Thursday, March 31, 2005

Upcoming Talks At CMNH

April 6, 2005:

Andrew Gillis, an M.Sc. student from the University of Bristol will be giving an informal 'Brown Bag Lunch' talk in Classroom 'C' at noon. Andrew's talk will be:

The Evolution of Tooth Enameloid Microstructure Across Shark Phylogeny, or, How To Prevent Chipped Teeth!

April 7th, 2005:

The Northern Ohio Geological Society (NOGS) will be having their April meeting next Thursday, April 7th at 8:00 PM in the Rare Book Room of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The speaker will be Dr. Darin Croft, whose talk is entitled:

"Chilean fossil mammals from localities most people wouldn't bother to look at"



Dr. Croft is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy at Case Western Reserve University, and a Research Associate with both the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and The Field Museum.

Prior to the talk there will be an informal dinner at Mi Pueblo Restaurant (11611 Euclid Ave.). If you are interested in coming to dinner, call Matt Hammer at 330-405-5173 or e-mail him at MATTHEW.J.HAMMER@saic.com before April 4th.

If you're just interested in attending the lecture, just tell the front desk you are going to the NOGS meeting when you enter the museum. There is another event that night, so parking around the museum may be tight.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is located at 1 Wade Oval Drive, University Circle. The Musuem is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Wednesday 10am-10pm, and Sunday noon to 5pm. Call 216-231-4600 ot visit www.cmnh.org for more information.

Earth’s Tilt Controls Glaciation Cycles

From LAST weeks Nature:

Obliquity pacing of the late Pleistocene glacial terminations. PETER HUYBERS AND CARL WUNSCH. Nature 434: 491-494.

From the Press Release from the Woods Hole Oceanographic institution:

A new study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported in the March 24 issue of Nature finds that the Earth’s 100,000 year glacial cycles are paced by variations in the tilt of Earth's axis, and that glaciations end when Earth's tilt is large.
Peter Huybers, a postdoctoral fellow in the WHOI Geology and Geophysics Department, and coauthor Carl Wunsch of MIT developed a simple model to look at the effects of changes in Earth's tilt, which determines climate belts around the planet and the seasons of the year. They also focused on rapid deglaciation events known as terminations, easily identified in climate records by their magnitude and abruptness. They first estimated the timing of glacial cycles using the rate at which sediment accumulates on the ocean floor as an indicator of time. The age estimates were then used to compare the timing of the glacial cycles with the timing of changes in Earth's orbit, known from the laws of motion and observations of the galaxy.

"Many studies have suggested a link between orbital variations and the approximately 100,000-year glacial cycles which occurred during the late Pleistocene, about 1 million to 10,000 years ago, but this is the first rigorous test of whether the glacial cycles are, in fact, paced by orbital variations," Huybers said. "We found that glaciations end near times when the Earth's tilt, or obliquity, is large. This narrows the number of possible explanations for the glacial cycles to those which can account for the tilt pacing of glacial cycles."

One major question is how can a 40,000-year tilt cycle produce 100,000-year glacial cycles? Huybers and Wunsch suggest that during the late Pleistocene glaciation did not end every time the tilt was large, but rather that glaciers grew over two (80,000 years) or three (120,000 years) obliquity cycles before ending. The average glacial duration then gives the 100,000-year time scale.

A possible explanation for why deglaciations do not occur every 40,000 years is that ice sheets must become large enough before they are sensitive to changes in Earth's tilt. Huybers and Wunsch developed a simple mathematical model to express this idea of changing sensitivity and showed that it gives the right timing for the glacial cycles.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

King Kong --The TV Series 1966-67

TVShwsOnDVD.com has announced that the old King Kong cartoon TV series will be released November 14th in a 4 disc set (as well as individual discs) for $39.95 from Sony Music:

Don't know much about the original show? Well, it was a series of 52, 8-minute cartoons from Rankin-Bass where the big ape was trying to avoid being captured by the evil scientist "Dr. Who", and the Bond family were trying to keep their giant gorilla friend safe. Kong's best friend among the Bonds was young Billy, voiced by Billie Mae Richards, "Rudolph" of Rankin-Bass' now classic Christmas special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

Each episode of "The King Kong Show" featured two adventures of Kong, and one episode of "Tom Of T.H.U.M.B." featuring a miniaturized secret agent, Tom, and his Asian sidekick, Swinging Jack. As part of the licensing deal to make this animated series, Rankin/Bass had to promise to make a new live action feature which they did in 1968 ("King Kong Escapes") in conjunction with Toho Productions, the makers of Godzilla.

The Paleoblogger doesn't remember ever seeing this show, but it he did receive a copy of the game (below) from "Sturdy" Steve Bissette, purchased from a cool little shop on the outskirts of Pittsburg during the SVP conference held there in the mid-90's.



Listen to the theme song from the show from www.toontracker.com by clicking HERE.

(NOTE: your computer must have a sound card to hear this.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Carnegie Dinos Get Facelift

From Phillyburbs.com:

Starting Tuesday and for the next three years, visitors will be able to watch as five fossilized skeletons are taken apart and put back together as part of a $35 million renovation of the Pittsburgh museum's almost century-old Dinosaur Hall. The Dinosaur Hall now is home to 15 skeletons of dinosaurs, including some by which all other skeletons are judged - the Diplodocus (found in 1899 and now the museum's mascot, nicknamed "Dippy"), the Apatosaurus louisae (formerly known as the Brontosaurus and named for Carnegie's wife when it was found in 1909) and the Tyrannosaurus rex (the first one found in 1902 and bought from the American Museum of Natural History in 1941).

