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  • February 25, 2011
  • 10:36 AM

Flowers, Pine Cones and Dinosaurs

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

When we think about the Mesozoic world, dinosaurs often dominate our attention. They are the stars of countless museum displays and restorations, and everything else about their world just seems like window dressing. When visitors to Yale’s Peabody Museum look at Rudolph Zallinger’s beautiful (if outdated) “Age of Reptiles” mural, their attention is drawn to [...]... Read more »

  • February 24, 2011
  • 08:13 PM

Tide Pool: Cephalopods, Ash, and Sulphur Are to Blame

by Dr. M in Deep Sea News

An occasional series where we briefly report 3 new studies and tell you why they are cool!

Heightened biodiversity may make an ecosystem more stabile and robust.  One of the reasons for this is that high biodiversity may create redundant species, i.e. species that serve a similar ecological role in the ecosystem.  A loss of one species may not perturb . . . → Read More: Tide Pool: Cephalopods, Ash, and Sulphur Are to Blame... Read more »

  • February 24, 2011
  • 05:36 PM

Synophalos and the Cambrian Conga Lines

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Compared to other creatures of the Cambrian seas, Synophalos xynos seems rather plain. It was not a living pincushion like Wiwaxia, its body did not resemble a walking cactus like Diania, and it wasn’t a five-eyed, schnozzle-faced enigma like Opabinia. Next to these fantastic forms, Synophalos looks like little more than a peeled shrimp, but [...]... Read more »

Hou, X., Siveter, D., Aldridge, R., & Siveter, D. (2008) Collective Behavior in an Early Cambrian Arthropod. Science, 322(5899), 224-224. DOI: 10.1126/science.1162794  

ANDRZEJ RADWAŃSKI, ADRIAN KIN, AND URSZULA RADWAŃSKA. (2009) Queues of blind phacopid trilobites Trimerocephalus: A case of frozen behaviour of Early Famennian age from the Holy Cross Mountains, Central Poland. Acta Geologica Polonica, 59(4), 459-481. info:/

  • February 24, 2011
  • 09:55 AM

Hadrosaurus Was Real, After All

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

Described in 1858, the partial skeleton of Hadrosaurus foulkii was one of the most important dinosaur discoveries ever made. At that time, the few known dinosaurs were represented by a collection of scraps—paltry fragments that allowed paleontologists to reconstruct them first as giant lizards, and then as strange quadrupedal beasts. The elements of Hadrosaurus caused [...]... Read more »

Albert Prieto-Márquez. (2011) Revised diagnoses of Hadrosaurus foulkii Leidy, 1858 (the type genus and species of Hadrosauridae Cope, 1869) and Claosaurus agilis Marsh, 1872 (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda) from the Late Cretaceous of North America. Zootaxa, 61-68. info:/

  • February 24, 2011
  • 12:52 AM

The scientist-journalist divide: what can we learn from each other?

by Chris Rowan in Highly Allochthonous

Last week, the journal Nature published two research papers on the effects of human-caused global warming on extreme precipitation events. I’m working on a post on the papers, and they’ve already received quite a bit of attention in the media. … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • February 23, 2011
  • 10:23 AM

Paleontologists Announce “Thunder Thighs”

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

“Brontosaurus” was a great dinosaur name. The great “thunder reptile” of the Jurassic, there was no better moniker for the stoutly-built sauropod. Unfortunately, the name had to be tossed out in favor of Apatosaurus, but a different dinosaur just described by Michael Taylor, Mathew Wedel and Richard Cifelli has what I think is an equally [...]... Read more »

  • February 23, 2011
  • 09:40 AM


by Iddo Friedberg in Byte Size Biology

The authors and editor knew exactly what they were doing with this one:... Read more »

Chau, R., Hamel, S., & Nellis, W. (2011) Chemical processes in the deep interior of Uranus. Nature Communications, 203. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1198  

  • February 22, 2011
  • 12:41 PM

Ancestor Worship

by Laelaps in Laelaps

By the close of 2002, there were at least three contenders for the title of “earliest known human.” There was the 7 million year old Sahelanthropus tchadensis from the Djurab Desert, the 6 million year old Orrorin tugenensis from Kenya, and the 5.6 million year old Ardipithecus kadabba from northeastern Ethiopia’s Afar region. Though very [...]... Read more »

