Monday, November 30, 2015

This Day In History: Crystal Palace Burns Down

From Today In Science History:

In 1936, London's famed Crystal Palace, constructed for the International Exhibition of 1851, was destroyed in the most spectacular fire seen in Britain for many years. It started about 8 pm and spread with such amazing rapidity that within half an hour the great building was ablaze from end to end. Flames rose 300-ft despite the efforts of 90 engines and 500 firemen. Only the two towers escaped destruction. When built, constructed mainly of glass and iron, it was nicknamed "The Crystal Palace" by Punch magazine.

In 1854 the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins installed three construct full-size concrete restorations of Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus, and Megalosaurus on the grounds of Sydenham Park, home of the Crystal Palace.

Born This Day: Robert Broom

Robert Broom (Nov. 30, 1866 – April 6, 1951) was a South African doctor and paleontologist. From 1903 to 1910 he was professor of zoology and geology at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and subsequently he became keeper of vertebrate paleontology at the South African Museum, Cape Town.

Broom was first known for his study of mammal-like reptiles. After Raymond Dart's discovery of the Taung Child, an infant australopithecine, Broom's interest in paleoanthropology was heightened. In 1934 he jojned the staff of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria as an Assistant in Palaeontology.

In the following years, he made a series of spectacular finds, including fragments from six hominids in Sterkfontein, which he named Plesianthropus transvaalensis. In 1937, Broom made his most famous discovery of Paranthropus robustus. These discoveries helped support Dart's claims for the Taung species.

The remainder of Broom's career was devoted to the exploration of these sites and the interpretation of the many early hominid remains discovered there. In 1946 he proposed the Australopithecinae subfamily. From

James Allen St. John

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Died This Day: Karl Ernst von Baer

Von Baer (Feb 29, 1792 - Nov 28, 1876) was a Prussian-Estonian embryologist who discovered the mammalian egg (1827) and the notochord. He established the new science of comparative embryology alongside comparative anatomy with the publication of two landmark volumes (in 1828 and 1837) covering the range of existing knowledge of the prebirth developments of vertebrates.

He showed that mammalian eggs were not the follicles of the ovary but microscopic particles inside the follicles. He described the development of the embryo from layers of tissue, which he called germ layers, and demonstrated similarities in the embryos of different species of vertebrates.

From Today In Science History

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

James Allen St. John: The Cave Girl

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Died This Day: Sven Ander Hedin

Hedin (Feb. 19,1865 - Nov. 26, 1952) was a Swedish explorer and geographer, born in Stockholm, who led four multi-year expeditions into Central Asia between 1897 and 1935. Although not as well known as Roy Chapman Andrews his work in the regions revealed a wealth of cultural, archaeological and palaeontological wonders.

During his first major Asian expedition, he crossed the Pamirs, charted Lop Nor (Lake) in China, and finally arrived at Beijing. He then journeyed to Tibet by way of Mongolia, Siberia, and the Gobi Desert. Hedin explored Tibet and Xinjiang (Sinkiang), identified the sources of the Brahmaputra, Indus, and Sutlej rivers, and, in 1906, explored and named the Trans-Himalayas. In 1927 Hedin led an expedition of Chinese and Swedish scientists into Central Asia.

He wrote extensively about his adventures (e.g., Across the Gobi Desert, The Conquest of Tibet (1935), My Life as an Explorer (1926)) and they make for engaging and fascinating reading for anyone interested in the early days of exploring Central Asia. link

An excellent summary of Hedin’s life and expeditions into Central Asia can be found at the IDP News Archives image

Pterano-Man, Dinosaur Fighter!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Those Darn Pterosaurs!

Concept art for Creation (unproduced) by Willis O'Brien

Concept art for King Kong By Byron Crabbe

Concept Art for One Million Years B.C. by Ray Harryhausen


Monday, November 23, 2015

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).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Born This Day: Steve Clemente

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015


PALAEOBLOG takes a break from its usual postings to present an excerpt from Stephen R. Bissette's Behind-the-Scenes Peek at a Magnificent New Book about the Prehistory of Prehistoric Pop Culture excerpted from the upcoming MONSTER! #24, available soon from CreateSpace and

By Stephen R. Bissette

[The complete 10,00+ word interview and article will be published at the end of December 2015 in MONSTER! #24, available soon from CreateSpace and; just search for “MONSTER! #24 Tim Paxton” later in December…]

Now and then, a truly essential book surfaces.

