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Posts Tagged ‘paleontology

“In a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder”*…

 

An ancient bear skull sits on the floor of Hoyo Negro, a flooded cave on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

Some 13,000 years ago in what’s now the Yucatán Peninsula, a deep pit inside a cave became the final resting place for a menagerie of exotic animals.

Now, their exquisitely preserved bones, trapped for centuries under water, are offering some of the first solid clues to how large Ice Age beasts were mixing and migrating between North and South America after the Isthmus of Panama connected the two continents.

“We’re going to go from a place with no records to having the best records for a lot of megafauna from Mexico, Central America, and northern South America,” says East Tennessee State University’s Blaine Schubert, who presented the findings this week at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting in Calgary.

The animal bones are also painting a more detailed picture of the strange world inhabited by Naia, an Ice Age girl found in the cave who is the oldest, most complete human skeleton yet discovered in the Americas…

A remarkable discovery sheds new light on the exchange of life that occurred when the Isthmus of Panama rose from the ocean to connect two continents that had been ecologically separate for tens of millions of years: “Ice Age Predators Found Alongside Oldest Human in Americas.”

* “In other studies you go as far as other have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.”   – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

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As we re-trim our family trees, we might send illuminating birthday greetings to Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden; he was born on this date in 1829.  Trained as a physician (who served with the Union Army during the Civil War), Hayden was a practicing geologist and paleontologist noted for his work in the Badlands in the mid 19th century– it is believed he made the first North American discovery of dinosaur remains (1854)– and for his pioneering surveying expeditions of the Rocky Mountains later in that century, which helped lay the foundation of the U.S. Geological Survey.  Hayden is credited with having the Yellowstone geyser area declared the first national park (1872).

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Written by LW

September 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The metabolic rate of geology is too slow for us to perceive it”*…

 

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Researchers modeled continental drift, going back 240 million years ago, on the scale of millimeters per year. It starts really slow and as if the supports give way to the separating pressure, there’s a relative burst of movement.

The full paper is in Nature, and the interactive version, which is a bit rough around the edges, can be found here. Select the time, rotate the planet around, and press play to watch the continents break apart.

From Flowing Data: “Continental drift, from 240 million years ago to present.”

(While the changes are slow, they are in fact detectable in the course of a human life; c.f., “Australia’s Entire GPS Navigation is Off By 5 Feet.”)

* Russell Banks, Continental Drift

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As we slip and slide, we might spare a thought for William Buckland; he died on this date in 1856.  A English theologian who became Dean of Westminster, he was also a paleontologist (who wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur, which he named Megalosaurus) and a geologist (who was known for his effort to reconcile geological discoveries with the Bible and anti-evolutionary theories).  A gentleman of some eccentricity, Buckland undertook his field work wearing an academic gown.

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Written by LW

August 15, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Dinosaurs did not walk with humans. The evolutionary record says different. They gamboled”*…

 

Emily Graslie, host/writer of the educational YouTube series The Brain Scoop, has branched out to manage the wonderful Tumblr “…is not a dinosaur.”

This blog is a result of an erroneous mistake; one day I referred to Dimetrodon as a mammal-like reptile in front of a vertebrate paleomammalogist. These animals are not at all members of Reptilia; they are Synapsids – four-legged, back-boned animals that span back 315 million years on a completely different evolutionary branch on the tree of life.

Since then, I’ve found Dimetrodon partying with members of Dinosauria across the pages of coloring books and frolicking in the aisles of toy stores, surrounded by lifeforms which evolved some 66 million years after those ancient mammalian relatives…

And she’s shared; for example…

aurusallos:

isnotadinosaur:

This is one of my favorites – I’ll reblog whomever points out all of the discrepancies in this one image. You’ll also get a puppy*
*probably not

Upper-left feathered thing: probably an Archaeopteryx, but they have been proven to have black feathers. Although kudos to the authors/artists for allowing feathered dinosaurs to somewhat grace the cover! (Darn publishing logos)

Left green thing: an aetosaur, most likely. NOT DINOSAURS

Dimetrodon: PELYCOSAUR, NOT A DINOSAUR, SYNAPSID NOT A DIAPSID, UGHHHHHHHH. DIDN’T EVEN LIVE IN THE MESOZOIC.

Stegosaurus: head shape wrong, and dopey tail is not anatomically correct

Blue Ornithomimus thing: FOUR TOES ON THE GROUND? I don’t think so! And pronated wrists, not to mention the lack of feathers…

Protoceratops: legs sprawled out to the side instead of underneath, also missing the lower beak

Velociraptor pair: NO FEATHERS, TOO BIG, BROKEN HIPS (Sauruschian hips followed a 90 degree rule, meaning the femur does not bend back more than 90 degrees), more pronated wrists, wrong skull shape, and what are toe claws

Assumed Pteranodon: wimpy arm and shoulder musculature, missing pyncofibers, and wrong skull shape (although it might be viable, I’m scared to continue going through and trying to find pterosaur skeletals right now because of David Peters and his misleading work).

