ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network

Posts Tagged "Paleontology"

Anthropology in Practice

The Missing Link that Wasn’t

Reconstruction of the Piltdown Skull. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April Fools’ Day is not unique to Western cultures. People all over the world and all throughout history have celebrated the coming of Spring with festivals of deception and lightheartedness. In this spirit, all this week, we’ll explore themes of magic, fraud, and trickery. Today’s post is not quite so lighthearted, however, and looks at [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

Tiny, Ancient Crustacean Preserved in Fool’s Gold, Legs, Eggs and All

ostracod_Siveter et al Image 1_200

Once upon a time there lived a little crustacean inside a little shell. This is not a usual state of affairs for a crustacean. Most are clad in figure-hugging armor (like lobsters or crabs), but they don’t live inside clam-like shells. This one was different. It had both armor and a hinged shell. Inside her [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

Were Weirdo Ediacarans Really Lichens, Fungi, and Slime Molds?

tribrachidium_wiki_cc_aleksey_nagovitsyn_200

Does these look like lichens to you? According to Gregory Retallack, they should. Yesterday, Nature published an article by Retallack that makes a radical claim: the Ediacaran Biota (635-542 mya) of bizarre creatures that preceded the Cambrian Explosion were not pneumatic semi-mobile marine animals, but instead sessile land-dwelling lichens and protists living high and very [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

The Fungal Apocalypse, Permo-Triassic Edition

reduviasporonites_looy_200

There is something curious about the sedimentary rocks laid down around the world 250 million years ago, at the height of Earth’s greatest extinction: they are often riddled with filaments, and no one is sure what they are. Nothing like them has been found in rocks before or since. What seems apparent, and what everyone [...]

Keep reading »
The Artful Amoeba

A Peek at More Ice-Age Finds from Snowmastodon Village

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I write, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation Department District is busy digging, damming, and filling the Ziegler Reservoir on top of  one of the world’s only known high-altitude Ice Age fossil sites — and “without question” the world’s finest mastodon site, according to Denver Museum of Nature and Science VP Kirk Johnson — near [...]

Keep reading »
@ScientificAmerican

Google Science Fair 2013: A Hangout in a Swamp

Paleo Quest founders Jason Osborne (left), holding fossil whale vertebra, and Aaron Alford, fresh from a swamp dive. Credit: Google Science Fair

We had a fun first today for the 2013 Google Science Fair Hangouts On Air series of live chats with researchers around the world: with the aid of a smart phone propped up by two fossil bones, we streamed live from a Virginia swamp for a session called Paleo Quest: Venturing into the Unknown. I [...]

Keep reading »
Guest Blog

Art in the service of science: You get what you pay for

Last week, a very prominent artist in the paleontology community somewhat publicly blew a gasket. His tirade started a conversation that has been sorely in need of attention for some time now. At issue is a fundamental conflict of interests: between science and its tradition of cumulative knowledge, and the rights of the artists who [...]

Keep reading »
Guest Blog

5 things you never knew about penguins!

Penguins are perhaps the most popular birds on Earth, thanks in equal measure to their incredible life cycles and charming tuxedo-clad appearances. Among their long list of superlatives, penguins can survive sub-freezing temperatures and gale force winds, dive over 1600 feet deep, hold their breath for more than 15 minutes, and survive with no food [...]

Keep reading »
Guest Blog

The explosion of Iguanodon , part 2: Iguanodontians of the Hastings Group

Iguanodon of tradition (or Iguanodon sensu lato, if you will) was a huge, sprawling monster, containing numerous species spread across about 40 million years of geological history. Welcome to the second article in this series (part 1 here). In the previous article we looked at the Purbeck Limestone iguanodontian Owenodon – originally named as a [...]