Those three dinosaurs as well as the Allosaurus and the Protoceratops will be reassembled in more dramatic and scientifically accurate poses. Over the next nine months, Phil Fraley and his team from Hoboken, N.J., will take apart the dinosaurs piece by piece and box them up in specially made crates filled with foam. They'll be trucked to New Jersey where they will be repaired and restored so they will last another 100 years.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Canadian Museum of Nature

As I mentioned in a previous post I was recently back in Ottawa at the Canadian Museum of Nature where I'm a Research Associate to do some work. Below are a few pictures from this (and a previous) trip.



Front doors of the CMN. The museum is a Canadian Heritage Building and was previously known as the Victoria Museum. The fossil collections and offices of the scientists are not housed here, but rather are located across the river in Alymer, Quebec, about 20 km away. If you rotated 180 degrees from where this photo was taken you'd be facing north and would be looking at the Parliment Buildings of Canada's Capital. The dinosaur gallery of the CMN is currently closed for major renovations.



In 2001 I had the pleasure of co-describing this new species of Chasmosaurus invinensis. The species name comes from the small community of Irvine, Alberta, where the dinosaur was discovered by Wann Langston, Jr., in the late 1950's. This model is now on display outside of the museum.

A new species of Chasmosaurus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsia) from the Dinosaur Park Formation of southern Alberta. Robert B. Holmes, Catherine Forster, Michael Ryan, and Kieran M. Shepherd
Can. J. Earth Sci./Rev. Can. Sci. Terre 38(10): 1423-1438 (2001)



This little Lego Chasmosaurus was built as part of the activities that lead up to the unveiling of the new dinosaur in 2001.

New Paleo Books: Feathered Dragons

The latest volume of Geological Journal(142) reviews two new recommended books:



Feathered Dragons: Studies on the Transition from Dinosaurs to Birds
by CURRIE, P. J., KOPPELHUS, E. B., SHUGAR, M. A. & WRIGHT, J. L. (eds) 2004. xiii+361 pp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Price US $49.95 (hard covers). ISBN 0 253 34373 9

Download the PDF review HERE

Evolution and Palaeobiology of Pterosaurs
by BUFFETAUT, E. & MAZIN, J.-M. (eds) 2003. Geological Society Special Publication no. 217. v+347 pp. London, Bath: Geological Society of London. Price £85.00, US $142.00; members' price £42.50, US $71.00; AAPG members' price £51.00, US $85.00; hard covers. ISBN 1 86239 143 2

Download the PDF review HERE

NOTE: You'll need Adobe Acrobat to read the PDFs.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Trix Are For Kids

Happy Easter from the Palaeoblog!



No chocolate eggs under your bed this morning? Well, treat yourself by visiting the official site of The Flaming Lips and listening to their latest recording, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots", in its entirety by clicking HERE.

Still missing the Easter Bunny? Watch their video for "Do You Realize" to see giant dancing rabbits.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Oldest Fossil Bird Found in China?

From the PEOPLE’S DAILY ONLINE (English edition):

A Chinese researcher said his team has discovered the fossil of the world's earliest bird from the late Mesozoic stratum in Fengning Man Autonomous County of north China's Hebei Province. Ji Qiang, a research fellow with the Geology Institute under the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said that the fossilized Jinfengopteryx elegans is more primitive than Archaeopteryx (below), previously considered the world's earliest bird, which was discovered in southern Germany in 1861.

Ji and his colleagues have been studying the 54.8-centimeter-long fossil of Jinfengopteryx elegans since its was discovered in Fengning county, about 120 kilometers north of Beijing, in July last year. Ji said, they found feathers attached to the whole body of the bird, which has a triangular-shaped head and 36 smooth teeth inside the short beak. The fossil consists of 12 sections of cervical vertebrae, 11 sections of spine vertebrae and 23 sections of caudal vertebrae. The bird's tail is 27.3 centimeters long, or about 50 percent of its total length.

Ji said Wednesday that several factors have lead to their conclusion. The Jinfengopteryx elegans' hind legs are longer than its forelimbs while the German bird has hind legs and forelimbs of almost the same length. Also, their bird has more and taller teeth than Archaeopteryx. Based on their research of 205 characteristics of Jinfengopteryx elegans, Ji and his colleagues concluded that the Chinese bird and Archaeopteryx belong to phylogenetically close species.

Origin of Chicxulub Impact Fireball Minerals Determined

Spinel-bearing spherules condensed from the Chicxulub impact-vapor plume. Denton S. Ebel and Lawrence Grossman. 2005. Geology 33: 293–296

Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago have explained how a globe-encircling residue formed in the aftermath of the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs. The study draws the most detailed picture yet of the complicated chemistry of the fireball produced in the impact.



The residue consists of sand-sized droplets of hot liquid that condensed from the vapor cloud produced by an impacting asteroid 65 million years ago. Analyses conducted by Ebel and Grossman show that the droplets must have condensed from the cooling vapor cloud that girdled the Earth following the impact. Ebel and Grossman base their conclusions on a study of spinel, a mineral rich in magnesium, iron and nickel contained within the droplets.

