Sunday, December 28, 2014

Born This Day: Alfred Sherwood Romer

”Romer (Dec. 28, 1894 – Nov. 5, 1973) was director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University until his retirement in 1961 and was one the singularly most influential vertebrate paleontologists of the 20th Century. His work ranged over virtually every conceivable subject within that field, although it was the osteology and taxonomy of the therapsids and other proto-mammals which was nearest his heart.

In addition to this work, Romer was acutely interested in the origin and initial adaptive radiation of tetrapods, and his work became the basis for a theory of tetrapod origins which was canon until the description of Acanthostega gunnari by Clack & Coates in the 1990s. Romer was ahead of his time in his defense of monophyly of Dinosauria though he did feel that Theropoda was not ancestral to birds.” link from

Romer’s book, Vertebrate Paleontology (1966), was for many years THE textbook on VP and is still well worth picking up. One of Romer’s students, Bob Carroll, wrote an updated version entitled, ‘Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution’, in 1987. image

Friday, December 12, 2014

Aquilops americanus, the oldest horned-dinosaur from North America

A Ceratopsian Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western North America, and the Biogeography of Neoceratopsia. Farke, A., et al. PLoS One

Abstract [edit]: An associated cranium and lower jaw from the Cloverly Formation (?middle–late Albian, between 104 and 109 million years old) of southern Montana is designated as the holotype for Aquilops americanus gen. et sp. nov. Aquilops americanus. A. americanus probably originated via a dispersal from Asia into North America. LiveScience article.

Born This Day: Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus (Dec. 12, 1731 – April 18, 1802) was a prominent English physician, poet, philosopher, botanist, naturalist and the grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin and the biologist Francis Galton. Erasmus Darwin was one of the leading intellectuals of 18th century England.

As a naturalist, he formulated one of the first formal theories on evolution in Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794-1796). Although he did not come up with natural selection, he did discuss ideas that his grandson elaborated on sixty years later, such as how life evolved from a single common ancestor, forming "one living filament".
Although some of his ideas on how evolution might occur are quite close to those of Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin also talked about how competition and sexual selection could cause changes in species. link

Download Zoonomia HERE

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Died This Day: Mary Leakey

Mary Douglas Nicol Leakey (Feb. 6, 1913 – Dec. 9, 1996) was in London, England. She meet her future husband, Louis Leakey, when he asked her to illustrate his book, 'Adam’s Ancestors'. Mary and Louis spent from 1935 to 1959 at Olduvai Gorge in the Serengeti Plains of northern Tanzania where they worked to reconstruct many Stone Age cultures dating as far back as 100,000 to two million years ago. They documented stone tools from primitive stone-chopping instruments to multi-purpose hand axes.

In October of 1947, while on Rusinga Island, Mary unearthed a Proconsul africanus skull, the first skull of a fossil ape ever to be found. It was dated to be twenty million years old. An Australopithecus boisei skull was uncovered in 1959. Not long afterwards, a less robust Homo habilis was found. In 1965 the duo uncovered a Homo erectus cranium.

After her husband died in 1972, Mary continued her work at Olduvai and Laetoli. She discovered Homo fossils at Laetoli which were more than 3.75 million years old, fifteen new species and one new genus. From 1978-81 Mary and her staff worked to uncover the Laetoli hominid footprint trail which was left in volcanic ashes 3.6 million years ago. From the Minnesota State University site

Image from HERE where you will also find a slightly more colourful account of her life with Louis.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Died This Day: Herbert Spencer, who coined "Survival of the Fittest"

Spencer (April 27, 1820 - Dec. 8, 1903) was an English sociologist and philosopher who was an early adherent of evolutionary theory. He regarded society as an organism which was evolving from a simple primitive state to a complex heterogeneous form according to the designs of an unknown and unknowable absolute force. Similarly, knowledge developed from an undifferentiated mass into the various separate sciences.

Formulating his ideas independently of Darwin, Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” as early as 1852. He applied Darwin's theory of natural selection (proposed four years later) to social development and in A System of Synthetic Philosophy (1862-96) presented a philosophical system to the natural and social sciences, synthesizing metaphysics, biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics. From HERE

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Women In Science In Canada

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec that saw 14 women murdered, and another 10 women and 4 men injured by killer who deliberately targeted women.

