2016 was a successful year for paleontology

We can think of 2016 whatever we want. But the fact is that, if it comes to paleontology, it was a pretty successful year!

Naturally, it’s impossible to provide a lengthy discussion of the most intriguing studies in a single article. But we can still mention some of the papers that we find to be of particular interest to our readers and link to them. This article includes the links to 50 such papers. If you think we’ve forgotten something really fascinating – well, you’re certainly right. With the amount of excellence, it’s pretty easy to forget about things however interesting they are. Feel free to point out other papers in comments under this post.

January
Martin G. Lockley and colleagues published on unique footprints left by theropods engaged in scrape ceremony display activity.

Bernardo J. González Riga and colleagues described a new gigantic sauropod dinosaur, Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi. The dinosaur was around 30 meters (100 feet) long, with an estimated weight of about 44.9 to 75.9 tonnes.

David M. Martill and colleagues described an early theropod, Dracoraptor hanigani, from the beginning of the Jurassic.

Mateusz Tałanda provided a redescription of a Cretaceous squamate named Slavoia darevskii and argued that it represents the oldest known member of the evolutionary branch leading to modern amphisbaenians.

February
Stephen L. Brusatte and Thomas D. Carr studied the evolutionary history of the tyrannosauroid dinosaurs.

Paul Z. Barrett published a review of the North American members of the clade Nimravidae, the “false saber-tooth cats”.

David W. E. Hone and colleagues studied the ontogenetic changes written in the fossil record and ask: what, if anything, is an adult dinosaur?

Pavel P. Skutschas and colleagues described the first unambiguous frog from the Jurassic of Asia; discovered in Siberia, Russia.

March
Juan D. Daza and colleagues described twelve specimens of squamates preserved in a 99-million-year-old amber from Myanmar.

Valentin Fischer and colleagues studied the events leading to the extinction of the ichthyosaurs.

Felipe L. Pinheiro and colleagues described an early archosauromorph, Teyujagua paradoxa, based on an exceptional skull material from the Lower Triassic of Brazil.

Stephen L. Brusatte and colleagues published on a new tyrannosauroid dinosaur, Timurlengia euotica, from the mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan.

April
Martín Ezcurra published a comprehensive study of the phylogenetic relationships of early archosauromorphs, members of the clade that includes dinosaurs (incl. birds), pterosaurs, crocodiles, and possibly also turtles.

Victoria E. McCoy and colleagues studied the enigmatic, 309-to-307-million-year-old soft-bodied organism, named Tullimonstrum gregarium (known also as the “Tully monster”). The authors studied more than 1 200 specimens and concluded that the “Tully monster” was a vertebrate.

May
Li Chun and colleagues described new fossils belonging to fascinating the Middle Triassic species Atopodentatus unicus and interpreted it as the earliest herbivorous marine reptile.

Daniel Madzia studied the original material of the popular mid-Cretaceous pliosaurid Polyptychodon interruptus, concluding that it most likely belongs to different plesiosaurs. The author of the study is the editor-in-chief of Wild Prehistory. It just had to be here, right?

Shixing Zhu and colleagues described 1.56-billion-year-old multicellular eukaryotes, up to 30 cm long, from North China.

Susannah M. Porter studied 780-to-740-million-year-old microfossils (some or all representing eukaryotes) with holes interpreted as a result of predation.

Tomasz Szczygielski and Tomasz Sulej described two new species belonging to Proterochersidae, a Late Triassic clade that includes the oldest fully-shelled turtles.

June
Tomasz Skawiński and colleagues studied and redescribed some long-forgotten archosaur specimens, including Velocipes guerichi. The study is interesting especially because it was conducted mostly by dinosaur enthusiasts (associated with Forum Dinozaury.com!) with no or little previous experiences with science. The publication of the paper shows that science is for everyone, regardless of the obtained degree.

Thomas John Dixon Halliday and colleagues argued that eutherian mammals experienced elevated evolutionary rates in the immediate aftermath of the Cretaceous–Palaeogene mass extinction.

Georgios L. Georgalis and colleagues revised the enigmatic large snake Laophis crotaloides, placing it among the largest vipers.

