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, March 30, 2009
Ornithomimid Strip Club
And no, this post is not about the rather odd sex lives of Megapnosaurus. That post will be coming....eventually.
Family of the Week: The Rabbucks
Also known as Lagomerycines, at first, this family was inspired by Dixon’s rabbucks. But myself and a friend have been working on these animals and we’ve made them our own now. Though we have kept the basic idea going that they are derived from modern hares. Most species have the longer ears of hares and superb hearing. The eyesight is also very good in these animals. But the sense of smell is no better than ours. The ears are highly mobile, and capable of swiveling in different directions. The legs are long, and the feet are soft, with small hooves, rather than the fully-hooved feet of the animals presented in Dixon’s book. The incisors are elongate and grow out of the roof of the mouth. The tail is rather longer than those of hares, and usually held high when running and carried low when at rest. They live in rather large herds, up to 30 individuals. In many places, at their time of the era, these animals take the place of antelopes. Unlike modern hares that move with a leaping motion, these animals are true runners.
The largest and most unusual species are in the genus Zebralagus. These animals have long necks and take the place of giraffes after their extinction. They are about as tall as modern giraffes as well. And like the modern giraffes, the neck is not that flexible. They live on a diet of leaves and even fruits. Their size offers some protection against predators, but it also makes them incapable of running very fast. These animals have smaller tusks than any other member of this family in proportion to their body size. These animals prefer to live in couples, rather than in herds. These animals are named for the color pattern on the body, most species have a zebra-striped pattern all over their body, with the exception of Z. virgatus, which has a giraffe-like pattern.
The smallest of these animals is Microlagus, which is about the same size as a modern hare. The personality is also much the same as modern hares. They live in underground burrows, and several can inhabit an area, though not necessarily in herds. They are grass-eaters and take the place of modern prairie dogs in the Metazoic Old World. The incisors of these animals have formed into flat, shovel-like extentions they can use to expand their burrows. Males of Microlagus stay with their own females for life, and may move from one burrow to another. The feet of Microlagus is what also makes these animals unique, they tried to become a true hooved mammal, like a deer, but they haven’t been able to become one. But they stand on their rather oversized hoof-like claws better than any other member of this family.
The longest tail in the family belongs to Ungulamys, the tail is as long as the head and body and tipped with a tassel. Ungulamys is also equipped with hooved “thumbs” for grasping a branch for feeding. These are leaf-eaters, and the tail acts to balance the animal on it’s hind legs so it can reach up and use their flexible “hands” to grasp a clump of leaves to feed on. Another unusual species in this family is Dolabrodon, whose incisors have grown out the sides of the mouth, giving the head an axe-like appearance. These incisors are used to hack off branches of trees and bushes to bring down the greenest leaves or the ripest fruits they can reach.
Predators of these animals are mainly foxes, predatory rats and squirrels, and snakes. These animals can sometimes use their tusks as a means of defense against a predator, but usually they prefer to run. They can reach speeds of up to 45 mph. They can also kick with their feet, and the sharp hooves can tear open a large predatory rat.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
All Your Tuataras Are Belong To Us
Friday, March 27, 2009
Dinosaurs of Texas
As long as we are talking about new/unknown and fascinating dinosaur sites in the U.S., I might as well bring up the new Arlington Archosaur Site in Arlington, Texas. This site has garnered a bit of attention in the last few days, and is rather interesting to quite a few people, myself included.
One reason the Arlington Archosaur Site has been given so much attention is because it is in Arlington, Texas. Arlinton is smack dab in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a huge urban area. Most of the time, cities tend to be built on sites that do not contain dinosaur fossils, but Dallas and Fort Worth are exceptions. Like twin magnets, these cities seem to just draw dinosaur fossils to them, resulting in many fantastic dinosaur finds. There have even been dinosaurs found in the DFW airport!
The Arlington Archosaur Site itself is situated in the Woodbine Formation, a strata of rocks dating back to aproximately the Early Cretaceous period, 95 million years ago. Specifically, the site is Cenomanian in age, a period dating back towards the end of the Early Cretaceous. During the Cenomanian, a great inland sea cut North America, and Texas, right down the middle. The Dallas-Fort Worth coast was probably swamps and wetlands, much like the Everglades or the coast of Alabama or Mississippi today.
As the site name would suggest, numerous archosaurs have been found here at this site. One of these is Woodbinesuchus, a thin-snouted crocodile which probably resembled today's gharial. Like the modern gharial, the thin snout of Woodbinesuchus suggests that it was primarily a fish-eater, using its long snout and needle-like teeth to catch fish in the water.
The main dinosaur of the Arlington Archosaur Site is Protohadros. Protohadros is a primitive hadrosaur (or, as contested by some, an advanced hadrosaur-like iguanodontian) known from a skull found in Flower Mound, Texas, also in the Woodbine formation. Technically, we are not totally sure if the hadrosaur here is Protohadros, as the only other Protohadros specimen is known from the skull, which this specimen is lacking, but the general anatomy and the fact that no other hadrosaurs are known from the Woodbine formation suggest that it is Protohadros. Even better, the atlas vertebra of this animal has been found, which is a good indicator that the skull is also in the ground, merely awaiting excavation.
