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The remarkable life appearance of the Woolly rhino

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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One of the Pleistocene mammals depicted without fail in popular books – encyclopedias of prehistoric life and the like – is the Woolly rhinoceros Coelodonta antiquitatis (the species name is written antiquus in many sources). Originally named in 1807 (but known for some time prior), this cold-adapted, shaggy-coated rhinocerotid rhino occurred from the Atlantic fringes of Europe all the way east to Beringia, and as far south as the southern Caucasus and south-east China. Why it never moved into North America is unknown – it should have.

Woolly rhino in Pleistocene Spanish landscape, by Mauricio Antón. Is the horn anatomy shown here really accurate? Read on. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

As is the case for various ‘Ice Age’ megamammals, the Woolly rhino wasn’t necessarily an inhabitant of freezing cold places with blizzards and thick snow on the ground, or even of tundra-dominated habitats. Spanish specimens come from dry, temperate habitats dominated by grasses and broadleaved trees. Fossils of other Coelodonta species show that this group originated in the Tibetan region during the Pliocene, their evolution perhaps driven by the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Deng 2002, Deng et al. 2011). C. thibetana from Tibet is currently the oldest known member of the group. Previously, the oldest Coelodonta species was the animal usually called C. nihowanensis. It’s been argued that this name is not available as it’s a nomen nudum (a name lacking a type specimen). A Middle Pleistocene rhino, C. tologoijensis, is known from Transbaikalia, Mongolia and perhaps south-western Siberia. These older species are smaller than C. antiquitatis and have more slender limb bones (Kahlke & Lacombat 2008). [Image below by Atirador.]

Woolly rhino skeleton. Even without soft tissues, we would know that this is a grazing rhino with a shoulder hump. Its nasal region is especially odd. Image by Franco Atirado, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Plant fragments stuck in Woolly rhino teeth (most typically inside the infundibula – the crescent-shaped recesses present in the middles of the molars) show that they were grazers, 96% or so of their diet being made up of grasses, with mosses and forbs forming the remainder (Guthrie 1990). However, preserved stomach contents show that Woolly rhinos also ate dwarf willows and birches.

Woolly rhino skull, photographed in the Humboldt Museum, Berlin, by Markus Bühler. Note the ossified septum and downturned premaxillary tip in the nasal region. CC BY.

The form of the Woolly rhino’s skull and teeth are in agreement with this grazing lifestyle: the mouth and lips are broad, and the head dipped downwards towards the ground, even when the animal was in its normal, relaxed posture. The skull is unusual in having both an extensively ossified nasal septum, and a down-turned anterior region on the premaxilla that contacts the edge of the upper jaw. As a consequence, it has ‘reverted’ to the possession of enclosed bony nostrils – a condition present in mammal ancestors but not, ordinarily, in mammals themselves. The snout region is also unusual in that incisors are wholly absent in both the upper and lower jaws. This is presumably an extreme specialisation for grazing and raises the question as to whether Coelodonta had keratinous pads, or some other, similar structures, in these parts of the jaws.

What does Coelodonta look like in popular depictions? Artists have most usually shown it looking just like a modern Black or White rhino dressed in a brown furry coat. I’ve never been satisfied with these sorts of reconstructions since they ignore the many nuances of Woolly rhino anatomy, some of which have been obvious since the 1870s at least.

Cast of the famous Starunia Woolly rhino, on display at London's Natural History Museum. Photo by Darren Naish, CC BY.

As a child of 10 years old or so, I recall one of the most memorable specimens at London’s Natural History Museum being their cast of the Polish Starunia mummy, preserved in a petrochemical seep and discovered in 1929 (Nowak et al. 1930). The cast at London used to be part of a fossil mammal display, so close that you could touch it. It’s still on display at the NHM today, but it’s tucked away in an overhead recess near the museum’s side entrance. You can’t get close to it and I doubt that anyone who isn’t a hard-core palaeozoology uber-nerd would even know what it is.

What ancient people depicted

Woolly rhino depiction in the Chauvet cave. Note the enormous shoulder hump and very long, curved anterior horn shown here. Image in public domain.

Woolly rhinos are not depicted all that frequently in Palaeolithic cave art. They’re massively out-numbered by illustrations of mammoths, bison and horses (Guthrie 2005). In fact, until recently, only about 20 Woolly rhino images were known (a lesser number of portable depictions of Coelodonta are known as well) (Bahn & Vertut 1997). However, this number has more than doubled thanks to the discovery of the remarkable Chauvet Cave in France, where there are about 60 rhino images.

Prehistoric artwork frequently shows the rhino’s head dipping down towards the ground as suggested by the anatomy. The majority of depictions show the rhinos as two-horned: the posterior (or frontal) horn is sometimes shown as being shorter or very much shorter than the anterior (or nasal) horn, but sometimes the two are about the same length, and sometimes (as in a painting from the Cave of Les Combarelles, Dordogne) the posterior horn is shown as being slightly longer than the anterior one. As discussed below, preserved horns show that the rhinos really were this variable in horn proportions. Of course, the possibility exists that some of the cave art was inaccurate – we know that ancient artists were often brilliant and faithfully accurate illustrators of the animals they saw, but they were virtually always doing things from memory and did make mistakes.

Woolly rhino depicted at Rouffignac. Check out that hump! The shortness of the limbs is also obvious.

All Woolly rhino images consistently show a massively deep, hugely convex shoulder hump that extends all the way forward to the back of the head. The hump is so massive that, when the animal is depicted in a grazing pose, the anterior edge of the hump is sometimes shown overhanging virtually the whole of the face. Limb length and how close the body is to the ground varies quite a bit. Some illustrations show the limbs as being proportionally tiny, the belly being almost in contact with the ground, and a long, shaggy fringe of fur along the ventral surface of the belly. The majority, however, do not show this, and instead the belly is well up off the ground and a ventral hair fringe is missing. Perhaps the coat was variable according to season. What about colour? We’ll come to that in a minute.

More on horns: short and stout vs long and flattened

As just noted, we know quite a bit about horn morphology in this animal: both cave art and some remarkable permafrost specimens from Siberia show that Coelodonta was twin-horned, with a gigantic, gently curved anterior/nasal horn and an often shorter or slimmer posterior/frontal one (Fortelius 1983, Shidlovskiy et al. 2011). Only two mummified specimens have both horns in position, but a large number of isolated horns are also known. Only seven or so horns had been reported prior to the 1990s but we now know of over 40 horns that are variable in shape and size. The horns were originally thought to be the detached claws of gigantic birds, in particular those of the Siberian mythical super-bird Pyne who battled a sea monster and a giant fish (Fortelius 1983).

Anterior (or nasal) horns, as illustrated by Guthrie (1990). Note the strong curvature, blunt tips, obvious bands, and flattened leading-edge wear facets. The image at top shows how crazily compressed the horns are from side-to-side.

The posterior horn is often short, squat and sub-circular in cross section, with a strongly pointed apex. The anterior horn is usually far longer (about four times longer), but it isn’t a subconical structure, rounded in cross-section, like the anterior horns of living rhinos. Rather, it’s laterally compressed, lenticular in cross-section and with a triangular cross-sectional shape to its anterior border. This cross-section was seemingly produced as wear facets were formed along both sides of the horn’s leading edge (Fortelius 1983).

The horn is in fact so flattened from side-to-side that it has sometimes been described as plank-like: during the 1760s, naturalist and explorer Peter Simon Pallas proposed that this flattened form was artificial and caused by people cutting material away from the sides, but this is not correct. The erroneous idea that the flattened form results from post-mortemdistortion has also been mooted. Some authors have also suggested that the anterior horn must have been too fragile to be used in fighting (while this might seem intuitively reasonable, intuition is often wrong on such matters), and the inevitable idea that it was used for scraping snow aside has been fairly popular.

Horn pairs known for various Woolly rhino specimens, from Shidlovskiy et al. (2011). The anterior/nasal horn is, obviously, usually longer and more curved than the posterior/frontal one. The arrows point to obvious wear present along the leading margin. Scale bar = 10 cm.

Regularly spaced, dark bands along the horn (closely spaced at the base but well separated towards the tip) were presumably visible in life. These have sometimes been suggested to be annual growth bands, in which case they show that Woolly rhinos lived on occasion to over 30 years, a lifespan about similar to that of modern rhino species. However, Shidlovskiy et al. (2011) noted that dark bands of this sort might be more to do with the rate of melanin deposition and may not be annual at all.

The anterior horns that have been found so far vary somewhat in proportion and detail. Some are longer and more slender than others, and have a blunter tip. It has been inferred, on the basis of comparison with living rhinos, that these longer, slimmer horns were those of females (Guthrie 1990). However, Fortelius (1983) thought it more likely that Woolly rhino reproductive strategies would have been based around short, intense rutting seasons and that this might have driven the evolution of larger body size – and greater horn length – in males. Modern rhino horns are used in intraspecific combat and in fighting predators, but also in foraging and especially in breaking branches. Indeed, it has been suggested that horn elaboration in rhino evolution was driven by their use in foraging, an intriguing hypothesis that needs more study.

Patterns and pigmentation

What do we know about pigmentation in the Woolly rhino? Thanks to cave art, we have excellent, detailed and apparently very accurate information on the life appearance of quite a few Pleistocene animals. Sometimes, this information confirms what we already suspected but, on other occasions, ancient art surprises us. Prehistoric depictions of the giant deer Megaloceros and of some ancient reindeer, horses and leopards, for example, show that these animals did not look like the plain versions shown in the majority of reconstructions. European cave art depicting Coelodonta shows it as dark, but with a massively thick, near-black band completely encircling the animal’s middle. The band is depicted with care, “sometimes engraved at the edges and filled with flat wash” (Bahn & Vertut 1997, p. 153).

Poor image of part of the Chauvet frieze that shows several rhino: note that just about all of the rhinos shown here have dark transverse bands.

The breadth of this band is variable. In some images, it’s narrow and belt-like and restricted to the middle part of the body or to the region just anterior to the pelvis. In others, it is huge, extending all the way across the body from the hips to the shoulders.

Suggested explanations for this band include that it might represent vertical folds in the skin, and a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that it might represent a saddle has also been made. While it’s perhaps plausible that the band could be a symbolic feature of some sort, it seems most reasonable to conclude that it really was a genuine anatomical feature of this animal: that is, that these rhinos had a very dark, almost black, band of pigmentation wrapping around their middles. The fact that the bands are only present in the cave art of western Europe might, Guthrie (2005) suggested, show that it was unique to the population (subspecies?) of Woolly rhinos present here.

Another dark-belted Woolly rhino in the Chauvet cave.

Subspecies of C. antiquitatis have, incidentally, been named: a Middle Pleistocene specimen from France was regarded as the type of the new taxon C. a. praecursor. Like the Asian C. tologoijensis and other more archaic Coelodonta taxa, it has a proportionally broader skull, more anteriorly located orbits, and more curved zygomatic arches than the classic Woolly rhinos of the Late Pleistocene. However, Kahlke & Lacombat (2008) removed C. a. praecursor from C. antiquitatis and synonymised it with C. tologoijensis.

Dark transverse bands do have a precedent in the living world but they’re rare and I can’t think of any examples that quite resemble the condition reconstructed for Coelodonta. For this reason, a bit of scepticism is warranted. Guthrie (2005) pointed to several living animals that have such structures (including cattle and guinea-pigs) but most are domestic and hence not subjected to natural selection pressures. He also pointed to the Giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca and Tanuki Nyctereutes procyonoides as examples: however, their bands are either incomplete (Tanuki), or restricted to the shoulder region, not the middle part of the body.

What else do we know?

