Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More Gobi Pix

The famous Flaming Cliffs.

A lizard found on the Flaming Cliffs posted especially for Dr. Tony Russell.

Saurolophus mounted at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. This thing is as big as T. rex!

Tarbosaurus premaxilla for sale at a tourist stall at a small airport in the Gobi.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Gobi Photos

I'm back in Ulaanbaatar for a few days before heading out to the Gobi again this weekend with a multinational crew to look at new fossil producing regions. The first trip (2 weeks) went very well with lots of new finds and only one big sand storm.

Over the next few days I'll try to squeeze some photos down the internet connection to the rest of the world.

Drs. Eva Kopplehus, Bagamgarov, and Phil Currie at our departure point into the southcentral Gobi. We're at a small airport at the edge of the Gobi about an hours flight south of UB.

The dinosaur collections (at least the prepared and accessable portion) at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences that we are working with is made up of approximately 1/3 material collected by Phil's expeditions over the last ten years.

Another shot from above of the famous 'fighting dinosaurs' (Protoceratops (L) and Velociraptor (R) at the Natural History Museum next door to the palaeo labs.

More soon about some of the exciting finds we've made this trip. Check the news for the press conference that we're holding later today (Weds. here).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Back to the Gobi

I'm off in a few hours back to Mongolia to hopefully finish up some work started last year, and to find some new sites. I'll be back sometime in Sept. with a few pix (hopefully!) from the field in between.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Southern Alberta Dinosaur Research Group Photos

Some more random photos from this season's SADRG field work:

Tetsuto and Delina at the associated hadrosaur quarry.

'Happy Jack' Jackson's old cabin in Dinosaur Provincial Park (actually on private land within the bounderies of the Park).

Donna MacLoed (RTMP technician) collects a Centrosaurus quadrate from BB 43 (my old MSc. locality).

Dr. Brad Belluk collects a postorbital from BB 43.

The 'Citadel' dominates BB 43.

Finishing up the hadrosaur quarry (From L to R: Nick Longrich, Jim Brown, MJR, Delina Christopher, Tetsuto Miyashita, Liz Russell).

David Evans strikes a pose in DPP.

The 'pachyrhinosaur' quarry in DPP. We moved a ton more rock this summer trying to find the ever elusive parietal.

Darren Tanke works the jackhammer in the 'pachyrhinosaur' quarry.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Fay Wray


Two years ago today Fay Wray passed away.

The Canadian Fay Wray stamp is now available.

Reverse Evolution In Mice

Reversal of Hox1 Gene Subfunctionalization in the Mouse.2006. P. Tvrdik and M. R. Capecchi. Developmental Cell 11: 239-250
Researchers have taken a mouse back in time some 500 million years by reversing the process of evolution.
From BBC

By engineering its genetic blueprint, they have rebuilt a gene that was present in primitive animals. The ancient gene later mutated and split, giving rise to a pair of genes that play a key role in brain development in modern mammals.

Until about 500 million years ago, early animals had 13 such Hox genes. Then each gene split into four, making 52 genes. Over the course of evolution, further mutations occurred, and some genes became redundant and disappeared, leading to today's tally in mammals of 39 Hox genes.

The Utah pair combined critical sections of Hoxa1 and Hoxb1, reconstructing a gene similar to its equivalent some 530 million years ago. The hybrid gene is not completely identical to the ancient one, but the scientists say it performs essentially the same functions.

"It gives a real example of how evolution works because we can reverse it."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Born This Day: Louis Leakey

Aug 7, 1903 – October 1, 1972.

Louis and Mary Leakey. Link
From Today In Science History:

Leakey, an archaeologist and anthropologist, was born in Kabete, Kenya, of English missionaries parents. Leakey was largely responsible for convincing scientists that Africa, rather than Java or China, was the most significant area to search for evidence of human origins. Leakey led fossil-hunting expeditions to eastern Africa from the 1920's.

He married Mary D. Nicol in 1936 and the couple discovered many important fossils together. In 1964, on an expedition to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, he found fossil remains of, he believed, the earliest member of the genus of human beings. He named the species Homo habilis.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fossil Frog Marrow

High-fidelity organic preservation of bone marrow in ca. 10 Ma amphibians. 2006. M. E. McNamara et al.. Geology 34:641–644.

