Thursday, November 30, 2006

Neal Adams' Fractured Theories On The Earth

Petrology and thermal structure of the Hawaiian plume from Mauna Kea volcano. 2006. C. Herzberg. Nature 444: 605-609.
Science offers new evidence that parts of the Earth’s crust that long ago dove hundreds or thousands of kilometers into the Earth’s interior have resurfaced in the hot lava flow of Hawaiian volcanoes.
From the Press release:

“This concept has been a big issue in the earth sciences,” Herzberg said. While it had been proposed earlier by some geologists, the profession hasn’t embraced it because evidence until now remained sketchy. “Many geologists felt that when Earth’s crust was forced deep into the mantle, a process called subduction, it would simply stay there.”

Herzberg claims to have found telltale chemical evidence at Mauna Kea that pieces of this submerged crust have been forced up through plumes and now make up most of this volcano’s lava flow. “The low calcium in the Hawaiian magma pegs it as crust that had melted and been forced to the surface,” he said. The calcium levels in traditional magma, which comes from melting the Earth’s mantle layer below the crust, are much higher.

Which leads me to this:

Art © (hopefully) Neal Adams. The Spectre © DC Comics

Readers of this blog know that I enjoy sprinkling images remembered from my wayward youth (thank you Google Images!) throughout the stories I post. The above illo has a tenuous link to the ‘real’ news item above & was drawn by Neal Adams, one of the true greats amongst funny-book artists.

Neal is still active in the biz today and runs a successful commercial art agency. He is also an amateur scientific theorist with his own views on everything from dinosaur extinction to his ‘expanding Earth theory’ (it’s been blowing up like a balloon for millennia).

I don’t have the time or the energy to do argue Adams to the ground, nor do I think it would do any good—anyone that has put this much energy into his ‘theories’ is not going to let anything like a few facts stand in his way. But, if you want to see it all for yourself click here:

Why All Of Science Is Wrong And A Comic Book Artist Is Right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


A re-analysis of the marine bird Asiahesperornis from northern Kazakhstan. 2006. G. J. Dyke et al. Cretaceous Research 27: 947-953.

Abstract: Fossil bird material is exceptionally rare in the Mesozoic of western Asia. With the notable exception of the Upper Cretaceous foot-propelled diving bird Asiahesperornis bazhanovi from northern Kazakhstan, the only bird fossils described from this region have been bone fragments from the Upper Cretaceous of Uzbekistan. In this paper, all material referred to date to the hesperornithiform Asiahesperornis is reviewed and re-described. New postcranial elements of this taxon from the holotype Kushmurun locality (Maastrichtian Zhuravlovskaya Svita) are presented, and the taxonomic history and likely affinities of this ocean-going bird are discussed. Stamp link

Monday, November 27, 2006

Australian Megafauna Mass Death Due to Drought

Drought-stricken Australia should heed a warning from a new study that shows a series of massive droughts killed giant kangaroos and other "megafauna" in south-east Queensland 40,000 years ago.
From the press release:

Scientists studied the fossil-rich Darling Downs area of south-east Queensland and unearthed giant kangaroos and other large wildlife that roamed the area in the late Pleistocene age that were drought-stressed when they died.

"It provides, for the first time, evidence which suggests that the megafauna kangaroos were greatly affected by a series of catastrophic droughts.”

"These animals of the prehistoric Australian bush were the largest of their time and included gigantic wombats the size of cars, kangaroos that reached almost 2.5 metres tall, and massive emus and goannas.

Dr Price said the layers of fossils in the dig area at the Darling Downs were not consistent with some theories that humans had wiped out megafauna.

"Some scientists believe in the 'blitzkrieg' megafauna extinction hypothesis which blames humans for over-hunting these giant marsupials," he said.

"If that was the case, these fossils dating back thousands of years would show the animals dying out at the same point in time. But they don't. These layers of fossils buried at a single site under the Darling Downs show a progressive, three-stage extinction over time that relates to periods of climate change."

"The research found no evidence of humans being involved in the accumulation of fossils in the catchment at the time of deposition, but is perfectly consistent with their decline being caused by increasing aridity.

The findings will be published next month in the Australian Journal of Earth Science.

