|Carixian domerien, Upper Muschelkalk. Photo: Ange Mirabet|
Friday, 29 November 2019
The rock around it was blasted away with dynamite to reveal a “magnificent specimen” with a “perfect” skull. This skeleton, AMNH 5027, is on view in the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs. It's also reproduced in their new exhibition T. rex: The Ultimate Predator Exhibition should you find yourself lucky enough to be in New York.
Thursday, 28 November 2019
The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The museum is also a centre of research specializing in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin and other darlings of paleontology.
The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only. The museum is recognized as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.
Although commonly referred to as the Natural History Museum, it was officially known as British Museum (Natural History) until 1992, despite legal separation from the British Museum itself in 1963. Originating from collections within the British Museum, the landmark Alfred Waterhouse building was built and opened by 1881 and later incorporated the Geological Museum. The Darwin Centre is a more recent addition, partly designed as a modern facility for storing valuable collections.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum does not charge an admission fee. It did back in the day but was scrapped in 2001. The museum is an exempt charity and a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a patron of the museum. Today, there are approximately 850 staff at the museum. It remains my favourite of all the museums I've visited as it presents our scientific history on a grande scale.
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
|Prosaurolophus maximus, Ottawa Museum of Nature|
This crest grew isometrically (without changing in proportion) throughout the lifetime of the individual, leading to speculation that the species may have had a soft tissue display structure, such inflatable nasal sacs.
When originally described by Brown, Prosaurolophus maximus was known from a skull and jaw. Half of the skull was badly weathered at the time of examination, and the level of the parietal was distortedly crushed upwards to the side.
The different bones of the skull are easily defined with the exception of the parietals and nasal bones. Brown found that the skull of the already described genus Saurolophus is very similar overall but also smaller than the skull of P. maximus. The unique feature of a shortened frontal in lambeosaurines is also found in Prosaurolophus, and the other horned hadrosaurines Brachylophosaurus, Maiasaura, and Saurolophus. Although they lack a shorter frontal, the genera Edmontosaurus and Shantungosaurus share an elongated dentary structure.
Patches of preserved skin are known from two juvenile specimens, TMP 1998.50.1 and TMP 2016.37.1; these pertain to the ventral extremity of the ninth through fourteenth dorsal ribs, the caudal margin of the scapular blade, and the pelvic region. Small basement scales (scales which make up the majority of the skin surface), 3–7 millimetres (0.12–0.28 in) in diameter, are preserved on these patches - this is similar to the condition seen in other saurolophine hadrosaurs.
More uniquely, feature scales (larger, less numerous scales which are interspersed within the basement scales) around 5 millimetres (0.20 in) wide and 29 millimetres (1.1 in) long are found interspersed in the smaller scales in the patches from the ribs and scapula (they are absent from the pelvic patches). Similar scales are known from the tail of the related Saurolophus angustirostris (on which they have been speculated to indicate pattern), and it is considered likely adult Prosaurolophus would've retained the feature scales on their flanks like the juveniles.
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
His find resulted in the creation of a new family, Delgadocrinoinidae, a new genus and a new species.
Ausich et al. published on New and Revised Occurrences of Ordovician Crinoids from Southwestern Europe in the Journal of Paleontology, November 2007. In their work, they honour Delgado. His find was the first record of an Ordovician crinoid from Portugal, Delgadocrinus oportovinum, marking it as the oldest known crinoid from the Iberian Peninsula (Arenigian/Oretanian boundary, early Darriwilian).
The team took a comprehensive look at the Ordovician crinoids of southwestern Europe, including taxa based on articulated crowns and stems. This summary incorporates new material, new localities, and a revision of some southwestern Europe occurrences and is well worth a read. The Type Specimen you see here is now housed in the Natural History Museum of Lisbon. Luis Lima shared a photo of his recent visit to their beautiful collections and kindly granted permission to share the photo here.
Reference: Ausich, William & Sá, Artur & Gutiérrez-Marco, Juan. (2007). New and revised occurrences of Ordovician crinoids from southwestern Europe. Journal of Paleontology - J PALEONTOL. 81. 1374-1383. 10.1666/05-038.1.