Keep reading »
Guest Blog

The Iguanodon explosion: How scientists are rescuing the name of a “classic” ornithopod dinosaur, part 1

One of the most familiar and historically significant of dinosaur names is Iguanodon, named in 1825 for teeth and bones discovered in the Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Cuckfield region of East Sussex, southern England. Everyone who’s ever picked up a dinosaur book will be familiar with the legendary – yet mostly apocryphal – tale [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

It’s life, Charlie, but not as we know it – Charles Darwin and the search of early (Extraterrestrial) Life

HAHN_1880_Meteorite

In August 1881 the journal “Science” published an article with a letter exchange by two amateur geologist – British Charles R. Darwin and the German Otto Hahn- discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Just some years earlier Darwin had published a book “On Origin of Species” proposing that complex life forms descended slowly over time [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

Happy Easter with a (fake) Dozen Dinosaur Eggs

ANDREWS_1923_Dinosaur_Eggs

Roy Chapman Andrews was not only an intrepid explorer and palaeontologist, but also a gifted promoter. The Central Asiatic Expeditions were accompanied by cameras to document the entire work. As the conditions were most time prohibitive – relief from the burning sun was given only by frequent sandstorms – many scenes showing the discovery and [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

Vitruvian Geology – Leonardo da Vinci and the Realistic Depiction of the Earth’s Surface

DA_VINCI_1490_Vitruvian_Man

In the Renaissance (1450-1600) architecture and pictorial arts, but also scientific disciplines like astronomy, physics and medicine, experienced a rebirth and important improvements – but what about geology? There were some lone geniuses in the earth sciences – Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci (born April 15, 1452-1519) recognized fossils as petrified remains of former living [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

A Concise History of Geological Maps: From Outcrop to the first Map

March 23, 1769 marks the birthday of pioneering stratigrapher William Smith, who is also credited with creating the first useful geological map, however like many other great accomplishments also Smith’s idea of depicting the distribution of rocks on a topographic map didn’t materialize out of nowhere. The German mining engineer Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) dedicated in [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

William Buckland & The Noble Art of Coprology

BUCKLAND_1829_CoprolitesPlate

“Approach, approach, ingenuous youth, And learn this fundamental truth: The noble science of Geology is founded firmly in Coprology” P.B. Dunacn quoted in BUCKLAND, F. 1883  Coprolites, from the Greek “kopros” and “litos” (or dung-stone), can be regarded as a variety of ichnofossils (trace fossils), defined more precisely as fossilized, large biodepositional structures, documenting the [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

Landslides in a Changing Climate

BRESSAN_Beware_of_the_Rockfall

A video showing the aftermath of a rockfall in South-Tyrol remembers us that even small mass movements can have disastrous – or even deadly – effects.   Very large rockslides are rare but very dangerous events that can have catastrophic effects on entire human settlements. One of the greatest disaster of this kind happened in [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

You ever dance with the Devil’s Fossils…

BRESSAN_Dachsteinkalk_Megalodus_2

“Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” (“Batman” 1989) The night before December 6, belongs to the Krampus, a beast-like demon in the Alpine folklore – and strange marks can be found on some rocks in the Dolomites – resembling the imprints of an exceptional large cloven [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

October 23, 4004 B.C.: Happy Birthday Earth!

October 23 is (in)famous as supposed earth’s birthday – this date is mentioned in many textbooks retelling the life of Irish Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656). In 1650 Ussher published a book with the title “Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti” (Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the earliest Beginning of the World), [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

August 21, 1986: The Lake Nyos Catastrophe

LOCKWOOD_1986_Cow_killed_by_Lake_Nyos_Gases

August 21, 1986 was a busy market day in the village of Lower Nyos (Cameroon) and most people that evening went to bed early. At 9:30 p.m. a strange sound, like a distant explosion, was heard and suddenly people and animals tumbled onto the ground. When the few survivors awoke the next morning, they discovered [...]

Keep reading »
History of Geology

Darwin’s Freak Show (or, why Darwin didn´t kill Bigfoot)

BRESSAN_two_headed_calf

Today geologist Charles Darwin is not remembered as great monster hunter, despite some Victorian paleontologists and geologists were interested in the topic, but after discussing how geologists tried to capture “Nessie“, it´s time to hunt for “Bigfoot“: Since ancient time people were fascinated by monsters – a term adopted for mythical creatures, but also real [...]