Also, many of these creatures are geographically misplaced, so even if they weren’t all from different time periods (Permian-Cretaceous), they probably wouldn’t have interacted much.

And, of course, the slightly off-center type of the title of the book is bugging me as a graphic design freak, but oh well.

ETA: More about the Dimetrodon: This illustration shows it with erect legs when it actually had sprawling legs, and the skull/mouth shape is not accurate either.

They just messed up bad with this one.

ETA2: While I do not know that much about paleobotany, I believe that most of the plants presented are fairly accurate.

I’m so proud I could cry.

 More disambiguation of the distant past at … is not a dinosaur.

* Steve Martin

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As we make Jurassic judgements, we might spare a thought for The Right Honorable John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC FRS DCL LLD; he died on this date in 1913.  A banker by trade (and family tradition), Lubbock was an avocational scientist who made significant contributions to ethnography, several branches of biology, and– as a friend and advocate of Darwin– the debate over evolution, and was a central force in establishing archaeology as a scientific discipline.

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Written by LW

May 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”*…

 

A newly discovered dinosaur species that paleontologists have dubbed the “chicken from hell” is among the largest feathered dinosaurs ever found in North America.

The 11-foot-long (3-meter-long), 500-pound (225-kilogram) Anzu wylieiis an oviraptorosaur—a family of two-legged, birdlike dinosaurs found in Central Asia and North America. These dinosaurs ranged in size from a few pounds to over a metric ton, according to a study published March 19 in the journal PLOS ONE.

With its toothless beak, long legs, huge feet, and claw-tipped arms, A. wyliei looked like a devilish version of the modern cassowary, a large ground bird found in Australia.

It was “as close as you can get to a bird without being a bird,” said study leader Matt Lamanna, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. (See “Pictures: Dinosaur’s Flashy Feathers Revealed.”)

The dinosaur’s well-preserved skeletons suggest it was a wide-ranging eater, munching on a variety of vegetation and perhaps small animals.

The species emerged from three 66-million-year-old skeletons excavated from the fossil-rich Hell Creek formation of South and North Dakota, starting in the late 1990s.  The third skeleton was found more recently, and it took years to identify and study all the remains…

Read the whole story at “New ‘Chicken From Hell’ Dinosaur Discovered.”

* Song title and lyric by Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney; recorded in 1946 by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five

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As we rethink those chicken wings, we might spare a thought for Raymond Cecil Moore; he died on this date in 1974.  A geologist and paleontologist, Moore did pioneering work on Paleozoic crinoids, bryozoans, and corals (invertebrate organisms existing 570 to 245 million years ago). Among other things, he showed that fossil stemmed forms, sometimes called “sea lilies,” while they bear a superficial resemblance to flowers, were actually animals.  Moore is probably best known as the founder and editor of the landmark multi-volume Treatise of Invertebrate Paleontology. 

Moore (on left), with William W. Hambleton, and Frank C. Foley.

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“Dinosaurs are nature’s special effects”*…

 

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The Lost World, released in 1925, was a silent film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel of the same name.  Public Domain Review elaborates:

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien (an invaluable warm up for his work on the original King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack). In 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. The astounded audience watched footage of a Triceratops family, an attack by an Allosaurus and some Stegosaurus footage. Doyle refused to discuss the film’s origins. On the next day, the New York Times ran a front page article about it, saying “(Conan Doyle’s) monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces”.

It is a film of many firsts: first film to be shown to airline passengers, in April 1925 on a London-Paris flight by the company Imperial Airways; first feature length film made in the United States, possibly the world, to feature model animation as the primary special effect, or stop motion animation in general; first dinosaur-oriented film hit, and it led to other dinosaur movies, from King Kong to the Jurassic Park trilogy.

See The Lost World at The Internet Archive, or download it: Ogg | MPEG4 | Torrent

* paleontologist Robert T. Bakker

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As we lavish love on lizards, we might send dusty birthday greetings to paleontologist Barnum Brown; he was born on this date in 1873 in Carbondale, Kansas.  Brown (who was named after the famous showman) discovered the first documented remains of Tyrannosaurus rex during a 66-year career in which he became the most famous fossil hunter in the world.

Though most of his work was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (where most of his finds reside), some was underwritten by the Sinclair Oil Company– which adopted an image of the Apatosaurus (then known as Brontosaurus) in its logo.

Brown, who often worked on-site in fur coat, tie, and fedora, in the field in Montana in 1914

source

 

Written by LW

February 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

The dog 8 my homework…

[TotH to Geaux Keegan]

As we celebrate symmetry, we might send dusty birthday greetings to paleontologist Barnum Brown; he was born on this date in 1873 in Carbondale, Kansas.  Brown (who was named after the famous showman) discovered the first documented remains of Tyrannosaurus rex during a 66-year career in which he became the most famous fossil hunter in the world.

Though most of his work was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (where most of his finds reside), some was underwritten by the Sinclair Oil Company– which adopted an image of the Apatosaurus (then known as Brontosaurus) in its logo.

 Brown often worked on-site in fur coat, tie, and fedora (source)

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