research Institute and

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Little Foot’s shoulders hint at how a human-chimp ancestor climbed

Little Foot, a nearly complete hominid skeleton painstakingly excavated from rock inside a South African cave, shouldered a powerful evolutionary load.

This 3.67-million-year-old adult female sports the oldest and most complete set of shoulder blades and collarbones of any ancient hominid. Those fossils also provide the best available model for what the shoulders of the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees looked like, say Kristian Carlson, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and his colleagues. Their results provide new insights into how both Little Foot and a human-chimp last common ancestor climbed in trees.

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