January 29, 2010
News You Can Use: Fed up with constant errors in the media, David Hone at Archosaur Musings has written “A Guide for Journalists Reporting on Dinosaur Stories.” Among his tips: avoid generating false controversies. “Don’t deliberately hunt down contradictory quotes and generate straw men for others to pull down. Science is about consensus NOT balance, so seeking out an alternative point of view does not necessarily make things better (and indeed rarely does).”
The Year That Was: All hail the Paleo King, who offers his 2009 retrospective list of the best and worst in dinosaurs and paleontology.
Fun For All Ages: Got scissors and glue? Then Mike Taylor at SV-POW! can show you how to make your very own brachiosaurid cervical vertebra!
A Matter of Perspective: Biostratigraphy is a technique for assessing the relative ages of rock strata by studying the fossil remains contained within. As Walcott’s Quarry illustrates, that’s great if you’re a geologist—but rather traumatizing if you’re a trilobite.
Deep in the Heart of Texas: Chinleana makes a pilgrimage to a small Texas town named Spur. What’s the appeal? An impressive painting on the side of the local history museum: “Let’s just say that outdoor murals of aetosaurs are rare, and to someone who has spent over a decade researching these animals and especially this taxon—visiting the area where the original specimens were collected, the town D. spurensis was named for, and this spectacular mural, is a thrill (at least for me).
Wear the Wild Things Are: Dinochick highlights the latest must-have paleo-fashion item. Behold, Jurassic Parka!
Make Dinos, Not War: Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs spotlights a fascinating sculpture—“Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War,” which melds the body of a decommissioned helicopter with a fiberglass Triceratops head and limbs. “The meaning of the piece is pretty clear— it plays off the durable old conception of dinosaurs as failed monstrosities, the most outlandish critters on the evolutionary discard pile. A bit on the nose, and while I disagree with dinosaurs being saddled with this reputation—no group of animals who dominated terrestrial ecosystems for 120,000,000 years has much to apologize for—you can’t fault the craftsmanship.”
Keeping it Real: Reflecting on the pterosaur-inspired “Mountain Banshees” that appear in the blockbuster film Avatar, Asher Elbein argues that the most effective critters in sci-fi and monster movies are those that take their cues from paleontology: “Things that look prehistoric just seem more impressive to most people, even if they can’t quite say why. A flying reptile should look like a pterosaur….A big bipedal predator is going to look like a theropod. It’s not a matter of unoriginality, although alien creatures almost certainly will look nothing like dinosaurs. But it’s what the audience expects, deep down. Dinosaurs are alien to us in the most fundamental of ways, even when they seem familiar.”
November 30, 2009
New Blog Takes Flight: Please join us in welcoming the latest addition to the paleosphere: Dragons of the Air, a blog published by Ross Elgin, a member of the “Pterosaur Flight Dynamics Group,” based in the Museum of Natural History, Karlsruhe, Germany. Be sure to check out this fascinating post about the construction and testing of pterosaur models.
The Dinosauroids Cometh: At Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish is dismayed to see that evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has lent his support to the “human dinosaur” theory—which posits that non-avian, therapod dinosaurs might have evolved into intelligent, bi-pedal, humanoid creatures if not for the inconvenient intervention of a rather large meteor. “Our body shape clearly works well for an intelligent, tool-using, sentient animal,” writes Naish, “but where is the convincing evidence that it is the only possible body shape for such a creature, or the most likely one to evolve in distantly related, or unrelated, organisms?”
Say hello to my little friend: Bob’s Dinosaur Blog reports that the 5,000-acre estate of the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar has become a huge tourist attraction. Escobar was especially proud of his Jurasico Park, a group of life-sized dinosaur statues that includes a golden pterodactyl. Classy.
Photo Finish: Over at SV-Pow!, Mike Taylor shares his experiences in London, where he used the facilities at the Royal Veterinary College to produce a CT-Scan of specimen NHM R5937—a brachiosaurid sauropod nicknamed “The Archbishop.” Read all about it, especially if you’ve ever wondered how to pack a dinosaur bone for safe delivery.
Batter Up! Palaeoblog points us to this article recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, titled “The Sweet Spot of a Biological Hammer.” New research suggests that glyptodonts (giant armored mammals that arose 20 million years ago in South America) would have been first-rate baseball players—owing to their ability to swing their stocky tails like baseball bats, landing powerful blows with the spot on their tails that minimizes potentially harmful vibrations for the slugger. Read more about it at ScienceNOW.
Family Visit: At Tyrannosaur Chronicles, Traumador the T-Rex takes a nostalgic tour of the Calgary Zoo’s Prehistoric Park, which is scheduled for closing in February 2010.
Rock Star: Dinochick gives a shout out to Vanessa Bateman, the Manager of the Geotechnical Section for the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Nashville Office. Bateman issued an early warning that averted a rockslide on U.S. Highway 64. Says Dinochick: “Awesome to save lives while also playing with rocks (and showing that there are some awesome chick geologist out there doing cool things)!”
Season’s Greetings: Nothing says Christmas like….a trilobite. Artist Glendon Mellow has recently unveiled his new greeting card, featuring the fossil Encrinurus trilobite, decked out like a Christmas tree for the holidays. (What, no Hanukkah trilobites? I guess I’ll settle for this dinosaur menorah.)
May 29, 2009
Stegosaurs of Terror!!!! “Most of us think as Stegosaurus as plodding, dimwitted giants only fit to end up as plates of meat for a hungry predator,” observes the World We Don’t Live In. “And yet, despite all this negative publicity, Stegosaurus has had its shining moments. Various authors have latched onto stegs as a potential deadly killer.” Be sure to check out this lively, pop-culture overview of lethal Stegosaurs…if you dare.
Of course, a Brontosaurus would prefer a convertible: A classic photo from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Archives, courtesy of Palaeoblog.
It’s a British Thing: “What is it with English people and dinosaurs?” asks Bob’s Dinosaur Blog. (Haven’t we all asked that question?) In March, a group of drunk college students from Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester were caught trying to steal a 20-foot-long Triceratops model from the local museum. And now, thieves have made off with dozens of valuable artifacts from Dinostar, “Yorkshire’s only dinosaur visitor attraction.”
Next Time You’re in Poland: The “Thrifty Expat,” always on the lookout for cheap entertainment options when abroad, recommends two dinosaur parks in Warsaw: Park Dinozaurów and Zaurolandia (which has an English-language website where you can play Jurassic versions of popular video games such as Zauropac and Dinotris).
Handiwork: Could a Velociraptor really turn a doorknob, as in Jurassic Park? David Hone explains why theropods are “clappers, not slappers.” The news, however, offers little comfort to the folks over at Tyrannosaur Chronicles, who regale us with their harrowing photoshopped exploits when they were attacked by raptors in their own museum.