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.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Climate Change Can Supercharge Plant Growth
Emily Sohn, Discovery News
Feb. 24, 2009 -- Climate change might help some plants thrive -- not just because temperatures will be warmer, but because temperatures will be more variable.
As deeply frozen winters give way to more cycles of freezing and thawing, certain plants will become more productive, according to one of the first studies to consider the link, though not all plants will benefit and those that do might suffer in other ways.
"These findings illustrate that climate change will provide many surprising effects in ecosystems," said lead researcher Juergen Kreyling, of the University of Bayreuth in Germany. "Freeze-thaw cycles are just one phenomenon that is not yet understood but is rapidly changing."
According to projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many places with traditionally cold winters will begin to flirt more frequently with the freezing point as the climate heats up.
Normally, a thick snow cover insulates the soil in temperate and high-latitude regions, keeping ground temperatures fairly constant. But warmer days will lead to less snow on the ground, meaning the soil is more likely to freeze and thaw many times over the course of the season.
Previous research has shown that thawing and refreezing affects nutrient levels in the soil as well as microbial activity. Kreyling and colleagues wanted to know what the shift in winter weather would do to plant life.
In the winter of 2005-2006, the researchers planted several species of common grasses and herbs in 30 plots on the outskirts of Bayreuth, where average January temperatures usually hover around negative one degree Celsius (30 degrees F). Each plot contained 100 individual plants and a buried heating wire that could artificially thaw the soil.
When temperatures dropped below freezing and stayed there for 48 hours, the team turned on the wires in half of the plots. Two days later, they allowed the soil in these plots to freeze again. Over the course of the winter, the technique added five extra freeze-thaw cycles to the three that occurred naturally.
After harvesting, drying, and weighing the plants the following summer, measurements showed that heated plots contained 10 percent more biomass above ground than unheated plots did. In a paper in the journal New Phytologist, the researchers speculated that thawing and refreezing increases microbial activity and breaks up the soil, making plants more productive.
"Winter...is a time during which the plants were proposed to do nothing," Kreyling said. "It is astonishing that they seem to be able to take up nutrients that become available during the freeze-thaw events."
Not all news was good news, though. Results showed that roots were shorter in the heated plots. The same weather conditions might be harder on other plant species, added Hugh Henry, a plant ecologist at the University of Western Ontario. And, he said, nutrients that leach out of the soil during freezing and thawing cycles most likely end up in rivers, streams, and lakes, where they cause algal blooms and other problems.
"This indicates," Henry said, "that changes in climate and more extreme climate events could potentially have fairly large effects on nutrient availability and the way plants grow."
Monday, February 23, 2009
The largest species is Magnicamelus, with a height of about 45 feet. This animal lives in couples. They feed on the higher leaves of certain trees. The tongue is long and flexible and is often all that is used to grasp the leaves. The trees they feed from are covered with sharp spikes and it seems the only way these camels can eat is to grab clumps of leaves with their tongue. The famale usually mates only once a year, and stays with the same bull for life. A single calf is born and stays with both parents who cooperate in raising the calf for as long as 2 years. Calves usually start off eating solid foods by feeding on grass or off small shrubs. These camels need to drink daily as well. Unlike giraffes, these animals have very flexible necks, and they do not struggle as much to take a drink. The neck is equally as long as either of the forelegs, and allows this animal to easily reach the water line without having to spread their legs way out.
The most unusual species in this family is Tripulliceros. This is the only camel that has horns on top of the head. The horns are small, flat and clover-shaped. These animals use their tiny horns to attract mates and to ward off rivals. They are never used for defense against predators. This species is as tall as a giraffe, but the backline is much more even. Like giraffes and Magnicamelus, this species feeds on the leaves of trees. But they live in slightly larger herds. Usually numbering about 5 individuals, led by a dominant male.
The smallest species are in the genus Neantilopa. These are small animals, the largest among them are no taller than 3 feet tall. They are very agile animals, and can run as fast as modern gazelles. They also live in the largest herds, of about 50 individuals, often even associating with several small, true antelope species, such as Myodorcas. They are grass-eaters. But unlike antelope, these animals can digest the tougher stalks and seed pods of grasses. Neantilopa has very large eyes that can see in any direction, and are very hard to approach on the plains. They do not generally bound and jump as gazelles do, but just simply run away from danger. They appear to be all legs, and this enables them to take off at remarkable speeds. They can take off at speeds of about 50 mph. The ears are the largest in the family and they can move in any direction. The hearing is superb and they can detect a predator's footfalls from several yards away, even among the chatter of their own comrades.
For the larger species, predators are rather few. Deinognathids are the worst predators, because to them, size does not deter them. Tyrannopithecines and other carnivorous pentadactyls may also take down these animals. As well as large mongooses, foxes and predatory bats. Some of the smaller species, like Neantilopa, may also be taken by large snakes, like the diamond anaconda.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Well, I have seen families split apart for less reason than that. Though I still have not made up my mind on all of this as of yet. But I like the idea of making sphinxipithecines a sub-family of the Metazoic apes, simply because it makes a bit better sense since the sphinx looks like a cross between a lion and a human. And that is apparently what gave the family the name. Maybe make the head a little bit more lion-like, with a longer muzzle and all, like I did with Urosimia, another Monaciid species. But not too long. It's the shorter muzzle that gives them the biggest biting power.
Friday, February 20, 2009
I wanted to find someone to take over the posts here until I can return, but the only person I really trust to keep on the subject told me he doesn't really respect bloggers. So I won't ask him. As for commenting, I'm probably going to have to fix it so that comments are posted immediately, instead of having to be approved by me. So any commenters who are reading this, if you want to say something, and you don't want it read by others, do not post it here. Instead, send it to me through e-mail. I can maybe try to get online about once a week at the library computer. But no promises there that I will be typing up anything new. The library only allows 1 hour per day per person. I know it sucks!
I am sorry for any inconvenience. I was trying to complete at least another family or size chart for my website. The problem is that I had to F-disk my computer, and when my computer went out, so did my site builder. And since this is going back to the store, I really don't want to download it on here again. So I will be working on all that when I get my own computer hopefully by early summer. I will however, try to get on to answer e-mails. I must let you all know I cannot promise I will answer each one right away, since I have many other places online that I like to visit. My hour at the library will be pretty much used up. In the meantime, until I can get my new computer, I will be working on more families for my website, and more size-charts. By the time I get my new computer, I should have quite a lot to put up. You all will see it. But again, don't expect it to come every day. I can only go to the library once a week. To even try and get there daily would be an impossible task, since I have a house to run too.
Well, this is NOT the end of Metazoica! Like the dawn of time, I will be back!
*****************EDIT to add*************************
Metalraptor will be taking over this blog while I am gone. He has agreed to keep it active. I will be giving him full privileges on March 1st.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Hibernating Animals Face Less Extinction Risk
Emily Sohn, Discovery News
Feb. 19, 2009 -- A spell of bad weather might send you running to bed. Plenty of animals act the same way, and it turns out the reclusive behavior can be a remarkably good way to avoid extinction.
Mammals that regularly hunker down, hibernate, or otherwise hide from the world are better at weathering environmental change than are less hermitic species, according to a new study. The finding offers a window into which animals might thrive as the climate changes and habitats vanish.
"Just imagine yourself in a war zone," said lead researcher Lee Hsiang Liow, a paleobiologist at the University of Oslo. "Having some food storage and a place to avoid harsh environmental conditions would help you survive that period while there was bombing outside in your habitat."
Liow and colleagues from both the University of Oslo and the University of Helsinki were originally looking in the fossil record for a link between body size and extinction rates among mammals.