Mika McKinnon at io9 honours the deceased by reminding us of a small fraction of women who have contributed to science in Canada, including Frances Wagner, a micropalaeontologist from Hamilton. She was one of the first two women permitted to do fieldwork with the Geologic Survey of Canada.

And a big tip of the hat to another micropalaeontologist, Dr. Claudia Schröder-Adams , my colleague at Carleton University, who continues to be an excellent educator & to do outstanding work in the Arctic.

Claudia with the 'Students On Ice' Program in Antarctica in 2011

Born This Day: Louis Dollo

Louis Antoine Marie Joseph Dollo (Dec. 7, 1857 – April 19, 1931) was a French vertebrate paleontologist who stated Dollo's Law of Irreversibility whereby in evolution an organism never returns exactly to its former state such that complex structures, once lost, are not regained in their original form. (While generally true, some exceptions are known.)

He began as an assistant (1882), became keeper of mammals (1891) at the Royal Museum of Natural History in Brussels where he stayed most of his life. He was a specialist in fossil fishes, reptiles, birds, and their palaeoecology. He supervised the excavation of the famous, multiple Iguanodons found in 1878 by miners deep underground, at Bernissart, Belgium. image From Today In Science History

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Galacto Guys

Here's an example of a fun, short-lived strip that I'd never heard of.
From Here

Friday, November 28, 2014

Born This Day: Dunkinfield Henry Scott

Painting by Mary Parrish
Scott (Nov. 28, 1854 – Jan. 29, 1934) was an English paleobotanist and leading authority of his time on the structure of fossil plants, one of those who laid the foundations of paleobotany. He conducted experiments in the Jodrell Laboratory in Kew Gardens, where he became its honorary keeper (1892-1906). In collaboration with W.C. Williamson, he wrote three papers on fossil-plant morphology (1894-95).

Scott continued writing papers after Williamson's death and in which he described many otherwise unknown fossil plants. He wrote the classic Studies in Fossil Botany, which greatly popularized the subject.
From Today In Science History

Monday, November 24, 2014

Died This Day: Richard Carlson

Carlson (April 29, 1912 – Nov. 24, 1977) starred as Dr. David Reid in the classic Creature From The Black Lagoon (1957). You know that he was the “good” scientist ‘cuz he got the girl, even though he let a cover story for Nature skulk back into the Lagoon.

Published This Day (1859): The Origin of The Species

From Today In Science History:

In 1859, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in England to great acclaim. In this groundbreaking book by British naturalist Charles Darwin, he argued that species are the result of a gradual biological evolution in which nature encourages, through natural selection, the propagation of those species best suited to their environments. This book is unquestionably one of the most influential in the history of science.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Aquaman Battles The Sea Beasts From One Billion B.C.!

Read it Here

Born This Day: Paula Raymond

Paula (center) played the role of plucky Lee Hunter, assistant to paleontologist Dr. Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) (right) in Ray Harryhausen's, The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Died This Day: Aleksandr Kovalevsky

Kovalevsky (Nov. 19, 1840 – Nov. 22, 1901) was the Russian founder of comparative embryology and experimental histology, who first established that there was a common pattern in the embryological development of all multicellular animals. He studied the lancelet, a 5 cm long fish-shaped sea animal. He then wrote Development of Amphioxus lanceolatus (1865).

In 1866, he then demonstrated the similarity between Amphioxus [=Branchiostoma] and the larval stages of tunicates and established the chordate status of the tunicates.

In 1867, Kovalevsky extended the germ layer concept of Christian Heinrich Pander and Karl Ernst von Baer to include the invertebrates, establishing an important embryologic unity in the animal kingdom. image From Today In Science History

Died This Day: Raymond Dart

Dart (Feb. 4 1893 - Nov. 22, 1988) was an Australian-born, South African physical anthropologist. In 1924, working with students in the Taung limestone South Africa, they discovered the first Australopithecus africanus. Dubbed "missing link" at the time, skull is also known as the 'Taung child', and was only three years old at the time of death. More on Dart here

The Drivers of Tropical Speciation

The drivers of tropical speciation. 2014. Smith, B.T., et al. Nature

Yellow bars correspond to the 95% highest posterior density for divergence times of each species. The Quaternary (2.6 Myr ago–present) and the Neogene (23–2.6 Myr ago) periods are shaded in grey and light blue, respectively. Mean stem ages for 25 of the lineages occurred within the Neogene and for two lineages within the Quaternary.
Researching how the history and ecology has affected speciation among the 27 lineages of birds has lead to the discovery that the longer length of time a species can inhabit an area, the more likely it will disperse and diverge. Also, the less mobility a species has, the more likely it will diverge as well.

