Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Giant Water Scorpion Trackway

Palaeoecology: A gigantic fossil arthropod trackway. Martin A. Whyte. Nature 438: 576.

From National Geographic News:
Five foot long tracks of a six-legged water scorpion reveal that Hibbertopterus could have lumbered along the riverbanks of Scotland 330 million years ago,

Illo © Nature 2005

"There's been lot of debate about this particular [species of] water scorpion—whether it could only live in water or if it could come out. What the track shows is they could come out at least for short intervals," Martin Whyte, a geologist at the University of Sheffield in England said.

The track itself is 20 feet (6 meters) long and about 3 feet (1 meter) wide.
The creature walked in-phase, with each pair of limbs moving forward at the same time rather than alternating, like a human gait. Also, the scorpion's stride averaged 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) long, short enough that they overlapped. The track also features a central groove left by the water scorpion's dragging tail, leaving indications of jerky movements.

"The whole thing adds up to fairly look as though the body [was] heavy and the animal was moving quite slowly," Whyte said. "For that reason I think it was out of the water. Had it been in [the water], water would've buoyed up the tail."

By about 360 million years ago the transition of lobe-finned fish—prehistoric fish with fleshy fins—to four-limbed tetrapods was nearly complete. The newly discovered trackway, which is dated to 330 million years ago, therefore suggests that some of the earliest tetrapods would have confronted these giant water scorpions as they scurried about the shore.

Read the whole article From HERE.

1.3 Million Year Old Human ‘Footprints’

Geochronology: Age of Mexican ash with alleged 'footprints'. Paul R. Renne et al. Nature 438: E7-E8

From the University of California –Berkeley press release:
Alleged footprints of early Americans found in volcanic rock in Mexico are either extremely old - more than 1 million years older than other evidence of human presence in the Western Hemisphere - or not footprints at all, according to a new analysis published this week in Nature.
Earlier this year, researchers in England touted these "footprints" as definitive proof that humans were in the Americas much earlier than 11,000 years ago, which is the accepted date for the arrival of humans across a northern land-bridge from Asia.

These scientists dated the volcanic rock at 40,000 years old. They hypothesized that early hunters walked across ash freshly deposited near a lake by volcanoes that are still active in the area around Puebla, Mexico. The so-called footprints, subsequently covered by more ash and inundated by lake waters, eventually turned to rock.

But Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and an adjunct professor of earth and planetary science at UC Berkeley, and his colleagues in Mexico and at Texas A&M University report a new age for the rock: about 1.3 million years.

"You're really only left with two possibilities," Renne said. "One is that they are really old hominids - shockingly old - or they're not footprints."

Paleoanthropologist Tim White, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, is familiar with the "so-called footprints" and knows Renne well, frequently collaborating with him in the dating of million-year-old sediments in an area of Ethiopia where White has excavated numerous fossils of human ancestors. He is not surprised at the new finding.

"The evidence (the British team) has provided in their arguments that these are footprints is not sufficient to convince me they are footprints," said Tim White, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. "The evidence Paul has produced by dating basically means that this argument is over, unless indisputable footprints can be found sealed within the ash."

Read the full article HERE.

The Earliest Animals Had Human-Like Genes

Vertebrate-Type Intron-Rich Genes in the Marine Annelid Platynereis dumerilii. Florian Raible, et al. Science 310: 1325-1326.

Photo of Platynereis from HERE

From EurekAlert comes this article:

Species evolve at very different rates, and the evolutionary line that produced humans seems to be among the slowest. The result, according to a new study by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), is that our species has retained characteristics of a very ancient ancestor that have been lost in more quickly-evolving animals. This overturns a commonly-held view of the nature of genes in the first animals.

Genes hold the recipes for proteins. The genes of animals usually contain extra bits of DNA sequence, called introns – information which has to be removed as cells create new molecules. The number of introns in genes, however, varies greatly among animals. While humans have many introns in their genes, common animal models such as flies have fewer. From an evolutionary perspective, it was long assumed that the simpler fly genes would be more ancient. The current study reveals the opposite: early animals already had a lot of introns, and quickly-evolving species like insects have lost most of them.

To discover what early animals were like, scientists usually compare their descendents. This is difficult when comparing distantly-related animals such as humans and flies. In these cases, it helps to look at living organisms that have preserved many features of their ancestors. Detlev Arendt's group is doing this with a small marine worm called Platynereis dumerlii. "Similar animals are already found in the earliest fossils from the Cambrium, about 600 million years ago," Arendt explains, "arguing that Platynereis could be something like a 'living fossil'" This makes it an ideal model for evolutionary comparisons to find out what the common ancestors of humans, flies and worms were like."

The discovery that Platynereis also represents a slowly-evolving branch of animal life has important implications for the study of humans. "We've already learned an incredible amount about humans from studies of the fly," Arendt says. "The marine worm might well give us an even better look at important conserved processes. Another thing that this has shown us is that evolution is not always about gain; the loss of complexity can equally be an important player in evolution."

Read the rest of the press release HERE.

Quirks & Quarks

C. brinkmani illo © Donna Sloan

I’ve been on the road for the past week or so, hence the lack of postings.

Last Thursday I was in Edmonton and recorded an interview for “Quirks & Quarks”, Canada’s premiere weekly science show on the CBC radio. The show is archived for a week and you can listen to it HERE.

