paleontology

Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

GiantAnimalsModernExctinct_NPR_MaryMcLain_detail
Click to embiggen

These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

Read more

Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

JupitersRingsByLorri_PIA09249_modest
Click to embiggen
.

The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

Read more

SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

Read more

Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan

DoreeZeusFaber_EdwardDonovan

Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

Read more

Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

HerMajestysCochins
Click to embiggen

These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

Read more

Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

452b_artistconcept_beautyshotClick to embiggen

This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

Read more

Four-legged snake fossil rewrites reptile evolution.

27 July 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

World’s oldest sperm found inside fossilized worm.

15 July 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Science Art: Comparison between Deinonychus and Velociraptor’s feet, by Danny Cicchetti.

7 June 2015 // 0 Comments

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.

Hellboy, king of the Triceratops clan.

7 June 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Snakes had ankles a long, long time ago.

20 May 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Science Art: Os Maxillaires Fossiles, by Pieter Camper.

17 May 2015 // 0 Comments

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.

A plant-eating T. rex… with a long neck.

30 April 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Dinosaur eggs in the big city.

22 April 2015 // 0 Comments

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.

The age of the elephant rats.

9 February 2015 // 0 Comments

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 […]

The mighty (tiny, but mighty) primate ancestor… waaay bigger than expected.

18 December 2014 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Science Art: Fig 2: Lateral views of the skull and lower jaw… (etc.)

30 November 2014 // 0 Comments

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.

Science Art: Hydrarchos Sillimanni, from The great sea-serpent, by A. C. Oudemans, 1892.

9 November 2014 // 0 Comments

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 […]

Science Art: Phramgocone of Belemnitella, In Flint, 1851

12 October 2014 // 0 Comments

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

What do you call a dinosaur that isn’t afraid of anything? Dreadnoughtus.

5 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Popular Mechanics celebrates a new *double* record-breaker, a dinosaur bigger than anything that walked the Earth: Today an international team of paleontologists unveiled the newest Mesozoic badass: Dreadnoughtus schrani. Weighing in at an astonishing 65 tons, standing two stories high at the shoulder, and measuring 85 feet long, this titan is the heaviest dinosaur we’ve ever (accurately) measured. And its discovery represents the most fossil mass ever found for a single organism—a paleontologist’s dream. “For the [largest] dinosaurs, which we call titanosaurs, finding anything around 20 percent of the fossil is usually considered a home run,” says Kenneth Lacovara, the lead Drexel University paleontologist behind the find. “Normally you only find a handful of bones, and the previous record was a 27 percent complete skeleton. With Dreadnoughtus we found 70 percent.” The best part, according to the original study abstract? It was still growing when it died. It wasn’t big enough yet.

1 2 3 8