Thursday, 30 May 2019


Had you been swimming with the marine fossils that were laid down in the Eocene Epoch in Oregon, some 55 to 38 million years ago, you'd be treading water right up to where the Cascade Mountains are today.

The Farallon Plate took a turn north some 57 million years ago, sweeping much of western coastal Oregon along with it. The Cascades were beginning to uplift and acting as the breakwater for a retreating Pacific Ocean. By the middle Oligocene, the Cascadia Subduction Zone was in full force. The growing pressure fracturing our magma shield and causing volcanic eruptions along the Western Cascades. Lassen Peak erupted twice in fairly recent history, 1914 and 1921. Mount St. Helens has had a long history of minor eruptions but there was a massive eruption as recently as 1980.

We see a fair bit of volcanic action in Oregon right through to the Miocene. We also see lovely marine fossils from this same era. The soft ocean sediments of Oregon contain beautifully preserved gastropods, bivalves, wood, bone and cephalopods that range in age from 15 to 30 million years old.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019


Vertipecten fucanus / Miocene / Clallam Formation
Some water worn samples of the fossil bivalve Vertipecten fucanus from lower Miocene deposits in the Clallam Formation.

These were collected on the foreshore near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington.

Until Addicott's study from 1976, the area was considered middle Miocene. The new lower Miocene designation can be credited in large part to the restricted stratigraphic range of Vertipecten fucanus (Dall) and the restricted and overlapping ranges of several other mollusks.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019


Taking in the beauty and colours of  a sunset
One of the most satisfying moments is taking in a sunset after a long days hike. Pure visual poetry. Peaceful, meditative and well-earned. It is a time for reflection on the day, your world, fresh blisters - the gamut!

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.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Saturday, 25 May 2019


Râpa Roșie / Magyarosaurus dacus (von Huene, 1932)
Râpa Roșie is a geological and botanical reserve in the southwest Secaşelor Plateau, in mineral rich Alba County, central Romania.

The distinctive red and white banded clays hold clues to our ancient past both from an archaeological and paleontological perspective.

Râpa Roșie sits in the southwestern part of the region known to you from books and lore as Transylvania. Home to Dracula, Late Cretaceous dwarf sauropod dinosaurs and ancient pot shards - oh my! Paleo coordinates: 45°59′15″N 23°35′29″E

Friday, 24 May 2019


Dinosaur Provincial Park / Alberta Badlands

Thursday, 23 May 2019


Structure of the Magnetosphere
The Earth has a magnetic field with north and south poles. The magnetic field of the Earth is surrounded by the magnetosphere that keeps most of the particles from the Sun from hitting the Earth.

Some of these particles from the solar wind enter the atmosphere at one million miles per hour. We see them as one of the most beautiful of all natural phenomena -- Earth's polar lights, the aurora borealis in the north and the aurora australis, near the south pole.

The auroras occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the Earth's atmosphere and become trapped in the Earth's magnetic field. We see them as an undulating visual field of red, yellow, green, blue and purple dancing high in the Earth's atmosphere -- about 100 to 400 kilometers above us.

This image shows the parts of the magnetosphere. 1. Bow shock. 2. Magnetosheath. 3. Magnetopause. 4. Magnetosphere. 5. Northern tail lobe. 6. Southern tail lobe. 7. Plasmasphere.

Photo credit: Magnetosphere_Levels.jpg: Dennis Gallagherderivative work: Frédéric MICHEL - Magnetosphere_Levels.jpg, Public Domain,

Wednesday, 22 May 2019


Fossilized Wood
Fossilized or petrified wood is amazing to behold in person. The original tree or branch is sometimes subjected to such a high degree of replacement that it is impossible to tell from the original at first glance. But fossilized it is.

All of the original cells are replaced one by one with minerals, often a silicate such as quartz, leaving the original cell structure intact. And while there is often amazing preservation of the big woody bits, the telltale leaves that help us identify that wood to species are often lost. If this is the case, we add our best guess at the genus and add xlon. So, Palmoxylon is the indeterminate wood of a palm, though we may never know which palm. If you have an interest in botany and fossils, you may want to consider making a career of it. The study of fossil wood is called palaeoxylology, with a palaeoxylologist being someone who studies fossil wood. Pretty cool, eh!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019


This lovely specimen is an armoured agnatha jawless bony fish, Victoraspis longicornualis, from Lower Devonian deposits of Podolia, Ukraine.

Victoraspis longicornualis was named by Anders Carlsson and Henning Bloom back in 2008. The new osteostracan genus and species were described based on material from Rakovets' present-day Ukraine. This new taxon shares characteristics with the two genera Stensiopelta (Denison, 1951) and Zychaspis (Javier, 1985).