Monday, 25 November 2019
Podolia or Podilia is a historic region in Eastern Europe, located in the west-central and south-western parts of Ukraine, in northeastern Moldova. Podolia is the only region in Ukraine where 420 million-year-old remains of ichthyofauna can be found near the surface, making them accessible to collection and study. Zenaspis is an extinct genus of jawless fish which thrived during the early Devonian. Being jawless, Zenaspis was probably a bottom feeder, snicking on debris from the seafloor similar to how flounder, groupers, bass and other bottom-feeding fish make a living.
For the past 150 years, vertebrate fossils have been found in more than 90 localities situated in outcrops along banks of the Dniester River and its northern tributaries, and in sandstone quarries. At present, the faunal list of Early Devonian agnathans and fishes from Podolia number seventy-two species, including 8 Thelodonti, 39 Heterostraci, 19 Osteostraci, 4 Placodermi, 1 Acanthodii, and 1 Holocephali (Voichyshyn 2001a).
In their lower part (Ustechko and Khmeleva members of the Dniester Series) they consist of lovely multicoloured, mainly red, fine-grained cross-bedded massive quartz sandstones and siltstones with seams of argillites (Drygant 2000).
We see fossils of Zenaspis in the early Devonian of Western Europe. Both Zenaspis pagei and Zenaspis poweri can be found up to 25 centimetres long in Devonian outcrops of Scotland.
Reference: Voichyshyn, V. 2006. New osteostracans from the Lower Devonian terrigenous deposits of Podolia, Ukraine. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 51 (1): 131–142. Photo care of the awesome Fossilero Fisherman.
Sunday, 24 November 2019
There are 887 moai on Rapa Nui, where they are revered, considered by islanders to be sacred. There is an excellent moai cast on exhibit at the American Natural History Museum in New York.
Saturday, 23 November 2019
|Carcharodon chubutensis. Photo: Luis Lima|
These big beasties lived during Oligocene to Miocene. This fellow is considered to be a close relative of the famous prehistoric mega-toothed shark, C. megalodon, although the classification of this species is still disputed.
Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz first identified this shark as a species of Carcharodon in 1843. In 1906, Ameghino renamed this shark as C. chubutensis. In 1964, shark researcher, L. S. Glikman recognized the transition of Otodus obliquus to C. auriculatus. In 1987, shark researcher, H. Cappetta reorganized the C. auriculatus - C. megalodon lineage and placed all related mega-toothed sharks along with this species in the genus Carcharocles.
At long last, the complete Otodus obliquus to C. megalodon progression began to look clear. Since then, C. chubutensis has been re-named into Otodus chubutensis, also the other chronospecies of the Otodus obliquus - O. megalodon lineage. Chubutensis appears at the frontier Upper Oligocene to Lowest Miocene (evolving from O. angustidens which has stronger side cusps) and turns into O. megalodon in the Lower to Middle Miocene, where the side cusps are already absent. Despite previous publications, there is no chubutensis in the Pliocene.
Victor Perez and his team published on the transition between Carcharocles chubutensis and Carcharocles megalodon (Otodontidae, Chondrichthyes): lateral cusplet loss through time in March of 2018. In their work, they look at the separation between all the teeth of Carcharocles chubutensis and Carcharocles megalodon and published that it is next to impossible to divide them up as a complex mosaic evolutionary continuum characterizes this transformation, particularly in the loss of lateral cusplets.
The cuspleted and uncuspleted teeth of Carcharocles spp. are designated as chronomorphs because there is wide overlap between them both morphologically and chronologically. In the lower Miocene Beds (Shattuck Zones) 2–9 of the Calvert Formation (representing approximately 3.2 million years, 20.2–17 Ma, Burdigalian) both cuspleted and uncuspleted teeth are present, but cuspleted teeth predominate, constituting approximately 87% of the Carcharocles spp. teeth represented in their samples.
In the middle Miocene Beds 10–16A of the Calvert Formation (representing approximately 2.4 million years, 16.4–14 Ma, Langhian), there is a steady increase in the proportion of uncuspleted Carcharocles teeth.
In the upper Miocene Beds 21–24 of the St. Marys Formation (approx. 2.8 million years, 10.4–7.6 Ma, Tortonian), lateral cusplets are nearly absent in Carcharocles teeth from our study area, with only a single specimen bearing lateral cusplets. The dental transition between Carcharocles chubutensis and Carcharocles megalodon occurs within the Miocene Chesapeake Group. Although their study helps to elucidate the timing of lateral cusplet loss in Carcharocles locally, the rationale for this prolonged evolutionary transition remains unclear.