Missouri's Dinosaurs

KFVS has a short article on the dinosaur material being collected in Missouri. Thanks to Chad for this.

As you can see from the above photo, the blogging engine ‘blogger’ and its picture uploading software ‘picasa’ are still not working properly. There are ways to deal with this but, short of pulling this blog from blogger, none of them are quick—which is the single most important feature blogger is supposed to bring to the table. Grrr….

Sunday, November 26, 2006


The Comic!:

The Poster!:

The Movie Trailer!:

Permian Mass Extinction Increased the Complexity of Marine Ecosystems

Abundance Distributions Imply Elevated Complexity of Post-Paleozoic Marine Ecosystems. 2006. P. J. Wagner et al. Science 314: 1289 – 1292.
250 million years ago the Earth’s largest mass extinction wiped out 95% of marine species and 70% of land species and fundamentally changed the basic ecology of the world's oceans.

Krill Stromer & Storm Force 10 battle a complex marine ecosystem critter. Art © Mark Schultz from “Various Drawings Vol. 2” available from Flesk Pub. HERE. Krill Stromer, SF10, & SubHuman © M. Ryan & M. Schultz.

Simple communities are dominated by low-metabolism, stationary organisms such as lamp shells and sea lilies that filter nutrients from the water; complex communities are dominated by higher-metabolism, mobile organisms such as snails, clams and crabs that actively find their own food. After the mass extinction ecologically simple marine communities were largely displaced by complex communities.

Using data from the new Paleobiology Database in a new quantitative analyses scientists measured changes in the complexity of marine ecology over the Phanerozoic.

"We think these are the first analyses of this type at this large scale”, said Wagner. “They show that the end-Permian mass extinction permanently altered not just taxonomic diversity but also the prevailing marine ecosystem structure."

Specifically, the data and analyses concern models of relative abundance found in fossil communities throughout the Phanerozoic. The ecological implications are striking. Simple marine ecosystems suggest that bottom-dwelling organisms partitioned their resources similarly. Complex marine ecosystems suggest that interactions among different species, as well as a greater variety of ways of life, affected abundance distributions. Prior to the end-Permian mass extinction, both types of marine ecosystems (complex and simple) were equally common. After the mass extinction, however, the complex communities outnumbered the simple communities nearly 3:1.

"If not for this one enormous extinction event at the end of the Permian, then marine ecosystems today might still be like they were 250 million years ago."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Iced Dinos In China

Long time field volunteer with the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Research Group, Bill McPheeters, sent along this photo from an ice and snow sculpture exhibition in Hurbun in Northern China.

Published This Day: Origin of the Species

image link

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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on the Soft Tissue from T. rex

Soft tissue and cellular preservation in vertebrate skeletal elements from the Cretaceous to the present. 2006. M. Schweitzer et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, early on-line publication.

More on the ‘soft tissue’found in MOR 1125:

Abstract: Soft tissues and cell-like microstructures derived from skeletal elements of a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex (MOR 1125) were represented by four components in fragments of demineralized cortical and/or medullary bone: flexible and fibrous bone matrix; transparent, hollow and pliable blood vessels; intravascular material, including in some cases, structures morphologically reminiscent of vertebrate red blood cells; and osteocytes with intracellular contents and flexible filipodia.

The present study attempts to trace the occurrence of these four components in bone from specimens spanning multiple geological time periods and varied depositional environments. At least three of the four components persist in some skeletal elements of specimens dating to the Campanian. Fibrous bone matrix is more altered over time in morphology and less likely to persist than vessels and/or osteocytes. Vessels vary greatly in preservation, even within the same specimen, with some regions retaining pliability and other regions almost crystalline. Osteocytes also vary, with some retaining long filipodia and transparency, while others present with short and stubby filipodia and deeply pigmented nuclei, or are pigmented throughout with no nucleus visible. Alternative hypotheses are considered to explain the origin/source of observed materials.

Finally, a two-part mechanism, involving first cross-linking of molecular components and subsequent mineralization, is proposed to explain the surprising presence of still-soft elements in fossil bone. These results suggest that present models of fossilization processes may be incomplete and that soft tissue elements may be more commonly preserved, even in older specimens, than previously thought. Additionally, in many cases, osteocytes with defined nuclei are preserved, and may represent an important source for informative molecular data.

