Saturday, 31 December 2016

JOHN DAY FOSSIL BEDS

Oreodont skull, John Day Fossil Beds
More than a 100 groups of mammals and a wide variety of plants have been found in the early Miocene, 39-19 million year old, John Day Formation near Kimberly, Oregon.

The fossiliferous strata that have yielded beautifully preserved specimens of many of the animals we see domesticated today. Dogs, cats, swine and horses are common. Oreodonts, camels, rhinoceros and rodents have also been found in this ancient deciduous forested area.

Here my talented young paleontologist cousin Spencer is holding a well preserved Oreodont skull.Many sites in Oregon yield beautifully preserved fossil shells laid down over 60 million years. The asteroid that hit the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Cretaceous caused a seafloor rift that split ancient Oregon. The massive hole left behind as the coastal lands slid northward filled in with sediment, refilling the basin.

These marine sediments were uplifted around the time of the birth of Oregon's Coastal Range. Easily collected and identified, as they look very similar to their modern cousins, you can dig for marine fossils all along Oregon's beachfront.

MOSQUE-CATHEDRAL, CORDOBA, SPAIN




















A mix of Muslim and Christian architecture can be found in the stunning, and oh so grand Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba, southern Spain. Originally a small temple of Christian Visigoth origin, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins has an unusual and collaborative history. When Muslims conquered Spain in 711, the church was divided into Muslim and Christian halves.

This sharing arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir 'Abd al-Rahman I, who then demolished the original structure to build the grand mosque of Córdoba on its ground.

Córdoba returned to Christian rule in 1236 during the Reconquista, and the building was converted to a Roman Catholic church, culminating in the inclusion of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. If you are visiting Andalusia, it is well worth a day trip. Bring your camera and comfortable shoes.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

DRAGONFLIES: ODONATA

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.

Voracious predators, today they dine on bees, wasps, butterflies and avoid the attentions of birds and wee lizards -- but back in the day, they had a much larger selection of meals within their grasp.

Time has turned the tables. Small lizards and birds who today choose dragonflies as a tasty snack used to be their preferred prey.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Saturday, 10 December 2016

PALEONTOLOGY MUSEUM, FLORENCE, ITALY


OLD HABITS

Nuns stepping out from the palace, Cordoba, Spain




















A group of nuns stepping out in Cordoba, Spain. The nuns earn their living selling sweets and confections using recipes handed down from the Romans and Moors. Many convents are closing because they have fewer nuns so this art may one day be lost.

The procedure for buying the sweets is archaic, but charming. You enter the convent into a very small room with a lazy Susan installed on the wall.

While we did see some nuns in the street, many do not leave the cloister or appear in public. You never see the nun with whom you do the transaction, since these are cloistered nuns who avoid direct contact with the public.

On the wall beside the lazy Susan will be a price list. You look it over and decide which sweets you want to buy. Then you ring a buzzer on the wall. After a while you will hear the voice of a nun greet you and ask you what you want to purchase.

You tell her your order and after a few minutes the lazy Susan will turn and you will find your order on it. You then put your money on the lazy Susan and turn it so that the nun can get it. If there is change, the nun puts it on the lazy Susan and you then can get your change.

Friday, 9 December 2016

CARNOTAURUS SASTREI

Carnotaurus sastrei, a genus of large theropod dinosaur that roamed, Argentina, South America during the Late Cretaceous period, 72 to 69.9 million years ago.

This fellow (or at least his skull) is on display at the Natural History Museum in Madrid, Spain. For now, he is the only known genus of this species of bipedal predator.

The skull is quite unusual. Initially, it has a very marine reptile feel (but make no mistake this guy is clearly a terrestrial theropod). Once you look closer you see his bull-like horns (from whence he gets his name) that imply battle between rivals for the best meal, sexual partner and to be the one who leads the herd.

I'll be interested to see his cousins once more specimens of the genus are unearthed.

ALHAMBRA PALACE: GRANADA, SPAIN


Thursday, 8 December 2016

DIPLODOCUS CARNEGIEI

Craneo Diplodocus carnegiei, Morrison Formation, Jurassic

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

AMMONITES OF THE ARNIOCERAS BEDS

Ammonites (and two gastropods) from the Arnioceras beds near Last Creek in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The fossils found here are from the Lower Jurassic, Lower Sinemurian, Little Paradise Member of the Last Creek formation. This site is part of the research area for Dr. Howard Tipper, GSC (who is hugely missed) and Dr. Louise Longridge, University of British Columbia.