When the asteroid struck approximately 65 million years ago, it rapidly released an enormous amount of energy, creating a fireball that rose far into the stratosphere. "This giant impact not only crushes the rock and melts the rock, but a lot of the rock vaporizes," Grossman said. "That vapor is very hot and expands outward from the point of impact, cooling and expanding as it goes. As it cools the vapor condenses as little droplets and rains out over the whole Earth."

This rain of molten droplets then settled to the ground, where water and time altered the glassy spherules into the clay layer that marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. This boundary marks the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Their computer simulations show how rock vaporized in the impact would condense as the fireball cooled from temperatures that reached tens of thousands of degrees. The simulations paint a picture of global skies filled with a bizarre rain of a calcium-rich, silicate liquid, reflecting the chemical content of the rocks around the Chicxulub impact crater.

Run your own computer simulation of an asteroid impact by clicking HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Ride The ZoomQuilt!

Take a Moebuis trip down a very odd rabbit hole just in time for Easter by clicking HERE.

Extra points for identifying the dinosaur!

For more great links to cutting-edge art and artists check out the very cool blog, DRAWN!, by clicking HERE

Steve R. Bissette's The Paleo Path: The History of Dino-Comics - Part 2

Note: The following is modified from Steve Bissette's introduction to the new collection of the comic book PALEO by Jim Lawson.

The Paleo Path Part 2: From Alley Oop to The Ancient Great Plains.

V.T. Hamlin's popular comic strip ALLEY OOP established prehistoric themes for its medium, a tradition that continued into the 1990s with Bill Watterson's CALVIN & HOBBES. There were comic cavemen-and-dinosaurs before Hamlin -- I have comic postcards in my own collection dating back to the late 1800s, and comic strips featuring the occasional dinosaur (Winsor McCay's "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend") and 'lost world' sequence dating back to the early 1900s -- but for the sake of this chronology, take my word for it: Hamlin's the man. Dig, though, that Alley Oop was not a 'dinosaur comic'. Though Alley Oop and his kin cavorted with dinosaurs (including 'Dinny', Oop's faithful brontosaurian steed), "Alley Oop" was not, per se, a 'dinosaur comic'. Like most prehistoric novels, comics, and movies, Hamlin's comic was set in a fantasy universe where men and dinosaurs co-habitated (and yes, there was, later, a time machine involved).






Between 1951-52, Texan cartoonist (and journalist, author, and film historian, among other things) George E. Turner crafted a regionally-published weekly comic strip, "The Ancient Great Plains", for the Amarillo-based SUNDAY NEWS-GLOBE. Working under the guidance of West Texas State College geology professor Dr. Roy H. Reinhart, Turner undertook nothing less than a painstakingly illustrated science comic strip detailing the evolution of life in his home state, rich with the myriad forms of flora and fauna that swam, slithered, stalked and soared across millions of years.



Turner's love of films colored the strip -- the ad art announcing the strip's debut offered Turner's line rendition of the Allosaurus-vs.-Trachodon attack in the 1925 THE LOST WORLD, and King Kong himself made an appearance in a later installment -- and his reconstructions were often drawn from the work of Knight and others. Nevertheless, his work had its own flavor, and one cannot help but be struck by the accomplishments showcased in the sampler of "The Ancient Great Plains" offered by Turner's longtime friend and writing partner Michael H. Price in the revised edition of Turner and Orville Goldner's collaborative KING KONG book, "Spawn of Skull Island" (revised and expanded by Michael H. Price and Douglas Turner; Luminary Press, 2002; see pp. 232-241).



To my knowledge, there had never been anything quite like it in newspapers, comic strips, or comic books, and until someone proffers a precursor, I hereby nominate George Turner as the creator of the first true American 'dinosaur comic'.



The collected THE ANCIENT SOUTHWEST is now available from Texas Christian University Press of Fort Worth. The TCU Press edition contains extensive digital refinements of the surviving newsprint images, scattered revisions in the text, and a standardized job of re-lettering for consistency and clarity.



Next Week: Part 3 - Jesse Marsh and TARZAN.

Read Part 1 of the series HERE.

Steve R. Bissette is an artist, writer and film historian who lives in Vermont. He is noted for, amongst many things, his long run as illustrator of SWAMP THING for DC Comics in the 1980's and for self-publishing the acclaimed horror anthology TABOO and a 'real' dinosaur comic TYRANT(R).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

NC State Paleontologist Discovers Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Bones

Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex. Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, John R. Horner, and Jan B. Toporski. 2005. Science 307: 1952-1955.

Abstract: Soft tissues are preserved within hindlimb elements of Tyrannosaurus rex (Museum of the Rockies specimen 1125). Removal of the mineral phase reveals transparent, flexible, hollow blood vessels containing small round microstructures that can be expressed from the vessels into solution. Some regions of the demineralized bone matrix are highly fibrous, and the matrix possesses elasticity and resilience. Three populations of microstructures have cell-like morphology. Thus, some dinosaurian soft tissues may retain some of their original flexibility, elasticity and resilience.

Branching vessels found in bone matrix of T. rex (A) and ostrich (B)

From the NC State University Press Release:

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, assistant professor of paleontology with a joint appointment at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, has succeeded in isolating soft tissue from the femur of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex. Not only is the tissue largely intact, it’s still transparent and pliable, and microscopic interior structures resembling blood vessels and even cells are still present.