What else do we know about the life appearance of this rhino? The pelt of the Woolly rhino was long, consisting of both light, fine strands as well as coarser, darker guard hairs. The skin (preserved on the Starunia carcass) is covered with small, abundant protuberances (Nowak et al. 1930). The hair follicles vary in size according to the hairs they supported, with those on the back of the neck being largest: a fact consistent with the presence of a mane. Three or four low humps formed from skin and fat – not all of which correspond with the underlying neural spines – are present on the middle part of the neck and shoulder, as they are in living white rhinos.

Illustration from Guthrie (1990) showing the head (with in-situ horns) of a Woolly rhino preserved in the Zoological Museum in Leningrad: note, again, the massive difference in the form and length of the horns in this individual, and also that lip form is preserved (as it also is in the Starunia rhino).

The lips are broad, vaguely rectangular (with rounded anterolateral ‘corners’), and thus, again, something like those of living white rhinos. The upper lip seems to extend over the lower one in some specimens and it appears to have been highly mobile, though has been some contention as to how far the upper lip extended anteriorly: some authors have argued that it overlapped the lower one entirely and was unusually prominent, perhaps recalling that of the Moose Alces alces (there a 1924 article on this, I believe by Hilzheimer, but I’ve been unable to find the full citation). Others have contested this, stating instead that the lips simply fitted tightly together (Nowak et al. 1930).

Mummified specimens reveal that the tail is proportionally short, as is predicted for cold-adapted mammals. The tail is also flattened, naked on the ventral surface of the distal half or so, and with long hairs around its edges and at its tip. The ears are far narrower than those of living rhinos – they’ve even been described as lanceolate in form. The idea mentioned above that Woolly rhinos couldn’t fight with their horns is disproven by cave art which clearly shows the animals fighting. Chernova & Kirillova (2010) looked at the horn’s internal microanatomy and concluded that the horns are especially resistant to fracturing. The unusual ossification of the nasal region might also be explained by vigorous use of the anterior horn in combat (Shidlovskiy et al. 2011).

Fighting Woolly rhino depicted at Chauvet. Both rhinos have the dark transverse bands discussed in the text (though they're not especially obvious). Image from Chernova & Kirillova (2010).

Guthrie (2005) noted that few cave art image of rhinos show spears or arrows embedded in the body (a handful do). This might indicate that rhinos were rarely hunted. With numerous horse, deer and bison around, we might predict that people rarely hunted these giant, formidable, thick-skinned animals. A rhino at Chauvet seems to be shown with blood gushing from its mouth and nose while one at Colomière seems to have several arrows projecting from its belly. A few other French examples look like they have spears stuck in the side of the body (Guthie 2005).

All in all, we clearly know a lot of detail about the appearance of this animal and artists who choose to depict it should clearly incorporate these numerous details. All too often, they have not: you can see inaccurate horn and lip shapes in numerous reconstructions, and many don’t incorporate the apparently genuine details of pigmentation that we know about, the dark body band in particular. And I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with palaeontologists who are paid to be consultants for palaeontological artists but who don’t know, or – better – don’t care about getting things right. Here’s a Woolly rhino cheat-sheet, compiled by combining everything we know…

I really should write about the life appearance of other Pleistocene megafauna at some stage. And one day I will! For previous Tet Zoo article on rhinos, see…

Note that many of the papers listed below are available at the amazing Rhino Resource Centre. Remember also to donate to the RRC if you can, and to support rhino charities and to spread the word about the obscene destruction of rhino populations currently fueled by the absurd interest some members of our species have in obtaining rhino-horn products.

Refs – -

Bahn, P. G. & Vertut, J. 1997. Journey Through the Ice Age. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

Chernova, O. F. & Kirillova, I. V. 2010. New data on horn morphology of the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis Blumenbach, 1799). Proceedings of the Zoological Institute 314, 333-342.

Deng, T. 2002. The earliest known wooly [sic] rhino discovered in the Linxia basin, Gansu Province, China. Geological Bulletin of China 21, 604-608.

Deng, T., Wang, X., Fortelius, M., Li, Q., Wang, Y., Tseng, Z. J., Takeuchi, G. T., Saylor, J. E., Säilä, L. K. & Xie, G. 2011. Out of Tibet: Pliocene Woolly rhino suggests Highhplateau origin of Ice Age megaherbivores. Science 6047, 1285-1288.

Fortelius, M. 1983. The morphology and paleobiological significance of the horns of Coelodonta antiquitatis (Mammalia: Rhinoceratidae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 3, 125-135

Guthrie, R. D. 1990. Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe: the Story of Blue Babe. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

- . 2005. The Nature of Paleolithic Art. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Kahlke, R.-D. & Lacombat, F. 2008. The earliest immigration of woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta tologoijensis, Rhinocerotidae, Mammalia) into Europe and its adaptive evolution in Palaearctic cold stage mammal faunas. Quaternary Science Reviews 27, 1951-1961.

Nowak, J., Panow, E., Tokarski, J., Szafer, W. & Stach, J. 1930. The second woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis Blum.) from Starunia, Poland (Geology, Mineralogy, Flora and Fauna). Classe des Sciences Mathématiques et Naturelles, Série B: Sciences Naturelles, Supplément 1-47.

Shidlovskiy, F. K., Kirillova, I. V. & Wood, J. 2011. Horns of the woolly rhinoceros Coelodonta antiquitatis (Blumenbach, 1799) in the Ice Age Museum collection (Moscow, Russia). Quaternary International 255, 125-129.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Yodelling Cyclist 2:05 pm 11/9/2013

    Th colouration belt reminds me of a Malaysian Tapir…

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  2. 2. barndad 3:03 pm 11/9/2013

    Excellent article Darren! There is a good recent reference by Boeskorov with literature review and details of a new well-preserved mummy found in Kolyma. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1134/S106235901208002X

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  3. 3. toadbriar 3:17 pm 11/9/2013

    The coat pattern of the banded animals reminds me very much of the ‘saddle’ pattern as sometimes expressed in black and tan breeds of dogs – particularly these Bloodhounds: http://www.bloodhoundranch.com/pics/seb/2011-brighton-males.jpg Some of the drawings show shoulder area shading, which is consistent with the pattern.

    I know of belted cattle, pigs and goats, but that’s a white piebald marking on a colored animal, so presumably Guthrie was referring to something else?

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  4. 4. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:56 pm 11/9/2013

    Isn’t the most hairy rhino today a forest variety?

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  5. 5. SciaticPain 7:23 pm 11/9/2013

    Wow this is some cool stuff here- excellent write up Darren. Riffing on that dark color mid- riff and the comparison to forest tapir it does make me wonder if the woolly rhino did not frequent broken/forest edge type habitats? Willow thickets with cleared patches full of grass?

    Duane Nash

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  6. 6. darkgabi 8:00 pm 11/9/2013

    the colour thing actually reminded me of a cutia (dasyprocta) or of a capivara. although both are usually brownish, they can be lighter at the posterior half, right. light effect makes it stronger.. i wonder if this could be the case.

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  7. 7. AlHazen 1:31 am 11/10/2013

    Bison (American ones– it may be less prominent in the European Wisent) have a long woolly coat over the forequarters, shorter hair behind: depending on the lighting, I think there would sometimes seem to be a sharp color contrast. Could the “belt” on a Woolly Rhinoceros in a paleolithic illustration be in part a representation of different coat length or texture?

    (And thanks for a fascinating look at unfamiliar details of a single species: your surveys of large clades are wonderful and useful, but I enjoy this sort of post too!)

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  8. 8. BrianL 3:56 am 11/10/2013

    Given that *Coelodonta* appears to have evolved on the Tibetan plateau, should we imagine it to be one of the montane species that spread to much lower altitudes during glacials and became more relictual during interglacials, like ibex and chamois?

    Do we have any explanation as to why woolly rhinos did not spread into North America, like they ‘should’ have done? Other examples of the same that come to mind are spotted hyenas and leopards.

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  9. 9. Gigantala 5:33 am 11/10/2013

    Hyenas at least can be chalked up to competition with large canines.

    Since woolly rhinos followed the same distribution pattern as mountain goats and snow leopards, originating as alpine animals but then conquering lowlands during glaciations, maybe we should look at montane megafauna for answers.

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  10. 10. vdinets 11:10 am 11/10/2013

    Brian L: It appears that “Bering Bridge” was not a broad uniform expanse of lowland tundra-steppe that people usually imagine. Patterns of local endemism suggest that it had highly diverse habitats, and wasn’t that easy to cross. Sorry, can’t provide references now (I’m in the middle of a little driving adventure).

    BTW, there were also unexplained failures to cross it in the opposite direction. Short-faced bear, for example, has never been found in Siberia (numerous sightings reported in the mid-20th century apparently referred to polar bears crossing the Chukchi Peninsula overland).

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  11. 11. SciaticPain 1:07 pm 11/10/2013

    @BrianL, @Gigantala, @vdinets. Yes, that woolly rhino never made it across Beringia into North America was the most interesting question that arose for me from this post.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but giant ground sloths never got into Asia as well? I recall that they were in Alaska. Just wondering out loud what if there was some type of competitive exclusion going on here? Not of the dietary sort, the rhinos being grazers while the sloths mainly browsers. But if woolly rhinos were as uncouth as their modern relatives
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjE6X4lbto0
    and if the big ground sloths were of a similar “hold your ground and fight” attitude maybe there just was not room enough for the two of them? And given the armor lumped skin, stout robust limbs and massive claws of ground sloths I don’t think that running away from stuff was part of their game plan. Same I think would hold true for extinct rhinos, much like their modern relatives. And if they preferred similar habitats frequent encounters were likely.

    We often invoke competitive exclusion for hyper combative predators (short faced bear/grizzly bear) why not explore this idea for combative large herbivores?

    Duane Nash

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  12. 12. Yodelling Cyclist 2:00 pm 11/10/2013

    Vdinets: Looking forward to some references/exposition when/if you have time. Very tantalising!

    Could you expand on the short faced bear sightings (even if they are polar bears)?

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  13. 13. Jerzy v. 3.0. 2:34 pm 11/10/2013

    I love Pleistocene animals, especially because people saw them with their own eyes and left paintings of them.

    Any idea when a woolly rhino actually died out? What about claims that it survived into Holocene in Siberia and inhabited warm interglacial steppes in Iberia in addition to the cold steppe-tundra?

    @10
    Is it the same as so-called “trouser-wearing bear”? Probably those are brown bears which unusually rapidly lost their body fat. It produced a loose skin hanging on the underbelly like loose pants.

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  14. 14. WillemvanderMerwe 3:35 pm 11/10/2013

    I loved this information Darren! I used it for a colour reconstruction: http://willemsvdmerwe.deviantart.com/art/Coelodonta-antiquitatis-Updated-412787191

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  15. 15. Heteromeles 5:14 pm 11/10/2013

    Speaking of large mammals that never made it into North America…Homo erectus?. Guess they didn’t make clothes or something.

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  16. 16. Dani Boy 6:08 pm 11/10/2013

    Hi Darren,

    In the figure that shows the respective collection of horns, were specimens 1b and 3b associated with individuals that were discovered in comparitively warmer climates to the others in the figure? They seemingly show no discernable wear, which may indicate that they were using their horns for something other than snow-shovelling and the like.

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  17. 17. David Marjanović 9:54 pm 11/10/2013

    Why doesn’t the Starunia specimen have horns? Have they been stolen? Horns have been stolen from museums before.

    in the Humboldt Museum, Berlin

    Hasn’t been called that for quite some time. It’s just Museum für Naturkunde (…and you have to add that it’s the one in Berlin, much like you have to specify where the Natural History Museum is). It somehow belongs to the Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research, which is still somehow associated with the Humboldt University of (formerly East*) Berlin, but, well.

