Monday, 31 December 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

DIATRYMA: EOCENE FLIGHTLESS BIRD

Rare bird, reptile and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the outcrops of the Chuckanut Formation. We found these tracks from a Diatryma high up on a slope a few field seasons ago. George Mustoe from the University of Washington did some latex peels then flew them out to be studied.

These massive flightless birds reached up to 9 feet in height and made a living in the grasslands and swamps of the Eocene. The largest of the prints you see here measures 11 inches wide and 12 inches high. Truly a big bird!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012

EGYPTIAN OWL: INDURATED LIMESTONE


QUEEN NEFERTITI: EGYPTIAN ALABASTER

While at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week in New York, I was struck by the beauty of many of their pieces. A sculptured jar that stopped me dead in my tracks was the striking face representing one of the royal women of Amarna. 

Her hairstyle of overlapping curls, known as the Nubian wig, was popular among the female members of Akhenten's family. The hole at the centre of her forehead once secured the separately carved upper body of a rearing cobra whose tail is visible across the top of the wig. This royal protector was exclusively worn by kings and queens.


A beautifully rendered Egyptian alabaster (calcite); obsidian, steatite Canopic Jar from Thebes, Valley of the Kings, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 B.C. Since its discovery in 1907, the face has been identified as that of Queen Tiye, Akhenaten's mother, Queen Nefertiti.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

JURASSIC BOUNTY: AMMONITE

Those working in the Jurassic exposures on Vancouver Island are a determined crew. Most of the sedimentary deposits of the Jurassic are exposed in the hard to reach areas between Nootka Sound and Cape Scott.

By the time these ammonites were being buried in sediment, Wrangellia, the predominately volcanic terrane that now forms Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, had made its way to the northern mid-laditudes.

This detail of the Jurassic ammonite, Paltechioceras sp. shot with an ultra-low f-stop, is from an all but inaccessible site in Sayward, Bonanza Group, Vancouver Island.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Saturday, 1 September 2012

BLOSSOMS: ALLIUM TANGUTICUM


PALEAOCENE-EOCENE THERMAL MAXIMUM

In 2004, a scientific crew braced the cold and the odds to extract a sediment core from 400m below the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. The core showed that Fifty-five million years ago, deep in the Eocene, the North Pole was ice-free and enjoying tropical temperatures. It also told us that the temperature of the ocean was 20C, instead of the coolish –1.5C we see today… a truth that is hard to imagine with all the hype around global warming.

The bottom end of that core helped explain the fossils found at Eocene sites around British Columbia, species commonly seen in more tropical environments today.

The warmer temperatures seen at McAbee and around the globe were recorded in the core sample and reveal evidence for a global event known at the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Back in the Eocene, a gigantic emission of greenhouse gases was released into the atmosphere and the global temperature warmed by about 5C.

While the bookends of the geologic time scale slide back and forth a wee bit, the current experts in the geologic community set the limits to be 33.9 +_ 0.1 to 55.8 +_ 0.2 million years ago. The fossil record tells us that this part of British Columbia and much of the Earth was significantly warmer around that time, so warm in fact that we find temperate and tropical plant fossils in areas that now sport plants that prefer much colder climes, or as is the case in the Arctic, snow and ice.

The Okanagan Highlands is an area centred in the Interior of British Columbia, but the term is used in a slightly misleading fashion to describe an arc of Eocene lakebed sites that extend from Smithers in the north, down to the fossil site of Republic Washington. The grouping includes the fossil sites of Driftwood Canyon, Quilchena, Allenby, Tranquille, McAbee, Princeton and Republic.

These fossil sites range in time from Early to Middle Eocene, and the fossil they contain give us a snapshot of what was happening in this part of the world because of the varied plant fossils they contain.

While the area around the Interior of British Columbia was affected. McAbee was not as warm as some of the other Middle Eocene sites, a fact inferred by what we see and what is conspicuously missing. In looking at the plant species, it has been suggested that the area of McAbee had a more temperate climate, slightly cooler and wetter than other Eocene sites to the south at Princeton, British Columbia and Republic and Chuckanut, Washington. Missing are the tropical Sabal (palm), seen at Princeton and the impressive Ensete (banana) and Zamiaceae (cycad) found at Republic and Chuckanut, Washington.