An unexpected outcome of the study, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the hint that hibernation-like behaviors, which are more common in smaller animals, might help explain why smaller animals tend to be better survivors.
To test the idea, the scientists tapped into a database of more than 4,500 living mammal species. For most species, they looked at nine so-called sleep-or-hide behaviors -- including hibernation, using burrows or tunnels, and going into a state of torpor or dormancy. Next, the team looked up each species' category of conservation, as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The analyses, published this month in the American Naturalist, found that having at least one sleep-or-hide behavior made a species less likely to appear on the IUCN Red List as threatened or endangered. The category included black bears, hedgehogs, and raccoon dogs native to Asia.
The scientists used statistics to account for body size and range size -- both are strong predictors of an animal's risk of extinction. And still, the findings held.
"You can always find unique explanations or stories about why things happen to certain animals," Liow said. "What we're seeing here is that sleep-or-hide related traits are extra characteristics that could help predict extinction risk."
Conservation biologist Bill Toone was not surprised by the study's results.
"These animals are spending a lot of time in very insulated and protected areas," said Toone, executive director of EcoLife Foundation, a conservation group in San Diego. "Someone behind a cement wall would survive better than someone standing in the road when a big truck came by."
But, he said, identifying a group of animals that is especially good at surviving environmental change is an important finding. To him, the study also points to a scary future -- full of animals that spend lots of time underground.
"I see a world with far less diversity and probably more pest-level species," Toone said.
"When I think sleep-or-hide, my mind goes to gophers and rats."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I remember the days vividly when I used to "collect" frogs. I had all kinds of species. I had some red-eyed tree frogs, some monkey frogs, and several varieties of poison-dart frogs. The blues and greens were my favorites! But I also had reds and yellows as well. I think the poison dart frogs were my all-time favorite species to keep. Not only for the thrill, but also because they were the most active species. Most other frogs that you keep, just sit in one place until nightfall. That's because poison dart frogs are the only truly diurnal frogs.
Not only did I love keeping frogs, I also had lizards. Small ones mostly. Can you tell I love small things? LOL! I had mostly the smaller day geckos, longtailed grass skinks, anoles, other types of geckos, etc. I even had a big ol' tokay gecko! That sucker was MEAN!!!! But cute and funny! I remember he hated my dog, Andrew. Every time Andrew would go near the side of his terrarium, that gecko would lunge at him with his mouth open wide and I swear I could hear it hiss!! Andrew was always so curious of him, and he would always go near the side of his tank. And that would happen every time! I kept hoping that Andrew would get the message that the gecko just didn't want him near his cage, but he never did. To refrain the gecko from further stress, I had to work to keep Andrew away from him. I should have let the gecko have the run of my room! He'd have killed all the spiders. But he may have also attacked Andrew as I slept.
Anyway, here is the video:
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I've been down in the dumps all day. I just heard some things about JD Fortune that I wish I hadn't! But that is kinda useless ramble to this blog. I am still faithful to INXS, but I would like to think I would be faithful to JD as well. But the most hurtful thing is what it's done to someone I hold dear as an online buddy. She lost friends because she told them that she doesn't want to support JD anymore. It's a long story! Well, I've already let her know that I will always be there for her. No matter what her other so-called friends have done. I just wanted her to realize that.
Reptiles May Overheat in Warmer Future
Dani Cooper, ABC Science Online
Feb. 17, 2009 -- Commonly known as being cold-blooded and in need of some sunshine, the world's ectotherms may be struggling to keep cool in the future.
The finding raises concerns about how animals that regulate their body heat using air temperature will cope in a warmer world predicted by climate change.
Writing in this week's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Australian and U.S. researchers say the impact of climate change on ectotherms will depend on how global warming-induced changes in habitat alter the ability to access shade.
Another factor will be the animals' capacity to alter the seasonal timing of their activity and reproduction.
Lead author Michael Kearney, of the University of Melbourne's Department of Zoology, said the results of their modeling are counter-intuitive.
"The majority of the world's animals are cold-blooded," Kearney said. "So if it gets warmer you would think it might be better for them."
However, Kearney said using modeling that combines spatial data on climate, geography and vegetation, with behavioral models they were able to determine whether the priority of thermoregulating ectotherms such as reptiles and insects was to keep warm or stay cool.
"What we've found is that for a large fraction of the planet's animals their main priority is to thermoregulate to stay cool," Kearney said, "and global warming is going to make keeping cool harder."
Not only will air temperatures be higher, he said, but the availability of habitat in which to shade could be altered.
For the study, Warren Porter, of the University of Wisconsin's Department of Zoology, and the University of Sydney's Rick Shine studied the effects of climate change on a small Australian lizard known as the heath monitor (Varanus rosenbergi).
The modeling was based on the lizard living in three different climate zones -- temperate coastal, Melbourne; arid continental, Alice Springs; and tropical coastal, Darwin.
The consequences of three different behaviors -- sitting in full sun, sitting in full shade and moving in and out of shade to maintain a preferred body temperature -- in those three zones was then mapped.
Kearney said the big surprise of their work was to find that so-called "cold-blooded animals" were more focused on keeping cool than on warming up.
This means increased temperatures predicted under climate change scenarios would impact greatly on animal behavior. He said these effects could include changing the timing of activities, such as foraging and reproduction, which could have a flow-on effect to "whole ecosystems."
Warmer environments may also increase energy costs for the animal while also constraining activity time as they spend more time seeking shade.
"Effectively their rent goes up, but the time they've got to find an income goes down," Kearney said.
Under the modeling Kearney said it is clear there will be a "mismatch between required and available shade" in regions such as northern Australia and northern Africa, where there is too little shade, and temperate Australia, North America and Europe, which has too much shade.
"Human activities such as deforestation are dramatically altering the degree of shading available for thermoregulating ectotherms in tropical regions," the authors wrote in the paper. "Climate change will also alter vegetation cover through processes such as increased carbon dioxide and changed fire frequency."
Kearney said the ability of a species to tolerate climate change will be whether it can modify the seasonal timing of activities such as reproduction.
"Without such liability, the feasible options to maintain population viability are greatly limited and likely will require substantial evolutionary shifts," he said.
Mass Extinctions May Follow One-Two Punch
Michael Reilly, Discovery News
Feb. 17, 2009 -- As agents of extinction, comet and asteroid impacts may be losing their punch.
According to a new theory about how mass dyings work, cosmic collisions generally aren't enough to cause a major extinction event. To be truly devastating, they must be accompanied by another event that inflicts long-term suffering, like runaway climate change due to massive volcanic eruptions.
In other words, a comet couldn't have killed the dinosaurs by itself -- unless they were already endangered species.
This kind of one-two punch could explain more than the extinction of dinosaurs, Nan Arens of Hobart and William Smith Colleges said. In a recent paper in the journal Paleobiology, she and colleague Ian West argue that there are two types of events that can cause extinctions -- "pulses" (quick, deadly shocks, like comets) and "presses" (drawn-out stresses that push ecosystems to the brink but may not kill outright, like million-year-long volcanic eruptions).
The chances of mass dyings go way up when both happen together, argues Arens.
But are all mass extinctions created equal? Can researchers come up with a "Grand Unified Theory" of ancient apocalypse?
West and Arens think so. They combed the last 300 million years of geologic record, noting impact craters, massive eruptions, periods of ancient climate change, and then comparing them to extinctions. The rate at which species die off spiked dramatically, they found, when a "pulse"-type event occurred within a million years or so of a "press."
