News Mash-up: Fossils

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. ancestor / ˈæn sɛs tər / (n.) – an animal in the past that a modern animal developed from

    Some dinosaurs are believed to be the ancestors of chickens, crocodiles, and sea turtles.

  2. specimen / ˈspɛs ə mən / (n.) – something, like an animal, plant, or substance, that’s collected or examined as an example of a particular thing

    The rock specimen displayed in the museum came from the moon.

  3. amphibious / æmˈfɪb i əs / (adj.) – capable of living both on land and in water

    Frogs are amphibious animals.

  4. predator / ˈprɛd ə tər / (n.) – an animal that hunts and eats other animals to survive

    Sharks are some of the strongest predators in the sea.

  5. primitive / ˈprɪm ɪ tɪv / (adj.) – coming from a much earlier time in the development of an animal or plant

    Scientists have discovered primitive animals related to modern lions.


Read the text below.

Fossil of crocodile’s ‘grandfather’ discovered

A 150-million-year-old fossilized skeleton discovered in the mountains of southern Chile was likely the ancestor of the modern crocodile, the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences announced on July 23.

The species, named Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, was found in 2014 in an Andean fossil deposit near the Patagonian town of Mallin Grande by Argentine and Chilean researchers. Since then it has been analyzed at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires.

The specimen is a “grandfather” of current crocodiles and should allow scientists to understand how they evolved, the museum said. (Reuters)

Fossil of new four-legged whale found in Egypt

Scientists said on Aug. 25 they had discovered the 43-million-year-old fossil of a previously unknown amphibious four-legged whale species in Egypt — a discovery that will help trace the transition of whales from land to sea.

The whale belongs to the Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that falls in the middle of that transition, the Egyptian-led team of researchers said in a statement.

The new whale, named Phiomicetus anubis, had an estimated body length of some 3 meters and a body mass of about 600 kg and was likely a top predator, the researchers said. Its skeleton revealed it as the most primitive protocetid whale known from Africa. (Reuters)

These articles were provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The two newly discovered fossils were likely the ancestors of modern crocodiles and whales. Do you think it’s important to study the origins of modern animals in detail? How about the origins of modern humans? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s important to know a lot about your own ancestors? How far back in time are you interested in (ex. your ancestors from 100 years ago, your ancestors from 1,000 years ago)? Would you ever consider taking a DNA test to learn more about your ancestors? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The newly discovered whale was about 3 meters long, weighed around 600 kg, and had four legs. Would you like to see an animal like this in real life? Did you have any idea that whales used to live on land? What other interesting animal ancestors have you heard of (ex. giant sharks like megalodon, huge snakes like titanoboa)? Discuss.
  • How do you imagine humans will evolve in millions of years (ex. grow taller because of food, have less memory because we can look up everything online)? Why? Discuss.