All bone is made up of a combination of protein (and other organic molecules) and minerals. In modern bone, removing the minerals leaves supple, soft organic materials that are much easier to work with in a lab. In contrast, fossilized bone is believed to be completely mineralized, meaning no organics are present. Attempting to dissolve the minerals from a piece of fossilized bone, so the theory goes, would merely dissolve the entire fossil.

But the team was surprised by what actually happened when they removed the minerals from the T. rex femur fragment. The removal process left behind stretchy bone matrix material that, when examined microscopically, seemed to show blood vessels, osteocytes, or bone building cells, and other recognizable organic features.

Since current data indicates that living birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than any other group, Schweitzer compared the findings from the T. rex with structures found in modern-day ostriches. In both samples, transparent branching blood vessels were present, and many of the small microstructures present in the T. rex sample displayed the same appearance as the blood and bone cells from the ostrich sample.

Schweitzer then duplicated her findings with at least three other well-preserved dinosaur specimens, one 80-million-year-old hadrosaur and two 65-million-year-old tyrannosaurs. All of these specimens preserved vessels, cell-like structures, or flexible matrix that resembled bone collagen from modern specimens.
For color photos of the soft tissue structures read the article covering the story in Geotimes HERE.

New Sauropod Found In Patagonia

From News24.com:

The remains of a new species of sauropod, christened "bonitasaura", were discovered in southern Argentina after scientists were led to them by a 98-year-old woman who had known of their existence since her childhood. She eventually led Sebastian Apesteguia and his team to a site in the semi-desert Patagonian steppes, where they recovered enough bones to reconstitute 70% of the animal's skeleton. The existence of the fossil beds in the region were known since the 1922 expedition of geologist Walter Shiller and palaeontologist Santiago Roth, but their precise location had been lost and remained unknown except to Dona Tica, who as a young girl had assisted the early expedition.

Christened "bonitasaura salgadoi", after the Bonita Mountains near the discovery site, the long-necked, plant-eating sauropod lived 83 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period, and may have weighted up to 20 tons. Its unique characteristic is the sharp ridge which runs behind its teeth which allows it to sever tree branches without damaging its frontal teeth.

Hunting The Tasmanian Tiger

The Bulletin of Sydney, Australia, is offering $1.25 million dollars Australian for the discovery of a living Tasmanian Tiger.

"Over the past 70 years more than 4000 alleged sightings of the believed-to-be-extinct Tasmanian tiger have been reported. Yet not one solid shred of evidence - not a bone, a hair, much less a body - has ever been put forward to prove that the thylacine is the greatest escape artist in the animal kingdom.

If the tiger has somehow managed to cling to survival, proving its existence would be one of the greatest scientific stories of the century. A live thylacine would have many profound implications, including forcing a rethinking of our understanding about how endangered species can survive. So in this, our 125th year of publication, The Bulletin is prepared to help solve one of Australia’s most enduring mysteries.

We’re offering a total reward of $1.25m for conclusive proof of the tiger’s existence in the Tasmanian wild. Our terms and conditions are strict and unbending. A live, uninjured animal must be produced. All government regulations and provisions must be adhered to. A panel of eminent experts chosen by us will have the final say - along with conclusive DNA testing.

The reward is open until June 30. It’s a pretty safe bet that if a tiger is not found by then, we’ll know the truth is just a myth."
Get info on spotting the Tasmanina Tiger by clicking HERE

Born This Day: Georgius Agricola

(March 24, 1494 - November 21, 1555)

From Today In Science History:

He was a German scholar and scientist known as "the father of mineralogy." His work paved the way for further systematic study of the Earth and of its rocks, minerals, and fossils. He made fundamental contributions to mining geology and metallurgy, mineralogy, structural geology, and paleontology. He Latinized his real name of Georg Bauer, to be known as Georgius Agricola. Having studied medicine, he became interested in mineralogy through his study of miners' diseases. His most important work, "De Re Metallica", (published a year after his death) summarized all the practical knowledge gained by Saxon miners. He was among the first to found a natural science upon observation. He may have coined the word petroleum ("rock oil").

The Ancient Southwest

If you're going to be in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 2 you're invited to meet Michael Price and pick up a copy of the newly published book collecting the legendary newspaper strip, THE ANCIENT SOUTHWEST.

Steve Bissette will be discussing this strip in the this Friday's edition of THE PALEO-PATH: The History of Dino-Comics, Pt. 2.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Europe's Largest Dinosaur?

Recently in Cretaceous Research:

Europe's largest dinosaur? A giant brachiosaurid cervical vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Darren Naisha, David M. Martill, David Cooper, and Kent A. Stevens. 2005. Cretaceous Research 25: 787-795.
A single brachiosaurid sauropod cervical vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Barremian, Early Cretaceous) of the Isle of Wight is remarkable for its size. With a partial centrum length (i.e., excluding evidence of the anterior condyle) of 745 mm it represents the largest sauropod cervical reported from Europe and is close in size to cervical vertebrae of the giant brachiosaurid Brachiosaurus brancai from Late Jurassic Tanzania. The complete animal probably exceeded 20 m in total length. The specimen shares important morphological characters with Sauroposeidon proteles from Early Cretaceous USA, including extensive lateral fossae and well-developed posterior centroparapophyseal laminae, indicating that it is part of a Brachiosaurus–Sauroposeidon clade, and in some characters is intermediate between the two. Owing to the complexities of Isle of Wight sauropod taxonomy the specimen is not attributed to a named taxon.

