College Humor has a funny clip that explores other geological eras as the basis of Jurassic Park. Enjoy!
College Humor has a funny clip that explores other geological eras as the basis of Jurassic Park. Enjoy!
The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing between the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 100 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
Here's an animated video of human evolution. Nevermind that this didn't necessarily need to be centered around Homo sapiens. It could have just as easily ended in a squirrel, a cat, or better yet a dog. There is a book version that unfolds to be 30 meters long. Enjoy!
Mystacina tuberculata foraging on South Island, New Zealand.
Credit: Rod Morris
ScienceDaily has a piece about a huge 'walking' bat. The new species, Mystacina miocenalis, lived about 16 million years ago. It walked on four limbs and was about three times larger than the average modern bat. Due to their size and living environments, bats are rare in the fossil record. Until now, the oldest known bat of the genus Mystacina was 17,500 years old; it was also found on New Zealand. The original paper appeared in PLOS One.
ESCONI Archaeology Study Group Meeting, 7:30 p.m. College of Dupage - Tech Ed (TEC) Building, Room 1038B (Map) - Topic: "Primitive Money - design and use; 3000 BCE to 500 CE"
In addition to the fascinating talk about ancient and primitive coinage-feel free to bring a coin or two that you need identified. Eric will gladly look it over and do his best to identify it for you.
Reconstruction of Regaliceratops peterhewsi (Julius T. Csotonyi. Courtesy of Royal Tyrrell Museum)
Another new dinosaur has been described. This one is called Regaliceratops peterhewsi. CBC Radio's Quicks & Quarks show has an interview with Dr. Caleb Brown, a paleontologist and Betsy Nichols PostDoctoral Research Fellow at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, CA. The animal, a ceratopsian, lived about 68 million years ago, and has been nicknamed Hellboy. The name stems partially from its appearance and partially because of the hard rock in which it was entombed. The original paper appeared in Current Biology.
Soft tissue preservation in dinosaur bones is not a new topic. CBC Quirks & Quarks has a segment on a paper that appeared in Nature Communications back in January. Using a range of tools that are currently used to study nanostructures in living animals, the researchers, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, think they have found blood cells and collagen remnants.
The best part of all this is that this whole field of paleo-bone histology is just getting started. Who knows what will be discovered next... Maybe, they can shed some light on that ago old question about the dinosaurs, where they warm or cold blooded?
When viewed closely, most pieces of coal are composed of alternating bands of bright and dull material. Image by West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey.
Geology.com has an interesting article about coal. Here in Illinois, we have a huge amount of it. Most, if not all, is from the Pennsylvanian and is closely associated with Mazon Creek fossils. Next time you're out hunting for fossils and you come across a lump of coal. Have a closer look and appreciate the hidden beauty of coal!
A distant relative of our friend T-rex has been discovered in Wales. The animal lived about 201 million years ago and could represent the earliest dinosaur from the Jurassic. It was found by brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan from Llantwit Major while fossil hunting along the Lavernock beach in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The “discovery of a lifetime” was made by Nick and Rob Hanigan from Llantwit Major while fossil hunting along the Lavernock beach in the Vale of Glamorgan after storms in spring 2014.
After a cliff fall on the beach, they spotted several loose blocks containing part of the skeleton of a small dinosaur and collected the specimen, including its razor sharp teeth, and claws.
The fossilised bones were found spread across five slabs of rock and although some were preserved together in the correct position, others had been scattered and separated by the actions of scavenging fish and sea-urchins.
The specimen was preserved with the fossilised remains of these sea-urchins.
A prehistoric turducken, of sort, was discovered in Egypt. The story is in the "Weird News" column over at Huffington Post. That really is weird!
The Guardian has a story about our ongoing obsession with dinosaurs. It's all there from the beginning in the 1840s to the present. Enjoy!
Deep in the bowels of the world’s greatest palaeontological museum, a hitherto unknown species of dinosaur has been waiting to be unveiled. Concealed behind a black cloth, it has spent the past month placed discreetly at the back of an immense storeroom filled with row after row of fossils. Some lie stored in wooden boxes like the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones films; others, less delicate, are stacked on open shelves. Horned skulls, beaked skulls, armoured skulls: all the astounding variety of late Cretaceous megafauna is arrayed amid the shadows. No more remarkable an ossuary is to be found anywhere in the world – and still the finds keep on being made.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum was founded 30 years ago, to serve as a monument to the wonders among which it stands. Back in the late Mesozoic era, the barren prairie land of the Canadian province of Alberta wore a very different aspect. Lush, steaming and lapped by shallow seas, its forests were as ideally suited to sustaining vast herds of dinosaurs as its muds and sands were to fossilising their remains. When a glacier scored a great gash across the prairie during the most recent ice age, the Cretaceous sediment and all its incomparable freight of fossils were exposed to the weathering effects of wind and rain. What the Valley of the Kings is to Egyptology, the badlands of Alberta are to palaeontology – except that they contain, unlike the Valley of the Kings, a seemingly infinite reservoir of treasures. With every storm, more of them are exposed: everything from the scattered teeth or claws of isolated specimens to the bone beds of entire herds. As a result, our knowledge of the late Mesozoic is improving exponentially, year on year. Much that was mysterious about dinosaurs is no longer so, and much that was misunderstood has been corrected. It is, as a feat of resurrectionism, as dazzling as anything in the history of science.
Jurassic World opens on June 12th 2015. Yeah, they could have done the science better. And, where are the feathers? But, it should be interesting. Remember, if nothing else, the original movie did increase interest in dinosaurs and science. This one has a new story with new animals, here's the trailer.
There is an interesting story over at the Washington Post about a 132 year old rifle that was discovered in Nevada's Great Basin National Park. Archaeologists were conducting surveys, when they came upon the rifle, which was propped up against a juniper tree.
Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time: a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree.
“They just happened to notice the rifle under the tree,” said Nichole Andler, Basin National Park’s chief of interpretation. The public will get a chance to view the rifle over the weekend.
Although staff have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said.
It’s remarkable that anyone was able to spot the gun back in November, as it had blended in so well with its surroundings. The unloaded gun appears to have been left undisturbed for more than 100 years; its wooden base had turned gray and was partially buried, and the barrel had rusted.
The National Geographic Channel has a paleontology theme this weekend. From dinosaurs, to mammoths, and even a T.rex Autopsy, there's quite a bit of content. Here's the schedule:
The discovery last year of Kulindadromeus, which had both scales and feathers, prompted speculation that this may have been the case for all dinosaurs. Photograph: Andrey Atuchin /SWNS.com
Did dinosaurs have a feathery covering? That's what a story in The Guardian discusses. In recent years, researchers have been discovering more and more evidence that feathers were more common than previously thought. However, a new study led by Nicolas Campione of the Uppsala University in Sweden shows that most of the dinosaurs were probably covered in scales. The original paper was published in the journal Biology Letters of the Royal Society.
Nicolás Campione, a dinosaur researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, worked with scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to survey some of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils from museums around the world.
The scientists collected information on around 75 species that are known from the fossil remains of their soft tissues to have had either scales or feathers. From these, they created a dinosaur family tree and used a statistical model to work out the odds of species having feathers at different points in dinosaur history.
“What we found from this analysis is that the first dinosaur was probably not feathered,” said Campione. “Feathers clearly evolved in the dinosaur lineage, but right now, the data do not point to a feathered ancestor for them all.”
The first dinosaurs evolved from reptiles more than 230 million years ago. Feathers are thought to have arisen more than once in dinosaur lineages, and while they live on and give flight to modern birds, feathers first emerged for other reasons: for warmth or to provide colourful plumage displays.
The tongue worm parasite (orange) is attached to the host ostracod. (David Siveter)
CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks has another interesting segment. This one is about a 425 million year old parasite, a tongue worm, found attached to its host. The host is an ostracod, which is a type of crustacean. It was discovered in Herefordshire, England and is the first fossil of its kind. The paper appeared in the journal Current Biology.
Dr. David Siveter, Emeritus Professor of Paleontology at the University of Leicester, studied the fossil and discovered three tongue worms - one inside attached to eggs and two on the outside of the crustacean's shell.
Because the fossil was found in an ancient marine environment, it indicates that the tongue worm made the transition to a land animal parasite at some point. The many species of tongue worm today are parasites of reptiles, snakes and humans.
Due to a scheduling conflict, June's general meeting will be held on the first Friday of the month, June 5th, 2015. The speaker will be Adam Smith of the Field Museum. His topic is a good one, "The Evolution of Birds". See you there!
(Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films)
CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks has a segment on what looks to be an ancient murder, the oldest one yet discovered. The mystery dates back 400,000 years and even pre-dates the Neanderthal people. The victim was found among 28 skeletons in a Spanish cave, known as the "pit of bones". The cause of death is unknown for most of the individuals, however one skull had wounds consistent with those caused by a spear or hand axe. The original paper appeared in the journal PLoS One. Here's another story in National Geographic.
The first known murder was just as brutal as any other. The attacker smashed the victim twice in the head, leaving matching holes above the victim’s left eyebrow. The dead body was then dropped down a 43-foot shaft into a cave—where it lay for nearly half a million years.
Talk about your cold case.
Paleontologists pieced together the 430,000-year-old skull and reported their forensic analysis Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. Injuries to the skull represent the oldest direct evidence of homicide, the scientists say.
As for whether this was the first murder ever to occur, “for sure that’s not the case,” says Nohemi Sala, lead author of the study. The scientists can describe this victim as a young adult, but the age and even gender are unknown.
“In the fossil record, there are many cases of traumatic injury, but not a lot of evidence of killing,” says Sala, a paleontologist at the Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Madrid.
That doesn’t mean killing was uncommon before modern times, of course, but fossilized remains of any kind are relatively rare so far back.
Science Daily has an interesting article about the metabolism of dinosaurs. It's an old controversy, were they cold-blooded (ectothermic) or warm-blooded (endothermic)? The study was a re-analysis of a paper that appeared back in 2014 in the journal Science. This paper, which was published in Science on May 29th, by Stony Brook University paleontologist Michael D'Emic, PhD, concludes that dinosaurs were indeed warm-blooded.
Phys.org has a story about the origin of sharks. It has been thought that sharks had a more primitive beginning than other types of fish. This was due to their distinctive, all-cartilage skeleton. But now, a new fossil find from the Gogo in the Kimberly in Western Australia has revealed a surprise 'missing link' to earlier somewhat bony forms of fish. The original paper appeared in the journal PLOS One.
Published today in the scientific journal PLOS One, research by Flinders University palaeontologist Professor John Long substantially strengthens the theory that the modern shark is less primitive than previously believed.
In testing fossil remains discovered by Professor Long in July 2005 at Gogo in the Kimberley in Western Australia, detailed CT scanning analysis has shown that the three-dimensional remnant skeleton contains a small proportion of bone as well as cartilage.
Professor Long said the fossil, which dates from the Devonian Period (380 million years old), reveals an ancient shark caught in evolutionary transition.
Because sharks and rays have entirely cartilaginous skeletons, Professor Long said it was traditionally thought that they were part of a primitive evolutionary pathway, and that bone in other fish was the more advanced condition.
But a series of discoveries in recent years has suggested that sharks are "more evolutionarily derived", and are likely to be descended from bony ancestors.
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