The specimen you see here is in the Geological Museum in Lisbon. The photo credit goes to the deeply awesome Luis Lima who shared some wonderful photos of his recent visit to their collections.
If you'd like to read the paper from Perez, you can find it here:
Friday, 22 November 2019
Hoploscaphites nebrascensis is an upper Maastrichtian species and index fossil. It marks the top of ammonite zonation for the Western Interior. This species has been recorded from Fox Hills Formation in North and South Dakota as well as the Pierre Shale in southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.
It is unknown from Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado due to the deposition of coeval terrestrial units. It has possibly been recorded in glacial deposits in Saskatchewan and northern North Dakota, but that is hearsay. Outside the Western Interior, this species has been found in Maryland and possibly Texas in the Discoscaphites Conrad zone. This lovely one is in the collection of the deeply awesome (and enviable) José Juárez Ruiz. A big thank you to Joshua DrSlattmaster J Slattery for his insights on this species.
Wednesday, 20 November 2019
Though theropod dinosaurs carried this role during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods (and probably the post-Carnian portion of the Triassic), it is difficult to depict the Carnian scenario, due to the scarcity of fossils.
Until now, knowledge on the earliest predatory dinosaurs mostly relies on herrerasaurids recorded in the Carnian strata of South America. Phylogenetic investigations recovered the clade in different positions within Dinosauria, whereas fewer studies challenged its monophyly.
Although herrerasaurid fossils are much better recorded in present-day Argentina than in Brazil, Argentinean strata so far yielded no fairly complete skeleton representing a single individual.
Here, the authors describe Gnathovorax cabreirai, a new herrerasaurid based on an exquisite specimen found as part of a multi-taxic association form southern Brazil. The type specimen comprises a complete and well-preserved articulated skeleton, preserved in close association (side by side) with rhynchosaur and cynodont remains.
Given its superb state of preservation and completeness, the new specimen sheds light on poorly understood aspects of the herrerasaurid anatomy, including endocranial soft tissues.
The specimen also reinforces the monophyletic status of the group and provides clues on the ecomorphology of the early carnivorous dinosaurs. Indeed, an ecomorphological analysis employing dental traits indicates that herrerasaurids occupy a particular area in the morphospace of faunivorous dinosaurs, which partially overlaps the area occupied by post-Carnian theropods. This indicates that herrerasaurid dinosaurs preceded the ecological role that later would be occupied by large to medium-sized theropods. Link to the paper: https://peerj.com/articles/7963/
Tuesday, 19 November 2019
|Euhoplites Ammonite, Collection of José Juárez Ruiz|
In some, ribs seem to zigzag between umbilical tubercles and parallel ventrolateral clavi. In others, the ribs are flexious and curve forward from the umbilical shoulder and lap onto either side of the venter.
Its shell is covered in the lovely lumps and bumps we associate with the genus. The function of these adornments are unknown. I wonder if they gave them greater strength to go deeper into the ocean to hunt for food. They look to have been a source of hydrodynamic drag, likely preventing Euhoplites from swimming at speed. Studying them may give some insight into the lifestyle of this ancient marine predator. Euhoplites had shells ranging in size up to a 5-6cm. We find them in Lower Cretaceous, middle to upper Albian age strata. Euhoplites has been found in Middle and Upper Albian beds in France where it is associated respectively with Hoplites and Anahoplites, and Pleurohoplites, Puzosia, and Desmoceras; in the Middle Albian of Brazil with Anahoplites and Turrilites; and in the Cenomanian of Texas.
This species is the most common ammonite from the Folkstone Fossil Beds in southeastern England where a variety of species are found, including this 37mm beauty from the collections of José Juárez Ruiz.
Monday, 18 November 2019
Notable collections include the world's first described dinosaur, Megalosaurus bucklandii, and the world-famous Oxford Dodo, the only soft tissue remains of the extinct dodo. Although fossils from other areas have been assigned to the genus, the only certain remains of Megalosaurus come from Oxfordshire and date to the late Middle Jurassic. In 1824, Megalosaurus was the first genus of non-avian dinosaur to be validly named. The type species is Megalosaurus bucklandii, named in 1827.
