National Geographic News
ida missing link fossil picture

An x-ray (right) reveals details of the fossil bones of "Ida," the small "missing link" found in Germany that created a big media splash in May 2009.

Photograph courtesy PLoS ONE

December 22, 2009

Large, "lost," or simply unusual, a bevy of prehistoric beasts were brought to life in National Geographic News's most popular paleontology stories of the year.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.

Top Ten Discoveries of 2009: Nat Geo News's Most Viewed
Top Ten Photo Galleries of 2009: Nat Geo News's Most Viewed
Top Ten Space Finds of 2009: Nat Geo News's Most Viewed
Top Ten Archaeology Finds: Most Viewed of 2009
Top New Species of 2009: Nat Geo News's Most Viewed
Top Ten Videos of 2009: Nat Geo News's Most Watched



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