Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Coelacanth Footage

From an article on May 11 by Chris Jenkins in the Pretoria News:

A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has been used for the first time to film coelacanths as part of research on the prehistoric fish in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. The latest coelacanth expedition, which ended on Sunday, filmed a record eight coelacanths during one dive.

The success of trial tests for the vehicle has also opened up possibilities for new marine research in the Wetlands Park, and will make such research accessible to others, said Wetland Park CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

The African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP), formed after the discovery of coelacanths in 2000 by a group of recreational divers at a depth of 104m in Jesser Canyon off Sodwana Bay, recently partnered the Durban-based Sub-tech Diving and Marine to test an ROV for the study of coelacanths in their canyon habitats. This has now proved entirely successful, more cost-effective and less invasive than using a mini-submersible.

Zaloumis said that after shallow water system tests, the ROV, hired from Cape Town Marine Solutions, was used to penetrate a cave in Jesser Canyon where a small coelacanth was filmed on the first day. Eight more coelacanths were found on May 6 at depths between 104 and 112m.

"Some of the coelacanths have been previously sighted but preliminary results suggest that some are new animals that will increase the known numbers of these prehistoric fish in the Wetlands Park," Dr Harris said.

Read the full story HERE. Photo from HERE.

'Super-Predators' & Mass Extinction

From American Physical Society:

Mass Extinctions without Astrophysical Calamities A. Lipowski, Phys. Rev. E 71, 20 May 2005

Mass extinctions seem to occur on Earth roughly every 26 million years, leading some scientists to propose that they may be caused by rare collisions with comets or asteroids. A researcher in Poland thinks it may be possible that extraordinary predators are at fault instead.

Adam Lipowski (Adam Mickiewicz University) constructed a numerical model of many species competing for both food and living space. The model also included a term that controls mutation rates, allowing new species to develop over time. The model shows that, much of time, the system is populated with “medium efficiency” predators whose numbers fluctuate only slightly as the prey population waxes and wanes. Inevitably, their stable community is disrupted when mutations lead to a super predator that quickly decimates the prey population, which in turn leads to its own demise. The few creatures that survive the predatory apocalypse gradually mutate to fill the existing ecological niches - and the cycle begins again.

The period of the cycle depends on mutation rates in the model. The lower the mutation rate, the longer the periods between super predators. For a sufficiently low mutation rate, the model can lead to cycles that correspond to our 26 million year mass extinctions.

Previous models that do not show these sorts of cycles could be faulty, according to Lipowski, because they failed to account for the effects of limited living spaces shared by a large number of different species.

Palaeontologia Electronica

Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 8, No. 1 was published on May 27, 2005. Read it by going HERE

Twenty-eight original scientific articles, totalling 504 PDF print pages, describe palaeontology of China, Pakistan, North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This thematic issue is dedicated to the memory of vertebrate palaeontologist William Downs III, who died prematurely in 2002. The issue was assembled with the help of guest editors Catherine Badgley, Lawrence J. Flynn, Louis L. Jacobs, and Louis H. Taylor.

There are lots of interesting articles in this issue, including:

Sauropod Dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous of Malawi, Africa 8.1.27A, Elizabeth M. Gomani

Therapsids from the Permian Chiweta Beds and the Age of the Karoo Supergroup in Malawi 8.1.28A, Louis L. Jacobs, Dale A. Winkler, Kent D. Newman, Elizabeth Gomani, and Alan Deino

Friday, May 27, 2005

Our Antediluvian Ancestors

Fredrick Burr Opper was born 2 January, 1857, in Madison, Ohio, and had published in magazines like Scribner's, The Century, St. Nicholas. and Wild Oats, before he was 20. In 1899, Opper was then persuaded by William Randolph Hearst to do weekly cartoons for the New York Journal's Humorist section. It was in these pages that Opper's most popular and lasting comic character - Happy Hooligan - first appeared.

Throughout his career Opper continued creating both political and topical cartoons. While he seldom did daily strip work, he often worked on as many as three separate full- and half-page weekly strips during the first two decades of the twentieth century. In "Our Antediluvian Ancestors," Opper uses prehistoric man as a foil to illustrate the timelessness of many of mankind’s foibles and character traits.

See more from “Our Antediluvian Life” HERE.

Read more about Fredrick Burr Opper at The American Art/Portrait Gallery Library Collection of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries HERE.

Opper’s work in the prehistoric realm was first brought to our attention in the excellent book, “Carbon Dates: A day by day almanac of paleo anniversaries and dino events”, by Don Glut available now from Mcfarland Press by clicking HERE.