You can download the entire paper HERE. If the link is not working just go to the Royal Society web page.

Spawn of The Sea Nymph

Brood care in a Silurian ostracode. 2006. D. J. Siveter. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, early on-line pub.
Scientists have discovered a Silurian-aged mother complete with a brood of some 20 eggs and 2 possible juveniles inside.

Image from Atomic Surgery
From the press release:

Scientists have made a digital image of a fossil - an ostracod [a relative of the shrimps] - which is preserved exceptionally in volcanic ash rocks in Herefordshire.

David Siveter said, "Ostracods are common, pin-head sized crustaceans known from thousands of living species in garden ponds to oceans and from countless fossil shells up to 500 million years old; however, their fossilized soft-parts are exceedingly rare.

"Supposed examples of fossil invertebrate eggs are also few. The fossil we have found contains soft-part anatomy such as legs and eyes and also includes about twenty eggs, each about half a millimetre in size, and two possible juveniles.

"The fossil has been christened Nymphatelina gravida, meaning' a pregnant young woman of the sea'. This remarkable discovery provides an unequivocal and unique view of parental brood care in the invertebrate fossil record, it allows gender to be determined in an animal as old as the Silurian period of geological time, and indicates a remarkably conserved egg brooding reproductive strategy."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Lonely Bones

Justin Parpan, the author/illustrator of “Gwangowrote an interesting article on the website ‘Roadside Peek’ about a series of strange dinosaur sculptures constructed in the hills near his home town of San Jacinto.
“In the past, I’ve tried to research the sight, but with few results. The sculptor is a mystery, and most folk living near the hills have never even seen the sculptures hidden away in the hills, and barely visible from the roadside.

Unfortunately the sculptures were recently destroyed by a construction crew. It was a travesty, but luckily, I snapped a few photos before their destruction.”
See more pictures at one of Justine’s blogs: josvalentine

FYI, I'll be back in Canada for the next week taking care of family stuff. My access to the internet is limited there so posting will probably be light. However, I have got my QT videos from the Gobi reformated (thanks Liz!) and I'll soon be posting on "How to collect a Tarbosaurus."

Have a great Thanksgiving to all my American friends and colleagues!

More Bad TV

From The Sun (whoda thought we'd ever link to it?):

“Primeval - ITV1’s brand new sci-fi action adventure - promises to be packed full of special effects from the makers of Walking with Dinosaurs. The story revolves around a team of scientists recruited by the government to investigate a series of dinosaur sightings.

From a Gorgonopsid rampaging through the local woods, to a swarm of Megarachne in the tunnels of the London Underground, they soon find themselves up against some beastly opponents."

Enlisting the help of zoologist Abby (Hannah Spearritt, right) and student palaeontologist Connor (Andrew Lee Potts), the group set about uncovering the secrets of how extinct creatures are now a new reality.

New Origin for the Appalachian Mountains

Acatlán Complex, southern Mexico: Record spanning the assembly and breakup of Pangea. 2006. R.D. Nance, et al. Geology 34:857–860.
Geologists have developed a new theory to explain how and when the Appalachian Mountain range was created. Their research redraws the map of the planet from 420 million years ago.
From the press release:

The scientists recently discovered a piece of the Appalachian Mountains in southern Mexico, a location geologists long had assumed was part of the North American Cordillera. The Cordillera is a continuous sequence of mountain ranges that includes the Rocky Mountains and stretches from Alaska to Mexico and into South America.


According to the conventional map of 420 million years ago, two main land masses were separated by the Rheic Ocean. In the south sat Gondwana, a supercontinent consisting of South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica. To the north was Laurussia, made up of North America, Greenland, Europe and part of Asia. The old map showed the Acátlan Complex attached to Laurussia. The complex broke off Gondwana about 80 million years earlier, drifted toward North America along with the other land masses, closing an older ocean, known as the Iapetus Ocean, as it did so. The collision created the Appalachian Mountains.

The new map looks rather different. Based on the new evidence the Acatlán Complex collision with Laurussia actually occurred about 120 million years later. The rocks once existed on an ancient ocean floor, but this ocean has proven to be the Rheic, not Iapetus as previously thought.

