259 posts · 276,846 views
By now you have no doubt heard about the dinosaurian tempest-in-a-teacup I recently called #TriceraFAIL. To sum things up briefly - on the basis of skeletal anatomy and histology, paleontologists John Scannella and Jack Horner proposed that the horned dinosaur traditionally known as Torosaurus was actually the fully-mature growth stage of Triceratops. If further evidence [...]... Read more »
Black, K., Archer, M., Hand, S., & Godthelp, H. (2010) First comprehensive analysis of cranial ontogeny in a fossil marsupial—from a 15-million-year-old cave deposit in northern Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30(4), 993-1011. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2010.483567
[Author's Note: A funny thing happened on the way to the floor the other day. I blacked out at the gym and, when I collided with the floormat, the temple of my glasses punctured my face. As the gym's lifeguards told my wife when they ushered her in to see me, though, the damage looked [...]... Read more »
Salesa, M. (2006) Evidence of a false thumb in a fossil carnivore clarifies the evolution of pandas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(2), 379-382. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0504899102
Author’s note -Last week I was surprised to learn that this post was selected for the 2011 edition of The Open Laboratory – a “best of” science blogs mixtape which features some of the top blog entries from the past year. Good to know that the dodo still has friends. I have a bit of [...]... Read more »
Angst, D., Buffetaut, E., & Abourachid, A. (2011) The end of the fat dodo? A new mass estimate for Raphus cucullatus. Naturwissenschaften. DOI: 10.1007/s00114-010-0759-7
DEN HENGST, J. (2009) The dodo and scientific fantasies: durable myths of a tough bird. Archives of Natural History, 36(1), 136-145. DOI: 10.3366/E0260954108000697
Hume, J. (2006) The history of the Dodo Raphus cucullatus and the penguin of Mauritius. Historical Biology, 18(2), 65-89. DOI: 10.1080/08912960600639400
Hume, Julian; Datta, Ann; Martill, David M. (2006) Unpublished drawings of the Dodo Raphus cucullatus and notes on Dodo skin relics. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 126(A). info:/
Hume, J., Cheke, A., & McOran-Campbell, A. (2009) How Owen 'stole' the Dodo: academic rivalry and disputed rights to a newly-discovered subfossil deposit in nineteenth century Mauritius. Historical Biology, 21(1), 33-49. DOI: 10.1080/08912960903101868
RIJSDIJK, K., HUME, J., BUNNIK, F., FLORENS, F., BAIDER, C., SHAPIRO, B., VANDERPLICHT, J., JANOO, A., GRIFFITHS, O., & VANDENHOEKOSTENDE, L. (2009) Mid-Holocene vertebrate bone Concentration-Lagerstätte on oceanic island Mauritius provides a window into the ecosystem of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus). Quaternary Science Reviews, 28(1-2), 14-24. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.09.018
Roberts, D., & Solow, A. (2003) Flightless birds: When did the dodo become extinct?. Nature, 426(6964), 245-245. DOI: 10.1038/426245a
Turvey, S., & Cheke, A. (2008) Dead as a dodo: the fortuitous rise to fame of an extinction icon. Historical Biology, 20(2), 149-163. DOI: 10.1080/08912960802376199
"Leonardo," the mummy dinosaur, courtesy of the HMNS.
Although it got a brief treatment in the book Horns and Beaks, many people have been waiting for more information on the exceptionally-preserved Brachylophosaurus skeleton named "Leonardo." Due to be unveiled next week at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (the date was pushed back due to Hurricane Ike; the museum and Leonardo were unharmed), the fossil provides a unique look at the soft tissues of this particular dinosaur.
Dinosaur "mu........ Read more »
J. S. Tweet, K. Chin, D. R. Braman, & N. L. Murphy. (2008) Probable Gut Contents Within A Specimen Of Brachylophosaurus Canadensis (Dinosauria: Hadrosauridae) From the Upper Cretaceous Judith River Formation Of Montana. PALAIOS, 23(9), 624-635. DOI: 10.2110/palo.2007.p07-044r
A giraffe, photographed at the Bronx zoo.
Why do giraffes have long necks? We know that modern giraffes must have evolved gradually, but figuring out what selection pressures influenced giraffe evolution is another story altogether. One of the most popular recent explanations is that giraffes have long necks as a result of sexual selection.
