The Secrets of the Sea Hidden High in the Andes
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1M ago
Villa de Leyva is a small scenic town in Colombia’s eastern branch of the Andes Mountains. In this town, home to over 24,000 people, most of the houses are painted white, with green wooden frames and Spanish roof tiles. It is a popular tourist destination with restaurants, bars, museums, and one of the largest town squares in the Americas, with 14,000 square meters—larger than 50 tennis courts—paved with huge cobblestones. The town is famous for its colonial architecture, festivals, and outdoor activities, as well as for fossils of marine animals. Ammonites—extinct marine cephalopods with dist ..read more
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On the Origins of Reef Fishes
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid nearly 10 kilometers wide slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The impact lit vast stretches of the planet on fire. Soot and dust choked the Earth. As the world burned, temperatures in the ocean plummeted, and creatures that once ruled, including ammonites, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs, died out—along with 80 percent of the other animal species on the planet. In the void, new life flourished. Within three million years, new fish species were thriving on a reef of coral-like algae and large tuberous clams just 500 kilometers from the a ..read more
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Whales in the Cliff Face
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
Stephen Suntok pushes through a tangle of blackberry bushes. It’s a gray July morning on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and the smell of smoke from a wildfire to the north mixes with the briny sea breeze. Suntok looks up for a moment, gazing at the pale sky, then picks his way down a beach access clogged with tree trunks. Along the shore, the tide has retreated, revealing an expanse of boulders coated in blankets of slick, verdant algae. Seagulls wheel overhead as the waters of nearby Muir Creek flow into the Salish Sea. Suntok works as a criminal defense lawyer in Victoria, British Col ..read more
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For a Peek Inside Wisconsin’s Watery Past, Thank the Microbes
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
Some 440 million years ago, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Waukesha was unrecognizable. Where malls and breweries now stand was a shallow, tropical sea resembling a Bahamian cay. A hundred million years removed from the Cambrian explosion, when the diversity of life skyrocketed, this area teemed with alien creatures, like spiny worms and armored trilobites. But look closer, and this primeval ocean takes on a familiar feel: here, the first scorpions scuttled alongside the earliest leeches. There were even conodonts—eel-like creatures sporting a shadow of a spine, making them some of our ea ..read more
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An Ancient Turtle Was Just Discovered in the Remains of a Collapsed Church
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
A rare turtle fossil has been discovered inside a pillar in a historic church in New Zealand. For 130 years, the Baptist church stood on Oxford Terrace in Christchurch. But like so much of the city, it was damaged beyond repair in the Magnitude 6.2 Canterbury earthquake on February 2011, which caused the church’s roof to cave in and its grand Corinthian columns to topple to the ground. The church has since been demolished and rebuilt, and the iconic limestone pillars hollowed out, reinforced, and used in a memorial to the quake’s 185 human victims. The cores were extracted and gifted to local ..read more
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Shonisaurus Gets a Makeover
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
In the middle of nowhere Nevada, the desert rises up from the wreck of an ancient seafloor. Shards of coil-shelled ammonites peek out from clusters of Utah juniper. And in a great fossiliferous heap, the bones of giant sea creatures prompt the question of how so many whale-sized reptiles came to be buried here over 200 million years ago. In 1863, prospectors searching the parched center of the Sagebrush State found silver. The town of Berlin, Nevada, boomed and busted in the chase for the precious metal, becoming a collection of rickety shanties and ominous mine shafts. But there was something ..read more
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Where Have All the Ammonites Gone?
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
Ammonites are long gone. The last of their coil-shelled, many-tentacled kind disappeared 66 million years ago in one of the worst mass extinctions of all time. The nearly 10-kilometer-wide asteroid that struck the Earth and drew the curtain on the Cretaceous wiped them out, just as it did the flying pterosaurs and non-avian dinosaurs. And yet, there were survivors. While more than 70 percent of known species went extinct during the disaster, many others survived. The puzzle facing paleontologists now: why did the prolific and long-lived ammonites perish while other marine life—including their ..read more
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Salvaging Fossils on the Jurassic Coast
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
The narrow blue beam of James Carroll’s head torch sweeps methodically from side to side over the gravel and rocks of Charmouth Beach in the county of Dorset on the south coast of England. It’s early January and at 5:30 p.m. already pitch dark, save for the twinkling lights of the town of Lyme Regis in the distance. Abruptly, Carroll stops, bends down, and picks up a dull gray stone the size of a grapefruit. With practiced ease, he hits it sharply with a rock hammer and the stone splits in two to reveal the perfect spiral of a 190-million-year-old ammonite embedded within. Around 200 million y ..read more
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From Healthy to Extinct in 350 Years
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
In 1844, six men set out from Iceland in a small rowboat. They were headed for Eldey, a low-lying bare rock about 15 kilometers off the southwest coast. Rare great auks—large, black-and-white, flightless seabirds—nested there and the men had been commissioned by a specimen dealer to get hold of any birds they could find. Jumping ashore, they spotted a pair of the birds guarding an egg. In the ensuing chase, the two auks were killed and their egg was accidentally crushed. The men didn’t know it, but they had just killed the last great auks ever seen alive. Back on the mainland, the hunters sold ..read more
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The Ancient Underwater Boneyard That Tells a Dark Story
Hakai Magazine » Paleontology
by Hakai Magazine
1y ago
It was while working deep in the archives of a dinosaur museum that Hallie Street realized she had a mystery on her hands. Street, a curatorial assistant at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s T.rex Discovery Centre, was only meant to be cataloging the thousands of ancient fossils in the museum’s collection. But every time she picked up another tiny plastic bag with a shark tooth or reptile bone in it, the weird markings and sheer number of specimens gave her the same hunch—something dramatic had happened to these animals. “I kept finding things that I thought were curious,” she says. Street’s wor ..read more
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