The theory fits well for the dinosaurs. Around the time of their demise 65 million years ago, a comet slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula and a huge volcano, the Deccan Traps, was erupting in what is today India.
But other extinctions are problematic. The greatest dying in geologic history, the Permian-Triassic extinction, killed 90 percent of all life on Earth, but there is no record of an impact. Instead, all signs point to a 200,000-year-long volcanic eruption in Siberia as the murder weapon.
Arens' theory argues that impacts are weaker in effect than is generally thought. But a growing consensus of researchers believes that doesn't go far enough. They believe eruptions, not cosmic impacts, are the real killers.
"I'm not so sure craters really have anything to do with it," Gregory Retallack of the University of Oregon said, adding: "I don't like the 'press' term very much. If you look closely at the isotope record, you can see that flood basalts [large-scale eruptions] are a series of pulses, paving the golden path toward annihilation."
"I'm not saying it's impossible to have an extinction with just a 'press' or a 'pulse' event," Arens admitted. The study states only that it's more likely when the two combine.
Humanity is creating exactly that scenario today, she said. Over the last 6,000 years, subsistence farming began changing the climate and clearing wilderness slowly enough to constitute 'press'-type stresses on the environment. But people began burning fossil fuels in earnest during the Industrial Revolution, and carbon concentrations have skyrocketed while growing population numbers have led to widespread habitat loss around the globe.
Arens argued this constitutes a 'pulse' event, and the sixth great mass extinction may already be underway.
Monday, February 16, 2009
These animals live in herds. The herds usually number up to 20 individuals. They are active during the day. They are vegetarians, feeding on grass mostly, leaves, berries and any other types of vegetation in thier range. Some species even wade in the water for the lucious aquatic plants. Though this is not a common act for them. Most of these species live in the New World, particularly in North America, and some in northern South America. There really are no smaller and larger species, the smallest species is perhaps Hippotapirus floridanus, which stands about 3 feet tall. The largest species stands about 6 feet tall. It is the species Articulostium cameloides. But basically all have much the same body structure and much the same lifestyle.
They are fast animals, capable of reaching speeds of 50 mph easily. This is for good reason. Mongooses and foxes all would love to prey on these animals. They may also fall victim to large snakes, alligators, and even Berofelids. I am as of lately, working on an offshoot family for this group that will exist into 50 million years AM. I will be posting about this "new family" when I can. My time with this computer is running out though, so count on it being a while.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Castosarchus - a carnivorous ape referred in After Man as “Phobocebus”, and I kept that name at the beginning. At first I thought it was a good idea to give the animal scaly feet pads for more traction and faster running. But then I tossed that idea, and just made it a slender ape with nude feet pads. There are 2 species on my checklist of Castosarchus. One was the one presented in Dixon’s book, the other is one that I thought up myself that lacks the spiral markings on the body and dark mane, and instead is a solid tawny color of the grass. Including the face.
Anabracchium - Presented in After Man as a bipedal rodent. In my checklist and my site, it is an armless theraped. I took what was originally meant to be a rodent and made it an ungulate. I didn’t change it much because I liked it’s streamlined design. I only changed the color to match the red sediment of it’s home land.
Ophiuchus - a squirrel that was presented in After Man as Ophicaudatus. I didn’t like that for a genus name, so I named it “Ophiuchus”. It has a tail that resembles a predatory snake that scares off birds and predatory bats. One species was presented in Dixon’s book. But my checklist has 2 species. The other species has a long body like a python, and even the same markings we typically see in pythons. And when a bird or bat attacks, it lays flat and curls up on a branch in a very snake-like fashion.
Amphimorphodus - a predatory rat which has several species presented in After Man. Of the 3 species of Amphimorphodus listed on my checklist, one was my own creation. I altered them a bit, instead of the rat-like tail Dixon gave them, I made the tails more like those seen in cats. They were the inspiration for the entire carnivorous rat family, which Metalraptor and I worked on and instead of making them rat descendants, made them descendants of dormice. Other genera taken for the Caromuridae family that I got from After Man were: Smilomys--no changes made, Vulpemys--no changes made, Scinderidens--no changes made, Thalassomus--no changes made, Viverinus--also no changes were made. But in between those, the species I created entirely by myself were Caromus, Procyonomys, Sarchophagomys, Lophogomphus, Cynoformis, Coelicticus, Megaloraptor, Monarchomys, Ailurotheria, Compsomys, Dryptomus, and Ravennia. So that’s a total of 18 genera. Only 6 of which were not my own creation. That is less than half.
Thylapithecidae - A small family of only 2 genera and 2 species, both of which were presented in After Man. No changes were made.
Carnopapio - A large, bipedal baboon presented in After Man. I kept the name and most of the concept, but I made them look a lot less dinosaur-like. There are 3 species, created by Dixon, but altered a bit by me. Not only did I make them look more monkey-like, but I also gave them naked heads for probing into the carcasses of dead animals.
Alesimia - A gliding monkey presented in After Man. My checklist has 3 species, only one was presented in After Man. I didn’t make many changes to the animal other than adding 2 more species. Another change I made was to give them claws to grip the bark when they make a landing.
Saevitia - Presented in After Man as the last of the felines. However I made it a monkey. It seemed better to make this brachiating, meat-eating, primate-like animal a true monkey than to say cats will evolve hands and feet for grasping and moving around like a gibbon. There was only one genus and one species of this monkey.
Araneapithecus - A small, round-bodied monkey presented in After Man. I didn’t make any changes. There is only one genus and one species in the book and on my list.
Natopithecus - Originally presented in After Man as a tailless, swimming monkey. I made quite a few changes though from the animal presented in the book. I gave them a flat, beaver-like tail. I also shortened their arms and legs, I put the eyes, ears and nostrils on top of the head like a hippo. There was only one species mentioned in After Man, but I added another species that differs by having long, thick whiskers.
Formicederus - Originally presented in After Man as an ant-eating hog. It inspired the entire ant-hog family Formicederidae. In my checklist, there are 5 genera and 14 species. Of these 14 species only 2 were created by Dixon. One was in this genus and the other was in the genus Procerosus. The rest were my own creations.
Myrmevenarius - the swimming anteater, presented in After Man for sure. I didn’t change anything and I thought it was too good of a species to just throw away. Along with it, I created a species of ant that makes it’s home in the reed beds, with paddle-shaped feet for swimming.
Cursomys - Also presented in After Man. It was presented as a large, bipedal rodent. However, in my list, I presented it as a theraped. Not many changes other than that were made to this animal.
Ungulagidae - Like the predatory rats, these were presented in After Man as descendants of modern rabbits and hares. They are deer-like animals. I changed the order name at Metalraptor’s suggestion to Lagomerycoidea. My checklist lists 10 genera and 18 species. Of those 18 species, 11 were presented in After Man. The rest are my own creations. I didn’t change much. Just added a few species of my own.
Silfrangerus - Presented in After Man as a large, bulky kangaroo. I took it and altered it a little. I made it a quadrupedal kangaroo. Aside from that, I did not change much.
Tapimus - A rodent presented in After Man as a tapir replacement. At first I was going to make this an antelope (Tapimimus), but I decided against it. South America needed a replacement for the tapir. I still have Tapimimus as a small antelope, but I also have this rodent. One species was presented in After Man. But my checklist lists 3 species under Tapimus.
Thylasus - Presented in After Man as a descendant of the bandicoots. I thought that was a great idea, so I kept it. I didn’t change much, but I also made deer-like descendants of bandicoots that are all my own creation. The Thylogazellidae. There is only one genus and species in the Thylasuidae, as presented in After Man. But there are 10 genera and 17 species in the Thylogazellidae.
Phocapotamus - Presented in After Man as a relative of the beavers. It was made to be a hippo-like rodent. I didn’t change much. But the family it is in, the Castoridae, is made up mostly of species I created myself. There is only 1 species in the genus Phocapotamus, as presented in After Man. Compared to the 19 other species in the Metazoic Castoridae that were my own creations.
Vulpemustela - presented in After Man as a descendant of the weasels. Metalraptor has urged me to just trash it. But I think it’s too good to trash. It inspired the family Vulpemustelidae. Other species in this family that was presented in After Man was Oreomustela and Hastatus. Of these, I only altered Hastatus, making it a sort of marten lookalike with slashing claws on the hands. Rather than the bat-like gliding animal that was in After Man. Other than that, the rest of the species in the Vulpemustelidae are my own creations.
Harundopedidae - A family of insectivores presented in After Man. My checklist lists a family made up of 19 genera, and 42 species. Of these 42 species, 9 species from 9 genera were presented in After Man. The rest were my own creations.
Scalprodens - Presented in After Man as a mole with tusks. I altered it a bit, instead of making the tusks stick out like those in elephants, I make them hang down like in walrus. They can still be used as burrowing tools. This species inspired the family Scalprodensidae, of which also presented in After Man was Psammonarus. But even that I altered a bit to make it more mole-like than the naked mole-rat-like critter with a shark-like head. Though it is still carnivorous. There are 7 genera and 13 species in this family, only 2 of which were presented in After Man. The rest were my own creations.
Subvilliidae - A family of 4 genera and 8 species. 3 of these species were presented in After Man. The rest were my own additions.
Pinnapodidae - A family of 3 genera and 5 species. Of these 2 species of 3 genera were presented in After Man. I named all 3 of the species of Platycaudatus though, as Dixon didn’t give them species names in After Man.
Tenebra - A small squirrel presented in After Man with thick, chisel-like incisors. I thought it was too good a species to let go of. Though I did alter it a bit and got rid of the caterpillar-like body form and made it look a little more like a ground squirrel.
Tendesciurus - I liked this squirrel, I did no altering or anything. It was too good not to add to my list. It also inspired the Metazoic squirrel family, Tendesciuridae. This family contains 19 genera and 81 species. Of these, only 6 species were created by Dixon. All the rest are mine.
Reteostium - Presented in After Man as the slobber. I didn’t like that at all! But the idea of a marsupial sloth appealed to me. So I altered it a lot. I made it look less like the creature in the book, and more like a cross between a koala and a placental sloth. And instead of it dropping slimy saliva on ants, it simply eats leaves and shoots, like modern koalas.
Caecopterus - presented in After Man as a basic blind bat whose ears had fused and grown together at the front of the head where it’s eyes should have been. I liked the idea, so yes, I used it. Though I might change the name.
Cryptochiroptera - an order of flightless bats that includes 2 families, 7 genera and 11 species. Of these, 3 genera and 3 species were presented in After Man. One, Manambulus, I altered quite a bit with the help of Metalraptor. I gave it eyes, and instead of having it walking on it’s hands with it’s legs bent up over the shoulders as grasping mechanisms, I have it walking on all fours. I also made the ears a lot smaller.
Even having listed all these, it’s still a relative few I “ripped off” as opposed to the more than 3000 or so species that I managed to create all on my own. That’s not bad statistics at all! I wouldn’t call that “shameless”, in fact there are many species I came up with on my own that I am very proud of. These are with no help from anyone. To keep it short and sweet, I’ll only list my most favorites.
Oplizochoerus - A giant, armored hog that looks like a cross between a pig, a rhino and an okapi. This animal I created in 2007.
Grammoclavia - A large armadillo with armor plates that resemble a chainsaw. Recently I found out there was a dinosaur that shares the same features known as Gastonia. I had no idea about Gastonia when I first created this armadillo in 1995.
Tachypus - basically a theraped that is an ornithomimid lookalike. I thought up this animal in 1993, and made it the fastest animal of the Metazoic.
Neantilopa - a small gazelle-like camel that is descended from deer. I thought this animal up in 2002.
Peradoradinae - This is a subfamily within the Macropodidae, of monkey-like tree and rock-dwelling kangaroos. They even have their eyes facing foreword as in monkeys. There are 3 genera and 14 species, all of which live in New Zealand. I thought these species up in 1998.
Daspletarctos - a very large polar fox that got it’s genes from the modern arctic fox and takes the place of the polar bear, and is about the same size. It feeds on seals and any other marine animals. I thought this species up in 1994.
Gorgona - A species of seal I call a kelp seal that lives among the kelp beds, and even colored to resemble the long stalks. When in the water, this seal swims vertically making it’s self blend in with the swaying kelp. It even feeds on the kelp. But it also feeds on sea animals as well, like fish and urchins. This was one of my first creations back in 1994.
Deinognathus - The largest predator of the Metazoic. This originated as one of my very first imaginary animals as a child. I made the first “prototype” for this animal back in 1980, but it was added to my checklist as an official species of the future in 1993.
Feresetta - A relative of Deinognathus, it is a small, jacana-like mammal that lives among water lilies. There are 3 species, and they were added in 1997.
Ictopotamus - A very long otter-like relative of the Metazoic weasels. It’s the mammal equivalent of the alligator. This animal was added to my list in 2002.
Jacanatheriidae - A family of mammals that are mammal equivalents of jacana birds. They have the long toes of jacanas and they are splayed out to even the weight distribution of these creatures. Though the crowning species was created by Paul in 2004, which I promptly named Jacanatherium valkovi, I actually thought up this family on my own in 1997. The family was renamed Jacanatheriidae in 2005, just because I thought it gave the best description of what the family is like.
Oreolemur - A large aquatic lemur that swims like a sea lion. They are poor on land though. The tail is flat, like those of otters. Oreolemur and Potamailuria used to be one in the same. But I have since separated them since Potamailuria are river dwellers and Oreolemur inhabits the oceans. This was one of my first official creations for the future of mammals from 1992.
Fructiphagous - Another lemur that feeds on toxic eucalyptus leaves, and then recycles the toxins in the leaves to the sweat glands in the skin. This gives these lemurs not only a bad taste and a mild toxin that would temporarily paralyze a predator, but also a eucalyptus odor. This animal was one of my first creations in 1992.
Myolestidae - A family of parasitic shrews that plague the bower rats in the family Nidimyidae. Nidimyids build big bower nests and raise their young, right after the young are born, and the mother is off to find food, the shrews seize the opportunity to kidnap and eat some of the young rats and replace them with their own pups. Rather like the cuckoos of today. This group and the Nidimyidae were both added to my list in 1995.
Peripithedorcas - A large, grass-eating descendant of the sifakas that developed long arms. They live the life of ungulates. This animal was added to my list in 1995.
Volacostidae - the gliding lemurs. These lemurs evolved extensions of the ribs that spread out when they take to the air. This leaves their arms and legs free for fast climbing. And it also allows them to glide farther than any other gliding mammal, about 400-500 feet. I first thought up this family in 1996.
Monodactylopteridae - An offshoot of the Pteropodidae. These bats though have only 1 finger in the wings, rather than the 4 fingered wings of the pteropods. This family was first thought up in 1995.
Wow! That got long-winded! But it is an interesting subject and I didn't want to leave any stone unturned.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Venatosaurus, I am truly sorry that I hurt your feelings. I hope your project does good. Please forgive me.