Here’s the blurb from their web page:
“It's happened only a handful of times in the past few decades, so every time a new dinosaur species is found in Alberta, it's pretty exciting. Centrosaurus brinkmani is the name for the newly identified horned dinosaur -- the first prehistoric beast in 30 years to be catalogued and named, based on a complete skeleton from Dinosaur Provincial Park. Dr. Michael Ryan is the Canadian paleontologist who identified the horned dinosaur, which belonged to a group related to the Triceratops. He's now curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. C. brinkmani roamed in massive herds about 76 million years ago. That's about 10 million years earlier than Triceratops.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Published This Day: The Origin of Species

From Today In Science History:

In 1859, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in England to great acclaim. In this groundbreaking book by British naturalist Charles Darwin, he argued that species are the result of a gradual biological evolution in which nature encourages, through natural selection, the propagation of those species best suited to their environments. This book is unquestionably one of the most influential in the history of science.

(Don't) Run, Jeff, Run!

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan the strip “Pooch Café” by Paul Gilligan.

Enjoy this while I’m stuck in a hotel in Minneapolis en route to Alberta to do some research.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Today In History: Piltdown Hoax Exposed

From Today In Science History:

In 1953, the 40-year-long hoax of the Piltdown Man ended when the British Museum revealed that it was a "perfectly executed and carefully prepared fraud." The Piltdown forgery was conceived, planned and executed sometime between 1907 and 1911. The faux hominid skull was constructed from the remains of a recent human cranium, later shown to have been thickened by disease during the subject's lifetime (thus giving the primitive look); half the lower jaw of an orangutan from which telltale parts had been removed and whose teeth had been filed to resemble worn human teeth; and a doctored canine tooth, probably from the same lower jaw. In all, thirty-seven pieces of bone and stone were involved, each carefully selected, each altered and stained.

Info on who did it is HERE.

Cartoon by Fredrick Burr Opper.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fay Wray, 9th Wonder of the World!

Buy a copy of this poster HERE

Whether the new Peter Jackson version of King Kong turns out to be good or bad really does not matter because we’ll always have the original 1933 version to enjoy. But, largely thanks to the upcoming movie, the original has been cleaned up and released today in several formats, one of which is a boxed set that includes the sequel “Son of Kong”, and Willis O’Brien’s other giant ape movie, “Mighty Joe Young”.

You don’t need to see another ‘Kong’ poster here (although I will be featuring a bunch in the coming weeks), so instead I’ll post one of my favourite film posters, this one featuring Kong’s leading lady, Fay Wray, in one of several movies she made in 1934.


Fun iPod cases for the tech-minded palaeontologist...

Photo of iPod covers with dinosaurs on them.

Despite the scientifically-incorrect 'Brontosaurus,' it's still fun to see the retro-styled dinosaurs. Especially since you don't see the prehistoric age colliding with the high-tech one often! $30.00 US.

Ordering info can be found at the incase website.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Early Earth Likely Had Continents

Heterogeneous Hadean Hafnium: Evidence of Continental Crust at 4.4 to 4.5 Ga. T. M. Harrison, Janne Blichert-Toft, W. Müller, Framcis Albarede, Peter Holden, and Stephen J. Mojzsis. Published online November 17 2005; 10.1126/science.1117926 (Science Express Reports)

The long-favored paradigm for the development of continental crust is one of progressive growth beginning at ~4 Ga. To test this hypothesis, we measured initial 176Hf/177Hf values of 4.01 to 4.37 Ga detrital zircons from Jack Hills, Western Australia. Hf values show large positive and negative deviations from Bulk Earth. Negative values indicate development of a Lu/Hf reservoir consistent with formation of continental crust (Lu/Hf 0.01), perhaps as early as 4.5 Ga. Positive Hf deviations require early and likely widespread depletion of the upper mantle. These results support the view that continental crust had formed by 4.4–4.5 Ga and was rapidly recycled into the mantle.
A surprising new study by an international team of researchers has concluded Earth's continents most likely were in place soon after the planet was formed, overturning a long-held theory that the early planet was either moon-like or dominated by oceans.

The team came to the conclusion following an analysis of a rare metal element known as hafnium in ancient minerals from the Jack Hills in Western Australia, thought to be among the oldest rocks on Earth. Hafnium is found in association with zircon crystals in the Jack Hills rocks, which date to almost 4.4 billion years ago.

"These results support the view that the continental crust had formed by 4.4-4.5 billion years ago and was rapidly recycled into the mantle," the researchers wrote in Science Express. Led by Professor Mark Harrison of the Australian National University, the team also included University of Colorado Assistant Professor Stephen Mojzsis and researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Ecole Normale Superieure University in France.

The Kirby-Vision Goggles also see the past!

The researchers used hafnium as a "tracer" element, using isotopes to infer the existence of early continental formation on Earth dating to Hadeon Eon, which took place during the first 500 million years of Earth's history, said Mojzsis, an assistant professor of geological sciences at CU-Boulder. Mojzsis also is a member of CU-Boulder's Center for Astrobiology.

"The evidence indicates that there was substantial continental crust on Earth within its first 100 million years of existence," said Mojzsis. "It looks like the Earth started off with a bang."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Happy Birthday To: Kong's Co-Stars!

Images from HERE.

Bruce Cabot (Nov. 20, 1904 - May 3, 1972) (top) played Ann Darrow’s love interest (well, the other one!), Jack Driscoll, while Robert Armstrong (Nov. 20, 1890 - April 20, 1973) played showman Carl Denham in the original 1933 KING KONG.

Both are shown here with Kong’s favourite blonde, Fay Wray.