While we are the likely culprits of much of the warming of the Arctic today, natural processes operating in the not too distant past have also resulted in significant temperature fluxuations on a world-wide scale.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

PADDLING PARADISE: THE BOWRON LAKES


A cool morning breeze keeps the mosquitoes down as we pack our kayaks and gear for today’s paddling journey. It is day four of our holiday, with two days driving up from Vancouver to Cache Creek, past the Eocene insect and plant site at McAbee, the well-bedded Permian limestone near Marble Canyon and onto Bowron Provincial Park, a geologic gem near the gold rush town of Barkerville.

The initial draw for me, given that collecting in a provincial park is forbidden and all collecting close at hand outside the park appears to amount to a handful of crushed crinoid bits and a few conodonts, was the gorgeous natural scenery and a broad range of species extant. It was also the proposition of padding the Bowron Canoe Circuit, a 149,207 hectare geologic wonderland, where a fortuitous combination of plate tectonics and glacial erosion have carved an unusual 116 kilometre near-continuous rectangular circuit of lakes, streams and rivers bound on all sides by snowcapped mountains. From all descriptions, something like heaven.

The east and south sides of the route are bound by the imposing white peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, the northern boundary of the Interior wet belt, rising up across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Isaac Formation, the oldest of seven formations that make up the Cariboo Group (Struik, 1988). Some 270 million plus years ago, had one wanted to buy waterfront property in what is now British Columbia, you’d be looking somewhere between Prince George and the Alberta border. The rest of the province had yet to arrive but would be made up of over twenty major terranes from around the Pacific. The rock that would eventually become the Cariboo Mountains and form the lakes and valleys of Bowron was far out in the Pacific Ocean, down near the equator.

With tectonic shifting, these rocks drifted north-eastward, riding their continental plate, until they collided with and joined the Cordillera in what is now British Columbia. Continued pressure and volcanic activity helped create the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today with repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carving their final shape.

We brace our way into a head wind along the east side of the fjord-like Isaac Lake. Paddling in time to the wind, I soak up the view of this vast, deep green, ocean-like expanse that runs L-shape for nearly 38 kilometres, forming nearly half of the total circuit. The rock we paddle past is primarily calcareous phyllite, limestone and quartzite, typical of the type locality for this group and considered upper Proterozoic (Young, 1969), the time in our geologic history between the first algae and the first multicellular animals.It is striking how much this lake fits exactly how you might picture pristine wilderness paddling in your mind’s eye. No power boats, no city hum, just pure silence, broken only by the sound of my paddle pulling through the water and the occasional burst of glee from one of the park’s many songbirds.

We’ve chosen kayaks over the more-popular canoes for this journey, as I got to experience my first taste of the handling capabilities of a canoe last year in Valhalla Provincial Park. The raised sides acted like sails and kept us off course in all but the lightest conditions. This year, Philip Torrens, Leanne Sylvest, and I were making our trek in low profile, Kevlar style. One single & one double kayak would be our faithful companions and mode of transport. They would also be briefly conscripted into service as a bear shield later in the trip.

Versatile those kayaks.

The area is home to a variety of plant life. Large sections of the forest floor are carpeted in the green and white of dogwood, a prolific ground cover we are lucky enough to see in full bloom. Moss, mushrooms and small wild flowers grown on every available surface. Yellow Lily line pathways and float in the cold, clear lake water. Somewhere I read a suggestion to bring a bathing suit to the park, but at the moment, I cannot imagine lowering anything more than my paddle into these icy waters. To reach the west side of the paddling route, we must first face several kilometres portaging muddy trails to meet up with the Isaac River and then paddle rapids to grade two.

