Friday, October 31, 2014

Died This Day: Johann Friedrich Meckel

Shark Family Tree © Ray Troll 

Meckel (Oct 17, 1781 - Oct 31, 1833) was a German anatomist who first described the embryonic cartilage (now called Meckel's cartilage) that ossifies to form part of the lower jaw in fishes, amphibians, and birds. He also described a pouch (Meckel's diverticulum) of the small intestine.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dinosaur Color Vision Lead To the Evolution of Feathers

Beyond the Rainbow. 2014. Koschowitz, et al. Science

Acheroraptor by Julius Csotonyi

Phylogentic evidience suggests that dinosaurs had good color vision, including the ability to see UV light. A new study suggests that the evolution of flat, flight-like feathers evolved to exploit the refracting ability of interlocked strands of keratin to produce structural colors, such as blue & green. This enhanced color palate would have given dinosaurs better communication and signaling abilities which is important for mating, foraging, and avoiding predators. PR

Zaraapelta, new ankylosaurid from Mongolia

The ankylosaurid dinosaurs of the Upper Cretaceous Baruungoyot and Nemegt formations of Mongolia. 2014. Arbour, V., et al.

Zaraapelta nomadis from the Baruungoyot Formation of Mongolia, by Danielle DuFault

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Born This Day: Othniel Charles Marsh

In 1866, the Peabody Museum of Natural History was founded with a gift from George Peabody. The same year his nephew, O.C. Marsh (Oct. 29, 1831 - Mar. 18, 1899), was also named its Professor of Paleontology, the first such appointment in the United States. In 1869 Marsh used the inheritance from his uncle to start to amass large collections of vertebrate fossils. He went on to long and successful career as a vertebrate paleontologist, most of which was spent feuding with is rival, E.D.Cope.

Marsh and Cope started their careers on a cordial basis, but the relationship soon soured over an incident involving Cope's fossil of Elasmosaurus. Embarrassingly, Marsh pointed out that its backbones were mounted backwards. To settle the argument the men agreed to let Joseph Leidy decide who was right. Leidy promptly removed the head from one end and placed it on what Cope had thought was the tail. Cope than frantically tried to collect all of the copies of a recently printed publication that contained his erroneous reconstruction. From Today In Science History:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Premiered This Day (1970): Trog!

"A sympathetic anthropologist (Joan Crawford!) uses drugs and surgery to try to communicate with a primitive troglodyte found living in a local cave."
Directed in 1970 by Hammer Films veteran, Freddie Francis, this was Crawford's last film. Notable for lifting the dinosaur scenes done by Willis H. O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen for the Irwin Allen-produced film The Animal World.

"After seeing this film, Joan Crawford supposedly joked that if it hadn't been for her end-of-life conversion to Christian Science, she might have committed suicide due to her embarrassment at having been in it." link

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deinocheirus Decoded

Resolving the long-standing enigmas of a giant ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus mirificus. 2014. Lee, Y.-N., et al. Science.

a, MPC-D 100/127. b, MPC-D 100/128. c, Composite reconstruction of MPC-D 100/127 with a simple proportional enlargement of MPC-D 100/128.
Abstract: The holotype of Deinocheirus mirificus was collected by the 1965 Polish–Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition at Altan Uul III in the southern Gobi of Mongolia. Because the holotype consists mostly of giant forelimbs (2.4 m in length) with scapulocoracoids, for almost 50 years Deinocheirus has remained one of the most mysterious dinosaurs. The mosaic of ornithomimosaur and non-ornithomimosaur characters in the holotype has made it difficult to resolve the phylogenetic status of Deinocheirus.

Here we describe two new specimens of Deinocheirus that were discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Altan Uul IV in 2006 and Bugiin Tsav in 2009. The Bugiin Tsav specimen (MPC-D 100/127) includes a left forelimb clearly identifiable as Deinocheirus and is 6% longer than the holotype. The Altan Uul IV specimen (MPC-D 100/128) is approximately 74% the size of MPC-D 100/127.

Cladistic analysis indicates that Deinocheirus is the largest member of the Ornithomimosauria; however, it has many unique skeletal features unknown in other ornithomimosaurs, indicating that Deinocheirus was a heavily built, non-cursorial animal with an elongate snout, a deep jaw, tall neural spines, a pygostyle, a U-shaped furcula, an expanded pelvis for strong muscle attachments, a relatively short hind limb and broad-tipped pedal unguals.

Ecomorphological features in the skull, more than a thousand gastroliths, and stomach contents (fish remains) suggest that Deinocheirus was a megaomnivore that lived in mesic environments.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Died This Day: Sir Roderick Impey Murchison

Murchison (Feb. 19, 1792 - Oct. 22, 1871) was a Scottish geologist who first differentiated the Silurian strata in the geologic sequence of Early Paleozoic strata (408-540 million years old). He believed in fossils as primary criteria. In 1831, he began researching the previously geologically unknown graywacke rocks of the Lower Paleozoic, found underlying the Old Red Sandstone in parts of Wales, which culminated in his major work the Silurian System (1839).


An eurypterid, a prehistoric sea scorpion from PBS.org.
Murchison named the Silurian after an ancient British tribe that inhabited South Wales. He established the Devonian working with Adam Sedgwick (1839). He named the Permian (1841) after the Perm province in Russia where he made a geological survey in 1840-45. link

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bob Bakker: Kung Fu Stegosaurs

Stegosaurian Martial Arts: A Jurassic Carnivore Stabbed by a Tail Spike, Evidence for Dynamic Interactions between a Live Herbivore and a Live Predator. Robert Bakker, et al. GSA, 2014


Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The evidence is a fatal stab wound in the pubis bone of a predatory allosaur. The wound – in the conical shape of a stegosaur tail spike – would have required great dexterity to inflict and shows clear signs of having cut short the allosaur's life.

“A massive infection ate away a baseball-sized sector of the bone,” reports Houston Museum of Natural Science paleontologist Robert Bakker and his colleagues, who present a poster on the discovery on Tuesday at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Vancouver, B.C.

The fighting style and skill of stegosaurs should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the dinosaur battle scene in <a href=http://palaeoblog.blogspot.ca/2012/11/fantasia-premieres-1940.html>the 1940 Disney animated film Fantasia</a>, said Bakker. That segment of the movie shows a beefed up allosaur attacking a stegosaur. The stegosaur delivers a number of well aimed tail blows at the predator, but loses the fight. The Fantasia stegosaur tail dexterity appears to be accurate, he said.

Died This Day: John Scopes


Scopes (Oct. 21, 1970 - Aug. 4, 1900) was an American teacher and geologist who was the defendent in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. The trial was to challenge the constitutionality of the Butler Act, a Tennesee law signed on March 21, 1925 to prohibit the teaching of evolution in the state's schools.

He took a job at Tennessee high-school in Spring 1924, teaching algebra, chemistry and physics for one year. Then, although he wasn't sure he had actually done any teaching of evolution, at the urging of businessmen wanting publicity for Dayton, Tennessee, he agreed to stand trial in a test case funded by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although the trial jury voted guilty, on appeal, the verdict was thrown out on a technicality. After the trial Scopes earned a master's degree in geology, and went to work for the Gulf Oil Co., and later United Gas Corp. From here