New Centrosaurus Species Published

A new centrosaurine ceratopsid from the Oldman Formation of Alberta and its implications for centrosaurine taxonomy and systematics. 2005. Michael J. Ryan and Anthony P. Russell. Can. J. Earth Sci./Rev. can. sci. Terre 42(7):1369-1387.

Art © Mark Schultz 2005.

Abstract: Centrosaurus brinkmani (sp. nov) is distinguished from Centrosaurus apertus by key features of its cranial ornamentation, including the shape and orientation of the postorbital horn and parietal ornamentation at parietal locus 3, the shape of the parietal ornamentation at locus 2, and the possession of accessory parietal ossifications developed as short spines on the caudal parietal ramus. This species is restricted to the Oldman Formation of southern Alberta and is the oldest ceratopsid represented by diagnostic material in Canada. Phylogenetic analysis of the Centrosaurinae suggests that the development of spike-like ornamentation at the parietal locus 3 parietal locus is inversely related to the development of the P1 parietal ornamentation.

From the press release:

The new species of dinosaur, named Centrosaurus brinkmani, belongs to the group of dinosaurs related to the well-known Triceratops, but lived about 10 million years earlier. Remains of the dinosaur were discovered in bone beds in southern Alberta, the largest of which is in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ceratopsian (horned) dinosaurs can be distinguished from one another by the ornamentation on their frills that extend shield-like from the back of their skulls.

Distinctive hooks and “spikelets” on the frill of Centrosaurus brinkmani allowed scientists to identify this dinosaur as a new species.

Art © Michael Skrepnick 2005.

“It looks like someone stuck a bunch of long-spined sea anemones all around the margin of the frill,” Ryan said. “The ornamentation on the frill was probably not used as defensive weaponry -- the clusters of spikes would have been too small,” said co-author Dr. Tony Russell, Professor of Zoology at the University of Calgary.

“The spikes were probably more important in signaling sexual maturity to others in the group,” said Russell. “Centrosaurus may have even used them to push each other around in battles over females just as Bighorn sheep rams do today.”

These bone beds are good evidence that Centrosaurus brinkmani lived and moved in large herds for at least part of the year,” said Ryan. “Whatever killed them deposited their bodies together, where they decayed and fell apart before they were fossilized. Because all the bones had come apart it took us a couple of years of excavation to recover enough pieces to realize that we had something new.”

The species is named in honour of Dr. Donald Brinkman(left), a palaeontologist at the Royal Tyrell Museum and long-time colleague of Ryan. “Don’s a superb scientist and has done some of the best and most interesting palaeo-research in Canada, if not the world. But, more importantly he's keenly supported the work of students and has always gone out of his way to help everyone learn more about fossils and palaeontology. It’s a pleasure to be able to tip my field cap to him in this way,” said Ryan.


I should also mention that the new dinosaur is a result of a LOT of hard work put in over many years by many hundreds of people, including staff, volunteers, students, and participants in the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Field Experience program, and the associated volunteer prep program that ran for many years out of the RTMP field station in DPP.

Special thanks go out to Dr. David Eberth and Mike Getty who kick-started the work in BB 138 that produced the holotype, and to volunteers like Bill McPheeters, Karl Schiemann, Cathy Falls and Don Cretin who did a lot of the prep work. The actual list of people to thank would fill up a couple of these pages, but I have to also give a hardy thanks to Palaeoblog coorespondent, Chad Kerychuk of Digital Dream Machine who did a lot of digital work for the project. And ace prospector & preparator Wendy Sloboda, too! You’re all tops!

PS: If you want to learn more about the process that Mark Schultz went through to produce the above reconstruction of C. brinkmani in their Late Cretaceous environment go HERE and pick up Mark’s excellent new art book, “Various Drawings” where he reproduces a lot of the preproduction sketches for the illustration.

PSS: If you'd like a copy of the paper and you're in Canada you can download a free PDF from the journal's site HERE. Outside of the country there is a fee to download it. Or, you could contact the author for a reprint.

Named This Day: Apatosaurus

On this day in 1877, O.C. Marsh named the sauropod still known to most of the world as Brontosaurus:
Notice of some new dinosaurian reptiles from the Jurassic Formation. American Journal of Science 14: 514-516.

Photo from HERE.
Why Brontosaurus is called Apatosaurus is explained HERE.

Museum Creator Honored In Albuquerque

In the 1970's Mary Gavin, 91, and her late husband, Edward, lobbied for the creation of a museum to keep New Mexico fossils in New Mexico.
More than a hundred of her friends and admirers gathered Friday at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science to honor her on a day Gov. Bill Richardson decreed "Mary Gavin Day."

"I'm deeply honored to be here today," she said. As she spoke, the sounds of children on field trips echoed through the museum's atrium , a testament to the power of Gavin's vision.

"We educate over a hundred thousand children a year of all ages," said museum director Adrian Hunt. "She's the reason that this building's here."

Known as the "dinosaur museum" to children, it boasts a team of researchers and a large behind-the-scenes scientific collection. Gavin still serves on the museum's board.

Go is see Sue, The World’s Most Famous Dinosaur on display through the rest of the year.

26 Scientists Vol. 1: Anning - Malthus

Sounds like a boring book? No way!
It’s an über-cool new album by the band ARTICHOKE.

Featuring eclectic power-pop tunes, one written for a scientist for each letter of the alphabet, it’s brain-snappingly groovy.

Could these folks be the next ARCADE FIRE?