In addition to Protohadros, there have been several fossils of a theropod dinosaur found at the site. However, unlike Protohadros, these fossils are as of yet unable to be identified down to the generic level, or any further than "theropod". Theropods are unknown from the Woodbine formation, so hopefully more material of this animal will be found so science will be able to figure out what this animal is.
Only one question remainds. The site is called the Arlington Archosaur Site, but there have been turtles found there. So...that would make it the Arlington Aminote Site? But then there's that new species of lungfish....
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Way I Speculate
When I create a family for my site, I like to think outside the box. Because one of the things I learned about evolution is one of the rules are there ain't no rules!! Evolution can sometimes take unexpected turns. It is a very complex process. People can think there is only one path for each family in evolution, but that is not so. Who would have ever guessed that modern whales would evolve from small, dog-like hooved insectivores? Yes, hooved! With feet like deer and pigs. How about our own evolution? We started to become aquatic apes at one point. Read about Oreopithecus. Then we made a turn-around and started walking on land again. All it takes is for some natural forces to turn on or off certain genes. I was watching a program last night that discussed creating a dinosaur from a modern bird by turning on some genes that had been dormant for millions of years. If we could do it, surely nature can. And in some cases she has. There have been dolphins popping up that still have their hind flippers. That's rare for an adult dolphin. They usually have them when they are still embryos in utero. But the hind flippers usually disappear well before they are born. But somehow in these mutant dolphins, the gene that makes those flippers disappear has been turned off. If those dolphins were to mate, they may have offspring that could also develop the rear flippers.
Now, when I say evolution can take unexpected turns, that does not mean that there will be terrestrial or arboreal squids!! Those are just plain stupid, created by someone with a severe squid-fetish!! They don't count. But to predict what way evolutionary paths may take, look at the young in all animals. That is when the genes decide what the animal will grow up to be like, and look like. That is when some genes are turned on and others turned off. What the baby will look like depends on the genes given to them by both parents. Simple as that. Also, babies learn from their parents. A parent sees a new food source that they like, the baby imitates it, next thing you know, the species is developing an adaptation to handle that new food item. Look at lemurs that feed on Eucalyptus leaves in Madagascar. Normally, this would be detrimental to their health. But they've adapted well. There's some big evolutionary possibilities there! Look at the species Fructiphagous on my site. It feeds on eucalyptus leaves and recycles the toxins through pores on their skin to make them distasteful and even toxic to predators. If we humans were to feed on them, we would suffer the same severe symptoms associated with eating the leaves themselves. Not to mention they'd smell like cough drops.
Well, there is just some ideas I think of when I speculate. This is also why I really like working ALONE, with a very select few people. And I do mean *FEW*!!! I don't trust just anyone to critique my ideas, and I don't trust just anyone to give me new ideas. I'm always glad when someone tells me they like my site, I'm even happy when someone says they don't like my site. I always just chalk it up to that person has their views, and I have mine. I've been studying evolution for 20+ years, and I know what I am doing and why I am doing it. The work I've managed to accumulate over the past 20 years has given rise to more than 3000 species in the Metazoic, and that number continues to grow.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The Untold Story of Hypsibema
What exactly is Hypsibema missouriensis? Well, in short it is a hadrosaur trying very hard to be a sauropod. I have read in some texts (though I cannot, for the life of me, remember what they were) that Hypsibema was one of the largest hadrosaurs, while probably not as big as Shantungosaurus, certainly big enough to rival many of the other largest hadrosaurs of all time. In fact, it was so large that on its discovery it was mistaken to be a small sauropod. It was probably one of the largest dinosaurs of Eastern North America in its time.
But what makes Hypsibema so interesting? Simply put, the fact that it is from Eastern North America. During the Late Cretaceous, Eastern North America was separated from Western North America, by an interior seaway chock full of mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, killer fish, and pterosaurs and birds. The two land masses were isolated for some time (at least since the Turonian), and thus developed their own unique fauna. We know what the fauna of Western North America was during the Late Cretaceous, full of tyrannosaurs, ceratopsians, ankylosaurs, lambeosaurine and hadrosaurine hadrosaurs, etc.
But there comes a problem when we speak of Eastern North America. Fossils of dinosaurs in Eastern North America are not too common. We only have some fragments from Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota, this site from Missouri, some somewhat rich deposits in North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Alabama, and that is about it. Many of these are only complete enough for them to be identified as "theropod" or "hadrosaur". Even worse, there is little to no attention paid to these fossils, despite the fact that the first two American dinosaurs ever were discovered here, and we are literally sitting on a "lost continent" here. Nevertheless, we do know of what some Eastern North American dinosaurs were like. There were the dryptosaurs, primitive long-armed, three-fingered tyrannosaurs like Dryptosaurus and Appalachiosaurus, which were probably the dominant predators. One also sees nodosaurs, though as of yet we have been unable to identify them to the species level. And there are numerous hadrosaurs, including Hadrosaurus itself (which may be defunct), Hypsibema, and others.
About the site itself. Digs have been conducted there annually for quite some time now. In 1999 a greenhouse was erected over the site, allowing for year-round excavation. More fossils have been found since then, including crocodiles, turtles, more bones of Hypsibema, and two bones of theropods. More recently, a large block of bones was found, which contains vertebrae and other bones from a dinosaur (or else a very big croc), most likely belonging to Hypsibema. This interesting site should be kept an eye on, if for all else because it is one of the only dinosaur sites active in the Eastern U.S.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Here There Be (Not) Dragons
The next problems arise on the page documenting the distribution of dragons throughout the world. Not only do the authors of this book fail the history of science, they apparently failed taxonomy as well. First off, all the dragons have the genus name Draco. Every. Single. One. Of course, there is the slight problem that the genus name Draco is already occupied, by a small gliding lizard from Asia. Not only that, but the authors screw up the rules of subspecies as well. Take for example the subspecies of European dragons, D. occidentalis magnus and D. occidentalis martimus. Or the three or so species of "amphitheres", D. americanus mex, D. americanus tex, and D. americanus incognito. First off, the very definition of a subspecies states that one subspecies has to have the same subspecies as its species, that's the whole point of a subspecies, to further differentiate below the species level. Where are D. occidentalis occidentalis and D. americanus americanus? Secondly, while science does not frown upon using non-Latinic words in scientific names, it does demand they be "latinized". Thus, D. americanus tex and D. americanus mex should be D. americanus texanus and D. americanus mexicanus, under the rules of classification.
Other than its classification, there are other problems with D. occidentalis martimus, otherwise known as the frost dragon. First off, the book claims that the frost dragon attacks with a frost blast. What? How can the same venom that produces the fiery blast in most other species of dragons, suddenly turn to ice just because the animal lives in the Arctic. The other problem is that the range of the frost dragon is a Holarctic one, ranging across Greenland, North America, and Scandinavia. And yet the article says that the frost dragon says it eats leopard seals...which live on the other side of the world. This book also fails geography forever, apparently.
There are also numerous problems with the amphitheres. First off, the book states that prehistoric amphitheres killed their prey by using their powerful talons. So...why did the talons vanish from the amphithere's body. To put this in perspective, that would be like saying that an anteater's claws and long tongue, the very means by which it makes its living, would suddenly vanish. It makes no sense. But all that seems miniscule by their claims regarding Archaeopteryx and the phoenix. According to the book, Archaeopteryx is a species of primitive phoenix, a group that represent transitional forms between venomous reptiles and dragons. WHAT! So...birds share a common ancestor with dragons...who both evolved from toxicoferans (the "venomous reptile" clade, which includes monitor lizards, gila monsters, snakes, and iguanas. Yes, really.) Apparently, this person hasn't picked up a single paleontology book in their lives. I mean, even when the bird-dinosaur theory wasn't popular, scientists still knew birds were related to archosaurs in some way.
Finally, we come to the marsupial dragon. WHAT! So, let me get this straight, just because an animal lives in Australia, it automatically makes it a marsupial? So that explains all those pouched crocodiles, monitor lizards, and birds running around in Australia, then. And what about the Australian dragon-like creatures in aboriginal mythology. The bunyip, people, the bunyip! And the thing hops. Like a kangaroo.
Of course, for every poorly done speculative biology book, there is a good one on the same subject. If one wants to read an actually good book on the subject of "dragon natural history", I would reccomend Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History by Paul and Karin Johnsgard.
Edit - Upon further rereading of the book, I discovered that it states that frost dragons make annual migrations to and from each pole. This...sort of explains how leopard seals can figure into a frost dragon's diet, but it doesn't explain how a creature can survive for half the year by feeding on the apex predator of an environment (it just doesn't work). Nor does it explain why they breathe ice.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Let me tell you all something about this guy, he would call Gordon Ramsay a dunderhead if he was trying to become a cook. That's the kind of person he is. Us normal people know Ramsay is a master chef, and a genius in his field. But like me, he tells it like it is, and doesn't sugar-coat anything. That's what I personally love about him. Now, I don't consider myself to be a master of future evolution, but I was probably the first after Dixon's After Man to come up with a world of the future. I have drawings, books, and sketches of these animals on my Metazoic site that are older than most of the people on the SE forum!! I was studying evolution while they were still suckling their mamas' breasts! Oh wait. I don't think they even did that. One of them has a classic symptom of someone who never breast-fed and hates the World because of it. So let's say, I was studying evolution while they were still drinking out of bottles. I wouldn't really even put myself in the same class as Gordon Ramsay. But my basic point is some people just don't like any kind of opposing views, and those people never learn anything. They just live and breathe that the whole World is against them. That sure is not me!!
Now, I know there are some good people on that forum, I am not attacking those people, the people I am attacking, they know who they are. And to this guy I was talking about before, he thinks I can never match his sarcasm. So I must say to him: don't EVER underestimate me! I can think circles around you and all your friends, and out-wit you at every turn!! And I wouldn't even have to use name-calling and cussing like he does. LOL! Name-calling and cussing is not true sarcasm, and they sure don't indicate intelligence! They are last resorts of a desperate person.