New Journals Added

Geology and the Geological Society of America Bulletin have now been added to the Palaeoblog list of journals.

T.rex Takes Flight

From the BBC News:

A life-size model of a Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur has been flown into place at an exhibition in Somerset. The fibre glass replica model, weighing just under one tonne and measuring 25-feet long, was flown for one mile dangling from a helicopter. The T-rex and two other dinosaurs, including a Brontosaurus[sic], were too large to be brought to Wookey Hole Caves by road. They will form the centrepiece of a new Valley of the Dinosaurs attraction. The replica dinosaurs were flown from one side of Wookey to the other directly into the park. The owner of Wookey Hole Caves, Gerry Cottle, said: "They're built life size, according to the latest scientific knowledge and we've made them correct in every possible detail."

The palaeoblog is not absolutely convinced of the last statement but we wish the new attraction all the best.

Born This Day: William Smith

March 23, 1769 - August 28, 1839)

From Today In Science History:

An English engineer and geologist who is best known for his development of the science of stratigraphy. Smith's great geologic map of England and Wales (1815) set the style for modern geologic maps, and many of the colorful names he applied to the strata are still in use today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Born This Day: Adam Sedgwick

From Today In Science History:

Adam Sedgwich (March 22, 1785 - January 27, 1873)

English geologist who first applied the name Cambrian to the geologic period of time, now dated at 570 to 505 million years ago. In 1818 he became Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, holding a chair that had been endowed ninety years before by the natural historian John Woodward. He lacked formal training in geology, but he quickly became an active researcher in geology and paleontology. Many years after Sedgwick's death, the geological museum at Cambridge was renamed the Sedgwick Museum of Geology in his honor. The museum is now part of the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University

Monday, March 21, 2005

Happy Birthday to Mark Boucher!

Before the day fades away here in the EST I'd like to take the time to wish a very happy birthday to the friend I've known longer than anyone (meeting up when we were 4 years old!) - my buddy, Mark Boucher. Mark helped me build my first dinosaur museum in my parents basement when we were in grade school, and we co-taught a class on dinosaurs to out fellow students when we were in grade 5. Mark was there when I took my first steps in this career and has been an avid supporter of it even though his own interests run to large felids and politics. All the best!

Devil Dinos

While waiting for this Friday's second installment of the Steve Bissette's PALEO PATH, go over to the Four Realities related site, Kirby Comics, and read about one of the oddest books to ever feature dinosaurs -- Jack Kirby's DEVIL DINOSAUR.

Then go over to the Digital Dream Machine blog and read an appreciation of Jack "The King" Kirby HERE

The Worlds Of William Stout



Speaking of DRAGONS, one of the best illustrators of dragons, dinosaurs, and other things fantastic is Bill Stout. Got check out his great site HERE.

Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50(1), 2005

From the latest volume of Acta Palaeontologica Polonica:

Osteology of the sauropod embryos from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia Leonardo Salgado, Rodolfo A. Coria, and Luis M. Chiappe. 2005. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50: 79-92

Exceptionally well-preserved embryonic skulls of Upper Cretaceous (Campanian Anacleto Formation) sauropods from Auca Mahuevo (Neuquén Province, Argentina) provide important insights into the ontogeny and evolution of titanosaurian neosauropods. The most important cranial modifications occurring during titanosaurian ontogeny appear to be centered on the infraorbital and narial regions, which exhibit a substantial degree of “mosaic” evolution. On one hand, the Auca Mahuevo embryos show a large jugal that forms part of the lower margin of the skull and unretracted external nares, as indicated by the position and orientation of the lacrimals as well as the anterior extension of the frontals. Both of these features are ancestral for neosauropods, being present in prosauropods. On the other hand, the embryonic skull exhibits a large ventral notch, tentatively interpreted as homologous to the neosauropod preantorbital fenestra, that opens ventral to the jugal and between the maxilla and the quadratojugal, and a temporal region that closely resembles the adult neosauropod condition. This mosaic of character states indicates that different regions of the skull of titanosaurian neosauropods acquired their characteristic morphology at substantially different rates during their ontogenetic development.
Caudipteryx as a non-avialan theropod rather than a flightless bird Gareth J. Dyke and Mark A. Norell. 2005. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50: 101-116
Caudipteryx zoui is a small enigmatic theropod known from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of the People’s Republic of China. From the time of its initial description, this taxon has stimulated a great deal of ongoing debate regarding the phylogenetic relationship between non-avialan theropods and birds (Avialae) because it preserves structures that have been uncontroversially accepted as feathers (albeit aerodynamically unsuitable for flight). However, it has also been proposed that both the relative proportions of the hind limb bones (when compared with overall leg length), and the position of the center of mass in Caudipteryx are more similar to those seen in extant cusorial birds than they are to other non-avialan theropod dinosaurs. This conclusion has been used to imply that Caudipteryx may not have been correctly interpreted as a feathered non-avialan theropod, but instead that this taxon represents some kind of flightless bird. We review the evidence for this claim at the level of both the included fossil specimen data, and in terms of the validity of the results presented. There is no reason—phylogenetic, morphometric or otherwise—to conclude that Caudipteryx is anything other than a small non-avialan theropod dinosaur.