The "necks for sex" hypothesis is primarily inspired by the contests between male giraffes. In these duels the males stand side by side and whack each othe........ Read more »
Mitchell, G., van Sittert, S., & Skinner, J. (2009) Sexual selection is not the origin of long necks in giraffes. Journal of Zoology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00573.x
Of all the evolutionary transitions that have ever taken place few have received as much attention as the origin of whales. (See here, here, here, here,and here for a few of my posts on the subject.) The story of how terrestrial hoofed mammals gave rise to the exclusively aquatic leviathans has been highlighted in headlines over and over again, but other marine mammals have not received the same amount of public attention. In the case of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses) this may be at ........ Read more »
Rybczynski, N., Dawson, M., & Tedford, R. (2009) A semi-aquatic Arctic mammalian carnivore from the Miocene epoch and origin of Pinnipedia. Nature, 458(7241), 1021-1024. DOI: 10.1038/nature07985
An adult chimpanzee in Bossou, Guinea uses hammer and anvil stones to crack nuts as younger individuals look on. From Haslam et al., 2009.
Before 1859 the idea that humans lived alongside the mammoths, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats of the not-too-distant past was almost heretical. Not only was there no irrefutable evidence that our species stretched so far back in time, but the very notion that we could have survived alongside such imposing Pleistocene mammals strained credulity. C........ Read more »
Mercader, J., Barton, H., Gillespie, J., Harris, J., Kuhn, S., Tyler, R., & Boesch, C. (2007) 4,300-Year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(9), 3043-3048. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0607909104
The skull and mandible of Guarinisuchus.
After the end-Cretaceous extinction, an "empty" world was left to fill up. The non-avian dinosaurs were gone, as were the mosasaurs, ammonites, pterosaurs, and other creatures. Indeed, in marine environments the large Mesozoic predators were eliminated in the extinction event, allowing sharks and crocodiles to evolve and diversify now that they were no longer any mosasaurs patrolling the waters. One such crocodylian that moved into open ecol........ Read more »
José Barbosa, Alexander Wilhelm Kellner, & Maria Somália Viana. (2008) New dyrosaurid crocodylomorph and evidences for faunal turnover at the K–P transition in Brazil. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, -1(-1), -1--1. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0110
The skeleton of an Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus) at the AMNH.
Discussions of mass extinctions nearly always give rise to heated debates as to the mechanism(s) behind the disappearance of so many taxa in a short amount of time, and one of the most active debates still surrounds the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna. All over the world the extinction of large animals appears to be correlated with the movements of our own species, Homo sapiens, into new territories. Disease and climate ch........ Read more »
D PUSHKINA. (2008) Human influence on distribution and extinctions of the late Pleistocene Eurasian megafauna. Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.09.024
The type skull of Velociraptor mongoliensis. From Osborn, et al. 1924.
By the summer of 1993 Velociraptor had become a household name. Although Deinonychus had long been my fleet-footed favorite the olive-green "clever girls" of Speilberg's film soon outshone all of their relatives and gave Tyrannosaurus a run for it's money.* Velocriaptor is hardly a new dinosaur, however. It was discovered during the famous expeditions to Mongolia made by the AMNH in the 1920's, t........ Read more »
Pascal Godefroit, Philip Currie, Li Hong, Shang Yong, & Dong Zhi-Ming. (2008) A New Species Of Velociraptor (Dinosauria: Dromaeosauridae) From the Upper Cretaceous Of Northern China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28(2), 432. DOI: 10.1671/0272-4634(2008)28[432:ANSOVD]2.0.CO;2
The lower jaw of Megalosaurus, presently the only fossil that can accurately be attributed to this enigmatic genus.
Although it was one of the first dinosaurs to be scientifically described during the early 19th century, the theropod Megalosaurus remains one of the most enigmatic (and problematic) large dinosaurs known. Even though an entire family, the Megalosauridae (established by Huxley in 1869), bears the name of this famous dinosaur, the group has come to be seen as a taxonomic wasteba........ Read more »
ROGER BENSON, PAUL M BARRETT, H PHILIP POWELL, & DAVID B NORMAN. (2008) THE TAXONOMIC STATUS OF MEGALOSAURUS BUCKLANDII (DINOSAURIA, THEROPODA) FROM THE MIDDLE JURASSIC OF OXFORDSHIRE, UK. Palaeontology, 51(2), 419-424. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2008.00751.x
The exceptionally preserved skeleton of Darwinius, known popularly as "Ida." From PLoS One.
It has been three days now since an international team of paleontologists promised to deliver the change we need change everything, but when I woke up this morning I was pleased to find that things had still not gone "Bizarro World" around here. There is still a lot going on with Darwinius (better known as "Ida"), though, and while I am sure we will still be talking about her for some time to come I w........ Read more »
Franzen, J., Gingerich, P., Habersetzer, J., Hurum, J., von Koenigswald, W., & Smith, B. (2009) Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology. PLoS ONE, 4(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005723
Hadrosaurs are often called the "cows of the Cretaceous." They were common, had few defenses compared to their armored ornithischian kin, and were a favorite prey for predatory dinosaurs. Natural selection appears to have applied sufficient pressure for at least one genus of hadrosaur, Hypacrosaurus, to change, however. It did not develop horns or spikes or a club, but instead ontogenetically outpaced their predators.