The explanation, Nance and his fellow authors say, is that the Acatlán Complex was originally attached to Gondwana. Gondwana and the complex eventually slammed into North America, closing the Rheic Ocean in the process. This cataclysmic crunch of continental plates formed the goliath land mass known as Pangea, Nance said, and created the Appalachian Mountains.

“We believe we have found the missing piece of the Rheic suture where Gondwana and North America converged,” said Nance. “All the evidence point to that and, as far as we know, it is the best preserved piece of this puzzle in North America.”

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cho's Kong

Art and Liberty Meadows © Frank Cho
Frank Cho’s old syndicate posted this old Liberty Meadows strip over the weekend. We always like to see Frank draw big monkeys.

Blogger (the site where this blog is hosted) and its affiliated software has been giving me even more headaches than usual so posting may be light until they sort things out. I’ll be looking at other options for hosting this site and how I run it in the new year. Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On The Road With Gwango!

A while back I spotlighted the work of Justin Parpan who was then working on his new kid's book about "Gwango the Great”. I’m pleased to have had Justin drop me a line to let me know that you can now buy it from Red Cygnet Press.

The Palaeoblog recommends the book to anyone who stared up in awe at a giant cement roadside dinosaur when they were on a road trip as a child.

Watch clips from "The Valley of Gwangi"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sue Poster

Last week the Cleveland Plain Dealer published this nice poster spread on SueTM. If you contact them they might still have some available.

Predator Pressure Drives Natural Selection In Lizards

Rapid Temporal Reversal in Predator-Driven Natural Selection. 2006. J. B. Losos et al. Science 314: 111
In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, scientists have found that natural selection dramatically changed direction within a single generation, favoring first longer and then shorter hind legs.

From the press release:

Losos and colleagues studied populations of the lizard Anolis sagrei on minuscule islands in the Bahamas. They introduced a larger, predatory lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus) is six of these islands while keeping six other control islands predator-free. They then counted, marked, and measured lizards on all 12 isles.

Anolis sagrei spends much of its time on the ground, but previous research has shown that when a terrestrial predator is introduced, these lizards take to trees and shrubs, becoming increasingly arboreal over time.

As predicted, six months after the introduction of the predator the surviving Anolis population had longer relative to Alonis on the predator-free islands. After another six months, during which time the Anolis lizards grew increasingly arboreal, selective pressures were exactly the opposite: Survivors were now characterized by having shorter legs on the experimental islands.

The behavioral shift from the ground to higher perches apparently caused this remarkable reversal, Losos says, adding that behavioral flexibility may often drive extremely rapid shifts in evolution.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Neanderthal Genomics

Analysis of one million base pairs of Neanderthal DNA. 2006. R. E. Green et al. Nature: 444, 330-336.

Abstract: Neanderthals are the extinct hominid group most closely related to contemporary humans, so their genome offers a unique opportunity to identify genetic changes specific to anatomically fully modern humans. We have identified a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil that is exceptionally free of contamination from modern human DNA.

Direct high-throughput sequencing of a DNA extract from this fossil has thus far yielded over one million base pairs of hominoid nuclear DNA sequences. Comparison with the human and chimpanzee genomes reveals that modern human and Neanderthal DNA sequences diverged on average about 500,000 years ago. Existing technology and fossil resources are now sufficient to initiate a Neanderthal genome-sequencing effort.

Neanderthal-Human Split 400,000 Years Ago

Sequencing and Analysis of Neanderthal Genomic DNA. 2006. J. P. Noonan et al. Science 314: 1113 – 1118.

Kona © the current copyright holder
Scientists have sequenced genomic DNA from fossilized Neanderthal bones. Their results show that the genomes of modern humans and Neanderthals are at least 99.5-percent identical.
Despite this genetic similarity, and despite the two species having cohabitated the same geographic region for thousands of years, there is no evidence of any significant crossbreeding between the two.

Analysis of genomic DNA from fossilized Neanderthal bones indicated that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis last shared a common ancestor approximately 700,000 years ago. The two hominids split into into separate species approximately 400,000 years ago, with no evidence of any significant crossbreeding between the two after that time.