In 1842, Megalosaurus was one of three genera on which Richard Owen based his Dinosauria. On Owen's direction, a model was made as one of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, which greatly increased the public interest for prehistoric reptiles. Subsequently, over fifty other species would be classified under the genus, originally because dinosaurs were not well known, but even during the 20th century after many dinosaurs had been discovered. Today it is understood these additional species were not directly related to M. bucklandii, which is the only true Megalosaurus species. Because a complete skeleton of it has never been found, much is still unclear about its build.
The Museum is as spectacular today as when it opened in 1860. As a striking example of Victorian neo-Gothic architecture, the building's style was strongly influenced by the ideas of 19th-century art critic John Ruskin. Ruskin believed that architecture should be shaped by the energies of the natural world, and thanks to his connections with a number of eminent Pre-Raphaelite artists, the Museum's design and decoration now stand as a prime example of the Pre-Raphaelite vision of science and art.
On 30 June 1860, the Museum hosted a clash of ideologies that has become known as the Great Debate. Even before the collections were fully installed, or the architectural decorations completed, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its 30th annual meeting to mark the opening of the building, then known as the University Museum. It was at this event that Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, a biologist from London, went head-to-head in a debate about one of the most controversial ideas of the 19th century – Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
Sunday, 17 November 2019
Another unusual feature in turtles is their limb girdles (pectoral and pelvic) have come to lie 'within' their rib cage, a feature that allows some turtles to pull its limbs inside the shell for protection. Sea turtles didn't develop this behaviour (or ability) and do not retract into their shells like other turtles.
Turtle shells are different from the armoured “shells” we see on dinosaurs like the ankylosaurs. Turtles are covered by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield. It is fundamentally different from the armour seen on our other vertebrate pals. Turtle armour is made of dermal bone and endochondral bones of the vertebrae and rib cage.
Armadillos have armour formed by plates of dermal bone covered in relatively small, overlapping epidermal scales called "scutes," composed of bone with a covering of horn. In crocodiles, their exoskeletons form their armour. It is made of protective dermal and epidermal components that begin as rete Malpighii: a single layer of short, cylindrical cells that lose their nuclei over time as they transform into a horny layer.
Depending on the species and age of the turtle, turtles eat all kinds of food including seagrass, seaweed, crabs, jellyfish, and shrimp,. That tasty diet shows up in the composition of their armour as they have oodles of great nutrients to work with. The lovely example you see here is from the Oxford Museum collections.
Saturday, 16 November 2019
The genus Douvilleiceras range from Middle to Late Cretaceous and can be found in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America. We have beautiful examples in the early to mid-Albian from the archipelago of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. Joseph F. Whiteaves was the first to recognize the genus from Haida Gwaii when he was looking over the early collections of James Richardson and George Dawson.
The beauty you see here is in the collection of the deeply awesome George Walter Ast.
Friday, 15 November 2019
When you scour the badlands of southern Alberta, most of the dinosaur material you'll find are from hadrosaurs. These lovely tree-less valleys make for excellent-searching grounds and have led us to know more about hadrosaur anatomy, evolution, and paleobiology than for most other dinosaurs. We have oodles of very tasty specimens and data to work with. We've got great skin impressions and scale patterns from at least ten species and interesting pathological specimens that provide valuable insights into hadrosaur behaviour.
Given the ideal collecting grounds, many of the papers on hadrosaurs focus on our Canadian finds. These herbivorous beauties are also found in Europe, South America, Mexico, Mongolia, China and Russian. Hadrosaurs had teeth arranged in stacks designed for grinding and crushing, similar to how you might picture a cow munching away on the grass in a field. These complex rows of "dental batteries" contained up to 300 individual teeth in each jaw ramus. But even with this great number, we rarely see them as individual specimens.
They didn't appear to shed them all that often. Older teeth that are normally shed in our general understanding of vertebrate dentition, were resorped, meaning that their wee osteoclasts broke down the tooth tissue and reabsorbed the yummy minerals and calcium.
As the deeply awesome Mike Boyd notes, "this is an especially lucky find as hadrosaurs did not normally shed so much as a tooth, except as the result of an accident when feeding or after death. Typically, these fascinating dinosaurs ground away their teeth... almost to nothing."
In hadrosaurs, the root of the tooth formed part of the grinding surface as opposed to a crown covering over the core of the tooth. And curiously, they developed this dental arrangement from their embryonic state, through to hatchling then full adult.