Abstract: Bone marrow in ca. 10 Ma frogs and salamanders from the Miocene of Libros, Spain, represents the first fossilized example of this extremely decay-prone tissue. The bone marrow, preserved in three dimensions as an organic residue, retains the original texture and red and yellow color of hematopoietic and fatty marrow, respectively; moldic osteoclasts and vascular structures are also present. We attribute exceptional preservation of the fossilized bone marrow to cryptic preservation: the bones of the amphibians formed protective microenvironments, and inhibited microbial infiltration. Specimens in which bone marrow is preserved vary in their completeness and articulation and in the extent to which the body outline is preserved as a thin film of organically preserved bacteria. Cryptic preservation of these labile tissues is thus to a large extent independent of, and cannot be predicted by, the taphonomic history of the remainder of the specimen.

From the Yahoo News Article:
The first fossilized bone marrow has been found in the bones of 10-million-year-old frogs, salamanders and tadpoles by scientists working in northeastern Spain.
"It is still organic in composition, whereas most traces of soft tissues you find in the fossil record, which are very rare anyway, have rotted away and just the shape of the tissue is preserved in mineral," she told AFP.

McNamara said researchers were now doing tests in UCD to see if any bio-molecules, like amino acids and proteins, are preserved. The researchers were able to access the marrow from the fossils because they were found in rock that had split and some of the bones had fractured as a result. McNamara said the original red and yellow colours of the marrow had been preserved. Image Link

More Than A Monkey's Uncle

A survey of primate IQ has concluded that orang-utans and chimps are the chief eggheads, with monkeys and lemurs trailing in their intellectual wake.


The study has produced a table (below) of overall cognitive ability among primates. Previous research had attempted to compare different primates' abilities at specific tasks, but no one had ever combined this data into an overall measure of intelligence.

The researchers compiled results from dozens of problem-solving puzzles given to different types of primates by researchers. These included tests of ability to navigate mazes, to untangle a jumble of differently coloured threads to find food, and to spot the odd-one-out in a series of images. They ranked each species and calculated the overall average intelligence of each.

Overall, intelligence seems to be correlated with absolute brain size, rather than brain size relative to body size, or the relative sizes of different brain regions, Deaner says. Previous theories had suggested that a critical factor may be the size of the brain's neocortex, a region that seems to vary in size depending on the size of the social groups in which an animal lives, and that might therefore reflect cognitive skills.

The league table of primate intelligence
1. Orang-utan
2. Chimpanzee
3. Spider monkey
4. Gorilla
5. Surili
6. Macaque
7. Mandrill
8. Guenon
9. Mangabey
10. Capuchin
11. Woolly monkey
12. Gibbon
13. Baboon
14. Slow loris
15. Night monkey
16. Ruffed lemur
17. Brown lemur
18. Fork-marked lemur
19. Ring-tailed lemur
20. Bushbaby
21. Squirrel monkey
22. Mouse lemur
23. Marmoset
24. Talapoin

Captain Caveman Returns!

Macfarlane Toys brings back another dino-themed Hanna-Barbara cartoon character as an 'action figure' for grown-up kids with too much money to burn.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dry Island Albertosaurus Bone Bed

Tyrannosaur Life Tables: An Example of Nonavian Dinosaur Population Biology. G. M. Erickson, et al. Science 313: 213-217.

Abstract: The size and age structures for four assemblages of North American tyrannosaurs—Albertosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Gorgosaurus, and Daspletosaurus—reveal a pronounced, bootstrap-supported pattern of age-specific mortality characterized by relatively high juvenile survivorship and increased mortality at midlife and near the maximum life span. Such patterns are common today in wild populations of long-lived birds and mammals. Factors such as predation and entrance into the breeding population may have influenced tyrannosaur survivorship. This survivorship pattern can explain the rarity of juvenile specimens in museum collections.

I'm late on the above article because I've been in the field. Much of the data comes from the work done by co-author Philip Currie (U of Alberta) on his Albertosaurus bone bed in Dry Island Provincial Park, north of Drumheller.

Originally found and collected by Barnum Brown in 1910
, Currie relocated it in the late 1990's and has been excavating it ever since. This year he was working the original 1910 portion of the quarry. I had the chance to spend a few days at the locality and take these photos:

Phil maps the quarry.

Happy crew works miserably difficult matrix to find great elements.

The 2006 quarry. The horizon in the distance was the starting point each morning for the hike to the bone bed.

A newly exposed tibia and fibula.

Dr. Julia Sankey and Rasmus Koppelhus.

Don's Turtle

Last Thursday I while I was in Dinosaur Provincial Park with Don Brinkman from the Royal Tyrrell Museum, long time volunteer Sue Marsland (above left, with Donna ) found a beautiful Aspideroides turtle carapace for Don in BB 50.

Don helps with the excavation.

The pedestalled turtle before the field jacket was applied.

A turtle a day keeps Don happy!