    * The western university is the Free University. The eastern one still has a Marx quote in its entrance hall: “The philosophers have only ever described the world, but what matters is changing it.”

    Speaking of large mammals that never made it into North America…Homo erectus?

    Never made it into Siberia either, as far as anyone knows, so maybe you’re right about the clothes.

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  18. 18. naishd 4:38 am 11/11/2013

    Thanks for all the great comments – this article has been unusually popular, glad people like it. I should make it part of a series. Everyone should definitely check out William van der Merwe’s excellent life restoration (see comment # 14) – great work!

    Regarding domestic mammals with dark transverse body bands (comment # 3), toadbriar is right about the respective animals generally having white bands on a dark ground colour. However, there are Holstein cattle and domestic rabbits where the band is black (Guthrie illustrates examples). Guthrie notes how these animals show that genes exist allowing this pattern and pigmentation, that’s all.

    As noted in comments 6 and 7, it’s possible that the black band illustrates a change between pelt and skin, or between long fur and very short hair, as in some bison populations.

    Short-faced bear accounts: in the cryptozoological literature, the Russian Irkiuem, Kainyn-kutho or ‘God bear’ is said to perhaps be the same thing as Arctodus… is this what people are referring to? Bergman’s bear – an alleged subspecies of living bear (Ursus arctos piscator) from Kamchatka – has also been linked to the ‘surviving Arctodus‘ idea, but this was definitely a brown bear. The Irkiuem accounts lack any and all detail – all we seem to know is that Siberian people had a legend, or the idea, of an especially big bear. Not exactly a compelling reason to link it to the North American Arctodus.

    Regarding Homo erectus in the Americas, there’s a published reference to a member of this species discovered in… I think Mexico. I think I read this is Jeff Meldrum’s sasquatch book, I will check.

    Darren

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  19. 19. Jenny Islander 4:45 am 11/11/2013

    Ooh, I know this one!

    Because the main part of the horn is not fused to the skull. It falls off relatively soon after death.

    WARNING: FAVORITE HOBBYHORSE AHEAD

    AFAIK the woolly rhino was the subject of the first attempted life restoration of a fossil to be performed in Europe. Woolly rhino bones and horns have been turning up in Europe for centuries. If you have a jumble of disarticulated bones including some very large, heavily constructed skulls with a toothless bony process sticking out in front and some extremely large objects that look a hell of a lot like claws, and you’ve never seen a rhino nor heard from anyone who has, and the study of anatomy is a thing they do in some universities you’ve never been to, you’re not going to get a rhino out of those bones. You’ll probably want to cover the projecting front of the muzzle with flesh, but you won’t put in an overhanging lip. You’ll most likely interpret the clawlike objects as claws and perhaps you’ll figure that the mismatch between claw size and skull size is due to incomplete skeletons being mixed together. Speaking of incompleteness, when faced with a big pile of vertebrae, you’ll probably start with a nice big one at the back of the skull and just keep on going until you run out of little ones, then look at the resulting snakelike body plus obvious big strong leg bones and go, “Whoa, this thing must have had a heck of a tail.”

    In fact, you’ll probably end up with something like this.

    That’s the Dragon Fountain in Klagenfurt, Austria, which was sculpted in 1583 to commemorate the legendary slaying of a dragon in the region. A real dragon skull was used as a model. To see the skull and read an account of its finding, scroll down on this page.

    Also note the striking similarity between the head of the Klagenfurt dragon and the Norse figureheads referred to as dragons. Deep heavy skull, muzzle with a bulge on the end (not always shown), high-set eyes, snarling mouth with fewer big teeth than you would expect, small high-set ears. Perhaps different groups of people who stumbled across woolly rhino bones drew similar conclusions in different centuries.

    Furthermore, a close reading of the oldest accounts of unicorns shows not a graceful, deerlike creature, but an aggressive animal that is often referred to as big and strong, able to spear large animals on its horn. Considering that traveler’s tales of the hippopotamus made it look a lot like a horse, it isn’t a stretch, IMO, to see a rhinoceros behind Greek accounts of a “wild ass” or “ox” with a single lancelike horn.

    Conclusion: It seems entirely possible that the rhinoceros family gave rise not only to the first attempt at a life restoration in Europe, but also (when hybridized with accounts of floods that seemed to writhe across the landscape, gorgeous narwhal horns, etc.) to the European dragon and unicorn.

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  20. 20. darkgabi 5:30 am 11/11/2013

    actually, good that the previous comment mentioned narvals and unicorns. i don’t think i’ve ever heard the explanation properly but everytime people around me mention the narval is the origin of the unicorn legend, i have a hard time connecting both. how come an aquatic animal would be the origin of a terrestrial myth? unless there was a transition from water to land here… :p

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  21. 21. Dartian 7:10 am 11/11/2013

    Darren:
    Dark transverse bands do have a precedent in the living world but they’re rare and I can’t think of any examples that quite resemble the condition reconstructed for Coelodonta.”

    The tamanduas’ pelage pattern might actually come the closest.

    Guthrie (2005) pointed to several living animals that have such structures (including cattle and guinea-pigs) but most are domestic and hence not subjected to natural selection pressures. He also pointed to the Giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca and Tanuki Nyctereutes procyonoides as examples

    Male bezoar goats and Norway lemmings also have darker bands in the shoulder region.

    there a 1924 article on this, I believe by Hilzheimer, but I’ve been unable to find the full citation

    I presume that you mean this:

    Hilzheimer, M. 1924. Eine neue Rekonstruktion von Rhinoceros antiquitatis Blumenbach, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Morphologie, Biologie und Phylogenie dieses Tieres. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie 50, 490-519.

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  22. 22. Dartian 7:32 am 11/11/2013

    AlHazen:
    Could the “belt” on a Woolly Rhinoceros in a paleolithic illustration be in part a representation of different coat length or texture?

    Like in the Tibetan antelope Pantholops hodgsonii, perhaps?

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  23. 23. eldri 2:42 pm 11/11/2013

    caribou/reindeer have varible coloring, often including pale manes –which leave dark central bands

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  24. 24. David Marjanović 6:33 pm 11/11/2013

    everytime people around me mention the narval is the origin of the unicorn legend, i have a hard time connecting both. how come an aquatic animal would be the origin of a terrestrial myth?

    The animal isn’t the origin of the myth. Just its tooth is. People didn’t know what it was and figured it must be a horn.

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  25. 25. Dartian 3:46 am 11/12/2013

    David:
    People didn’t know what it was and figured it must be a horn.

    Actually, some people (those who lived far enough in the north) obviously knew what narwhals were even back then. They figured out that they could sell its teeth for good money to people who didn’t know… ;)

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  26. 26. Laurence Clark Crossen 10:28 am 11/12/2013

    Considering that we have a wooly forest rhino today, the Sumatran rhino, a coat of wool does not provide any evidence for cold adaptation. Is there anything about the wooly rhino’s coat that does provide such evidence? Generally mammals are not considered to provide good evidence for climate.

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  27. 27. naishd 10:43 am 11/12/2013

    The Sumatran rhino has fur on its body, that’s true. But it’s not covered, head to tail, with a thick pelt – the Woolly rhino was (as testified by various of those permafrost and petrochemical seep specimens). The associated flora (e.g., dwarf willow) and fauna (e.g., lemmings) also shows that the Woolly rhino was an animal of cold, cool and temperate places. As I said in the article, it wasn’t restricted to snowy steppes and such places, however.

    Hope this helps.

    Darren

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  28. 28. Laurence Clark Crossen 10:48 am 11/12/2013

    Considering that the hairiest rhinos today live in the tropics in forests, this seems more like an adaptation to hot humid forests. The hair helps wick away moisture that would otherwise not easily evaporate.

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  29. 29. naishd 10:59 am 11/12/2013

    Laurence – I don’t know if you saw comment # 27, but there’s lots of additional evidence putting the Woolly rhino in cool, cold and temperate climates: I mentioned associated flora and fauna, but we’re talking about an animal that – in places – is preserved in sediments where there’s overwhelming evidence for permafrost, glacially-transported sediments and low temperatures.

    I recall a book – I think called The Mammoth in Ice and Snow – which argued that Woolly mammoths were not adapted for cold places and actually lived in warm habitats. These arguments look at one or two bits of evidence in cursory fashion and ignore stacks of data that comes from many different lines of evidence.

    Darren

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  30. 30. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:02 am 11/12/2013

    The Sumatran rhino also has a coat of hair over most of its body, just not as thick. I suspect the flora and fauna only show the latitude and not that it was cold. I suspect it was warmer there then than now.

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  31. 31. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:06 am 11/12/2013

    I don’t think lemmings prove out Bergmann’s Rule.

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  32. 32. naishd 11:09 am 11/12/2013

    Hmm, you seem not to be reading my comments. You just said “I suspect the flora and fauna only show the latitude and not that it was cold”. Err, no: the associated flora and fauna are specific to cool and cold climates and provide strong evidence for palaeotemperature (leaf size and so on are good correlates for temperature in some plant groups), plus there’s abundant additional data (isotopic, sedimentological and so on) supporting cold and cool temperatures in places where Woolly rhinos are found.

    And it’s a bit hard to explain why Woolly rhino fossils are found at the bottom of the North Sea unless the sea there was dry land due to the nearby presence of a gigantic ice sheet.

    Please explain the comment about lemmings and Bergmann’s Rule; I don’t understand your point at all.

    Darren

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  33. 33. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:13 am 11/12/2013

    While Hans Krause, who wrote The mammoth, in ice and snow? : cold-adaptation of woolly mammoth : fact or fiction?, was a creationist, most of his arguments are purely scientific. I have never been at all a creationist, but have been an agnostic all my life. In my opinion his evidence against cold adaptation disproves it, and his case has never been refuted. The cold adaptation is one thing, the climate another. Frankly, I do not think the climate was cold. The Ice Age seems to me a myth, as I have studied mythology. The “productivity paradox” proves the arctic steppe biome could not have existed in a cold climate.

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  34. 34. naishd 11:22 am 11/12/2013

    Pleased to hear that you aren’t a creationist. With respect, however, your arguments are similar to the ones they use. There’s a pretty substantial body of literature on Pleistocene palaeotemperatures that you’d need to refute before seriously arguing that the times of glacial maxima were not cold… I somehow doubt that “studying mythology” will help you out there.

    The ‘productivity paradox’ is indeed consistent with a seasonally cold climate, as argued by Guthrie, Anderson, Brubaker and others.

    Darren

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  35. 35. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:28 am 11/12/2013

    @”Please explain the comment about lemmings and Bergmann’s Rule; I don’t understand your point at all.”

    Bergmann’s Rule is a theory which states that animals will tend to be larger at higher latitudes than they will be at the equator. Lemmings are small rodents while larger ones should be nearer the poles but the largest are at the equator. I think that Bergmann’s rule does not well explain most of the gigantism during the End Pleistocene. I think what does explain it is more abundant flora producing larger fauna. For example, when the Irish red deer were introduced into New Zealand their size increased 50% due to more flora.

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  36. 36. Hai~Ren 11:28 am 11/12/2013

    Considering that the virtually hairless Javan rhino lives (or used to live) in the same hot, humid environments as the Sumatran rhino, I’m not sure we can so readily say that the Sumatran rhino’s fur is an adaptation for warm climates.

    Also, I think the fact that woolly rhino has been found with species like lemmings, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and musk ox strongly suggests that it wasn’t exactly living in a very warm environment.

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  37. 37. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:30 am 11/12/2013

    The fact is that it has not been demonstrated how there could have been the abundant fauna in Beringia in colder climate when that necessarily would have involved less rainfall than at present when it would require more. The paradox remains.

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  38. 38. Laurence Clark Crossen 11:32 am 11/12/2013

    Thank you for entertaining my alternative ideas but I must meet an appointment.