Keep reading »
Image of the Week

The 500-lb. Chicken From Hell

Chicken-from-hell

Source: 500-Pound “Chicken from Hell” Dinosaur Once Roamed North America by Kate Wong at Observations Illustration credit: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History Nothing you could find in any hen house could prepare you for the 11.5-foot tall, 500-lb. behemoth that roamed the landscape 66-million years ago in what is today North and South [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

An Inside Look at an 18 Million-Year-Old Fossil Dig Site in Florida

It took only 10 minutes for paleontologists to dig up a scientifically important tortoise fossil this fall when a group of science writers visited the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Thomas Farm site. Elsewhere, you might have to dig for hours to find anything of value. The 18 million-year-old site north of Gainesville is one of [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Gigantic Feathered Dinosaur Fossils Found in China

A new species of feathered dinosaur has been discovered, and its gigantic size makes it the largest-known feathered animal, living or extinct. Yutyrannus huali lived in northeastern China 125 million years ago, according to a group of scientists in China, where three specimens of the bipedal tyrannosaur were found. A description of the new dinosaur [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

CT-Imaging Provides New View of Baby Mammoths [Video]

Lyuba outside

LAS VEGAS–Three-dimensional medical imaging of two baby woolly mammoths from Siberia named Lyuba and Khroma has given scientists an unprecedented view of the internal anatomy of these creatures. At the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Ethan Shirley and Daniel Fisher of the University of Michigan and their colleagues presented the results of [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

When Earth Really Was the Planet of the Apes

Miocene apes

As movie theaters across the U.S. prepare to welcome throngs of bipedal primates to screenings of Rise of the Planet of the Apes this weekend, it seems appropriate to reflect on a time in Earth’s history when nonhuman apes actually did reign supreme. It’s hard to imagine, because so few ape species exist today and [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

New exhibit reconstructs the very biggest dinosaurs–inside and out [Video]

Fitting fossils together to assemble massive dinosaur skeletons is certainly no small feat. Fleshing one out—inside and out—from tooth to tail is an even more challenging undertaking, especially when the subject is an 18-meter-long sauropod. Experts in animal nutrition, sports medicine, biomechanics and materials science joined paleontologists to re-create a full-sized model of Mamenchisaurus that [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Are Torosaurus and Triceratops one and the same?

triceratops skeleton

A rare horned dinosaur known as Torosaurus may not be a distinct species, after all, according to a presentation given Friday at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Bristol, England. Researchers have long recognized similarities between Torosaurus and Triceratops, the main distinctions being that Torosaurus is larger and has an expanded [...]

Keep reading »
The Ocelloid

A note on paleo-protistology in Chicago

While we transition from paleontology back to protistology, let’s make a short stop along the way. A stop in downtown Chicago, of all places. You know, the ideal place for finding living critters and fossils, right? Well, actually, it’s not all that bad — after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, fear of fire encouraged [...]

Keep reading »
The Ocelloid

Drawing trilobites, and the life of Midwestern coral reefs

trilobites

Yes, Indiana has coral reefs. More on that in a bit. A couple days ago I entered a trilobite doodling spree, and have come up with a sort of technique for drawing them. Their diversity is astounding, but this is the basic body plan, which gets tinkered by the different species. Haven’t figured out how [...]

Keep reading »
PsiVid

Male anthropologist, paleontologist, or anthropologist needed to co-host TV show!

Before everyone gets their feathers ruffled that this casting call is looking for a male, just know he is to be a co-host to a female. Now that that is clear….. SEEKING CO-HOST FOR MAJOR CABLE NETWORK Major Cable Network dedicated to Nature, Science and Exploration, is currently casting a Co-Host for new project examining [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

Just How Fishy Are You? More About Your Inner Animal

14-013FEATURE

Last night the final episode of the 3-part series of PBS’s adaptation of Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish aired in most of the country (although some PBS stations have delayed the last episode until next week… If you didn’t catch the series, you can stream them online for a short period here.) If tweets [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

Reconstructing an Ancient Fin and Watching it Paddle to Fame

14-012FEATURE

Friends and colleagues who know that I illustrated Neil Shubin’s first book, Your Inner Fish, have been asking if I was involved in the three-part PBS series hosted by Shubin that will air next week on April 9th. The short answer is no. But I’m proud to say that I made this very model of [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, Brewed from Real Fossils!