For example, birds restricted to the forest floor showed significantly higher species diversity than birds that inhabited the forest's open canopy. These findings have conservation ramifications. If a species cannot inhabit the same area for an extended time, it will not have the opportunity to evolve and continue.

"Our results suggest that human alterations of the landscape can effectively kill the speciation process," Brumfield said.

Born This Day: Steve Clemente from Skull Island

Steve Clemente (born Esteban Clemento Morro Nov. 22, 1885—May 7, 1950) was a Mexican actor known for his many villainous roles. He began acting in his teens, signing up for his first movie, The Secret Man, in 1917. His later, numerous roles were usually bit parts and he was an expert knife thrower.

He was a known scene stealer and was famous for his villainous snarl. He later starred in such movies as The Most Dangerous Game (1932), playing Tartar, the second henchman of Count Zarrof and played the Witch King in King Kong (1933). From Wiki

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Born This Day: Robert Armstrong

Armstrong (Nov. 20, 1890 – April 20, 1973) took Fay Wray to Skull Island in 1933. He returned later the same year to find The Son of Kong, only to lose him as the island sank, as these things are prone to doing.

We Were Trapped In The Twilight World! by Jack Kirby (1961)

Read the full story Here

Monday, November 17, 2014

Died This Day: Carl Akeley

Read his story over at Atomic Surgery

The Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History exists thanks to the efforts of Carl Akeley (May 19, 1864 - Nov 17, 1926) who was the kind of adventurer that Indy Jones could only dream of being.

He died on an African expedition in 1926, ten years before this hall was completed and was buried in a place depicted in the Hall's famous Gorilla Diorama. Of course we approach collecting and conservation differently today, but Akeley is to be commended for his love of nature and his desire to present its hidden corners to the world.

From Today In Science History:

Carl Ethan Akeley was an American naturalist and explorer who developed the taxidermic method for mounting museum displays to show animals in their natural surroundings. His method of applying skin on a finely molded replica of the body of the animal gave results of unprecedented realism and elevated taxidermy from a craft to an art. He mounted the skeleton of the famous African elephant Jumbo. He invented the Akeley cement gun to use while mounting animals, and the Akeley camera which was used to capture the first movies of gorillas.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Born This Day: Sir Charles Lyell

Nov. 14, 1797 - Feb. 22, 1875
From Minnesota State University at Mankato comes this excellent bio on Lyell:

Sir Charles Lyell attended Oxford University at age 19. Lyell's father was an active naturalist. Lyell had access to an elaborate library including subjects such as Geology.

When Lyell was at Oxford, his interests were mathematics, classics, law and geology. He attended a lecture by William Buckland that triggered his enthusiasm for geology. Lyell originally started his career as a lawyer, but later turned to geology. He became an author of The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man in 1863 and Principles of Geology. Lyell argued in this book that, at the time, presently observable geological processes were adequate to explain geological history. He thought the action of the rain, sea, volcanoes and earthquakes explained the geological history of more ancient times.

Lyell rebelled against the prevailing theories of geology of the time. He thought the theories were biased, based on the interpretation of Genesis. He thought it would be more practical to exclude sudden geological catastrophes to vouch for fossil remains of extinct species and believed it was necessary to create a vast time scale for Earth's history. This concept was called Uniformitarianism. The second edition of Principles of Geology introduced new ideas regarding metamorphic rocks. It described rock changes due to high temperature in sedimentary rocks adjacent to igneous rocks. His third volume dealt with paleontology and stratigraphy. Lyell stressed that the antiquity of human species was far beyond the accepted theories of that time.

Charles Darwin became his dear friend and correspondent. Darwin is quoted saying, "The greatest merit of the Principles was that it altered the whole tone of one's mind, and therefore that, when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it through his eyes."