The paper will be published in the November 17, 2006 issue of the journal Science. I'll update this link when it's published.

For more info read the much too long press release.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Stand on Sauropod Stances


Or this:

"A great deal of scientific, financial, and political clout had been invested in the Carnegie sauropods, and eventually the criticisms became too much to bear. Here, The HMNH Library proudly presents the final argument in this tale—an authoritative, well illustrated smackdown of the sprawling sauropod hypothesis presented by no less a figure than the director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Dr. William J. Holland."
Go HERE to read it all. (Note—the top part of the page is blank on my browser so be sure to scroll down!)

Thanks to the head’s up on this from Dr. Eric Snively, the man the Palaeoblog goes to for all our tyrannosaurid questions.

Visit the

The Hairy Museum of Natual History

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Plastic Dinosaurs

I’ve pointed these out before but it’s worth repeating. These are some of the nicest plastic dinosaur models available. They’re both huge—the Albertosaurus is over 18 inches long—and make great desktop show pieces.

You can buy them HERE for $12 (US) each.

Which reminds me that the ever efficient U of Alberta PR dept. sent out THIS release about the palaeos there ponying up to buy the below cast of the holotype Styracosaurus skull at the recent SVP auction. This picture shows it at the RCI shop where it was produced.

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.

Hot Times For Male Tuataras

Less than one degree Celsius is all that stands between the tuatara—New Zealand's "living fossil" reptile—and extinction, scientists say.

From National Geographic News:

The sex of tuatara—the sole surviving species of an ancient family of reptiles dating back 200 million years—is determined by the incubation temperature of its eggs. As the mercury climbs, so does the proportion of male hatchlings.

The mechanism is so delicate that a flagging population on remote North Brother Island in Cook Strait is already running short of breeding females. Nicky Nelson, a senior lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, says experiments show that 21.7 degrees could be the pivotal temperature.

"At 22 degrees Celsius, we got 100 percent males. At 21 degrees Celsius, we got three males out of 80 eggs," Nelson said.

Intensifying the problem is the slow reproduction rate of the reptiles. On average, female tuatara mate once every four years, and eggs take between 11 and 16 months to hatch.

Tuatara have endured climatic chaos before, Nelson says—they even survived the meteor strike many believe wiped out the dinosaurs. But the reptiles were far more abundant back then, bestowing them with enough genetic diversity to see them through the global catastrophe, Nelson says. Now, with their numbers already decimated [decimate actually means to decrease by 10%--PBlog], the species may face a much faster rate of warming.

So scientists are gathering eggs and raising them in artificial incubators.
"We can dial in whichever sex we like," Nelson said.

Hatchlings are reared in captivity before being introduced to other islands as part of an effort by New Zealand's Department of Conservation to reintroduce the tuatara to its former haunts.

Monday, November 13, 2006

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. Image. More information.

Write Your Name In Hieroglyphics

It’s not palaeo but its fun. That’s supposed to say “palaeoblog”.

Try it yourself at HERE. Thanks to Neatorama

Dietary Variation In Pananthropus

Isotopic Evidence for Dietary Variability in the Early Hominin Paranthropus robustus. 2006. M. Sponheimer et al. Science 314: 980 – 982.

Paranthropus in southern Africa 1 million years ago. Artwork by W. Voigt.

Abstract: Traditional methods of dietary reconstruction do not allow the investigation of dietary variability within the lifetimes of individual hominins. However, laser ablation stable isotope analysis reveals that the ∂13 C values of P. robustus individuals often changed seasonally and interannually.
These data suggest that Paranthropus was not a dietary specialist and that by about 1.8 million years ago, savanna-based foods such as grasses or sedges or animals eating these foods made up an important but highly variable part of its diet.

Paranthropus robustus skull from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa. Image courtesy D. DeRuiter, Texas A&M U.

Read the press release.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

Will Science Unleash the Fearsome Forces of The Lost World!?

You Bet! Just Watch!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Half Man-Half Sea Urchin!