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  39. 39. naishd 11:33 am 11/12/2013

    Laurence – nice logic on Bergmann’s Rule there :) I think you’re missing the point: this being that Bergmann’s Rule applies to specific lineages, not to huge groups as a whole (it might apply in lemmings, for example, since those that occur further north are bigger than those that occur further south. There are no equatorial lemmings: the group is unique to cool, northern places).

    For those who do understand the concept of Bergmann’s Rule, note in any case that it might be invalid – the mammals mostly used as exemplars of the tendency were/are island-endemics that might owe their body size to insular evolution more than specialisation for cold climates.

    Darren

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  40. 40. THoltz 11:48 am 11/12/2013

    Unicorns, like manticores and gryphons, were not a “native” European myth but were introduced to the Hellenistic world from the writings of Ctesias (specifically, in the Indica)

    It has been suggested by some authors that the unicorn was simply a description of Indian rhinos muddled in the retelling (and that the manticore is similarly only the tiger).

    So unicorns are likely inspired by rhinos, but by Holocene rather than Pleistocene ones.

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  41. 41. darkgabi 12:37 pm 11/12/2013

    thanx tom! after writing that i actually took some minutes to go to wikipedia and read about it, then it made more sense how narvals and unis came together :p

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  42. 42. Laurence Clark Crossen 12:58 pm 11/12/2013

    I think the point is that lemmings do not provide evidence of colder climate, even if they were larger than the ones found in the Appalachians.

    Since Bergmann’s Rule does not have that general application, how would you explain the prevalence of larger animals during the glacial than the interglacial? I would expect larger ones during the warmer periods not the colder periods.

    I confess that the Ice Age strikes me as a childish catastrophist myth as absurd as the Flood. I think the assumption of an Ice Age could have and probably did result in misinterpretation of the climate data.

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  43. 43. ectodysplasin 1:09 pm 11/12/2013

    We don’t need the animals to demonstrate that it was much colder and that there was extensive glaciation. All you need to do is look at distribution of major glacial valleys, loess deposits, moraines, erratics, etc.

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  44. 44. naishd 1:10 pm 11/12/2013

    Response to comment # 42…

    Err, if modern lemmings are specific to cool and cold climates, the discovery of fossil ones (especially belonging to the same species as those restricted today to cool and cold climates) provides corroborating evidence for the past existence of same climates. Likewise for I-don’t-know-how-many-other taxa preserved in the Pleistocene record alongside Woolly rhinos and the like.

    Regarding your second point (on Bergmann’s Rule), the evolution of body size is complicated with lots of mediating factors. Nevertheless, we clearly see a set of cold-weather adaptations in Pleistocene animals that come from strata identified for other reasons as having been deposited under glacial conditions. Some of these taxa are larger-bodied than their interglacial relatives, but not all are.

    With respect to your final point, I can only conclude that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Have you even tried reading the technical literature on Pleistocene palaeotemperatures? There’s a lot of it. And there is not “an Ice Age”: rather, there were a series of distinct cooling episodes, varying substantially in duration and severity. No “assumptions”, no apparent “misinterpretations”. Do you actually know how good the evidence for cold Pleistocene climates really is? Are you able to refute evidence from oxygen isotopes, patterns of sedimentation, geological evidence for glaciation, the morphology and distribution of foraminifera, and so on and on? If so, why haven’t you published in a top-tier journal and why aren’t you rich and doing an international lecture circuit?

    Darren

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  45. 45. ectodysplasin 1:36 pm 11/12/2013

    @Lawrence Crossen

    I think that Bergmann’s rule does not well explain most of the gigantism during the End Pleistocene. I think what does explain it is more abundant flora producing larger fauna.

    There is a very easy way to test this: look at stomach contents of animals like woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. If they’re feeding in alpine or boreal tundra, that should be reflected in their diet. If they are feeding in warm, highly productive temperate habitats, that too should be reflected in their diet. It turns out that the plant species that turn up in these animals’ diets are all associated with boreal steppe and alpine meadows, and not with warmer higher-productivity environments. So that’s a direct test of your hypothesis, and one which your hypothesis fails entirely.

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  46. 46. ectodysplasin 1:39 pm 11/12/2013

    @Darren,

    Do you actually know how good the evidence for cold Pleistocene climates really is?

    Well, Yosemite is certainly pretty spectacular.

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  47. 47. Laurence Clark Crossen 1:58 pm 11/12/2013

    @45. ectodysplasin:
    Thank you for the test. That is very helpful and great food for thought.

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  48. 48. Laurence Clark Crossen 2:01 pm 11/12/2013

    @43. ectodysplasin:
    Actually, the whole subject is much contested. Water can do just about anything does. It is often the water off the bottom of the ice or the rocks moved by the ice that cause the effects, not the ice directly. Erratics can be accounted for often by water that moves huge boulders up hills.

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  49. 49. Laurence Clark Crossen 2:32 pm 11/12/2013

    @44. naishd :
    Are lemmings specific to cool climates or higher latitudes or elevations? Why did they relocate from higher latitudes at one time to higher elevations in the Appalachians at another?

    I think that most End Pleistocene mammals were larger when it seems that most glacial mammals should be smaller.

    Have you studied the literature on mythology including myths in modern science? I am not impressed. I am not pretending to know anything. I am saying that from my perspective it appears that the data have been misinterpreted due to an assumption of an Ice Age. You do not seem to know how uncertain and faulty the prevailing Milankovitch theory is. The sediments showing the cycles are more likely due to any other cause than that. The Milankovitch theory was not accepted largely because it was not regarded as an adequate mechanism. Then when the sea bed cores showed a cycle it was taken to confirm this inadequate mechanism and the theory was accepted!

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  50. 50. Laurence Clark Crossen 2:35 pm 11/12/2013

    @44. naishd:

    I think that criticism of alternative science is full of unreasonable demands such as requiring an amateur to publish in professional journals.

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  51. 51. ectodysplasin 2:53 pm 11/12/2013

    @Lawrence Crossen:

    @43. ectodysplasin:
    Actually, the whole subject is much contested. Water can do just about anything does. It is often the water off the bottom of the ice or the rocks moved by the ice that cause the effects, not the ice directly. Erratics can be accounted for often by water that moves huge boulders up hills.

    So then you clearly don’t know the first thing about glaciers, glacial geology, or alpine environments in general.

    Liquid water does not produce glacial polishing.

    Liquid water does not carve sheer cliffs in granite.

    Liquid water does not produce glacial flour.

    Liquid water does not create lateral or terminal moraines.

    Liquid water does not produce glacial dropstones.

    Liquid water cannot transport 15000 ton erratics, such as the Okotoks Erratic, hundreds of kilometers.

    None of these things are produced by liquid water, either free-flowing or within ice caves beneath glaciers. These are features that can only be produced by glacial ice. This has not been contested since the mid-1800s when scientists in the golden age of mountaineering first started studying glaciers in the Alps and started noting these very characteristic features of what happens when ice grinds against rock.

    Want to claim that mammalian body size is not alone a foolproof indicator of change in climate? That’s fine, and I agree with you, it is not. But your straight-up denial of the entire field of glaciology is beyond ridiculous. As someone who spends quite a significant amount of time in alpine environments shaped by glaciers, that’s not an argument I can take remotely seriously.

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  52. 52. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:03 pm 11/12/2013

    51. ectodysplasin:
    I do not deny glaciology. It just has not demonstrated an Ice Age to my satisfaction.

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  53. 53. ectodysplasin 3:09 pm 11/12/2013

    @Lawrence Crossen:

    I think that criticism of alternative science is full of unreasonable demands such as requiring an amateur to publish in professional journals.

    That is not Darren’s demand. Darren is saying that your claims are so contrary to literally everything we know on the subject. The arugments in favor of large-scale glaciation are not based on a single line of evidence. They are based on extreme southward distributions of boreal floras and faunas, low elevation distribution of alpine floras and faunas, direct and indirect evidence of extensive low-latitude glaciation, including unambiguous and striking examples such as the Yosemite Valley in California, the Wind Range in Wyoming, massive moraines throughout the American midwest (Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc), and, oh right, the fact that something scraped the entire Phanerozoic sedimentary record off the Canadian shield, changes in sea level recorded in the sedimentary record of many low-lying areas worldwide, multiple lines of isotopic evidence, evidence of isostatic rebound in the northern hemisphere that makes it very clear that ice sheets were placing pressure upwards of 20 megapascals on continental crust in North America and Eurasia, etc, etc, etc. This is not something that is hanging on ambiguous interpretations of a single hairy elephant.

    What Darren is saying is that, if you have evidence strong enough to counteract ALL of that, then that evidence must be robust enough and scientifically important enough to be published immediately in a scientific journal of the highest caliber, because, if such data exists, it would change literally everything we know about biology, geology, geography, chemistry, climatology, etc.

    The reality is that you don’t have that evidence. Darren is not the one being unreasonable here.

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  54. 54. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:12 pm 11/12/2013

    Okotoks Erratic:
    Yeh, I am impressed.

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  55. 55. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:18 pm 11/12/2013

    Maybe it’s an exotic terrain that shuffled over there.

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  56. 56. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:18 pm 11/12/2013

    :)

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  57. 57. ectodysplasin 3:22 pm 11/12/2013

    @Laurence Crossen:

    51. ectodysplasin:
    I do not deny glaciology.

    Yes, you do. You deny that glacial valleys are glacial valleys. You deny that dropstones are dropstones. You deny that glacial erratics the size of apartment complexes are glacial erratics. You deny isostatic rebound of northern continents and the faulting and uplift associated with it. You deny the reversal of flow direction in the St. Lawrence Sound. You deny the presence of extensive terminal moraines throughout currently warm areas such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. You deny floral records from packrat middens throughout western North America that record a significant southerly expansion of boreal and alpine plants. You deny numerous genetic studies investigating recolonization of glacially-modified terrain and retreat of boreal and alpine plants and animals. You deny numerous independent lines of isotopic evidence. You deny the presence of extensive loessites throughout the North American midcontinent.

    Not only that, but you refuse to provide the smallest justification for your denial of everything from geophysics to geomorphology to paleoecology to isotope geochemistry.

    That is the epitome of denialism.

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  58. 58. ectodysplasin 3:32 pm 11/12/2013

    @Laurence Crossen:

    Okotoks Erratic:
    Yeh, I am impressed.

    Maybe it’s an exotic terrain that shuffled over there.

    The terrain it was transported across involves deep U-shaped valleys, hanging valleys, lateral and terminal moraines, extensive glacial polishing, and extensive loess deposits.

    Throughout the rest of the area, at slightly higher altitudes, these features are all associated with glaciers.

    So what sort of “exotic terrain” do you think existed here, that wasn’t glacial?

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  59. 59. David_Bressan 3:36 pm 11/12/2013

    regarding comment #24 & 25: the history is a bit controversial – the European middle ages know two kinds of unicorns, the true or fossil unicorn (found only during excavations of Pleistocene mammals) and the fake unicorn, which was known to come from living animals and probably most naturalist realized that it came indeed from the narwhal (even if other animals were known to “produce” fake unicorn). In general the first was regarded of higher value – as it had guaranteed anti-poison properties, but the second was nevertheless consider interesting, as it supposedly possessed also this virtue

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  60. 60. ectodysplasin 3:44 pm 11/12/2013

    I was under the impression that the “proof against poison” thing comes from the fact that some alkaloids react with keratin, which would indicate the presence of certain poisons. The “anti-poison properties” later attributed to “unicorn” horns are a bastardization of the original use. Narwhal teeth obviously would not react with alkaloids in the same way that a keratinous horn of any type would.

