Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Died This Day: Adam Sedgwick

Adam Sedgwich (March 22, 1785 - January 27, 1873) was an English geologist who first applied the name Cambrian to the geologic period of time, now dated at 570 to 505 million years ago. In 1818 he became Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, holding a chair that had been endowed ninety years before by the natural historian John Woodward.

He lacked formal training in geology, but he quickly became an active researcher in geology and paleontology. Many years after Sedgwick's death, the geological museum at Cambridge was renamed the Sedgwick Museum of Geology in his honor. The museum is now part of the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University. From Today In Science History.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Born This Day: Roya Chapman Andrews

Photo from Parade of Life Through The Ages, by Charles Knight, Nat. Geo., Feb. 1942.

From the American Museum of Natural History web site:

Adventurer, administrator, and Museum promoterAndrews (Jan. 26, 1884 – March 11, 1960) spent his entire career at the American Museum of Natural History, where he rose through the ranks from departmental assistant, to expedition organizer, to Museum director.

He became world famous as leader of the Central Asiatic Expeditions, a series of expeditions to Mongolia that collected, among other things, dinosaur eggs. Although on these expeditions, Andrews himself found few fossils, and during his career he was not known as an influential scientist, he instead filled the role of promoter, creating immense excitement and successfully advancing the research and exhibition goals of the museum.

Learn about the Roy Chapman Andrews Society HERE.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Premiered This Day (1956): The Animal World

“2 Billion Years in the Making!”

Produced and directed by Irwin Allen, whose long career included such TV hits as Lost In Space and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and movies like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.

The Animal World was one of the first films to present dinosaurs in the quasi-nature documentary so beloved by the Discovery Channel today. Rarely seen now, it featured about 10 minutes of great dinosaur stop-animation by Ray Harryhausen with Willis O’Brien. The entire sequence was released as an extra on the 2003 DVD release of The Black Scorpion.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Died This Day: Horace de Suassure

Horace Bénédict de Saussure
Born 17 Feb 1740; died 22 Jan 1799.

A Swiss physicist and geologist, he introduced the term geology into the scientific literature in the first volume of Voyages dans les Alpes (1779-96). Link

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Walk Through Dinosaurland Kickstarter

An interesting looking Kickstarter project from the always excellent Jim Lawson.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Purgatorius, Paleocene Tree Dweller

Oldest known euarchontan tarsals and affinities of Paleocene Purgatorius to Primates. 2015. Chester, S.G.B, et al. PNAS

A new study has found that Purgatorius, a small mammal that lived on a diet of fruit and insects, was a tree dweller. Paleontologists made the discovery by analyzing 65-million-year-old ankle bones collected from sites in northeastern Montana.

Purgatorius, part of an extinct group of primates called plesiadapiforms, first appears in the fossil record shortly after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. Until now, paleontologists had only the animal's teeth and jaws to examine. The discovery of Purgatorius ankle bones have given researchers a better sense of how it lived.

The ankle bones would have allowed Purgatorius to rotate feet accordingly to grab branches while moving through trees. In contrast, ground-dwelling mammals lack these features and are better suited for propelling themselves forward in a more restricted, fore-and-aft motion."

The research provides the oldest fossil evidence that arboreality played a key role in primate evolution. PR

Friday, January 16, 2015

Born This Day: Caroline Munro

Art © Mark Schultz
Munro is probably best known for her role in in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). She had a long career in a variety of genre films including a stint with Hammer Films, and notably with Ray Harryhausen as the slave girl, Margiana, in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974).

The Palaeoblog salutes her both for being the Godmother of Ray Harryhausen’s daughter and for her role as Princess Dia in At the Earth’s Core (1976)

DNA from Ancient Kangaroos

Late Pleistocene Australian Marsupial DNA Clarifies the Affinities of Extinct Megafaunal Kangaroos and Wallabies. 2015. Llamas, B., et al. Molecular Biology and Evolution advance access

The extinct short-faced kangaroo, Simosthenurus occidentalis.

Scientists have finally managed to extract DNA from two species of Australia's extinct giant kangaroos - a giant short-faced kangaroo (Simosthenurus occidentalis) and a giant wallaby (Protemnodon anak) - that roamed Australia over 40,000 years ago.

"The ancient DNA reveals that extinct giant wallabies are very close relatives of large living kangaroos, such as the red and western grey kangaroos," says lead author Dr Bastien Llamas.

"Their skeletons had suggested they were quite primitive macropods a group that includes kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and quokkas - but now we can place giant wallaby much higher up the kangaroo family tree." PR

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Opened To The Public (1759): The British Museum

On this day in 1759, the British Museum, in Bloomsbury, London, the world's oldest public national museum, opened to the public who were admitted in small groups, by ticket obtained in advance, for a conducted tour.

It was established on June 7, 1753 when King George II gave his royal assent to an Act of Parliament to acquire the collection of Sir Hans Sloane. In his will, he had offered the nation his lifetime collection of 71,000 objects, mostly plant and animal specimens. In return, he requested £20,000 for his heirs (which today would be over £2,000,000). The present museum buildings date from the mid-19th century. Its natural history collection moved to its own museum in 1881. link

Died This Day: Jean-Baptiste-Julien d' Omalius d' Halloy

d'Halloy (Feb. 16, 1783 - Jan. 15, 1875) was a Belgian geologist who was an early proponent of evolution and was acknowledged by Charles Darwin in his preface to ‘On The Origin of the Species’ for his opinions on the origin of new species through descent with modification.

He determined the stratigraphy of the Carboniferous and other rocks in Belgium and the Rhine provinces, and also made detailed studies of the Tertiary deposits of the Paris Basin. link

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dinosaurs wiped out rapidly in Europe 66 million years ago

Island life in the Cretaceous - faunal composition, biogeography, evolution, and extinction of land-living vertebrates on the Late Cretaceous European archipelago. 2015. Csiki-Sava Z, et al. ZooKeys 469: 1-161.

Dinosaurs flourished in Europe right up until the asteroid impact that wiped them out 66 million years ago, a new study shows.

The new study synthesizes a flurry of research on European dinosaurs over the past two decades. Fossils of latest Cretaceous dinosaurs are now commonly discovered in Spain, France, Romania, and other countries.

Dr Csiki-Sava said "For a long time, Europe was overshadowed by other continents when the understanding of the nature, composition and evolution of latest Cretaceous continental ecosystems was concerned. The last 25 years witnessed a huge effort across all Europe to improve our knowledge, and now we are on the brink of fathoming the significance of these new discoveries, and of the strange and new story they tell about life at the end of the Dinosaur Era." PR