Monday, March 31, 2014

Born This Day: Wallace Beery

Wallace Fitzgerald Beery (April 1, 1885 – April 15, 1949) was an American actor who appeared in more than 250 films in over 36 years. At 16 he ran away from home and joined the Ringling Brothers Circus as an assistant elephant trainer, but left two years later, after being clawed by a leopard.

His career spanned the transition from silent movies to the talkies. He won an Academy award in 1931 for his starring role in The Champ, becomeing one of Hollywood's top stars in the 1930's. The hard-drinking Beery was implicated in the beating death of Ted Healy, the original leader of the Three Stooges. Beery is presented here for his starring role as Prof. Challenger in the 1925 movie, The Lost World.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Journey to The Center of The Earth Print

The print goes on sale today for 3 days only from: Nautilus Art Prints.

Geological Eras First Proposed (1714)

In 1759, Italian geologist Giovanni Arduino (1714-1795) dated a letter to Professor A.Vallisneri the younger, in which Arduino proposed a classification of Earth's surface rocks according to four brackets of successively younger orders: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Quaternary. These are the four geological eras used today. The volcanic rocks without fossils which he saw in the Atesine Alps that formed the cores of large mountains he called Primary. Overlying them, the fossil rich rocks of limestone and clay that were found on the prealpine flanks of the mountains he called Secondary. The less consolidated fossil-bearing rocks of the subalpine foothills, he named Tertiary, and the alluvial rock deposits in the plains were the Quaternary. link

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Premiered This Day (1961): Gorgo

Gorgo premiered on this day in 1961. Directed by Eugène Lourié from a script by John Loring and Daniel Hyat, it featured a man in a rubber suit ala Toho’s Godzilla. More ignored than maligned, it holds up very well & is a well worth watching.

Over at Atomic Surgery the good doctors present a double bill to commemorate the day: a story by Steve Ditko from Gorgo #15 and a Gorgo filmbook from Famous Monsters of Filmland #50.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Living Dinosaurs Smarter Than Your Average Bear (or Child)

Using the Aesop's Fable Paradigm to Investigate Causal Understanding of Water Displacement by New Caledonian Crows. 2014. Jelbert, S.A., et al. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92895.
New Caledonian crows may understand how to displace water to receive a reward, with the causal understanding level of a 5-7 year-old child.

Scientists used the Aesop's fable riddle— in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward—to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement. These crows are known for their intelligence and innovation, as they are the only non-primate species able to make tools, such as prodding sticks and hooks.

Six wild crows were tested after a brief training period for six experiments, during which the authors noted rapid learning (although not all the crows completed every experiment). The authors note that these tasks did not test insightful problem solving, but were directed at the birds' understanding of volume displacement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Died This Day: James Hutton

Hutton (June 3, 1726 - March 26, 1797) is considered to be the father of modern geology. He is accredited with proposing that observed geologic processes have been occurring at a uniform rate since the creation of earth, also know as the theory of unconformities. This led to his controversial suggestion that the earth is incredibly old.

Hutton began to notice geologic processes on his land in the 1750’s by following his soil during rainstorms when it would erode into the sea. He also noticed how long the process took and began to apply this idea to other parts of geology. If it took this long for some soil to move a few miles than how long did it take to form the cliffs by the sea? He also took note of other features in the landscape such as angular unconformities. A breakthrough point occurred for Hutton when he found Siccar’s Point. This site shows the build up of sediment over a long period of time as well as other geologic processes. It was this idea of continuous processes that fascinated Hutton for the rest of his life.

Hutton subsequently moved back to Edinburgh, and became very involved with the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1785 he had his friend Joseph Black read his lecture on his theories of earth. This was the first time that his full theory had been made public. He was met with much anger and rejection. Even though we take his ideas for granted today, at the time he was presenting this the oldest proposed age of earth was around six thousand years, as laid forth by the church. While he was able to convince a few by showing them prime field examples such as Glen Tilt and Siccar’s Point, for many it remained too radical an idea to consider.

Text modified from HERE. Image from HERE.

Born This Day: Richard Dawkins

Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Born This Day: Adam Sedgwick

Adam Sedgwich (March 22, 1785 - January 27, 1873) was an English geologist who first applied the name Cambrian to the geologic period of time, now dated at 570 to 505 million years ago. In 1818 he became Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, holding a chair that had been endowed ninety years before by the natural historian John Woodward.

He lacked formal training in geology, but he quickly became an active researcher in geology and paleontology. Many years after Sedgwick's death, the geological museum at Cambridge was renamed the Sedgwick Museum of Geology in his honor. The museum is now part of the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University. From Today In Science History.

Died This Day: Kenneth Tobey

Tobey (Mar. 23, 1917 - Dec. 22, 2002) made a career of playing “take charge, men of authority”, such as Capt. Hendry in Howard Hawkes, “The Thing From Another World” (1951), and just about every TV series throughout the 60’s and 70’s. More than a few of his appearances were in SF stories, and he played Col. Jack Evans in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Anzu wyliei, a new caenagnathid from the Hell Creek Fm

A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America. 2014. Lamanna, M.C., et al. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92022.