There's some great research being done by Aaron LeBlanc, Robert R. Reisz, David C. Evans and Alida M. Bailleul. They published in BMC Evolutionary Biology on work that looks at the histology of hadrosaurid teeth analyzing them through cross-sections. Jon Tennant did a nice summary of their research. I've included both a link to the original journal article and Jon Tennant's blog below.
LeBlanc et al. are one of the first teams to look at the development of the tissues making up hadrosaur teeth, analyzing the tissue and growth series (like rings of a tree) to see just how these complex tooth batteries formed.
They undertook the first comprehensive, tissue-level study of dental ontogeny in hadrosaurids using several intact maxillary and dentary batteries and compared them to sections of other archosaurs and mammals. They used these comparisons to pinpoint shifts in the ancestral reptilian pattern of tooth ontogeny that allowed hadrosaurids to form complex dental batteries.
LeBlanc et al. (2016) Ontogeny reveals function and evolution of the hadrosaurid dinosaur dental battery, BMC Evolutionary Biology. 16:152, DOI 10.1186/s12862-016-0721-1 (OA link)
To read more from Jon Tennant, visit: https://blogs.plos.org/paleocomm/2016/09/14/all-the-better-to-chew-you-with-my-dear/
Photo credit: Derrick Kersey. For more awesome fossil photos like this from Derrick, visit his page: https://www.facebook.com/prehistoricexpedition/
Thursday, 14 November 2019
Zenaspis is an extinct genus of jawless fish which existed during the early Devonian period. Due to it being jawless, Zenaspis was probably a bottom feeder.
The lovely 420 million-year-old plate you see here is from Podolia or Podilia, a historic region in Eastern Europe, located in the west-central and south-western parts of Ukraine, in northeastern Moldova. Podolia is the only region in Ukraine where Lower Devonian remains of ichthyofauna can be found near the surface.
For the past 150 years, vertebrate fossils have been found in more than 90 localities situated in outcrops along banks of the Dniester River and its northern tributaries, and in sandstone quarries. At present faunal list of Early Devonian agnathans and fishes from Podolia number 72 species, including 8 Thelodonti, 39 Heterostraci, 19 Osteostraci, 4 Placodermi, 1 Acanthodii, and 1 Holocephali (Voichyshyn 2001a, modified).
In Podolia, Lower Devonian redbeds strata (the Old Red Formation or Dniester Series) can be found up to 1800 m thick and range from Lochkovian to Eifelian in age (Narbutas 1984; Drygant 2000, 2003). In the lower part (Ustechko and Khmeleva members of the Dniester Series) they consist of multicoloured, mainly red, fine-grained cross-bedded massive quartz sandstones and siltstones with seams of argillites (Drygant 2000).
We see fossils beds of Zenaspis in the early Devonian of Western Europe. Both Zenaspis pagei and Zenaspis poweri can be found up to 25 centimetres long in Devonian outcrops of Scotland.
Reference: Voichyshyn, V. 2006. New osteostracans from the Lower Devonian terrigenous deposits of Podolia, Ukraine. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 51 (1): 131–142. Photo care of Fossilero Fisherman.
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
There are two main groups of Hadrosaurs, crested and non-crested. The bony crest on the top of the head of the hadrosaurs was hollow and attached to the nasal passages. It is thought that the hollow crest was used to make different sounds. These sounds may have signalled distress or been the mating calls used to attract mates. Given their size it would have made for quite the trumpeting sound.
This beautiful specimen graces the back galleries of the Courtenay and District Museum on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. I was very fortunate to have a tour this past summer with the deeply awesome Mike Trask joined by the lovely Lori Vesper. The museum houses an extensive collection of palaeontological and archaeological material found on Vancouver Island, many of which have been donated by the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society.
Dan Bowen, Chair of the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society, shared a photo of the first partly articulated dinosaur from Vancouver Island ever found. The research efforts of the VIPS run deep in British Columbia and this new very significant find is no exception. A Hadrosauroid dinosaur is a rare occurrence and further evidence of the terrestrial influence in the Upper Cretaceous, Nanaimo Group, Vancouver Island.
This fossil bone material was found years ago by Mike Trask of the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society. You may recall that he was the same fellow who found the Courtenay elasmosaur. The bone was initially thought to be a plesiosaur but turned out to be a hadrosauroid. The find was confirmed by hadrosaur authority Dr. David Evans, senior curator of the Royal Ontario Museum.