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  61. 61. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:48 pm 11/12/2013

    57. ectodysplasin:
    If dropstones are stones that fall out of the bottom of glaciers then they, and not the ice, would cause the striations in rocks. Then other forces could also drag stones over stones causing similar striations. Ice can also cause these marks during the winter during interglacials.

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  62. 62. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:54 pm 11/12/2013

    57. ectodysplasin:
    Yes, I do deny glacial uplift. That is not the cause of the uplift. That it is uplift is just an interpretation.

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  63. 63. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:54 pm 11/12/2013

    57. ectodysplasin: CORRECTION:
    Yes, I do deny glacial uplift. That is not the cause of the uplift. That it is glacial uplift is just an interpretation.

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  64. 64. ectodysplasin 4:01 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    If dropstones are stones that fall out of the bottom of glaciers then they, and not the ice, would cause the striations in rocks.

    You clearly do not know what dropstones are nor how we infer their presence.

    Ice can also cause these marks during the winter during interglacials.

    Seasonal ice and snowpack is never thick enough and heavy enough to grind rock, and it does not move in the sort of manner that would result in grinding of the underlying rock. Movement of seasonal snowpack only occurs on steep terrain. We call that movement “avalanches” and these do not create the kind of structures that glaciers produce. Avalanches do not create moraines. They do not carve valleys. They do not polish rock. Seasonal ice in the alpine typically forms icefalls along cracks and other areas of weakness in cliffs. Icefalls do not move along the face of the cliff and they certainly do not grind out glacial valeys. Ice formation will sometimes dislodge smaller rocks, which fall down to the base of the cliffs to form scree slopes.

    The only way you can get the kind of structures we’re talking about is to have very large units of permanent ice that moves slowly over a period of many thousands of years. We have a name for these ice units. That name is “glaciers.”

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  65. 65. Yodelling Cyclist 4:02 pm 11/12/2013

    LCC: I’d just like to ask, if you don’t like glaciation as a theory, what do you suggest that can cover the evidence? Remember, there’s a lot, and it’s globally distributed. May I start by asking what is causing “glacial” rebound?

    Ectodysplasin: loving you’re efforts, as ever would love any further exposition if you get the time.:

    literally everything we know about….chemistry

    Woah boy (or girl). My field’s largely ok!

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  66. 66. ectodysplasin 4:06 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    57. ectodysplasin: CORRECTION:
    Yes, I do deny glacial uplift. That is not the cause of the uplift. That it is glacial uplift is just an interpretation.

    So you must have a better explanation for why 20-30 megapascals of pressure have been relieved in the past 10,000 years over areas where the entire Phareozoic sedimentary sequence has been carved off and which are bounded by an extensive lateral moraine.

    Let’s hear it.

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  67. 67. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:09 pm 11/12/2013

    53. ectodysplasin:
    I have not pretended to be able to refute the evidence. I do find it remarkable how much modern scientists fail to recognize how much of science is interpretation that could be mistaken, including anything that may be considered proper to glaciology that seems to support the latest Ice Age.

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  68. 68. ectodysplasin 4:11 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    53. ectodysplasin:
    I have not pretended to be able to refute the evidence.

    /discussion

    I do find it remarkable how much modern scientists fail to recognize how much of science is interpretation that could be mistaken, including anything that may be considered proper to glaciology that seems to support the latest Ice Age.

    I was on a glacier literally three days ago. Have you ever seen glacial terrain?

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  69. 69. Halbred 4:12 pm 11/12/2013

    I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an Ice Age denialist. This is fascinating stuff. LCC, I live in Alaska, where evidence of glacial remodeling is literally everywhere. We have fossils of these big mammals–mammoths and wooly rhinos and short-faced bears and the like–in areas that really haven’t changed that much since they went extinct. For what it’s worth, we’re still in an “Ice Age” (although you don’t seem to like that term) up here in AK (and most of Canada).

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  70. 70. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:12 pm 11/12/2013

    66. ectodysplasin:
    There are many uplifts going on around the world that are not glacial rebounds.

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  71. 71. ectodysplasin 4:14 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    66. ectodysplasin:
    There are many uplifts going on around the world that are not glacial rebounds.

    Sure. But the Canadian Shield is not at a plate boundary.

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  72. 72. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:18 pm 11/12/2013

    ectodysplasin:
    Don’t you think it is good to question the most fundamental assumptions of glaciology? Why take offense?

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  73. 73. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:31 pm 11/12/2013

    ectodysplasin:
    By the way, I am also a critic of pseudoscience.

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  74. 74. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:31 pm 11/12/2013

    Western unicorn is a composite myth. At different centuries, unicorns were based on accounts and body parts of different animals: Indian rhinos, wild asses, Indian blackbuck, aurochs (drawn in profile in Sumerian art, with only one horn visible), narwhal teeth and tusks of mammoths. Asian unicorns are based on deer, most likely Pere David’s deer.

    See: H Wendt, Out of Noah’s Ark. The story of man’s discovery of the animal kingdom (1956).

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  75. 75. ectodysplasin 4:35 pm 11/12/2013

    You’re not questioning anything. You are making assertions about how ice does and does not behave that are not based in reality. You’d know that if you’d ever spent time in glacier-shaped terrain, received avalanche safety certification, or received glacier traverse certification.

    It is worth challenging fundamental assumptions of fields, but that questioning should be based on observation and familiarity with the system being questioned. You have demonstrated a complete lack of any knowledge about what glaciers are, how glaciers behave, or what basic glacial sedimentological features (like dropstones) or geomorphological features (like moraines) are. If you do not know what a glacier is in the first place, you are not equipped to make claims about what is and is not glacial.

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  76. 76. ectodysplasin 4:35 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    ectodysplasin:
    By the way, I am also a critic of pseudoscience.

    Irony of ironies, you are also a proponent of it.

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  77. 77. Laurence Clark Crossen 5:01 pm 11/12/2013

    @ectodysplasin

    To question whether or not there has been an Ice Age is not pseudo-scientific. To claim that science only works inductively is to be blind to the theoretical issues.

    Link to this
  78. 78. Laurence Clark Crossen 5:03 pm 11/12/2013

    @ectodysplasin:
    You might benefit from studying the philosopher of science Larry Laudan whose ideas about boundary issues are very helpful for dealing with them in a reasonable manner.

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  79. 79. ectodysplasin 5:17 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    Feigning solipsism is the final refuge of the intellectually dishonest.

    Link to this
  80. 80. Laurence Clark Crossen 5:32 pm 11/12/2013

    @ectodysplasin:
    It would be as foolish to pretend that theory is everything as to pretend that induction is everything. I have not done that. I have only questioned the belief in the Ice Age and you have responded by accusing me over and over again.

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  81. 81. Laurence Clark Crossen 5:48 pm 11/12/2013

    @ectodysplasin:
    If the alleged mechanism of the Ice Age is in question, then the interpretation of the evidence is in question, isn’t it? It is not dishonest to question the interpretation of evidence based on a fallacious mechanism. If the cause does not exist the effect does not. It is my opinion that the Ice Age does not exist. I have good reason to believe that.

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  82. 82. Yodelling Cyclist 5:55 pm 11/12/2013

    Laurence, no. If the cause is unknown, the effect can still occur. If I close my eyes, walk into the road, and suddenly suffer massive blunt force trauma consistent with an object travelling at around 30 mph, made of steel and weighing about a ton, the fact that I didn’t see the object doesn’t make the effect go away. I’m not sure it’s a car, you’re not sure about Milankovich cycles, but I’m in a world of hurt and the planet bears evidence of low temperatures and massive amounts of ice. Something happened here. I’m betting on a car, but it might be a fluke meteor.

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  83. 83. ectodysplasin 5:58 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    A mark of intellectual honesty would be to state your reasons for believing that the Pleistocene glaciations are a misinterpretation of the geological, biological, and geochemical records and the level of evidence that would be necessary to convince you that you are wrong.

    You have not done either. Your entire argument is based on the fact that you simply do not believe in the conclusions. When presented with the enormity of the evidence against your position, you propose mechanisms that are patently absurd, and then refuse to engage evidence that is rallied against your patently absurd mechanisms. Now you’re hiding behind the claim that you’re “only questioning orthodoxy” and misrepresenting contemporary epistemological work because you hope that no one can criticize you on that front. That approach lacks honesty and guts.

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  84. 84. Halbred 6:01 pm 11/12/2013

    He’s not Anti-Ice-Age; he’s pro SAFE Ice Age. ;-)

    Link to this
  85. 85. ectodysplasin 6:01 pm 11/12/2013

    @LCC:

    @ectodysplasin:
    If the alleged mechanism of the Ice Age is in question,

    It is not in question.

    then the interpretation of the evidence is in question, isn’t it?

    You are not questioning anything. You are bringing in no observations, studies, or anything else. You insinuate that the connection between glacial action and glacial terrain is somehow tenuous when it is entirely noncontroversial. The only controversy is in your head.

    It is my opinion that the Ice Age does not exist.

    There’s a saying that likens opinions to certain parts of the anatomy. This saying applies here.

    I have good reason to believe that.

    And yet you have not offered that reason. The only reason you have offered is personal incredulity.

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  86. 86. ectodysplasin 6:03 pm 11/12/2013

    @Halberd:

    He’s not Anti-Ice-Age; he’s pro SAFE Ice Age. ;-)

    In that case, you’d think he’d have sought out glacier traverse certification.

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  87. 87. Yodelling Cyclist 6:09 pm 11/12/2013

    The hair helps wick away moisture that would otherwise not easily evaporate.

    This, btw, is actually well known from the Saharan Musk Ox (which Darren should really blog about in early April next year, if he has time).

    It is also the basis for the use of heavy woollen cloaks for hyperthermia casualties and why the Bedouin use huskies to traverse the desert.

    Ultimately: sure, merino wool wicks sweat, it allows an animal adapted for cold winter to survive a warm continental summer, but if you want to stay really cool, you take the damned jumper off. Wool/fur, weight for weight, is one of the best materials for insulation.

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  88. 88. ectodysplasin 6:17 pm 11/12/2013

    Merino wool is awesome, but mainly for staying warm.

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  89. 89. Yodelling Cyclist 6:33 pm 11/12/2013

    Absolutely, but it’s actually great stuff for running in cold weather. Wicks the sweat off you, keeps cold weather out. It’s brilliant stuff for running in a cold/temperate climate. Beats the hell out of all the synthetics.

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  90. 90. ectodysplasin 6:48 pm 11/12/2013

    Yep. I’ve got some merino I wear when ice climbing. Same general idea….keeps you warm and keeps you dry.

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  91. 91. M Tucker 7:02 pm 11/12/2013

    The illustrated glossary of glacier terminology courtesy of the USGS.

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2004/1216/a/a.html

    I suggest actually going out into the real world to actually see for yourself but if that is not possible this illustrated glossary is pretty good. Of course you could still maintain that all the geologists have misinterpreted the evidence after more than 100 years of examination…well that’s just plain crazy.

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  92. 92. Yodelling Cyclist 7:02 pm 11/12/2013

    Never tried ice climbing. Serious stuff. But my point stands, some folks see stuff labelled as sweat wicking, and it creates the illusion that it’s for warm weather. It’ll cook you in a continental summer, it stops you from cooking yourself in winter. I say again, it’s brilliant stuff.

    This post was brought to you by the UK Merino Wool Board. ;-)

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  93. 93. ectodysplasin 7:16 pm 11/12/2013

    @YC:

    But my point stands, some folks see stuff labelled as sweat wicking, and it creates the illusion that it’s for warm weather. It’ll cook you in a continental summer, it stops you from cooking yourself in winter. I say again, it’s brilliant stuff.