Here are the lyrics to a song about every palaeontologist’s favourite English marine reptile collector:
Mary Anning (1799 - 1847)
(written by Timothy Sellers)

do you know Mary Anning? born on a southern shore
her father Richard was a cabinetmaker
and Richard died too early and left the Annings poor
but lucky Mary Anning found an icthyosaur

by circa 1820 she ran a fossil store
she put the bones together for the collectors
and science was the province of men of noble birth
but I'd take Mary Anning over those stuffed white shirts
ancient life that sleeps as fossil

she was walking the cliffs on her own by the sea
she was wondering if there were shapes underneath
there were men with their cash but that's not what it took
she could read every line on the ground like a book
she assembled the bones of the past in cement
and she sold them in town for a couple of pence
and she showed all the men how the bones could connect
though at first some would scoff they would grow to respect

(repeat first verse)

how did you get in here? show me what you found dear
hello isn't that queer do you have any more?
Listen to an MP3 clip of the song HERE.

You can buy the CD from the band’s website, or through iTunes HERE.

I first heard this song on 'stonecoldbikini' hosted by Christine on WRUW FM 91.1, the radio station of Case Western Reserve University here in Cleveland.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Born This Day: Björn Kurtén & Rainer Zangerl

Nov. 19, 1924 - Dec. 28, 1988.

From Kurtén's bio from HERE:

Along with George Gaylord Simpson in America, Björn Kurtén was the founding father of an important scientific movement that united Darwinian theory with empirical studies of fossil vertebrates. He was also a leading student of fossil bears - and by chance his first name Björn means "bear" in his native Swedish.

From 1955 to 1972 Kurtén was lecturer at the University of Helsinki. He was also a researcher at the University of Florida, a visiting professor at the University of Harvard (1971-71) and a professor at the University of Helsinki from 1972 to 1988. In Spain and Tunisia Kurtén participated in scientific excavations. Kurtén received several awards from his popular scientific works, including Unesco's Kalinga Award.

Among Kurtén major scientific publications are his dissertation, ON THE VARIATION AND POPULATION DYNAMICS OF FOSSIL AND RECENT MAMMAL POPULATIONS (1953), PLEISTOCENE MAMMALS OF EUROPE (1968), published in the same year in Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland, and PLEISTOCENE MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA (1980). INTE FRÅN APORNA (1971) was also translated into several languages. In 1988 appeared ON EVOLUTION AND FOSSIL MAMMALS, a collection of earlier studies.

Kurtén was also a writer of popular science fiction books about ancient men including, DEN SVARTA TIGERN (1978, Dance of the Tiger) and MAMMUTENS RÅDARE (1982, Singletusk). Kurtén received several awards from his popular scientific works, including Unesco's Kalinga Award.

Portrait from HERE. Book from HERE.

Rainer Zangerl Nov. 19, 1912 - Dec. 27, 2004

From his obituary:

During a scientific career that spanned six decades, Zangerl was always ready to share his enthusiasm for fossil turtles and sharks with colleagues, friends, and museum goers of all ages. Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, he received a PhD from the University of Zurich under the direction of his mentor, Professor Bernhard Peyer. In 1937, he moved to the United States and married Anna Johanna Kurz, who joined him on many fossil-hunting expeditions throughout the United States.

Zangerl spent much of his career at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, first as Curator of Fossil Reptiles and then as Chairman of the Geology Department. Along with his friend and colleague Eugene Richardson, he made major discoveries of fossil sharks in Parke County, Indiana, during the 1950’s and 60’s.

In 2003, Dr. Zangerl was recognized by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, of which he was a founding member and president, with its highest honor, the Romer-Simpson Medal.

New Kong Teaser Posters

Images from HERE.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes Debuts 1985

20 years ago today Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes first wandered in the daily newspaper. You can now buy the entire collection of the strip at places like THIS.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dinosaurs Ate Grass

Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers. Vandana Prasad, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Habib Alimohammadian, and Ashok Sahni. Science 310:1177-1180.

Silicified plant tissues (phytoliths) preserved in Late Cretaceous coprolites from India show that at least five taxa from extant grass (Poaceae) subclades were present on the Indian subcontinent during the latest Cretaceous.
This taxonomic diversity suggests that crown-group Poaceae had diversified and spread in Gondwana before India became geographically isolated. Other phytoliths extracted from the coprolites (from dicotyledons, conifers, and palms) suggest that the suspected dung producers (titanosaur sauropods) fed indiscriminately on a wide range of plants. These data also make plausible the hypothesis that gondwanatherian mammals with hypsodont cheek teeth were grazers.

The Iridium Band

From Don Glut and Pete Von Sholly comes this info that I meant to pass along ages ago (sorry boys!):

Each D. Tracks album contains 12 PC (paleontologically correct) songs by the Iridium Band (Pete Von Sholly and Don Glut).

The D. Talks cassettes feature "classic" paleontologists like Riggs and Colbert talking about their lives, careers, discoveries, etc.

All cassettes are $10 plus $1 postage & handling and are available from Fossil Records, 2805 N. Keystone St., Burbank, CA 91504-1604. I'd suggest dropping Don a line to check on availability first.

Satellite Spies Fish Foes

A satellite surveillance zone within the southern Indian Ocean is helping protect the endangered Patagonian toothfish from pirate fishing vessels.

Image from Credit: Traffic Oceania/Bruce Mahalski

Perched between Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica, the windswept French territory of the Kerguelen Islands is one of the remotest places on Earth. Even so, fishing vessels are lured there by the prospect of catching one valuable species found in its surrounding waters – the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, or else 'white gold' for the high prices it commands on the black market. Run for the benefit of the French maritime authorities by the firm CLS (Collecte, Localisation Satellites), a subsidiary of the French space agency CNES, the system is up and running at a time when overfishing has left the 40-million-year-old Patagonian toothfish species on the verge of extinction.