You can see the articulated Hadrodauriod fossil bone Mike found now prepped fully prepped.
This fellow has kissing cousins over in the state of New Jersey where this species is the official state fossil. The first of his kind was found by John Estaugh Hopkins in New Jersey back in 1838.
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
They are tasty, edible marine bivalves, molluscs, in the family Mytilidae and they've done well for themselves. Mussels have a range of over 4000 km in waters around the world.
Temperature, salinity and food supply are key factors in how mussels grow and have a huge impact on their shape. Environmental stressors cause curvatures to show up in mussel populations and can help us understand environmental changes happening in our local waters.
Monday, 11 November 2019
You can see the nice ceratitic suture pattern on this specimen with his smooth lobes and frilly saddles. The sutures would have increased the strength of the shell and allowed Ceratites (de Haan, 1825) to dive deeper, bearing the additional pressure of the sea in search of food.
Ammonite shells are made up predominantly of calcium carbonate in the form of aragonite and proteinaceous organic matrix or conchiolin arranged in layers: a thin outer prismatic layer, a nacreous layer and an inner lining of prismatic habitat. While their outer shells are generally aragonite, aptychus are distinct as they are composed of calcite.
The aptychus we see here, hard anatomical structures or curved shelly plates now understood to be part of the body of an ammonite, are often referred to as beaks. If you look closely at this specimen, you can see the beak of the ammonite, that wee pointed piece, near the centre.
These ammonites lived in open shallow, to subtidal and basinal environments some 247 to 221 million years ago. We've found them, thus far, in just over forty collections from nearly ninety fossil deposits around the globe. Fossils of species have been found in the Triassic of Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.
The parent taxon is Ceratitinae according to E. T. Tozer 1981. That's our own Tim Tozer, one of the great knights-errant of the Triassic timescale. It was Tim Tozer and Norm Silberling who published the classic milestones of the Triassic timescale, "Biostratigraphic Classification of the Marine Triassic in North America, Geological Society of America, Special Paper 110." The Global Triassic: Bulletin 41 from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science by Lucas and Spielmann honours them in their work. Collection of Ange Mirabet, Strasbourg, France.
Sunday, 10 November 2019
These Atlantic Puffins are one of the most famous of all the seabirds and form the largest colony in Southern Britain. They live about 25 years making a living in our cold seas dining on herring, hake and sand eels. Some have been known to live to almost 40 years of age. They are good little swimmers as you might expect, but surprisingly they are great flyers, too! They are hindered by short wings, which makes flight challenging but still possible with effort. Once they get some speed on board, they can fly up to 88 km an hour.
Their sexy orange beaks (dead sexy, right?) shift from a dull grey to bright orange when it is time to attract a mate. While not strictly monogamous, most Puffins choose the same mate year upon year producing adorable chicks or pufflings (awe) from their mating efforts. Female Puffins produce one single white egg which the parents take turns to incubate over a course of about six weeks. Their dutiful parents share the honour of feeding the wee pufflings five to eight times a day until the chick is ready to fly. Towards the end of July, the fledgling Puffins begin to venture from the safety of their parents and dry land. Once they take to the seas, mom and dad are released from duty and the newest members of the colony are left to hunt and survive on their own.
Saturday, 9 November 2019
The carapace is deeply grooved with conspicuous wart-like tubercles; anterolateral margin, between the base of the exorbital tooth and cervical groove, smooth, without tubercles or denticles.
The teeth on the lower orbital margin in the cluster. Carpus of cheliped distinctly granulated on the upper surface and with a conspicuous row of granules along the anterior margin. Though missing here, the merus of second and third pereiopods are almost cylindrical. (Türkay 1995). This specimen was collected and is the collection of the deeply awesome Takashi Ito of Japan
Friday, 8 November 2019
The Geology of Yorkshire in northern England shows a very close relationship between the major topographical areas and the geological period in which their rocks were formed. The rocks of the Pennine chain of hills in the west are of Carboniferous origin whilst those of the central vale are Permo-Triassic.
The North York Moors in the north-east of the county are Jurassic in age while the Yorkshire Wolds to the southeast are Cretaceous chalk uplands. The plain of Holderness and the Humberhead levels both owe their present form to the Quaternary ice ages. The strata become gradually younger from west to east. Much of Yorkshire presents heavily glaciated scenery as few places escaped the direct or indirect impact of the great ice sheets as they first advanced and then retreated during the last ice age. This beauty is in the collection of the deeply awesome Harry Tabiner.