I also wanted to thank Katrina publicly for not taking her own personal feelings for JohnFaa to the SE forum, and telling it to him like it is on his blog. WTG Katrina!!!!
I've still retracted my apologies from Viergacht as he has admitted he has autism and needs help. I will say I do feel sorry for him though, and I hope he can get the help he needs. Which is why I am not sorry, but I will not attack him anymore, I am not the type to attack people with mental problems. Poor guy.
In my own life, I've been on the edge because I have no idea if I will ever be seeing my favorite band INXS again. Seems they are retiring from the music industry. I'm awaiting this article a friend of mine found that explains all. It's exasperating to wait! A shame if they are, I enjoyed their concerts more than that of any other rock groups.
Anyway, here is the article about whales:
Male Whales Prefer Enormous Females
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Feb. 13, 2009 -- While svelte, petite women may attract multiple suitors, bigger is definitely better in the whale world, according to a new study that found male humpback whales favor the largest females.
Big in terms of humpback whales means gigantic, since females are usually larger than males to begin with, measuring up to around 50 feet long and weighing approximately 79,000 pounds.
"While obesity is understandably a serious problem in humans, it is interesting to find that in some of the largest animals ever to exist, bigger is indeed better. Thus size does matter!" said lead author Adam Pack, an assistant professor of psychology and biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Pack, who is also the co-founder and vice president of The Dolphin Institute, and his research team made the determination after studying courting humpback whales for five consecutive years in the waters of the Auau, Kalohi and Pailolo channels off West Maui. The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior.
In winter and spring months, the whales assemble on shallow banks and along coastal areas for breeding and calving. Since females produce a single calf every two to three years on average, and not all females migrate to breeding grounds, males usually far outnumber females at the sites.
Interested males serve as "escorts" for their female of choice, swimming in close proximity to her and, if present, her calf. The males all gravitated to the largest females, sometimes engaging in dangerous fights to win and maintain the coveted escort position.
"The principal escort's defensive behaviors include visual displays, such as lunging through the water with ventral throat grooves expanded, making the whale look visually larger, to screens of bubbles expelled from the blowhole or mouth, to chases and physical strikes, sometimes drawing blood from a rival," Pack explained.
In order to identify individual whales, he and his colleagues gave temporary names to the whales corresponding to the shape and markings on their dorsal fins. The study therefore included the whales "Scar," "Hook," "Tall" and more.
The researchers next measured each whale using both a hand-held sonar device and mathematical calculations based on angle of view and distance. The scientists even donned snorkeler gear and swam around, and underneath, the courting whales.
"Everyone who climbed back aboard after such an encounter was breathless from exertion, but more so from excitement," Pack said.
"Often, we could see their large eye rotating in its socket watching us, benignly it seemed, as they glided slowly by," he added. "As you can imagine, it's sometimes 'heart-stopping' being in the midst of these huge leviathans, the males charging at each other with great acceleration, the lone female untouched, yet appearing to take in all the action and likely assessing the fitness of her potential suitors."
Fitness appears to be behind the whales' fondness for fat and long bodies, since the researchers also discovered that the largest females also produced the biggest calves. Since whales depend upon stored body fat to support their metabolic requirements, particularly during the winter, the extra heft is necessary for their survival, promoting greater reproductive success and aiding females in the nursing of their offspring.
Big may also be valued in killer whale pods. Another new study, led by Eric Ward from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, found that killer whale females nearing menopause -- which tend to be larger since they're fully grown adults -- make the best mothers.
"Older females may be more successful in raising young because of maternal experience, or they may allocate more effort to their offspring relative to younger females," Ward explained.
Proving that there is life over 50, at least among giant marine mammals, female killer whales can live to be more than 90 years old, long after their courting and calf-rearing days are over.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Darwin at 200: Still Evolving
Gregory Katz, Associated Press
Feb. 9, 2009 -- It's well known that Charles Darwin's groundbreaking theory of evolution made many people furious because it contradicted the Biblical view of creation. But few know that it also created problems for Darwin at home with his deeply religious wife, Emma.
Darwin held back the book to avoid offending his wife, said Ruth Padel, the naturalist's great-great-granddaughter. "She said he seemed to be putting God further and further off," Padel said in her north London home. "But they talked it through, and she said, "Don't change any of your ideas for fear of hurting me.'"
The 1859 publication of "On the Origin of Species" changed scientific thought forever -- and generated opposition that continues to this day. It is this elegant explanation of how species evolve through natural selection that makes Darwin's 200th birthday on Feb. 12 such a major event.
More than 300 birthday celebrations are planned in Britain alone, where Darwin's face graces the 10-pound bill along with that of Queen Elizabeth II. Shrewsbury, the central England town where Darwin was born and raised, is holding a month-long festival for its most famous son. And a permanent exhibition re-creating some of his most famous experiments is opening at Down House, his former home near London.
Many more events are planned worldwide, including the Second World Summit on evolution in the Galapagos islands in August. In Australia, the Perth Mint is putting out a special commemorative silver coin.
Even Darwin's ideological adversaries concede that he was a towering figure.
"He was clearly extremely important, his thinking changed the world," said Paul Taylor, a spokesman for Answers in Genesis, a prominent group that rejects Darwin's theory of evolution in favor of a literal interpretation of the Bible. "We disagree with his conclusions, with the way he made extrapolations, but he was a very careful observer and we've got a lot to be grateful for."
Bob Bloomfield, special projects director at London's Museum of Natural History, said Darwin was cautious not only because he didn't want to offend his wife, but also because he understood that the concept of man's evolution from other animals was controversial. He didn't want to present it simply as a hypothesis, but as an explanation buttressed by many observations and facts.
"He knew he had to make an absolutely iron-cast case for his theory," Bloomfield said. "He was one of the earliest true scientists where everything he was prepared to write about had to be based on evidence."
Darwin's small, handwritten diaries are on display at a major exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, as well as thousands of specimens he collected. Some came from his fabled five-year trip to South America aboard the Beagle, when he visited the remote Galapagos Islands and saw how some species had adapted to its strange, demanding environment.
The diaries offer insights into Darwin's meticulous, analytical approach. He even lists the pros and cons of getting married.
The advantages? A wife would be a constant companion, a friend in old age, and fill the house with music and feminine chitchat. The cons? Losing the freedom to come and go as he pleased and to read as much as he wanted at night. Visiting relatives. And he would have to spend money on children, not books.
After much deliberation, Darwin renounced the single life: "One cannot live this solitary life, with groggy old age, friendless and cold, and childless staring one in ones face, already beginning to wrinkle," he concluded.
It is in the diaries that Darwin's personality best comes through, said Padel, one of 72 great-great-grandchildren.
"That's where his real life was," said Padel, an acclaimed poet. "He had the most amazing sense of wonder. He was always thinking, 'How does that work?' And that led him to everything."
Once he married, Darwin turned his family into willing research assistants. He enlisted his wife to play piano to a jar of earthworms placed on the piano lid to see if they would respond to music (they didn't).
Stephen Keynes, a great-grandson, said Darwin also enlisted his children to throw flour on bees so the path of their flight could be followed. There are no reports of any of the children being stung.
"He was the most wonderful father, ever," said Keynes, 81. "He allowed his children access to his study where he was working at any time."
Darwin was also an innovator at home. He put wheels on the chair in his study so he could get to his specimens more quickly -- and, bingo, the modern office chair was invented.
His passion to understand nature's unseen workings made him a frequent visitor to the London Zoo, where he made friends with an orangutan called Jenny. He offered Jenny a mouth organ and showed her her reflection in the mirror. He also noted that when her keeper would not give her an apple, she pouted and sulked like a child. These seemingly trivial observations helped Darwin develop his theory that man evolved from primates.
