Scientific American explores a strange anatomical detail for a very large dinosaur indeed – a whip-like tail that could actually have cracked like a whip: The idea that Apatosaurus might have used its tail like a bullwhip—to scare off predators, communicate or even show off for potential mates—gained traction about 20 years ago. That’s when paleontologist Philip Currie of the University of Alberta teamed with Nathan Myhrvold to create a computer simulation that showed the whip-cracking tail was plausible. …. This week at a meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, Myhrvold, Currie and Dhileep Sivam, also of Intellectual Ventures, unveiled a quarter-scale physical model of an Apatosaurus tail made from aluminum vertebrae and steel tendons. … A full-size apatosaur whipping its tail in this way could probably have produced a sound loud enough to shatter human eardrums.
SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.
SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”
ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …
In 1775, Pennsylvania Magazine wanted its readers to be up to date on the very latest in technological advances, including this machine for… well, it seems to be some kind of a caisson for dredging harbors, more than something that “cleanses docks.” Anyway, it’s very impressive, this American ingenuity.
From the device’s description: The machine consists of a horse-drawn crane on a boat with a crane and shovel. A man is shown operating the shovel. Includes a detail of …
SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.
SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”, NASA.gov, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”
Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.
(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…
They don’t look so hot.
Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York
Welcome to Wellcome.
They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.
In 1935, this was where the future was made.
Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.
I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.
These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.
He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…
Nature has more on the Brazilian “hugging” snake with legs… that’s changing the way we look at reptile origins: Although it has four legs, Tetrapodophis amplectus has other features that clearly mark it as a snake, says Nick Longrich, a palaeontologist at the University of Bath, UK, and one of the authors of a paper describing the animal in Science1. The creature’s limbs were probably not used for locomotion, the researchers say, but rather for grasping prey, or perhaps for holding on to mating partners. Such speculation inspired the snake’s name, which loosely translates as ‘four-legged hugging snake’. … “I was confident it might be a snake,” says David Martill, a palaeobiologist at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who came across the find in 2012. “It was only after getting the specimen under the microscope and looking at it in detail that my confidence grew. We had gone to see Archaeopteryx, the missing link between […]
It’s the sperm of perspective, is what it is. Nature is showing off the very seed of history – the oldest animal sperm ever discovered: The remains of long, thin cells preserved inside the 50-million-year-old fossilized cocoon of an unknown worm species represent the oldest animal sperm ever found, say researchers at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. Benjamin Bomfleur and his colleagues spotted the sperm fragments when they used an electron microscope to examine the inner surface of the cocoon fossil, which had been collected by an Argentinian expedition on Seymour Island, which lies off the Antarctic Peninsula. Their findings are published today in Biology Letters. … Bomfleur says that the discovery was a surprise — “we laughed”, he says, on seeing the microscope images — “but in retrospect, it makes sense that you would find them as common inclusions in fossil cocoons”. The cocoons are secreted by some worms, including earthworms […]
Click to embiggen File this, I guess, under “the problem with Jurassic Park.” The little claw at the bottom belonged to the fearsome Velociraptor, a category of creatures most of whom were about the size of a house cat ( like so ). The big scary claw up top belongs to Deionychus, closer to the size of a German shepherd… or the super-scary dinosaurs in the movie ( like so ). The really scary uncle of these guys was Utahraptor, just for the record. About the size of a small car… and hungry. The painting’s by Danny Cicchetti.
Science Daily describes the regal bearing and frilly crown of Regaliceratops peterhewsi, the dinosaur they’re calling “Hellboy”: “The specimen comes from a geographic region of Alberta where we have not found horned dinosaurs before, so from the onset we knew it was important,” says Dr. Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada. “However, it was not until the specimen was being slowly prepared from the rocks in the laboratory that the full anatomy was uncovered, and the bizarre suite of characters revealed. Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory.” Brown likes to say, only partly in jest, that the uniqueness of this specimen was so obvious that you could tell it was a new species from 100 meters away. What made this […]
Science Daily paints a picture of the very first snakes… before they lost their feet: The study, led by Yale University, USA, analyzed fossils, genes, and anatomy from 73 snake and lizard species, and suggests that snakes first evolved on land, not in the sea, which contributes to a longstanding debate. They most likely originated in the warm, forested ecosystems of the Southern Hemisphere around 128 million years ago. … Their results suggest that snakes originated on land, rather than in water, during the middle Early Cretaceous period (around 128.5 million years ago), and most likely came from the ancient supercontinent of Laurasia. This period coincides with the rapid appearance of many species of mammals and birds on Earth. The ancestral snake likely possessed a pair of tiny hindlimbs, and targeted soft-bodied vertebrate and invertebrate prey that were relatively large in size compared to prey targeted by lizards at the time. While the snake was […]
Click to embiggen Jaws! Pieter Camper was a fossil collector, and in 1786, he drew this jaw he’d acquired. He thought it belonged to a toothed whale. Another collector had a similar jaw from the same bunch of rocks (dug up near Maastricht), and *he* thought it was a crocodile. Georges Cuvier (with Camper’s son) later proved that it was neither of those things, but an extinct marine reptile, Mosasaurus hoffmanni, who swam in the seas during those years when T. rex roamed around on land. Luckily for us, Camper was Linda Hall Library’s Scientist of the Day a few days ago.
