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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 [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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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 [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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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 [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Fungal Apocalypse, Permo-Triassic Edition

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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 [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Peek at More Ice-Age Finds from Snowmastodon Village

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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 [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Kid Scientists Make Real Fossil Finds at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American's booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American’s booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Jason Osborne Jason Osborne was trying to grab a quick lunch away from the crowds when his wife called his cellphone. “Jason, you’ve got to come see this boy at the booth. He’s amazing!” When Osborne, [...]

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@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 [...]

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But Seriously...

Largest Flying Bird Ever?

Dan Ksepka Big Bird

With a wingspan of 20 to 24 feet, Pelagornis sandersi may have been the largest flying bird ever to grace the skies of the Earth. Gone now for some 25 million years, the current living contender for that title belongs to the Royal Albatross – at less than half that wingspan. Announced in a paper [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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History of Geology

Thomas Jefferson’s Patriotic Monsters

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In the late 18th century earth-sciences experienced a revolution. The principles of modern rock classification were introduced and sediments subdivided by the content of embedded fossils. Animals of the past apparently differed from modern ones in their abundance, diversity, shape and some organisms were completely unknown to contemporary scholars. This observations had at first an [...]

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History of Geology

Baron Cuvier and the Question How Mummies Could Evolve

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“Every one has heard of the Ibis, the bird to which the ancient Egyptians paid religious worship; which they brought up in the interior of their temples, which they allowed to stray unharmed trough their cities, and whose murderer, even though involuntary, was pnished by death; which they embalmed with as much care as their [...]

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History of Geology

Cryptozoon – In Search of the “Hidden Life”

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In the first edition of “On the Origin of Species” (1859) Darwin only briefly addresses the earliest known fossils, or better the lack thereof: “If the theory [of evolution] be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited, long periods elapsed . . . and the world swarmed with living creatures. [...]

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History of Geology

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

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In August 1881 the journal “Science” published an article with a letter exchange by two amateur geologists – 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 [...]

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History of Geology

Happy Easter with a (fake) Dozen Dinosaur Eggs

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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 [...]

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History of Geology

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

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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History of Geology

William Buckland & The Noble Art of Coprology

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“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 [...]

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History of Geology

Landslides in a Changing Climate

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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 [...]

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History of Geology

You ever dance with the Devil’s Fossils…

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“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 [...]

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Image of the Week

The 500-lb. Chicken From Hell

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Observations

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

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Observations

Are Torosaurus and Triceratops one and the same?

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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The Ocelloid

Drawing trilobites, and the life of Midwestern coral reefs

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Symbiartic

Get Geeked – BoneDusters Paleo Ale is Bottled!

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For those of you who have been following the story of Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, the beer made with yeast living on a 35-million-year old whale fossil, there’s exciting news out of Lost Rhino Brewery today. The beer is being bottled! Here are some photos from the source: All images © Jason Osborne, used with [...]

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Symbiartic

ScienceArt Exhibits Heat Up This Summer

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Take a break from the heat this summer to step into some cool galleries exhibiting scienceart. If the exhibits keep pouring in at this rate, I’ll have to split up this post by region. There are five scienceart exhibits in New York alone! But for those of you who are not in the NY-region, don’t [...]

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Symbiartic

Learning the Art of Science Illustration

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If you’ve ever wondered what it would take to combine your love of science and art, there is a conference on the horizon that might just be the inspiration you’ve been waiting for. This summer in Boulder, CO, the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators is hosting its annual conference and it is not to be [...]

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Symbiartic

A DIY Fossil Hunting Activity for Pre-K Classrooms

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The following project constitutes a half-hour activity for 3-, 4-, or 5-year olds. It includes the entire process from finding fossils to putting the recovered pieces together like a puzzle to drawing our best guess at what it looked like in life. The details of the project are based on my experience working in Neil [...]

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Symbiartic

For Admirers of Audubon & Sibley, Two Recurring Art Exhibits

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If you appreciate John J. Audubon’s exacting detail and beautiful compositions and you marvel at the encyclopedic knowledge and delicate illustrations in the famous Sibley Bird Guides you may be interested to know that there are many contemporary masters following in their footsteps today. Their names may be less well-known, but their work is equally [...]

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Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale Gets A Rockin’ Label

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Sometimes you never know where your work will end up. Take this figure depicting the evolution of whales that I created for Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Pretty academic and dry, right? When I created it I never thought it would have appeal outside of the occasional textbook reuse or request to include [...]

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Symbiartic

The ScienceArt Exhibit Roundup for Spring

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This is the dish on the latest exhibits combining science and art around the country. This time the prize for the most bumpin’ scienceArt scene goes to the Northeast, amirite? Lucky you if you live there: EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION JESSICA DRENK: An Allegory of Algorithms and Aesthetics April 12 – May 12, 2014 Adah Rose [...]

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Symbiartic

Just How Fishy Are You? More About Your Inner Animal

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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 [...]

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Symbiartic

Reconstructing an Ancient Fin and Watching it Paddle to Fame

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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 [...]

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Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, Brewed from Real Fossils!

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Happy 8th birthday Tetrapod Zoology: 2013 in review

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Jehol-Wealden International Conference, 2013

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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!

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Brilliant Brazilian spinosaurids

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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