Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Debuted This Day (1960): The Flintstones

Read about Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone.

Born This Day: Charles Lapworth

Lapworth (Sept. 30, 1842 - March 13, 1920) was an English geologist who proposed what came to be called the Ordovician period (505 to 438 million years old) of geologic strata. Lapworth is famous for his work with marine fossils called graptolites.

By fastidiously collecting the tiny, colonial sea creatures, he figured out the original order of layered rocks that had been faulted and folded in England's Southern Uplands. This method of correlating rocks with graptolites became a model for similar research throughout the world.

In 1879, Lapworth proposed a new classification of Lower Paleozoic rocks with the Ordovician, between the redefined Cambrian and Silurian periods. The name comes from an ancient Welsh tribe, the Ordovices. From Today In Science History

Monday, September 28, 2015

Uncovering The Original Colour of Fossil Organisms

Chemical, experimental, and morphological evidence for diagenetically altered melanin in exceptionally preserved fossils. 2015. PNAS.

Researchers discovered the reddish brown color of two extinct species of bat from fossils dating back about 50 million years, marking the first time the colors of extinct mammals have been described through fossil analysis.

The techniques can be used to determine color from well-preserved animal fossils that are up to 300 million years old, researchers said.

The researchers said microscopic structures traditionally believed to be fossilized bacteria are in fact melanosomes—organelles within cells that contain melanin, the pigment that gives colors to hair, feathers, skin, and eyes.
Read more at: Phys Org.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Born This Day (~1889): Winsor McCay

Sept. 26, 1887 – July 26, 1934
McCay 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.

"He was so far ahead of his time that many of his innovations were beyond the abilities of his contemporaries: what he had discovered and demonstrated about the capacities of each medium had to be re-discovered decades later by the next generation of cartoonists."by R.C Harvey

Born This Day (1944): Victoria Vetri

Victoria 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.

Born This Day (1941): 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.

Born This Day (1887): Antonio Moreno, Discoverer of The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Antonio Moreno played Carl Maia, the scientist who discovered the fossil evidence for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Moreno had a long career in Hollywood with a notable run playing Latin lover in the silent film era.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Evolution of Bees' Tongues Via Global Warming

Functional mismatch in a bumble bee pollination mutualism under climate change. 2015. Science.

Xenozoic © Mark Schultz
Global warming and evolution are reshaping the bodies of some American bumblebees.
The tongues of two Rocky Mountains species of bumblebees are about one-quarter shorter than they were 40 years ago, evolving that way because climate change altered the buffet of wildflowers they normally feed from.

Abstract: Ecological partnerships, or mutualisms, are globally widespread, sustaining agriculture and biodiversity. Mutualisms evolve through the matching of functional traits between partners, such as tongue length of pollinators and flower tube depth of plants. Long-tongued pollinators specialize on flowers with deep corolla tubes, whereas shorter-tongued pollinators generalize across tube lengths. Losses of functional guilds because of shifts in global climate may disrupt mutualisms and threaten partner species. We found that in two alpine bumble bee species, decreases in tongue length have evolved over 40 years. Co-occurring flowers have not become shallower, nor are small-flowered plants more prolific. We argue that declining floral resources because of warmer summers have favored generalist foraging, leading to a mismatch between shorter-tongued bees and the longer-tubed plants they once pollinated.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Born This Day (1922): Bert I. Gordon

Gordon was a movie producer of low, low budget films known for having great posters that sold the film. These films were fodder for many episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He takes a bow here for “King Dinosaur”

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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Desmatochelys padillai, The Oldest Known Marine Turtle?

Oldest known marine turtle? A new protostegid from the Lower Cretaceous of Colombia. 2015. PaleoBios

The partial skeleton of Desmatochelys padillai, with a length of nearly 6.5 feet (2 m), shows all of the characteristic traits of modern marine turtles. It originates from Cretaceous sediments and is at least 120 million years old.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, A New Hadrosaur From North Alaska.

