The story of vertebrate evolution over the last 250 million years is one of the most remarkable, and most complex to unravel, stories of all time. Throughout the ages, extraordinary species and groups have come and gone, and we are left now with only a fingerprint of times long forgotten. Recreating and detecting macroevolutionary patterns within and between vertebrate groups using the fossil record involves an excruciating amount of work, due to the massive amount of data required to be sampled, and the potential number of parameters that could influence biological trends.
Continuing work from his MSc thesis, Roland Sookias (and Roger Benson and Richard Butler) continues to make a name for himself by rigorously analysing the terrestrial tetrapod record within the late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic. His latest paper [free to access!] extends the analysis of his first (looking at the interaction of intrinsic traits (i.e., body mass) within and between clades of tetrapods around the time that dinosaurs began their ascent) by looking at the impact of extrinsic (i.e., environmental) parameters on body size.
Childhood memories of dinosaurs have received another shattering blow today. The latest culprit is Yutyrannus huali, a large basal tyrannosauroid from the lower Cretaceous of China, complete with elongate integumental filament structures, or ‘protofeathers’. The etymology is quite special, says lead author Xing Xu, translating into a blend of Mandarin and Latin as ‘beautiful feathered tyrant’. This species is the latest wonder to be exhumed from the fossil treasure trove known as the Yixian Formation, a series of volcanogenic and lacustrine deposits that are currently guiding and re-working our understanding of dinosaur evolution. Of course, being such prominent study, Nature saw fit to pop it behind a $32 paywall.