At the launch site, we meet up with two fellow kayakers, Adele and Mary of Victoria, and take advantage of their preceding us to watch the path they choose through the rapids. It has been raining in the area for forty plus days, so the water they run is high and fast. Hot on their heels, our short, thrilling ride along the Isaac River, is a flurry of paddle spray and playing around amid all the stumps, silt and conglomerate. The accommodation gods smile kindly on us as we are pushed out from Isaac River and settle into McLeary Lake. An old trapper cabin built by local Freddie Becker back in the 1930’s, sits vacant and inviting, providing a welcome place to hang our hats and dry out. From here we can see several moose, large, lumbering, peaceful animals, the largest members of the deer family, feeding on the grass-like sedge on the far shore. The next morning, we paddle leisurely down the slower, silt-laden Cariboo River, avoiding the occasional deadhead, and make our way into the milky, glacier fed Lanezi Lake.

Like most mountainous areas, Bowron makes its own weather system and it appears you get everything in a 24-hour period. In fact, whatever weather you are enjoying seems to change 40 minutes later; good for rain, bad for sun. Wisps of cloud that seemed light and airy only hours early have become dark. Careful to hug the shore, we are ready for a quick escape from lightening as thundershowers break.

Paddling in the rain, I notice bits of mica in the water, playing in the light and the rock change here to greywacke, argillite, phyllite and schist. Past Lanezi, we continue onto Sandy Lake, where old growth cedars line the south-facing slopes to our left and grey limestone, shale and dolostone line the shore. Mottled in with the rock, we sneak up on very convincing stumps posing as large mammals. Picking up the Cariboo River again, we follow it as it flows into Babcock Lake, an area edged with Lower Cambrian limestone, shale and argillite. At the time these rocks were laid down, the Earth was seeing our earliest relatives, the first chordates entering the geologic scene.

As we reach the end of Babcock Lake and prepare for our next portage I get my camera out to take advantage of the angle of the sun and the eroded rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands that stand as backdrop.Leanne remarks that she can see a moose a little ways off and that it appeared to be heading our way. Yes, heading our way quickly with a baby moose in tow. I lift my lens to immortalize the moment and we three realized the moose are heading our way in double time because they are being chased by a grizzly at top speed. A full-grown moose can run up to fifty-six kilometres per hour, slightly faster than a Grizzly. They are also strong swimmers. Had she been alone, Mamma moose would likely have tried to out swim the bear. Currently, however, this is not the case. From where we stand we can see the water turned to white foam at their feet as they fly towards us.

We freeze, bear spray in hand.

In seconds the three were upon us. Mamma moose, using home field advantage, runs straight for us and just reaching our boats, turned 90 degrees, bolting for the woods, baby moose fast on her heels.

The Grizzly, caught up in the froth of running and thrill of the kill, doesn’t notice the deke, hits the brakes at the boats and stands up, confused. Her eyes give her away. This was not what she had planned and the whole moose-suddenly-transformed-into-human thing is giving her pause. Her head tilts back as she gets a good smell of us.

Suddenly, a crack in the woods catches her attention. Her head snaps round and she drops back on all fours, beginning her chase anew. Somewhere there is a terrified mother moose and calf hoping the distance gained is enough to keep them from being lunch. I choose to believe both moose got away with the unwitting distraction we provided, but I’m certainly grateful we did.

The Lakes are at an elevation of over 900 m (3000 ft) and both grizzly and black bear sightings are common. Both bear families descend from a common ancestor, Ursavus, a bear-dog the size of a raccoon who lived more than 20 million years ago. Seems an implausible lineage having just met one of the larger descendents.While we’d grumbled only hours earlier about how tired we were feeling, we now feel quite motivated and do the next two portages and lakes in good time. Aside from the gripping fear that another bear encounter is imminent, we enjoy the park-like setting, careful to scan the stands of birch trees for dark shapes now posing as stumps. Fortunately, the only wildlife we see are a few wily chipmunks, various reticent warblers and some equally shy spruce grouse.

The wind favours us now as we paddle Skoi and Spectacle Lake, even giving us a chance to use the sails we’ve rigged to add an extra knot of oomph to our efforts. Reaching the golden land of safety-in-numbers, we leap from our kayaks, happy to see the smiling faces of Mary and Adele.

Making it here is doubly thrilling because it means I’m sleeping indoors tonight and I can tell the bear story with adrenaline still pumping through my veins. Tonight is all about camaraderie and the warmth of a campfire. Gobbling down Philip’s famous pizza, Leanne impresses everyone further by telling of his adventures in the arctic and surviving a polar bear attack.