To my friends, I will not mention any names on here, as I don't think I have to. I am not afraid of getting into a "bitch-war" with this person at all! My track-record speaks for it's self anyway. I just feel some things needed to be said. Some people thought that just because I was gone that I would not be able to know what was being said about me, and I have mentioned this on my Timmyfan blog too. I don't know why, but people think that just because a person's back is turned or they leave a forum, that gives the other people the right to boo them behind their back. Cowards! So this is why I feel these things need to be said. But I promised one of my friends I would not mention any names.
Oh, and about the guy who I was talking about, don't worry about me. He doesn't even have a spine!! You should read what he did to Katrina on her blog. He banned her from his journal because she told it to him like it was!! LOL! WTG Katrina!!!!!
Friday, March 20, 2009
I almost felt like I haven't left. My sis Anna let me use her computer most of that time. But this week she had finals in college, so she wanted her computer back. But then yesterday we happened to be window shopping and found this laptop on sale, we had the cash in the bank for it so we got it. I love it too! As soon as I work out the bugs on here, it'll be totally awesome!!!
Well, tonight my sis and I are going to have a special night, I will write all about it as soon as I return. A certain someone and his friends will be eating their words if all goes as planned!! LOL! And I cannot wait to get back and rub his nose in it! LOL! I don't want to mention anything yet because I want to make sure it's all true. Well, we've already been nominated, so it's mostly true. I just want to make sure of one last thing before I say anything. But for sure, I will know by tonight. And one way or another, it's going to be good!! But to give a bit of a hint, I will be saying Who is the "dunderhead" now? LOL!!!!
Well, I will be giving my opinion on all that tonight. I just wanted to let everyone know I am back.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Everything You Know Is A Lie!
Meet Tienyulong confucusi (there is some debate on whether the name is acceptable following the ICZN), a new Early Cretaceous heterodontosaurid from China. While Cretaceous heterodontosaurs are weird, but not unknown (the dinosaur Echinodon is oftetimes thought of as a heterodontosaur), the really shocking feature of this animal is the coat of quilly feathers it has running down its back and tail! These are definitely protofeathers too, as they resemble the protofeathers found in other dinosaurs, such as Bepiaosaurus, to an extent.
What's even more interesting is that the quills of Tienyulong seem to be somewhat intermediate between the highly derived quill structures known from ceratopsians (Psittacosaurus), and the more primtivie "fluffiness" of other dinosaurs. In fact, it now seems very likely that all ornithodirans were feathered, at least to an extent. Feathers have been found in all three of the major ornithodiran groups (Pterosaurs, like the famous Sordes, theropods, ranging from tiny Sinosauropteryx and modern hummingbirds to therizinosaurs and tyrannosaurs, and now ornithiscians, Psittacosaurus, Tienyulong, and possibly Triceratops).
This suggests that groups that have not yet been found with feathers, such as coelophysoid theropods, silesaurids, and such, probably did have feathers as adults. As for the ornithischians, it seems likely that the smaller forms were fluffy or had a feathery mane, and in the larger species (horse sized and up) that we know were mostly covered in scales, they may have had a feather "mane" as is often portrayed by the paleoartist Luis Rey. As for sauropods, I have heard Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology fame once suggest that there is a slight possibility that the keratinous spines of diplodocids are somehow related to feathers. And of course, the baby sauropods of Auca Mahuevo may have been fuzzy as well.
Speaking of coelophysoid theropods, consider this my equivalent of a weekly blog post, as I may not be able to post the article on dinosaurian pimps just yet.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Big Bad Birds
(A picture of an azdarchid pterosaur next to a giraffe and a human for comparison, by the excellent Paleo-Artist Mark Witton.)
To clarify, the subject of this week’s post is not the same as in this Penny Arcade strip.
Rather, this post discusses the possibility of gigantic, monstrous birds developing in the future.
For years, scientists have been fascinated and intrigued on how the pterosaurs, the premier flying animal group of the Mesozoic, achieved such colossal sizes, particularly the azdarchids. Azdarchids were massive pterosaurs, which grew to the size of giraffes and had wingspans of over 40 feet. For a long time the lifestyle of these animals was a mystery, until it was suggested by Darren Naish and Mark Witton that azdarchids were terrestrial stalkers, similar in lifestyle to ground hornbills today. Even more surprisingly, it has been suggested by several paleontologists, such as David Unwin, that the sizes of the azdarchids were not the upper limit of size that flying animals could achieve, and that wingspans of over sixty-six feet were possible!
Now, how in the world could an animal the size of a giraffe get into the air and fly. There have been many suggestions, but it has recently been discovered that pterosaurs had air-sacs in their wings, reducing their overall weight and allowing them to become airborne, as can be seen in this Tetrapod Zoology post.
This idea has been taken up by several other sources, such as Nemo Ramjet in his story Hatzegopteryx Rape. (There was another paleontologist who suggested this before, but I forget it now, dang...)
Birds also have their own equivalent of pterosaur air sacs, in the form of subcutaneous air sacs under the skin. In the aforementioned post, Darren Naish mentioned that several different types of birds today have these air sacs, including vultures, bustards, and pelicans. In addition to these, the most famous example of air sacs in birds can be seen in the screamers, bizarre quail-like birds from South America that are actually very primitive anseriforms (as in ducks and geese). The flesh of screamers is riddled with air sacs, which makes these birds rather unsavory to the people of the region.
So what does this mean for birds in the future? Well, the largest flying bird today is the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) and there have been larger flying birds in the past (Argentavis, with a wingspan of over five meters). However, due to subcutaneous air sacs, birds could possibly get even bigger in the future. Perhaps in the future, we could see much larger birds, perhaps volant species the size of a human or one of the ornithocheiroid pterosaurs (like Pteranodon). I would be hesitant to say that future birds could get to azdarchid size, but you never know.
However, there may be some problems with this idea. Some scientists suggest that the reason such large animals as the azdarchids could get airborne was the face that they walked on four legs, rather than two legs like modern birds. The additional strength of the extra limbs could help propel them into the air, and get them flying. Interestingly, bats today are quadrupedal, rather than bipedal, so if this theory is correct bats could achieve larger aerial sizes than they already have.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Seven Animals You Probably Never Heard Of
I was very surprised to find how few people knew of these animals...especially since they live in my country. Peccaries, or javelinas as they are sometimes called over here in the states (though javelina may be used just to refer to the Collared Peccary, just FYI), are not pigs, but actually a group of native North American mammals, some of the few to survive the extinctions of the Late Miocene (the other survivors? Pronghorn, canids...and I think that's about it. All the rest are extirpitated or extinct). Unlike their pig look-alikes, Peccaries have wicked canine teeth, which are built more like fangs than tusks. There are three (possibly four) species of peccaries, and what makes them interesting is that they have been able to adapt to habitats in North America that pigs cannot. Also some evidence suggests that the peccary's closest relatives...might be entelodonts. Chew on that for a while.
2. Tree Shrews
No, despite the name, these are not shrews. In fact, if one were to put them in any already existing order, one might as well call them primitive primates! Tree shrews are small, arboreal animals native to the Old World. Long dumped in with the primates, new research suggests that they actually are distinct enough to make their own order, the Scandentia. Some tree shrew species are threatened, but others are common and likely to survive. The fact that they are allied to us, as well as the fact that they are adaptable and resemble the most primitive primates (i.e. Purgatorius) make them especially interesting.
This order you've definitely never heard of. Better known as "flying lemurs", colugos are an order with just two genera, both in Southeast Asia. However, they are also an ancient lineage, with possible colugo fossils (though incomplete) popping up in the Eocene. Colugos are strange creatures, distantly related to us, but having a patagium which they use to glide. Two other odd traits of colugos is that they are the best gliders of any mammal, and that they give birth almost like a marsupial, despite clearly being placentals. Colugos are herbivores. These bizzare animals need to be conserved, but luckily it doesn't seem like they are in as grave of a predicament as...say....the Javan Rhinoceros or the Giant Panda.
Once again, a truly awesome artiodactyl is overlooked on account of people wanting to see ferocious carnivorans, and massive rhinos, elephants, and giraffes. These lightweight antelopes have a particularly odd adaptation, one that gives them an advantage over their kin...their neck and legs. Gerenuks have immensely disproportionate necks and legs, which allow them to browse high above the other antelope of their region. They can even rear up and walk on their hind legs for short periods of time, which plays a part in their mating ritual. Gerenuks are interesting because they seem to have a lot of potential.
These are some of my favorite birds, specifically due to their weirdness. Hoatzin have the most untapped potential of almost any bird today. First off, as juveniles they have wing claws in an almost Archaeopteryx-like arrangement, allowing them to climb through the trees. These claws are lost on adulthood, but who knows what a little neotenous mutation could do. Secondly, hoatzin are the only birds that can ruminate, and along with geese are some of the only birds that can digest tough plant matter like grass (though hoatzin eat leaves). Their ruminating anatomy makes them poor fliers, so they hang around on branches a lot of the time. But, predators and people leave them alone, because as a side effect their rumination gives them an awful taste and smell. Thankfully, the hoatzin's fate is actually more assured than most other rainforest birds in South America, and will definitely survive for a while.
What looks like a crane, acts like a quail, but isn't either? The sunbittern. This odd little bird is so odd simply because it seems to be unrelated to anything. So far, the most likely idea is that this little bird is related to another odd species, the kagu of New Calidonia. There are some features which link these two together, like the prescence of powder down, but the jury is still out...and confused.
Desmans are aquatic relatives to the moles, looking all the world like shrews with paddles for feet. These small mammals are primarily insectovorous, though I would assume they would eat small fish if given the chance. What is interesting about these critters is that their limbs are almost exactly like those seen in the early whale Rodhocetus, which suggests that the latter animal swam like a desman. There appear to be many other interesting features of desmans, but unfortunately studies in desmans are lacking. Even worse, both species are threatened with extinction, and have little to no conservation effort underway to protect them.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Blog Of The Day!
The Evolutionary Future of Cats
Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Of all the pantherines, or big cats, the jaguar looks to be the only one to have a really good chance of surviving into the future. Jaguars are spread across a wide swath of land, ranging from Mexico to Argentina. This greatly helps their chance for survival. There is also indications that jaguars are moving their range back north again, to their old haunts of Texas and the American Southwest. If they can get there, then their survival is essentially assured. Americans have always been rather good about their conservation, especially that of large mammals.
But there is another reason why the jaguar is interesting, apart from its range. In the Pleistocene the jaguar and the cougar competed with each other for food and resources. To minimize competition the two specialized slightly for different habitats, the cougar becoming more of a mountain-dwelling animal and the jaguar becoming better adapted for the rivers, lakes, and waterways. The jaguar then began to adapt to the prey of its new home, specifically turtles. Jaguars are unusual among cats in that they have a massive crushing bite force, which is usually used to kill turtles but is enough to smash a glyptodont’s skull wide open. In the future, jaguars could take their jaws to new heights, becoming the cat equivalent of tyrannosaurs or hyenas.
Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)
Despite the name, jaguarundis are not related to jaguars at all, they are actually closer relatives to the cougar or cheetah. Together, these three cats form a group to the exclusion of the other cats, though this clade has yet to be given a name. Jaguarundis are found in Central and South America, but also in the deserts of Texas and the southwest (the southwest is also home to cougars, ocelots, and bobcats in addition to the jaguarundi, how weird).
The jaguarundi does not look very much like its cousins the cougar or the cheetah, or like any other cat for that matter. In fact, the jaguarundi looks a heck of a lot like the fisher, an arboreal mustelid carnivore found further north in the U.S. In addition, the skull of a jaguarundi looks a lot like that of an otter, another strange coincidence. In the future, jaguarundis could evolve into effective desert carnivores, their lanky bodies allowing them to dart through canyons and thorny brush.
Cougar (Puma concolor spp.)
The cougar could almost be considered sort of a Cinderella story amongst cats. Despite being as big as a leopard or a jaguar, cougars are not related to them at all. Rather, cougars are “small cats” in the family Felinae, along with your domestic house cat. The proof of this is in the pudding, or in this case the cougar’s voicebox. Cougars cannot roar, like lions or tigers, but can purr, like the housecat.
Cougars were once hunted relentlessly, like wolves and bears, on the basis that they were detrimental to livestock. I can see what they meant, as I have heard stories of cougars taking down fully grown bison (as in the bison later died of blood loss, not the cougar actually felling the beast). Cougars have also held on better than wolves have, and are actually making their way back east. Cougars have already been seen on a spotty basis in the Eastern U.S., perhaps one day they will range over all of North America, or radiate out to take the place of the possibly extinct big cats.
Servals (Leptailurus serval)
If there is any cat likely to replace the cheetah, it is the serval. These lanky felines, native to sub-saharan Africa, have the long legs of any cat. Although they prefer rodents, servals are also known to attack rabbits, hyraxes, and even smaller antelope. Servals also have large ears and a long neck, to see and hear prey in the long grass. All these adaptations make servals one of the most efficient cats, catching their prey 50% of the time.
In the future, servals could take their lankiness and senses to the extremes, replacing the likely-to-be-extinct cheetah. It could use its long legs and excellent senses to track down antelope, and then race after them at amazing speeds. Servals are also excellent leapers, and oftentimes hop or pounce on their prey, which could serve a hypothetical cheetah-like serval well.
Caracals (Caracal caracal)
Despite their appearance, caracals are not related to lynxes. In fact, their fake lynx act is so good that it had biologists fooled for a time, until genetic studies came out. As it turns out, the caracal is actually related to the serval, not the lynxes. Also unlike the true lynxes, the caracal is native to the dry steppes and desert, but will occasionally go into woodland areas.
Caracals have excellent hearing, but their main claim to fame is the fact that they are excellent bird-catchers. Being excellent leapers and jumpers, caracals are agile enough to catch a bird in mid-flight. However, the caracal is also adept at catching rodents, hyraxes, rabbits, and even small antelope, gazelles, and ostriches.
Clouded Leopard (Neofelis spp.)
Meet the clouded leopard. Among the cats, it has the largest canines of all, a whopping two inches long! These cats are excellent arboreal hunters, taking on deer and such on the ground, and attacking gibbons and monkeys in trees. If these cats survive, they could develop their canines into more effective killing tools, and saber-toothed cats could once again walk the Earth.
Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)
The fishing cat is a rather odd and unique species of cat from Southeast Asia. It swims very well, even better than its close cousin the Leopard Cat, which is very good at swimming itself. The Fishing Cat, as its name suggests, feeds mainly on fish and other aquatic animals. Its digits are webbed, allowing it to swim and gain traction on muddy ground rather well.
In the future, the Fishing Cat could capitalize on these adaptations, and become more adapted for life in the water. It could become fully aquatic, the cat equivalent of a river otter. Unfortunately, this cat is currently endangered, and its survival into the future does not seem assured.
Domestic Cat (Felis catus)
So why, why on Earth is the domestic cat in here, amongst all these other fascinating members of the feline family? Well, domestic cats are some of the most adaptable of all carnivorans. By hitching a ride with humanity, these cats are now found on six of the seven continents, and have succeeded in surviving without human help in all of them. Feral cats are so good at what they do, in fact, that they can sometimes seriously affect the populations of local songbirds. Of all the cats, this cat is the most likely (and very likely at that) to survive into the future.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Sorry. Go on with the scientific posts! Certain people will get their's real soon. ;)
Monday, March 2, 2009
The Madness Continues
Meet Screature, the latest in a long line of robotic dinosaur companions, including Roboraptor and their kin. Like many other robotic dinosaur "pets", Screature can be put into guard mode, roars, responds to your touch, and can interact with you via an infared sensor. But wait, Screature is different, can't you tell? Still can't get it, well look at this...
(Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Meet Dilophosaurus wetherelli, a large coelophysoid theropod found across North America, known from both fossils in the Arizona Kayenta Formation, and footprints scattered across New England and labelled "Eubrontes". "Screature", is the first robotic dilophosaurus...with a frill.
For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past decade or two, Dilophosaurus' first and only appearance in film was in the famous (or among palentologists, infamous) movie Jurassic Park. Well, I guess I shouldn't call it a Dilophosaurus anymore, seeing as how it was the size of a dog, had a frill, and spat poison at its enemies (and the occasional obese man
Now, don't go blaming Michael Crichton for this. He actually has an excuse. In the original book Jurassic Park, Crichton has Dilophosaurus at its normal size (20 feet long), and is completely frill-less. Now, it does spit poison, but there is a reason for this. Dilophosaurus had rather weak jaws for a theropod, probably using its flexible, weak jaws to snag smaller animals, and then using its massive ripper talons on its forelimbs to bring down larger animals. Crichton, thinking that Dilos had to have another way to catch prey if its jaws were so weak (and getting a dose of misinformation from one Gregory S. Paul), gave it poisonous saliva, like a Komodo Dragon, and the ability to spit it.
Enter Steven Spielberg. Spielberg screwed up the original telling of Jurassic Park in so many ways. He edited out the compy scene, gave the raptors steroids, and changed the plot of the book (originally ALL the dinosaurs couldn't see you if you stood still, because of the frog DNA) so that the "he can't see you if you don't stand still" was part of the T-rex's natural genome. But by far, his greatest screw-up was with the Dilophosauruses. To "distinguish them from the raptors", he shrunk the Dilos down (ironically, to the natural size of a Velociraptor), and gave them a gaudy frill.
This is a great injustice to Dilophosaurus. Dilophosaurs were the first large carnivorous dinosaurs ever, that's what made them so interesting. Not to mention there is no evidence of frills or poison in Dilophosaurus. One can tell if an animal was poisonous or not, by the way their teeth are built; they are grooved. Dilophosaurus...no grooved teeth. In fact NO dinosaur, save a possible tooth from Baja California, has any evidence to suggest they were venomous. As for the frill, frills are attached to the body by muscle (especially if they can be erected and moved), and so we would be able to tell if Dilophosaurus had a frill...it didn't.
So why is Screature so bad? Despite all of the evidence pointing against a Spiebergian Dilophosaurus, pop culture seems to refuse the actual idea of a non-venomous, frill-less, though bigger and tougher Dilophosaurus. Screature is just the latest in a long line of these, ParaWorld and other pop culture items (even in places like DeviantArt) have a frilled Dilophosaurus, and seem to be following the "Rule of Cool" http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool more than any actual science. The only non-Spiebergian Dilo out there? Turok. Yes, Turok. Turok is the sole non-scientific piece of pop culture that shows Dilos as they truly are, rather than what the public wants them to be. This really has to stop, we can't be holding onto disproven ideas, just because they are cool. That's not how the world works...
This post brought to you by a Dilophosaurus wetherelli playing an electric guitar.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Family of the Week: The Roos
Carnophalanger is the largest fully predatory mammal in Metazoic Australia. They stand on average about 16 feet tall, with a total length of about 35 feet. They eat anything that moves, from other kangaroos, to small possums, to crocodiles, biting into them with their 5-inch long, sharp, serrated incisors and keeping them from struggling by holding them with their powerful arms that are themselves equipped with strong hands and powerful, razor-sharp claws. This animal is basically the perfect killer. When killing, they usually go for the head first, to crush the skull and dig out the brain of their prey for consumption. The large claws on the feet slash the prey's belly open to easily rip out the guts, which is usually just removed, not consumed. They next concentrate on the breast meat of their prey. They are lone hunters, rarely if ever hunting in packs. They are diurnal hunters that hunt by basically stalking their prey. They are much more attracted by movement from their prey than by smell or sound.
For the most part, kangaroos are vegetarians, though some smaller species, as today, will feed on small invertebrates. The most interesting members of this family are the Peradoradines, which are monkey-like, tree and rock-climbing kangaroos found in New Zealand. Their eyes face foreward, the muzzles are rather short and blunt, though not quite as short as in monkeys. The hands and feet are both completely opposable, to grasp branches easily. The claws are sharp, though not as curved as they are in modern tree kangaroos, but rather like those of bushbabies. The tail is actually longer than the head and body. The hind legs are somewhat longer than the forelimbs. The pelt is soft and thick, the only nude spots on the body are the nose, soles, and palms. The fur is short on the face, but not nude. The ears of most species are small and round. They are very agile leapers, much like lemurs and monkeys of today. They leap using a verticle hopping motion, much like we see in the sifakas of today. They are mostly vegetarians, though sometimes insects and grubs are consumed for the energy-giving, high protein content.