The new book Dinomania is one of those essential tomes…Dr. Ulrich Merkl dedicated his efforts to complete a new book near and dear to my heart (I was, in fact, one of three consultants who followed through with research assistance, when asked, during the project’s gestation and completion). The fruits of his labor were just released, or unleashed (November 23, 2015): Dinomania: The Lost Art of Winsor McCay, The Secret Origins of King Kong, and the Urge to Destroy New York (2015), from Fantagraphics Books.

The book is an astonishing overview of 19th century and early 20th century “Dinomania,” and as such essential for all MONSTER! readers. Dr. Merkl shares a wealth of information, insights, rare never-before-reprinted artwork and cartoons, and more of interest to dinosaur lovers, comics scholars, giant monster movie addicts, genre devotees, and Winsor McCay fans, including an entirely “new” (as in never-before-seen) body of work by McCay. “On p. 257-260, we have the complete text of McCay’s original GERTIE lecture, exactly as he performed it in vaudeville,” Dr. Merkl explains. “The text was thought lost, but I discovered it exactly 100 years after McCay conceived it. I think it’s important.” Absolutely.

This is Merkl’s first book published by an American publisher (Fantagraphics), at almost half the price of his now-rare Rarebit Fiend book. But—rest assured that Fantagraphics does often go with limited print runs (they have here), and they do let books drop out of print, especially books as specialized as this one.

Interview excerpt:

Stephen R Bissette: When and where did you first see evidence of the McCay ("Bob McKay") Dino comics art?
DR. ULRICH MERKL: I first saw them in Russ Cochran’s Graphic Gallery catalog no. 7 from 1976 which I obtained when I started collecting original comic art in 1984 at the age of 18. That was when I first came across Robert McCay by name, in an auction catalogue that was already nine years old. I’ve been admiring those Dino pages ever since, until they turned up again on the market in the fall of 2010 (at Russ Cochran’s again).

SRB: Do you remember your first impressions—what did you think when you initially laid eyes on those pages?

UM: At first glance they looked like pure Winsor McCay: an original idea turned into a powerful graphic by a hand with the surest touch — but strangely signed by “Bob McCay,” his son. This raised two questions:

1) If this Bob McCay was such a fantastic cartoonist, how come nobody had ever heard about it or seen his work? And

2) If the drawings were by Winsor (and I was convinced of that from the outset)—why would he sign his own work with his son’s name?

As these two Dino half-pages were practically the only thing by “Bob McCay” anyone had ever seen, experts and collectors soon reached a summary verdict: “Robert must obviously have imitated his father’s style so precisely that we cannot tell the one from the other.” Given the lack of in-depth research, this has been the state of play for decades.

SRB: Those images have bothered me since I first saw them reprinted in a British instructional cartooning book. The lack of context—they seemed to exist in a void—was troubling and compelling, all at the same time.

UM: Personally, I find it astonishing that even McCay specialists saw no problem in ascribing, without compunction, such perfectly crafted comic strips to a completely unresearched artist who appeared out of the blue, all because of a signature. What ever happened to critical style analysis? Could it really be that these masterpieces, which so resemble the work of Winsor McCay, were actually drawn by “Bob McCay,” as the author’s mark claimed?

Over the years I would peer at those pictures over and over again, but I didn’t do anything about it. With the benefit of hindsight, that was a good thing, because I would not have found anything significant anyway. For one thing, I knew too little about Winsor McCay back then, and for another, back in the pre-Internet Stone Age I would not have tracked down most of the relevant information and visual material anyway.

Fast forward 25 years. In the fall of 2010 the two Dino half-pages were back on the market, resold by the same collector who bought them in 1976 and then looked after them for 34 years. This time I had the bit between my teeth. Surely this was a promising clue. You can’t file art of that quality in a drawer with a label that says “not sure”. Why would a Dino comic languish in obscurity? And what was all this about Bob McCay, or rather his mark? I had an essay in mind, ten pages or maybe twenty.

SRB: And then it grew and grew—I know how that is!