This is our first starlit night without rain, a luxury everyone comments on, but quietly, not wanting to jinx it. We share a good laugh at the expense of the local common loons (both Homeo sapien sapien and Gavia immer). The marshy areas of the circuit provide a wonderful habitat for the regions many birds including a host of sleek, almost regal black and white common loons.

Their cool demeanour by day is reduced to surprisingly loud, maniacal hoots and yelps with undignified flapping and flailing by night. It seems hardly possible that these awful noises could be coming from the same birds and that this has been going for nearly 65 million years, since end of the age of dinosaurs, as loons are one of the oldest bird families in the fossil record.

A guitar is pulled out to liven the quiet night while small offerings, sacred and scare this late in our journey, are passed around. Tonight is a celebration that we have all, both separately and together, made our way around this immense mountain-edged circuit.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Friday, 6 July 2012

TANGIERS: ANCIENT TUSKS


During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, a diverse group of extinct proboscideans, elephant-like animals walked the Earth.

Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them.

Beyond our neanderthal friends, one such fellow was Quintus Sertorius, a Roman statesman come general, who grew up in Umbria. Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from his native Norcia. Around 81 BC, he travelled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.

The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon.

Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical ogre Antaeus and were thus reported back to Rome as such. It was hundreds of years later before their true heritage was known.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012

FOSSILS AND RED OCHRE


Around 45-50 million years ago, during the middle Eocene, a number of freshwater lakes appeared in an arc extending from Smithers in northern British Columbia, south through the modern Cariboo, to Kamloops, the Nicola Valley, Princeton and finally, Republic, WA.

The lakes likely formed after a period of faulting created depressions in the ground, producing a number of basins or grabens into which water collected - imagine gorgeous smallish lakes similar to Cultus Lake near Chiliwack, British Columbia.

The groaning Earth, pressured by the collision of tectonic plates producted a series of erupting volcanoes around the Pacific Northwest. These spouting volcanoes blew fine-grained ash into the atmosphere and it rained down on the land. The ash washed into the lakes and because of its texture, and possibly because of low water oxygen levels on the bottoms that slowed decay beautifully preserved the dead remains of plant, invertebrate, and fish fossils - some in wonderful detail.

In and around the town of Princeton, there are many places to collect. The fossils you find here are all middle Eocene, Allenby Formation and most have a high degree of detail in their preservation.

A crack of the hammer yields fossil maple, alder, fir, pine, dawn redwood and ginko fossil material. Several species of fossilized insects can be found in the area and rare, occasional fossil flowers and small, perfectly preserved fish. It is also home to one of the world's oldest bee's - a find by Rene Saveneye - naturalist and keen paleo hunter who will be much missed.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

LOVE YOUR WORLD. BE IDLE FREE

When we are out enjoying the gorgeous wilderness that surrounds us, we think more about air quality and how amazing our world really it. When we get back to the city, we sometimes forget the little things we can do to help protect our air and water quality.

I met two enthusiastic environmentalist today, Megan and Eric, who would like us to take up a couple of easy habits to do our part. They are raising awareness around greenhouse gas emissions and what you can do to make a difference. Idling your engine for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and causes more emissions that turning it off entirely and restarting it.

So, what can you do? Turn off your vehicle while waiting at train crossings, schools, drive-thrus, community centres and other places you may need to wait in the car. They recommend you drive your vehicle to warm it up rather than idling the engine and telling others to stop their engine, helping them save money and protect the environment.

If you have trouble remembering, keep a delicious bar of dark chocolate on hand at all times and a small post-it note that reads, "turn off your car and indulge yourself." Eating antioxidant-rich chocolate is good for your brain and will help you save the environment. Make your own commitment to be healthy, green and idle free!

For more information visit tol.bc.ca/idlefree

Sunday, 3 June 2012

POND SCUM... AND OTHER HOT SPRING BEAUTIES


Slimeball, a derogative term to be sure from the modern usage, but before it was ever dragged down to the world of insults and verbal nastiness we know it for today, the scum of which we speak and the small bacteria that form them were simply the catalysts for the many beautiful colours we see in hot springs.