Image from King’s College London.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Died This Day: William Lonsdale

Image from

Lonsdale (Sept. 9, 1894 - Nov. 11, 1971) was an English geologist and paleontologist whose study of coral fossils found in Devon, suggested (1837) certain of them were intermediate between those typical of the older Silurian System (408 to 438 million years old) and those of the later Carboniferous System (286 to 360 million years old).

Geologists Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick agreed. They named (1839) this new geologic system after its locale—the Devonian System.

Lonsdale's early career was as an army officer (1812-15) and later he became curator and librarian of the Geological Society of London (1829-42). He recognized that fossils showed how species changed over time, and more primitive organisms are found in lower strata. Charles Darwin used this to support his evolution theory. From Today In Science

Monday, November 10, 2014

Insect Evolution Solved!

Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution. 2014. B. Misof, et. al. Science

Ant-Man © Marvel Comics

Using a dataset consisting of 144 carefully chosen species, 1KITE scientists present reliable estimates on the dates of origin and relationships of all major insect groups based on the enormous molecular dataset they collected. They show that insects originated at the same time as the earliest terrestrial plants about 480 million years ago.

Their analyses therefore suggest that insects and plants shaped the earliest terrestrial ecosystems together, with insects developing wings to fly 400 million years ago, long before any other animal could do so, and at nearly the same time that land plants first grew substantially upwards to form forests. PR

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Origin of the Unique Ventilatory Apparatus of Turtles

Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles. 2014. Tyler R. Lyson, et al. Nature Communictions

Credit: Credit: Blair Lyons (Stroma Studios) and Emma R. Schachner

Early in the evolution of the turtle body plan, a gradual increase in body wall rigidity produced a division of function where the abdominal muscles became specialized for breathing, which freed up the ribs to eventually (approximately 50 million years later) become fully integrated into the characteristic turtle shell.

New research has shown that the modern tortoise breathing apparatus was already in place in the earliest fossil tortoise, Eunotosaurus africanus. This animal lived in South Africa 260 million years ago and shares many unique features with modern day tortoises, but lacked a shell.

Eunotosaurus bridges the morphological gap between the early reptile body plan and the highly modified body plan of living tortoises, making it the Archaeopteryx of turtles. PR

Saturday, November 08, 2014

In The Dawn of History

From Strange Tales #3, DC Comics, 1950

Friday, November 07, 2014

Died This Day: Alfred Russel Wallace

Wallace (Jan. 8, 1823 – Nov. 7, 1913) was a British naturalist and biogeographer. He was the first westerner to describe some of the most interesting natural habitats in the tropics. He is best known for devising a theory of the origin of species through natural selection made independently of Darwin.

Between 1854 and 1862, Wallace assembled evidence of natural selection in the Malay Archipelago, sending his conclusions to Darwin in England. Their findings were jointly presented to the Linnaean Society in 1858. Wallace found that Australian species were more primitive, in evolutionary terms, than those of Asia, and that this reflected the stage at which the two continents had become separated. He proposed an imaginary line (now known as Wallace's line) dividing the fauna of the two regions. From Today In Science History:

The Alfred Russel Wallace page HERE. More HERE.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Chaohusaurus, The First Amphibious Ichthyosaur

A basal ichthyosauriform with a short snout from the Lower Triassic of China. 2014. Motani, R., et al. Nature

The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur, Chaohusaurus, has been discovered in China. The fossil represents a missing stage in the evolution of ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles from the Age of Dinosaurs about 250 million years ago. Until now, there were no fossils marking their transition from land to sea.

Unlike ichthyosaurs fully adapted to life at sea, this one had unusually large, flexible flippers that likely allowed for seal-like movement on land. It had flexible wrists, which are essential for crawling on the ground. Most ichthyosaurs have long, beak-like snouts, but the amphibious fossil shows a nose as short as that of land reptiles. PR

Died This Day: Henry Fairfield Osborn

Osborn graduated (August 8, 1857 - November 6, 1935) from Princeton in 1877 and pursued his interest in the biological sciences and paleontology through additional study at several New York City medical schools and with Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain. Returning to the United States, Osborn accepted a position at Princeton, teaching natural sciences from 1881 until 1891, when he moved to Columbia University to organize the Biology Department there, and in 1891, he also helped to organize the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History acting as it’s first curator. Osborn's close association with American Museum continued for over 45 years, and included a long tenure as its President, 1908-1933. During these years the museum's collections expanded enormously and it became one of the preeminent research institutions for natural history in the world.