Several ammonites species can be found here including Arnioceras semicostatum & Arnioceras miserable. The two gastropods you see in the central block have yet to be identified to species. Here's hoping a nice grad student takes an interest. The rare but lovely gastros from this area would make an excellent thesis. Perhaps comparing their distribution to their counterparts in Europe.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

CRANEO DE TIGRE DE DIENTES DE SABLE

Machairodus aphanistus, Batallones, Madrid 9 Ma. Vallesiense, Mioceno

Friday, 9 September 2016

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

CRANEO DE OSO

Ursus spelaeus. Aitzkirri, Guipuzcoa. Pleistoceno superior

Sunday, 4 September 2016

BRITISH COLUMBIA'S GREAT BEARS


Hiking in BC, both grizzly and black bear sightings are common. Nearly half the world's population, some 25,000 grizzlies, roam the Canadian wilderness. This photo of Edward (yes, we named him) was taken off the west coast of Vancouver Island by Larissa Harding of Great Bear Nature Tours.

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 given the size of their very large descendents.

An average Grizzly weighs in around 800 lbs (363 kg), but a recent find in Alaska tops the charts at 1600 lbs (726 kg). This mighty beast stood 12' 6' high at the shoulder, 14' to the top of his head. It is one of the largest grizzly bears ever recorded. This past month this king of the forest was seen once again in the Washington Cascades -- the first sighting in 50 years.

Friday, 2 September 2016

TORVOSAURUS TANNERI















The genus Torvosaurus includes a unique species of megalosaurid therapod dinosaur.

This fellow is from the Morrison Formation, western United States but his kind spread widely and fossil specimens of the same species have been found in the Lourinha Formation near Lisbon, Portugal. He is currently on display at the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain.

Torvosaurus were one of the largest and most robust carnivores of the Jurassic. These "savage lizards" were true to their name. Skilled hunters, who could grow from 9 to ll meters long, weigh over 2 tons, were bipedal with powerful dentition and strong claws on their forelegs, they ruled the Upper Jurassic.

While currently speculative, there seems to be a high likelihood that these bad boys hunted and dined upon the big sauropods of their time.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Monday, 25 July 2016

Friday, 22 July 2016

Saturday, 9 July 2016

WEE FOSSIL BEAVER

This wee skull of a Microtheriomys brevirhinus from the John Day Formation is an adorable 19 mm. Yeah, he's pretty cute!

Paleontologists Dr William Korth of Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Dr Joshua Samuels of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are pretty chuffed about some new fossil finds. They have described four new genera and ten new species of prehistoric rodents that lived in what is now Oregon during the Oligocene -- 30- 22 million years ago.

The newly-discovered genera include this wee fellow, the early beaver, Microtheriomys brevirhinus, a dwarf tree squirrel, Miosciurus covensis, a primitive pocket mouse, Bursagnathus aterosseusm the birch mouse Plesiosminthus fremdi, an early relative of beavers, Allotypomys pictus along with bits and pieces of Proapeomys condoni; Apeomys whistleri; Neoadjidaumo arctozophus, Proheteromys latidens & Trogomys oregonensis.

Of these ten new species, four represent completely new genera: Allotypomys, Microtheriomys, Proapeomys, and Bursagnathus.

“This study fills some substantial gaps in our knowledge of past faunas, specifically smaller mammals,” said Dr Samuels, who is a co-author of the paper published in the Annals of Carnegie Museum. “Some of the new species are really interesting in their own right, and will ultimately help improve our understanding of the evolution of beavers and pocket mice.” The new rodents were collected through decades of collaborative work throughout the John Day Formation, Oregon.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

WOOLLY MAMMOTH

Mammutus primigenius. Pleistocene. Siberia, Russia

Saturday, 2 July 2016

RADIOLARIA: EXQUISITE MICROFOSSILS

Radiolarian microfossils, tiny, siliceous, single-celled organisms, make for excellent timekeepers. Think of them as the world's smallest clocks. These wee fellows have been living in the world’s oceans for over 600 million years.

Radiolarians are unicellulars, wee little things with a diameter of 0.1–0.2 mm.

They produce intricate mineral skeletons, typically with a central capsule dividing the cell into the inner and outer portions of endoplasm and ectoplasm.Their beautifully elaborate mineral skeletons are usually made of silica. We find radiolaria as zooplankton throughout the ocean and their skeletal remains make up a large part of the cover of the ocean floor as siliceous ooze.

