Over the past several weeks, a flurry of dinosaur and other fossil discoveries have reached the mainstream news. From the two 530-million-year-old fish-like creatures that could be the earliest known vertebrates found in China, to the bones of two dinosaurs in Madagascar that may be the oldest dinosaurs ever found, to the "60-ton giraffe-like creature" (3)
found in Oklahoma (called Sauroposeidon proteles,
or "thunder lizard"), paleontologists are immersed in discovery. The significance of the first discovery is triggering excitement among paleontologists, worldwide. In particular, the discovery of the two "fish-like" fossils in China (to be published in this week's journal Nature)
indicates that fish (i.e., vertebrates) evolved much earlier than previously thought and that "the rates of evolution in the oceans during the Cambrian period must have been exceptionally fast" (1)
. This week's In The News discusses some of the recently unveiled discoveries and provides background information and resources on vertebrate paleontology.