Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Born This Day: Trofim Lysenko

Lysenko (Sept. 29, 1898 – Nov. 20, 1976) was a Soviet biologist and agronomist who not only believed the Mendelian theory of heredity to be wrong, but with Stalin's support for two decades actively obstructed the course of Soviet biology. He caused the imprisonment and death of many of the country's eminent biologists.

He followed I. V. Michurin's fanciful idea that plants could be forced to adapt to any environmental conditions, for example converting summer wheat to winter wheat by storing the seeds in ice. As director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1940-65) his interference contributed to the disastrous decline of Soviet agriculture. After Stalin's death in 1956, he lost support and eventually in 1965 was exiled to an experimental farm. From Today In Science History

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dino Attacks Times Square!

Again with the Life Ray!

A fun story illustrated by Mort Meskin over at Atomic Surgery.

Happy Birthday to Martine Beswick

Image from here
Beswick played Nupondi in One Million Years B.C. and also starred in Prehistoric Women, in addition to many roles on TV.

Happy Birthday to Victoria Vetri

Victoria turns 65 today. She had a career doing bit parts in 1960’s TV including Batman and Star Trek (Isis the cat), before becoming playmate of the year (1968) for Playboy magazine. This lead to her starring role in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

She also had a small role in Rosemary’s Baby under her stage name of Andrea Dorian taken from the ill-fated ship, Andrea Doria.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Died This Day: William Diller Matthew

Matthew (Feb. 19, 1871 – Sept. 24, 1930) was a superb mammalian paleontologist and important biogeographic theorist, and also G. G. Simpson's primary mentor. Matthew published voluminiously on the fossil record of mammals and advocated a fully modern approach to taxonomy that emphasized tying scientific names to natural biological populations. His 1930 paper gives a clear statement of this position.

Matthew's key biogeographic theory was that waves of faunal migration repeatedly went from the northern continents southwards. This theory, which had obvious racial and political overtones, was justified by a "stabilist" view of paleogeography (i.e., that the continents had never moved from their modern positions), and by evidence from the relatively young fossil record of mammals, at the expense of other data that would have shown the more ancient interconnections among South America, Africa, India, and Australia. Remarkably, Matthew remained a Darwinian despite working for the autocratic orthogeneticist H. F. Osborn for three decades.

Info from HERE. Image from HERE.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Utahceratops & Kosmoceratops

New Horned Dinosaurs from Utah Provide Evidence for Intracontinental Dinosaur Endemism. 2010. S. Sampson, et al. PLoS One 5(9): e12292.

Two remarkable new species of horned dinosaurs have been found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the "lost continent" of Laramidia, formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating the eastern and western portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period.

Art by Mark Hallett
Kosmoceratops richardsoni (KOZ-mo-SARA-tops RICH-ard-SON-i); the first part of the name refers to kosmos, Latin for "ornate," and ceratops, meaning "horned face." The latter part of the name honors Scott Richardson, the volunteer who discovered two skulls of this animal. Kosmoceratops has sideways oriented eye horns, although much longer and more pointed than in Utahceratops. In all, Kosmoceratops possesses a total of 15 horns—one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill—making it the most ornate-headed dinosaur known.

Utahceratops by Lukas Panzarin
The bigger of the two new dinosaurs, with a skull 2.3 m long, is Utahceratops gettyi (U-tah-SARA-tops get-EE-i). The first part of the name combines the state of origin with ceratops, Greek for "horned face." The second part of the name honors Mike Getty, paleontology collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History and the discoverer of this animal. In addition to a large horn over the nose, Utahceratops has short and blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side rather than upward, much more like the horns of modern bison than those of Triceratops or other ceratopsians.

More info & pictures here.
Nice work by everyone on this paper! Congrats to my old pal & Palaeo Extraordinairie, Mike Getty, who deserves to have a whole clade of dinosaurs named after him!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Concavenator corcovatus

A bizarre, humped Carcharodontosauria (Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain. 2010. F. Ortega, et al. Nature 467: 203-206.

Abstract: Carcharodontosaurs were the largest predatory dinosaurs, and their early evolutionary history seems to be more intricate than was previously thought. Until recently, carcharodontosaurs were restricted to a group of large theropods inhabiting the Late Cretaceous Gondwanan land masses, but in the last few years Laurasian evidence has been causing a reevaluation of their initial diversification.

Here we describe an almost complete and exquisitely preserved skeleton of a medium-sized (roughly six metres long) theropod fromthe Lower Cretaceous series (Barremian stage) Konservat-Lagerstatte of Las Hoyas in Cuenca, Spain.