While a whole host of thermophilic (heat-loving) microorganisms are responsible, it is the cyanobacteria, one of the more common fellows from this group, which form most of the scum. Cyanobacteria grow together in huge colonies (bacterial mats) that form the delightfully colourful scums and slimes on the sides of hot springs.

You can tell a fair bit about the water temperature and chemistry by just looking at the colour of the pools… as cyanobacteria, while not considered picky pool dwellers, do prefer one pool to another. So, the next time you hear someone fling this insult your way, stop and tell them how attractive scum make this world.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Monday, 16 April 2012

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The dinosaurs of Australia disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous, as they did the world over. Their departure marked the end of the supercontinent of Gondwana. By the middle of the Eocene, some fifty-five million years ago, only Australia, Antarctica and South America remained as it straddled the South Pole.

Free of ice and the giant marine and flying reptiles, a new line-up of mammals, flightless birds, crocodiles, snakes and turtles thrived in the warm, wet climate, rapidly adapting and dominating the forests, oceans and skies.

New and fanciful creatures, the monotremes, marsupials and placentals explored and took root in the Gondwanan forests as conifers gave way to broad-leaved trees in an ever changing landscape.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

ANCIENT WETLAND

Chuckanut Drive is much younger than other parts of Washington. The fossils found there lived and died some 40-55 million years ago, very close to where they are now, but in a much warmer, swampy setting. The exposures of the Chuckanut Formation were once part of a vast river delta; imagine, if you will, the bayou country of the Lower Mississippi. The siltstones, sandstones, mudstones and conglomerates of the Chuckanut Formation were laid down about 40-54 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, a time of luxuriant plant growth in the subtropical flood plain that covered much of the Pacific Northwest.

This ancient wetland provided ideal conditions to preserve the many trees, shrubs & plants that thrived here. Plants are important in the fossil record because they are more abundant and can give us a lot of information about climate, temperature, the water cycle and humidity of the region.

The Chuckanut flora is made up predominantly of plants whose modern relatives live in tropical areas such as Mexico and Central America. If you are interesting in viewing a tropical paradise in your own backyard, look no further than the Chuckanut.

Glyptostrobus, the Chinese swamp cypress, is perhaps the most common plant found here. Also abundant are fossilized remains of the North American bald cypress, Taxodium; Metasequoia (dawn redwood), Lygodium (climbing fern), large Sabal (palm) and leaves from a variety of broad leaf angiosperm plants such as (witch hazel), Laurus (laurel), Ficus (fig) and Platanus (sycamore), and several other forms.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thursday, 8 March 2012

WOLVERINE RIVER: DINOSAUR SITE

No visit to BC's Peace Region is complete without a trip to the Tumbler Ridge Museum. In 2000, Mark Turner and Daniel Helm were tubing down the rapids of Flatbed Creek just below Tumbler Ridge. As they walked up the shoreline excitement began to build as they quickly recognized a series of regular depressions as dinosaur footprints.

Their discovery spurred an infusion of tourism and research in the area. The Hudson's Hope Museum has an extensive collection of terrestrial and marine fossils from the area. They feature ichthysaurs, a marine reptile and hadrosaur tracks.

At a British Columbia Paleontological Symposium in Tumbler Ridge, I joined Jen Becker for an impromtu late night tour of Wolverine River. There are two types of footprints at the Wolverine River Tracksite, carnivorous theropods and plant eating ankylosaurs.

During the day, the trackways at Wolverine are difficult to see. Many of the prints are so shallow that they can only be recognized by the skin impressions pressed into the tracks. By night, we filled them water and lit them by lamplight to make them stand out, reflecting the light.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Monday, 13 February 2012

Saturday, 11 February 2012

PADDLING BEFORE THE FRONT

We soak up the breathtaking views after a long morning's paddle. The east and south sides of our route are bound by the imposing white peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, the northern boundary of the Interior wet belt, rising up across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Isaac Formation, the oldest of seven formations that make up the Cariboo Group.