Science Daily tries to describe a “platypus dinosaur” that combines the oddest bits of Brontosaurus and T. rex: Chilesaurus diegosuarezi is named after the country where it was collected, as well as honouring Diego Suárez, the seven year old boy who discovered the bones. He discovered the fossil remains of this creature at the Toqui Formation in Aysén, south of Chilean Patagonia, in rocks deposited at the end of the Jurassic Period, approximately 145 million years ago. Diego was in the region with his parents, Chilean geologists Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz, who were studying rocks in the Chilean Patagonia, with the aim to better understand the formation of the Andes mountain range. Diego stumbled across the fossils while him and his sister, Macarena, were looking for decorative stones. Due to Chilesaurus‘ unusual combination of characters, it was initially thought that Diego had uncovered several species. However, since Diego’s find, more than a […]
Sometimes, as South China Morning Post demonstrates, you just can’t dig a hole in some parts of China without making some kind of remarkable dinosaur discovery: The fossils were discovered earlier this month during road works in Heyuan in Guangdong province, the website Chinanews.com reported. The fossilised eggs were large with one 13cm in diameter, Du Yanli, the director of the city’s Dinosaur Museum, was quoted as saying. Nineteen were completely intact. Experts at the Chinese Academy of Sciences will examine the eggs to find out what species of dinosaur they belonged to, the report said. Heyuan has dubbed itself the “Home of Dinosaurs”. The city authorities say 17,000 fragments of fossilised dinosaur eggs have been found in the area since the first discovery was made on a river bank in 1996. The latest discovery is the first of its kind to be made in central areas of the city, the report said.
Live Science describes a new sort of prehistoric monster – a bull-sized rodent with elephant-like tusks: An amateur paleontologist first unearthed the skull of an extinct rodent, Josephoartigasia monesi, from a boulder on a beach in Uruguay. The stunningly well-preserved skull was about 20 inches (51 centimeters) long, suggesting the rodent could grow to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms), the researchers calculated. For comparison, the next largest rodent ever discovered, Phoberomys, may have weighed up to 1,500 pounds (680 kg). And the modern world’s biggest rodent, the capybara, can weigh a modest 130 pounds (60 kg). … To understand more about how J. monesi used its teeth, Philip Cox, an archaeologist at Hull York Medical School in England, and his colleagues analyzed the likely orientation and size of the animals’ muscles along the jaw. They estimated the rodent could produce a bite force of about 312 pounds force (1,389 N) — equivalent to that of a […]
New Scientist tries to keep some perspective about our great-great-etc. grandfather, Ursolestes, a prehistoric primate who might seem to us, a squirrel monkey. To dinosaurs, a giant: New fossil finds from Montana, US, reveal a species so different from others that some scientists now think the first primates evolved when dinosaurs still roamed. It weighed between 500 and 1500 grams, the size of a large squirrel, but it would have dwarfed other early primates living at the time about 66 million years ago. “The big surprise is a primate of such large body size that early in primate evolution,” says Craig Scott of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, who describes the find in the journal Palaeontology. … Its body mass was some 4 to 10 times that of a typical Purgatorius, making Ursolestes a giant among early primates, but not exceptionally large among post-impact mammals. … So much primate diversity in the first […]
Click to embiggen My son and I just spent the afternoon watching the charming Your Inner Fish series (his idea, not mine), and learned all kinds of fascinating things about the importance of jaws. They’re where our ears come from. Well, our sensitive, mammalian ears. And that transformation started with critters like these – therapsids, mammal-like reptiles. These four fellows here are from H.R. Barghusen’s “Notes on the Adductor Jaw Musculature of Venkujovia, Anomodont Therapsid, Permian, USSR”. From top left, they are a Dimetrodon, a “hypothetical condition”, a Venjukova and a Lystrosaurus. Dimetrodon, you should know – big reptiles, fan-like sails on their backs. Lystrosaurus is a mighty survivor of massive extinction events. Venjukovia kind of splits the difference.
Click to embiggen vastly Quoting here from Oudemans’ book: In 1845 Dr. Albert C. Koch, “exhibited a large skeleton of a fossil animal, under the name of Hydrarchos Sillimanni in Broadway, New York, purporting to be that of an extinct marine serpent. These remains consisted of a head and vertebral column, measuring in all 114 feet, of a few ribs attached to a portion of the latter, and of parts of supposed paddles.”… I will not trouble my readers with it, but only mention that Prof. Wyman in the same paper proved that, “these remains never belonged to one and the same individual, and that the anatomical characters of the teeth indicate that they are not those of a reptile, but of a warm-blooded mammal.” Note two features of the image. One: some fine top hats there, about the size of the purported paddles. Two: the chapter title running up the right side of the […]
Click to embiggen slightly A “phragmocone” is a fancy word for a shell of a nautilus or ammonoid, and “Belemnitella” is a genus of belemnite, which is to say, a prehistoric critter like squid with a long, chambered shell… that it kept inside, like a skeleton. Once upon a time, they were all over the place. [via