Thursday, 7 November 2019
So which lucky ducks evolved one? Well, ducks for one. Warm-blooded birds and mammals cheerfully claim those bragging rights. They're joined by our cold-blooded, ectothermic friends, the fish, amphibians and reptiles. All these diverse lovelies share this characteristic.
And whether they now live at sea or on land, all of these lineages evolved from a marine organism somewhere down the line, then went on to develop a notochord and spinal column. Notochords are flexible rods that run down the length of chordates and vertebrates. They are handy adaptations for muscle attachment, helping with signalling and coordinating the development of the embryonic stage. The cells from the notochord play a key role in the development of the central nervous system and the formation of motor neurons and sensory cells. Alas, we often take our evolution for granted.
Let's take a moment to appreciate just how marvellous this evolutionary gift is and what it allows us to do. Your backbone gives your body structure, holds up that heavy skull of yours and connects your tasty brain to your body and organs. Eating, walking, fishing, hunting, your morning yoga class, are all made possible because of this adaptation. Pick pretty near anything you love to do and it is only possible because of your blessed spine.
And it sets us apart from our invertebrate friends.
While seventy thousand may seem like a large number, it represents less than three to five percent of all described animal species. The rest is made up of the whopping 97%'ers, our dear invertebrates who include the arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and myriapods), mollusks (our dear chitons, snails, bivalves, squid, and octopus), annelids (the often misunderstood earthworms and leeches), and cnidarians (our beautiful hydras, jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals).
You'll notice that many of our invertebrate friends occur as tasty snacks. Having a backbone provides a supreme advantage to your placement in the food chain. Not always, as you may include fish and game on your menu. But generally, having a backbone means you're more likely to be holding the menu versus being listed as an appetizer. So, enjoy your morning 'downward dog' and thank your backbone for the magical gift it is.
Wednesday, 6 November 2019
I had the very great honour of having this fellow, a new species of nektonic carnivorous ammonite, named after me by paleontologist Louse Longridge from the University of British Columbia. I'd met Louise as an undergrad and was pleased as punch to hear that she would be continuing the research by Dr. Howard Tipper.
We did several expeditions over three field seasons to the Taseko Lake area of the Rockies. We were joined by many wonderful researchers from Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society and Vancouver Paleontological Society, as well as the University of British Columbia.
The fossils found here are from the Lower Jurassic, Lower Sinemurian, Little Paradise Member of the Last Creek formation. Several ammonites species can be found here including Arnioceras semicostatum and Arnioceras miserable.
Both Dan Bowen, VIPS and John Fam, VanPS, were instrumental in planning those fossil field trips. The VIPS has been especially active in planning and executing excellent research expeditions that have brought many new fossil species to light. These trips were no exception. They were to yield many new species and help mint out a new Ph.D. We endured elevation sickness, rain, snow, grizzly bears and very chilly nights (we were sleeping next to a glacier at one point) but were rewarded by the enthusiastic crew, helicopter rides (which really cuts down the hiking time) excellent specimens and stunningly beautiful country. We were also blessed with excellent access as the area is closed to collecting except via permit.
Building on the work of Dr. Howard Tipper and Dr. Louise Longridge, along with Taylor et al from 2001, Pengfei Hou did a Master's thesis through UBC in 2014 on Sinemurian (Early Jurassic) stratigraphy at Last Creek, British Columbia and Five Card Draw, Nevada, looking at the paleontological and environmental implications of the assemblages.
As part of that work, he collected over 400 ammonite specimens from the Last Creek Formation in Last Creek, British Columbia and the Sunrise Formation in Five Card Draw, Nevada. The research led to three new species: Tipperoceras n. sp. A, Tmaegoceras obesus n. sp., Arnioceras n. sp.
