Published December 31, 2009
| National Geographic
Large, "lost," or simply unusual, a bevy of prehistoric beasts were brought to life in throughout the year. A paleontologist's work is never done, it seems!
But keeping up with the discoveries is a full-time job in itself. This past year saw new dinos in Australia, swarms of trilobites, snakes that were longer than buses, and more.
To clue you in to the stories you may have missed from the past 12 years, we present the most popular paleontology stories of the year, as chosen by the readers of National Geographic News. Follow the links for more on each story.
10. Biggest Trilobite Sea Beasts Found ... in Swarms
The "remarkable," yard-long, horseshoe crab-like arthropods roamed in swarms of up to a thousand animals, a May study suggests.
9. "Lost World" of Dinosaurs Survived Mass Extinction?
An isolated group of dinosaurs may have outlived their doomed relatives by as much as half a million years, an April study suggested.
8. A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed?
Young dinosaurs weren't Mini-Me versions of their parents, evidence presented in October suggests—meaning that up to a third of dinosaur species may be misidentified.
7. Tiny "T. Rex" Found —150-Pound Species Came First
No heavier than a small man, Raptorex was Mini-Me to T. rex's dinosaur Dr. Evil. But in this case, the tiny gave rise to the titanic, researchers said in September.
6. Five "Oddball" Crocs Discovered, Including Dinosaur-Eater
A "saber-toothed cat in armor" and a pancake-shaped predator are among five strange, dinosaur-era crocodile cousins discovered in the Sahara, archaeologists announced in November. Meet BoarCroc, PancakeCroc, DuckCroc, RatCroc, and DogCroc.
5. Australia Dinosaur Pictures: 3 New Species Found
Fossils of a ferocious predator and two giant plant-eaters, named for an Aussie poet and his creations, have been unearthed in the outback, paleontologists announced in July.
4. New Fossil Photos: "Graceful Weasel," Jewel Bug, More
A long-legged mammal, a sharp-toothed rodent, and an iridescent beetle are among the more than 6,500 Eocene-epoch fossils unearthed in Germany's Messel Pit, scientists announced in August.
3. Biggest Snake Discovered; Was Longer Than a Bus
The 60-million-year-old reptile was also heavier than a car, scientists said in February, adding that the fossil could shed light on climate change.
2. Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found
There was never a chimp-like missing link between humans and today's apes, according to an October fossil-skeleton study that could rewrite human evolutionary history. Said one scientist, "It changes everything."
1. "Missing Link" Found: Fossil Connects Humans, Lemurs?
The 47-million-year-old, exceptionally preserved primate fossil "Ida," unveiled on May 20, was hailed by some as a major discovery in human evolution.
The publicity frenzy made National Geographic News's brief coverage our most viewed page of the year—and inspired a backlash as some experts, including one here at Nat Geo HQ, suggested Ida was more media event than milestone.