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Archive for the ‘Palaeontology’ Category

They’ve done it again, kiddie-winkers.

While we were out planning our gardens and trying to figure out how to hurt ourselves with fireworks, the devoted geeks and nerdlings in the world of science have come up with these findings!

 

18-05-14

 

Dinosaur: http://bit.ly/1lxLRTu
Gluten: http://bit.ly/1gT4Wgc
Prehistoric girl: http://bit.ly/1j45bcI
Glaciers: http://bit.ly/1on1lP6
Lucid dreaming: http://bit.ly/1glhORI
Exoplanet: http://bit.ly/1iYOxel
Sperm: http://bit.ly/1mYRPhh
Measles: http://bit.ly/S7b5jd

Well done, folks. Very well done indeed.

The world owes you a huge debt of gratitude!

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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While the rest of us were out doing whatever the heck it is that we do, the geeks and nerdlings in the world of science were doing this…


27-04-14

Smartly done, folks!

New shape: http://bit.ly/1jHVFID
Y chromosome: http://bit.ly/1hrLASQ
Chernobyl: http://bit.ly/1tOdLR8
Coldest star: http://bit.ly/1fgit6q
Pterodactyloid: http://bit.ly/1hwaZuO
Aging: http://bit.ly/1rqpGT7
Mimic plant: http://bit.ly/RToETw
Mineral: http://bit.ly/1f4Sdf6

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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Should We Bring Extinct Animals Back to Life?

Wouldn’t it be cool (or would it?) if we could bring wooly mammoths back and have them live in Greenland, Siberia or the Canadian tundra?

mammoth

Even a single herd of wooly rhinos roaming around in some secluded part of the world?

woolly_rhinoceros

With cloning, we probably could. But should we?

When I saw these photos… when I asked myself this question… I was immediately reminded of the famous scene in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie, Jurassic Park

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.

Donald Gennaro: Well thank you, Dr. Malcolm, but I think things are a little bit different than you and I had feared…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, I know. They’re a lot worse.

Donald Gennaro: Now, wait a second now, we haven’t even seen the park…

John Hammond: No, no, Donald, Donald, Donald… let him talk. There’s no reason… I want to hear every viewpoint, I really do.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.

Donald Gennaro: It’s hardly appropriate to start hurling generalizations…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now

[bangs on the table]

Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…

John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…

John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.

John Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?

Dr. Ian Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.

Dr. Ellie Sattler: Well, the question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it? I mean, you have plants in this building that are poisonous, you picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves, violently if necessary.

John Hammond: Dr. Grant, if there’s one person here who could appreciate what I’m trying to do…

Dr. Alan Grant: The world has just changed so radically, and we’re all running to catch up. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but look… Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?

John Hammond: [laughing] I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! You’re meant to come down here and defend me against these characters, and the only one I’ve got on my side is the blood-sucking lawyer!

Donald Gennaro: Thank you.

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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While the rest of us were off doing whatever the rest of us do…

Science geeks and nerdlings the world over have been discovering things that make the world an even more awesome place!

sept-in-science

Cancer: http://bit.ly/167lkrE
Whispering: http://bit.ly/1biP5Ke
New form of matter: http://bit.ly/18CYkz3
Climate change: http://bbc.in/19P6vax
Mars: http://bit.ly/1bkPA6A
Oxygen: http://bit.ly/1bUtZkO
Jaw & backbone: http://bit.ly/15Dv3HJ
Solar panels: http://bit.ly/167lCyT

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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The other day, I was browsing through Popular Science’s website, PopSci.com, and stumbled across this article.

This Preserved Lizard Is 23 Million Years Old

In Mexico, paleontologists discovered a small piece of amber with something remarkable inside: a 23-million-year-old preserved lizard.

Scientists at the curiously named National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Physics Institute are analyzing the amber. It’s small, loosely trapezoidal in shape, and only about 1.7 inches by 0.5 inches, but contains the entire body of a very tiny lizard. Thanks to the amazing preservation powers of amber, the lizard’s complete skeleton survived to this day, along with a not insignificant amount of soft tissue and even skin.

oldlizard-amber(It might well be related to a very common modern lizard – except it’s teeny-tiny)

It’s a bit early to declare with certainty what kind of lizard this is, but the scientists believe at this point that it’s a new species of anole. The anoles are a very common New World family of lizards – if you’ve been to Florida and seen greenish/brownish lizards running all around, those are most likely anoles. They’re friendly lizards, functioning as a sort of pest control (they eat cockroaches, for example) and are even sold as pets, sometimes. This particular preserved (presumed) anole has yet to be given an official Linnaean name.

The amber was found in Simojovel, a municipality in the northern part of Chiapas (Mexico’s southernmost state) that’s known, among other things, for its amber. [1]

Simojovel has a long history of amazing amber finds, and this lizard is only the latest.