Also found off South America, the toothfish has evolved anti-freeze components in its blood, making it one of a small number of species to colonise the sub-Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean, playing an important role in the ecosystem there, providing sustenance to whales and seals.

Toothfish dwell in deep waters on the edge of coastal shelves and sea mounts. Individual toothfish can live for 40 years but take a decade to reach adulthood: their slow-maturing character makes them especially vulnerable to overfishing. As toothfish numbers have crashed in heavily fished waters off Chile and Argentina, fishermen are increasingly drawn to Southern Ocean fisheries. While strict quotas have been set to preserve numbers the region has proved increasingly popular with pirate vessels intent on defying the law.

Read the complete article HERE.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dallasaurus: A Mosasaur Missing Link

Image from HERE.

In the latest issue of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences Southern Methodist University paleontologist Michael Polcyn and Gordon Bell Jr. of Guadalupe National Park in Texas describe the new marine reptile Dallasaurus. The three-foot long lizard lived 92 million years ago in the shallow seas and shores of what was then a stretch of Texas mostly under water.

Dallasaurus represents a missing link in the evolution of mosasaurs, prehistoric animals that started out on land, but evolved in the seas and dominated the oceans at the same time dinosaurs ruled the land. One aspect of Polcyn and Bell’s research is the revelation that Dallasaurus retained complete limbs, hands and feet suitable for walking on land, whereas later mosasaurs evolved their limbs into flippers.

“This is pretty close to the beginning of the mosasaur family tree,” says Dallas Museum of Natural History Earth Sciences Curator and SMU Adjunct Professor of Paleontology Anthony R. Fiorillo, Ph.D. “It is the most complete mosasaur retaining all of its limbs found in North America.”

The importance of the discovery isn’t lost on the researchers putting together the pieces of the mosasaur puzzle. In fact, they predict the legacy of the discoverer, Val Turner, will live on. His contribution was honored by naming the species, “turneri,” after his last name.

“Not all major discoveries are made by highly trained paleontologists,” notes Dallas Natural History Museum Curator Fiorillo. “The observant individual, even kids, can still make an important find,” he says. “Once this goes mainstream, and people begin to recognize what mosasaurs are, we’ll be finding more and more.”

Read the complete news release HERE.

Stout's Kong

Art © William Stout 2005.

This nice image of the original King Kong is by Bill Stout and taken (I think) from one of his own recent auctions on Ebay. Every week Bill puts up a couple of nice sketches like this (or dinosaurs, etc.) at pretty reasonable prices. You can probably easily find them by going to and entering "William Stout" & "original art".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Top 10 Useless Organs

Over at (a highly recommended site & just added to my news links) comes this illustrated article by Brandon Miller:

In Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and his next publication, The Descent of Man (1871), he referred to several “vestiges” in human anatomy that were left over from the course of evolution. These vestigial organs, Darwin argued, are evidence of evolution and represent a function that was once necessary for survival, but over time that function became either diminished or nonexistent.

Image from HERE

The presence of an organ in one organism that resembles one found in another has lead biologists to conclude that these two might have shared a common ancestor. Vestigial organs have demonstrated remarkably how species are related to one another, and has given solid ground for the idea of common descent to stand on. From common descent, it is predicted that organisms should retain these vestigial organs as structural remnants of lost functions. It is only because of macro-evolutionary theory, or evolution that takes place over very long periods of time, that these vestiges appear.

In the never-ending search for scientific truth, hypotheses are proposed, evidence is found, and theories are formulated to describe and explain what is being observed in the world around us. The following are ten observations of vestigial organs whose presence have helped to flesh out the structure of the family tree that includes every living creature on our planet.

Click HERE to read Miller’s top ten list.

Darwin’s Tortoise Turns 175

From .com comes this article:

Imagine being born in 1830 and still being around to celebrate your birthday. The Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast celebrates the 175th birthday of the world's oldest known living animal, a Galapagos tortoise named Harriet who weighs almost 150 kilograms. But Harriet has an extra claim to fame. According to folklore, Charles Darwin adopted her as a personal pet during the historic voyage of HMS Beagle and studied her while working on his theory of evolution.

For more info on Harriet (and what may ot may be be true about her story) go to The Gardian Unlimited.
Image from HERE.

Monday, November 14, 2005

M.D. vs Ph.D.

A nationally syndicated comic strip that only runs in one paper? That would be “Fisher” by Philip Street that runs weekdays in Canada’s The Globe and Mail. The Fisher archives are HERE.

My Theory Which Is Mine

Apparently I’m not the only who thinks that the “Intelligent Design” arguments sound like an old Monty Python routine. So does William Saletan and he has written about it over at

Born This Day: Sir Charles Lyell

Nov. 14, 1797 - Feb. 22, 1875

From Minnesota State University at Mankato comes this excellent bio on Lyell:

Sir Charles Lyell attended Oxford University at age 19. Lyell's father was an active naturalist. Lyell had access to an elaborate library including subjects such as Geology.

When Lyell was at Oxford, his interests were mathematics, classics, law and geology. He attended a lecture by William Buckland that triggered his enthusiasm for geology. Lyell originally started his career as a lawyer, but later turned to geology. He became an author of The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man in 1863 and Principles of Geology. Lyell argued in this book that, at the time, presently observable geological processes were adequate to explain geological history. He thought the action of the rain, sea, volcanoes and earthquakes explained the geological history of more ancient times.