A new Arctic hadrosaurid from the Prince Creek Formation (lower Maastrichtian) of northern Alaska. 2015. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis ("ancient grazer") is a new species of duck-billed dinosaur from north Alaska. Read more about it at Phys Org

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tree of Life Published

Synthesis of Phylogeny and Taxonomy Into a Comprehensive Tree of Life. C. Hinchliff et al. PNAS

A first draft of the "tree of life" for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes has been released.

A collaborative effort among 11 institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Tens of thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches of the tree of life--some containing upwards of 100,000 species--but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree that encompasses all of life. PR

Thursday, September 17, 2015

458-Million Year Old Twin Impact Craters Found in Sweden

Scientists in Sweden have found two craters south of the city of Ă–stersund with diameters of 7.5 and 0.7 kms. The two meteorite impacts occurred at the same time, 458 million years ago.

“From studies of meteorites, we know that a large disruption of an asteroid occurred around 470 million years ago in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.”

“This disruption spawned large amounts of asteroid debris and dust, some of which entered Earth-crossing orbits, resulting in an increase of two orders of magnitude in the influx of smaller fragments to Earth; the influx lasted for a couple of million years.” From Sci News

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On This Day (1835): Darwin Reaches the Galapagos Islands

On this day in 1835, Charles Darwin arrived at the Galapagos archipelago, a cluster of islands on the equator 600 miles west of South America. During his five weeks studying the fauna in the Galapagos, Darwin found the giant tortoises there greatly differed from one another according to which island they came from. From Today in Science History

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Happy 101st Birthday to Gertie the Dinosaur!

One hundred and one years ago today, Winsor McCay's animated film, Gertie the Dinosaur, premiered. Gertie is considered by many as the first true animated character to be featured in a film.

For this cartoon, McCay (Sept. 26, 1987 – July 26, 1934) hand drew each frame of film. He took it on the vaudeville circuit and delighted audiences by being able to ‘interact’ with Gertie. In addition to Gertie, he is best known for his ground-breaking newspaper comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland that ran from 1905 to 1914.

So, What about Homo naledi's Geologic Age?

Read the Phys. Org opinion piece quite rightly calling out the unknown age of the Homo naledi material reported here last week.

'Ligthning Claw' Megaraptorid from Australia

A large-clawed theropod (Dinosauria: Tetanurae) from the Lower Cretaceous of Australia and the Gondwanan origin of megaraptorid theropods. Gondwana Research.

A team of researchers, including our friends Federico Fanti from Italy and Phil Bell from Australia, have identified the fossilized remains of a previously unknown megaraptorid dinosaur—they've called it "Lightning Claw" after the large claw it sports and in honor of the place it was found.

The dinosaur was likely approximately 7m in length when alive, and that it lived approximately 110 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period, when Australia was still part of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The fossils consisted of a lower leg part and hip, a rib, metatarsal and forearm and a 25cm claw. The fossils were all found near the town of Lightning Ridge, in Queensland, in the South East part of the country, and represent the largest carnivorous dinosaur known to have lived in Australia.

Read more at:

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Homo naledi, new member of the human family tree

Homo naledi's face by paleoartist John Gurche from Nat. Geo.

Homo naledi (nah-LEH-dee) is a new member of the human family tree. The bones were found by a spelunker about 48km northwest of Johannesburg. The site has yielded some 1550 specimens since its discovery in 2013. The fossils represent at least 15 individuals.

The creature, which evidently walked upright, represents a mix of traits. For example, the hands and feet look like Homo, but the shoulders and the small brain recall Homo's more ape-like ancestors, the researchers said.

Read more at: Phys Org.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Born This Day: Joseph Leidy

From The Academy of Natural Sciences:

Leidy (Sept. 9, 1823 - April 30, 1891) 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: 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

Friday, September 04, 2015

Antillothrix bernensis, 1 Million Year Old Caribbean Monkey

'The presence of endemic new world monkeys on the Caribbean islands is one the great questions of bio-geography and our work on these fossils shows Antillothrix existed on Hispaniola relatively morphologically unchanged for over a million years. By establishing the age of these fossils we have changed the understanding of primate evolution in this region.' said Dr Green.

Read more at: Phys Org News.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Died This Day: Luis Alvarez

Alvarez (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.