UM: Once you start getting serious about a thing, once you start digging down, and not copying what you find on the Internet but going to the sources, things take on a life of their own. The ten pages turned into fifty, I kept discovering more material, then it was 100 pages. Every answer I found raised three new questions. The ripples kept spreading wider, more and more amazing pictures emerged from the dust of history, and sooner or later I had 200 pages. What began simply as a Dino comic strip has led me to the huge phenomenon of dinomania, and after four years I found myself holding a supersized, 296-page monster book with 670 illustrations. It turned out that the two Dino half-pages signed “Bob McCay” were fragments from Winsor McCay’s last grand project, a newspaper strip in Sunday-page format about the odyssey of a dinosaur who awakes from a long, deep sleep and starts getting into trouble with human civilization. Drawn in summer 1934 on the crest of that first great wave of dinomania that quietly took shape in 1854 and had ridden a storm of popularity since 1905. When McCay had finished five or six pages of his strip, he died quite suddenly in July 1934, and the material never endured into a published strip.

SRB: At what point did the scope of this project open up to include your detective work on the whole of prehistoric-themed comic art, and how and when did that collecting/archiving portion of the venture begin in earnest?

UM: It soon became clear that the Dino pages were fragments from something bigger, and that the strip was part of a wave of general Dinomania in which Winsor McCay had played a key role. For one year, I was gathering everything I found about Dinomania, giant-monster monster movies, and related topics: comic strips, newspaper articles, editorial cartoons, children’s magazines, and so on. I started with absolutely zero in December 2010, and in the fall of 2011, I had what is probably the world’s second largest collection of vintage dinosaur images (the largest should be yours, I guess).

Look for “MONSTER! #24 in Decmeber; just search "Monster! Tim Paxton” at

Bonus: Read Stephen R. Bissette's exclusive PALAEOBLOG's 10 Part series, "The Palaeo-Path", on the history of dinosaurs in comics: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Devonian Lycopod Forest in Svalbard

Lycopsid forests in the early Late Devonian paleoequatorial zone of Svalbard. 2015. Geology

Researchers have unearthed an ancient fossil forest with preserved tree stumps dating to 380 million years ago preserved in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

The forests grew near the equator during the late Devonian period, and could provide an insight into the cause of a 15-fold reduction in levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere around that time, thought to be largely caused by a change in vegetation from diminutive plants to the first large forest trees.

The team found that the forests in Svalbard were formed mainly of lycopod trees, better known for growing millions of years later in coal swamps that eventually turned into coal deposits – such as those in South Wales. They also found that the forests were extremely dense, with very small gaps – around 20cm – between each of the trees, which probably reached about 4m high.

Read more at: Phys. Org.

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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Probrachylophosaurus bergei, New Hadrosaur from the Judith River Fm of Montana

A New Brachylophosaurin Hadrosaur (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) with an Intermediate Nasal Crest from the Campanian Judith River Formation of Northcentral Montana. 2015. Freedman Fowler and Horner, PLoS One.

Probrachylophosaurus bergei is a previously missing link between a preceding species, Acristavus, which lived about 81 million years ago, and later form Brachylophosaurus, which lived about 77.5 million years ago. PR

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Premiered This Day (1918): The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

The The Ghost of Slumber Mountain premiered this day in 1918. It was written and directed by special effects pioneer Willis O'Brien and produced by Herbert M. Dawley. When O’Brien went on to greater fame with The Lost World Dawley sued the film makers for patent infrigment, claiming that he, not O’Brien, had invented stop-motion animation. Although this was not the case, filming saw head up while the case was sorted out.

Both O’Brien and Hawley star as the ghost of Mad Dick and Uncle Jack Holmes, respectively.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Palaeoxonodon - The 3-in-1 Jurassic Mammal

A lower jaw of Palaeoxonodon from the Middle Jurassic of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, sheds new light on the diversity of British stem therians. 2015.

On an expedition in Scotland, researchers recently discovered the fossilized remains of a mouse-sized mammal dating back around 170 million years to the Middle Jurassic. The fossil represents a lower jaw belonging to a species of 'stem therian' mammal called Palaeoxonodon that was previously known solely from isolated teeth.

Palaeoxonodon is an important species for understanding the evolution of molar teeth in modern mammals.

The latest discovery indicates that three species previously described on the basis of individual fossilized teeth actually belong to just one species.

"This new fossil provides a wealth of novel information about an important species of early 'pre-tribosphenic mammal," said Dr. Roger Close, lead author of the Palaeontology study. PR

The Devonian Mass Extinction Event & Body Size

Body-size reduction in vertebrates following the end-Devonian mass extinction. 2015.L. Sallan et al. Science.

New research suggest that the Hangenberg extinction event 359 million years ago event that wiped out 97 percent of vertebrate species. Before the event, large creatures were the norm, but, for at least 40 million years following the die-off, the oceans were dominated by markedly smaller fish.

"Some large species hung on, but most eventually died out," Sallan said. "So the end result is an ocean in which most sharks are less than a meter and most fishes and tetrapods are less than 10 centimeters, which is extremely tiny.

"Rather than having this thriving ecosystem of large things, you may have one gigantic relict, but otherwise everything is the size of a sardine," said Sallan, an assistant professor at U Penn. Read more at: Phys Org

Friday, November 13, 2015

Born This Day: Helen Mack

Nov 13, 1913 – August 13, 1986
Helen starred as Helene Peterson in “Son of Kong”, the quickie follow up to “King Kong”. Once again Carl Denham leads a beautiful girl into danger on Skull Island.

Premiered This Day (1940): Fantasia

Walt Disney’s epic film, Fantasia, opened this day on Broadway in New York City in 1940. The film featured Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing a number of pieces of classical music to the film’s animated visuals. Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” provided the score for the evolution of the Earth including a wonderful sequence on the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Many school teachers actually showed this sequence in science class up through the 1970's as it was one of the most accurate animated depictions to that date.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Born This Day: Julie Ege

Nov. 12, 1943 – April 29, 2008
The late Julie Ege had the lead role as Nala in the 1971 Hammer film, “Creatures The World Forgot”.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Died This Day: Gideon Mantell

Mantell (Feb. 3, 1790 – Nov. 10, 1852), a physician of Lewes in Sussex in southern England, had for years been collecting fossils in the sandstone of Tilgate forest, and he had discovered bones belonging to three extinct species: a giant crocodile, a plesiosaur, and Buckland's Megalosaurus. But in 1822 he found several teeth that "possessed characters so remarkable" that they had to have come from a fourth and distinct species of Saurian. After consulting numerous experts, Mantell finally recognized that the teeth bore an uncanny resemblance to the teeth of the living iguana, except that they were twenty times larger.
In this paper, the second published description of a dinosaur, he concluded that he had found the teeth of a giant lizard, which he named Iguanodon, or "Iguana-tooth."

Mantell illustrated his announcement with a single lithographed plate. Mantell included at the bottom of the plate a drawing of a recent iguana jaw, which is shown four times natural size, and for further comparison, he added views of the inner and outer surface of a single iguana tooth, "greatly magnified."

The traditional story that Mantell's wife found the first teeth in 1822, while the doctor was visiting a patient, appears, alas, to be unfounded.

Info and plate from HERE.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Died This Day: Willis O'Brien

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

His biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 07, 2015

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.

Friday, November 06, 2015

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.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

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 Hennig

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.
From the Willi Hennig Society . More info about Henning HERE. photo.

Born This Day: J.B.S. Haldane

Haldane (Nov. 5, 1892 - Dec. 1, 1964) is best remembered along with E. B. Ford and R. A. Fisher one of the three major figures to develop the mathematical theory of population genetics. His greatest contribution was in a series of ten papers on "A Mathematical Theory of Natural and Artificial Selection" which was the major series of papers on the mathematical theory of natural selection. It treated many major cases for the first time, showing the direction and rates of changes of gene frequencies. It also pioneered in investigating the interaction of natural selection with mutation and with migration.

Haldane's book, The Causes of Evolution (1932), summarized these results, especially in its extensive appendix. This body of work was a component of what came to be known as the "modern evolutionary synthesis", re-establishing natural selection as the premier mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian genetics. From Wikipedia. More info here.

Born This Day: August Weismann

August (Friedrich Leopold) Weismann (Jan. 17, 1834 – Nov. 5, 1914) was a German biologist and one of the founders of the science of genetics. He is best known for his opposition to the doctrine of the inheritance of acquired traits and for his "germ plasm" theory, the forerunner of DNA theory.