Federico Fanti and colleagues described Machimosaurus rex, the largest known thalattosuchian crocodylomorph.

July
Sebastían Apesteguía and colleagues described an unusual new Late Cretaceous theropod, Gualicho shinyae, with a didactyl manus.

Bin Wan and colleagues published the first description of putative animal fossils from the early Ediacaran of South China.

María Julia Arrouy and colleagues described probable soft-bodied macrofossils from the Ediacaran of South America and discussed their significance for the paleogeography of the southwest Gondwana at the end of the Ediacaran.

August
Oliver W. M. Rauhut and colleagues described a new large theropod, Wiehenvenator albati. The dinosaur was previously known as “Das Monster von Minden” and represented one of the largest European theropods.

Robert G. Moyle and colleagues argued that tectonic collision and uplift of Wallacea triggered the global songbird radiation.

Asier Larramendi reviewed the shoulder height, body mass and shape of proboscideans.

September
Sophie Sanchez and colleagues studied the histology and growth histories of the humeri belonging to the iconic near-tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari from Stensiö Bjerg, East Greenland. The study that included specimens from a mass-death deposit revealed that even the largest individuals were still juveniles.

Jakob Vinther and colleagues published on a 3D camouflage in the ornithischian dinosaur Psittacosaurus.

Sébastien Olive and colleagues described new fossils belonging to two near-tetrapods, an Ichthyostega-like species and a species resembling whatcheeriids.

John Kappelman and colleagues suggested that the famous Australopithecus afarensis specimen named Lucy died after falling from a tall tree.

Allen P. Nutman and colleagues described 3.7-billion-year-old microbial structures from Greenland.

October
Cheng-Hsiu Tsai and Naoki Kohno published on multiple origins of gigantism in stem-baleen whales.

Michelle R. Stocker and colleagues described a dome-headed stem-archosaur, Triopticus primus, that exemplifies convergence among dinosaurs and their distant relatives.

Valentin Fischer​ published a redescription of “Platypterygius campylodon, one of the historically most important last ichthyosaurs.

Piotr Bajdek and colleagues described possible pre-mammalian hair in the Upper Permian coprolites from Russia.

November
Katarzyna Frankowiak and colleagues published on the symbiosis between scleractinian corals and dinoflagellates, concluding that the coral-dinoflagellate “symbiosis was likely a key driver in the evolution and expansion of shallow-water scleractinians”.

Sergio Furtado Cabreira and colleagues described two new early dinosauromorphs (a sauropodomorph dinosaur and a lagerpetid) from the lower Upper Triassic of São João do Polêsine, Brazil.

David B. Nicholson and colleagues studied the pattern of increasing taxonomic richness with decreasing latitude in non-marine turtles living during the Mesozoic.

Józef Kaźmierczak and colleagues described tubular microfossils from ∼2.8-to-2.7 billion-year-old lake deposits of South Africa.

December
Jerzy Dzik and Tomasz Sulej described a new early archosauromorph, Ozimek volans. It was discovered at the ~230-million-year-old strata of Krasiejów, Poland. The authors hypothesized that the animal was a glider.

Catherine G. Klein and colleagues argued that mid-Cretaceous northern Africa was a hotspot for early snakes.

Xijun Ni and colleagues described a new deltatheroidan from the Paleocene of China. The discovery was the first evidence that the members of the mammal clade Deltatheroida survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

Megan R. Whitney and colleagues published on a tumor in a 255-million-year-old mammal forerunner.

Fidelis T. Masao and colleagues described footprints that provide evidence for marked body size variation in early hominins.

Lida Xing and colleagues described a unique discovery of a dinosaur tail preserved in a 99-million-year-old amber from Myanmar.

Shuo Wang and colleagues studied the growth of the unique Late Jurassic theropod dinosaur Limusaurus inextricabilis. They concluded that the dinosaur lost teeth and developed beak as it aged.

Sven Sachs and colleagues published a detailed restudy of Brancasaurus brancai, Europe’s most complete Early Cretaceous plesiosaur.

Featured image © Lida Xing.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

2 thoughts on “2016 was a successful year for paleontology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *