Welcome to my Metazoic site! This site discusses the existence of the creatures to come along after humans will be extinct. I first became interested in a world after man when I acquired my first copy of Dougal Dixon's After Man: A Zoology of the Future in 1992. However, I unwittingly created creatures that did not exist from the time I was about 8 years old. But it was after I obtained a copy of that book (now a collector's item) that I decided to take these same creatures I created as a child and make them more realistic in an evolutionary sense. Though it may be hard for a lot of us to grasp, humans will soon become extinct. One of the biggest factors of how this will happen is the current overpopulation rate. Which is why I don't contribute to the population. I created this world with little more than mammals fulfilling all ecological niches with the help of some friends. I even gave the era of the age after man a name, I called it the Metazoic, derived from the words for "After-era" (Meta, meaning after, and zoic meaning era). We are now in the Cenozoic era. To view all the animals I have created since I began this project, you can go to the "Meet the Mammals" section of this site. To discuss your own ideas about what you think will happen in the future world, and share your ideas with others, please feel free to leave a comment.
One more thing, some of you may find this site quite offensive, and you have a right to your own opinion. But please respect my right to have an opinion too. I'm not saying there is no GOD, I believe it was HIM who got the ball rolling. But I believe after that, evolution took over. There is so much more evidence of evolution than there is of creation. Even that going on right under our noses. Other than that, enjoy yourself and visit our many links.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Anyway, Immanids, also known as the "rinkadons", these are large, heavy-set relatives of the therapeds, but they more closely resemble elephants with short trunks. In most species there is an elongated muzzle, tusks, small eyes, large ears, the legs are very much like we see in modern elephants. The tail is short, and in some species even has tassels on the end. They are considerably faster runners than elephants, but cannot jump like the therapeds and other species in this order can. The fur is very fine, they are not naked like modern elephants, but rather has smooth, soft fur, much like we see in rabbits. The ears are like those we see in elephants, and in only one species are as large as those seen in the African elephant, that species is Aequicapistrum, from the USA and Asia. The ears are mostly round on the edges, and somewhat triangular in shape. All species in this family are large, most are well over 7 feet tall. Tusks are present in all species, the largest of which belong to Anthropodonta, in one of the 2 species in this genus, the tusks are longer than the legs, and almost as long as the body. The tongue is long and flexible and acts like the trunk of an elephant to grasp leaf clusters out of trees, or grass and plants from the ground. The feet are short and rounded at the soles and equipped with claw-like hooves they use for defense against predators. The neck is relatively short compared to other trelatebrates, but every bit as flexible.
Most of these species are browsers and get most of their food from trees, though they think nothing much of chopping off bushes or gathering plants and other low-growth vegetation. They are strict vegetarians, feeding on many varieties of leaves, grass, plants, flowers, fungi and even fruits, nuts and berries. They cannot hop, but when the need arises, they can rear up on their hind legs to reach higher branches. The short tail is useful at this point for balancing the animal as it is standing, and helps to counterbalance the head when the forelimbs are brought back to Earth, so the weight of the head does not crush the forelimbs. Though the eyes are small, they still have very good eyesight. Their hearing though is their most valuable sense. The sense of smell is no better than our own however. The hearing is ultra-bionic. They can pick up the faintest footfalls from as far as 5000 feet away. Enough time for them to know there is a predator nearby and give them the greatest chance of escape. Sometimes when confronted with a predator, these animals rear-up on their hind limbs and slash with their clawed forelimbs. They can also gore a predator, using their tusks, or by biting. But mostly these animals prefer to run away from danger.
The largest species is Immanis, with a full height of about 18 feet. There is no small species, as most of these species are quite large, but the smallest among them is Anthropodonta, with a height reaching about 10 feet. They actually have few predators, but the greatest among their predators are the Deinognathids, particularly Ictocamelus. Large viverrids may also bring them down. The calves are vulnerable to a variety of predators, including large foxes and weasels like Phobogula. Parents are usually pretty good at keeping most predators at bay from their young though.
I have a place for this family on my site once I get to it, but I haven't gotten around to doing it just yet. Sometime though. I did a rough sketch of a species in this family and managed to scan it in finally. This is just to give you the viewers an idea of what these animals would look like if you could see one today.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Actually the past month, I haven't been going in there much. But not because of the owner's attitude. I just haven't had much time. I always did like this guy (he calls himself Proletarian now, he's changed his name several times), before he got his own forum he seemed like a nice guy. But my attitude towards him is beginning to change. I don't like Hitler, and I don't like those who act like him. I tell you, a person should not be allowed to administrate a forum unless they are mature and unbiased. Not everyone is like me, let's face it. I can debate without getting too ugly. At least I never cussed anyone out. Well, I do on here, in fun. But believing things like monkey-like squids is too ridiculous. But notice I never attacked any one person in particular!!
Well, I don't know if I will be going back, I don't think so. I've given much contact info on there, they know where to find me if they want to contact me. Those people can believe whatever they want now for all I care. I'm through. No more forums for me! I wish the rest of those people luck, because their administrator needs to grow up. Until he can learn to debate in a mature manner, I'm staying away from him. I don't need people like that in my life. Well, heck. He's a cat-lover, and he acts just like all the rest of the cat-people I've ever met. One of the big reasons why I don't like felines. But I do have my opinions, and I stand by what I say. I don't believe any of my ideas are that far-fetched. In fact, I've learned this past year that a lot of my ideas are not as unscientific as everyone else has said they are. So this is why I have stuck with a lot of my ideas. Well, I am not worried at all. I don't think they will miss me at all on there. I know enough about people to know that I was not one of the favored members on that forum at all. Look at the post commemorating my project as "Project of the Month", only one person took notice besides Proletarian and me. But it's like one of those "oh well" moments. You cannot please everyone all the time.
Monday, December 22, 2008
The largest species in this family are among the genus Tragerbillus. Many of these species can reach a height of about 10 feet. They are one of the few gerbbuck species that lives in dense rainforests. They are also the only gerbbuck species that has only 2 toes on the feet. One very long one, tipped with a 5-inch long, razor-sharp claw, and the outside toes are very short with a shorter, more blunt claw. These animals use these huge claws on the inside toes as weapons against predators. Properly aimed, they can actually disembowel a predator, using the tail to stand back on, as they reach their feet up and kick at a predator. The hands are equipped with 4 short fingers. The ears of this species are diamond-shaped and not as large as those on Adillus. The eyes are large and almond-shaped.
Brachiomillops is the most unusual of these animals, it is the closest one to being a quadruped. They have arms as long as their legs and sometimes travel using all fours or on their legs only. If they need a quick get-away they usually sprint off on all fours, using leaping and long strides to get way ahead of whatever startles them. If they are just running, or going after each other, or walking, they usually balance up on their hind legs, looking like ostriches with long tails to help them keep their balance.
The smallest species are in the genus Adillulus, particularly the Malaysian species. They are small and rather rat-like. The tail is well furred, but thin. The ears are small, but triangular-shaped. They live in mostly cloud forests and dig their own burrows to roost in, using their hind legs to clear away the dirt. They live in small family groups of no more than about 10 individuals, and their babies. Like all smaller rodents in the Metazoic, these animals are prolific breeders.
I have not yet started working on this group, but there is a place for it once I am done. This is one of the few cases I tolerate "mutt-names" among animals of the future, when it ends in "buck" or "bok", since even now a lot of ungulates have names that end with that suffix. Since these animals still resemble large versions of modern gerbils in a lot of ways, that is how I came up with the collective name "gerbbuck" for the animals in this family.
Anyway, here is the link to the new page. Not all the species are there, but this gives a good idea of what most of the family members look like. Here is the link: http://www.metazoica.com/anteaters.html
If you have any comments, you can let me know here.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
High-Energy Jumbo Squid at Risk With Warming
Emily Sohn, Discovery News
Dec. 18, 2008 -- Jumbo squid are long-distance commuters. Every day, these gangly creatures migrate more than 500 hundred vertical feet. It's a high-energy lifestyle -- and one that's going to suffer as a result of global warming, according to a new study.
Squid now appear to be joining the list of marine creatures at risk from rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the oceans absorb some of this CO2 load, pH levels drop, and the water becomes more acidic.
Previous research has shown that ocean acidification makes it harder for corals, mollusks and other calcifying organisms to build skeletons and shells. The new study suggests that the effects of acidification are more complicated and far-reaching than many scientists expected.
"For the first time we've definitively proven important negative effects of high carbon dioxide levels on uncalcifying organisms like squid," said Rui Rosa, an animal physiologist at the University of Lisbon. "We've proven that CO2 will have a tremendous impact on their ability to move by the end of the century."
Not to be confused with the mysterious giant squid, which can exceed 40 feet in length, jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas) are common and well studied. Also known as Humboldt squid, these animals can grow up to 2.5 meters (8-plus feet) long and weigh up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
They are a commercially important fishery catch in Mexico and South America.
Jumbo squid are the only species of squid that follow their prey each night to extremely deep, oxygen-poor layers of water and return each day to feed at the water's surface.
Squid move by jet propulsion, which demands a huge amount of energy -- and squid have some of the highest metabolic rates in the sea. Jumbo squid, in particular, burn a lot of gas in their 175-meter (575-foot) daily commute.
To see how ocean acidification might affect this jet-set way of life, Rosa and colleague Brad Seibel, of the University of Rhode Island, netted 86 jumbo squid in the Gulf of California. On their research boat, the researchers placed each squid in a water-filled chamber, in which they varied temperature, oxygen and CO2 levels. Throughout the experiment, they measured the animals' metabolic rates.
When the animals faced levels of CO2 projected for the end of the century, the study showed, their metabolism slowed by 30 percent. They also became 45 percent less active. Elevated temperatures exacerbated these effects.
As water temperatures and CO2 levels rise, Rosa predicts, jumbo squid will grow more lethargic, making it harder for them to catch prey and escape from predators. Their habitat range will also become compressed. Results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The new work might help explain why Humboldt squid, once only found in tropical waters, are now showing up as far north as Alaska and British Columbia.
"I had always thought of this species as being one of the most adaptable in the ocean," said Ron O'Dor, senior scientist at the Census of Marine Life in Washington, D.C. "Now we are seeing that is being squeezed in ways no one had really appreciated."
More surprises will probably follow.
"Nothing in the ocean is safe from the impacts of global warming and acidification," O'Dor added. "Everything is going to have to make adjustments."
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I also still want to work on my herps page. I have no real idea when I will be getting around to that. There will be an announcement on this blog once it gets done. I'm just no damn good at drawing herps!! I can still use some help if anyone would like to volunteer their talents! Otherwise I hope you don't mind seeing herps that look like shit!! And a rather long wait!! LOL! I have another family group in the making, and it should be up soon. How soon I don't know, but I will try to have it up. Meantime, enjoy the size charts I've done so far, you can access the book on the home page at www.metazoica.com. Or, you can take the short cut http://www.metazoica.com/Title.html
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Koala Not a Dwarf of Prehistoric Versions
Dani Cooper, ABC Science Online
Dec. 16, 2008 -- Australia's iconic koala is not a dwarf and the finding has major implications for theories on what happened to the continent's prehistoric megafauna, a Queensland palaeontologist said.
Gilbert Price, of the University of Queensland's Center for Microscopy and Microanalysis, said there has been a long-held view that modern koalas were a dwarf version of the giant prehistoric koala that lived between 30,000 and 700,000 years ago.
However, in a paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews, Price said modern koalas are a separate species that at times coexisted with the Late Pleistocene giant Phascolarctos stirtoni, which weighed between 20 and 30 kilograms.
Gilbert used improved dating techniques to analyze fossils and found that between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago the two koalas were both living in Australian trees.
"It's fascinating that up until fairly recently in geological terms we did have two types of koalas kicking around," said Gilbert. "The fossil records do suggest that they lived in the same place at the same time [perhaps] there is something about their sizes that allowed them to fill a slightly different ecological niche.
"The big question is why one koala species survived past 50,000 years ago and the other didn't make it."
Gilbert said understanding this may help prevent the modern-day koala from becoming extinct. However he said a lack of well-dated fossil records makes it difficult to determine the true ancestor of the modern koala.
He said his finding also suggests that the debate about why Australia's megafauna became extinct need to be revisited.
"My work shows we've got to sort out this dwarfing hypothesis first," he said.
The "dwarfing hypothesis" was originally developed to explain the body-size relationship between extinct Pleistocene mammalian megafauna and smaller-sized, similar-looking, modern-day animals, said Gilbert.
It has been applied to other present-day Australian mammals including the grey kangaroo, Tasmanian devil and the koala. Gilbert said the dwarfing phenomena has been used to support opposing megafauna extinction theories.
He said on one side dwarfing is viewed as the result of a physiological response to climate-induced changes in habitat and food supplies, while the counter view holds that it was human induced through targeting of larger animals in hunting.