NOTE: The Palaeoblog is taking the Memorial Weekend off. The Bissette interview is still in the works -- promise!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

CMNH uncovers new Dunkleosteous fossils

Here at the Palaeoblog we don’t just write about paleontology - we do it!

Over the past few weeks the warming weather has let the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Department of Vertebrate Paleontology get out and prospect for new fossils revealed by erosion since last year’s field season. This typically involves walking along the river banks and scanning the shales for the tell-tail sign of black bone that is a new fish fossil.

Thanks to a large group of dedicated staff and volunteers, the VP Dept. has made a number of nice finds already this field season, including the median dorsal plate from a Dunkleosteous (seen below) that was collected and is now being prepared back at the museum.

Here’s some more info about one of the many areas we work in from www.coastalohio:
“The tall shale cliffs and broad floodplain meadows of the Rocky River Reservation were home to the Whittlesey tradition some 1000 to 1640 years ago. Erie tribes once lived here as well, but proof of life more than 300 million years ago exists among the shale cliffs including the 20-foot-long Dunkleosteous, a shark-like creature who swam over this land during the Devonian Period 350 million years ago. Fossilized remains were found in shale cliffs just north of Rocky River Nature Center. The upper reaches of the cliffs are Cleveland shale, while the lower cliff is made of Chagrin Shale.”
Photos are © M.Ryan/CMNH

FYI, the CMNH sells research and display quality casts of Dunkleosteous (as well as the holotype skull of the 'pygmy T. rex', Nanotyrannus).

Dino Ice Age Evidence?

Burnt coal from the age of dinosaurs sheds light on today's global warming
Changes in carbon dioxide during an oceanic anoxic event linked to intrusion into Gondwana coals. Jennifer C. McElwain, Jessica Wade-Murphy and Stephen P. Hesselbo. 2005. Nature 435: 479-482.

From the press release from the Field Museum posted at EurekaAlerts!:

New research described in the May 26 issue of Nature provides some missing pieces in the puzzle depicting the global carbon cycle over geological time. During what geologists call "oceanic anoxic events,"(OAE) it has long been suggested that a large amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by millions of microscopic organisms that dwell in the oceans. They do this by trapping carbon in their bodies. When they die, their bodies rain down to the ocean depths and are buried by sediment, locking away the trapped carbon from the atmosphere for million of years.

Scientists believe that during OACs the biological activity or "productivity" of these oceanic organisms is for some reason enhanced. The events are often associated with mass extinction among many marine organisms and coincide with periods of intense global warming.

Scientists have long debated what causes OAEs. Now, a new theory holds that OAEs – in particular the Toarcian OAE, which occurred about 183 million years ago during the age of dinosaurs – are triggered by the burning of vast underground coalfields that released huge quantities of methane and carbon dioxide. These coalfields were set ablaze by the intrusion of molten rock from the Earth's crust.

This new research sheds light on the possible consequences of the current level of consumption of carbon-based fuels. "If the incredibly high global temperatures that occurred during the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event were caused by burning a significant amount of the Earth's coal deposits within one hundred thousand years, it doesn't take much imagination to realize what will happen if we burn most of the Earth's remaining fossil fuels over the coming century, which is what we are in the process of doing," McElwain said.

The scientists, who worked on this research for more than four years, also turned up a totally unexpected result: they identified a 200,000-year interval when atmospheric carbon dioxide dropped to surprisingly low levels at the start of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. This was probably due to the great number and activity of marine organisms at this time that effectively sucked carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere like a sponge. This drop cooled the Earth, maybe even enough to have enabled ice sheets to form and grow in the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic.

The idea of ice sheets during the age of dinosaurs has always been a controversial topic. Nevertheless, the researchers believe they have tantalizing evidence that the global temperatures were not as uniformly warm and ice free during the age of dinosaurs, as once assumed.

Images from HERE and HERE.

Chicxulub Hubbub

From the news@nature.com story by Rex Dalton:

US palaeontologist amasses data against Mexican crater hypothesis.

The widely held theory that a particular meteorite strike on Mexico wiped out the dinosaurs is under sharp attack, again. The asteroid that created the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico arrived too early to have caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, according to evidence given on 23 May at an American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A team led by palaeontologist Gerta Keller of Princeton University, New Jersey, reported that a sediment core drilled in east Texas emphatically confirms a study that the group released two years ago. Sediments of glass sprayed out by the Chicxulub impact are separated from fossils killed during the mass extinction by a 300,000-year gap, they argue.

"I believe this is the mortal wound for the Chicxulub theory," says Keller. Scientists should mount a search for the crater left by the meteorite that was really responsible for the mass extinction, she adds.