14-010FEATURE

With craft brewing on the rise and many breweries tinkering with flavorings that range from the somewhat obvious (honey or citrus) to the eyebrow-raising (jalapeño, hemp, or even peanut butter cup) it was only a matter of time before someone stared a 35-million year old fossil in the face and thought, “would you make a [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

ScienceArt on View in March/April 2014

14-007FEATURE

A fresh batch of exhibits combining science and art are going up around the country, plus, there’s still time to catch some of the longer running exhibits that go through the middle of 2014. From John J. Audubon to dark matter to hybrid bodies created with modern transplant technology, there’s something in here for everyone. [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

The Hypnotic Whorl of Teeth That Keeps Researchers Guessing

14-004FEATURE

How many facelifts can one extinct animal undergo? The answer is probably equal to the number of interested researchers and paleoartists out there, and then some. In the case of the mysterious whorled tooth rows left behind by the fossil fish known as Helicoprion, artist Ray Troll has documented close to two dozen, many of [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

I Want A Carl Buell Coffee Table Book

Carl_Buell_Mammoth_mini

A while back an illustrator I consider a friend and mentor sent me an amazing birthday gift: It’s a mammoth by Carl Buell. Buell, you’ll likely already know, is the greatest living painter of extinct mammalian fauna today. Because I’m a terrible indoor photographer, let’s look at it the way it was intended. I met [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

SciArt on the Scene in Nov/Dec. 2013

13-049FEATURE

Ahhh, fall. Time to look for more indoor activities. And aren’t you lucky? Here’s a list of sciart exhibits that will warm your heart while you warm your toes. EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION CLIMATE CHANGE IN OUR WORLD: Photographs by Gary Braasch October 16, 2013 – July 6, 2014 Museum of Science 1 Science Park Boston, [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

Putting the Illustrations Before the Text

13-043FEATURE

We’re wrapping up the daily sciart posts today. We hope you’ve enjoyed them! Stay tuned tomorrow for a round-up of the month’s artists and images. Typically, illustrators are called in towards the end of a project. The text is largely written, and the author and/or art director have developed a clear idea of the illustration/s [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

How Fossil Fish Make Front-Page News

13-042FEATURE

Perhaps you’ve heard about Entelognathus primordialis this week. Wait, the scientific name doesn’t ring a bell on its own? What if I refer to it as the 419-million-year old placoderm fish that surprised everyone with its beautifully preserved, surprisingly modern-looking jaw? Entelognathus primordialis shakes our family tree at its roots; it unseats cartilaginous fish as [...]

Keep reading »
Symbiartic

Are You A Mammal? Standardized Test

13-041FEATURE

Hannah Bonner is an illustrator who is creating an empire of informative, entertaining kids’ books about paleontology. They remind me of The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole: real science conveyed with a wacky sense of humor. Take, for example, Bonner’s “Are You A Mammal?” standardized test. It opens with the following instructions: Instructions: [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Bird behaviour, the ‘deep time’ perspective

Composite cladogram of Avialae - topology and names based mostly on Yuri et al. (2013), and with many lineages excluded for reasons of space – showing where the fossil record gives us key insights into behaviour. From Naish (2014): this diagram is a much-updated version of the tree published in Naish (2012).

The behaviour of long-extinct animals remains an area of major public and scientific interest – the great perennial problem being that we’re always massively constrained, if not crippled, by a frustrating lack of data. Think of all the things we want to know, versus the things that we actually do know. In a paper recently [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Happy 8th birthday Tetrapod Zoology: 2013 in review

Tet-Zoo-montage-600-px-tiny-Jan-2014-Darren-Naish-Tetrapod-Zoology

It’s January 21st, meaning that, once again, a year has passed and that much-loved internet phenomenon known at Tetrapod Zoology is fully one year older. Eight years of Tet Zoo… it seems incredible that I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade now. In fact, that’s scary. As is tradition, my aim here is simply [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

The troubling lack of Platyhystrix images online: the Tet Zoo Solution

TMNT Platyhytrix, but with the second 'T' standing for temnospondyl! Image by Henrik Petersson, used with permission. I hope that we'lll end up a full squad of TMNT temnos... that's Raphael done, Donatello next?

Regular readers will know that I’ve been doing my best over the last several years to get through the temnospondyls of the world. Temnospondyli, for the one or two or you that don’t know, is an enormous and substantially diverse clade of anamniotes (‘amphibians’) that was an important and persistent presence between the Early Carboniferous [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

The Jehol-Wealden International Conference, 2013

Jehol-Wealden-2013-banner-600-px-tiny-Sept-2013

This Friday and Saturday (20th and 21st September, 2013), the National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, is hosting the Jehol-Wealden International Conference. This event – titled Celebrating Dinosaur Island – features an impressive list of talks and events relating to the Lower Cretaceous biota of Europe and Asia. More info (and booking advice) here. Items [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Quetzalcoatlus: the evil, pin-headed, toothy nightmare monster that wants to eat your soul

Giovanni Caselli's 1975 Demon Quetz, the image that started the meme.