Cladistic analysis supports the idea that the new taxon Concavenator corcovatus is a primitive member of Carcharodontosauria, exhibiting two unusual features: elongation of the neurapophyses of two presacral vertebrae forming a pointed, hump-like structure and a series of small bumps on the ulna. We think that these bumps are homologous to quill knobs present on some modern birds; the knobs are related to the insertion area of follicular ligaments that anchor the roots of the flight feathers (remiges) to the arm.

We propose that Concavenator has integumentary follicular structures inserted on the ulna, as in modern birds. Because scales do not have follicles, we consider the structures anchored to the Concavenator arms to be non-scale skin appendages homologous to the feathers of modern birds. If this is true, then the phylogenetic bracket for the presence of non-scale skin structures homologous to feathers in theropod dinosaurs would be extended to the Neotetanurae, enlarging the scope for explaining the origin of feathers in theropods.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Styracosaurus Maquette

If you've got a lot of spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, you could pick up this model from Sideshow Collectables.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summarizing T. rex

Tyrannosaur Paleobiology: New Research on Ancient Exemplar Organisms. 2010. S. L. Brusatte, et al. Science 329: 1481-1485.

Tyrant © & ™ S. R. Bissette
Abstract: Tyrannosaurs, the group of dinosaurian carnivores that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, are icons of prehistory. They are also the most intensively studied extinct dinosaurs, and thanks to large sample sizes and an influx of new discoveries, have become ancient exemplar organisms used to study many themes in vertebrate paleontology.

A phylogeny that includes recently described species shows that tyrannosaurs originated by the Middle Jurassic but remained mostly small and ecologically marginal until the latest Cretaceous. Anatomical, biomechanical, and histological studies of T. rex and other derived tyrannosaurs show that large tyrannosaurs could not run rapidly, were capable of crushing bite forces, had accelerated growth rates and keen senses, and underwent pronounced changes during ontogeny. The biology and evolutionary history of tyrannosaurs provide a foundation for comparison with other dinosaurs and living organisms.

This Day In History: Darwin Arrives at Galapagos

In 1835, British naturalist Charles Darwin aboard the ship HMS Beagle,arrived at the Galapagos archipelago, a cluster of islands on the equator 600 miles west of South America. His observations there contributed to his theory of natural selection - that species evolved over thousands of millions of years. From: Today In Science History

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Xixiasaurus henanensis, New Troodontid from China

A new troodontid theropod from the Late Cretaceous of central China, and the radiation of Asian troodontids. 2010. Lü, J.−C., et al. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (3): 381–388.

Abstract: A new troodontid dinosaur, Xixiasaurus henanensis gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Majiacun Formation of the Xixia Basin, Henan Province, is erected, based on a partial skull. It is characterized by bearing 22 maxillary teeth, a distinct opening on the lateral surface of the base of nasal process of the premaxilla, the rostral end of the upper jaw forming a tapered U−shape, and the mandibular symphyseal region slightly inflected medially.

Xixiasaurus is most closely related to the Mongolian Byronosaurus among troodontids. Byronosaurus, Urbacodon, and Xixiasaurus may form a new clade, suggesting an endemic radiation of troodontids across Asia, including multiple taxa without dental serrations. The discovery of Xixiasaurus in the Xixia Basin may imply that the Xixiasaurus−bearing Majiacun Formation is Campanian in age.

Debuted This Day (1914): Gertie The Dinosaur

Winsor McCay (Sept. 26, 1987 – July 26, 1934) was one of the great American artists of the last century. He is best known for his newspaper comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland that ran from 1905 to 1914, and the animated cartoon creation Gertie the Dinosaur (1914).

For this cartoon McCay hand drew each frame of film. He took it on a tour of the vaudeville circuit and delighted audiences by being able to ‘interact’ with Gertie. Gertie is considered by many as the first true animated character to be featured in a film.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Born This Day: Stephen Jay Gould

Sept. 10, 1941 - May 20. 2002
Here’s a nice piece on Gould by Henry Lowood from the Stanford Presidential Lectures in the Humanities and Arts.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Born This Day: Joseph Leidy

Sept. 9, 1823 - April 30, 1891

From The Academy of Natural Sciences:

Leidy is known as the "Father of American Vertebrate Paleontology". He described the first relatively complete dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus, and introduced many American and European scientists to the fossil riches of the American West. Leidy's consummate skill in comparative anatomy would allow him to identify and characterize even the most fragmentary fossil material.