Many geophysicists remain unswayed. Sean Gulick of the University of Texas at Austin doubts the report because it means another huge asteroid must have hit the Earth in the same era, about 65 million years ago. "The odds of that are highly unlikely," said Gulick, who chaired the Chicxulub symposium.

Read the rest of the story HERE.
Simulate your own asteroid impact HERE.
Image from HERE.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Why, The Whole World Will Pay To See This"!

From KongisKing.net comes this story:

Ubisoft and Universal Studios Consumer Products Group presented their first preview of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, the video game based on Universal Pictures’ December 14th release, King Kong, from three-time Academy Award® winner Peter Jackson at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

Read the full story and see more images HERE.

Born This Day: William Whewell

May 24, 1794 - March 6, 1866

From Today In Science History:

British scientist, best known for his survey of the scientific method and for creating scientific words. He founded mathematical crystallography and developed Mohr's classification of minerals. He created the words scientist and physicist by analogy with the word artist. They soon replaced the older term natural philosopher. Other useful words were coined to help his friends: biometry for Lubbock; Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene for Lyell; and for Faraday, anode, cathode, diamagnetic, paramagnetic, and ion (whence the sundry other particle names ending with -ion).

Whewell believed that each branch of science possessed a fundamental idea, for example in crystallography it was that of symmetry. In 1834 he attempted to construct an appropriate catalogue for Faraday with electricity, believing that the idea of electrical polarity was fundamental to chemical understanding. Whewell had an amazing ability to accumulate knowledge, and held a high position of authority among the scientific writers of the day.

Image from HERE.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Swimming With The Fishes

Art © Pete Von Sholly.

The wonderful painting above is by the palaeoblog’s good buddy, Pete Von Sholly, whose ‘faux’ "Turok, Son of Stone" covers we’ve featured several times. The previous post reminded me that Pete had send along this ‘serious’ painting some weeks ago and that I’d been waiting for the right time (like now!) to post it.

But that’s not all! Pete has a great new book coming out very soon. Although it’s not directly palaeo-related, anyone whose been reading this blog to this point will want to go HERE and buy a copy right now. What’s it about? Well, the image below should give you a hint. More info on the book is also available in the recent columns by Fred Hembeck ,HERE, and Tony Isabella ,HERE.

Art and characters © Pete Von Sholly.

Who can resist a book with the tagline, “Smashing Violence Into Bloody Pulp!”?

New Plesiosaur From Australia

From The Age.com.au:
Australian scientists believe they have discovered a new species of long-necked dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous in a rich fossil deposit in western Queensland. Palaeontologist Dr Ben Kear said the fossil bed in the arid grasslands near Boulia had yielded the remains of several prehistoric creatures, including what was thought to be a new species of long-necked plesiosaur.

"The plesiosaur is especially exciting because it has an unusual arrangement of teeth. In fact, it is weird enough for us to question its origins," Dr Kear said. "Long-necked plesiosaurs typically have teeth that stretch the whole length of the jaw, but the new specimen we have uncovered has all its teeth bunched at the front of the mouth."

But it would be 12 months before the fossil could be prepared with acid to determine if the animal was a known species or something new, he said. As well as the plesiosaur, scientists from the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide had found the remains of ancient turtles, several ichthyosaurs, sharks and fragments of a terrestrial dinosaur, known as an ankylosaur.
Read the same story HERE without registration.

New Scientist Dinosaur Special

The latest issue of New Scientist (May 21, 2005) has an 18 page special on “The New Age of Dinosaurs: Discoveries that are redefining an era":
The golden age of dinosaurs
If you wanted a phrase to sum up the mood among dinosaur researchers, you could do a lot worse than those three simple words. And with good reason: in recent years a wealth of stunning discoveries have transformed our understanding of dinosaurs, the world they inhabited and the animals they shared it with. So profound have these finds been that palaeontologists have learned more about dinosaurs in the past decade or so than in the preceding 200 years. The prehistoric world you read about as a child has changed beyond measure.
Articles Include:

Dinosaur special: Extreme palaeontology by Bon Holmes:

High up in the mountains, the skeleton of a large meat-eating dinosaur is gradually emerging from the rocks. Nearby are some other early Jurassic fossils that have yet to be fully excavated - an allosaur, an unidentified predator and a herbivore. It sounds like a regular day in the field, but there's one big difference. This is Mount Kirkpatrick in the Transantarctic mountains, 4 kilometres above sea level and just 600 kilometres from the South Pole.

The skeleton, a Cryolophosaurus or "frozen crested lizard", was discovered a decade ago. But the work is difficult and excruciatingly slow because sub-zero temperatures make machinery unreliable and fierce storms keep workers tent-bound for days at a time. Philip Currie, Head of Dinosaur Research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, spent a month at the site on his most recent visit and managed only six days of useful work.

Image (C) William Stout from HERE.

Dinosaur special: Welcome to Dinotopia by Jeff Hecht:

It was only discovered in the early 1990's, but the fossil bonanza of China's Yixian rock formation has already transformed our knowledge of dinosaurs.

Mei long, the "soundly sleeping dragon", is small enough to hold in your two hands. Its head is tucked under its forelimb, like a sleeping bird with its head under a wing. When I saw it in Xu Xing's office at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the long tail that was wrapped around its body when it was discovered had been removed for analysis. Otherwise the tiny bones of this little dinosaur were arranged just as they were when it went to sleep for the last time, some 125 million years ago in what is now China.

Such a complete, exquisitely preserved skeleton of a small dinosaur was something that palaeontologists could only have dreamed about a decade ago. In recent years, however, they have become rather accustomed to dream discoveries.

Image of Mei long from HERE.

Dinosaur special: The Reanimators by Anna Gosline:

How do you create a thinking, breathing creature out of an old bunch of bones? New Scientist meets the pioneers bringing dinosaurs back to life

Tim Rowe walks into his windowless, basement X-ray lab and plonks a fist-sized hunk of bronze on the table. He looks at me, smiling, waiting for me to tell him what it is. The amorphous blob looks like some sort of mangled body part, with vestiges of chambers, squashed and asymmetrical. But what? The ensuing silence is filled with a menacing buzz from Rowe's state-of-the-art CT scanner. After what seems like an age, he finally cracks and gives me a clue. "The question," he says, "is did it sing like a bird or roar like a dinosaur?" Bingo! This misshapen lump must be the metal cast of an Archaeopteryx head. And that persistently buzzing scanner holds the key to its secrets.

Nanotyrannus CT scan (C) CMNH.

New Scientist is available on the newsstand now (or at least it is in the UK).

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Shanna 7: Velociraptors 0

Frank Cho’s adventures of the Marvel Comics heroine are coming to their conclusion with the publication of Shanna #7, a cover detail from which is presented at the left. To see the full cover click HERE to go to the home page of Frank’s own “Liberty Meadows” site. As usual for Frank's site, there is a mild content warning to those readers who may be offended by jungle heroines wearing jungle heroine clothing. You can see the rest of the covers from the series by clicking HERE.

FYI, Cho, along with Mark Schultz and Bill Stout, will be at the Wonderfest in Louisville, KY, this coming weekend, meeting with fans and promoting their latest projects. When you see them please say 'hello' from the palaeoblog.

Art © Frank Cho. Shanna © Marvel Comics.

100 Million year Old Harvestman

From BBC.co.uk:

A spider relative called a harvestman trapped in amber could shed light on how arachnids were affected by the extinction that wiped out dinosaurs.

The 100-million-year-old arachnid, which looks like it might have died last year, wandered though a dinosaur-dominated world. Though older fossils exist, hardly any are known from the Mesozoic Era (245 million-65 million years ago).

"If you go back to the period of about 300 to 400 million years ago, you actually have more arachnid fossils. So the fact that we have any harvestmen from this time period is really quite unusual."

Details appear in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

"This specimen came from the Mesozoic Era, so basically the same time as the dinosaurs and generally there are very few fossil arachnids from this period," said co-author Jason Dunlop, from Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany.

One of the reasons this specimen is causing excitement is that it might help tackle the question of how many arachnid groups managed to survive the great extinction of around 65m years ago. If a fossil from the Mesozoic Era belongs to a family that existed in more modern times, its lineage must have made it through the extinction. Although this particular harvestman cannot be included in modern groups, it is pretty similar to later, post-extinction specimens. This could mean that its lineage survived the catastrophe - and if it did, then it is likely others did, too.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Reward Offered For Missing Loch Ness Tooth

From Mysan.de:

Forensics investigator Bill McDonald has announced a $100,000 reward for the return of a four-inch barbed shed tooth found lodged in the ribcage of a mutilated deer carcass on Loch Ness. The tooth, discovered by two American college students on Spring Break back in March, was confiscated by a local water bailiff and is now believed to be in possession of the Scottish Highland authorities.According to the two students, and verified by the local boat owner, the three had been cruising the shoreline on a photographic tour when they discovered the half-eaten deer carcass. An examination of the animal, which had been mauled by a large marine predator, revealed the shed tooth within the deer’s exposed ribcage. Says McDonald, who was hired by the students to help secure the return of the tooth, "the three were so excited they waved over a passing boat, which happened to be the water bailiff, a sort of park ranger. He quickly confiscated the tooth and a video tape one of the guys had in his camcorder. Fortunately Del (the student) had just changed tapes and all he got was a blank."
Footage of the students’ account and pictures of the tooth can be viewed at http://www.lochnesstooth.com.

Nessie photo from HERE. Tooth photo from HERE.

Velociraptor Afoot

From today’s Pooch Café by Paul Gilligan from Universal Press Syndicate:

(C) Paul Gilligan

Like Bugs Bunny would say, “Never send a duck to do a rabbit’s job”!

Pooch Café is one of the few strips I try to read daily, and one of the rare few that consistently makes me laugh out loud. I can remember taking note of Paul's illustrations in the Ottawa Citizen a few years back and thinking that he was someone with a bright future ahead of him. I’m very pleased that Pooch Café is going well for him.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Man Is Still A Monkey

In 1930, the reknowned paleontologist William K. Gregory from the American Museum of Natural History sat down with a reporter from "Popular Science Monthly" to talk about Man from a scientific point of view. The series of articles covered a wide range of topics, from organ systems to evolution. Most of the points that Gregory makes in this article supporting evolution are still valid today (although we have a much more enlightened view on the equality of the races of mankind today!), and, sadly, the questions asked by the interviewer still mirror the uninformed opinions of too many people in 2005. The palaeoblog presents this article here for its historical interest.

CLICK ON EACH PAGE TO ENLARGE IT INTO A FULL SCREEN VIEW (after you click to expand the page run your cursor over the bottom right corner of the page. A small 'expansion' box should appear - click this to expand the page to its full readable size).

If anyone reading can supply me with good readable copies of any of the other articles in the rest of the series, I'll happily post them.

NOTE: For reasons too boring to go into here, the next installment of the "Paleo-Path" has been put off a week. But not to worry, there are still lots of comics-related items to come in the next few days.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Largest Shank Fossil Of Dinosaur Recovered In Inner Mongolia

From The People's Daily On-Line:
The largest fossil of sauropod dinosaur's shank has been recovered and the dinosaur has been classified as "Otogosaurus".
The fossil was accidentally discovered by a girl during grazing in September 2003. After identification by experts from different countries, the fossil of 2.2 meters long has been recognized as the largest among those of sauropod dinosaur ever excavated.

Thanks to the two-and-a-half-year research by experts including professor Zhao Xijin at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Tan Lin at the Department of Land and Resources of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the original form of the dinosaur has been recovered and its model has been made. The CAS named the dinosaur "Otogosaurus", which is 16.8 meters long and seven meters high, recovered from the shank fossil.

The dinosaur was given a beautiful name "Otogosaurus sarulai" since "Sarulai" is the name of the girl who discovered the fossil.
Really, you can't make this stuff up.

One Longsome Argument

By any objective measure, the evolution of species ranks among the most successful scientific theories ever. So why is the message not getting through?
From the article by Dennis R. Trumble in the lastest Skeptical Inquirer:

Charles Darwin liked to describe the origin of species as "one long argument," but his extensive treatise in support of biological evolution now seems painfully brief compared to the argument that has followed in its wake. Indeed, never in the history of science has a more prolonged and passionate debate dogged the heels of a theory so thoroughly researched and repeatedly validated. And the end is nowhere in sight. Despite all evidence to the contrary, a large portion of the world's population continues to cling to the belief that human beings are fundamentally different from all other life forms and that our origins are unique. It's a lovely sentiment to be sure, but how is it that so many people continue to be drawn to this thoroughly discredited notion?
Read the rest of the article HERE.

Image (C) William Stout. Visit his site www.williamstout.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Neandertals vs. Hyenas

Late Neandertal Femur from Les Rochers-de-Villeneuve, France by Cédric Beauval, et al. 2005. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences :102: 7085-7090.

From the Washington University in St. Louis press release at Eureka Alert!:

Analysis of approximately 41,000-year-old human remains found in France suggests that Neandertals may have become regionally mobile earlier than scientists once thought.

Cédric Beauval and colleagues from Université Bordeaux 1 in France, Max Planck Institute in Germany, and Washington University in St. Louis, conclude that the human femur fragment found in 2002 in the cave of the Rochers-de-Villeneuve comes from a Neandertal, based on its shape and mitochondrial DNA. Its age places it at the end of the Middle Paleolithic archeological period, just before modern humans arrived in Europe.

"In Europe, with the transition from Neandertals to modern humans, anthropologists have long argued that major behavioral changes and major improvements in adaptation began to take shape with modern humans," said Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Anthropology at Washington University and co-author of the paper.

"One of the changes that has been documented with the transition from Neandertals to modern humans was that people became more mobile and their territories became much larger. They became less locally focused and more regionally focused," Trinkaus said.