    It’s less about preventing you from cooking yourself and more about keeping water away from your skin. Maintaining body temperature in cold weather is typically a good thing. The problem is that, if you go from intense physical activity (e.g. running or ice climbing) to little to no activity (resting, belaying, stretching, etc) that sweat that you’ve just shed is going to cool off really quickly and chill you badly. This is why cotton is not recommended for cold weather.

    It’s also worth pointing out that most mammals do not produce copious amounts of sweat for thermoregulatory purposes, so this whole discussion is probably not relevant to discussions of mammoth and woolly rhino hair.

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  94. 94. Yodelling Cyclist 7:42 pm 11/12/2013

    Ectodysplasin: you’re absolutely right, but I think we’re agreeing with different emphasises. For me, I go inside after running and getting about as hot as I can. For me, the merino shifts sweat off me as quick as possible. It is possible to run yourself into heat exhaustion surprisingly easily in non permeable fabric. Cotton, on the other hand, will let you freeze before you get up to speed and the sweat can chill you badly in motion if it sits on your skin. No matter, certainly not the gear for any sport on a hot day (then again, I guess ice climbing isn’t the sport for 30C heat).

    Back to zoology, I had (naively) assumed that sheep etc. would sweat when exerting themselves under the wool, and that this was why it worked so well at sweat wicking. How do huskies, reindeer etc stop themselves suffering hyperthermia when running hard if they’re not sweating, and not freezing when stationary if they’re just relying on the air for cooling? Bonus points to anyone who unnecessarily links in polar dinosaurs. :-)

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  95. 95. Halbred 7:51 pm 11/12/2013

    Well, I wish I could jump in here and say something interesting about how caribou (reindeer) are uniquely adapted to cold regions (AK being one of them), I really can’t. They do have a double-coat of hair and big schnozes like moose to warm incoming air, but other than that I’m not really sure. What’s really puzzling to me is that certain populations migrate while others overwinter.

    I will say that a caribou’s inner coat is exceptionally warm and makes an excellent blanket (I had one growing up).

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  96. 96. Jenny Islander 9:00 pm 11/12/2013

    @Yodelling Cyclist: The heavily furred mammals I know something about all pant to dump heat. Huskies, for one, also sweat through their paws. IIRC some animals–caribou?–also have very large nasal passages that appear to be used partly for dumping heat, meaning that when they slow down to pant they also snort. But don’t quote me on that one. Also consider external methods of thermoregulation; for example, some dogs know how to dig a hole in the dirt and sit in it in order to cool off.

    Hey, does anybody know–were the backs of woolly mammoths’ ears as heavily furred as the fronts? Did they flap their ears to cool off?

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  97. 97. David Marjanović 10:03 pm 11/12/2013

    I suspect the flora and fauna only show the latitude and not that it was cold.

    …Dude… …how would that even work? How could a lot of animals and plants be adapted to a latitude but not to a climate? And why are these same animals and plants now found only in much higher latitudes than then??? Oh, better yet: why are some now found only in much higher latitudes as well as much higher altitudes? There are lots of animals and plants that occur alive in the Arctic part of Europe and in the Alps, and occur only dead in the places in between.

    You haven’t thought this through. You haven’t even begun to think into it, never mind coming out at the other end!

    Bergmann’s Rule is a theory

    No, it’s a rule! There’s a reason for its name! A theory is something that explains a lot of seemingly unrelated rules/laws and observations.

    The fact is that it has not been demonstrated how there could have been the abundant fauna in Beringia in colder climate when that necessarily would have involved less rainfall than at present when it would require more. The paradox remains.

    It appears you’ve never heard of a mammoth steppe or steppe tundra. Look them up.

    I am not pretending to know anything.

    The problem is that you’re pretending that everybody else doesn’t know anything either.

    You do not seem to know how uncertain and faulty the prevailing Milankovitch theory is. The sediments showing the cycles are more likely due to any other cause than that. The Milankovitch theory was not accepted largely because it was not regarded as an adequate mechanism. Then when the sea bed cores showed a cycle it was taken to confirm this inadequate mechanism and the theory was accepted!

    Wow, what waffling. Why else does cyclostratigraphy work, then? Did you even know Milanković cycles (no more reason to spell him in French) aren’t limited to ice ages, but fit warmer and cooler periods throughout the history of the Earth? Did you notice when a new and impressively precise cyclostratigraphy-based timescale for the Permian was published?

    I think that criticism of alternative science is full of unreasonable demands such as requiring an amateur to publish in professional journals.

    …How is that unreasonable?

    Did you believe professional journals only publish manuscripts from professionals, or something? That’s not how it works. Read the Instructions to Authors, follow them, and once the manuscript passes peer review, it’s accepted for publication, no matter where the author works.

    I do not deny glaciology. It just has not demonstrated an Ice Age to my satisfaction.

    It has. You just haven’t bothered to notice.

    Maybe it’s an exotic terrain that shuffled over there.

    *headdesk*
    You have no idea what an exotic terrane is (it’s not a terrain, for instance). Admit it to yourself and look it up at last. Google is at your fingertips!

    Then other forces could also drag stones over stones causing similar striations.

    What other forces?

    Ice can also cause these marks during the winter during interglacials.

    Yeah, moving ice. In short, a glacier. A glacier in a place that’s too warm for glaciers in interglacials.
    *slow clap*

    Yes, I do deny glacial uplift. That is not the cause of the uplift. That it is glacial uplift is just an interpretation.

    What else do you propose, then, for why the floors of the Hudson Bay and the Baltic Sea, as well as their surroundings, are rising? Tectonics can’t be it, we’re talking about the middles of cratons here, with zero volcanic activity in the last billion years or two.

    To claim that science only works inductively

    Has anybody made such a silly claim? I can’t find it.

    IIRC some animals–caribou?–also have very large nasal passages that appear to be used partly for dumping heat, meaning that when they slow down to pant they also snort.

    AFAIK, ruminants generally have a rete mirabile in the nose, an anastomosing network of blood vessels that keeps the brain cool.

    Polar bears, on the other hand, are said to have no means of dumping heat at all. Panting must work, but probably not very well either.

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  98. 98. Christopher Taylor 4:03 am 11/13/2013

    Nobody’s even mentioned yet the reasonably direct record of palaeotemperatures available to us through the fossil record of forams and other shelly plankton. And yes, that does show clear cycles in temperature during the Pleistocene.

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  99. 99. Gigantala 4:48 am 11/13/2013

    @Qilin being based off Elaphurus: Actually, the earliest Qilin are tiger like, only becoming consistently deer like beings towards the Ming Dynasty, when the chinese met african giraffes.

    Elaphurus itself has a rich role in asian folklore independent of the Qilin.

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  100. 100. darkgabi 5:49 am 11/13/2013

    @YC (#94):
    the question about overheating in huskies is a pretty good one. i don’t know how they do to avoid or to deal with hyperthermia, but having two layers of fur might actually prevent them from overheating that easily. that’d be my guess. when huskies are hot they pant, they like eating ice, they put their muzzle in the water bowl up to the eyes if they can, as well as their paws, or spill the water on the floor and lie with their limbs [especially the hind ones] sprawled away – but i don’t think that’s particular to huskies, but to dogs in general. i wonder if, in an environment where staying warm is more important, there are actual mechanisms for dealing with overheat.. i mean, how often would they face such intense activity so that it is actually a problem that would demand evolutionary solutions? as i said, my guess would be that it is eventual, especially if the fur somehow delays reaching that stage. so, sorry no link with dinosaurs :p

    and as fur a coat.. were rio cold at all, this would be a good market to get some money from. please, meet cherry: https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/s720x720/554619_406747356014678_43612846_n.jpg

    ps: that ear position is very common when they’re panting. i wonder if there’s a meaning for that.

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  101. 101. Chabier G. 7:43 am 11/13/2013

    The huge hump over the neck of Coelodonta is an odd feature. It would constrict a lot neck and head movements, then, there should be a good selective reason to develope it. I bet these rhinos, in intraspecific fighting, engaged in a kind of horn wrestling, maintaining their horns tangled, measuring their respective strengths. It would explain the weird muscular hump, the horn shape (it’s easier to keep tangled two curved flat horns rather than two rounded-section and straight ones), and perhaps the horn wear.

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  102. 102. Laurence Clark Crossen 8:53 am 11/13/2013

    @#29 Naishd:
    “I recall a book – I think called The Mammoth in Ice and Snow – which argued that Woolly mammoths were not adapted for cold places and actually lived in warm habitats. These arguments look at one or two bits of evidence in cursory fashion and ignore stacks of data that comes from many different lines of evidence.”
    This argument is an attempt to avoid dealing directly with Krause’s refutation of the alleged cold adaptation of the mammoth. No one has ever been able to overturn his refutation. You have not even attempted to address it here on this posting. Krause thoroughly demolishes the alleged cold adaptation of the mammoth in depth. His argument regarding the mammoth is sufficient to overthrow all your other evidence.

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  103. 103. naishd 9:20 am 11/13/2013

    Comment # 102.. sigh. Krause’s book is pseudoscience – it has been thoroughly overturned because what he said was utter nonsense (he made claims, for example, about the Woolly mammoth pelt being incapable of dealing with cold, yet what he said about the pelt is inaccurate). As stated very clearly in numerous other comments upthread of this one, the evidence for cold Pleistocene climates is enormous, detailed and compelling.

    Thanks for giving us all a good laugh with the ‘denialism’ here. Google reveals that you are also seem to be a climate change denialist (I mean, with respect to modern climate change) (as well as someone interested in cryptozoology!). I therefore wonder if, like most climate denialists, you have an axe to grind.

    Darren

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  104. 104. Jerzy v. 3.0. 9:33 am 11/13/2013

    @ Laurence Clark Crossen
    So how all these cold adapted animals didn’t boil in warm climate? Mammoths with a layer of fat 50cm thick, Arctic foxes in their furs etc.?

    Why all animals in the glacials were cold-adapted ones, and all the warm-adapted ones were missing?

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  105. 105. Andreas Johansson 9:44 am 11/13/2013

    LCC wrote:
    I suspect the flora and fauna only show the latitude and not that it was cold.

    What’s that even supposed to mean? That, say, France was at significantly different latitude in the Pleistocene than today?

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  106. 106. vdinets 9:59 am 11/13/2013

    Yodelling Cyclist (#12) I’ll find the references next week when I get home. I am driving around northern Quebec, and it sure feels like an Ice Age, with internet at glacial speed, if available.

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  107. 107. SciaticPain 11:15 am 11/13/2013

    I would like to thank Laurence Clark Crossen for no other reason than that he prompted an awesome rebuttal by several commentators who provided a nice primer on glaciations and evidence there-of.

    Glacial loess tends to form some of the most productive farmland. Has there been any attempt to correlate the glacial reworking/tilling of the land through glaciations with the abundant and diverse herbivorous megafauna observed?

    Duane Nash

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  108. 108. Mike from Ottawa 11:23 am 11/13/2013

    “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an Ice Age denialist.”

    Amusing that we’ve got an Ice Age denialist when the guy who put the Ice Ages on the map, so to speak, was Louis Agassiz who was perhaps the most prominent scientist to reject Darwin’s work and persist as a creationist.

    One of the things (among many) that would-be scientific iconoclasts, such as our present Ice Ages denialist, are ignorant of is that scientific belief in the existence of the Ice Ages was not something handed down from time immemorial. Agassiz had a lot of work to do to convince the scientific community of their reality. At this time, the idea of the Ice Ages is old hat and to the untutored it may look like folk accept them just because everyone always has without their reality having been tested. But that is not the case.

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  109. 109. Yodelling Cyclist 1:18 pm 11/13/2013

    Glaciology in the comments, Brazilian ichthyology in Darren’s twitter feed – this is turning into a serious Agassiz memorial day.