However Gilbert said his study shows that dwarfing itself "has not been fully tested".
"A combination of more intensive physical dating, better stratigraphic control in regard to collecting methodologies, and up-to-date taxonomic information is critical for testing such hypotheses," he wrote. "Until such information becomes available an understanding of the fate of many Late Pleistocene forms, and the origins of many extant taxa, will remain elusive."
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Yawn Explained: It Cools Your Brain
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Dec. 15, 2008 -- If your head is overheated, there's a good chance you'll yawn soon, according to a new study that found the primary purpose of yawning is to control brain temperature.
The finding solves several mysteries about yawning, such as why it's most commonly done just before and after sleeping, why certain diseases lead to excessive yawning, and why breathing through the nose and cooling off the forehead often stop yawning.
The key yawn instigator appears to be brain temperature.
"Brains are like computers," Andrew Gallup, a researcher in the Department of Biology at Binghamton University who led the study, told Discovery News. "They operate most efficiently when cool, and physical adaptations have evolved to allow maximum cooling of the brain."
He and colleagues Michael Miller and Anne Clark analyzed yawning in parakeets as representative vertebrates because the birds have relatively large brains, live wild in Australia, which is subject to frequent temperature swings, and, most importantly, do not engage in contagious yawning, as humans and some other animals do.
Contagious yawning is thought to be an evolved mechanism for keeping groups alert so they "remain vigilant against danger," Gallup said.
For the study, the scientists exposed parakeets to three different conditions: increasing temperature, high temperature and a moderate control temperature. While the frequency of yawns did not increase during the latter two conditions, it more than doubled when the researchers increased the bird's ambient temperature.
A paper on the findings has been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior.
"Based on the brain cooling hypothesis, we suggest that there should be a thermal window in which yawning should occur," Gallup said. "For instance, yawning should not occur when ambient temperatures exceed body temperature, as taking a deep inhalation of warm air would be counterproductive. In addition, yawning when it is extremely cold may be maladaptive, as this may send unusually cold air to the brain, which may produce a thermal shock."
The parakeets yawned as predicted.
It's now believed yawning operates like a radiator for birds and mammals.
If air in the atmosphere is cooler than brain and body temperatures, taking it in quickly cools facial blood that, in turn, cools the brain and may even alter blood flow. Prior studies reveal yawning leads to a heightened state of arousal, so a morning yawn may function somewhat like a cup of coffee in providing a jolt of energy.
The new findings also explain why tired individuals often yawn, since both exhaustion and sleep deprivation have been shown to increase deep brain temperatures, again prompting a yawn-driven cool down. Yawning additionally appears to facilitate transitional states of the brain, such as going from sleep to waking periods.
Gordon Gallup, Jr., a State University of New York at Albany psychologist, did not work on the study, but, as Andrew Gallup's father, paid close attention to the research. The senior Gallup also happens to be a leading expert on the science of yawning and other widespread evolved traits.
"It is interesting to note that instances of excessive yawning in humans may be indicative of brain cooling problems," Gallup, Jr., told Discovery News, pointing out that patients with multiple sclerosis often experience bouts of excessive yawning "and MS involves thermoregulatory dysfunction."
"Bouts of excessive yawning often precede the onset of seizures in epileptic patients, and predict the onset of headaches in people who suffer from migraines," he added.
In the future, researchers may focus more on brain temperature and its role in diseases and their symptoms. But the new study on yawning changes the popular notion that yawns are mere signs of boredom.
On the contrary, as Gallup said, "yawning more accurately reflects a mechanism that maintains attention, and therefore should be looked at as a compliment!"
Unlike most modern rhinos which would be their modern counterparts, these mammals are fully haired. The body is covered in soft, rather woolly fur. The heads are rather horse-like, and all have horns of one kind or another. All species are strict vegetarians, feeding on grass, flowers, bushes, berries, even browsing leaves and blossoms on low branches from trees. The tails are relatively short for the body, usually less than the size of the total head and body length, the legs and feet are like those of rhinos. The eyes of these animals are rather small as well, but the eyesight is very good. As is the hearing. Their sense of smell however, is not much better than ours. In the species Durambulus, the horns cover also the back. They have a series of small, stubby spikes down the spinal region, with very long, backward-facing horns on the shoulders. This protects this animal against any smaller predators that might attack them from the back. However, it doesn't do much good against the largest predators. These are also the smallest species in this family, the largest among them being no smaller than a rhinoceros. As most cerots do, these animals live in herds, and are usually not that migratory, though when the need arises, they don't hesitate to migrate to greener pastures. The herds are not that large, usually no more than about 50 individuals.
The largest species are in the genus Hadrobestia. The head and body length of these animals are around 35 feet long, not counting the 12-foot long tail. They live in small groups, not more than about 10 individuals. They are characterized by the 2 long, straight horns over the eyes. They are very aggressive chargers and most predators will not bother them. The most unusual set of horns belong to Bodiceros. It has one long horn on the end of the snout and a smaller horn that curves foreward right behind it. They defend themselves by charging at the offender full-force. They begin a charge with warning signs of quickly raising and lowering their head. Bodiceros is perhaps the most aggressive of all the cerots, as it lives in a very hostile environment. They live in small herds, usually family groups.
Few predators will tackle these animals. Among the greatest are the largest deinognathids and mongooses that hunt in packs. If you'd like to view the cerots that are presented on my site, you can at this link: http://www.metazoica.com/cerots.html
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Did Magnetic Blip Trigger Mass Extinction?
Michael Reilly, Discovery News
Dec. 12, 2008 -- It was a dying on a scale never seen before or since on Earth. The slaughter was everywhere; the fertile ocean and balmy supercontinent Pangea were transformed into killing fields, littered with the bodies of ancient animals. By the time the dust had settled on the Permian-Triassic mass extinction 250 million years ago, 90 percent of life on the planet had been snuffed out.
Now a new theory suggests the catastrophe was set in motion 15 million years earlier, deep in the Earth. On the edge of the molten outer core, a plume of super-hot material began rising through the mantle, upsetting convection in the core and throwing the planet's magnetic field into disarray.
The weakening of Earth's magnetic field exposed the surface to a shower of cosmic radiation, says Yukio Isozaki of the University of Tokyo. He believes the radiation broke nitrogen in the atmosphere into ions that acted as seeds for clouds enshrouding the planet.
