Sunday, November 30, 2014

Galacto Guys

Here's an example of a fun, short-lived strip that I'd never heard of.
From Here

Friday, November 28, 2014

Born This Day: Dunkinfield Henry Scott

Painting by Mary Parrish
Scott (Nov. 28, 1854 – Jan. 29, 1934) was an English paleobotanist and leading authority of his time on the structure of fossil plants, one of those who laid the foundations of paleobotany. He conducted experiments in the Jodrell Laboratory in Kew Gardens, where he became its honorary keeper (1892-1906). In collaboration with W.C. Williamson, he wrote three papers on fossil-plant morphology (1894-95).

Scott continued writing papers after Williamson's death and in which he described many otherwise unknown fossil plants. He wrote the classic Studies in Fossil Botany, which greatly popularized the subject.
From Today In Science History

Monday, November 24, 2014

Died This Day: Richard Carlson

Carlson (April 29, 1912 – Nov. 24, 1977) starred as Dr. David Reid in the classic Creature From The Black Lagoon (1957). You know that he was the “good” scientist ‘cuz he got the girl, even though he let a cover story for Nature skulk back into the Lagoon.

Published This Day (1859): The Origin of The 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Aquaman Battles The Sea Beasts From One Billion B.C.!

Read it Here

Born This Day: Paula Raymond

Paula (center) played the role of plucky Lee Hunter, assistant to paleontologist Dr. Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) (right) in Ray Harryhausen's, The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Died This Day: Aleksandr Kovalevsky

Kovalevsky (Nov. 19, 1840 – Nov. 22, 1901) was the Russian founder of comparative embryology and experimental histology, who first established that there was a common pattern in the embryological development of all multicellular animals. He studied the lancelet, a 5 cm long fish-shaped sea animal. He then wrote Development of Amphioxus lanceolatus (1865).

In 1866, he then demonstrated the similarity between Amphioxus [=Branchiostoma] and the larval stages of tunicates and established the chordate status of the tunicates.

In 1867, Kovalevsky extended the germ layer concept of Christian Heinrich Pander and Karl Ernst von Baer to include the invertebrates, establishing an important embryologic unity in the animal kingdom. image From Today In Science History

Died This Day: Raymond Dart

Dart (Feb. 4 1893 - Nov. 22, 1988) was an Australian-born, South African physical anthropologist. In 1924, working with students in the Taung limestone South Africa, they discovered the first Australopithecus africanus. Dubbed "missing link" at the time, skull is also known as the 'Taung child', and was only three years old at the time of death. More on Dart here

The Drivers of Tropical Speciation

The drivers of tropical speciation. 2014. Smith, B.T., et al. Nature

Yellow bars correspond to the 95% highest posterior density for divergence times of each species. The Quaternary (2.6 Myr ago–present) and the Neogene (23–2.6 Myr ago) periods are shaded in grey and light blue, respectively. Mean stem ages for 25 of the lineages occurred within the Neogene and for two lineages within the Quaternary.
Researching how the history and ecology has affected speciation among the 27 lineages of birds has lead to the discovery that the longer length of time a species can inhabit an area, the more likely it will disperse and diverge. Also, the less mobility a species has, the more likely it will diverge as well.

For example, birds restricted to the forest floor showed significantly higher species diversity than birds that inhabited the forest's open canopy. These findings have conservation ramifications. If a species cannot inhabit the same area for an extended time, it will not have the opportunity to evolve and continue.

"Our results suggest that human alterations of the landscape can effectively kill the speciation process," Brumfield said.

Born This Day: Steve Clemente from Skull Island

Steve Clemente (born Esteban Clemento Morro Nov. 22, 1885—May 7, 1950) was a Mexican actor known for his many villainous roles. He began acting in his teens, signing up for his first movie, The Secret Man, in 1917. His later, numerous roles were usually bit parts and he was an expert knife thrower.

He was a known scene stealer and was famous for his villainous snarl. He later starred in such movies as The Most Dangerous Game (1932), playing Tartar, the second henchman of Count Zarrof and played the Witch King in King Kong (1933). From Wiki

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Born This Day: Robert Armstrong

Armstrong (Nov. 20, 1890 – April 20, 1973) took Fay Wray to Skull Island in 1933. He returned later the same year to find The Son of Kong, only to lose him as the island sank, as these things are prone to doing.

We Were Trapped In The Twilight World! by Jack Kirby (1961)

Read the full story Here

Monday, November 17, 2014

Died This Day: Carl Akeley

Read his story over at Atomic Surgery

The Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History exists thanks to the efforts of Carl Akeley (May 19, 1864 - Nov 17, 1926) who was the kind of adventurer that Indy Jones could only dream of being.

He died on an African expedition in 1926, ten years before this hall was completed and was buried in a place depicted in the Hall's famous Gorilla Diorama. Of course we approach collecting and conservation differently today, but Akeley is to be commended for his love of nature and his desire to present its hidden corners to the world.

From Today In Science History:

Carl Ethan Akeley was an American naturalist and explorer who developed the taxidermic method for mounting museum displays to show animals in their natural surroundings. His method of applying skin on a finely molded replica of the body of the animal gave results of unprecedented realism and elevated taxidermy from a craft to an art. He mounted the skeleton of the famous African elephant Jumbo. He invented the Akeley cement gun to use while mounting animals, and the Akeley camera which was used to capture the first movies of gorillas.

Friday, November 14, 2014

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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Died This Day: William Lonsdale

Image from

Lonsdale (Sept. 9, 1894 - Nov. 11, 1971) was an English geologist and paleontologist whose study of coral fossils found in Devon, suggested (1837) certain of them were intermediate between those typical of the older Silurian System (408 to 438 million years old) and those of the later Carboniferous System (286 to 360 million years old).

Geologists Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick agreed. They named (1839) this new geologic system after its locale—the Devonian System.

Lonsdale's early career was as an army officer (1812-15) and later he became curator and librarian of the Geological Society of London (1829-42). He recognized that fossils showed how species changed over time, and more primitive organisms are found in lower strata. Charles Darwin used this to support his evolution theory. From Today In Science

Monday, November 10, 2014

Insect Evolution Solved!

Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution. 2014. B. Misof, et. al. Science

Ant-Man © Marvel Comics

Using a dataset consisting of 144 carefully chosen species, 1KITE scientists present reliable estimates on the dates of origin and relationships of all major insect groups based on the enormous molecular dataset they collected. They show that insects originated at the same time as the earliest terrestrial plants about 480 million years ago.

Their analyses therefore suggest that insects and plants shaped the earliest terrestrial ecosystems together, with insects developing wings to fly 400 million years ago, long before any other animal could do so, and at nearly the same time that land plants first grew substantially upwards to form forests. PR

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Origin of the Unique Ventilatory Apparatus of Turtles

Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles. 2014. Tyler R. Lyson, et al. Nature Communictions

Credit: Credit: Blair Lyons (Stroma Studios) and Emma R. Schachner

Early in the evolution of the turtle body plan, a gradual increase in body wall rigidity produced a division of function where the abdominal muscles became specialized for breathing, which freed up the ribs to eventually (approximately 50 million years later) become fully integrated into the characteristic turtle shell.

New research has shown that the modern tortoise breathing apparatus was already in place in the earliest fossil tortoise, Eunotosaurus africanus. This animal lived in South Africa 260 million years ago and shares many unique features with modern day tortoises, but lacked a shell.

Eunotosaurus bridges the morphological gap between the early reptile body plan and the highly modified body plan of living tortoises, making it the Archaeopteryx of turtles. PR

Saturday, November 08, 2014

In The Dawn of History

From Strange Tales #3, DC Comics, 1950

Friday, November 07, 2014

Died This Day: Alfred Russel Wallace

Wallace (Jan. 8, 1823 – Nov. 7, 1913) was a British naturalist and biogeographer. He was the first westerner to describe some of the most interesting natural habitats in the tropics. He is best known for devising a theory of the origin of species through natural selection made independently of Darwin.