Osborn is noted for describing and naming both Tyrannosaurus rex and Albertosaurus in 1905, Pentaceratops in 1923, and Velociraptor in 1924. One of Osborn's favorite groups for study was the brontotheres, and he was the first to carry out comprehensive research on them. He also wrote an influential textbook, The Age of Mammals (1910).

Apart from his own research, Osborn is perhaps best remembered for the sponsorship of the five immensely successful Central Asiatic Expeditions during the 1920's and 30's led by Roy Chapman Andrews.

Entry from HERE and HERE.

Vintana sertichi, Largest Mammal From the Late Cretaceous

First cranial remains of a gondwanatherian mammal reveal remarkable mosaicism. 2013. Krause, D. et al. Nature

Vintana had a skull is almost five inches (125 mm) long - double the size of other mammals Gondwana - & had a mass about 20 lbs. (9 kg).

Vintana's massive chewing muscles moved the jaw upward and backward and likely produced higher bite forces than living rodents of similar body size. Based on characteristics of its jaws and teeth and analyses by Dumont and others, the authors believe it ate a diet of roots, seeds or nut-like fruits.

Vintana belongs to a group of early mammals known as gondwanatherians, until now known only from isolated teeth and a few jaw fragments. The well-preserved skull allows the first clear insight into the life habits and relationships of gondwanatherians. PR

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Died This Day: Alfred Sherwood Romer

”Romer (Dec. 28, 1894 – Nov. 5, 1973) was director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University until his retirement in 1961 and was one the singularly most influential vertebrate paleontologists of the 20th Century. His work ranged over virtually every conceivable subject within that field, although it was the osteology and taxonomy of the therapsids and other proto-mammals which was nearest his heart.

In addition to this work, Romer was acutely interested in the origin and initial adaptive radiation of tetrapods, and his work became the basis for a theory of tetrapod origins which was canon until the description of Acanthostega gunnari by Clack & Coates in the 1990s. Romer was ahead of his time in his defense of monophyly of Dinosauria though he did feel that Theropoda was not ancestral to birds.” link from

Romer’s book, Vertebrate Paleontology (1966), was for many years THE textbook on VP and is still well worth picking up. One of Romer’s students, Bob Carroll, wrote an updated version entitled, ‘Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution’, in 1987. image

Died This Day: Willi Henning

From the Willi Hennig Society :

Hennig (April 20, 1913 – Nov. 5, 1976) is best known for developing phylogenetic systematics,  a coherent theory of the investigation and presentation of the  relations that exist among species. Contrary to the position generally  held during his time, Hennig viewed historical inference as a strictly  logical and scientific endeavor. He first summarized his ideas in 1950  in German which became more widely known with the publication of the  English revision, Phylogenetic Systematics (Hennig, 1966).


Major Hennigian principles are:
1. Relationships among species are to be interpreted strictly genealogically, as sister-lineages, as clade relations. Empirically, a phylogenetic hypothesis may be determined.
2. Synapomorphies provide the only evidence for identifying relative recency of common ancestry. Synapomorphies are understood to be the shared-derived (evolved, modified) features of organisms.

3. Maximum conformity to evidence is sought  (his auxiliary principle). Choice among competing cladistic  propositions (cladograms) is decided on the basis of the greatest amount  of evidence, the largest number of synapomorphies explainable as  homologues.

4. Whenever possible, taxonomy must be logically consistent with the inferred pattern of historical relationships. The rule of monophyly is to be followed, thereby each clade can have its unique place in the hierarchy of taxonomic names.
More info about Henning HERE. photo.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Nature Adores a Hybrid

Does human-induced hybridization have long-term genetic effects? Empirical testing with domesticated, wild and hybridized fish populations. 2014. Evolutionary Applications

Natural selection minimizes genetic effects of human-induced hybridization, Concordia University study shows. link

Monday, November 03, 2014

King Klunk (1933) - King Kong Parody

The first animated parody of King Kong was made by Walter Lantz who released King Klunk in 1933 a scant 7 months after Kong's release.

