GEOL/BIOL 308: Early Hominin Evolution: Australopithecus sediba

A recent discovery of two very well preserved fossils in South Africa has caused a flourish of activity in the study of early hominin evolution. Much literature has been produced, since the unearthing in 2010, on the two skeletons found in dolomite caves near Johannesburg; these caves have accumulated sediments for the last three million years and currently provided the oldest uncontested ancestor of the Homo genus in Africa at 1.977 T 0.002 million years ago (Pickering et al., 2011).

Continue Reading

GEOS 111: Evolution as a Scientific and Political Issue

According to ABC News, on August 1st in Kansas, there was an issue on the ballot regarding the state Board of Education’s approval of science testing standards that de-emphasize evolution (Miles 2011). Moderates and conservatives are challenging each other over the new standards (using it as a litmus test of whether to label a candidate as moderate or conservative), and critics of the 6-4 vote last year to approve the standards say that it makes Kansas appear backward.

Continue Reading

GEOS 211: How the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event Affected Animal Evolution

The Neoproterozoic era is characterized by a drastic change in the Earth’s major developmental systems.  Marked by increased oxygen levels, the Neoproterozoic is said to be a turning point for the evolution of animals, specifically the development of multicellular organisms.  A study completed by Graham Shields-Zhou and Lawrence Och discussed the changes in atmospheric and oceanic compositions during the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event, and how those compositions affected the natural environment.

Continue Reading

GEOS 111: Evidence of our Social Beginnings in Human Evolution

Two apparent “tool-kits” – which were found to be made of shells rich in ochre – were discovered in Cape Town, South Africa this month. The artifacts are estimated at 100,000 years old. Scientists have gathered that the ochre kits could have been used for decorating the bodies or clothing of the users. They could have also been used for painting or skin protection (Science Daily).

Continue Reading

GEOS 111: Staying Current on Pre-Historic News

Three days ago, a dinosaur hatchling (actually found 14 years ago in Maryland) made the news as being identified as a new genus and species – Propanoplosaurus marylandicus — “that lived in the Early Cretaceous Era about 110 million years ago” (Msnbc.com). By the bumps and grooves on the hatchling nodosaur’s skull, they determined its age, species, cause of death (drowning) and say that this find will definitely motivate further searches for Maryland dinosaurs as well as further analysis of those already previously found there.

Continue Reading