Category Archives: Articles

Jim Chatters Presents Naia’s Hard Life at Society for American Archaeology Meeting

During Jim Chatters’ presentation on March 26, NPA members and guests got an exclusive sneak preview of new discoveries coming out the Hoyo Negro underwater cave in Mexico, including some information that can’t be discussed pending formal scientific publication. One of topics that can be mentioned now was how X-rays of the bone structure of the teenage girl Naia’s skeleton reveal a hard life, with periods of nutritional stress, and evidence of pregnancy and injuries. On March 30, a few days after his NPA presentation, Chatters gave a more technical version of the Naia story at the 2017 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada, as reported in the journal Nature and elsewhere.   Read More →

Caroline Strömberg Gets Charles Schuchert Award

Burke Museum Curator of Paleobotany and UW professor Caroline Strömberg has received the 2017 Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society in recognition of her ground-breaking work on fossil phytoliths as a way to understand ancient plants and environments, and in particular grasses and the animals that feed on them. Phytoliths are tiny silica bodies that form in the tissues of some plants. Because phytoliths are made of mineral, they are preserved in soils when plants die and decompose, and thus may leave no other fossil traces. The microscopic shapes of phytoliths are distinctive to particular plant groups, sometimes down to the species level. However, the role they play in plants is not completely understood. Phytoliths make grasses gritty for animals to chew–according to traditional thinking, leading to the evolution of high-crowned (hypsodont) teeth that grow as they are worn away, as in horses and other grazing animals. Read More →

Extinction of Mainland and Island Mammoth Populations in Alaska 6,000 Years Ago

Duane Froese, University of Alberta, presents new research on the extinction of mammoths and other megafauna from Arctic North America.

How Baleen Evolved in Whales

A new study (that included Nicholas Pyenson from the Smithsonian and an Affiliate Curator Burke Museum) looked at the origin of baleen and how modern toothless baleen whales evolved from early toothed forms without baleen.  Baleen filter plates in whale jaws are unique among mammals, but are made of keratin similar to horns and hoofs.  The researchers reviewed the fossil evidence and looked at four possible evolutionary scenarios in which whales had both teeth and baleen at the same time or lost their teeth before they evolved baleen.  Other studies have suggested that suction feeding by toothed ancestors may have led to the development of baleen. The new study proposes that a toothless suction feeding stage may have come before baleen developed. Unfortunately, the embryonic development of tooth buds and baleen in modern whales is still not well understood.

Carlos Mauricio Peredo, Nicholas D. Pyenson and Alexandra T. Boersma (2017) Decoupling Tooth Loss from the Evolution of Baleen in Whales. Frontiers of Marine Science  4: Article 67 https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00067

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2017.00067/full

Major Reclassification of Dinosaurs Proposed

A team of researchers in Britain did a new analysis of hundreds of dinosaur skeletons and  have concluded that the current classification of dinosaurs into two major groups called the Saurischia (“lizard-hipped”) and Ornithischia (“bird-hipped”), first proposed in 1888, is not correct.  Read More →

Huge Skull from Alaska Supports Legends of Ancient Giant Polar Bear

An extremely large bear skull (dated to about 1,300 years ago) found in 2014 on a beach in Alaska could belong to a giant type of polar bear described in legends by Arctic people as distinct from and bigger than modern polar bears.

http://westerndigs.org/giant-skull-found-in-alaska-may-be-evidence-of-elusive-king-polar-bear-experts-say/

New Early Jurassic Marine Fossil Lagerstätte Found in Alberta

Paleontologists use the German term Lagerstätte [storage place] for fossil sites with exceptional preservation and abundant fossils. Such deposits are rare worldwide. Stonerose in Washington state is considered an example of a Lagerstätte for plant fossils.  Now a new Lagerstätte for marine animals (invertebrates and vertebrates) has been found at Ya Ha Tinda in Alberta, Canada, and dates from the same time period as similar marine fossil sites in Italy, Germany, and  Great Britain. The special preservation (including soft tissues) may be the result of low oxygen levels in the water at the time, preventing decay before the animals were buried in sediment.

Rowan C. Martindale, Theodore R. Them II, Benjamin C. Gill, Selva M. Marroquín, and Andrew H. Knoll (2017) A new Early Jurassic (ca. 183 Ma) fossil Lagerstätte from Ya Ha Tinda, Alberta, Canada. Geology 45:. 255-258, doi:10.1130/G38808.1 http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/45/3/255.abstract

New Fossil Crabs From British Columbia and Oregon

Homolid crabs (known as “porter crabs” or “carrier crabs” ) are long-legged, deep water crabs that get their common name from carrying sponges, corals, and even urchins on the back of their carapace using a special pair of legs, a behavior thought to be a defense or camouflage against predators.  Their fossils have been rare from the West Coast.  A new paper names describes  a new genus of homolid crab (Cretalamoha) from the Pender Formation on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and a new species (Paromola roseburgensis) from the early Eocene Roseburg Formation in Oregon.  Another fossil homolid crab named Homola vancouverensis was found in the Eocene Hoko River Formation of Washington State and described in 2001.

 

Torrey Nyborg and Alessandro Garassino (2017) New Occurrences of Fossil Homolidae from the Eastern Pacific. Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana 69(1): 135 ‒ 148

http://boletinsgm.igeolcu.unam.mx/bsgm/index.php/component/content/article/346-sitio/abstracts/fourth-epoch/6901/1645-6901-6-nyborg

http://boletinsgm.igeolcu.unam.mx/bsgm/vols/epoca04/6901/%286%29Nyborg.pdf

Evidence Claimed of Humans in Yukon in Canada as Early as 24,000 Years Ago

The DNA evidence from Kennewick Man and from other even more ancient human remains adds support to a theory that a genetically distinct human population developed in the Bering Strait region on an exposed land area called Beringia that connected Siberia and Alaska when sea levels where lower during the Ice Ages. Read More →

Kennewick Man Reburied by Local Northwest Tribes

On February 17, 2017, members of Northwest tribes came to the Burke Museum and took the remains of Kennewick Man, which had been stored at the museum since 1998. The next day (February 18), the tribal members reburied the “Ancient One,” as he was called, in a ceremony at an undisclosed spot on the Columbia Plateau.  This brings a formal end to a long legal and cultural dispute that brought scientists, the federal government, and tribal peoples into conflict over the 9,000-year-old human remains found along the Columbia River in 1996. Read More →