Lyell rebelled against the prevailing theories of geology of the time. He thought the theories were biased, based on the interpretation of Genesis. He thought it would be more practical to exclude sudden geological catastrophes to vouch for fossil remains of extinct species and believed it was necessary to create a vast time scale for Earth's history. This concept was called Uniformitarianism. The second edition of Principles of Geology introduced new ideas regarding metamorphic rocks. It described rock changes due to high temperature in sedimentary rocks adjacent to igneous rocks. His third volume dealt with paleontology and stratigraphy. Lyell stressed that the antiquity of human species was far beyond the accepted theories of that time.

Charles Darwin became his dear friend and correspondent. Darwin is quoted saying, "The greatest merit of the Principles was that it altered the whole tone of one's mind, and therefore that, when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it through his eyes."

Image from King’s College London.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Steve Bissette & Roy Krenkel

If you tune into Steve Bissette's Sunday morning entry over at his very excellent "MyRant" you'll be able to eavesdrop on Steve's own musing about Roy Krenkel. You'll have to scroll down to about halfway through the entry to just after Steve's long story about Neil Giaman.

Fantasia Debuts On Broadway

Walt Disney’s epic film, Fantasia, opened this day on Broadway in New York City in 1940. The film featured Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing a number of pieces of classical music to the film’s animated visuals. Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” provided the score for the evolution of the Earth including a wonderful sequence on the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Many school teachers actually showed this sequence in science class -- that’s where I first saw it!

Born This Day: Gustav Heinrich Ralph Von Koenigswald

Nov. 13, 1902- Nov. 9, 1982

German paleontologist and geologist G.H. Ralph von Koenigswald is best known for his work on early primate ancestors of humans, such as Pithecanthropus, Giganopithicus blacki, and Hemanthropus. He spent most of his career doing fieldwork in Java. He was also associated with the Netherlands Geological Survey and the Carnegie Foundation and taught at the Rijksuniversiteit in Utrecht.

Like many palaeontologists, Koenigswald had an interesting life. Russell L. Ciochon gives this story from HERE:

“The original fossils of Peking man disappeared during the confusion of World War II - fortunately, after they were described and cast by anatomist Franz Weidenreich. The war also caught up with von Koenigswald, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java. His precious collection of Gigantopithecus teeth - at that point, the only known specimens of the fossil ape - spent the war years in a milk bottle buried in a friend's backyard on the island”.

Info from HERE. Image from HERE.

More information HERE.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

John Cleese Officially A Monkey’s Uncle

From comes this news item:

John Cleese, who played a lemur-happy zookeeper in the 1997 film Fierce Creatures and hosted the 1998 documentary Born to Be Wild: Operation Lemur with John Cleese, now has a new species of the primate named after him.

Researches at Zurich University have dubbed a tiny, leaf-loving lemur in Madagascar, avahi cleesei.

Image of the related Avahi occidentalis from HERE.

The endangered, two-pound furry creature was discovered in the western region of the country in 1990 by the Zurich team, but wasn't named until now. Mr. Cleese has yet to comment on the distinction, but word is he's pretty pleased.

Cleese and his fellow Pythons were previously honored by the geek set in 1985 via the Montypyhtonoides riversleighensis, a fossil snake. However, the critter was later renamed.

A comprehensive list of weird scientific names can be found at the Website Curiosities in Biological Nomenclature. It’s worth a look.

Fossil Smuggling Trial Starts In China

China has opened the trial of the most notorious ancient animal fossil smuggling case, involving 2,925 pieces in eastern Zhejiang Province and revealing a huge loophole in protecting the ancient treasures.

Keichousaurus image from HERE.

From China View ( comes this story:

According to Thursday's People's Daily, the trial opened in a local court on Nov. 1. Suspects Zhu Chunlin, a Canadian-Chinese, and his complices are accused of having been buying and smuggling paleobiofossils to the United States or reselling them on domestic market since 2003.

The two were caught by customs officials last November, when officials spotted 1,141 fossils they planned to smuggle abroad and later 1,784 pieces they sold or hid in northeast Jinzhou city and Shanghai, including Jurassic Hyphalosaurus fossils over 150 million years old, and Triassic Keichousaurus hui fossils and Ichthyosaurus fossils that date back over 200 million years, all banned from being exported out of China.

Hyphalosaurus image from HERE.

But the case is not unprecedented. During 2002 and 2004, three smuggling cases were found each involving more than 2,000 paleobiofossils. Reckless smugglers are driven by huge gains of selling the fossils overseas, said Liu Lujun, a paleontologist who inspected the fossils seized in the ongoing case.

Ancient animal fossils are sold at prices generally ten times that in the Chinese market in foreign markets. A Confuciusornis bird fossil, priced at only 20,000 to 30,000 yuan, would cost 100,000 dollars or more in a foreign country. As an international black market takes shape, the number of fossils slipping out of China to overseas regions is striking. More than 100 Confuciusornis bird fossils, the oldest fossils found on earth, have been smuggled from China to Tuscon, Arizona, US, alone.

Confusciusornis image from HERE.

There are only 20 Confusciusornis bird fossils left in Chinese museums. The gloomy situation is blamed on China's lack of a specified law to protect the fossils and punish smugglers and poor multi-ministry coordination, experts said. China has not a single law to deal with the protection and smuggling of ancient animal fossils, though as early as 2002, the first local regulations were issued in a small county in southwest Guizhou Province to protect fossils and guard against smuggling there.