"He was very interested in the expressions of animals and in particular primates and how similar they could be to humans," said Becky Coe, an education director at the zoo, which is setting up a temporary "Darwin Trail" using animals to help explain evolution. Coe said Darwin went back to the zoo time and time again to make sure he had physical evidence for every aspect of his theory.
Darwin's inquisitiveness outlasted his physical vigor.
"Late in life when he was quite ill, he would look at plants curling up at the window, bending to the light, and he would wonder, 'How do they do that?'" said Padel. "He was constantly thinking of relationships and that led him to understand natural selection. He realized that every population is in competition with every other. He realized that is how species adapt, because they are always competing for light, water and food."
What would he be doing if he were alive today?
Padel thinks he would probably be studying DNA and the immune system. And she thinks the great scribbler would be online much of the time. "He'd be a demon at e-mail," she said.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The first of these is in the book Chasing Kangaroos by Tim Flannery. In it, some scientists did a comparison of energy efficiency of kangaroos compared to quadrupedal animals. In energy efficiency, the kangaroo blew the quadrupedal animal tested out of the water. Another interesting coincidence is found in humankind itself. Among mammals, humans have extraordinary endurance; a fit human can outpace a quarterhorse!
The second one shows how dinosaur-style bipedal gaits are better than erect gaits. Among mammals, humans are unusually subject to a panoply of back problems. This is because our spinal chords are erect, and so our vertebrae are pressing against one another due to gravity. This leads to bad back, slipped discs, and more. Animals with theropod-style stance, however, such as birds are rarely subject to these problems, because the back is mostly the same as it would be in horizontal position, albeit with less support in the forequarters.
This I believe blows to death the theory that mammals taking on a bipedal gait is impossible and a waste of energy! They require NO energy!! Or less than quadrupeds! Mammal bones are also heavier in proportion to their size than dinosaur bones, so they would benefit better by being theropod-like bipeds than quadrupeds because they would burn less energy. Note what I said about streamlining. And I believe Proletarian was wrong about if mammals took on a bipedal stance they would have to lose and then re-evolve their legs. Did we have to do that to take on a bipedal stance? No, we didn't!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
1. The family Canidae is extinct. I repeat, the family Canidae is extinct. Yes, even those adaptable little foxes, of whom many of which are considered pests today.
My response: Why would the canines go completely extinct? That doesn't make any sense at all! Even I have a canine-based family in the Metazoic. I call them "bear dogs", and they are actually descendants of foxes. And foxes are too adaptable to just die out!
2. Felidae and Hyenidae are gone. Despite Metazoica probably disagreeing with me, both families are highly diverse, and many of them are not endangered at all. (Even the aardwolf, though it is still probably doomed due to overspecialization)
My response: OK, who the f*** was it that kept griping on that forum because I kept insisting felines will go extinct in the Metazoic? And when are these morons going to start all that BS with this dim-wit for thinking that one up? I guess women get treated like outcasts even in forums!
3. Marine Bears....does this sound familiar to you, Metazoica?
My response: Yes, I too have marine bears in my project.
4. All of the kangaroos, wallabies, rat-kangaroos, etc. Never mind the fact that this group is highly successful despite placental invasion, and is actually more energy efficient than a lot of the animals that share its environment.
My response: Again, like the dogs, why would macropods be completely eliminated? This is a stupid idea!!
5. The hoatzin survives. While this is very likely, I just wanted to point out that it would be a true episode of hypocrisy if Faa doesn't jump on his buddy for this.
My response: To clarify, JohnFaa told Canis Lupus that the hoatzin will not survive, apparently jumping on him for thinking it would. But now this person is saying the hoatzin will indeed survive, and I'd be further interested to see if JohnFaa jumps on this guy for the same reason he jumped on Canis about this same subject! And yes Canis, IF you are reading, hoatzin are indeed the most likely species to become quadrupedal birds!! I wouldn't listen to what JohnFaa says, he doesn't know anything!!! Seems he only believes what he wants to believe, whether it is likely or not!
6. Primates are gone....yes, you heard me. Every single one, from the lemurs down to the great apes. Even though it is completely ludicrous that this would happen.
My response: That is not only unlikely and stupid, it's complete lunacy!!
7. Herpestidae and Eupleridae are the same, idiot
My response: Ditto my last response.
8. For some reason, there are Kermode Bear and Syrian Brown Bear descendants running around, despite the fact that the former is a variant of the black bear, and the latter is much more endangered than most of the other critters he has going extinct...
My response: and these people bad-mouth my project. I once told Canis something that I learned when I was younger. They who think they know everything, really knows nothing!
9. Perissodactyla is extinct, despite the fact that tapirs and horses have proven to be adaptable.
My response: Even I knew they are adaptable! Seriously these people need to start doing more research!! Otherwise how the Hell can they go around bad-mouthing my project when their ideas are less-likely than mine!!?
Oh! And the coupe-d'grace. This one is rich! One new member on the SE forum says that spiders and flies will go extinct. LOL!! Oh GOD!! That one is sheer and utter stupidity on display! But at least I can only say I wish it would be so. I hate spiders and flies! But it is highly unlikely they will ever go extinct. And buddy, you are NOT GOD!!! Stop thinking you are!! Seems this newbie is not only stupid, but delusional too. He (or she) seems to have a great deal to learn about future evolution.
In closing, this is what the e-mailer has to say about the so-called critics on the SE forum:
"Geez, and he makes fun of our projects. Well, you know what they say, people that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."
I concur! Another crappy BS forum full of idjuts that have nothing better to do than down other peoples' projects when they don't have enough brains or knowledge to create a believable world of their own! I'm glad I took the link to that forum down! I just could not recommend that forum to anyone who really wants to learn serious speculative evolution. If you want to learn how to create fantasy video-game-style creatures, it's great! But for serious (I mean SERIOUS) speculative evolution discussions, you'd better stay away from that forum!!!! I haven't been there since I said good-bye to Proletarian, not even as a lurker. Because I take the subject of future evolution very seriously. This e-mail came from someone who only goes in there for the entertainment value of the idiocy displayed on that forum. I won't go in there at all!! Not EVER!!
To my loyal readers, I usually do not get like this anymore. I'm trying to go for a change. But I just could not keep quiet any longer! I'm going to have to get this e-mailer to stop sending me this bullshit!! LOL!!
I guess though that I should feel honored they bash my project so hard! It proves that I kick ass!!
Monday, February 9, 2009
They still retain the single-digit hooves of their modern relatives, and really few changes have been made, with the exception that a few have grown horns and the members of the sub-family Allomeoplinae are semi-bipedal and may in the future even represent a family of their own, but for now, I have placed them in the Banzidae. The heads are still very horselike, some even still have the horse-like mane. The neck is long and muscular, the tail is long and usually with a tasseled tip, except in Banza, which still has a rather horse-like tail. In the Allomeoplinae, the tail is long and thick, as in kangaroos. The eyes are as large as in any modern horse, and the eyesight is very good. The ears are also horselike, except in Banza, Allomeoples, and Pagogalea the ears are generally small and round. The ears can swivel independantly in any direction, and they can detect the faintest footfalls from many yards away. The sense of smell though is relatively poor. The species in the sub-family Allomeoplinae are also knuckle-walkers, and are equipped with a single claw on each forelimb that is kept sharp for defense. Though when these animals need to make a quick get-away from a predator, they switch to running in an ostrich-like fashion. The fur is soft and thick in most species and covers the body. It is thinnest on the head and legs though.