The Agnatha is a superclass of vertebrates. He looks quite different from our modern Agnatha, who include lamprey and hagfish. Ironically, hagfish are vertebrates who do not have vertebrae. Sometime in their evolution they lost them as they adapted to their environment.

Ref: Carlsson, A. & Blom, H. Paläont. Z. (2008) 82: 314. ttps://

Sunday, 19 May 2019


North Cascades National Park / Rainforest Pool

Saturday, 18 May 2019


Elephant Shrew, Macroscelides proboscideus
This adorable little fellow is a Short-eared elephant shrew, Macroscelides proboscideus, one of 15 species of this order. They range in size from 9.5-12.5 cm.

These small, quadrupedal, insectivorous mammals strongly resemble rodents or opossums with their scaly tails, elongated snouts, and rather longish legs.

They live in the desert and temperate grasslands of southern Africa. The Elephant shrew is considered "Living Fossils" as their distinctive morphology has not changed all that much in the past 30 million years. They ought to have been named Elephant Bunny shrew. They move through the world like wee baby elephant-bunnies, snuffling on all fours and hopping about looking for tasty snacks. They have a preference for seeds, fruit, termites and berries. They know how to live well, taking a siesta each afternoon when the sun gets high in the sky.

Friday, 17 May 2019


The bivalve Panopea abrupta
This lovely large fossil bivalve is Panopea abrupta (Conrad) an extinct species of marine mollusc in the family Hiatellidae, subclass Heterodonta.

This specimen was collected from lower Miocene deposits in the Clallam Formation on the foreshore bordering the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington.

Clallam Bay is a sleepy little town on the northwestern edge of the Olympic Peninsula. It was founded back in the 1880s as a steamboat stop and later served as a Mill town. If you are planning to visit the fossil exposures, head to the edge of town where it meets the sea.

Once at the water's edge, head east along the shore until you can go no further. You'll find marine fossils in the sandstone on the shore and cliffs. Mind the tide as access to the fossil site is only possible at low or mid-tide. You'll have to swim for it if you time it poorly. Clallam Bay: 48°15′17″N 124°15′30″W

Thursday, 16 May 2019


Walliserops, Photo: Gianpaolo Di Silvestro
A beautiful detail of a Walliserops, a genus of spinose phacopid trilobite of the family Acastidae found in the Lower to Middle Devonian strata near Foum Zguid, Tata Province, Souss-Massa, southeastern Morocco.

Their wee horns or tridents suggest sexual dimorphism though this concept is still a hotbed of debate. Did they use them much as we used a traditional jousting lance back in the 14th Century? It is an interesting proposition. Kudos and photo credit to Gianpaolo Di Silvestro

Wednesday, 15 May 2019


Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a Cambrian Fuxinhuiid Arthropod
This fellow is Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a rather glorious fuxinhuiid arthropod. While he looks like he could be from the inside of the Lascaux Caves and their fire-kissed Palaeolithic paintings, albeit by a very ancient Picasso, he was found at a UNESCO World Heritage Cambrian fossil site in southern China.

As his name indicates, he is from a locality in the Yunnan region near Kunming. He is unusual in many ways, both because of the remarkable level of preservation and the position in which he was found.

This fellow was a bit of a tippy arthropod. His carapace had flipped over before fossilization, allowing researchers to examine this fuxianhuiid's head in great detail without a carapace in the way.

The study, published back in the February 27, 2013 issue of Nature, highlights the discovery of previously controversial limbs under the head. These limbs were used to shovel sediment into the mouth as the fuxianhuiid crawled across the seabed.

Using a feeding technique scientist's call 'detritus sweep-feeding', fuxianhuiids developed the limbs to push seafloor sediment into the mouth in order to filter it for organic matter – such as traces of decomposed seaweed – which constituted the creatures' food.

Fossils also revealed the oldest nervous system on record that is 'post-cephalic' – or beyond the head – consisting of only a single stark string in what was a very basic form of early life compared to today.

"Since biologists rely heavily on organization of head appendages to classify arthropod groups, such as insects and spiders, our study provides a crucial reference point for reconstructing the evolutionary history and relationships of the most diverse and abundant animals on Earth," said Javier Ortega-Hernández, from Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences.

Ortega-Hernández co-authored the paper with Nicholas Butterfield and colleagues from Yunnan University in Kunming, South China.

The Xiaoshiba 'biota' in the Chiungchussu Formation Maotianshan shales of China's Yunnan Province is similar to the world-famous Chengjiang biota and also produces spectacular arthropod fossils.

The recent publication on the Qingjiang biota found on the edge of the Yangze craton along the banks of China’s Danshui River are similar in age, competing with the world's most famous Cambrian fossil assemblage, the Burgess Shale.