Regular readers of Tet Zoo will be familiar with two topics I’ve covered on and off over the years: azhdarchid pterosaurs, and palaeoart memes. Azhdarchids were mostly large to gigantic, long-skulled Cretaceous pterosaurs, noted for their enormous wingspans (up to 10 m or so in the case of Quetzalcoatlus from the USA and Hatzegopteryx from [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

21st Century Dinosaur Revolution

Primary achievement of the 21st Century: MEMES. This from John Conway's series on Hypsilophodon.

A recent tour of the Natural History Museum (London) bookshop reminded me that my 2009 book, The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (A & C Black in the UK, University of California Press in the USA), is still on sale and in demand. Buy it here on amazon and here on amazon.co.uk. Thoughts on this book (including [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Tet Zoo Bookshelf: van Grouw’s Unfeathered Bird, Bodio’s Eternity of Eagles, Witton’s Pterosaurs, Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps!

Tet-Zoo-new-books-600-px-tiny-June-2013-Darren-Naish-Tetrapod-Zoology

I feel guilty about the fact that I haven’t been able to keep up with book reviews lately. It typically takes me – literally – months to years to read a book and then write a substantive review, and pressures of work, domestic life, research and other commitments make it very hard to find the [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

A brief history of sengis, or elephant shrews

Reconstructed skull of the Early Miocene myohyracine Myohyrax oswaldi (after Patterson 1965).

Macroscelideans – the elephant shrews or sengis – are an exclusively African group of animalivorous placental mammals, famous for their long, mobile snouts [adjacent image of a rhynchocyonine sengi by Joey Makalintal]. They have long tails, proportionally elongate limbs, and range in size from 10 to 30 cm, and from 50g to over 500g. Digital [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

Brilliant Brazilian spinosaurids

Rio-May-2013-DNPM-Angaturama-skeleton-head-end-right-lateral-600-px-tiny-May-2013-Darren-Naish-Tetrapod-Zoology

You liked the photo of the brilliant Angaturama skeletal mount, right? Photographed at the Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, the mount shows Angaturama limai – a spinosaurine spinosaurid – carrying the skeleton of an anhanguerid pterosaur. Here are some more views of the same display… The behavioural interaction you see here was not just invented in [...]

Keep reading »
Tetrapod Zoology

In Rio for the 2013 International Symposium on Pterosaurs

I love academic conferences, I love pterosaurs, and I love South America. So, as predicted, I very much enjoyed the International Symposium on Pterosaurs I just attended: it was the sixth symposium devoted specifically to pterosaurs, and was held at the Museu Nacional/UFRJ (= Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), Rio de Janeiro. Yes, an [...]

Keep reading »
Thoughtomics

The sexy sabercat: how the sabertooth got its teeth

Skull of Homotherium crenatidens in the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris.

Many sabertooths have stalked this world. The first sabertoothed mammals appeared over 50 million years ago. The last sabercats, such as Smilodon and Homotherium, went extinct only 10.000 years ago. All in all, five different lineages of carnivorous mammals evolved sabertooth dentition: the ancient creodonts, marsupials and three different lineages of true cats and cat-like [...]

Keep reading »
Thoughtomics

Ancient fish had the backbone of a landlubber

Tarrasius crushed its prey with its molars, just like modern wolf eels do. Photo Dan Hershman.

Evolution has a knack for confronting us with strange and unexpected questions. One of them echoed through the halls of the Collections Centre of the National Museum of Scotland, not too long ago: “Why does a fish need a sacrum!?” Lauren Sallan was peering through her microscope, studying a fossil specimen of Tarrasius, when she [...]

Keep reading »
Thoughtomics

Penguins colonized Africa. Thrice.

The Blackfooted Penguin is the only African penguin.

The history of penguins in Africa is a history of false starts. The first penguin pioneers that settled Africa millions of years ago all went extinct. But the penguins didn’t give up. They came back, swept there by ocean currents, and repopulated the African coasts. That’s what the palaeontologists Daniel Ksepka and Daniel Thomas conclude [...]

Keep reading »

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X