The Genome of the Sea Urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. 2006. Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Consortium, et al. Science 314: 941 – 952.
The Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Project (SUGSP) Consortium, announced today the decoding and analysis of the genome sequence of the sea urchin, S. purpuratus. It contains over 814 million letters, spelling out 23,300 genes.
From the press release:

Sea urchins are echinoderms, marine animals that originated over 540 million years ago and include starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, and sea cucumbers. The purple sea urchin emerged in the North Pacific Ocean during a rapid burst of speciation and diversification 15-20 million years ag

Although invertebrate sea urchins have a radically different morphology from humans and other vertebrates, their embryonic development displays basic similarities.

Some of the notable discoveries in sea urchins are:

- they have most of the same gene families found in man.

- their immunity system gene branch has 10 to 20 times as many genes as in humans.

- they have genes for sensory proteins that are involved in vision and hearing in man yet the sea urchin has no eyes and ears.

"The sea urchin reminds us of the underlying unity of all life on earth," notes Sodergren, co-leader of the project. "It is a similar set of genes and proteins being reused in different ways, different numbers, and at different times in the life cycle to create the diversity of living forms."

Images link & link

Watch the Video/Slide Show HERE.

Scleral Ossicles in Teleost

Skeletal elements within teleost eyes and a discussion of their homology. 2006. Tamara A. Franz-Odendaal and Brian K. Hall. Journal of Morphology 267: 1326 – 1337.

Abstract [edit]: Some vertebrates, including all birds and most reptiles, but excluding most mammals, have scleral cartilages as well as scleral ossicles supporting their eyes. The teleost equivalent of these elements has received little attention in the literature.

From radiographic and whole-mount analyses of over 400 individuals from 376 teleost species, we conclude that the teleost scleral skeletal elements (ossicles and cartilage) differ significantly from those of reptiles (including birds). Scleral ossicles in teleosts have different developmental origins, different positions within the eyeball, and different relationships with the scleral cartilaginous element than those in reptiles.

From whole-mount staining of a growth series of four species of teleost (Danio rerio, Salmo salar, Esox lucius, and Alosa pseudoharengus), we interpret the development of these elements and show that they arise from within an Alcian blue-staining cartilaginous ring that develops around the eye earlier in development. We present possible scenarios on the evolution of these scleral skeletal elements from a common gnathostome ancestor, and consider that teleost scleral skeletal elements may not be homologous to those in reptiles. Our study indicates that homology cannot be assumed for these elements, despite the fact that they share the same name, scleral ossicles. Korak

Dr. Franz-Odendaal will be visiting the CMNH Collections to continue her research on scleral ossicles in fossil fish.

Died This Day: Gideon Mantell

Feb. 3, 1790 – Nov. 10, 1852

Mantell, a physician of Lewes in Sussex in southern England, had for years been collecting fossils in the sandstone of Tilgate forest, and he had discovered bones belonging to three extinct species: a giant crocodile, a plesiosaur, and Buckland's Megalosaurus. But in 1822 he found several teeth that "possessed characters so remarkable" that they had to have come from a fourth and distinct species of Saurian. After consulting numerous experts, Mantell finally recognized that the teeth bore an uncanny resemblance to the teeth of the living iguana, except that they were twenty times larger.
In this paper, the second published description of a dinosaur, he concluded that he had found the teeth of a giant lizard, which he named Iguanodon, or "Iguana-tooth."

Mantell illustrated his announcement with a single lithographed plate. Mantell included at the bottom of the plate a drawing of a recent iguana jaw, which is shown four times natural size, and for further comparison, he added views of the inner and outer surface of a single iguana tooth, "greatly magnified."

The traditional story that Mantell's wife found the first teeth in 1822, while the doctor was visiting a patient, appears, alas, to be unfounded.

Info and plate from HERE.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New Book on Zdenĕk Burian

An extensive illustrated full-color monograph by Vladimir Prokop of the work of Zdenĕk Burian (1905-1981) is now available. This book is the first detailed study of Burian's entire work encompassing various genres, and is filled with colour paintings never before collected.

This also covers his work as a book and magazine illustrator (some fine action/adventure work, including 20,000 Leagues under the Sea), his important paleontological reconstructions and ethnographic portraits, and his lesser-known uncommissioned works. Over 500 color reproductions, documentary photographs and a detailed list of all his known works. Text entirely in Czech except for a two-page overview in English. Import. Gallery, 2005 HC, 9x11, 264pg, FC.