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  110. 110. ectodysplasin 3:03 pm 11/13/2013

    @Mike from Ottawa,

    Agassiz had a lot of work to do to convince the scientific community of their reality. At this time, the idea of the Ice Ages is old hat and to the untutored it may look like folk accept them just because everyone always has without their reality having been tested. But that is not the case.

    It’s worth pointing out here that Louis Agassiz was not only a scientist, but he was also one of the pioneers of the sport of mountaineering during the Golden Era of Alpinism. Prior to the mid-1800s, no one really spent a lot of time in the high alpine because there was, honestly, very little reason to. Without that very important step of actually going up and tromping around in the mountains, there would have been nothing to compare low-altitude glacial terrain with. There were also key innovations to mountaineering technology, including the invention of alpine axes and crampons (well, hobnailed boots), development of rope techniques, and so on that made the mountains less dangerous for travelers (although the equipment and technique was not nearly as safe as modern equipment and technique, and casualties were in fact quite high).

    Anyways, my point here is that Agassiz’s contributions and interest in the mountains were not simply scientific.

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  111. 111. ectodysplasin 3:07 pm 11/13/2013

    @Chabier:

    The huge hump over the neck of Coelodonta is an odd feature.

    It has to support that huge and heavy head somehow.

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  112. 112. darkgabi 3:17 pm 11/13/2013

    since the candiru subject was mentioned here, and since this gives more space to write than twitter, lemme post the news on it.

    so, when darren said it was most likely a myth, my world ruined. hahaha. i was pretty sure it was real then decided to collect proofs. which i didn’t find satisfactorily… reports i found were indirect, old, but this one webpage reporting a surgery and, most important, saying the removed animal was deposited in the INPA collection [instituto nacional de pesquisas da amazônia] under the number 15590 and identified as plectrochilus [instead of vandellia]: go here.

    but i still wasn’t satisfied and contacted an old colleague from uni times that is an ichthyologist and works and has lived in the amazon etc [henrique lazzarotto] and explained him the tweeting and what i had found. his answer: “so i just talked personally to the person who deposited this plectrochilus in the collection at INPA. the fish was deposited together with the medical record, the surgery was recorded (at least photographed, if not filmed), and the doctor is well known. there are no doubts on the veracity of this case. as for the fact that the genus is not vandellia, inside the family trichomycteridae (candirus) there are several species of the subfamilies vandelliinae (where plectrochilus is found)and stegophilinae that are parasites, especially on fishes’ gills, or feeding on the mucose of fishes and crocs. it is true, although rather uncommon. [...] what we heard from people living in the region, though, is that it happens more commonly with women and when they’re having their period.”

    =]

    this was a nice procrastination exercise. but now i have to go back to croc braincase u.u

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  113. 113. naishd 3:35 pm 11/13/2013

    From extinct rhinos to Ice Age denialism to parasitic catfish (thanks loads, Gabi)… I trust people know that Tet Zoo is the best blog in the world. And I aim to post something new as soon as possible, watch this space.

    Darren

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  114. 114. Halbred 4:15 pm 11/13/2013

    @Chabier:
    The huge hump over the neck of Coelodonta is an odd feature.
    It has to support that huge and heavy head somehow.

    Ceratopsids got along fine without a muscular hump. They arguably took the easier way out: they fused their first several cervical verts instead.

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  115. 115. darkgabi 5:20 pm 11/13/2013

    i’m prolix, i know
    u.u

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  116. 116. Yodelling Cyclist 5:38 pm 11/13/2013

    Ceratopsids got along fine without a muscular hump. They arguably took the easier way out: they fused their first several cervical verts instead.

    Easier for an archosaur perhaps, remember mammals are oddly conservative when it comes to neck vertebrae (although there are a few exceptions).

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  117. 117. darkgabi 5:46 pm 11/13/2013

    bbc doc “river monsters: amazon flesheaters” with jeremy wade [version dubbed in portuguese]. that endoscopy video i sent you via twitter is the original one o.ô

    https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=453927997971561

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  118. 118. Halbred 6:22 pm 11/13/2013

    Ceratopsids got along fine without a muscular hump. They arguably took the easier way out: they fused their first several cervical verts instead.

    Easier for an archosaur perhaps, remember mammals are oddly conservative when it comes to neck vertebrae (although there are a few exceptions).

    Easier for sauropsids generally, maybe. Synapsid evolution has been characterized as a gradual simplification of the skeleton and skull (I wish I could remember the reference, but it’s stuck with me).

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  119. 119. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:23 pm 11/13/2013

    I am waiting for the first Discovery Channel presenter to show us candiru fish in action.

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  120. 120. Yodelling Cyclist 7:09 pm 11/13/2013

    Gigantala: Going way back up the chain:

    Hyenas at least can be chalked up to competition with large canines.

    Really? I thought the durophagus Borophaginae had gone over a million years BP. Should have been time for hyenas to enter the Americas.

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  121. 121. imhennessy 7:41 pm 11/13/2013

    On the topic of that huge hump, this seems like a very appealing narrative, to me:
    The large, heavy head is the starting point, made heavier by whatever horn was present in the ancestral population.
    Certain behaviors, let’s include clearing of snow, knocking down vegetation for browse, intraspecific combat, defense against the dark arts (or predators, whatever), favor greater skeletal support and increased musculature.
    As these behaviors are changing the distribution of the structures in the population, mutual selection kicks in.
    Once mutual selection begins to influence hump size, fat stores begin to concentrate there from other parts of the body.

    I think this could explain the exaggerated skeletal features and the overhanging hump.

    The first test which comes to mind is the presence of large fat deposits in the hump. Were any wooly rhinos discovered in a good enough condition to look for them?

    Other tests seem like a lot more work: modeling muscular attachments and strength, range of motion, weight distribution;
    Looking a multiple specimens from multiple times to look for changes;
    Looking for evidence of injury to determine if there’s a pattern of predictable postures and forces leading to injury.

    That all sounds like work to me. And a lot has probably already been done.

    Ivan

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  122. 122. Gigantala 11:44 am 11/14/2013

    “Really? I thought the durophagus Borophaginae had gone over a million years BP. Should have been time for hyenas to enter the Americas.”

    Canis itself produced robust forms like Canis dirus.

    Wolves and spotted hyenas have also competed each other to exclusivity in many cases, though it appears spotted hyenas generally “won” – their disappearence from Europe nonwithstanding -, so I have nothing.

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  123. 123. Yodelling Cyclist 12:40 pm 11/14/2013

    I guess in other environments canis never produced a species as powerful as dirus/ambrusteri.

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  124. 124. Magnificent Mihirung 5:39 pm 11/14/2013

    FWIW, we DID get a hyena, for a while, Chasmaporthetes (which was named after the type locality of the genus near the Grand Canyon), that stuck around from the Pliocene through mid-Pleistocene in the tropics and subtropics of North America, becoming a contemporary of Titanis and South American toxodonts in what must have been one of the coolest cosmopolitan faunal assemblages of the Cenezoic.

    I find the timing of us losing rhinos in the first place suspicious, as well as the maintenance of the Beringian border – while it was obviously a much more complex and diverse set of habitats than it is generally given credit for, one of the perks of being a large mammal is the ability to blunder through relatively marginal habitats in search of more optimal grazing grounds. Why Yaks and Saiga could pass through but Rhinos couldn’t seems odd, and I wouldn’t be shocked if future fossil discoveries show that they weren’t actually absent, just rare.

    I actually agree with @SciaticPain that both our loss of rhinos and their sustained absence might be related to Giant Ground Sloths (as well as toxodonts, in southern north america), though I’m less sold on the idea of Orneriness being a niche – if there weren’t actual shared resources at stake, it seems like the evolutionary winners of Sloth v Rhino would be the sloths and rhinos who just didn’t rise to the bait.

    Alternately, it might have been disease-based. Remember that perissodactyls are an American clade in origin, and it is entirely possible that North American horse and tapir metapopulations kept stuff in circulation that did minimal harm to them but preempted rhinoceros pilgrims from gaining a foothold, over the very short periods of evolutionary time they had to access Beringia.

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  125. 125. Magnificent Mihirung 5:42 pm 11/14/2013

    If you’re interested, Brian Switek has a great lil’ piece on the life and culinary loves of Chasmaporthetes here:
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/the-hyena-who-saw-the-canyon/

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  126. 126. Dartian 2:40 am 11/15/2013

    Magnificent Mihirung:
    Yaks [...] could pass through

    Actually, there is currently no evidence that they did. AFAIK, there is only one purported fossil yak specimen from Alaska (described by Frick in 1937); later research has shown that not only is it non-diagnostic – it isn’t even a fossil at all! Olsen (1990) pointed out that closer examination reveals saw cuts on its surface. Thus, this ‘yak’ specimen is most likely just a recent domestic cattle.

    Reference:
    Olsen, S.J. 1990. Fossil ancestry of the yak, its cultural significance and domestication in Tibet. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 142, 73-100.

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  127. 127. Laurence Clark Crossen 9:33 am 11/16/2013

    @103. naishd:
    I would be delighted if you could direct me to any publication that directly addresses Krause’s claims, much less actually successfully refuting them. The truth is he has been disregarded because he is a creationist. I must give your blog credit for not disregarding my attempt to get a direct reply to the scientific part of Krause’s argument. I think the strongest part of his case is that there were not any sebaceous glands so the skin could not survive the cold without oil, and that there were no hair erector muscles so they could not regulate body heat.

    I am not a cryptozoologist but I have studied most of the most serious cryptozoology publications. As Ben Roesch put it, it’s my “guilty pleasure.”

    I do not have a metaphysical axe to grind. No one denies that climate changes. However, if proponents of an ideological extremist environmentalist cause such as AGW, at the outset have to deny the physics by claiming a runaway greenhouse effect, when physics indicates the opposite, then anyone should recognize the bankruptcy of such liberal pseudoscience.

    I remain confident that the belief in the last Ice Age is a catastrophist myth for many reasons.

    Link to this
  128. 128. Laurence Clark Crossen 9:59 am 11/16/2013

    @103. naishd:

    I like the subject of the effects of climate on civilization during the Holocene. Neville Brown calls this field “Historical Climatology.” It is usually agreed that it was by the 1950s that this field gained traction because by then it was recognized that climate fluctuated enough during the Holocene to influence civilization.

    Link to this
  129. 129. naishd 11:38 am 11/16/2013

    Laurence: I don’t think much or any of what Krause said is correct. Yes, he claimed that the Woolly mammoth lacked both sebaceous glands and erector muscles. The claim about sebaceous glands at least can be shown to be incorrect…

    Repin, V. E, Taranov, O. S., Ryabchikova, E. I., Tikhonov, A. N. & Pugachev, V. G. 2004. Sebaceous glands of the Woolly Mammoth, Mammothus [sic] primigenius Blum.: histological evidence. Doklady Biological Sciences 398, 382-384.

    As for the alleged absence of pili erector musculature, the problem with this is (so far as I know, or can tell) we don’t know enough about mammoth epidermis to say whether this is correct. Many features related to heat-retention and insulation are already obvious in the Woolly mammoth’s pelt and skin (e.g., thick, dense underfur, fat layer 90-100 mm thick).

    By the way, if you are really interested in pursuing things from a scientific point of view, you should know to never, ever trust anything creationists say. Their entire approach involves lying and distorting facts.