It's been assumed that this happened in the Upper Paleolithic which is associated with some very late Neandertals and early modern humans. However, this is a femur bone from a Middle Paleolithic Neandertal. It shows in the shape of the femur that a shift to greater mobility had already begun prior to the transition to the Upper Paleolithic, prior to any appearance of modern humans in Europe.

In addition, the cave was a hyena den at about the same time that the humans lived in it, the authors say. Archeological evidence indicates that humans processed carcasses of the same animals as the hyenas, with some animal bones showing both cut marks from human tools and tooth marks from hyenas. Additionally, the human femur was gnawed by carnivores, probably hyenas. This shows that close competition for food and space persisted through the Middle Paleolithic among these Neandertals.
Image from HERE.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Scopes Monkey Trial Law Repealed

From Today In Science History:

On this day in 1967, the governor of Tennessee signed into law the repeal of the 1925 state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. The original law had made it "unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." It was this law that was tested in what became known as the "Scopes monkey trial." Scopes was found guilty, but acquitted on a technicality upon appeal. The law itself remained a Tennessee state statute for 42 years.

Showing Off The Point of Stegosaurus Plates & Spikes

From EurekaAlert! comes this press release for the next issue of Paleobiology:

The bizarre plates and spikes that lined the backbones of the long-extinct stegosaurs were probably extreme examples of the often elaborate and colorful displays developed by animals to recognize fellow members of their species, according to an international team of paleontologists.

Image from HERE

The team's analysis of stegosaur plates lends support to a growing consensus among paleontologists that the weird adornments of many dinosaurs - the horns of Triceratops, the helmet-like domes of the pachycephalosaurs, and the crests of the duck-billed hadrosaurs - likely served no function other than to differentiate species, akin to birds' colorful feather ornamentation.

"Our studies of bone histology are telling us a lot about dinosaur social behavior and lifestyle," said Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a curator in the campus's Museum of Paleontology. "We cut up and compared the internal structures of stegosaur plates and the smaller scutes of their ancestors, and found that a functional explanation for these plates doesn't make sense for all the stegosaurs. So we think that they're more likely involved in some type of species recognition, as with many African antelopes - you have to be different from all animals in the area so you don't get mixed up with other species."

Padian, Main and coauthors John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., and Armand de Ricqlès of the University of Paris report their analysis of dinosaur scutes and stegosaur plates in the spring issue of the journal Paleobiology, to be published later this month.
Read the rest of the press release HERE

Monday, May 16, 2005

CMNH Paleontologist Helps Find World's Largest Millipede

From an article by Sue Vorenberg in the Albuquerque Tribune on-line:

Susan Harris, an adjunct research associate at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, scoured a rocky canyon landscape near Española for reptile remains while her co-workers, including Dr. Joe Hannibal of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, were busy nearby recovering evidence of the largest millipede ever found - an 8-foot-long creature called an Arthropleura.

The 300-million-year-old Arthropleura's huge size indicates it might have lived off small reptiles, said Spencer Lucas, the museum's paleontology curator.

Harris got lucky as she scoured the landscape for equally old reptile bones on Friday and Saturday. She and her co-workers - once they finished recovering tracks from the big bug - found tiny backbone and leg fragments from more than one dog-sized sailback-lizard called a pelycosaur, a relative of the Dimetrodon. Evidence of the creatures suggests the small reptiles eventually evolved into therapsids, an ancestor of mammals, such as ourselves, Lucas said.

"Skulls of these creatures are extremely rare," said Larry Rinehart, the museum's preparator. "Reptile skulls have lots of little bones, and they come apart easily. Mostly what we find if we find anything are vertebrae and leg bones. If you're really lucky you might find teeth."

Read the complete article HERE
Photo from HERE.
Illustration by Heinrich Kley from HERE.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Born This Day: Clarence Edward Dutton

May 15, 1841 - Jan. 4, 1912

From Today In Science History:

American geologist and pioneer seismologist who developed and named the principle of isostasy. According to this principle, the level of the Earth's crust is determined by its density; lighter material rises, forming continents, mountains, and plateaus, and heavier material sinks, forming basins and ocean floors.

Picture from HERE

Buy his book, “Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District”, HERE.

Also from Today In Science History:

Published this Day:

In 1953, Stanley L. Miller's paper on the synthesis of amino acids under conditions that simulated primitive Earth's atmosphere was published in Science, Vol 300, Issue 5620, 745-746. Miller had applied an electric discharge to a mixture of CH4, NH3, H2O, and H2 (which was believed at the time to be the atmospheric composition of early Earth.) Instead of producing a random mixture of organic molecules, the surprising result was a mixture of amino acids, hydroxy acids, and urea. These compounds are so significant in the biochemistry of life, that this discovery marked the beginning of the modern study to understand the origin of life on Earth. Miller's paper was published only a few weeks after Watson and Crick reported their DNA double-helix model in Nature.
Read a review of the research in Science Archives HERE.