Brunet, M., Guy, F., Pilbeam, D., Mackaye, H., Likius, A., Ahounta, D., Beauvilain, A., Blondel, C., Bocherens, H., Boisserie, J.... (2002) A new hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad, Central Africa. Nature, 418(6894), 145-151. DOI: 10.1038/nature00879  

McBrearty, S., & Jablonski, N. (2005) First fossil chimpanzee. Nature, 437(7055), 105-108. DOI: 10.1038/nature04008  

White, T., Asfaw, B., Beyene, Y., Haile-Selassie, Y., Lovejoy, C., Suwa, G., & WoldeGabriel, G. (2009) Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids. Science, 326(5949), 64-64. DOI: 10.1126/science.1175802  

Wood, B., & Harrison, T. (2011) The evolutionary context of the first hominins. Nature, 470(7334), 347-352. DOI: 10.1038/nature09709  

  • February 22, 2011
  • 10:38 AM

What Do We Really Know About Utahraptor?

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

When it was released in 1993, Jurassic Park turned Velociraptor into a household name. Agile and cunning, it was a type of predatory dinosaur theater audiences hadn’t seen before. But paleontologists knew the movie’s raptors were drawn with a bit of artistic license. For one thing, the dinosaurs had actually been based on the sickle-clawed [...]... Read more »

Kirkland, J.I.; Gaston, R.; Burge, D. (1993) A large dromaeosaur [Theropoda] from the Lower Cretaceous of Uta. Hunteria, 1-16. info:/

  • February 22, 2011
  • 09:30 AM

Might Pleistocene Fido Have Been A Fox?

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal

There is a small bit of land, only about a square kilometer, that has added a new wrinkle to the story of animal domestication. This bit of land located in Northern Jordan, just southeast of the Sea of Galilee near the banks of the Jordan River, is home to an archaeological site known as 'Uyun al-Hammam. One key feature of this site, excavated in 2005, is a burial ground containing the remains of at least eleven humans in eight different gravesites. The early humans were buried here sometime dur........ Read more »

  • February 18, 2011
  • 10:14 AM

Did Dinosaurs Die Out Because Males Couldn’t Find a Date?

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

What caused the end-Cretaceous mass extinction is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Paleontologists have racked up a long list of victims—including the non-avian dinosaurs—and geologists have confirmed that a massive asteroid that struck the earth near the modern-day Yucatan peninsula was probably the extinction trigger, but just how that impact translated into [...]... Read more »

Clark, J.M., Norell, M.A., . (1999) An oviraptorid skeleton from the Late Cretaceous of Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, preserved in an avianlike brooding position over an oviraptorid nest. American Museum Novitates, 1-36. info:/

  • February 17, 2011
  • 12:49 PM

Clean water and education could outperform vaccines at reducing Haiti cholera epidemic

by Maria José Viñas in GeoSpace

Even though the deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti is now spreading more slowly, health officials are still working to prevent as many new cases as possible. Detailed models of the disease’s spread help those in charge of making public health decisions understand the effectiveness of control measures, from vaccines to investments in clean water supply and education.... Read more »

E. Bertuzzo, L. Mari, L. Righetto, M. Gatto, R. Casagrandi, M. Blokesch, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe, & A. Rinaldo. (2011) Prediction of the spatial evolution and effects of control measures for the unfolding Haiti cholera outbreak. Geophysical Research Letters. info:/10.1029

  • February 17, 2011
  • 07:31 AM

Climate change and extreme weather

by Kent in Uncommon Ground

Almost 4 years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change told us that climate change is "very likely" to increase the frequency of heat waves and heavy precipitation.1 The same may be true for hurricanes.2 It's now common after extreme weather events to hear some people suggest that those events were caused by global warming. Careful scientists, however, point out that weather is extremely variable. It always has been. It always will be. Climate change refers to a change in the average c........ Read more »