On A Dark Scottish Loch



Prince Valiant began when Hal Foster, who had spent several years drawing the popular "Tarzan" feature, was asked by William Randolph Hearst to create a strip for Hearst's chain of newspapers. Thrilled by tales of chivalry, Foster returned to the rich literary tradition of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and created Prince Valiant, first appearing on Feb. 13, 1937. It remains unique in the world of contemporary comic features, with its combination of narrative adventure and sometimes humorous family drama, its bold artistic realism combined with hints of fantasy, and its historical accuracy in the portrayal of life "in the days of King Arthur." It is a historical novel in serialized form, one in which characters have more than two dimensions — the virtuous have flaws, and the villainous are frequently not without some small virtue.

Currently the strip is in the capable hands of writer Mark Schultz and artist Gary Gianni. The image below is from the March 6th, 2005 strip and foreshadows Price Valiant’s coming battle with a plesiosaur in the waters of a Scottish Loch.



Schultz is perhaps best known for writing and drawing his own critically acclaimed book, Xenozoic Tales, that was adapted as the CBS animated series Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. Along the way he also found time to co-create and co-write the Dark Horse series, SubHuman, with the palaeoblogger.

Gianni’s artwork has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, paperbacks, comic books and children’s books. Both men have recently been producing hundred’s of original illustrations and dozens of oil paintings for a series of books collecting the original stories of Robert E. Howard for prestigious publisher Wandering Star including Conan of Cimmeria, Vol. 1 for Schultz, and The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane and Conan of Cimmeria, Vol. 2 for Gianni.

Animal Planet's 'Dragons"

Animal Planet recently debuted their new “docu-fantasy” DRAGONS that takes a ‘what if’ approach to these imaginary creatures. The palaeoblogger did not see the show so he can’t comment on its content, but from all accounts it made for an entertaining evening.



You can click HERE to go to the show’s website for a short blurb on how prehistoric reptiles influenced the development of the show.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

This Week In Science: Horsing Around


Fossil Horses--Evidence for Evolution
Bruce J. MacFadden. Science 307: 1728-1730.

In the latest issue of Science Dr. Bruce Macfadden presents an overview on the evolution of horses. You can read a summary of the article in the press release from the University of Florida:

The fossil record shows horses originated in North America at least 55 million years ago and roamed the continent before becoming extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. They were reintroduced into the New World in the 1500's by the Spanish and have helped to shape our culture.



Scientists once universally thought the more primitive horses, which lived from about 55 million to 20 million years ago, were primarily leaf-eating browsers, only becoming grass eaters as the prairie grasslands began to spread rapidly across North America during the Miocene Epoch about 20 million years ago. The reality is not so clear cut according to Dr. Bruce MacFadden of the University of Florida. During times of transition, some groups of horses actually became mixed feeders, eating both grasses and leafy material, he said.

Although modern horses are primarily grazers, they will feed on fruits and leaves when grass is in short supply, MacFadden said. "Horses are highly adaptable," he said. "They can exploit different food resources when they have to and are able to withstand a wide range of climates. They live in the tropics. They extend all the way up to the Arctic." Just as the scientific knowledge about whether horses were browsers or grazers has changed, so have ideas about the evolution of body size, he said.

The preconceived notion that the horse was once as small as a dog but progressively grew to its present stature now can be proven to be incorrect, MacFadden said. About 20 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch, horses diversified in size rather than just becoming larger, MacFadden said. While some grew larger, others became smaller or remained the same size, he said.

MacFadden, who was able to estimate the body size of various species of fossil horses by measuring their teeth because they are proportional to the rest of the body, said the old idea was based on the research of 19th-century paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope. Cope's Law states that within any group of animals there is a tendency for the descendants of a species to grow increasingly larger. "But there are so many exceptions where you go from small to large and back to small again that you have to ask how many exceptions to the rule you can accept before the central concept is no longer correct, he said.
Visit the Fossil Horse Cybermuseum at the Florda Museum of Natural History by clicking here

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Darwin’s First Discovery

From Today In Science History:

On this day in 1827, at the age of 18, Charles Darwin dissected some specimens of a baranacle-like marine organism, the polyzoan Flustra begining his lifelong career in natural history.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Steve R. Bissette's The Paleo Path: The History of Dino-Comics - Part 1

Note: The following is modified from Steve Bissette's introduction to the new collection of the comic book PALEO by Jim Lawson. We'll be covering PALEO in the penultimate installment of this column.

The Paleo Path Part 1: Unearthing Origins:

A genuine dinosaur comic is a rare thing. A true dinosaur comic is something unique, unblemished by human characters. We don’t need no stinking ‘lost world,’ lost island, time machine, or atom-age mutations stomping cities into dust. Forget about RIP HUNTER, TIME MASTER and “The War That Time Forgot” (of STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES) or GORGO or KONGA; forget KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE and GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS. Those comics indeed feature dinosaurs, and were great fun, but they weren’t and aren’t dinosaur comics.

The precursors were, of course, the dinosaur artists. These were the illustrators and painters who first put pencil, pen, and brush to paper or canvas and fleshed out the fossil reconstructions to create panoramas of what the prehistoric world must have, might have, maybe was like.