The key to determining how theropods and Hypacrosaurus grew can be........ Read more »
Lisa Cooper, Andrew H Lee, Mark L Taper, & John R Horner. (2008) Relative growth rates of predator and prey dinosaurs reflect effects of predation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, -1(-1), -1--1. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0912
When I wrote about the new sauropod Futalognkosaurus dukei last October, I noted that the authors of the paper describing the animal also included a brief summary of the other animals found nearby. Remains of crocodiles, fish, and pterosaurs provided some clues as to the paleoecology of the area about 90 million years ago, but one of the big surprises was a big honkin' claw from Megaraptor. At first the remains of Megaraptor were thought to represent a coelurosaur, but the complete hand h........ Read more »
Nathan Smith, Peter J Makovicky, Federico L Agnolin, Martín D Ezcurra, Diego F Pais, & Steven W Salisbury. (2008) A Megaraptor-like theropod (Dinosauria: Tetanurae) in Australia: support for faunal exchange across eastern and western Gondwana in the Mid-Cretaceous. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, -1(-1), -1--1. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0504
The skull of Paranthropus boisei (AKA "Zinj," "Dear Boy," "Nutcracker Man," etc.). From Ungar et al. 2008.
Ever since the discovery of the hominds we call Paranthropus robustus in 1938 and Paranthropus boisei in 1959, the dietary habits of these "robust australopithecines" have been controversial. With skulls that seem to have more in common with gorillas than with Homo habilis, another hominid more closely related to us that lived during the same time........ Read more »
Peter Ungar, Frederick E Grine, Mark F Teaford, & Michael Petraglia. (2008) Dental Microwear and Diet of the Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Paranthropus boisei. PLoS ONE, 3(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002044
Is intelligent design science, or not? Think carefully before you answer. The modern intelligent design (ID) movement is motivated by theological concerns and trades in on religious authority to meet its aims, but stripped of this background, can ID be relegated to the "junk science" bin? While the answer to this latter question is "Yes", in a new paper ("The science question in intelligent design") Sahotra Sarkar argues that proclaiming ID to be non-science without careful consideration does li........ Read more »
The face of Anoiapithecus. From Moya-Sola et al. (2009).
One of the most controversial aspects of the whole Darwinius kerfuffle has been the primate's proposed status as "the ancestor of us all." The fossil, named "Ida", has been popularly touted as the "missing link" connecting us to all other mammals, but how can we really know if Darwinius fits this role? The truth is that we can't, and it is nearly impossible to parse direct ancestor-descendant relationships among fossil vertebrates, espec........ Read more »
Moya-Sola, S., Alba, D., Almecija, S., Casanovas-Vilar, I., Kohler, M., De Esteban-Trivigno, S., Robles, J., Galindo, J., & Fortuny, J. (2009) A unique Middle Miocene European hominoid and the origins of the great ape and human clade. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0811730106
Although not as aquatically-adapted as their distant ancestors, Indian elephants are certainly capable swimmers.
A number of my fellow ScienceBloggers have covered the "Aquatic Elephant Hypothesis" lately (see here, here, and here), and even though I'm a little late to the party I thought that I'd throw in my two cents about the significance of ancient, waterlogged pachyderms.
The idea that the ancestors of elephants (including the two living genera Loxodonta and Eleph........ Read more »
A Liu, E R Seiffert, & E L Simons. (2008) Stable isotope evidence for an amphibious phase in early proboscidean evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(15), 5786-5791. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0800884105
The partial faces of Anoiapithecus (left), Pierolapithecus (center), and Dryopithecus (right). (Images not to scale)
Our species is just one branch of a withering part of the evolutionary tree, the great apes. Along with the handful of species of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, we are all that is left of the hominids, and considering the threats our close relatives face we could very soon be the only great apes left. It has not always been this way. During the swath of prehistory ~2........ Read more »
Alba, D., Fortuny, J., & Moya-Sola, S. (2010) Enamel thickness in the Middle Miocene great apes Anoiapithecus, Pierolapithecus and Dryopithecus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0218
The grey-faced sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis). From Rovero, et al. (2008).
Several years ago, while on a visit to the Philadelphia Zoo, I first saw a creature I had never heard of before; the black and rufus sengi (Rhynchocyon petersi). The exhibit caption simply called it a giant elephant shrew, and even though I was familiar with smaller members of the Macroscelididae like the short-eared elephant shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus), I had never seen their giant relatives. This perhaps re........ Read more »
F Rovero, G Rathbun, A Perkin, T Jones, D Ribble, C Leonard, R Mwakisoma, & N Doggart. (2008) A new species of giant sengi or elephant-shrew (genus Rhynchocyon) highlights the exceptional biodiversity of the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania. Journal of Zoology, 274(2), 126-133. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2007.00363.x
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