Abstract: The oviraptorosaurian theropod dinosaur clade Caenagnathidae has long been enigmatic due to the incomplete nature of nearly all described fossils. Here we describe Anzu wyliei gen. et sp. nov., a new taxon of large-bodied caenagnathid based primarily on three well-preserved partial skeletons.

The specimens were recovered from the uppermost Cretaceous (upper Maastrichtian) Hell Creek Formation of North and South Dakota, and are therefore among the stratigraphically youngest known oviraptorosaurian remains. Collectively, the fossils include elements from most regions of the skeleton, providing a wealth of information on the osteology and evolutionary relationships of Caenagnathidae.


Phylogenetic analysis reaffirms caenagnathid monophyly, and indicates that Anzu is most closely related to Caenagnathus collinsi, a taxon that is definitively known only from a mandible from the Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta. The problematic oviraptorosaurs Microvenator and Gigantoraptor are recovered as basal caenagnathids, as has previously been suggested.

Anzu and other caenagnathids may have favored well-watered floodplain settings over channel margins, and were probably ecological generalists that fed upon vegetation, small animals, and perhaps eggs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Died This Day: Othniel Charles Marsh

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

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Died This Day: Jack Arnold



Jack Arnold (Oct. 14, 1916 - March 17, 1992) directed a number of classic SF films including The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and It Came From Outer Space, as well as few not-so-classics (but still much loved) such as Monster on Campus. Throughout the ‘60’s and into the early 80’s he had a successful career as a TV producer and director.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, A New Tyrannosaur from Alaska

A Diminutive New Tyrannosaur from the Top of the World. 2014. Fiorillo, A.R., and R.S. Tykoski. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91287

Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, a new tyrannosaurine species from Prince Creek Formation in Northern Alaska is described based on a partial skull roof, maxilla, and jaw.
According to the results of the authors' analysis, the cranial bones are from a tyrannosaur closely related to Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. This new dinosaur is estimated to be relatively small, with an adult skull length estimated at 25 inches, compared to 60 inches for T. rex.


Nanuqsaurus likely inhabited a seasonally extreme, high-latitude continental environment on the northernmost edge of Cretaceous North America. The authors suggest that the smaller body size of N. hoglundi compared to most tyrannosaurids from lower latitudes may reflect an adaptation to variability in resources in the arctic seasons. PR

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Preservation of Soft Tissue in Dino Bones

A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time. 2014. Schweitzer, et al. Proc. R. Soc. B: 81

Metal Men © DC Comics
Abstract: The persistence of original soft tissues in Mesozoic fossil bone is not explained by current chemical degradation models. We identified iron particles (goethite-αFeO(OH)) associated with soft tissues recovered from two Mesozoic dinosaurs, using transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, micro-X-ray diffraction and Fe micro-X-ray absorption near-edge structure.

Iron chelators increased fossil tissue immunoreactivity to multiple antibodies dramatically, suggesting a role for iron in both preserving and masking proteins in fossil tissues. Haemoglobin (HB) increased tissue stability more than 200-fold, from approximately 3 days to more than two years at room temperature (25°C) in an ostrich blood vessel model developed to test post-mortem ‘tissue fixation’ by cross-linking or peroxidation.

HB-induced solution hypoxia coupled with iron chelation enhances preservation as follows: HB + O2 > HB − O2 > −O2 ≫ +O2. The well-known O2/haeme interactions in the chemistry of life, such as respiration and bioenergetics, are complemented by O2/haeme interactions in the preservation of fossil soft tissues.

Died This Day: William Buckland

From The Victorian Web:

Buckland (March 12, 1784 – August 15, 1856) was the first man to identify and name a dinosaur (Megalosaurus), although the name dinosaur had not yet been coined by Richard Owen.

Partly in response to the controversial works of Cuvier, Buckland wrote Reliquiae Diluvianae (1823) in which he argued that the evidence of geology alone demonstrated that a great flood had covered the entire globe. This move helped to make geology look more respectable in a religiously conservative England and perhaps to advance Buckland's own career at Oxford by making geology appear to be a respectable companion to the classics.

Buckland was a bit of an eccentric, given to outlandish dress and behavior. Although Buckland was immensely influential as a scientist, his rakish reputation gave many of his staid early Victorian contemporaries considerable difficulty in accepting his work.

More info from HERE. Image from HERE

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Died This Day: Roy Chapman Andrews


Andrews (Jan.26, 1884-Mar.11, 1960) was an American naturalist, explorer, and author, who spent his entire career at the American Museum of Natural History. He led many important scientific expeditions with financial support through his public lectures and books, particularly in central Asia and eastern Asia. On his 1925 central Asian expedition, the first known dinosaur eggs were discovered,as well as skull and parts of Baluchitherium, the largest known land mammal. During his career Andrews was the museum's best promoter, creating immense excitement and successfully advancing research there. link

Andrews was also acknowledged as one of the more important inspirations for the creation of the character of Indiana Jones.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Born This Day (1930): Stanley Lloyd Miller

From Today in Science History:


Miller is an American chemist who made a series of famous experiments beginning in 1953, to determine the possible origin of life from inorganic chemicals on the primeval earth.