The roughly 518-million-year-old site contains a dizzying abundance of beautifully preserved weird and wonderful life-forms, from jellyfish and comb jellies to arthropods and algae and is about 10 million years older than Burgess and if you're following Chinese lagerstätte, the site is just over a thousand miles from the Chengjiang site.

Photo credit: Yie Jang (Yunnan University)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019


Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur by Edouard Riou, 1863
During the early Triassic period, ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea. 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.

In the Late Cretaceous, ichthyosaurs were hard hit by the Cenomanian-Turonian anoxic event. As the deepest benthos layers of the seas became anoxic, poisoned by hydrogen sulphide, deep water marine life died off. This caused a cascade that wreaked havoc all the way up the food chain. At the end of that chain were our mighty predaceous marine reptiles.

Bounty turned to scarcity and a race for survival began. The ichthyosaurs lost that race as the last of their lineage became extinct. It may have been their conservative evolution as a genus when faced with a need for adaptation to the world in which they found themselves and/or being outcompeted by early mosasaurs.

Sunday, 12 May 2019


Titanites occidentalis / Fernie Ammonite
This impressive big beauty is Titanites occidentalis, Western Giant, the second known specimen of this extinct fossil species.

The first specimen was discovered in 1947 in nearby Coal Creek by a British Columbia Geophysical Society mapping team.

Titanities is an extinct ammonite within the family Dorsoplanitidae that lived during the upper Tithonian of the Late Jurassic, some 152 to 145 million years ago.

Saturday, 11 May 2019


Isograptus maximus / Photo: Gilberto Juárez Huarachi
This fellow is the graptolite, Isograptus cf. maximus, from the Piranha Formation, Middle Ordovician (Dapingian), Bolivia.

Graptolites (Graptolita) are colonial animals. The biological affinities of the graptolites have always been debatable. Originally regarded as being related to the hydrozoans, graptolites are now considered to be related to the pterobranchs, a rare group of modern marine animals. They are hemichordates, phylum Hemichordata, a primitive group that share a common ancestry with the vertebrates. Yes, you're looking at one of your oldest relatives!

In life, many graptolites appear to have been planktonic, drifting freely on the surface of ancient seas or attached to floating seaweed by means of a slender thread. Some forms of graptolite lived attached to the sea-floor by a root-like base. Graptolite fossils are often found in shales and slates. The deceased planktonic graptolites would sink down to and settle on the seafloor, eventually becoming entombed in the sediment and are thus well preserved.

Graptolite fossils are found flattened along the bedding plane of the rocks in which they occur. They vary in shape, but are most commonly dendritic or branching (such as Dictoyonema), saw-blade like, or "tuning fork" shaped (such as Didymograptus murchisoni).

This fellow is pure "Bat Sign" with his showy "wings" looking like something out of a DC Comic. He's also received a nod as the Panem symbol in Hunger Games and been described as having eagle or angel wings. No matter how you interpret his symbolism, there is no doubt that he is ONE spectacular specimen and currently in the collection of the deeply awesome Gilberto Juárez Huarachi of Tarija, Bolivia.

Friday, 10 May 2019


Ursus americanus / Baby Black Bear
Bear cubs are known for being playful and altogether too curious. They usually stick pretty close to Mamma but sometimes an intriguing opportunity for discovery will cross their paths and entice them to slip away for just a few minutes.

This wee one needed to get a better view of his surroundings and try out his climbing skills on this alder tree. He'll stay under the watchful eye of his mother for about two years before branching out on his own altogether. These cuties are omnivores, eating nuts, insects, plants, salmon, honey, small mammals and scavenged carrion.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


Ilymatogyra arietina / Oyster Slab
Ilymatogyra arietina, Oyster Slab, Lower Cretaceous, Washita Division, Del Rio Formation, Williamson County near Georgetown, Texas, USA.

The highly calcareous siltstones of the Del Rio Formation at Washita have huge blocks of Ilymatogyra packed so tightly one specimen overlaps with the next. If you're in the area, it is well worth a field trip.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019


Coahuilaceratops or "Coahuila Horn Face," is a relatively new genus of Ornithischia Ceratopsidae, a  herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur who lived during the Upper Cretaceous (late Campanian) near the town of Porvenir de Jalpa (about 64 km / 40 miles west of Saltillo) in what is now southern Coahuila (formerly Coahuila de Zaragoza), northern Mexico.

The Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range runs northwest to southwest forming a spine through the centre of the State. East of the range, the arid landscape slopes gently through the desert terrain down to the Rio Grande. It is home to wonderful common, rare and endangered cacti, beautiful (and one of my favourite) raptors, Aquila chrysaetos and the evolutionarily unlikely pronghorn, Antilocapra americana (if a monkey/owl/ antelope had a baby...)

