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Laelaps primarily deals with paleontology, ecology, natural history, and other zoological sciences.

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  • March 7, 2012
  • 01:50 PM

Snails Hitch a Ride in Duck Guts

by Laelaps in Laelaps

I hate flying. From the moment I arrive at the airport to when I finally step off the plane, the experience ultimately makes me feel like a zombie – shuffling, incoherent, and grimy. If there were a King Kong travel package – in which I could be sedated, placed in a crate, and revived at [...]... Read more »

  • March 5, 2012
  • 12:19 PM

Repost: Polycotylus – The Good Mother Plesiosaur?

by Laelaps in Laelaps

[This essay was originally posted on August 13, 2011] The opening sentence of F. Robin O’Keefe and Luis Chiappe’s new paper in Science this week is a simple statement of fact that threw me for a loop. “Viviparity, or birthing live young,” the paleontologists write, “is common among reptiles, having evolved over 80 times among [...]... Read more »

Blackburn, D., & Evans, H. (1986) Why are there no Viviparous Birds?. The American Naturalist, 128(2), 165. DOI: 10.1086/284552  

Caldwell, M., & Lee, M. (2001) Live birth in Cretaceous marine lizards (mosasauroids). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 268(1484), 2397-2401. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1796  

  • March 2, 2012
  • 02:26 PM

The Nutcracker Croc of Cretaceous Texas

by Laelaps in Laelaps

The Arlington Archosaur Site doesn’t fit the traditional vision of a remote fossil deposit situated in rocky, windswept badlands. Rich in turtle, crocodile, fish, and dinosaur remains, the assemblage is within walking distance of a Starbucks in the Arlington, Texas metro area. But those fossils tell of a very different time – a snapshot of [...]... Read more »


  • February 27, 2012
  • 07:20 PM

Honey, I Shrunk the Coyote

by Laelaps in Laelaps

When I think of the La Brea asphalt seeps, coyotes don’t immediately jump to mind. Sabercats and dire wolves are the sorts of carnivore I have come to associate the oozing predator trap with. Yet coyotes were there in abundance. According to a monograph on the site I picked up from the Page Musuem gift [...]... Read more »

Meachen, J., Samuels, J. (2012) Evolution in coyotes (Canis latrans) in response to the megafaunal extinctions. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1113788109

  • February 20, 2012
  • 03:21 PM

Mouse Howls Like a Wolf, Bites Like a Tiger

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Before crunching into its prey, the grasshopper mouse howls. The sound is a high, sustained whistle which pierces the desert night. It is as if the rodent is imitating a wolf at miniature scale – the grasshopper mouse even stands on its hind legs and throws its head back during the shrill call. And while [...]... Read more »

  • February 18, 2012
  • 12:22 PM

Repost: The Frustrating Legacy of Plasterosaurus

by Laelaps in Laelaps

For one of the most impressive oceanic predators of all time, Kronosaurus queenslandicus did not receive an auspicious introduction in the scientific literature. Today the creature’s name immediately conjures up the image of a massive marine reptile with terrifying jaws arrayed with big, conical teeth, but in 1924, when Kronosaurus received its formal name, the [...]... Read more »

  • February 15, 2012
  • 01:27 PM

Repost: Doing the Haplomastodon Breakdown

by Laelaps in Laelaps

African elephants are sturdy beasts. They don’t break down easily. After death, elephant bodies become temporary islands of intense activity – providing nourishment to scavengers from hyenas to beetles. The same was true of prehistoric elephants. At Águas de Araxá, Brazil, a resort hotel sits on top of an ancient elephant graveyard. Construction workers found [...]... Read more »

ARROYOCABRALES, J., POLACO, O., LAURITO, C., JOHNSON, E., TERESAALBERDI, M., & VALERIOZAMORA, A. (2007) The proboscideans (Mammalia) from Mesoamerica. Quaternary International, 17-23. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2006.12.017  

FERRETTI, M.P. (2010) Anatomy of Haplomastodon chimborazi (Mammalia, Proboscidea) from the late Pleistocene of Ecuador and its bearing on the phylogeny and systematics of South American gomphotheres. Geodiversitas, 32(4), 663-721. info:/

  • February 13, 2012
  • 03:26 PM

BOOM Goes the Ichthyosaur?

by Laelaps in Laelaps

What happened to prehistoric, dolphin-like marine reptiles when they died? Did they sink or they float until the gases from decomposition blew up their bodies and scattered their bones? Laelaps blogger Brian Switek tries to pop the bubble of an ancient mystery.... Read more »

  • February 10, 2012
  • 06:33 PM

The Terrible, Prehistoric Frog That Wasn’t

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Over 300 million years ago, long before the time of the dinosaurs, giant amphibians hopped along the sandy shores of Pennsylvania. At least, that was what Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter James Ross explained to readers of the newspaper’s November 28th, 1948 issue. The inspiration for the report was a set of strange tracks found in the [...]... Read more »