"This would've caused severe cooling and a drop in sea level" as the cool temperatures allowed massive ice sheets to accumulate on the continents, Isozaki said. "If you check the rock record at that time, tropical coral reefs die first. Then you start to see fauna from mid latitudes move into the tropics. It all points to cooling."
The superplume disrupted the magnetic field and put a strain on creatures living on the surface, but it was only the beginning. Five million years later it reached the surface, Isozaki said, and the hot material punched through the crust, erupting as three successive supervolcanoes.
Today the remnants of those volcanoes are scattered through India, China and Norway. On their own they were too small to do much harm, but together Isozaki thinks they cooled the climate even further, launching an extinction as bad as the one that would kill the dinosaurs 185 million years later.
Then, 10 million years later, the Permian-Triassic extinction struck.
"The effects of the superplume were just the first punch of extinction," Isozaki said. "Then came the knockout punch, the Permian-Triassic extinction."
Isozaki thinks both "punches" were caused by the same superplume. Ten million years after the smaller volcanoes blew their tops, a much larger volcano, the Siberian Traps, erupted, launching the worst killing in the planet's history.
Gregory Retallack of the University of Oregon agrees that the late Permian round of extinction was bad -- as much as 67 percent of species were eradicated. But he doesn't think the two events are related. In the 10 million years after the first punch in the late Permian, he said, life recovered.
"The late Permian looks good all over the world," Retallack said. "You've got corals, healthy marine communities, and lots of fossil flora on land."
There's no questioning the severity of the Permian-Triassic crisis -- "We almost lost it there," Retallack said -- but whether the two can be traced a single mantle superplume, or they were unrelated, remains a mystery for now.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
P.S.: Ignore the fact the title refers to them as koala "bears"!! They are NOT bears! It always chaffs my ass to hear people calling them that!!!
Koala Bears at Risk for Extinction, Group Says
Julie Shingleton, AFP
Dec. 11, 2008 -- Australia's iconic koala will become extinct in some areas of the country if the federal government does not take urgent action, conservationists have warned.
A group of Australian scientists will meet with government officials in Canberra on Friday in a bid to hammer out a national koala conservation strategy to keep key populations of the animals from dying out.
Less than 100,000 koalas are left in the country, compared to millions before they were heavily hunted for fur in the 1920s, said Deborah Tabart from the Australian Koala Foundation.
"The population of koalas in southeast Queensland has decreased from 10,000 to less than 4,000 in a decade," Tabart said.
The population in the southeast Queensland area known as the Koala Coast has fallen by at least 26 percent to 4,611 animals since a 1996-1999 survey as development encroached on their natural habitats, she said.
"We know that there are even less now, in the order of 3,800," Tabart said.
Kat Miller of the World Wildlife Fund also warned that koalas could be on their way to extinction along with several other Australian species."There are more than 1,700 federally-listed threatened populations of animals in Australia. There is an extinction crisis in Australia. The koala may well be the next one to go downhill."
The Australian Koala Foundation is urging Environment Minister Peter Garrett to declare the southeast Queensland koala population as critically endangered under law in a bid to protect their habitats from further developments.
"This is the most important thing Minister Garrett and his department can do right now to show he is serious about saving the koala," said Tabart."These declines just cannot continue if we still want to see our beautiful icon here."
Climate change has also played in the decline as it altered the nutritional make-up of their staple food, gumtree leaves, Tabart said.
Post mortems of around 700 koalas in southeast Queensland have found that most were "wasted" when they died.
"The impact of climate change on the nutritional value of eucalyptus leaves has been proven to affect koalas," she said.
Garrett has said he had charged Australia's Threatened Species Scientific Committee with assessing the risk to the koala but warned that he needed to await the committee's report before he could act.
"This is a clear indication of how seriously the Australian government is considering reports from the Australian Koala Foundation and others on diminishing koala numbers in some regions," the minister said.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Here's the link: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/12/09/dinosaur-skull-sinus.html
Sinus-Laden Dino Skulls Reveal Hotheaded Life
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Dec. 9, 2008 -- A fully fleshed out Tyrannosaurus rex head may have weighed more than 1,100 pounds, but much of that volume was filled with air, according to a new study that suggests all dinosaurs were airheads.
Scientists have discovered that dinos possessed more air cavities in their heads than was previously believed, including many sinuses -- the same cavities that can lead to sinus headaches and infections in people.
"Dinosaurs likely suffered from nasty sinus infections," co-author Lawrence Witmer told Discovery News.
"In fact, we have other evidence that these infections spread to their bones, so dinosaurs could have suffered from painful, pounding headaches at times," added Witmer, a professor of paleontology at Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine.
He and colleague Ryan Ridgely CT scanned and 3-D imaged four dinosaur skulls: two fierce carnivores and two plant eaters. The meat eaters were T. rex and Majungasaurus, while the herbivores were represented by Panoplosaurus and Euoplocephalus, both ankylosaurian dinosaurs, which had armored bodies and short snouts.
The findings were recently published in The Anatomical Record.
"Scientists like myself tend to look at dinosaur brains, bones, eyeballs and such, but airway systems, essentially empty spaces in the skull, sort of slipped between the research cracks over the years and did not receive much attention," Witmer said.
The study revealed that predatory dinosaur heads featured large olfactory areas with an arching airway extending from the nostrils to the throat, along with the many sinus cavities. The air spaces made the skull bones hollow, similar to strong, yet lightweight, hollow beams used in construction work.
The analysis allowed the scientists to more accurately determine the weight of fleshed out dinosaur heads. Majungasaurus' head weighed around 70 pounds, but the 1,100-pound-plus head of T. rex took them aback.
"That's more than the combined weight of the whole starting lineup of the Cleveland Cavaliers," Witmer said.
The heads of the plant-eating dinosaurs were lighter, but they featured twisty corkscrewed air passageways that Witmer likened to "crazy straws," the swirly drinking straws favored by kids.
One function of this complex network of nasal cavities was heat transfer, the researchers believe, since blood vessels ran alongside their nasal passages, allowing air to pass over the moist surfaces, cooling the blood and therefore removing excess heat from their heads.
"Most big dinosaurs would have had a problem of being too hot," Witmer said. "We now think these were warm blooded animals. You can imagine them sitting out under the Cretaceous sun."
"They created shade, but didn't often find it," he added.
The scientists also believe the nasal passages acted as resonating chambers, giving each dino its own unique "voice." It's possible that armored dinosaurs, in particular, could recognize individuals based on their vocalizations alone.
CT scans of crocodiles and ostriches found similar -- although not quite so prominent -- head air spaces, adding to the evidence that these creatures are distantly related to dinosaurs. Their collective common ancestor must have passed down the trait.