Moreover, there is no clear legal interpretation spelling outwhether ancient animal fossils are antiques, which lead to the protection of the two to fall into the jurisdictions of two different government departments. While antiquities are looked after by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics, the protection of paleobiofossils is taken care of by the Ministry of Land and Resources, whose regulations focus only on fossil excavation, not on smuggling or scalping.

In China's legal system, profiting from fossils is not specified in terms of legal obligation. There is not even a unified national standard for fossil appraisal, which increases the difficulty in China's fossil protection.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

In honor of Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day in the US) I'm posting these covers from the latest issue of PS magazine on-line that features art by veteran comic artist & writer, Joe Kubert. Joe is perhaps best known as the artist for DC Comics Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace.

The character forzen in the block of ice is Kubert's own "Tor".

Thanks to Bob at FourRealities for pointing this out to me!

The Paleo-Path (Part 12): Roy G. Krenkel


After a long absence the Paleo-Path is back again with a special installment on the late, great, and unsung artist, Roy Krenkel, to celebrate the new collection of his work, RGK - THE ART OF ROY G. KRENKEL, published by Vanguard Productions. The book is also an appreciation of the man and includes contributions by many of Roy's good friends such as Anglo Torres, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, William Stout, and many others.

Although not well known to the general public, Krenkel is revered amongst fantasy illustrators and students of fine pen & ink work. A number of high profile paleontologists are also fans of his work including researchers like Philip Currie who owns a significant number of Krenkel originals (including many unpublished pieces).

Roy at work.

Although Krenkel did not exclusively draw prehistoric animals, he did produce dozens of finished pieces depicting antediluvian monsters, and hundreds, if not thousands, of sketches of his beloved sabre-toothed cats and cavemen.

Much of Krenkel’s work stemmed from his love of the fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) and, indeed, he produced many illustrations and covers for the ACE reissues of Burroughs’ stories in the ‘60’s. Roy is also noted for, reputedly, showing Frank Frazetta how to paint when they collaborated on the covers for the first of the ACE Burroughs’ books.

This Paleo-Path installment features a reprinting of William Stout’s chapter from the new book examining Krenkel’s relationship with ERB. It is reprinted here with Bill’s permission and thanks to J. David Spurlock of Vanguard Productions who made this excellent book a reality.

You can order the book directly from Vanguard by clicking HERE.

Roy Krenkel: Expanding The Burroughs Tradition by William Stout © 2004.

From the time he began work in the literary field of adventure fantasy, the works of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs have consistently served as a dynamic visual catalyst to artists imaginations the world over.

Cover to 'Land of the Hidden Men' by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ace Books.

Bronx born artist Roy Gerald Krenkel was not immune to the seductive power of Burroughs word paintings. Roy was first exposed to the colorful works of ERB when he was nine or ten years old with a copy of Tarzan and the Golden Lion. This book was also Roy’s first glimpse of J. Allen St. John’s illustrations. According to Roy it was St. John’s art that inspired Krenkel to pursue more of Burroughs writing.

As an adult, before he was ever paid to do so, Krenkel was actively producing sketches and illustrations of Burroughs characters set in their exotic native lands of Africa, Mars, Venus and that prehistoric-peopled land at the center of our earth, Pellucidar.

One of the Roy Krenkel’s most famous pieces, the masterful splash page to ‘Food For Thought” from the EC comic book, Incredible Science Fiction # 32 (1955). Although Roy’s good friend Al Williamson illustrated the story, Roy did the first page with the exception of the inset panel & the ‘flying snake’ in the foreground.
In the early 1960s Ace Books editor Donald Wolheim first took notice of Roy G. Krenkel's Edgar Rice Burroughs pen illustrations by way of the fantasy fan publication (or fanzine as they were known back then) Amra. Amra was devoted primarily (though not solely) to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Conan creator Robert E. Howard (Amra the Loin was one of Conan’s given names).

In 1962 Ace began to republish paperback books of some of the works by Edgar Rice Burroughs that Ace (mistakenly) thought had been allowed by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to lapse into public domain. At 44, Roy’s first job for Wolheim was not illustrating Burroughs, however. Instead he was asked to illustrate a Burroughs-contemporary imitator, Otis Adelbert Kline. Wolheim knew that Roy could easily pull off the title page pen illustrations he was planning to include inside the Burroughs novels; but Wolheim had doubts as to whether or not Krenkel could handle paint and color.

The Kline book was Planet of Peril and Roy did just fine. After a few more Kline paperbacks Krenkel got his first Edgar Rice Burroughs assignments. Roy’s mainstream Burroughs debuts were huge artistic successes. One of his first was The Moon Maid (below). Stunning design and rich yet subtle color make The Moon Maid cover one of the best ERB paintings Roy ever executed. The ever-self-deprecating Krenkel confessed that he felt he had peaked with this early painting and that his Ace Burroughs covers were all downhill from there.

In addition to its painted cover each Ace Books Edgar Rice Burroughs volume held an inside treat for its purchaser: a line illustration by its cover artist on the title page. These title page illustrations allowed Roy to further explore other ERB story aspects using a medium of which he was in full command.

Despite the joy of being paid to paint and draw a subject matter dear to his heart, Krenkel was extremely sensitive to pressure. He felt that pressure strongly with a stack of Wolheim Burroughs assignments sitting at his drawing board waiting for completion. Roy began to bring in his good friend Frank Frazetta to occasionally help him out. Frank would finish whatever Roy perceived as difficult to execute, attempting to paint his embellishments in Krenkel’s style. Eventually, to lighten his load, Krenkel convinced a reluctant(!) Wolheim to give Frazetta a shot at illustrating some of the Ace Books ERB titles. That generous opportunity made possible by Roy would ultimately change the life of Frank Frazetta (and the art world) forever.