The largest and bulkiest species in the family is in the genus Banza. These are large horse-like animals that mostly inhabit dry, cold areas, like the Mongolian Desert. The fur is the thickest in the family to handle the coldest snaps, even the fur on the head is thicker than it is in other species. They are large and live in groups led by the eldest male. Barring predators, these giant horses can live 100 years. These animals are a bit larger than elephants, with a total length of about 18 feet and a height of about 13 feet at the shoulders. They are heavy built but still very good runners. The hooves are broad and flat, like snowshoes, giving these animals the ability to safely and efficiently walk or run on the snow without being slowed down by it. Banza are herbivores and feed on what ever vegetation they can find. It may be in the form of grass, lichens, moss, or anything. The foals are usually born when the snows melt, and the animals have an abundance of food. They are migratory animals, and usually migrate out of the deep Arctic in time for winter to set in.
The tallest species in the family belongs in the genus Ikopia. This is a tropical species of horse with a very long neck, like a giraffe, and long legs. Aside from these features, this animal is probably the most horse-like species of all. It has no horns, and the head is rather elongate, and the tongue is long and flexible for curling around clumps of leaves to grasp and feed on. The ears are large and rounded, rather like those seen on zebras. These animals lead a rather solitary existance and rely on the jungle it's self to keep them concealed from predators.
The smallest species in this family are in the genus Anarritragus. The largest of these animals are about the size of a typical hog. They have horns on their head, they are also knuckle-walkers. They only switch to bipedal mode when they need to get away from a predator in a hurry. These are generally species of the deep forests, and are even capable of climbing trees, cliffs and even shelter in caves sometimes. They live either alone or in couples, and are active only during the daylight hours. The eyes are large, proportionately larger than in any other species in this family. This allows the cave-dwellers to see even in pitch darkness. They are vegetarians, and feed on any form of vegetation they can find.
Predators are relatively few due to these animals being mostly so large and living in some very harsh environments. Deinognathids like Ictocamelus and Spathodon are capable of getting these animals easily. Large foxes like Daspletarctos regularly prey on creatures such as Banza. They may also take on such animals as Allomeoples, but they can only do so by sneaking up on them and grabbing them by the back of the neck quickly. Some species like Diaphoceros are very highly aggressive and use their horns as a defense. Anarritragus is also small, but can use it's horns aggressively. Most species also use their hooves as a defensive mechanism. The species in the sub-family Allomeoplinae are equipped with sharp claws on the forefeet that they can use to slash at predators, and some species can kick back with their rear hooves. Most of the time though these animals prefer to run away from danger.
I have some pics I did recently of these animals, and I will scan them later on and post them up on this blog.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Found: Wolves in Dogs' Clothing
Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press
Feb. 5, 2009 -- Today's dogs are descendants of ancient wolves. Now, it turns out, at least some of today's wolves inherited traits from ancient dogs.
Gray wolves have that name because of their color, but in North America many of them have dark or black coats instead of the standard gray.
The genetic mutation producing dark coats appears to have occurred in dogs, and then spread from them to wolves when the species mated, according to researchers led by Gregory S. Barsh of Stanford University.
The dark-coated wolves are almost exclusive to North America and are much more common in forested areas where they make up 62 percent of the wolf population, compared with 7 percent in open tundra, the researchers noted.
But wildlife biologists don't think wolves rely much on camouflage, Barsh said. "It's possible there is something else going on here."
"It's sort of intuitively appealing, when you see animals that sort of blend in with their environment, to say ... that explains natural selection, that somehow they are better camouflaged either as predator or prey," Barsh said in a broadcast interview made available by the journal Science, which published his research in Friday's edition.
But wolves don't have a lot of predators, and there's no evidence to suggest that a black coat color leads to any increase in a wolf's ability to capture its prey, he said.
Also, Barsh added, black wolves, like humans, turn gray with age, "so you would think that if the black coat-color mutation was being selected because it caused the black coat color, you wouldn't get these older gray wolves, they would stay black."
The same protein responsible for coat color differences in dogs and wolves is associated with fighting inflammation and infection in humans. Thus, it "might give black animals an advantage that is distinct from its effect on pigmentation," Barsh said in a statement.
Co-author Tovi M. Anderson noted that the mutation for black coats has been cultivated by humans in the domestic dog for thousands of years. "Now we see that it not only entered the wild population, but also is benefiting them," she said.
Genetic tests indicate the mutation was introduced into wolves by dogs sometime in the last 10,000 to 15,000 years, Anderson said. That's about the same time the first people crossed the Bering land bridge, probably accompanied by dogs.
"We usually think of domestication as something that is carried out to benefit humans," Barsh said. "So we were really surprised to find that domestic animals can serve as a genetic reservoir that can benefit the natural populations from which they were derived."
"Although it happened by accident, black wolves are the first example of wolves being genetically engineered by people," added co-author Marco Musiani of the University of Calgary in Canada. "It is somewhat ironic that a trait that was created by humans may now prove to be beneficial for wolves as they deal with human-caused changes to their habitat."
Yale University researcher Mark Gerstein, who was not part of the research team, called the report "exciting."
"Positive selection is an important driving force in mammalian evolution. However, there are not many concrete and dramatic examples of it in action. This paper demonstrates such an example using coat color in wolves -- an easy to recognize and relate to characteristic," he said in an interview via e-mail.
"Furthermore, it shows how the diversity in the gene pool can be maintained and developed in non-obvious ways -- e.g. through the interbreeding of domesticated animals and wolves," Gerstein said.
He also praised the research for developing a clear, evolutionary history of the genes that determine color in wolves.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and Swedish Research Council.
Toxic Gases Caused World's Worst Extinction
Michael Reilly, Discovery News
Feb. 4, 2009 -- An ancient killer is hiding in the remote forests of Siberia. Walled off from western eyes during the Soviet era and forgotten among the endless expanse of wilderness, scientists are starting to uncover the remnants of a supervolcano that rained Hell on Earth 250 million years ago and killed 90 percent of all life.
Researchers have known about the volcano -- the Siberian Traps, for years. And they've speculated that the volcanic rocks, which cover an area about the size of Alaska, played a role in runaway global warming that led to the end -- Permian mass extinction, the worst dying the planet has ever seen.
Now a team of researchers led by Henrik Svenson of the University of Oslo in Norway have performed a series of experiments, showing the volcano employed an arsenal of deadly weapons during its 200,000-year-long assault on the biosphere.
Prime among them was carbon. Searing magmas from the volcano intruded into the Tunguska Basin in eastern Siberia, a region laden with thick deposits of coal, oil and gas. Heat from the molten rock baked the hydrocarbons, turning the area into the world's largest fossil fuel-burning plant. In all, the volcano may have belched as much as 100,000 gigatons of carbon into the air (all of humanity emits about eight gigatons of carbon annually).
That's more than enough to cause a global climate apocalypse. But the team also wanted to know what happened when lava infiltrated the area's abundant salt deposits. When heated in a laboratory to 275 degrees Centigrade (527 degrees Fahrenheit), the salts released a host of toxic gases, chief among them methyl chloride, an efficient ozone-killer.
"This is the first geologically realistic evidence that ozone collapse during the end-Permian could have actually happened," Svenson said.
But there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the findings, Linda Elkins-Tanton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said.
"There is evidence of a large number of genetic mutations in the fossil record around this time," she said, which could be the result of an onslaught of ultraviolet radiation due to a weak ozone layer. "But the idea of ozone destroyers is pretty new. The question is whether or not the eruptions were powerful enough to inject gases into the stratosphere."