    Darren

    Link to this
  130. 130. ectodysplasin 3:29 pm 11/16/2013

    @LCC:

    I remain confident that the belief in the last Ice Age is a catastrophist myth for many reasons.

    https://maps.google.ca/?ll=45.621722,-97.116394&spn=0.637752,1.31012&t=p&z=10

    https://maps.google.ca/?ll=49.678293,-92.834473&spn=2.360259,5.240479&t=p&z=8

    https://maps.google.ca/?ll=64.091408,-99.755859&spn=12.833978,41.923828&t=h&z=5

    https://maps.google.ca/?ll=37.751987,-119.548244&spn=0.090123,0.163765&t=h&z=13

    https://maps.google.ca/?ll=43.734391,-110.795746&spn=0.164718,0.32753&t=h&z=12

    http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/portals/10/pdf/glacial.pdf

    http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_016200.pdf

    http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/pcimages/PC/003/web/PC003085.jpg

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/YosemitePark2_amk.jpg

    http://banffandbeyond.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/view-from-mount-norquay.jpg

    http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/3000/3711/landsat_grand_teton_lrg.jpg

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Dream_Lake.jpg

    We’re done here.

    Link to this
  131. 131. David Marjanović 1:03 am 11/17/2013

    an ideological extremist environmentalist cause such as AGW, at the outset have to deny the physics by claiming a runaway greenhouse effect, when physics indicates the opposite, then anyone should recognize the bankruptcy of such liberal pseudoscience

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. As George W. Bush would say, using an obscure analogy to horseracing, we hit the trifecta.

    1) How fucking dare you call the entire science of climatology an ideological cause. How dare you insult your own intelligence to the point of claiming that all the thousands of climatologists in the whole world are conspiring to not do science, to not get Nobel prizes by showing all their colleagues wrong! Yes, that is what you’re claiming; if you don’t understand that, you’re too stupid to do science – I’m sorry, that’s how it is.
    2) Show me a climatologist who has claimed there’s gonna be a runaway greenhouse effect. Venus has a runaway greenhouse effect: it has gotten so hot that it doesn’t rain anymore. “Runaway greenhouse effect” means there’s an exponential positive feedback on temperature (the oceans drying up) that easily outweighs all negative feedbacks put together. This is not what’s happening or about to happen on Earth, and I’m not aware of any climatologists claiming otherwise; the IPCC, for example, has never made that claim.
    3) This blog has a global readership, so you should perhaps have explained the US meaning of “liberal”: it is at once “crypto-communist totalitarian” and “at least as far left as David Fucking Cameron”.

    By the way, if you are really interested in pursuing things from a scientific point of view, you should know to never, ever trust anything creationists say. Their entire approach involves lying and distorting facts.

    Actual lying may not be common. What is common, however, is intellectual dishonesty: routinely, creationists start from a very superficial and vague understanding of something at least one scientist thought fifty years ago, and it doesn’t occur to them to figure out what scientists think about this today.

    Link to this
  132. 132. Yodelling Cyclist 10:48 am 11/17/2013

    David, I agree entirely, but the foaming at the mouth swearing is perhaps more of a hindrance at this stage than a help.

    All the best, and please don’t quit the fight.
    Yod

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  133. 133. littledino 12:00 pm 11/17/2013

    I second the point about the Malaysian tapir. It is a large herbivore, and Tapirs and Rhinos aren’t nearly so distantly related as Rhinos to pandas, tanuki, etc. This animal has an extremely prominent dark stripe quite like that of the Wooly Rhino cave drawings, both in placement and size variability. I am really very surprised you did not mention this animal in your article!

    Link to this
  134. 134. llewelly 2:00 pm 11/17/2013

    David, why the surprise? Such trifectas have been predicted by science:

    http://websites.psychology.uwa.edu.au/labs/cogscience/documents/LskyetalPsychScienceinPressClimateConspiracy.pdf

    (But of course that too is a conspiracy … http://skepticalscience.com/recursive-fury-huffpo.html )

    Link to this
  135. 135. Laurence Clark Crossen 2:54 pm 11/17/2013

    129. naishd:

    Thank for the reference on sebaceous glands found in mammoths. I had not come across it. I think Krause’ work needs a full and direct reply because I do not think anyone has done so yet and many people place stock in his work still. I must disagree with your claim of creationist dishonesty because Krause was accurately citing up to date science that was not dis-proven until that article was published in 2004 after he died. He cited Neuville (1921), an Encyclopedia article in 1975 and a Nature article in 1974 supporting his position. The article you referred me to on the sebaceous glands respectfully included Krause in its bibliography. The same article summarizes the hundred year history of failures to find sebaceous glands in samples of mammoth skin.

    Link to this
  136. 136. David Marjanović 6:55 pm 11/17/2013

    David, I agree entirely, but the foaming at the mouth swearing is perhaps more of a hindrance at this stage than a help.

    Only one way to find out.

    David, why the surprise?

    I’m only surprised at how extreme, almost self-parodizing, Mr. Crossen’s views are.

    Thank for the reference on sebaceous glands found in mammoths. I had not come across it. I think Krause’ work needs a full and direct reply because I do not think anyone has done so yet and many people place stock in his work still.

    Don’t you think the first and the third sentence contradict each other?

    He cited Neuville (1921), an Encyclopedia article in 1975 and a Nature article in 1974 supporting his position.

    When was his book published?

    The article you referred me to on the sebaceous glands respectfully included Krause in its bibliography.

    I can’t see what’s respectful about that. If you want to disprove what a publication says, you kind of have to cite it… and if you want to argue to the journal that your manuscript is interesting enough to be considered for publication, you have to show that it proves some older publication wrong and point this out in the cover letter; obviously, this, too, requires citing that older publication.

    Journals do not allow “further reading” sections; every publication in the references list must be cited in the text, whether approvingly, disapprovingly (even mockingly), or neutrally.

    Link to this
  137. 137. Heteromeles 11:24 pm 11/17/2013

    @David, foam away! The comments about the consequences of arguing with the intellectually challenged may perhaps be relevant.

    On an irrelevant side track, someone on the internet did suggest that a runaway greenhouse Earth was “more possible” than previously thought by climate scientists. Whether this is a) correct, or b) relevant is a damn good question (my suspicious is that no is the proper answer to both), and all it may mean is that our distant descendents run into a runaway greenhouse 900,000,000 years from now, instead of the currently predicted 1,000,000,000 years (approximately). A hundred million years is a long time, but none of us will live to see if it happens or not.

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  138. 138. vdinets 11:54 pm 11/17/2013

    Yodelling Cyclist: sorry, I can’t find that reference. I lost my older emails a few months ago, and don’t remember who sent it to me. Could be the following one, but I can’t access it and check.

    Андреев А.В. Берингия и история голарктических авифаун // Вестн. ДВО РАН. – 1997.
    (Andreev, A. V. Beringia and the history of Holarctic aviafaunas. Bull. Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Science, 1997.)

    Link to this
  139. 139. Dartian 2:57 am 11/18/2013

    Littledino:
    This animal has an extremely prominent dark stripe quite like that of the Wooly Rhino cave drawings, both in placement and size variability.

    The Malayan tapir (it’s not usually called Malaysian tapir) has a pelage pattern that’s exectly the opposite of the one that the woolly rhino supposedly had. The Malayan tapir has a light mid-body patch surrounded by darker areas, whereas the woolly rhino, according to those cave paintings, had a dark mid-body patch surrounded by lighter areas. As I said in an earlier comment, tamanduas are among the very few extant wild mammals that have the latter kind of general colour pattern.

    Link to this
  140. 140. Yodelling Cyclist 7:29 am 11/18/2013

    David: Are you suggesting a psychological/sociological experiment to determine the best rhetorical method for enlightening creationists/global warming deniers/pseudoscience enthusiasts? Because that sounds worth doing and difficult to set up, but then the best things usually are. Or have I misunderstood the tropes website?

    vdinets, thank you for taking the time and I hope the journey was pleasant. Sadly, I do not have access either. Maybe one day.

    Dartian, thank you for the terminology correction. Yes I am aware that the tapir is the opposite colouration, I was more trying to suggest that such a saddle band colouration variation was known.

    Link to this
  141. 141. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:41 am 11/18/2013

    He is trolling you freely, don’t you see?

    The correct method of dealing with “is he an extreme fool or just an ordinary troll” is to troll back the troll. Ask him to provide the basis of his own statements and then criticize his own views bit by bit.

    Note, that I asked Laurence Clark Crossen how Arctic animals in warm climate would not boil under all the fat and thick fur. He didn’t answer so he accepted the defeat.

    Link to this
  142. 142. Heteromeles 7:30 pm 11/18/2013

    Hi Jerzy, We’ll just have to remember not to feed you then–it will give you a bracing win and save everyone else from an interminable contest. This, of course, is different from a friendly argument, which I much prefer.

    The other advice is not to argue with a fool, because other people can’t tell the difference. Not that this should stop anyone of course. Personally, I’d like to figure out a variation on the ELIZA program that would automatically argue with trolls, perpetually asking them for citations (perhaps through some sort of keyword trawl) and so forth. I wonder how long a climate change denier could argue with such a program?

    Link to this
  143. 143. imhennessy 8:57 pm 11/18/2013

    I’d like to thank Laurence Clark Crossen for sending me down the mammoth hole (apparently there was some folk lore in Siberia about their subterranean habits and anaerobic metabolism) in trying to find a summary of Krause’s book. My internetting is not up to the task, but I’ll try interlibrary loan next.

    http://www.crystalinks.com/woollymammoth.html
    The section ‘Origins of the Name’ has the bit about underground mammoths.

    Ivan

    Link to this
  144. 144. David Marjanović 12:08 am 11/20/2013

    David: Are you suggesting a psychological/sociological experiment to determine the best rhetorical method for enlightening creationists/global warming deniers/pseudoscience enthusiasts? Because that sounds worth doing and difficult to set up, but then the best things usually are. Or have I misunderstood the tropes website?

    The TV Tropes website is purely descriptive, I just linked to it for fun… I meant I’ll foam away, and we’ll see what good it does. :-)

    It usually works fairly well, but it works differently on different people.

    The other advice is not to argue with a fool, because other people can’t tell the difference.

    That sounds vaguely logical, but is fortunately very far from true in my experience.

    Link to this
  145. 145. imhennessy 7:37 pm 12/10/2013

    Well, I got a copy of _The Mammoth, in Ice and Snow?_ through interlibrary loan….

    Wow. I have it until January 7, and I’m not sure I’ll even be able to convince myself I understand the argument.

    It claims to address eight points, but soon veers into denying that novel features can arise through mutation.

    Ivan

    Link to this
  146. 146. Laurence Clark Crossen 4:16 pm 03/15/2014

    129. naishd:

    I found a reference to a journal article that is supposed to claim finding numerous sebaceous glands in mammoths’ skin when examining never thawed specimens and using new methods. Do you know which Zoological journal this could be?

    “Morphology of the skin of the mammoth M. primigenius (Proboscoidea, Elaphantidae) from the Envmynveem river”
    Gorbachev, A. A. & S. V. Zadalsky
    1989
    Zool. J.
    Volume 89
    Issue #3
    Pp. 107-114

    Link to this
  147. 147. Laurence Clark Crossen 7:12 pm 03/15/2014

    129. naishd:

    The above article is in Russian.

    Link to this
  148. 148. Laurence Clark Crossen 7:41 pm 03/19/2014

    The Zoologicheskii zhurnal only begins in 1997.
    http://www.maik.rssi.ru/cgi-perl/journal.pl?name=zool&lang=eng
    Was there one before then?

    Link to this
  149. 149. Laurence Clark Crossen 3:17 pm 03/26/2014

    @129 naishd:

    Considering that the sebaceous glands have been found in the woolly rhino, I wonder if the arrector pili muscle has been?

    Regarding trusting Creationists, don’t you mean relying on them? You must have a very narrow definition in mind considering that countless excellent scientists believe that some sort of design played some role in evolution. Let us not confuse the assumptions about ultimate truths made by atheists with real science.

    Link to this

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