Thursday, 31 December 2015
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.
Thursday, 15 October 2015
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Sunday, 20 September 2015
Family Odontopleuridae, Odontopleurid trilobite from the Lower Devonian, Emsian, 408 to 393 MYA, Bou Tiskaouine Formation, Hamar l”Aghdad Limestones, Taharajat, Oufaten, Djebel Issoumour
Thursday, 16 July 2015
They were particularly abundant in the later Triassic and early Jurassic periods before being replaced as a premier aquatic predator by another marine reptilian group, the Plesiosauria, in the later Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Saturday, 23 May 2015
From downtown Vancouver, drive through Stanley Park heading north over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Take the North Vancouver exit toward the ferries. Turn right onto Taylor Way and then right again at Clyde Avenue. Look for the Park Royal Hotel. Park anywhere along Clyde Avenue.
From Clyde Avenue walk down the path to your left towards the Capilano River. Watch the water level and tread cautiously as it can be slippery if there has been any recent rain. Look for beds of sandstone about 200 meters north of the private bridge and just south of the Highway bridge. The fossil beds are just below the Whytecliff Apartment high rises.
You will see some exposed shale in the area. It does not contain fossil material. The fossils occur only in the sandstone. Interesting, but again, not fossiliferous are the many granitic boulders and large boulders of limestone which may have been brought down by glaciers from as far away as Texada Island. Cretaceous plant material (and modern material) found here include Poplar (cottonwood) Populus sp. Bigleaf Maple, Acer machphyllum, Alder, Alnus rubra, Buttercup Ranvuculus sp., Epilobrium, Red cedar, Blackberry and Sword fern.
Sunday, 19 April 2015
Have you ever wondered about the colors you see in these moments? What sunlight actually is? Yes, it's light from the Sun but so much more than that. Sunlight is both light and energy. Once it reaches Earth, we call this energy, "insolation," a fancy term for solar radiation. The amount of energy the Sun gives off changes over time in a never ending cycle. Solar flares (hotter) and sunspots (cooler) on the Sun's surface impact the amount of radiation headed to Earth. These periods of extra heat or extra cold (well, colder by Sun standards...) can last for weeks, sometimes months.
The beams that reach us and warm our skin are electromagnetic waves that bring with them heat and radiation, by-products of the nuclear fusion happening as hydrogen nuclei shift form to helium. Our bodies convert the ultraviolet rays to Vitamin D. Plants use the rays for photosynthesis, a process of converting carbon dioxide to sugar and using it to power their growth (and clean our atmosphere!) That process looks something like this: carbon dioxide + water + light energy -->glucose + oxygen = 6 CO2(g) + 6 H2O + photons → C6H12O6(aq) + 6 O2(g) Photosynthetic organisms convert about 100–115 thousand million metric tonnes of carbon to biomass each year, about six times more power than used my us hoomins.
We've yet to truly get a handle on the duality between light as waves and light as photons. Light fills not just our wee bit of the Universe but the cosmos as well, bathing it in the form of cosmic background radiation that is the signature of the Big Bang.
Once those electromagnetic waves leave the Sun headed for Earth, they reach us in a surprising eight minutes. We experience them as light mixed with the prism of beautiful colors. But what we see is actually a trick of the light. As rays of white sunlight travel through the atmosphere they collide with airborne particles and water droplets causing the rays to scatter. We see mostly the yellow, orange and red hues (the longer wavelengths) as the blues and greens (the shorter wavelengths) scatter more easily and get bounced out of the game rather early.
Saturday, 7 February 2015
Many of these finds can now be seen at museums in Washington State. While less abundant, evidence of the animals that called this ancient swamp home are also found here. Rare bird, reptile, and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the soft muds along ancient riverways.
Monday, 19 January 2015
A few years ago, I had the very great honour of having a new species of ammonite named after me by paleontologist, Louse Longridge.
Meet Fergusonites hendersonae, a Late Hettangian ammonite from the Taseko Lake area of British Columbia, high up in the Canadian Rockies.
He looks a wee bit like the Cadoceras comma we find in the Mysterious Lake Formation at Harrison Lake but a wee bit thinner and smaller.
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
There are many fossil sites around Vancouver, British Columbia. Sadly, the volume and preservation of these fossils is far from ideal.
Still, if you are looking for a wee day trip, then a trip to the Capilano River is just the thing. From downtown Vancouver, drive through Stanley Park up and over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Take the North Vancouver exit toward the ferries. Turn right onto Taylor Way and then right again at Clyde Avenue. Look for the Park Royal Hotel. Park anywhere along Clyde Avenue.
From Clyde Avenue walk down the path to your left towards the Capilano River. Watch the water level and treat cautiously as it can be slippery.
Look for beds of sandstone about 200 meters north of the private bridge and just south of the Hwy bridge. The fossil beds are just below the Whytecliff Apartment high rises.
You will see some exposed shale in the area. It does not contain fossil material. The fossils occur only in the sandstone. Interesting, but again, not fossiliferous are the many granitic boulders and large boulders of limestone which may have been brought down by glaziers from as far away as Texada Island.
Cretaceous plant material found:
- Unidentified Bark
- Poplar (cottonwood) Populus sp.
- Bigleaf maple Acer machphyllum
- Alder Alnus rubra
- Buttercup Ranvuculus sp.
- Red cedar
- Sword fern