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2017, The Year in Paleontology

2017 is at an end. While the year has had a lot of things that will make us say good riddance, the year in paleontology was extraordinary. To give you an idea of just how extraordinary, let’s look at what has been discovered. Far too much has gone on, so we can’t look at everything, but if we just look at the new species that have been published, it will give us a decent proxy. Using that as a measure, what a year it has been.

111 angiosperms (flowering plants). One new species is Foveomonocolpites ravnifossil pollen from the early Cretaceous of Isreal.

7 Gingoales, 20  conifers, 27 other seed plants. and 55 other plant fossils, and this doesn’t even include 4 new red algae, one of which is Rafatazmia chitrakootensis from Indiathe oldest known plant fossil at 1.6 billion years old.


23 cnidarians. including this jellyfish from the Cambrian.


68 bryozoans and 56 brachiopods,

48 echinoderms,

82 malacostracans (crabs), 87 ostracods, and 9 other crustaceans

112 coleopterans, 2 dermapterans, 1 dictyopterans, 50 dipterans, 20 hemipterans, 47 hymenopterans, 5 mecopterans, 22 neuropterans, 25 odonates, 10 trichopterans, and 44 other insects


A fungus gnat trapped in amber some 45-55 million years ago is carrying on the upper portion of its severed leg a pollen sac from an orchid – the oldest evidence of the flower ever discovered. Credit: Oregon State University
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72 arachnids, 32 trilobites and 33 other arthropods

79 ammonoids and 31 other cephalopods, 140 gastropods, 71 bivalves, and 11 other molluscs

42 conodonts, 1 early jawless vertebrate, 5 placoderms, 22 sharks and their relatives, and 102 bony fish

3 temnospondyls, 3 lissamphibians, and 2 other amphibians

4 rhynchocephalians, 12 other lizards and snakes, including this one named after Neil Gaiman and this Antarctic mosasaur, 3 icthyosaurs, and 8 sauropterygians (Mesozoic marine reptiles).

12 turtles, 9 crocodilians,

42 nonavian dinosaurs, including 9 ornithischians (including Zuul, the destroyer of shins and the most complete ankylosaur), 21 theropods,  and 12 sauropods.


20 birds, 6 pterosaurs, 1 basal archosauriform named Teleocrater, and 3 other reptiles.

11 non-mammalian synapsids, 5 metatherians, 10 xenarthrans, 1 elephant, 4 sirens (dugongs and manatees), 5 bats, 25 ungulates, 14 cetaceans, 11 carnivorans, 6 lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), 66 rodents, 6 primates, 20 other eutherians, and 6 other mammals.


The skull of Microwhaitsia. Credit: Huttenlocker and Smith 2017

55 other animals, as well as 54 various other organisms, including foraminfera and others of uncertain affinities.

All told, 2003 new species. So whatever else happened this year, it was a good year for paleontology. Here’s hoping that 2018 is good all the way around.

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