Niedźwiedzki, G., Szrek, P., Narkiewicz, K., Narkiewicz, M., & Ahlberg, P. (2010) Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. Nature, 463(7277), 43-48. DOI: 10.1038/nature08623  

  • February 6, 2012
  • 01:45 PM

Mosasaurs: Masters of the Bronx Cheer

by Laelaps in Laelaps

[Author's Note: After months of fieldwork, museum visits, and other research, A Date With a Dinosaur is finally coming together. And not a moment too soon - my deadline is rapidly approaching. New essays will continue to surface here, but I'm also going to dredge up some favorite posts from years past to help keep [...]... Read more »

Schulp, A.; Mulder, E.; Schwenk, K. (2002) Did mosasaurs have forked tongues?. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, 84(3), 359-371. info:/

  • February 3, 2012
  • 07:47 PM

Why Margarita Can Purr, but Can’t Roar

by Laelaps in Laelaps

I rolled out of bed later than I intended to this morning. I blame the cats. Our youngest cat, a diminutive calico named Margarita, sprung onto the bed as soon as she heard me start to stir. She immediately started purring — the sound started as a low rumble and rose to a constant vibrato [...]... Read more »

  • February 1, 2012
  • 05:42 PM

How an African Elephant Comes Together

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Before my love of dinosaurs kicked in, I adored elephants. My four-year-old self spent hours on the couch watching elephant documentaries, pith helmet firmly affixed to my head and my faithful companion Koba at my side. (A black, plush elephant bigger than I was, Koba was filled with a cheap stuffing I was allergic to. [...]... Read more »

  • January 30, 2012
  • 02:31 PM

Preening the History of Primates

by Laelaps in Laelaps

When viewed within the broader context of our evolutionary history, we are anthropoid primates. That’s the group which contains monkeys and apes (with our species being a specialized variety of ape, and apes being a particular subset of monkeys, and monkeys representing the major group of anthropoids). But how anthropoid primates originated has been a [...]... Read more »

  • January 26, 2012
  • 02:26 PM

New Jersey’s Turnpike Croc

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Two years ago, when I was still stuck in the middle of the garden state, New Jersey State Museum assistant curator of natural history Jason Schein took me on a brief tour of his institution’s collections. There were crocodyliforms everywhere. Shelf after shelf contained the teeth, armor, and bones of a variety of prehistoric crocs [...]... Read more »

  • January 25, 2012
  • 03:10 PM

Real-Life DinoCrocs Crushed the Competition

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Giant "DinoCrocs" of the Cretaceous didn't just hang out in the background while predatory dinosaurs stole the spotlight. Laelaps blogger Brian Switek explains how new fossils show they competed as a top predator.... Read more »

  • January 23, 2012
  • 04:32 PM

Glow, Little Spewing Shrimp, Glow

by Laelaps in Laelaps

I have spent the better part of two days trying to learn about glowing shrimp puke. ScienceOnline made me do it.
A few days ago, during a quick tour organized by the annual science communication conference, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences exhibit director Roy Campbell pointed out a tiny invertebrate in the gloomy recesses of [...]... Read more »

  • January 17, 2012
  • 01:07 PM

How the “Terrible Heads” Became World Travelers

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Earlier this week, paleontologists described another of our distant, ancient cousins. This was no hominin, early primate, or even archaic mammal, but a much, much older variety of creature that would superficially seem to have more in common with terrible primeval reptiles than with us. Named Pampaphoneus biccai, this knobby-headed, 260 million year old predator [...]... Read more »

  • January 15, 2012
  • 02:06 PM

The Jurassic’s Housecat Croc

by Laelaps in Laelaps

At long last, Fruitachampsa lives. Sort of. This strange crocodyliform has been extinct for around 150 million years. But, after three decades of waiting, this short-snouted croc has finally been officially named.
The new paper that describes Fruitachampsa callisoni calls the animal “A new shartegosuchid crocodyliform from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of western Colorado.” That’s [...]... Read more »

  • January 3, 2012
  • 08:41 PM

The Sloth’s Evolutionary Secret

by Laelaps in Laelaps

On the surface of things, a two-toed sloth doesn’t look much like its closest fossil kin. The tubby, pug-nosed mammal is not quite as imposing or majestic as Megalonyx – the “great claw” Thomas Jefferson discovered and mistakenly identified as an enormous lion over two centuries ago. But the two are relatively close relatives. In [...]... Read more »

  • December 21, 2011
  • 05:40 PM

Did Hunger Drive the Evolution of Homo sapiens?

by Laelaps in Laelaps

This time last year, science news headlines blared a spectacular claim – the first members of our species evolved 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. The evidence consisted of a small collection of teeth. Discovered in roughly 200,000 to 400,000 year old deposits in Israel’s Qesem Cave, these fossils were said to herald the archaic [...]... Read more »

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