Saturday, January 27, 2018

Happy 30th: The discoveries of 1988

This weekend, I turned 30 years old. It’s a milestone for me, of course, but it reminded me about how much can change in 30 years.  30 years ago the dinosaur film was Land Before Time, when dinosaurs were inspired by the works of Charles Knight and William Stout before the Jurassic Park paradigm took over.  30 years ago,  the Berlin Wall still stood dividing Germany, the first Bush became president coasting in on Reagan’s popularity, and computer graphics in film were limited to a short by Pixar. 

There were many milestone in paleontology as well-new species were described, that would become iconic many years later.  So, I’ve decided to showcase all the fossil tetrapods described in 1988.  I can’t go into any depth about each, but there will be quite a few of them, so hold on your butts.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Starring T.rex

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m fascinated by pop culture’s views on dinosaurs. Fortunately, I’m not alone. Allen Debus, Don Glut, and many others have documented our obsession with prehistoric creatures, and today I’m going to look at one of these documents.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Species that don't get enough publicity #13: Bison

Today’s overlooked species is rather paradoxical; it’s not really overlooked as the genus has become a symbol of an entire continent. People of that continent can recognize one instantly. Empires have risen and fell because of them. Their meat is expensive but delicious. Their herds range over thousands of miles, and only centuries before covered the entire continent in a thick swath. They are the last American megafauna, and they escaped the fate of their neighbors by the skin of their teeth. That’s right, we’re talking about American bison. Yesterday was Bison Day, and I’m going to celebrate our last great mammal before it too is lost to human hunger and short-sightedness.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Prehistoric Warfare Episode 6: Carcharodontosaurus vs Spinosaurus

Now for something different. In 2004, Animal Planet showed as new series called Animal Face Off, a series reconstructing conflicts between coexisting animals. While the execution was clumsy and lacking, the concept is strong and I think easily applied to prehistoric fauna.  Ideally, there would be professionals discussing the situations, but unfortunately, you have only me. First I will compare the animals, and then depict their behavior, before concluding with the final battle.  The outcome will be my personal opinion; and there would be many times when the outcome would be decidedly different. This is not a scientific consensus, but one researcher’s opinion.

We all love dinosaur battles. They’re always a high point in a film. It’s childish, but it’s just plain fun. So, I’m hoping to use this opportunity to use this almost-universal appeal to get people thinking and talking about ecology, biomechanics, and behavior. Only one or two of these stories will be based on actual fossils-the rest are likely possibilities that must have happened sometime or another. In real life, animals usually don’t fight on even terms, but it does happen. Sometimes prey turn the tables, sometimes predators quarrel between themselves, but it can happen. I hope you enjoy this. Again, first I will have two scenes, one for each animal showing them in their habitat and showcasing their particular skills, then finally concluding with a battle between the two.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Paleofest Report 2017

It’s time for my annual report of Paleofest in the Burpee Museum in Rockford. Last year I skipped the report considering the high amount of unreleased data as part of it, which is a shame since it was quite good. This year there are fewer spoilers, but I did wait a month after the event. For more on Paleofest itself, please check out my first report here:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Movie Review: Gorgo 1961

I’ve featured the first two of Eugène Lourié’s “Sea Monster” films, so it’s time to talk about the last and most spectacular of them. It’s the one with the biggest budget, but surprisingly the most kid-friendly of them. While not a stop motion film, it made up for it with one of the most elaborate suitimation monsters and sets. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 1961’s British kaiju epic Gorgo.
Gorgo was not only third and last of Lourie’s directorial efforts, but also the last and third time a dinosaur wrecked London.  The transition from stop-motion to suitimation didn’t phase Lourie’s eye for art, but it was a sign of the times. While King Kong’s re-release and the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms ignited Ray Harryhausen’s career, their progeny Godzilla’s success showed that it could be done with a smaller budget with the right kind of effects team and director.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Paleoanthropology vs Sasquatch: the obligatory cryptozoology post

Two of my inspirations for this little blog are Dr. Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology  and youtuber Treytheexplainer  If you follow them (and you really should), you’ll notice they’re interested in the quasiscience of cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is the analysis and speculation on evidence of previously unknown species of organisms. It can also apply to the study of out-of-context finds of known taxa in new times and places.  “Cryptids”, known from all forms of inconclusive evidence, include everything from mythical monsters to prehistoric survival speculation to simply animals of known clades that can’t be verified as a specific taxon.  Like the aforementioned personalities, I think cryptozoology does deserve attention, albeit critical. In college, I was trained in anthropology, and that combines with my knowledge of zoology and paleontology to provide a pretty unique perspective I would say.