Leidy was also the "Founder of American Parasitology," a Professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania, a pioneering protozoologists, an influential teacher of Natural History, an accomplished microscopist and scientific illustrator, and an expert on a variety of subjects encompasing the earth and natural sciences. He published scientific papers on more than a thousand extinct and living protozoa, fungi and invertebrates and vertebrates as well as an assortment of publications on human biology and medicine. He was also one of the earliest supporters of Charles Darwin.

Born This Day: Father of The Devonian Period

Painting by Dan Erickson of the Phaeton Group
William Lonsdale (Sept. 9, 1794 – Nov. 11, 1891 ) 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 Ma) and those of the later Carboniferous System (286 to 360 Ma. Geologists Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick agreed and named this new geologic system after its locale - the Devonian Period (1839).

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 recognised that fossils showed how species changed over time, and more primitive organisms are found in lower strata.
From Today In Science History

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Born This Day: Comte Georges-Louis de Buffon

Buffon (Sept. 7, 1707 – April 16, 1788) was a French naturalist, who formulated a crude theory of evolution and was the first to suggest that the earth might be older than suggested by the Bible.

In 1739 he was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, a post he occupied until his death. There he worked on a comprehensive work on natural history, for which he is remembered, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière. He began this work in 1749, and it dominated the rest of his life. It would eventually run to 44 volumes, including quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and minerals.

He proposed (1778) that the Earth was hot at its creation and, from the rate of cooling, calculated its age to be 75,000 years, with life emerging some 40,000 years ago.

From Today In Science History. Stamp from HERE.

More info on Buffon from UC-Berkeley.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Whither Taxonomy?

"Just as our planet's organisms have begun dying off, the scientists who classify them have also begun to decline, and this could have dire implications."
Writer Matthew Hart in the Globe and Mail looks at the problem created by the decreasing number of taxonomists in science.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Born This Day: Raquel Welch

The cinema's definitive cave woman!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Origin of The Brain

Profiling by Image Registration Reveals Common Origin of Annelid Mushroom Bodies and Vertebrate Pallium. 2010. R. Tomer, et al. Cell 142: 800-809.

Art by Steve Ditko
Scientists have discovered a true counterpart of the vertebrate cerebral cortex in an invertebrate, a marine worm.
It has long been clear that, in evolutionary terms, we share our pallium with other vertebrates, but beyond that was mystery. This is because even invertebrates that are clearly related to us – such as the fish-like amphioxus – appear to have no similar brain structures, nothing that points to a shared evolutionary past. But EMBL scientists have now found brain structures related to the vertebrate pallium in a very distant cousin – the marine ragworm Platynereis dumerilii, a relative of the earthworm - which last shared an ancestor with us around 600 million years ago.

A virtual Platynereis brain (left), created by averaging microscopy images of the brains of 36 different individuals, onto which scientists mapped gene activity (right). Perspective shows the brain as viewed from inside a Platynereis larvae, at 48 hours’ old. EMBL/R.Tomer
"Two stunning conclusions emerge from this finding", explains Arendt: "First, the pallium is much older than anyone would have assumed, probably as old as higher animals themselves. Second, we learn that it came out of 'the blue' – as an adaptation to early marine life in Precambrian oceans."

This ancestral structure was likely a group of densely packed cells, which received and processed information about smell and directly controlled locomotion. It may have enabled our ancestors crawling over the sea floor to identify food sources, move towards them, and integrate previous experiences into some sort of learning. link

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Born This Day: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950) was an American author, best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.

Pellucidar is the hollow Earth milieu for a series of stories featuring David Innes and his inventor friend Abner Perry which they discover using an "iron mole" to burrow 500 miles into the Earth's crust where they find a prehistoric land. From Wikipedia

Went Extinct This Day (1914): The Passsenger Pigeon

In 1914, the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) became extinct as the last surviving bird of the colorful native American species of dove died at the Cincinnati Zoo. The passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction; the fact that it traveled and nested in large flocks made it easy to slaughter.

From Today In Science History

Died This Day: Luis Alvarez

Alverez (June 13, 1911 - Sept. 1, 1988) was an American experimental physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968 for work that included the discovery of many resonance particles --subatomic particles having extremely short lifetimes and occurring only in high-energy nuclear collisions.

In about 1980 Alvarez (left) helped his son, the geologist Walter Alvarez (right), publicize Walter's discovery of a worldwide layer of clay that has a high iridium content and which occupies rock strata at the geochronological boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras; i.e., about 66.4 million years ago.

They postulated that the iridium had been deposited following the impact on Earth of an asteroid or comet and that the catastrophic climatic effects of this massive impact caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Though initially controversial, this widely publicized theory gradually gained support as the most plausible explanation of the abrupt demise of the dinosaurs.

Read more HERE. Image from HERE.