There was pressure from Donald Wolheim on Krenkel and Frazetta to paint and draw in a style reminiscent of the most popular Burroughs illustrator of the early 1900s: J. Allen St. John. They both struggled with that pressure and resented it. There own strong individualities could not be smothered, however, and both artists emerged as their own men.

Wow, could Roy draw! One of the palaeoblogger’s all-time favourite Roy Krenkel drawings.

Adding to the magnificent work these two artistic friends were producing was the outstanding art direction of these little volumes. The type faces chosen for the Ace’s Burroughs series could not have been more sympathetic to the art and subject matter. With their Krenkel and Frazetta covers, the Crackerjacks-like surprise of the title page illustration in each book and the series’ outstanding art direction, the Ace Books Burroughs titles were not only an ERB fan's dream come true, they also functioned quite successfully as recruitment tools for thousands of new Burroughs readers.

Around the same time as the Ace assignments Krenkel began to do other Burroughs work for Canaveral Press, another publishing company taking advantage of what they mistakenly perceived as the ERB copyright lapse. Canaveral Press published dustjacketed hardcover volumes.

Unfortunately, unlike Ace Books, the art direction at Canaveral was abominable; the type faces chosen for the covers were to a title absolutely atrocious. The one exception to this was Tales of Three Planets --- because Krenkel himself was allowed to execute the lettering and incorporate it into his cover illustration.

Despite the aesthetic deficits of the Canaveral volumes they had three important things going for them: they were hardcover editions, they were substantially larger than paperbacks and they were printed on better paper. The larger size and better paper gave Roy Krenkel a chance to draw pen illustrations with the Franklin Booth-influenced linework and detail he knew would be successfully reproduced. His pen work in these volumes was much more elaborate than the smaller pen studies that were somewhat crudely reproduced on the cheap pulp interior paper of the Ace volumes. The Canaveral Burroughs titles really gave Roy a chance to show off his consummate skills as a penman.

Krenkel’s strengths as an artist are many. Roy was an eternal student with a voracious aesthetic appetite for artists and illustrators that were primarily from (but not limited to) the late 19th and early 20th century. Krenkel was well aware of St. John's work but he was also aware of the much greater world of fine art as well. He incorporated this vast knowledge into the making of each picture.

Roy had an outstanding sense of design (the conscious arrangement of shapes and dark and light systems or values); because of this he could instantly spot fake Tiepolos in New York museums at fifty yards. It's easy; Tiepolo never did a bad design in his life, he once told me. All of the Ace title page illustrations and several of the Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins illustrations are pen vignettes exhibiting an elegance of design that ranks with Howard Pyle's best masterful efforts.

Roy’s color sense varied. It was usually strong (most of the Ace Burroughs covers), sometimes powerful (The Mastermind of Mars and Tarzan Triumphant), but once in a great while an experiment would go awry (the one cover I consider to be Roy’s clinker, the Ace edition of The Cave Girl which seems driven to include every color on Roy’s palette) or end up on the harsh end of the spectrum (Escape On Venus and The Chessmen of Mars). Often Krenkel would work with a safe monochromatic scheme that allowed his excellent drawing and design to sell his picture to the reader.

Roy’s figure drawing was appealingly codified and very romantic with a fine fundamental understanding of male and female anatomy. His settings were abundantly lush, dripping with luxuriant vegetation. His architecture (drawing inspiration from the historical reconstructions of William Walcot) stands ruined and exotically appropriate for the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Krenkel’s other worldly machinery is a marvelous mixture of Art Nouveau and Art Deco stylings. His creatures appear to be an alien combination of classic J. Allen St. John and the world’s premiere paleoartist, Charles R. Knight.

Cover for The Eternal Savage, Ace Books.

Roy Krenkel was well known for the self-deprecation of his work; he saw his own work as crude. The most self-complimentary he ever got was when he said, "I had fun with it" or "Sometimes, out comes a nice little picture". Krenkel bowed to J. Allen St. John as "the great Burroughs illustrator". For Roy’s generation this is undoubtedly true; but for the baby boomer Edgar Rice Burroughs fans of the 1960s (myself included) it was the awe-inspiring sense of wonder conveyed by the paintings and drawings of Roy G. Krenkel that began to redefine the rich visual legacy seeded by the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, elevating that entire legacy in the process.

All art & characters are © the respective copyright holders.

Learn more about Roy G. Krenkel HERE.
Read Bill Stout’s biography HERE.
Read the other Paleo-Path articles HERE.

All the art featured here is by Roy Krenkel & is from the book, RGK: The Art of Roy G. Krenkel which is available in:

Limited Deluxe Slipcassed hardcover with bonus material ($49.95); regular hardcover ($34.95); softcover ($24.95) and, Vanguard has produced 120 genuine leather-bound, gold guilded, ULTRA Deluxe editions containing an original Krenkel sketch in each (these are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by the palaeoblogger who wishes he could afford one). The ULTRA editions are available only from the publisher at $250.00 each plus $15 for insured shipping in USA. Check or Money Order to: Vanguard, 390 Campus Drive, Somerset, NJ 08873.

You can e-mail the publisher at:
Website: available HERE

(please note that the palaeoblogger is getting no reward for this -- he just wants to let as many acquire the book as possible!)

Krenkel’s pencil art for DC Comics’ Tarzan letter page masthead.