Michael Ryan, coordinator of research and head of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News that Witmer's lab has "been the cutting edge for investigating what's going on inside of the fossil dinosaur skulls that we so painstakingly dig up."
"The new information about the convoluted nasal passages of ankylosaurs gives us the very first suggestion that these weird herbivorous dinosaurs may have had complex vocal patterns," Ryan said. "It turns out that the Late Cretaceous may have been as noisy as a frog pond during mating season, with the air being full of honks, chirps and squeaks."
Ryan added, "It's work like this that helps us to better understand these dinosaurs as once living animals."
Monday, December 8, 2008
In Acanthopsis, the spines range up to an inch long, and the tail is tipped with sharp spines. This keeps the tail out of the mouths of predators so the animal can get away. They have long, pointed ears like a rabbit. The muzzle is long and pointed and the eyes are large. The body is basically very rat-like. They roost in small underground crevices. They are solitary animals, only becoming social during the breeding season. Like all species in this family they are vegetarians. But they tend to get all the water they need from their food, so they never drink.
The species of Ornatophrys are among the most colorful of rodents. These long-legged, rabbit-sized animals have naked eye rings that during the breeding season, develop into long, colorful wattles used by the males to attract females and seduce them into mating. The females lack the wattles, but still have the naked eye rings. These wattles vary in color by species, and range from red, purple, blue to green and yellow. The tail is well-furred and carried over the back when in motion. They run like miniature horses, and are very agile animals over their rocky homes. They are social too, living in small pods of no more than 10 individuals that travel and feed together. The group contains a dominant male and female, and usually lower-ranking females and young. One of the lower-ranking females often acts as a sentinnel, and the rest of the group relies on her to warn them of oncoming predators.
Oreippus is the largest species, and lives in the largest herds. There is no real order in herds of Oreippus, but the older animals take the lead in the herd. Herds of Oreippus are as large as 100 animals. Ephalteria is the second largest member of the family, about the size of a jackrabbit, and travels in herds like horses. It is the North American version of Oreippus. The herds are not as large though. Instead of taking long leaps like jackrabbits do, Ephalteria is a sprinter, like a horse or antelope. All species are grazers, and feed on grasses, lichens and seeds.
Though these animals can defend themselves very well by biting or kicking, or even dropping their tails, they have a lot of predators in their range. Besides the mongooses and deinognathids, they also fear predatory bats and hawks, snakes, predatory lizards, lemurs, weasels and foxes. Though most species rarely go near water, when they do, they can also be taken by crocodiles. If one of the smaller animals is grabbed by the tail by a predator, they have the amazing ability to shed their tail, much like a modern chinchilla. However, unlike with chinchillas, these animals can actually grow their tail back. Though the bones that regenerate may be smaller and more slender than the original tail bones, and the flesh that regenerates is usually dark gray in color instead of pink like the original. This is the animal's best defense, particularly for the smaller species. The larger Oreippus uses it's powerful hind feet as weapons of defense, as they cannot shed their tails as easily as the smaller species.
I personally have not yet worked on this family, but there is a place for it on my site, under the large grazers. Why I have it in that group I don't know!! LOL! Most of the species would be what I consider small.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Toothy Sawfish Doomed by Own Design
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Dec. 2, 2008 -- New efforts are underway to save the sawfish, an iconic, shark-like fish that has experienced steep population declines in recent years, primarily because its distinctive saw-shaped snout easily tangles in nets, angering fishermen.
In 2003 the sawfish became the first marine fish to be placed on the list of federally endangered species. It's been on the list ever since.
"Commercial fishermen have never liked sawfish," George Burgess, a University of Florida ichthyologist, told Discovery News. "They routinely kill sawfish because they can cause costly damage to nets."
Burgess is a University of Florida ichthyologist who serves as curator of both the International Shark Attack File and the National Sawfish Encounter Database. He's calling on the public to help with a new expansion of the sawfish database that is bringing together files formerly housed with the Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and two private collections.
"We'd like for anyone who has seen a sawfish in the wild to report the sighting using the form at the Florida Museum of Natural History web site," he said, explaining that the information will be used to better reveal the distribution of sawfish.
Sawfish, which can grow to anywhere from 4.6 to 23 feet in length depending on the species, once had a range that extended from the waters off of New York to the Tex-Mex border. Now it's thought that sawfish "are essentially confined to Florida," according to Burgess.
South Florida was always a primary destination for the flat-headed fish.
"I think every bar there has a sawfish saw hanging on the wall," he said, adding that while the fish can survive without the saw, its ability to hunt is severely compromised.
The fish's electro-sensitive rostrum acts like a metal detector, allowing sawfish to search, and dig into, the sea floor. The saw is also used to fend off would-be attackers.
Although Florida newspaper accounts of sawfish catches suggest the fish was plentiful there around the turn of the 20th century, the fish are now forced to hide out at more remote spots. The sawfish also have a nursery area for their young in South Florida waters.
Another remaining sawfish refuge is in Brazil at the mouth of the Amazon River, which Burgess just visited.
As for the Florida Everglades, human access to the site is limited, so it's one of the few places in the world where the fish can thrive. Under other circumstances, sawfish frequently ascend from the sea floor into bays and estuaries, where fatal encounters with fishermen frequently occur.
Compounding the problem is that, like many sharks, sawfish grow slowly, reach sexual maturity at around 10 to 12 years of age, and have a low reproductive potential. Although individuals may have a life span of 30 years or more, they give birth to live young, a process that requires a prolonged gestation period.
Other researchers are very concerned about the fate of sawfish and their shark and ray relatives.
This year, an international study organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, determined that over 50 percent of such species are now threatened with extinction.
"The traditional view of oceanic sharks and rays as fast and powerful often leads to a misperception that they are resilient to fishing pressure," said Sonja Fordham, who worked on the IUCN project.
Both she and Burgess hope better data, improved monitoring and catch limits can help to turn the extinction tide.
"In the case of sawfish, we're talking about a recovery process that requires 100 years," Burgess said.
He added, "I won't live to see it, nor will my children, but hopefully their children will."
Monday, December 1, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Aquatic genets are rather unique. They hate the water, but that is where they get all their prey from. If they can survive longer, it wouldn't be too big of a leap for these animals to develop fully-aquatic lifestyles. Very few feliformes actually like the water. In fact the only feliformes that are to any degree aquatic are in the mongoose and civet family (Viverridae). All others of their kind are land-based. This is the animal that gave me the idea of a fully-aquatic viverrid of the late Metazoic. I called the animal Thalassogenetta (formerly Hydrogenetta), of the Atlantic. It is a 50-foot long, very powerful animal with a long, oar-shaped tail, and limbs that more resembles flippers. The mouth is huge and the teeth are made for crushing and are very sharp, powered by jaws more powerful than those of a crocodile. Their prey consists of fish, cephalopods, crabs, smaller aquatic prosimians like Oreolemur and Rhynchocebus, and especially sea turtles. But for now, the aquatic genet feeds on fish and frogs.
If you'd like to see Thalassogenetta, you can visit their page on my site HERE. Thalassogenetta also will have a similar cousin on the Pacific side of their range, Oceictis. This animal will be a lot more advanced than Thalassogenetta, all limbs will be reduced to flippers, and the tail will be flattened sideways, giving them a side-to-side swimming motion, much like eels.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Most of these antelope are small animals that live most of their lives in the brush, though they are quite capable of bounding out of their usual hiding spots if a predator is coming. Most live in small family groups, but one species, Caleriscopula, lives in vast herds on the plains. They are actually one of the most social animals within their range, much like herds of caribou or wildebeest. They often do not stay in one large field, but tend to migrate from one field to another on the island, and then back again. Herds can number in the hundreds of thousands. Though the species it's self is no bigger than a thompson's gazelle, not counting the tail which is about as long as the body.
Some gaboons live in marshy areas, such as Herbacomesus and Harundoaleres. These species do not really seek safety in numbers, but rely on their ability to escape into the water. In the Amazon, which is within their range, these antelope have even learned to dive and walk along the river floor. They can actually stay submerged for several minutes. They live in small family groups, and when searching for food or in the face of a predator, it becomes every animal for it's self. Though mothers will usually dive and tuck their fawn under their bellies as they move off. The fawn will usually faithfully remain underneath the mother until she feels the danger has passed. The family will usually reunite with calls as well as visual recognition. The favorite food of especially the Herbacomesus species is the large water reeds they live among. They are actually one of few mammals that can digest these tough, bamboo-like stalks. They use their powerful jaws to break off a chunk of the stem and chew it down and swallow.
The largest species is Baradromas, with an overall length of about 10 feet, and weighing about 400 pounds. These are also very tough animals. They travel in small family groups as opposed to large herds, and when confronted by a predator or another of their species, they use their tail and sharp front hooves for protection. They can swat with their tail quite effectively. When that does not work, they rear-up, and swaft their hooves at the attacker, usually going for the face of the attacker. On each other, the hooves can leave some pretty bad scars. On a predator, it can even gouge their eyes out if necessary. All but the largest of all predators in their range hesitate before attacking this animal. The male is the leader of the family group, females with young follow directly behind him. Low-ranking animals take the very tail end of their group. A herd consists usually of a dominant male with about 2 or 3 females, young, and lower-ranking animals, usually bachelor young that have not yet moved to another herd.
Gaboon antelopes are very fast animals, capable of running at top speeds of 70 m.p.h. for several miles without tiring. The smallest species belong to the genus Scopus. This is a species that lives strictly in male-female couples, usually with only one offspring. They inhabit bushy areas where they can find a thorn bush or low-growing tree to hide themselves or cuddle up under, rarely traveling far from their home. These animals are about 2 feet long, including the tail and weigh no more than 10 pounds. They are one of the smallest hooved mammals that ever lived. They can also be quite fast, and in escaping a predator, will even climb trees or seek refuge in an underground burrow abandoned by armadillos.
The greatest predators of these animals are the mongooses and deinognathids. They may also be taken by large snakes, lizards, and even predatory pentadactyls like Huaca. Many are also taken by crocodiles as they drink or bathe in the water.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Single-Celled Giant Upends Early Evolution
Michael Reilly, Discovery News
Nov. 20, 2008 -- Slowly rolling across the ocean floor, a humble single-celled creature is poised to revolutionize our understanding of how complex life evolved on Earth.
A distant relative of microscopic amoebas, the grape-sized Gromia sphaerica was discovered once before, lying motionless at the bottom of the Arabian Sea. But when Mikhail Matz of the University of Texas at Austin and a group of researchers stumbled across a group of G. sphaerica off the coast of the Bahamas, the creatures were leaving trails behind them up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) long in the mud.
The trouble is, single-celled critters aren't supposed to be able to leave trails. The oldest fossils of animal trails, called 'trace fossils', date to around 580 million years ago, and paleontologists always figured they must have been made by multicellular animals with complex, symmetrical bodies.
But G. sphaerica's traces are the spitting image of the old, Precambrian fossils; two small ridges line the outside of the trail, and one thin bump runs down the middle.
At up to three centimeters (1.2 inches) in diameter, they're also enormous compared to most of their microscopic cousins.
"If these guys were alive 600 million years ago, and their traces got fossilized, a paleontologist who had never seen this thing would not have a shade of doubt attributing this kind of trace to the activity of a big, multicellular, bilaterally symmetrical animal," Matz said.
"This is a very important discovery," Shuhai Xiao of Virginia Polytechnic Institute said. "The fact that protists can make traces has important implications for how we interpret many trace fossils."
The finding could overturn conventional thinking on a mysterious time in the evolution of early life known as the Cambrian Explosion. Until about 550 million years ago, there were very few animals leaving trails behind. Then, within ten million years an unprecedented blossoming of life swarmed across the planet, filling every niche with hard-bodied, complex creatures.
"It wasn't a gradual development of complexity," Matz said. "Instead these things suddenly seemed to burst out of a magic box."
Charles Darwin first noticed the Cambrian Explosion and thought it was an artifact of a poorly preserved fossil record. The precambrian trace fossils were left by multicellular animals, he reasoned, so there must be some gap in fossils between the nearly empty Precambrian and the teeming world that quickly followed. But if the first traces were instead made by G. sphaerica, it would mean the Explosion was real; it must have been a diversification of life on a scale never before seen.
Genetic analysis of the water-filled G. sphaerica cells also reveals tantalizing clues that it could be the oldest living fossil on the planet.
"There's a 1.8 billion-year-old fossil in the Stirling formation in Australia that looks just like one of their traces, and with a discoidal body impression similar to these guys." Matz said. "We haven't proved anything, but we might be looking at the ultimate living macroscopic fossil."