Due to their rapid turnover of species, they represent an important diagnostic fossil from the Cambrian onwards. Because they occur in continuous and well-dated sequences of rock, they act like a yardstick, helping geologists accurately date rock from around the globe.

In the Upper Triassic rocks, which predate the Triassic / Jurassic Mass Extinction event by about 10 million years, radiolarians are preserved in hundreds of forms. Just above them, in the early Jurassic rock layers laid down about the time of the great die-offs, only a fraction of the previous number of forms are represented. The more recent Jurassic rock shows a rebound of radiolarian diversity, though of course, in different forms, a diversity which continues to flourish and expand in today’s oceans.

Friday, 1 July 2016

NOLEGGIO DI BARCHE

Noleggio de Marche, Riomaggiore, Italy

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Monday, 20 June 2016

Sunday, 19 June 2016

MAMMUTUS PRIMIGENIUS

Mammutus primigenius. Pleistocene. Siberia, Russia

Monday, 6 June 2016

THE BURGESS SHALE

The fine-grained shales that make up the Burgess were once part of the ancient landmass known as Laurentia, the ancient geologic core of the North American continent, and are home to some of the most diverse and well-preserved fossils in the world.

The sedimentary shales here contain fossils that open a window to marine life some 508 million years ago and include such weird and wonderful species like Anomalocaris and Hallucigenia.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

STAWAMUS CHIEF: GRANITE SENTINEL

The Stawamus Chief, the second largest freestanding piece of granite in the world, has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America. 

This magestic peak is said to have been one of the last areas of dry ground during a time of tremendous flooding in the Squamish area.

Many cultures have a flood myth in their oral history and the Coast Salish people of Squamish are no exception. They tell of a time when all the world save the highest peaks were submerged and only one of their nation survived. Warned in a vision, a warrior of the Squamish nation escaped to safety atop Mount Chuckigh (Mount Garibaldi) as the waters rose.

After the flood, a magestic eagle came to him with a gift of salmon to tell him that the world below was again hospitable and ready for his return. He climbed down the mountain and returned to find his village covered by a layer of silt.


All his people had perished, but the gods gave him another gift, a second survivor of the flood, a beautiful woman who became his wife. For their gift of generosity they had shown, the couple took the eagle as their chief totem and have honored it through generations of Coast Salish people.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Thursday, 21 April 2016

WASHINGTON RISING

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 Washington’s relatively recent history – the past 50 million years. 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 this 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 and 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.

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 outcrops of the Chuckanut Formation.

Tracks of a type of archaic mammal of the Orders Pantodonta or Dinocerata (blunt foot herbivores), footprints from a small shorebird, and tracks from an early equid or webbed bird track give evidence to the vertebrates that inhabited the swamps, lakes and river ways of the Pacific Northwest 50 million years ago.

Fossil mammals from Washington do get most of the press. The movement of these celebrity vertebrates was captured in the soft mud on the banks of a river, one of the only depositional environments favorable for track preservation.

The bone record is actually far less abundant that the plant record, except near shell middens, given the preserving qualities of calcium and an alkaline environment. While calcium rich bones and teeth fossilize well, they often do not get laid down in a situation that makes this possible.

Hence the terrestrial paleontological record of Washington State at sites like Chuckanut is primarily made up of plant material.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

MCABEE: SOLVING MYSTERIES IN THE EOCENE

Plant fossils from the Okanagan highlands, an area centred in the Interior of British Columbia, provide important clues to an ancient climate.

While the area is referred to as the Okanagan, 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, in the south.

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, near the town of Cache Creek, 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.

We see ginko, a variety of insects and fish remains, the rare feather and a boatload of deciduous evidence. Missing are the tropical Sabal (palm), seen at Princeton and the impressive Ensete (banana) and Zamiaceae (cycad) found at Republic and Chuckanut, Washington.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

DRAGONFLIES: ANCIENT PREDATORS

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.

Voracious predators, today they dine on bees, wasps, butterflies and avoid the attentions of birds and wee lizards --  but back in the day, they had a much larger selection of meals within their grasp. Time has turned the tables. Small lizards and birds who today choose dragonflies as a tasty snack used to be their preferred prey. 

GORDES: CITY OF LIMESTONE & LIGHT

Monday, 21 March 2016

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sunday, 13 March 2016

PALTECHIOCERAS OF WRANGELLIA

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.

We did a fossil field trip up there a few years ago with the Courtenay & Qualicum beach crew. The drive up the mountain was thrilling as the road narrowed until it was barely the width of our wheel base. Thrilling to say the least.

HOMAGE TO SPRING

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tuesday, 2 February 2016