Weismann conceived the idea, arising out of his early observations on the Hydrozoa, that the germ cells of animals contain "something essential for the species, something which must be carefully preserved and passed on from one generation to another."

Weismann envisioned the hereditary substances from the two parents become mixed together in the fertilized egg and a form of nuclear division in which each daughter nucleus receives only half the original ancestral germ plasms.

More info from Science World. image From Today In Science History

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

How Wide Could T. rex Open Its Mouth?

Estimating cranial musculoskeletal constraints in theropod dinosaurs. 2015. Royal Society Open Science.

Gape angles at optimal and maximum tension limit for (a) Allosaurus fragilis, (b) Tyrannosaurus rex and (c) Erlikosaurus andrewsi with muscle resting length at a gape angle of 3.0°.

A new study demonstrates that Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus and Erlikosaurus show distinct differences in the recruitment of the jaw adductor musculature and resulting gape, confirming previous dietary and ecological assumptions. While the carnivorous taxa T. rex and Allosaurus were capable of a wide gape and sustained muscle force, the herbivorous therizinosaurian Erlikosaurus was constrained to small gape angles.

Read more at: Phys Org.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Dakotaraptor steini, Giant Raptor From The Hell Creek Formation

The first giant raptor (Theropoda:Dromaeosauridae) from the Hell Creek Formation. 2015.

Abstract: Most dromaeosaurids were small- to medium-sized cursorial, scansorial, and arboreal, sometimes volant predators, but a comparatively small percentage grew to gigantic proportions. Only two such giant “raptors” have been described from North America.

Here, we describe a new giant dromaeosaurid, Dakotaraptor steini gen. et sp. nov., from the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota. The discovery represents the first giant dromaeosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, and the most recent in the fossil record worldwide. A row of prominent ulnar papilli or “quill knobs” on the ulna is our first clear evidence for feather quills on a large dromaeosaurid forearm and impacts evolutionary reconstructions and functional morphology of such derived, typically flight-related features.

The presence of this new predator expands our record of theropod diversity in latest Cretaceous Laramidia, and radically changes paleoecological reconstructions of the Hell Creek Formation.

Dakotarapator (actual material in small silhouette).

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

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Devo Was Right About Everything

Celebrate the golden age in which we’re living,
Your opinion counts and freedom is key.
Sadly, this has led to Art and Sport and Politics
Being led by people ill-equipped to breathe.

There was a group who could have saved us from this ignominy,
There was a group and they were roundly ignored.
They saw the future and they pointed out the problems
If the people took the point we’d now be reaping the reward.

Devo was right about everything, Devo were telling the truth.
Devo was right about everything, Devo showed us the proof.

If you have ever raged against conformity
Or hate they way our leaders treat us with scorn,
You see Society regress before your very eyes
Devo was on your side before you were born!

Devo was right about everything, Devo was never in the wrong.
Devo was right about everything, Devo don’t care for this song

Because it says they were right about everything,
And if that’s true then we’re really all doomed,
So in thirty seconds turn this music off
And go on out and do what Devo would do!
by The Attery Squash

How many people here tonight
Believe that De-evolution is real?
And we just came to remind you…
Are we not men? WE ARE DEVO!!

New Feathered Dinosaur From Alberta

A densely feathered ornithomimid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, Canada. Cret. Res.

Illo by Julius Csotonyi

The discovery of an Ornithomimus with preserved tail feathers and soft tissue is shedding light on the convergent evolution of these dinosaurs with ostriches relating to thermoregulation.

"We now know what the plumage looked like on the tail, and that from the mid-femur down, it had bare skin," says Aaron van der Reest. This is the first report of such preserved skin forming a web from the femoral shaft to the abdomen, never before seen in non-avian dinosaurs. "Ostriches use bare skin to thermoregulate.

Because the plumage on this specimen is virtually identical to that of an ostrich, we can infer that Ornithomimus was likely doing the same thing, using feathered regions on their body to maintain body temperature. It would've looked a lot like an ostrich." In fact, this group of animals—referred to as ornithomimids—is commonly referred to as "ostrich mimics." Read more at Phys Org.

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: 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.