Thanks to Jim Korkus at Cartoon for the heads up!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Died This Day: Kenneth Oakley

Oakley (April 7, 1911 - Nov. 2, 1981) was an English physical anthropologist, geologist, and paleontologist best known for his work in the relative dating of fossils by fluorine content. While working for the British Natural History Museum, Oakley become famous in 1953 for exposing the 'Piltdown Man' forgery.

"A skull had been "unearthed" in 1912, in Piltdown, England, and had for decades been said to represent the "missing link" in human evolution. Oakley developed a method, based on a French minerologist's theory that bones would gradually absorb fluorine from surrounding soil, to measure the fluorine levels in bones. With this and other tests he proved the bones to be a modern human braincase and an orangutan jawbone chemically stained to appear ancient. image Link

Died This Day: Oliver Perry Hay

Hay (May 22, 1846 – Nov. 2, 1930) was an American paleontologist whose catalogs of fossil vertebrates greatly organized existing knowledge and became standard references. Hay's primary scientific interest was the study of the Pleistocene vertebrata of North America and he is renowned for his work on skull and brain anatomy. His first major work was his Bibliography and Catalogue of the Fossil Vertebrata of North America (1902), supplemented by two more volumes (1929-30). Hay also wrote on the evidence of early humans in North America. link

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Born This Day: Alfred Wegener

Alfred Lothar Wegener (Nov. 1, 1880 – Nov, 1930) was a German meteorologist and geophysicist who first gave a well-developed hypothesis of continental drift. He suggested (1912) that about 250 million yrs ago all the present-day continents came from a single primitive land mass, the supercontinent Pangaea, which eventually broke up and gradually drifted apart. (A similar idea was proposed earlier by F.B. Taylor in 1910.) Others saw the fit of coastlines of South America and Africa, but Wegener added more geologic and paleontologic evidence that these two continents were once joined. From Today In Science History

Born This Day: John Joly

Joly (Nov. 1, 1857 - Dec. 8, 1933) was an Irish geologist, physicist and inventor whose interests spanned several fields. Using Edmond Halley's method of measuring the degree of salinity of the oceans, and then by examining radioactive decay in rocks, he estimated Earth's age at 80-90 million years (1898). Later, he revised this figure to 100 million years. He published Radioactivity and Geology (1909) in which he demonstrated that the rate of radioactive decay has been more or less constant through time. He also developed a method for extracting radium (1914) and pioneered its use for cancer treatment. Link

Born This Day: Gavin de Beer

de Beer (Nov. 1, 1899 – June 21, 1972) was an English zoologist and morphologist who contributed to experimental embryology, anatomy, and evolution. He refuted the germ-layer theory and developed the concept of paedomorphism - the retention of juvenile characteristics of ancestors in mature adults).

From examination of the fossil
, De Beer proposed mosaic evolution with piecemeal evolutionary changes to explain the combination of bird and reptile features.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Died This Day: Johann Friedrich Meckel

Shark Family Tree © Ray Troll 

Meckel (Oct 17, 1781 - Oct 31, 1833) was a German anatomist who first described the embryonic cartilage (now called Meckel's cartilage) that ossifies to form part of the lower jaw in fishes, amphibians, and birds. He also described a pouch (Meckel's diverticulum) of the small intestine.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dinosaur Color Vision Lead To the Evolution of Feathers

Beyond the Rainbow. 2014. Koschowitz, et al. Science

Acheroraptor by Julius Csotonyi

Phylogentic evidience suggests that dinosaurs had good color vision, including the ability to see UV light. A new study suggests that the evolution of flat, flight-like feathers evolved to exploit the refracting ability of interlocked strands of keratin to produce structural colors, such as blue & green. This enhanced color palate would have given dinosaurs better communication and signaling abilities which is important for mating, foraging, and avoiding predators. PR

Zaraapelta, new ankylosaurid from Mongolia

The ankylosaurid dinosaurs of the Upper Cretaceous Baruungoyot and Nemegt formations of Mongolia. 2014. Arbour, V., et al.