Some 270 million plus years ago, had one wanted to buy waterfront property in what is now British Columbia, you’d be looking somewhere between Prince George and the Alberta border. The rest of the province had yet to arrive but would be made up of over twenty major terranes from around the Pacific. The rock that would eventually become the Cariboo Mountains and form the lakes and valleys of Bowron was far out in the Pacific Ocean, down near the equator.

With tectonic shifting, these rocks drifted north-eastward, riding their continental plate, until they collided with and joined the Cordillera in what is now British Columbia. Continued pressure and volcanic activity helped create the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today with repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carving their final shape. Warm and dry with bellies filled full of soup and crisps, we head back out to explore more of nature's bounty.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

HATSHEPSUT: FIFTH PHARAOH OF THE 18TH DYNASTY

Hatshepsut, whose name means, "Foremost of Noble Ladies, was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the time of the joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutnose III, ca. 1473-1458 B.C. 

Here she is lovingly carved out of indurated limestone, a fitting homage as Hatshepsut is regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. 


This piece, originally from Hathshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahri, now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

DRAGONFLY ON AMMONITE: 366 PROJECT

Dragonflies, from the order Odonata, have been around for over 250 million years. The most conspicuous difference in their evolution over time is the steady shrinking of their wingspan from well over two and a half feet down to a few inches.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

TECTONIC FORCES: PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Over vast expanses of time, powerful tectonic forces have massaged the western edge of the continent, smashing together a seemingly endless number of islands to produce what we now know as North America and the Pacific Northwest. Intuition tells us that the earth’s crust is a permanent, fixed outer shell – terra firma.

Aside from the rare event of an earthquake or the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, our world seems unchanging, the landscape constant. In fact, it has been on the move for billions of years and continues to shift each day.

As the earth’s core began cooling, some 4.5 billion years ago, plates, small bits of continental crust, have become larger and smaller as they are swept up in or swept under their neighboring plates. Large chunks of the ocean floor have been uplifted, shifted and now find themselves thousands of miles in the air, part of mountain chains far from the ocean today or carved by glacial ice into valleys and basins.

Two hundred million years ago, Washington was two large islands, bits of continent on the move westward, eventually bumping up against the North American continent and calling it home. Even with their new fixed address, the shifting continues; the more extreme movement has subsided laterally and continues vertically.

The upthrusting of plates continues to move our mountain ranges skyward – the path of least resistance. This dynamic movement has created the landscape we see today and helped form the fossil record that tells much of the recent history of the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Monday, 9 January 2012

FROZEN IN TIME: MAMMOTHS

We may one day have wooly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), extinct since the Pleistocene, roaming around zoos and colder climes. At least it looks that way.

Because of their massive size and icy cold environment, many mammoths have been preserved as frozen carcasses instead of being turned to stone, thus they are prime candidates for genetic reproduction. When originally touted in the news as a possibility, most audiences took the science to be too far fetched.

Researchers harvesting DNA and deciphering their genome feel they are on the edge of doing just that. Science as we know it is sliding down the double helix to science fiction. DNA, long bits of genetic code that form the roadmap of how we are built, is relatively easy to harvest and remarkably hardy.

Even with the abuse of time, small amounts can be extracted and with that the genetic wizards are able to put the puzzle pieces back together. Frozen sperm is used in fertility clinics around the globe, the difference here is that the entire mammal is frozen before harvesting the sperm. Once harvested, the frozen sperm from long extinct male mammoths is injected into eggs from females of closely related species.

While positive results have been made and papers published (see the National Academy of Sciences) a baby mammoth has yet to be conceived.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Monday, 2 January 2012

ORCHIDS: CREATIVE366PROJECT

Orchidaceae get their name from the Greek ὄρχις (órkhis), which literally means "testicle", a nod to the naughty nub shape of their roots.

In Greek mythology, Orchis was the son of a ugly a nymph and a satyr who came upon a festival for Dionysios deep in the woods. Liking his fermented grapes a wee bit too much, he overindulged on wine then tried to have his way with a priestess of Dionysios.

As a result the Bacchanalians tore him limb from limb. His grieving father prayed to the Gods for him to be restored. Not that keen on folk of his ilk but feeling kindly, they turned him into a flower instead.

Sunday, 1 January 2012