The book is available HERE but also check with your favourite local bookseller.
In other Palaeo Art Book news, I was speaking with Charles Knight’s granddaughter this morning and she tells me that a large coffee-table book on Knight’s art is in production.

Phil Currie Wins 2006 ASTech Award

Phil & Eva at the site of the 1960's Polish-Mongolian Expedition camp at Ultan Ula IV in Mongolia last Sept.Photo © M. Ryan.

Congratulations to Dr. Philip Currie who was the recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Science Award from the Alberta Science and Technology (ASTech) Leadership Foundation.

More Sue™ Photos

Sue is now installed and (almost) ready for her "Members Sneak Peek" tonight. I'll be giving a talk on the big critter at 6pm as part of the event.

VP volunteer Nicole helps out.

VP Casting Tech David Chapman also helps.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Return of Carl Buell

Thanks to Sukie for pointing out the Olduvai George is back posting again.

Osteoderm Morphology & Development

Osteoderm morphology and development in the nine-banded armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Cingulata). 2006. Matthew K. Vickaryous and Brian K. Hall. Journal of Morphology 267: 1273 – 1283

Matt wrote the chapter on Ankylosauria in the latest edition of The Dinosauria. He's thought more about the development of ankylosaur dermal armour than anyone else I know, and this paper should be of interest to anyone curious about dinosaur osteoderms.
Abstract (edit): Among modern mammals, armadillos (Xenarthra, Cingulata) are the only group that possesses osteoderms, bony inclusions within the integument.

Compared with the rest of the skeleton, osteoderms have a delayed onset of development. Skeletogenesis begins as condensations of osteoblasts secreting osteoid, localized within the papillary layer of the dermis.

Osteoderm formation is asynchronous both within each shield and across the body. The first osteoderms to mineralize are situated within the pectoral shield of the carapace, followed by elements within the banded, head, pelvic, and tail shields. In general, within each shield ossification begins craniomedially and proceeds caudally and laterally, except over the head, where the earliest elements form over the frontal and parietal bones.

The absence of cartilage precursors indicates that osteoderms are dermal elements, possibly related to the all-encompassing vertebrate dermal skeleton (exoskeleton). The mode of development of D. novemcinctus osteoderms is unlike that described for squamate osteoderms, which arise via bone metaplasia, and instead is comparable with intramembranously derived elements of the skull.
The image is from the 1964 Sinclair Dinoland booklet which I now have a copy of. I'll be posting the rest of the booklet soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sue™ in Cleveland

Sue™ the T. rex will be on display at the CMNH from November 11, 2006, through April 15, 2007. Here are some photos of her assembly yesterday at the CMNH.

Cloudy Skies Rained Life

Hazy skies on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of organic material useful for emerging life on the planet.
From the press release:

Researcher have measured the organic particles produced from the kind of atmospheric gases thought to be present on early Earth. They modeled conditions measured by the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon, Titan, last year during the Cassini mission. They mimicked Titan's hazy skies by exposing methane gas to an ultraviolet lamp, then added carbon dioxide gas to the mix to see if conditions that were probably present on early Earth would produce a similar organic haze. "It turns out that organic haze can form over a wide range of methane and carbon dioxide concentrations," said Tolbert.

"This means that hazy conditions could have been present for many millions or even a billion years on Earth while life was evolving."

"We found that you can make a lot of organic material virtually out of thin air," said Trainer.

According to the study, a similar haze hanging over Earth early in its history could have supplied more than 100 million tons of organic material to the planet's surface each year. "As these particles settled out of the skies, they would have provided a global source of food for living organisms," said Trainer.

In addition to serving as a source of organic material, a haze layer over Earth could have shielded living organisms from harmful UV rays and helped to regulate Earth's early climate, according to the study.

The paper will be up shortly at the early editions page.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kipling West November Calendar

Because I missed Godzilla’s birthday last Friday that’s reason enough to post this cool calendar by the talented Kipling West. That and the important music event that occurred this day back in 1975. Everybody sing, …”No future,… no future…!”

To download a larger version of this image go to the 7 Deadly Sinners site.