New Mark Schultz Art Book

As promised, here’s one of the first reveals of the new Mark Schultz art book to be published this July by Flesk Publications. Appropriately entitled, "Mark Schultz: Various Drawings", you can preorder it from www.fleskpublications.com. The book is a slice of his largely unpublished works from over the last few years, and is just a small part of incredible art produced in a 20+ year career in the field of comic art and illustration that has seen Mark win numerous awards, including five Harveys, two Eisners, an Inkpot, a Spectrum, and three Haxturs (from the Salon Del Internacional Comic del Princapado de Austurias). Designed by the brilliant Randy Dahlk, the book is drop-dead gorgeous.

Schultz made his mark as a 'cartoonist' (as he calls himself) as the creator/writer/illustrator of “Xenozoic Tales” (also known as “Cadillacs & Dinosaurs” for the CBS TV series), a sharply written and beautifully illustrated action-adventure series that recalls the best of the golden age of fantasy fiction but told with a fresh, modern voice. The heroes, Hannah Dundee and Jack Tenrec (pictured below [click to enlarge all images]), are uneasy allies in a future world where an unexplained cataclysm has radically altered the Earth’s ecosystem and returned many previously extinct species, including dinosaurs, to life. The entire run (to date) of the series was recently collected in two beautiful soft-cover volumes by Dark Horse that are available Here and Here.

Various Drawings” will also be available through comic shops via Diamond Distribution, Bud Plant Comic Art, and Amazon Books (and possibly other on-line booksellers as well).

If you want to order through your local bookshop the ISBNs are:

Softbound Edition ISBN: 0-9723758-6-4
Limited Signed and Numbered Edition ISBN: 0-9723758-7-2

But “Various Drawings” is not the only Mark Schultz art book coming out this year. From September to November of 2005, the Solleric Gallery in Palma, Mallorca, Spain, will be hosting a retrospective of Mark’s career. There will also be a lavish art book produced for the show but Mark thinks that, at this point at least, it will only be available through certain participating museums in Europe. The Palaeoblog will post more details about this Art Show and the second book when they become available.

All art (c) Mark Schultz.

If you're interested in this book be sure to check out Steve Bissette's 9-part series, "The Paleo-Path", looking at the history of dinosaur comics by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

From The Good Old Days

Set the Wayback Machine for dinosaurs and revisit old friends over HERE.

Snakes Take Flight

From the latest issue of The Journal of the Experiemental Biology comes a series of articles about the paradise tree snake that actually glides between trees in Singapore.
A nice summary by Cynthia Wei of the new research is given in this article:

"[Lead author] Socha found that paradise tree snakes are true gliders, and pretty good ones at that. Rather than simply parachuting to the ground, these cylindrical-bodied snakes somehow generate enough lift to carry them across a substantial horizontal distance. Socha suspected that the unusually dynamic flight behavior of the snakes might be responsible; while flying, the snakes create distinctive S-shaped aerial waves that travel from head to tail. To test this, he correlated the snakes' wave amplitude and frequency with flight performance variables. He found that snakes with the greatest combination of body length and wave amplitude (relative to body size) travelled fastest; but the largest snakes were not necessarily the ones making the biggest waves. While wave amplitude is important, Socha found that the frequency of these waves appears to play little or no role in producing aerodynamic forces during flight. So why do snakes undulate so frequently? Socha suggests that it may provide stability, keeping the snakes from spinning out of control."
Read the full article HERE
You can read the abstracts of the articles by clicking on the links below:

A 3-D kinematic analysis of gliding in a flying snake, Chrysopelea paradise. John J. Socha, Tony O'Dempsey, and Michael LaBarbera. J Exp Biol 2005 208: 1817-1833.

Effects of size and behavior on aerial performance of two species of flying snakes (Chrysopelea). John J. Socha and Michael LaBarbera. J Exp Biol 2005 208: 1835-1847.

More On The "Living Dinosaur" Discovery

From Science:

This news is a week or so old, but you can now read the FULL article at Science Express:

Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) Persists in Continental North America. John W. Fitzpatrick et al. 2005.

The ivory-billed woodpecker Campephilus principalis), long suspected to be extinct, has been rediscovered in the "Big Woods" region of eastern Arkansas. Visual encounters during 2004 and 2005, and analysis of a video clip from April 2004, confirm the existence of at least one male. Acoustic signatures consistent with Campephilus display-drums also have been heard from the region. Extensive efforts to locate birds away from the primary site remain unsuccessful, but potential habitat for a thinly distributed source population is vast (over 220,000 ha).