Prominent among these is the pioneer Charles R. Knight (above), who established the field almost single-handedly in the very early 1900s. Working hand-in-glove with the premiere paleontologists of his day, Knight was the first ‘pop paleo artist,’ if you will. His vivid reconstructions of prehistoric life graced the walls of museums (Chicago’s Field Museum, for instance), the pages of books, periodicals, and journals, and became the standard illustrations for school and home texts like the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

Others followed in Knight’s footsteps: Rudolph Zallinger (left) here in the U.S., Zdenak Burian (below) in Czechoslovakia, and many others. Many of you may have grown up in the thrall of William Stout’s marvelous prehistoric creations, or the generation of exquisite paleontological artists who rose to prominence in the 1980s and early ‘90s. But Knight’s paintings and drawings were the wellspring from which all dinosaur imagery flowed, and countless illustrators and cartoonists have done little more but slavishly copy Knight’s work for generations.

The ache, then, for many of us, was the urge to see Knight’s paintings move -- or at least enjoy a fuller life on the page. That urge impelled pioneer stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien to bring dinosaurs to life on the big screen (THE LOST WORLD, 1925; KING KONG, 1933; etc.), as it moved his teenage successor Ray Harryhausen to labor over his own (never-completed) epic EVOLUTION before graduating to continuing O’Brien’s legacy in films like BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) and others.

The same urge drove Disney Studio cartoon animators to create the memorable “Rites of Spring” sequence for FANTASIA (1940), and cartoonists like Joe Kubert or Ross Andru & Mike Esposito to sneak dinosaurs into every comic book job they could. Thus, Kubert’s GREEN LANTERN and Andru & Esposito’s WONDER WOMAN and STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES G.I.’s fought living dinosaurs -- even the Metal Men fought robot dinosaurs!; but these weren’t dinosaur comics -- they were comics with dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs were props, cameo villains, guest-stars; they weren’t the stars of their own stories, as Knight had portrayed them in his evocative tableaus. Many of us wanted to just read comics about dinosaurs -- the animals themselves, their lives and times, sans the trappings imposed by quickly formalized fantasy and science-fiction templates. The first place we found them were in the Funny Pages of the newspapers.

Next Week: Part 2 - From Alley Oop to The Ancient Great Plains
.

Steve R. Bissette is an artist, writer and film historian who lives in Vermont. He is noted for, among many things, his long run as illustrator of SWAMP THING for DC Comics in the 1980's and for self-publishing the acclaimed horror anthology TABOO and a 'real' dinosaur comic TYRANT(R).



For more information on oddball dinosaur comics check through the archives of Scott Shaws! ODDBALL COMICS by clicking here.

Died This Day: Othniel Charles Marsh

From Today In Science History:

O.C. Marsh (October 29, 1931 - March 18, 1899)

In 1866, the Peabody Museum of Natural History was founded with a gift from George Peabody. The same year his nephew, O.C. Marsh, 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 fueding 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. Embarassingly, Marsh pointed out that its backbones were mounted backwards. To settle the arguement 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.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dr. Philip Currie Accepts Position At U of Alberta


Dr. Currie uncovers the skull of an ornithomimid in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.

Dr. Philip J. Currie will be leaving his job as Head of Dinosaur Research for the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller to start a new position with the University of Alberta in Edmonton come this October. The move has been rumored for some time but is now being reported in the Canadian media here and here. Coincidental with this news is the recent posting for a "two-year Post Doctorate in Ornithischian Dinosaurs" at the RTMP that can be viewed here.

For Currie it will be a bit of a homecoming considering that he started his dinosaur-hunting career in Alberta as Head of Vertebrate Palaeontology for the Provincial museum of Alberta located not far from the U of A. Currie's move will also come shortly after the 20 anniversary celebrations this September for the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a world-reknowned center of palaeontological research that he was instrumental in helping to create.

We wish he and his wife, palynologist Dr. Eva Koppelhus, all the best in their trek north from Drumheller.


Tarbosaurus jaw found by Dr. Currie in the Gobi Desert.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Research Road Trip

I'm enroute today to the Royal Ontario Museum/University of Toronto to work on some long-delayed papers with David Evans, a former employee of mine in the Royal Tyrrell Museum's 'Day Dig' program, and now a hot-shot Ph.D. student working on (amongst many things) hadrosaurs and other ornithischian dinosaurs.

I'll also be taking in the ROM's new Feathered Dinosaur Show and will (hopefully) be posting more information about this next week when I'm back in Cleveland. My weekend will be spent in Ottawa doing some work at the Canadian Museum of Nature where I'm also a Research Associate. I'll also be posting some interesting pictures of dinosaurs from that museum next week.

FYI, postings at the Palaeoblog will continue as per usual while I'm traveling.

Thanks to Steve Bissette for the plug over at his site.

New Kong To Break Free

For anyone still under a rock, there's a new film remake of King Kong coming to the movie screens this Dec 15.

Directed by Peter "Lord of The Rings" Jackson, this version boasts a $150 million dollar budget and most of the behind-the-scenes talent that made LOTR an Academy Award-winning success. The palaeoblog is skeptical about the need to remake such a classic film, but we'll give it the benefit of the doubt based on Jackson's track record of superb craftsmanship. We can at least be guaranteed that the dinosaurs featured in it will be state of the art. Above is a very unofficial teaser poster for the movie.