Monday, November 17, 2008
The therapeds range in size from the dainty Dendromillops to Vehemens. Most are vegetarians. Although some species, like Tachypus are known to be somewhat omnivorous. The widest-spread genus is that of Tachypus. This is also the Metazoic's fastest runner. They can out-run a cheetah! Some species of Tachypus can run as fast as 120 mph, and keep it up for several miles. They live in herds and are very migratory. They roam from one end of the North American continent to the other in search of food. Sometimes they even come within close range of other Tachypus species. The range of this genus is from South America all the way to Africa, and they are one of the most successful animals of the Metazoic. They keep their herds together with loud communicative calls that include squaks, barks, and bleeps. When danger is near, the leader of the herd gives out a series of loud clicking sounds and the herd usually turns and runs.
All therapeds have soft feet, rather like camels or hippos. Unlike their closest kin of the Metazoic, the Deinognathids, of which most species have well-developed hooves. The tail is long and thick, and held much like those of kangaroos. Most species are bipedal and run like ostriches. Those that use all fours run pretty much like dogs. I usually like to divide this family into 3 varieties. There are the Geotragines that are basically 4-legged, ground-dwelling species, the Therapedines that are 2-legged animals, and the Hylophagines, which are known on this site as "bark-peelers".
Geotragines originally derived mostly in America. Geotragus is a species that prefers to nest underground. Brittonia, is a large, horse-like theraped. Though they are large, they are not very numerous, due to their restricted range of the mountains of central Africa. They are one of the tallest therapeds, standing about 15-feet tall, and browse on lower branches, bushes, plants and grass. However, they are among the slowest reproducers among mammals during the Metazoic, and a female can only have young once every 4 years. It takes 2 years of pregnancy and 2 years to raise the young. Vehemens is the largest species, particularly V. australis. The total length, including the tail is around 30 feet, and weigh about 13 tons. Dichoceros is a tapir-sized theraped of the Amazon jungle, equipped with a hollow, Y-shaped horn that actually aids in vocalization. These mammals make loud, trumpeting sounds that can carry through the forests for miles. This allows them to lay claim to their territory. The horn however, is useless for defense or fighting of any kind. They are also the most social of all Geotragines, living in small, family-oriented herds.
The therapedines are the bipedal species, and also the most social, and migratory species. Unlike modern bipedal mammals, these animals do not hop, but rather they prefer to run like ostriches. Though some highly-energetic species like Tachypus are omnivorous, most other therapedines are vegetarians. The smallest is the rat-sized Dendromillops which lives in trees and feeds on it's leaves. At night, they also make nests of leaves in a tree hollow or small clump of branches. Some species live like mountain goats, like Oreogale and Labiocheilus. Both of these species are completely at home in the mountains and steep cliffs. Like mountain goats, they are capable of clinging to even nearly vertical surfaces. But unlike mountain goats, they can do it without using their front legs. Labiocheilus has another adaptation for this nearly vertical world it lives in, it has a very long, flexible upper lip. This allows these animals to grasp lichens, grass and moss that they favor that would be seemingly out of their reach. The lip acts rather like an elephant's proboscis to grasp the morsels and bring them to their mouth to be consumed. One species of Equitragus, known as the Arctic Thicktail, inhabits the high-polar areas. Their coat even has the ability to change color with the seasons, much like the snowshoe hare of today.
The most interesting therapedines of all is Anabracchium. This animal has completely lost it's front legs, and the body has gotten short, and globular in form. The neck is still as long as in other Therapeds though. These adaptations make this animal extremely streamlined for running, and they would be quite capable too of out-distancing a cheetah in no time flat! They can reach speeds of 70 mph from take-off, and keep it up for several miles. They stand about 7 feet tall, but most of that is legs and neck. They live in herds and can number in the hundreds of individuals. If caught by a predator, these animals are capable of kicking with their rear claws, but they usually prefer to run when they can.
The last group is also the smallest group, the Hylophagines. These are the bark-peelers of the Metazoic world. The reason they peel the bark off of certain trees is to get at the thick, rich, sweet, sappy flesh underneath. Sometimes they will eat the bark it's self, but their preference is with the flesh underneath. The trees they relish have co-adapted to tolerate this, and always regenerate new bark. Because of this, these animals tend to stay in forest areas where these trees are abundant. These animals are even good climbers. The bark is peeled from anywhere on the trees, and these animals have adapted to climb up to higher levels and branches to get the most out of each tree. These therapeds also take to trees when danger threatens. Two species are bipedal, and still capable of climbing very well. They are Genaceros and Dolichotherapes. Most of these species live in North America, while Hylophaga, also the largest species among the bark-peelers, is a quadruped and still inhabits the Old World.
Like all herding grass-eaters, therapeds have a wide variety of predators. Among the greatest are large mongooses, dogs and deinognathids. Sometimes predatory pteropods will also prey on the therapeds, particularly such large species as Cercomoloch and Pterdraco. Therapeds are ever-watchful for any threats. Some species are hard to approach by all but the most cooperative pack-hunting animals like dogs and certain deinognathids. Tachypus is actually a quite common victim of dogs, particularly Velocitherium. But difficult for most other predatory animals to approach because they are so alert and so quick to respond.
To view some of the Theraped species I have thought up for the Metazoic era, you can visit their page on our website, though I think I need to redo some of the pics!! They can be viewed here: http://www.metazoica.com/Therapeds.html
Sunday, November 16, 2008
If humans still had to live like their earliest ancestors, we would not survive at all. We, unlike all other wild animals, do not have teeth or claws as defenses or weapons, we cannot run very fast, we are not as strong as other animals our size, our jaws are weak so we cannot kill or eat our food without specially-made weapons. And we are relatively delicate creatures, much more so than any other mammal our size, our bones are easily broken and our flesh is very easily torn and easy for a predator to bite into. All other prey animals have very tough flesh, are fast-moving, or have some kind of weapons of defense. People do not like to think of their species as being prey for others, but if we were still living in a wild state, we could very easily become targets for all kinds of large predators. Simply put, we would not survive the wild at all. Big predators would eat us into extinction.
Many other hominids have become extinct over the past 2 million years the family has been around. There was even one that was believed to be semi-aquatic and have partially-webbed hands and feet. It was a short-lived, yet crucial, part of our evolutionary outcome. Though we are related to gorillas, orangs and chimps, none of these other closely-related species can swim. Their skeletal structure is too heavy to keep them afloat, and the way the nostrils are placed on the face, water can get into their airway passages and the animals will drown quicker than a human would. It is believed that our nose is shaped the way it is now to help keep out water. Much like the proboscis monkey of Borneo, which is also a semi-aquatic species with a large nose. This could explain our ability to swim, whereas all our other living relatives take pains to avoid the water. This particular species is probably what shaped us into the species we are today.
