2013: The year in discoveries

MSN News | AP Photo: Mark Gurney
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The Olinguito

Water on Mars, a new body part and the oldest known dinosaur were discovered in 2013. Click or swipe through for our pick of the most notable discoveries of the past twelve months. See gallery

The olinguito is a small, raccoon-like mammal described by the Smithsonian as a cross between “a house cat and a teddy bear.” The carnivorous critter lives in the forests of Ecuador and Colombia. Mammal discoveries are very rare and the olinguito is the first discovery of its kind in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

Reuters: University of Leicester, Handout
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King Richard III's skeleton

More than 500 years after his death, the skeleton of King Richard III was discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. The king was killed in 1485 during the War of the Roses and was buried in Greyfriars Friary. The area was later demolished and the exact site of his burial was lost. In 2012, a search for the king’s body was launched and on the first day of the dig, human remains of a man in his thirties were found. The age of the bones matched that of the king and after DNA testing, the skeleton’s identification was confirmed.

Reuters: INAH, Handout
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Five thousand cave paintings found

Archeologists in Mexico discovered almost 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos that are believed to have been made by hunter-gatherer groups. The paintings depict people, animals, plants and teepees, among other things, which gives researchers greater insight into the daily lives of the nomadic groups. The images haven't been dated, but they were found in an area that was not previously believed to have been inhabited by people.

In this photo is a cave painting in the Sierra de San Carlos, Mexico.

James Clark
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Aourun Zhaoi

Fossil remains of a new meat-eating species of dinosaur, the Aorun zhaoiI, were found in China, dating back more than 161 million years ago.

Reuters: L. Calçada, ESO
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Earth-like exoplanets in Gliese 667 system

Researchers discovered three exoplanets that might be habitable. All three are considered “goldilocks” planets, or planets that fall in the just-right distance from a star to allow liquid water to exist. Shown here is an artist's impression of a sunset seen from the one of the planets, the Gliese 667 Cc.

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Greenland's 'Grand Canyon'

The longest canyon on Earth was discovered about a mile under Greenland’s ice sheet. Measuring at least 460 miles, the canyon is as deep as 2,600 feet in some places and was likely a major river system about 4 million years ago.

In this photo is a radar image of the canyon.

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First known tumor found

The oldest known tumor was discovered in the rib of a Neanderthal who lived more than 120,000 years ago. Found in Croatia, x-ray images of the rib fragment show a hollow cavity where bone was supposed to exist. This is a type of tumor that is still found in humans today.

In this photo is a Micro CT scan of the Neanderthal rib.

UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Rob Eagle
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Meteorites found in ancient jewelry

Ancient Egyptian beads made from meteorites were found in a 5,000 year old tomb near Cairo. Considered to be the oldest known iron artifacts in the world, the beads were strung together with other minerals like gold to form a necklace around 2,000 years before Egypt's Iron Age.

In this photo are the meteoric beads formed into a necklace.

Mauricio Anton
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World's oldest big cat fossil

Fossils of the Panthera blytheae, the oldest known big cat, were discovered in Tibet. The cat lived between 5.9 and 4.1 million years ago and is very similar to the snow leopard. The origin of all cats, including house cats, is about 16 million years ago.

Getty Images: Munisch Bhagwanani
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Ants' 'social chromosome'

A new social chromosome helps explain why some fire ant colonies organize themselves into two different social structures: colonies that revolve around a single queen ant, and those that accept multiple queens into their communities. In the first type of colony, a queen ant mates with a male and then goes on to form her own colony. Queen ants in the second type of colony stay in their homes for life. Worker ants only accept queens who match their colony’s social type. The chromosome is specific to the Selenopsis invicta.

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Water on Mars?

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity discovered water molecules in the soil on the planet’s surface. Each cubic foot of soil contains about two pints of liquid, or roughly 2% water. The discovery gives greater insight into the composition of Mars’ surface and brings scientists a step closer to understanding whether Mars was once habitable.

In this photo are geological members of the Yellowknife Bay formation. The scene has the Sheepbed mudstone in the foreground and rises up through Gillespie Lake member to the Point Lake outcrop. These rocks record superimposed ancient lake and stream deposits that offered past environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Rocks here were exposed about 70 million years ago by removal of overlying layers due to erosion by the wind.

Natural History Museum of London: Mark Witton
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Oldest dinosaur found in museum

Fossil remains that have been sitting in London’s Natural History Museum are most likely those of the Nyasasaurus parringtoni, a dinosaur that lived about 245 million years ago. That's about 15 million years earlier than dinosaurs were previously believed to have existed. The fossils were originally discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s and date back to the Mid-Triassic period. The dinosaur was between 7 to 10 feet long and roughly 45 to 135 pounds.

In this photo is an artist's rendering of the dinosaur.

Old Dominion University: Nora K. Noffke
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Oldest complete fossils on Earth

Microbes in ancient sedimentary rocks were found in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, marking the discovery of the oldest fossils on Earth. Researchers Microbially induced sedimentary structures are caused by biofilms of microorganisms colonizing the surfaces of deposits in ocean, river, and lake settings.

In this photo is a microbially induced sedimentary structure from the 3.48 Ga Dresser Formation that was found in Pilbara, Western Australia.

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