Reference: PaleoDB 157367 M. Clapham GSC C-208992, Section A 09, Castle Pass Angulata - Jurassic 1 - Canada, Longridge et al. (2008)
Full reference: L. M. Longridge, P. L. Smith, and H. W. Tipper. 2008. Late Hettangian (Early Jurassic) ammonites from Taseko Lakes, British Columbia, Canada. Palaeontology 51:367-404
PaleoDB taxon number: 297415; Cephalopoda - Ammonoidea - Juraphyllitidae; Fergusonites hendersonae Longridge et al. 2008 (ammonite); Average measurements (in mm): shell width 9.88, shell diameter 28.2; Age range: 201.6 to 196.5 Ma. Locality info: British Columbia, Canada (51.1° N, 123.0° W: paleo coordinates 22.1° N, 66.1° W)
Tuesday, 5 November 2019
|Wee Eocene Snout Weevil / Photo: Jim Barkley|
This fellow is from the collection of the deeply awesome Jim Barkley. He gets credit for the lovely photography, too, which shows the exquisite detail on this specimen.
Fossil weevil specimens can be found in the Eocene Green River Formation that outcrops in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. The Formation is famous for its diverse faunal and floral assemblage of fossils and its fish in particular.
The site boasts beautifully preserved fossil stromatolites, plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. Specimens include reptiles, a broad selection of mammals and, surprise, even primates!
Weevils are herbivorous beetles. They're what your Mamma would call, "good little eaters." And there are plenty of them. The Curculionidae is the family of the "true" weevils and is one of the largest animal families. We likely still haven't met them all. A family reunion would include 6,800 genera and 83,000 species at last count. But don't place your final catering order just yet. If we include all the closely related weevil-type beetles in the superfamily Curculionoidea, we'd have to include an additional ten families. Quadruple that catering menu.
Weevils look like little tiny anteaters with a long 'snout' or rostrum, at the front of their head. Some of the members of this family have rather poor reputations as they make a living by damaging plants of interest to us humans.
Topping the hugely unpopular list is the boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis, a native of Mexico (until it's US invasion in 1892) and famous destroyer of cotton crops.
The Ips genus, feeding on Ponderosa pine, introduces a fungus to the tree. The fungus blocks resin canals, which leaves the weevil free to eat. Resin would normally wash the insects out; it is a defence mechanism. The fungus often kills the tree, and groups of dead trees are a focus for forest fires. In this way the insect is indirectly responsible for serious fires. The maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais, is a major pest. It attacks both standing crops and stored cereal products, including wheat, rice, sorghum, oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, peas, and cottonseed.
Monday, 4 November 2019
There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera. They share distant ancestry with the family Soricidae (shrews) and the gymnures.
Hedgehogs are considered "Living Fossils" as they have changed very little over the past 15 million years. These small mammals are loners with their own kind but live in close proximity to our human population. They dwell in inhabited areas, farmland, deciduous forests and desert. You'll know them by their distinctive spiny look (which may remind you of very tasty chocolates from Purdy's in Canada) and their adorable piglike snorts and grunts as they make their way through the underbrush looking for tasty snacks.
Look for them in the evening in hedgerows and undergrowth as they hunt for frogs, toads, snails, bird eggs, grassroots, berries, insects, worms and snakes. They fatten themselves up in preparation for hibernation. They'll find a nice burrow or built a nest in leaves or compost heaps. In Europe, they generally hibernate by October or November and become active again in March to mid-April once temperatures reach over 15 degrees.
Sunday, 3 November 2019
Gasteroclupea is a genus of prehistoric clupeiform fish related to modern anchovies and herrings.
Clupeiformes are physostomes, which means that the gas bladder has a pneumatic duct connecting it to the gut. This handy little evolutionary feature lets them fill or empty the gas bladder via their mouth. They typically lack lateral lines but have nicely defined eyes, fins and scales. They are generally silvery fish with streamlined, spindle-shaped, bodies, and often found in schools. Most species eat plankton which they filter from the water with their gills.
Gasteroclupea date back to the Maastrichtian of the Late Cretaceous. We find fossils of the genus in the Yacoraite Formation of Argentina and in the El Molino Formation of Bolivia, as you see here. Photo credit: Gilberto Juárez Huarachi.
Saturday, 2 November 2019
We associate them with tweet shorn English aristocrats jauntily going about the hunt on horseback. Pheasants build their nests on the ground and can fly for short distances. They spend their days searching around field and stream looking for tasty insects, seeds and grain.
Friday, 1 November 2019
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).
Agnatha is a superclass of vertebrates. This fellow looks quite different from our modern Agnatha, which includes lamprey and hagfish. Ironically, hagfish are vertebrates that do not have vertebrae. Sometime in their evolution, they lost them as they adapted to their environment. Photo: Fossilero Fisherman