It could also explain why humans are mostly hairless. Most aquatic mammals are indeed hairless, such as whales, dolphins and manatees. Hair, for the most part, is dead weight in the water. The only fully-aquatic mammal that has put it's fur to good use is the sea otter, and sea otters are relatively slow swimmers compared to seals and dolphins, and mostly just float on the surface of the water. The fur does provide buoyancy, but also keeps a layer of warm air next to the animal's skin to keep them from chilling in the water, especially at night when temperatures drop. But humans evolved in Africa, where it is hot, and it is believed we lost our fur to prevent overheating when we took to the African savannah, where it is much hotter than it is in the jungle where our closest wild kin, the chimpanzees, live. This also aided our semi-aquatic relatives that probably shaped us into the creatures we are now, from becoming waterlogged and drowning. One article I recently read also explains that we may have lost our fur to ward off parasites like ticks and fleas. Many parasite species carry deadly diseases, like plague and lyme disease. If we had fur, parasites would be very hard to spot and brush off since we could not see them in between the hair fibers. So one theory of why we are mostly hairless, whereas other primates aren't, is that it was a defense against parasites.
Somewhere back in our lineage, humans went from a semi-aquatic existence to a fully terrestrial existence. Why? Because the land offered so much more in the way of food for us to take fully to the waters. This is one time evolution took a U-turn. But as a result, we did suffer some problems. Among those is one problem I have been struggling with for several years, FAT!! This is also why we have problems in childbirth, why water births are much easier and less painful than giving birth lying out of water, on our backs. No other mammal feels as much pain in childbirth as we do. Also, because we are naked, we rely on the skins of other animals to keep us warm. Or we build heated structures today to shelter us from the elements. Not exactly what nature intended, but it's a product of our civilizations. We still have hair, it's just not as widesread on our bodies as it is in other land mammals. This also helped in learning to control fire, for heat and cooking, to tenderize our meat. All other living things fear fire and won't go near it, but humans have learned to use it to their advantage, especially today. Everything that made our societies and civilizations is controlled by fire. We use it to burn energy to light and warm our homes, cook, drive to work every day. Everything we are familiar with now is controlled in some way by fire. I say if dinosaurs had learned to exploit fire the way we have, they might still be around today!
Anyone else want to read about Oreopithecus, or the Aquatic Apes we descended from, there is an interesting article that discusses the proof that we did come from this creature. Click on this link to visit the Aquatic Ape Theory.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Life and Minerals Evolve Together
Michael Reilly, Discovery News
Nov. 13, 2008 -- Etched in the shockwaves of exploding stars, in the gas and dust of fledgling stellar nebulae -- and in Earth's ample oceans, winds and fiery volcanoes -- the multi-billion-year history of minerals appears ageless to us mere mortals.
But an ambitious new study describes how these seemingly static forms have evolved through the ages, just like biological life. From the 12 "primordial" minerals forged inside supernovae to the 4,300 or so mineral species known today, minerals have diversified, grown in complexity, and even been driven into extinction.
"The most basic definition of evolution is change over time," said Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., who led a team of researchers in the work, published today in the journal American Minerologist. "And that's dramatically displayed in the stories of minerals."
Before life evolved on Earth, the slow, inexorable grind of plate tectonics created a total of 1,500 mineral species. Now, Hazen said, most minerals require living creatures to spring into existence.
"That's about as far as we think you can get without life," he said. That means about two-thirds of all known minerals depend on Earth's living creatures to survive.
In life's beginnings, it may have been the other way around.
"Many people believe that life first appeared from some sort of interaction of organic molecules on a mineral surface," said Peter Heaney of Pennsylvania State University.
Soon afterward, the earliest life forms began changing the same chemistry that formed them. About 2.3 billion years ago, photosynthetic organisms started consuming carbon dioxide and sunlight and exhaling oxygen. For the first time, our planet had free oxygen floating around in the atmosphere.
"Before that, if you left a piece of iron or steel on Earth's surface, it wouldn't rust," Hazen said. "But all of a sudden, life produced oxygen, and you start getting get rust -- and oxides of copper, manganese, and cobalt. There are literally thousands of minerals analogous to rust. You wouldn't have these without oxygen."
If all life were suddenly wiped out, the 20-percent-oxygen atmosphere we currently enjoy would vanish in a matter of years. Along with the O2, all those minerals would go extinct.
Minerals containing radioactive elements with short half-lives, such as plutonium, melted into extinction long ago (all plutonium on Earth today is man-made). And Heaney suspects there's a new field of mineral archaeology just waiting to be born.
"No one has ever mapped out mineral extinction in Earth's history," Heaney said. "In a way, [Hazen's] work forces us to think in those terms and look for the mineral equivalent of a fossil record."
I usually have my homepage set to Metazoica.com, but this time since I f-disked my computer, it's been set to the Toshiba website. I've just been too lazy to switch it back, but I like that, because it's got a list of scientific news articles from discovery.com, many about evolution. So when I see one that sounds particularly interesting, I'll share it here.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
These animals were carnivorous, relying less on vegetation for food, it caught it's prey by stealth. In fact, at first all whales were killers. Ambulocetus was a rather slow swimmer, more like sea otters than like modern whales or dolphins. After Ambulocetus was an almost fully aquatic creature known as Rodhocetus. Though it was much more aquatic than Ambulocetus, it still retreated to land. Why is anybody's guess. Probably to bask in the sun or to supplement their diet with small land animals. It was believed, like Ambulocetus, to swim in a rather otter-like fashion. It is however, much more whale-like than it's earlier predecessors.
About 30 million years ago or so, these animals lost their legs and became another very whale-like animal known as Basilosaurus. Basilosaurus was a huge, serpentine whale that inhabited the ancient Tethys sea. Often, these animals still swam up to estuaries to hunt bathing animals. They were scary-looking, with a head much life a shark with crushing jaws and sharp teeth.
This animal was first thought to be a giant lizard, but further studies have pinpointed it as the closest relatives to dolphins. As you can see, they still have remnants of their back legs, but they are greatly reduced and almost useless for all but to steady the females for mating. No modern whale has this, although a bottlenose dolphin, who was a freak of nature was spotted in 2006 that still had hind flippers similar to these. But it was just one animal with some kind of genetic mutation. Indeed embryonic dolphins still have the rear flippers, but these disappear later on in their development.