The most amazing kangaroo is Pholidurulus. Not only is it the smallest kangaroo, it is also the one that has the largest litters. Most roos have only one youngster, but this species can have as many as 4. The young are born much like they are in other roos: under-developed, tiny, with only their arms and mouths functioning. The pouch lining is small and closes tight, but the inside of the pouch is very roomy, to handle the capacity of up to 4 offspring. These babies continue to develop, but all their real growing occurs when they leave the pouch, which is after they get all their senses working, they're furry, the legs are working right, and they can move very well on their own. Pholidurulus is the only Metazoic kangaroo to have a scaly tail, much like a rat.
Not all kangaroos are bipeds. Latrogalea and Silfrangerus are quadrupeds. Their legs did not evolve shorter, their arms just got longer. Both species often sit up on their hind legs to get at higher-growing leaves, much like all kangaroos do. With the tail acting as a 3rd hind leg to keep the animal steady. But when it comes to moving around, they prefer to do it on all fours. Latrogalea is quite a fast runner as well. They bound and leap at 40 mph much like deer do.
The strangest-looking of all roos are those in the species Lambeifer. These kangaroos have head-dressings that consist of huge lumps, usually over the eyes and nasal areas on the head. The lumps are more prominent on the males, who use them to attract mates. The lumps are naked during the breeding season, and become larger and turn a bright red. Often the males are unable to see because their lumps get so swelled up over their eyes during the breeding season. But after breeding is over, the lumps return to a more normal state. During the breeding season, their acute hearing is often the males' greatest asset to avoid danger. They use both the claws on their feet and hands to swipe at other males, but the females find the males with the biggest and most colorful lumps to be the most attractive.
Predators of kangaroos are plenty. Carnophalanger is the main enemy, until Tamanoa reaches the Australian continent in the late half of the Metazoic. Snakes, crocodiles and monitor lizards also feed on the smaller roos, much like they do today. Some lemurs, like Bromista and Tyrannopithecus regularly bring down roos as well. Usually preferring the smaller species. Though sometimes other large lemurs, like Chirosapus, can get into bloody battles with Carnophalanger, this lemur is not a kangaroo-hunter. In fact, Cairosapus is more likely to be trying to prevent the roo from making it it's next meal! Predatory birds and bats are also predators of kangaroos.
Metazoica Under New Management
Well, uh, in case you haven’t read the title, Metazoica’s going to be out for a while. My name’s Metalraptor, and I’ll be your temporary host for the next few months while Metazoica works on her drawings and tries to find a new computer.
I guess I should tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a scientist-in-training who is fascinated with the “upper vertebrates”, archosaurs and mammals, but really love vertebrates in general. Among the vertebrates, I must say I am a mammal addict, specifically Oligocene-Miocene mammals of the world. I also have a speculative biology future world project of my own “Beasties of the Future,” but I don’t have the gall to put it on the web.
Now, I hate blogs that merely tell you “I got up today, I brushed my teeth, yadda, yadda, yadda”. So, instead of telling you about my boring life, instead I will be presenting to you a variety of essays on biology. Most of these will correlate with Speculative Biology, though the connection between others and the subject may be a little hard to see. But I will promise you I will try to make it as interesting as possible.
Unfortunately, there is some sad news as well. There won’t be any “new families posted” or any “families of the week” for a while. Me not being telepathetic, I can’t read Metazoica’s mind and tell you what she plans to put on her site. So until she gets back...no updates.
Now, I’m not Metazoica, so I’m going to be running things a little differently around here. My rules are slightly different, but they’re going to be what goes, so pay attention. First off, no copious swearing. I don’t care if you keep it at a PG level, but no f-bombing in this blog, from you or from me. Secondly, no insulting people. It is one thing to point out the inaccuracies in an idea, but it is another thing entirely to call people idiots and insult their mothers. Third, anything you post will be directly uploaded to the comment board. This is not my decision; its how Metazoica rigged it, so we both have to learn to deal with it.
So anyway, if you need any proof that I’m not Metazoica, let me tell you what next week’s first subject will be. The first post of mine here will be on...the evolutionary future of cats (Oh god Metazoica’s going to castrate me for this...).
Also, a bit of a disclaimer, and a warning. I’ve gotten a lot of my information from books and paleontological tomes from all over, but my information may not always be that correct and up-to-date. Before you go quoting me, I would suggest that you do the research yourself, and make sure you have all your facts right before you go saying something crazy like...well, can’t give you an example there, spoiler alert.
Finally, I love comments, comments make my blood flow and my four-chambered heart beat. If you want to leave a comment, click on the little comment button down at the end of each post, and leave me feedback...please. Anyway, tune in next week for the evolutionary future of cats!
Edit: I have removed my e-mail due to spambots