Zaraapelta nomadis from the Baruungoyot Formation of Mongolia, by Danielle DuFault

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Born This Day: Othniel Charles Marsh

In 1866, the Peabody Museum of Natural History was founded with a gift from George Peabody. The same year his nephew, O.C. Marsh (Oct. 29, 1831 - Mar. 18, 1899), was also named its Professor of Paleontology, the first such appointment in the United States. In 1869 Marsh used the inheritance from his uncle to start to amass large collections of vertebrate fossils. He went on to long and successful career as a vertebrate paleontologist, most of which was spent feuding with is rival, E.D.Cope.

Marsh and Cope started their careers on a cordial basis, but the relationship soon soured over an incident involving Cope's fossil of Elasmosaurus. Embarrassingly, Marsh pointed out that its backbones were mounted backwards. To settle the argument the men agreed to let Joseph Leidy decide who was right. Leidy promptly removed the head from one end and placed it on what Cope had thought was the tail. Cope than frantically tried to collect all of the copies of a recently printed publication that contained his erroneous reconstruction. From Today In Science History:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Premiered This Day (1970): Trog!

"A sympathetic anthropologist (Joan Crawford!) uses drugs and surgery to try to communicate with a primitive troglodyte found living in a local cave."
Directed in 1970 by Hammer Films veteran, Freddie Francis, this was Crawford's last film. Notable for lifting the dinosaur scenes done by Willis H. O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen for the Irwin Allen-produced film The Animal World.

"After seeing this film, Joan Crawford supposedly joked that if it hadn't been for her end-of-life conversion to Christian Science, she might have committed suicide due to her embarrassment at having been in it." link

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deinocheirus Decoded

Resolving the long-standing enigmas of a giant ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus mirificus. 2014. Lee, Y.-N., et al. Science.

a, MPC-D 100/127. b, MPC-D 100/128. c, Composite reconstruction of MPC-D 100/127 with a simple proportional enlargement of MPC-D 100/128.
Abstract: The holotype of Deinocheirus mirificus was collected by the 1965 Polish–Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition at Altan Uul III in the southern Gobi of Mongolia. Because the holotype consists mostly of giant forelimbs (2.4 m in length) with scapulocoracoids, for almost 50 years Deinocheirus has remained one of the most mysterious dinosaurs. The mosaic of ornithomimosaur and non-ornithomimosaur characters in the holotype has made it difficult to resolve the phylogenetic status of Deinocheirus.

Here we describe two new specimens of Deinocheirus that were discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Altan Uul IV in 2006 and Bugiin Tsav in 2009. The Bugiin Tsav specimen (MPC-D 100/127) includes a left forelimb clearly identifiable as Deinocheirus and is 6% longer than the holotype. The Altan Uul IV specimen (MPC-D 100/128) is approximately 74% the size of MPC-D 100/127.

Cladistic analysis indicates that Deinocheirus is the largest member of the Ornithomimosauria; however, it has many unique skeletal features unknown in other ornithomimosaurs, indicating that Deinocheirus was a heavily built, non-cursorial animal with an elongate snout, a deep jaw, tall neural spines, a pygostyle, a U-shaped furcula, an expanded pelvis for strong muscle attachments, a relatively short hind limb and broad-tipped pedal unguals.

Ecomorphological features in the skull, more than a thousand gastroliths, and stomach contents (fish remains) suggest that Deinocheirus was a megaomnivore that lived in mesic environments.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Died This Day: Sir Roderick Impey Murchison

Murchison (Feb. 19, 1792 - Oct. 22, 1871) was a Scottish geologist who first differentiated the Silurian strata in the geologic sequence of Early Paleozoic strata (408-540 million years old). He believed in fossils as primary criteria. In 1831, he began researching the previously geologically unknown graywacke rocks of the Lower Paleozoic, found underlying the Old Red Sandstone in parts of Wales, which culminated in his major work the Silurian System (1839).

An eurypterid, a prehistoric sea scorpion from
Murchison named the Silurian after an ancient British tribe that inhabited South Wales. He established the Devonian working with Adam Sedgwick (1839). He named the Permian (1841) after the Perm province in Russia where he made a geological survey in 1840-45. link