Between 1854 and 1862, Wallace assembled evidence of natural selection in the Malay Archipelago, sending his conclusions to Darwin in England. Their findings were jointly presented to the Linnaean Society in 1858. Wallace found that Australian species were more primitive, in evolutionary terms, than those of Asia, and that this reflected the stage at which the two continents had become separated. He proposed an imaginary line (now known as Wallace's line) dividing the fauna of the two regions. From Today In Science History:

The Alfred Russel Wallace page HERE. More HERE.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Chaohusaurus, The First Amphibious Ichthyosaur

A basal ichthyosauriform with a short snout from the Lower Triassic of China. 2014. Motani, R., et al. Nature

The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur, Chaohusaurus, has been discovered in China. The fossil represents a missing stage in the evolution of ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles from the Age of Dinosaurs about 250 million years ago. Until now, there were no fossils marking their transition from land to sea.

Unlike ichthyosaurs fully adapted to life at sea, this one had unusually large, flexible flippers that likely allowed for seal-like movement on land. It had flexible wrists, which are essential for crawling on the ground. Most ichthyosaurs have long, beak-like snouts, but the amphibious fossil shows a nose as short as that of land reptiles. PR

Died This Day: Henry Fairfield Osborn

Osborn graduated (August 8, 1857 - November 6, 1935) from Princeton in 1877 and pursued his interest in the biological sciences and paleontology through additional study at several New York City medical schools and with Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain. Returning to the United States, Osborn accepted a position at Princeton, teaching natural sciences from 1881 until 1891, when he moved to Columbia University to organize the Biology Department there, and in 1891, he also helped to organize the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History acting as it’s first curator. Osborn's close association with American Museum continued for over 45 years, and included a long tenure as its President, 1908-1933. During these years the museum's collections expanded enormously and it became one of the preeminent research institutions for natural history in the world.

Osborn is noted for describing and naming both Tyrannosaurus rex and Albertosaurus in 1905, Pentaceratops in 1923, and Velociraptor in 1924. One of Osborn's favorite groups for study was the brontotheres, and he was the first to carry out comprehensive research on them. He also wrote an influential textbook, The Age of Mammals (1910).

Apart from his own research, Osborn is perhaps best remembered for the sponsorship of the five immensely successful Central Asiatic Expeditions during the 1920's and 30's led by Roy Chapman Andrews.

Entry from HERE and HERE.

Vintana sertichi, Largest Mammal From the Late Cretaceous

First cranial remains of a gondwanatherian mammal reveal remarkable mosaicism. 2013. Krause, D. et al. Nature

Vintana had a skull is almost five inches (125 mm) long - double the size of other mammals Gondwana - & had a mass about 20 lbs. (9 kg).

Vintana's massive chewing muscles moved the jaw upward and backward and likely produced higher bite forces than living rodents of similar body size. Based on characteristics of its jaws and teeth and analyses by Dumont and others, the authors believe it ate a diet of roots, seeds or nut-like fruits.

Vintana belongs to a group of early mammals known as gondwanatherians, until now known only from isolated teeth and a few jaw fragments. The well-preserved skull allows the first clear insight into the life habits and relationships of gondwanatherians. PR

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Died This Day: Alfred Sherwood Romer

”Romer (Dec. 28, 1894 – Nov. 5, 1973) was director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University until his retirement in 1961 and was one the singularly most influential vertebrate paleontologists of the 20th Century. His work ranged over virtually every conceivable subject within that field, although it was the osteology and taxonomy of the therapsids and other proto-mammals which was nearest his heart.

In addition to this work, Romer was acutely interested in the origin and initial adaptive radiation of tetrapods, and his work became the basis for a theory of tetrapod origins which was canon until the description of Acanthostega gunnari by Clack & Coates in the 1990s. Romer was ahead of his time in his defense of monophyly of Dinosauria though he did feel that Theropoda was not ancestral to birds.” link from

Romer’s book, Vertebrate Paleontology (1966), was for many years THE textbook on VP and is still well worth picking up. One of Romer’s students, Bob Carroll, wrote an updated version entitled, ‘Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution’, in 1987. image

Died This Day: Willi Henning

From the Willi Hennig Society :

Hennig (April 20, 1913 – Nov. 5, 1976) is best known for developing phylogenetic systematics,  a coherent theory of the investigation and presentation of the  relations that exist among species. Contrary to the position generally  held during his time, Hennig viewed historical inference as a strictly  logical and scientific endeavor. He first summarized his ideas in 1950  in German which became more widely known with the publication of the  English revision, Phylogenetic Systematics (Hennig, 1966).