Pall, P., Aina, T., Stone, D., Stott, P., Nozawa, T., Hilberts, A., Lohmann, D., & Allen, M. (2011) Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Nature, 470(7334), 382-385. DOI: 10.1038/nature09762  

Min, S., Zhang, X., Zwiers, F., & Hegerl, G. (2011) Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes. Nature, 470(7334), 378-381. DOI: 10.1038/nature09763  

  • February 16, 2011
  • 11:44 AM

Demythologizing Arctotherium, the Biggest Bear Ever

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Quite a few years back, so long ago that I can’t really remember much more than the fact that I once visited it, my parents took me to Space Farms Zoo and Museum. Tucked away in northern New Jersey, the roadside attraction is not so much a zoo or a museum as a throwback to [...]... Read more »

  • February 15, 2011
  • 10:24 PM


by Jon Wilkins in Lost in Transcription


Snowflakes by jonfwilkins
For sketches of the 80 different snowflake types, see the referenced paper, which presents them taxonomically, or check out the key figures here and here.

Magono, C., & Lee, C. W. (1966). Meteorological Classification of Natural Snow Crystals Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, Japan, Ser. VII, 2 (4), 321-335

... Read more »

Magono, C., & Lee, C. W. (1966) Meteorological Classification of Natural Snow Crystals. Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, Japan, Ser. VII, 2(4), 321-335. info:other/

  • February 15, 2011
  • 09:31 AM

Walking With Raptors

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

A little more than a year ago, paleontologists working in Niger announced the discovery of Spinophorosaurus, a sauropod dinosaur with a wicked tail club. Its bones were not the only traces of dinosaurs to be found in the desert area. About three hundred feet from the exceptionally well preserved sauropod skeleton was a trackway containing [...]... Read more »

  • February 14, 2011
  • 08:25 PM

Transgenic Switchgrass for Biofuels: Feasible but Irresponsible

by Michael Long in Phased

Switchgrass has been genetically modified into a more useful fuel, but this research should not see the light of day until it's proven to be safe for the environment.... Read more »

Fu, C., Mielenz, J. R., Xiao, X., Ge, Y., Hamilton, C. Y., Rodriguez Jr, M., Chen,F., Foston, M., Ragauskas, A., Bouton, J.... (2011) Genetic manipulation of lignin reduces recalcitrance and improves ethanol production from switchgrass. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1100310108

  • February 14, 2011
  • 10:07 AM

How Parasaurolophus Set the Mood

by Brian Switek in Dinosaur Tracking

It’s Valentine’s Day, and that means that millions of people will be riffling through their record and CD collections to find the right music to set the proper mood with their special someone. Seventy five million years ago, though, there was no Barry White, and so some deep-voiced dinosaurs made beautiful music together in their [...]... Read more »

Hopson, J.A. (1975) The Evolution of Cranial Display Structures in Hadrosaurian Dinosaurs. Paleobiology, 1(1), 21-43. info:/

  • February 12, 2011
  • 05:05 PM

Terror Birds Ain’t What They Used to Be – A Titanis Take-Down

by Laelaps in Laelaps

You know a novel is going to be bad when the main endorsement on the jacket comes from the movie producer who is trying to turn the mass of pulp into a film. It’s the literary equivalent of saying “Well, my mom thinks I’m handsome.” All the same, I just couldn’t resist picking up James [...]... Read more »

Blanco, R., & Jones, W. (2005) Terror birds on the run: a mechanical model to estimate its maximum running speed. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1574), 1769-1773. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3133  

Pierce Brodkorb. (1963) A Giant Flightless Bird from the Pleistocene of Florida. The AUk, 80(2), 111-115. info:/

  • February 12, 2011
  • 12:13 AM

Friday focal mechanisms: Chile’s persistent seismic gap

by Chris Rowan in Highly Allochthonous

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that shook Chile in February 2010 occurred within a seismic gap - but new research suggests that it did not fill it. Continue reading →... Read more »

Lorito, S., Romano, F., Atzori, S., Tong, X., Avallone, A., McCloskey, J., Cocco, M., Boschi, E., & Piatanesi, A. (2011) Limited overlap between the seismic gap and coseismic slip of the great 2010 Chile earthquake. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1073  

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