Paleontología

Campamento de la última expedición española en Guinea Ecuatorial en busca de fósiles del ancestro común entre chimpancés y humanos. Grupo de Paleoantropología MNCN-CSIC

Tenemos los españoles una actitud algo renuente en reconocer los beneficios que genera la cultura científica. Desde el ya clásico “Que inventen otros”, hasta la incredulidad del ciudadano medio que se pregunta y nos pregunta: “… y eso que hacéis, ¿para qué sirve?”. Colectivamente, no tenemos muy clara la necesidad de invertir en investigación básica.

Con fondos de la convocatoria Explora Ciencia del Ministerio que se dedica a la promoción de la ciencia en España, cuya siglas mutan más rápido que el ADN mitocondrial, hemos iniciado un proyecto de investigación en el corazón de las selvas lluviosas del África central, en la República de Guinea Ecuatorial.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prehistory’s Brilliant Future

One morning last spring, I opened my email to see a photograph of the paleontologist Diego Pol. There he was, stretched out, feigning sleep, on a dinosaur’s femur roughly the size of a living room couch.

A charismatic Argentine scientist who likes to clown, Diego had a spectacular find. Excavating in the badlands of Patagonia, his team had unearthed a record-breaker: a plant-eating sauropod calculated to have been 130 feet long and 65 feet tall and to have weighed 85 tons, equivalent to 14 adult African elephants. The fossil surpassed the reputed record-holder, another Patagonian sauropod, Argentinosaurus.

Within months, Diego’s dinosaur had other spectacular company.…  Seguir leyendo »

What becomes a legend most? If you’re a woman, the formula is straightforward. Your best bets are the three D’s: delusion (Joan of Arc), disability (Helen Keller), death (Sylvia Plath). You get extra points for the savage, sudden or surprising demise, as Evita, Amelia or Diana attests. At the head of the list of untimely self-destructors comes of course Cleopatra VII, for whose tomb a search begins shortly, on an Egyptian hilltop west of Alexandria.

Cleopatra died 2,039 years ago, at the age of 39. Before she was a slot machine, a video game, a cigarette, a condom, a caricature, a cliché or a synonym for Elizabeth Taylor, before she was reincarnated by Shakespeare, Dryden or Shaw, she was a nonfictional Egyptian queen.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Anjana Ahuja (THE TIMES, 03/09/07):

In the world of palaeontology, Lucy is like Brangelina, Nelson Mandela and the Queen rolled into one. She is by far the most famous fossil in the world. She has the diminutive stature of a chimpanzee and a pelvis that suggests she walked upright; that combination makes her a platinum milestone along the path of human evolution.

And that is why the 3.2 million-year-old is leaving her home country of Ethiopia and embarking on a celebrity tour of America. The first stop on her six-year odyssey is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where she went on display on Friday.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Simon Jenkins (THE GUARDIAN, 15/09/06):

The remains of a neanderthal settlement have been found on the Rock of Gibraltar, carbon-dated to just 24,000 years ago. This is 10,000 years later than the last known remains and, according to the rampant neanderthal lobby, brings these lovable people almost to the present day. It proves to those who have championed their cause that every discovery about neanderthals has them surviving longer than was previously thought.

The latest issue of Nature describes primitive stone tools and wood fires in Gorham's cave on the side of the Rock. The wonders of modern archaeology reveal roughly a dozen people living in a cave near a stream three miles inland from the sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Jordi Agustí, director del Instituto de Paleontología M. Crusafont de la Diputación de Barcelona (EL PAIS, 19/11/04):

El hallazgo de Pierolapithecus en sedimentos de Hostalets de Pierola datados en unos doce millones de años, aunque sorpresivo y fortuito (como este tipo de descubrimientos suelen ser), responde en el fondo a una lógica profunda. A Pierolapithecus le correspondió la suerte de vivir en una especie de oasis de estabilidad ecológica entre dos momentos de profunda crisis global.

En efecto, entre 16 y 14 millones de años, nuestro planeta vivió una de las más profundas crisis climáticas y ambientales que se hayan registrado en él en los últimos 30 millones de años.…  Seguir leyendo »