Download the free PDF from Science Express HERE.

Read the full story from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology HERE.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Steve R. Bissette's The Paleo Path: The History of Dino-Comics - Part 9

Note: The following is modified from Steve Bissette's introduction to the new collection of the comic book PALEO by Jim Lawson. After 8 weeks we finally come back to the book that started Steve off on this retrospective.

This Week: Jim Lawson's Paleo!:

Among the hale and hearty survivors of the comic book industry implosion of the 1990's was Jim Lawson, whose concept for PALEO was already taking shape. Mirage Studios published Jim Lawson’s SF-adventure mini-series DINO ISLAND in 1993; shortly afterwards, Jim began work in earnest on his own ‘pure’ dinosaur comic which became PALEO.

For those of us who grew up aching for a dinosaur comic uncluttered by intrusive human characters, or anthropomorphized talking saurians, PALEO was a joy, a revelation, a little slice of heaven we could hold in our hands and revisit time and again. It’s what we’ve wanted since before we could clearly speak.

Lawson's PALEO is a time machine, a window back into a primordial world populated by glorious creatures we know walked the Earth eons before us.

PALEO is an honest-to-Goodness ‘dinosaur comic,’ and an impeccable one at that.

This is undoubtedly Jim Lawson’s most ambitious, personal, and polished work to date, building upon his already considerable creations and credentials, from his first published solo comic book series BADE BIKER to his more recent graphic novel collaboration with Peter Laird, PLANET RACERS [buy it HERE]. Though “comicdom” -- the industry, such as it is, and ‘the comics press,’ such as it isn’t -- has somehow seen fit to by-and-large ignore Jim’s prolific output, the fact is that he has produced more pages of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES comic than any other artist, and an entire generation of comic readers have grown up with his work. Another generation is currently cutting its comicbook-reading teeth on his ongoing work on the new TURTLES series.

But PALEO is, to my mind, Jim’s finest work to date, with a breadth and depth of emotional intensity, clarity, and range that I find intoxicating. Jim breathes life into these creatures and doesn’t just put them through their paces: he walks in their footsteps, breathes the air they breathe, sinks his teeth into these glimpses of their lives as surely as they bury their choppers into one another.

With this book Jim takes you through the doorway he has forged into our shared prehistoric dreams, reveries, and fantasies. Each page is a fully-realized environment with a rich sense of lives lived beyond the border of mere comic panels and pages.

What you may not notice is how personal this body of work is to Jim. Maybe I’m too familiar with Jim’s immediate circle, but it seems to me there are clear correlations between the struggles his antediluvian protagonists endure and what I know of Jim’s experiences. The arenas are very different, the obstacles more lethal, the armor tougher, the teeth sharper, but Jim has, in his own way, walked in their footprints.

I’m happy to report that, as of this writing, Jim is still working on new PALEO material. Go pick up the latest issue or the collection -- which I suspect many young readers will pour over time and time again, wearing it out as thoroughly as I wore out my first copy of that CLASSIC ILLUSTRATED WORLD AROUND US comic, THE ILLUSTRATED STORY OF PREHISTORIC ANIMALS -- and rest assured, there will be more. Given the incredible volume of pages Jim has created over the past fifteen years for other comics and projects, I don’t think it’s either unreasonable or premature to hope that Jim might match or break Rex Maxon’s “Young Earth” record... ah, but I’m getting ahead of things again.

The path is in sight; I’ve taken you this far. Walk on...

Stephen R. Bissette
July, 2003
Mountains of Madness, Vermont

You can reach Jim Lawson at:

c/o Mirage Studios
16 Market Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Jim tells me that you can still buy Paleo through the Mirage Studios website--www.ninjaturtles.com. Just go to 'Buy Stuff' and then click on 'Other Projects'.

Next Week: 'Sturdy' Steve's Paleo Path might be over but don’t go away! Next week we start down a new path exploring 'dinosaur'-artists in both the comics and scientific field. First up is an interview with STEVE BISSETTE himself and a look at his own dinosaur book, TYRANT. We'll follow this with pieces on Pete Von Sholly, Mark Schultz, and a host of other interesting characters (both on and off the page)!

Read Part 8 of the series by clicking HERE.

Art, Paleo, & Dino Island, are all (C) Jim Lawson.

Steve R. Bissette
is an artist, writer and film historian who lives in Vermont. He is noted for, amongst many things, his long run as illustrator of SWAMP THING for DC Comics in the 1980's and for self-publishing the acclaimed horror anthology TABOO and a 'real' dinosaur comic TYRANT(R).