The answer may come from close examination of hundreds of pipe-like structures strewn throughout the Tunguska Basin. Often 300 meters (984 feet) in diameter, Svenson's team believes the pipes are ancient volcanic craters left over after the lethal mix of carbon and chlorine gases exploded into the atmosphere.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Fossils Push Animal Life Back Millions of Years
Feb. 4, 2009 -- Animal life first appeared on Earth tens of millions of years earlier than thought, according to a new study released Wednesday.
A novel technique used to date fossils buried in rock sediment in Oman shows that sponges, among the most primitive of animal organisms, flourished there more than 635 million years ago.
The new dating answers a puzzle that beset Charles Darwin.
In the mid-19th century, the first evidence for the kingdom of Animalia, also called Metazoa, came from the so-called Cambrian explosion of biodiversity, around 540 million years ago.
Darwin reasoned that this eruption of life forms could not have occurred without previous evolution, but no fossils emerged during his lifetime to confirm his hunch.
In recent years, various pieces have come forward that have indeed pushed back the rise of Animalia by some millions of years.
But the new find dates their emergence even earlier, into the final stages of a massive ice age at the end of the Neoproterozoic Era.
The Oman sponges are part of the Demospongiae class, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all sponges in existence today, notes the study, published in the London-based science journal Nature.
To find them, a team of scientists led by Gordon Love of the University of California had to come up with a new trick, for sponges lack the calcium-rich shells or bones that palaeontologists seek to provide a data signature.
So they developed an elaborate method -- based on gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, laboratory techniques for isolating molecules -- that detects unique biomarkers derived from the lipid membranes of once-living organisms.
The key biomarker is a 30-carbon steroid called 24-isopropylcholestrane, or 24-ipc for short.
To date, the only known source of 24-ipc are species of the Demospongiae, one of the three main classes of sponges.
Metazoa are by definition mobile at some stage of their life cycle and ingest other organisms for sustenance.
Most are also multicellular, meaning that they have evolved different cell types that serve divergent biological functions.
Sponges are the simplest of all multi-celled animals.
As a rule, their open-ended, sack-like bodies are fixed to rocks in shallow seas and pull in water to filter out nutrients.
Sponges were long considered the earliest common ancestor of all animals, but a genetics study last year suggested that Ctenophora, or comb jellyfish, reach even further back on the evolutionary ladder.
Ancient Whale Gave Birth on Land
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Feb. 4, 2009 -- A rare fossil of an ancient whale with a fetus still inside reveals that its species -- an ancestor to modern whales -- gave birth on land 47.5 million years ago, according to a paper published in the online journal PLoS.
The discovery, along with prior fossil finds, suggests the first whale ancestors were full-time land dwellers that might have been related to the early relatives of hoofed animals, such as sheep and cattle.
Maiacetus inuus, meaning "mother whale," represents an intermediate evolutionary stage. It lived at the land-sea interface and often moved back and forth between the two environments in what is Pakistan today.
It looked like an improbable cross between a cow, whale, shark, alligator and sea lion.
"Maiacetus was a long-snouted, short-haired mammal with short limbs, webbed hands and feet retaining small hooves on some fingers and toes, and it had a thick, long tail," lead author Philip Gingerich told Discovery News.
Gingerich, a University of Michigan paleontologist, added that the whale "was a foot-powered swimmer and probably lived like a sea lion, spending part of the day or night resting on land and part of the day or night searching for food in the sea."
The fetus was positioned for a "head-first" delivery like land animals, but unlike modern whales. This provides the biggest clue that the species gave birth on land.
The fetus also had a well-developed set of teeth, suggesting it "would be able to get up and move shortly after birth, probably having to keep up with its mother, learning to feed and escape predators," Gingerich said, adding that it would've had to defend itself against very large sharks.
He and his colleagues were stunned to find such a rare fossil, the first ever of its kind.
"To be honest, I never expected to be able to find a whale about to give birth," he said. They also found an 8.5-foot male of the same species at the site.
Since the male whale was only moderately larger than the female, the researchers suspect males of this species didn't control territories or command harems.
Ewan Fordyce, head of the Department of Geology at the University of Osago in New Zealand, told Discovery News, "The convincing presence of a fetus makes this a most important find."
"Fetuses are rarely reported for fossil land mammals," he explained, "and as far as I know, this is the first such case for a whale or, for that matter, any fossil marine mammal."
Fordyce added that the findings are timely, given the forthcoming 200th anniversary of British naturalist Charles Darwin's birth, which occurred on February 12, 1809.
"Darwin would have reveled in such evidence for a major shift in the fossil record," Fordyce explained, referring to the whale's dramatic transition from land to sea.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The size also varies from species to species. The largest member of the family are in the genus Valudorsum. This animal is as big as a city bus, and weighs a whopping 18 tons. The horns extend about 10 feet from the head. The head it's self is short and blunt. The fur lies very short and smooth. The eyes are relatively small and round, though the eyesight is very good. This species is unique in that it also has a large "sail" on the back. A structure on the back above the shoulders that is tall and flat. The sail it's self is about 10 feet high over the shoulders. This helps the animal regulate it's body temperature. Together at it's highest point, the animal stands an incredible 25-feet tall. They live in small herds, much like elephants. They are also slow reproducers. They are also very slow movers. Their enormous bulk makes it nearly impossible for these animals to run and leap like modern antelope. The second largest member of this family belong in the genus Megalodorcas, which the largest species are nearly as big as Valudorsum.
The smallest species in this family are in the genus Tapimimus. These tiny antelope sort of resemble modern dik-diks, only the nose droops slightly more, and they have sharp tusks that extend outwards from the mouth. The smallest stand no more than 12 inches high at the shoulders. The ears are large and very mobile, the tail is short, though not too short. The legs are long and slender. These animals are good runners and jumpers. They live in couples and shelter under bushes or even in underground burrows abandoned by other animals. But they usually just prefer to stay out of view. The couples of Tapimimus usually stay together for life. They are active during the day and rely on their sharp eyesight and hearing to detect danger. The second smallest members of the family belong in the genus Otopygus. Though they are small antelope, about 15 inches tall at the shoulders, Otopygus has the largest ears in the family. This is due to the fact they live in some of the hottest and driest climate in the Metazoic. These large ears also give them superior hearing abilities.
Many species of Metazoic antelope have unusual horns. The strangest belong in the genus Lawrencia (named for my sister and her family). The horns of this species are located lower than the eyes on the nasal of the snout. This gives the males an advantage during the rut, they can swaft their horns at rivals, and still keep their eyes on their quarry, in case another male attacks them from another side. This has required special adaptations to the nose and horns. The bone around the nasal is stronger and thicker than it is in other antelope.
Antelope are, always have been, and forever will be among the most victimized animals in their range. Today they are taken down by any predator big and strong enough to take them. In the Metazoic, it is much the same story. Deinognathids, large viverrids, weasels, snakes, predatory bats, crocodiles, bear-dogs, carnivorous pentadactyls and predatory rats and dormice all will prey on any species of antelope in the Metazoic. Different species specialize in certain antelope species. For example, some large deinognathids specialize in bringing down Megalodorcas, or some other large antelope. Some don't care, they attack any species. Such as Castosarchus, a carnivorous ape, will eat any antelope species from Megalodorcas to Tapimimus. The antelope's only defense is speed. Many species can run at speeds faster than 60 MPH. Though the largest species like Valudorsum and Megalodorcas are relatively slow, and can use their horns and size for defense.
The antelope page is up on my site. They can be viewed at http://www.metazoica.com/antelope.html.