For an update of what's going on with the production read an article from the New York Post by clicking here

Born This Day: Ami Boué

From Today In Science History:

Ami Boué (March 16, 1794 - Nov. 21, 1881)

Austrian geological pioneer who fostered international cooperation in geological research. While studying medicine in Edinburgh, he was influenced by the noted Scottish geologist Robert Jameson and studied the volcanic rocks in various parts of Scotland and the Hebrides. He settled in Paris in 1830 and was a founder of the Société Géologique de France. For the next four years he published reports on geological progress in other countries. In 1845 he finished his comprehensive overview of geology, Essai de carte géologique du globe terrestre ("Essay on a Geological Map of the World").

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

First Fully Jointed Neandethal Skeleton Built

Neanderthal reconstructed. G.J. Sawyer and Blaine Maley The Anatomical Record Part B: The New Anatomist, Vol. 283B: 23 - 31

Stefan Lovgren of National Geographic News discusses the new findings:

Scientists have for the first time constructed a fully articulated Neandertal skeleton using castings from real Neanderthal bones. The skeleton was reconstructed by G.J. Sawyer, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, and Blaine Maley, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. It was primarily based on the La Ferrassie 1 specimen discovered in France in 1909, with missing or incomplete elements filled in from other Neanderthal cast collections.

Neanderthals lived in Europe and some parts of Asia from 300,000 years ago. The last of them mysteriously disappeared in present-day Spain and Portugal 28,000 years ago. Modern humans, many scientists believe, arose in Africa less than 200,000 years ago and appeared in great numbers in Europe starting about 40,000 years ago.

The relationship between Neanderthals and the early modern humans, commonly known as Cro-Magnon beings, is fuzzy. The two groups overlapped in Europe for 10,000 years. The reconstruction could provide scientists with a more complete picture of the stature differences between modern humans and Neandertals.

The new reconstruction suggests some strong differences in the form of the Neanderthal's rib cage and pelvis compared to those of modern humans. The skeleton is 5.4 feet tall although this might have been slightly underestimated, due partly to the use of bone casts from a potentially shorter individual.

The reconstructed skeleton is currently on display at the Dolan DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. It will eventually go on permanent display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Happy Birthday to Steve Bissette!

The palaeoblog wishes all the best to



creator of TYRANT(R) (below) and many other cool books.


Art (c) Steve Bissette

Steve will be teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, beginning this fall.

“This feels right, given the fact that my comics career began as a first-year student in the first class ever of a great experiment in comics learning, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. in Dover, NJ. I graduated from the Kubert School in 1978, and owe my career to Joe and the school. Now I’ll be on the other end of the classroom, teaching the first class ever at a great new experiment in comics learning, the Center for Cartoon Studies. The first-year lineup of students is nearly filled to capacity. We’ll be savoring our first-ever summer workshop session, June 27th to July 1st, which promises to be an intense five-day whirlwind of creativity."

Get more info about the workshop here. I'm sure more than a few dinosaurs will be drawn during the week!
Also: Pick up Steve’s latest book, Green Mountain Cinema I: Green Mountain Boys, by clicking here

And: Don't forget that Steve's first installment on the history of dinosaurs in comic books starts on the Palaeoblog this Friday.

Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein!


March 14, 1879 - April 18, 1955

All about Sidney Harris here. Buy the book pictured above here

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Nobel Laureate Confronts Pseudoscience

A distinguished Russian physicist (co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics) battles the pseudoscience and charlatanism that he feels is duping his country’s population. Sadly these issues are not just the problem of North America. Read the entire article in the recent issue of The Skeptical Inquirer.

Sunday Dinosaurs

In today's episode of Liberty Meadows:

Died This Day: Charles Lapworth

From Today In Science History:

Charles Lapworth (Sept. 30, 1842 - March 13, 1920)

Lapworth was an English geologist who proposed what came to be called the Ordovician period (505 to 438 million years old) of geologic strata. Lapworth is famous for his work with marine fossils called graptolites. By fastidiously collecting the tiny, colonial sea creatures, he figured out the original order of layered rocks that had been faulted and folded in England's Southern Uplands. This method of correlating rocks with graptolites became a model for similar research throughout the world. In 1879, Lapworth proposed a new classification of Lower Paleozoic rocks with the Ordovician, between the redefined Cambrian and Silurian periods. The name comes from an ancient Welsh tribe, the Ordovices.

Bringing Up Baby



When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he's in no position to run.” Cary Grant as paleontologist David Huxley

Coming in at #97 on the American Film Institute's list of greatest films, ‘Bringing Up Baby’, co-starring Cary Grant and Kate Hepburn, is acknowledged as the archetypical screwball comedy. Directed by Howard Hawks in 1938, Grant plays paleontologist David Huxley who is trying to secure a $1,000,000.00 endowment for his museum. He meets up with Hepburn’s seemingly scatterbrained heiress, Susan Vance, who becomes determined to derail Grant’s next day wedding. Over the course of the next 24 hours Grant gets completely mired in Hepburn’s whirlwind ad hoc plans to catch her new (and completely reluctant) beau that includes hunting for her leopard (the ‘Baby’ of the title), having her steal his clothes, ending up in jail, falling in a stream, and finally losing his “intercostal clavicle” to Hepburn’s dog that was to be the final element needed complete the Brontosaurus skeleton he’s been working on for four years. In the end they end up in each others arms but suspended over the destroyed skeleton. The fast-paced, witty script, sharp direction and comedic chemistry between Grant and Hepburn all combine to make this film worthy of multiple repeat viewings.

A newly restored, two DVD set of the film has just been released and is soon to be added to the palaeoblog’s DVD collection.