Major Hennigian principles are:
1. Relationships among species are to be interpreted strictly genealogically, as sister-lineages, as clade relations. Empirically, a phylogenetic hypothesis may be determined.
2. Synapomorphies provide the only evidence for identifying relative recency of common ancestry. Synapomorphies are understood to be the shared-derived (evolved, modified) features of organisms.

3. Maximum conformity to evidence is sought  (his auxiliary principle). Choice among competing cladistic  propositions (cladograms) is decided on the basis of the greatest amount  of evidence, the largest number of synapomorphies explainable as  homologues.

4. Whenever possible, taxonomy must be logically consistent with the inferred pattern of historical relationships. The rule of monophyly is to be followed, thereby each clade can have its unique place in the hierarchy of taxonomic names.
More info about Henning HERE. photo.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Nature Adores a Hybrid

Does human-induced hybridization have long-term genetic effects? Empirical testing with domesticated, wild and hybridized fish populations. 2014. Evolutionary Applications

Natural selection minimizes genetic effects of human-induced hybridization, Concordia University study shows. link

Monday, November 03, 2014

King Klunk (1933) - King Kong Parody

The first animated parody of King Kong was made by Walter Lantz who released King Klunk in 1933 a scant 7 months after Kong's release.

Thanks to Jim Korkus at Cartoon for the heads up!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Died This Day: Kenneth Oakley

Oakley (April 7, 1911 - Nov. 2, 1981) was an English physical anthropologist, geologist, and paleontologist best known for his work in the relative dating of fossils by fluorine content. While working for the British Natural History Museum, Oakley become famous in 1953 for exposing the 'Piltdown Man' forgery.

"A skull had been "unearthed" in 1912, in Piltdown, England, and had for decades been said to represent the "missing link" in human evolution. Oakley developed a method, based on a French minerologist's theory that bones would gradually absorb fluorine from surrounding soil, to measure the fluorine levels in bones. With this and other tests he proved the bones to be a modern human braincase and an orangutan jawbone chemically stained to appear ancient. image Link

Died This Day: Oliver Perry Hay

Hay (May 22, 1846 – Nov. 2, 1930) was an American paleontologist whose catalogs of fossil vertebrates greatly organized existing knowledge and became standard references. Hay's primary scientific interest was the study of the Pleistocene vertebrata of North America and he is renowned for his work on skull and brain anatomy. His first major work was his Bibliography and Catalogue of the Fossil Vertebrata of North America (1902), supplemented by two more volumes (1929-30). Hay also wrote on the evidence of early humans in North America. link

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Born This Day: Alfred Wegener

Alfred Lothar Wegener (Nov. 1, 1880 – Nov, 1930) was a German meteorologist and geophysicist who first gave a well-developed hypothesis of continental drift. He suggested (1912) that about 250 million yrs ago all the present-day continents came from a single primitive land mass, the supercontinent Pangaea, which eventually broke up and gradually drifted apart. (A similar idea was proposed earlier by F.B. Taylor in 1910.) Others saw the fit of coastlines of South America and Africa, but Wegener added more geologic and paleontologic evidence that these two continents were once joined. From Today In Science History

Born This Day: John Joly

Joly (Nov. 1, 1857 - Dec. 8, 1933) was an Irish geologist, physicist and inventor whose interests spanned several fields. Using Edmond Halley's method of measuring the degree of salinity of the oceans, and then by examining radioactive decay in rocks, he estimated Earth's age at 80-90 million years (1898). Later, he revised this figure to 100 million years. He published Radioactivity and Geology (1909) in which he demonstrated that the rate of radioactive decay has been more or less constant through time. He also developed a method for extracting radium (1914) and pioneered its use for cancer treatment. Link

Born This Day: Gavin de Beer

de Beer (Nov. 1, 1899 – June 21, 1972) was an English zoologist and morphologist who contributed to experimental embryology, anatomy, and evolution. He refuted the germ-layer theory and developed the concept of paedomorphism - the retention of juvenile characteristics of ancestors in mature adults).

From examination of the fossil
, De Beer proposed mosaic evolution with piecemeal evolutionary changes to explain the combination of bird and reptile features.