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[1] Amber is a fossilized resin, not a sap; though both sap and resin come from plants, sap is a sugar and resin is a complex hydrocarbon liquid that’s held in the outer cell membranes of plants. Both sap and resin are thick, viscous liquids, but only resin can fossilize and become amber, often with organic matter (like plants or animals) stuck inside.

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I have to hand it once again to the intrepid geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com!

Actor Johnny Depp Immortalized in Name of Fossilized Creature With ‘Scissor Hand’ Claws

The article begins, “A scientist has discovered an ancient extinct creature with ‘scissor hand-like’ claws in fossil records and has named it in honour of his favourite movie star.”

The 505-million-year-old fossil called Kooteninchela deppi (pronounced Koo-ten-ee-che-la depp-eye), which is a distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions, was named after the actor Johnny Depp for his starring role as Edward Scissorhands — a movie about an artificial man named Edward, an unfinished creation, who has scissors for hands.

Kooteninchela-deppi-4(What a cutie. Just like its namesake!)

Kooteninchela deppi is helping researchers to piece together more information about life on Earth during the Cambrian period when nearly all modern animal types emerged.

David Legg, who carried out the research as part of his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands. Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as ‘chela’ is Latin for claws or scissors. In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

Kooteninchela-deppi-2

It lived in shallow seas off the coast of what is now British Columbia, Canada, although in those days, the area was closer to the equator.

It was approximately four centimetres long with a trunk for a body and millipede-like legs and large eyes which it used to search for food along the sea floor, according to research published in the Journal of Palaeontology.

The researcher believes that Kooteninchela deppi would have been a hunter or scavenger. Its large Edward Scissorhands-like claws with their elongated spines may have been used to capture prey, or they could have helped it to probe the sea floor looking for sea creatures hiding in sediment.

lobster(Kooteninchela deppi – a distant relative of lobsters & scorpions)

It also had large eyes composed of many lenses like the compound eyes of a fly. They were positioned on top of movable stalks called peduncles to help it more easily search for food and look out for predators.

The researchers discovered that Kooteninchela deppi belongs to a group known as the ‘great-appendage’ arthropods, which includes spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, insects and crabs.

Mr Legg said: ‘Just imagine it – the prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi.’

‘Current estimates indicate that there are more than one million known insects and potentially 10 million more yet to be categorised, which potentially means that Kooteninchela deppi has a huge family tree.’

Legg now wants to study the fossils from the Ordovician period, when species diversity increased.

The research was published in the Journal of Palaeontology 2 May 2013.

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Journal Reference:

  1. David Legg. Multi-Segmented Arthropods from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia (Canada)Journal of Paleontology, 2013; 87 (3): 493 DOI: 10.1666/12-112.1

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You’ve got to hand it to the geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com!

Yesterday’s headline really caught my eye.

Survival of the Prettiest: Sexual Selection Can Be Inferred from the Fossil Record

The article begins, “Detecting sexual selection in the fossil record is not impossible, according to scientists writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolutionthis month, co-authored by Dr Darren Naish of the University of Southampton.”

The term “sexual selection” refers to the evolutionary pressures that relate to a species’ ability to repel rivals, meet mates and pass on genes. We can observe these processes happening in living animals but how do paleontologists know that sexual selection operated in fossil ones?

pretty-dinosaurs(Sexual dimorphism in the pterosaur Darwinopterus [Image by Mark Witton])

Historically, palaeontologists have thought it challenging, even impossible, to recognise sexual selection in extinct animals. Many fossil animals have elaborate crests, horns, frills and other structures that look like they were used in sexual display but it can be difficult to distinguish these structures from those that might play a role in feeding behaviour, escaping predators, controlling body temperature and so on.

However in their review, the scientists argue that clues in the fossil record can indeed be used to infer sexual selection.

“We see much evidence from the fossil record suggesting that sexual selection played a major role in the evolution of many extinct groups,” says Dr Naish, of the University’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Research Group.

“Using observations of modern animal behaviour we can draw analogies with extinct animals and infer how certain features improve success during courtship and breeding.”

dino-couple(Above image of sexual selection in dinosaurs may not be 100% accurate)

Modern examples of sexual selection, where species have evolved certain behaviours or ornamentation that repel rivals and attract members of the opposite sex, include the male peacock’s display of feathers, and the male moose’s antlers for use in clashes during mating season.

Whilst these features might have had multiple uses, the authors conclude that sexual selection should not be ruled out.

“Some scientists argue that many of the elaborate features on dinosaurs were not sexually selected at all,” adds Dr Naish, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

“But as observations show that sexual selection is the most common process shaping evolutionary traits in modern animals, there is every reason to assume that things were exactly the same in the distant geological past.”

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Journal Reference:

  • Robert J. Knell, Darren Naish, Joseph L. Tomkins, David W.E. Hone. Sexual selection in prehistoric animals: detection and implicationsTrends in Ecology & Evolution, 2013; 28 (1): 38 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.015

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