The world was a much wetter warmer place when these big beauties roamed. Picture them ambling through lush vegetation and rearing young next to freshwater rivers, brackish swamps and salty ancient seas. Many of the dinosaur remains from the area bear the marks or remains of fossilized snails and clams. Perhaps predation vs a symbiotic relationship as proximity isn't always intimacy. Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna is known from holotype CPC 276, a partial skeleton of an adult along with bits and pieces of skull, a section of horn, pretty complete lower jaw, a smidge of the upper jaw and part of the frill.

Another specimen, CPS 277, has been touted as a possible juvenile Coahuilaceratops. All the specimens from Coahuilaceratops come from a single Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) locality of the Cerro del Pueblo Formation, northern Mexico.

This particular species of Coahuilaceratops was formally named C. magnacuerna by Mark A. Loewen, Scott D. Sampson, Eric K. Lund, Andrew A. Farke, Martha C. Aguillón-Martínez, C.A. de Leon, R.A. Rodríguez-de la Rosa, Michael A. Getty and David A. Eberth in 2010. Though the name was in circulation informally by those working in the study of ceratopsian dinosaurs as early as 2008.

Though challenged by examining and interpreting mere bits and pieces, the team posed estimates on the overall size of this new rather largish, 6.7 m / 22 ft, chasmosaurine. Coahuilaceratops' horns are also impressively large, estimated at 1.2 m / 4 feet. Rather long for a ceratopsian (consider that a Triceratops distinctive horn generally comes in under 115 cm / 45 inches and interesting in terms of evolutionary design. The holotypes are available for viewing at the Museo del Desierto in Saltillo, Coahuila. Photo credit: José F. Ventura

Monday, 6 May 2019

Saturday, 4 May 2019


This beautiful fellow is a Mobula Ray. They have graced our seas, undulating hypnotically for millions of years. We once thought these filter feeders were passive plankton eaters. That is mostly true but not always true. They do swim with their mouths open, taking in the wee micronutrients the ocean has on offer, but they also gather to hunt in the high seas.

I saw a wonderful expose, the Blue Planet, earlier this year with David Attenborough as narrator. The program showed some wonderful footage with great pods of dolphins, 10,000 members strong, pushing deep-sea Laternfish up from the depths to dine upon them. Once the dolphins and trailing Tuna had had their fill, rows of Mobulas swooped in with their mouths open to feast on these small mesopelagic fish. The water was a frenzy of fish scales and the aptly named 'Flying Mobulas.' They were an impressive sight, arriving in tight formation to best capitalize on a beautiful feast.

Friday, 3 May 2019


This beautiful specimen is Protoaster Haefneri, a new species of edrioasteroid, an extinct lower Cambrian genus of echinoderm from the Kinzers Formation of York County, Pennsylvania.

The specimen was found by and named after Chris Haefner, and is set to be "unveiled" this September at a conference in Moscow, Russia.

He is one of only two specimens of this new lower Cambrian genus of echinoderm found in the 520 million years shales of the Kinzers. The specimens were collected during field work in 2017 and 2018 and form the basis of the research to be published this Fall by Dr. Samuel Zamora of Spain.

Protoaster Haefneri was a mobile bulbous creature (about the size of a smaller onion) with feeding tendrils extended from the sides of his pentaradial body plan. All living echinoderms share a body plan with pentaradial symmetry, but interestingly they start out as larvae with bilateral symmetry, suggesting an evolutionary history of bilaterian ancestors evolving into pentaradiate forms. This specimen and one other went into collections at the Natural History Museum of London in December 2018, as NHMUK PI EE 16659 and 16660. It will be interesting to compare this specimen to echinoderms from the early Cambrian of Morocco and the body plans of two major echinoderm clades, the pelmatozoans and eleutherozoans and their divergence.

Along with this new edrioasteroid, other Cambrian fauna were discovered, including delicate soft-bodied creatures we think of from the middle Cambrian, 508 million year old, Burgess Shale and trilobites matching species from the lesser known and slightly older, lower Cambrian Eager Formation, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.

The locality is plentiful. Field work revealed two massive complete Anomalocarid (six and eight inches in length; one a new species); a new species of brown algae, over a hundred specimens of the cupcake-looking echinoderm, Camptostroma roddyi, upwards of four hundred Olenellus trilobites and forty complete Wannerias.

We'll definitely be seeing more photos and fauna from this productive 20-acre hilltop site. I'm rather hoping this flood of specimens will rekindle excitement into the naming of Wanneria, and perhaps someone taking up the mantle to continue the as yet unpublished work of Lisa Bohach.

Thursday, 2 May 2019


Templo de las Inscripciones Palenque

Wednesday, 1 May 2019


Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur Paddle
This beautifully preserved Ichthyosaur paddle with its incredible detail is from Early Jurassic (183 Million Years) deposits in the Ohmden, Posidonia Shale Formation, Baden-Württemberg, east of the Rhine, southwestern Germany.