He passed electrical discharges (simulating thunderstorms) through mixtures of reducing gases, such as hydrogen, ammonia, methane and water, that were believed to have formed the earliest atmosphere.

An analysis days later showed that the resulting chemicals included glycine and alanine, the simplest amino acids & the basic building blocks of proteins. Other compounds included urea, aldehydes and carboxylic acids. Thus, a "primeval soup" is the currently accepted most plausible explanation, though incomplete, of the origin of the complex organic molecules of life.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Colour of the Fossil Bird Gansus

Melanosomes or Microbes: Testing an Alternative Hypothesis for the Origin of Microbodies in Fossil Feathers. 2014. Moyer, A., et al. Scientific Reports

Gansus yumenensis
Abstract [edit]: Microbodies associated with fossil feathers, originally attributed to microbial biofilm, have been reinterpreted as melanosomes; pigment-containing, eukaryotic organelles. This interpretation generated hypotheses regarding coloration in non-avian and avian dinosaurs. Because melanosomes and microbes overlap in size, distribution and morphology, we re-evaluate both hypotheses.

We compare melanosomes within feathers of extant chickens with patterns induced by microbial overgrowth on the same feathers, using scanning (SEM), field emission (FESEM) and transmission (TEM) electron microscopy. Melanosomes are always internal, embedded in a morphologically distinct keratinous matrix. Conversely, microbes grow across the surface of feathers in continuous layers, more consistent with published images from fossil feathers.

We compare our results to both published literature and new data from a fossil feather ascribed to Gansus yumenensis (ANSP 23403).

“Mouldic impressions” were observed in association with both the feather and sediment grains, supporting a microbial origin. PR

Premiered This Day: The Creature From The Black Lagoon

On this day in 1954, director Jack Arnold let loose The Creature from his Devonian-aged Amazonian lagoon. The Creature was actually played by two different men in two different suits; Ricou Browning did the underwater work and Ben Chapman was the Gill Man on land. Browning went on to produce the successful Flipper TV show in the mid-60’s.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Species Status for the Extinct Moa Euryapteryx

Complex Species Status for Extinct Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) from the Genus Euryapteryx. Huynen, L. and D.M. Lambert. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90212.

DNA barcoding shows that two species were likely to have existed in the genus Euryapteryx, with the possibility of some subspecies.
"Our results do provide a clearer picture of the species status of Euryapteryx, however, and support the suggestion that two species of Euryapteryx may have existed during the Holocene as well as a subspecies (possibly attributable to E. curtus curtus) that is found solely on New Zealand's North Island." (Dr. David Lambert)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Released This Day (1959): The Giant Behemoth

Behemoth, the Sea Monster (1959) is an American-British science-fiction film co-production, which is an unacknowledged remake of Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), also co-scripted and directed by Eugène Lourié. Released in the United States as The Giant Behemoth, the film starred Gene Evans and André Morell. From wiki


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Born This Day: Willis O'Brien

A tip of the fedora to the late, great Willis O'Brien who breathed life into the fur and armature that become King Kong, the 8th Wonder of the World!

His biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

Willis O'Brien (March 2, 1886 - November 8, 1962)
Special effects wizard best known to the world as the man who
created King Kong.
O'Brien was a sculptor and cartoonist for the San Francisco "Daily News" before he first dabbled in the medium of film during the 'teens. His work caught the attention of the Edison company, for whom he produced several short subjects with a prehistoric them. Titles include The Dinosaur and the Missing Link, RFD 10,000 B.C and Prehistoric Poultry. His method of animating small rubber figures, carefully molded over metal skeletons with movable joints, by moving them a fraction of an inch for each frame of film exposed, became the standard process of live-action animation.

In 1918 he made his most ambitious film yet, The Ghost of Slumber Mountain paving the way for The Lost World (1925), a major Hollywood feature which told of a search for prehistoric creatures. O'Brien's dinosaurs were his most realistic yet, and still impress today, even in the wake of Jurassic Park Still, Obie (as he was known) kept experimenting.

When producer Merian C. Cooper saw his work, he hired O'Brien to animate King Kong (which, up to that point, was to have been shot with an actor in a gorilla suit). The extraordinary success of King Kong (1933) spawned an immediate sequel, The Son of Kong (also 1933), and made O'Brien a hero to several generations of fantasy filmmakers to come. O'Brien won his only Oscar for his effects in Mighty Joe Young (1949), another giant-monkey movie, on which his protégé (and successor) Ray Harryhausen worked.

O'Brien worked on other giant-monster movies (including 1957's The Black Scorpion his last) before dying in 1962. Today, O'Brien would be kingpin of his own studio, but even in the wake of King Kong he had trouble launching other film projects, and many promising ideas languished on studio drawing boards for decades to follow. One of the RKO staff with whom he'd worked in the 1930s, Linwood Dunn, gave O'Brien his final employment, doing stop-motion figures for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).


In 1950 O'Brien received (finally!) a special Oscar for his work on Mighty Joe Young which was the first such award ever given for special effects. This film also launched the career of the next great stop-motion animator, Ray Harryhausen.