Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Another year comes to an end.

And what a full year it was. Thinking back to how I started my 2010, it's hard to imagine that 2011 is only moments away. There are several bloggers out there who have already done a wonderful job of gathering up the best of 2010, so I'll keep away from that at the moment. Mostly because I'm working to finish up the public commitments I made for the 2010 Paleo Project Challenge, hosted by Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings and Andy Farke over at The Open Source Paleontologist. I'll admit, my goals were nothing compared to getting papers and manuscripts published, preparing specimens, and writing books. But we all have to start somewhere, right? I figured I should report on the status of the tasks I undertook.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New at the Zoo: Big cats, little cubs.

Two of the seven African lion cubs, now on exhibit (weather permitting) at the National Zoological Park.

Well, technically speaking this isn't "new" as the two litters of african lion cubs were born at the National Zoo back in August and September. But what is new is that the cubs have finally been introduced to their father, Luke, and that they have been spending a little time in their outdoor yards each day, meaning that you can finally go visit them! Two weekends ago, the Friends of the National Zoo hosted an exhibit debut for FONZ members, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to meet the pride. I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of my photos from the day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Winter Solstice

It's that special time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere. The ground is blanketed with snow, people are gathering with friends and family, and everyone is getting ready to celebrate the winter holiday season. For some, it starts the day after Thanksgiving. But I tend to really get in gear on the Winter Solstice. This year, it falls today, December 21, 2010, at approximately 18:38 EST. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year, and marks the time when the Earth's axis is oriented farthest from the sun. But while long nights and little sunlight may seem a bit dreary, fear not! This also means that tomorrow, the day will have a little more light added to it, as will the day after that, and the day after that, for the next six months until we reach the Summer Solstice (the longest day and shortest night of the year). This is good news for those of us who can survive the winter, but prefer the warmer, sunlit seasons (like this female Passer domesticus at above-left).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beyond Earth: News and views from the far reaches of the Universe

Microwave background radiation variation of the visible Universe, as observed by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). From the NASA/WMAP Science Team, via Wikimedia Commons.

I tend to focus on the terrestrial side of things here at Superoceras. Which is perfectly ok with me, Earth being such a dynamic, active planet. But beyond our tiny blue sphere is a vast and timeless Universe, the scope of which one can only begin to imagine (the best way to do so, in my opinion, is by walking along the "Scales of the Universe" exhibit at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York). The Universe is bigger and older than most can even fathom, and recently, it seems like I've been hearing quite a bit about it in the news. Maybe it's time to branch out a bit and talk about some of the papers I've recently come across in regards to events beyond our planet, with a little background added for flavor.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Boneyard 2.4

It's here! Thanks to all who heard the call, rallied to the cause, and submitted to this months edition of The Boneyard Blog Carnival. This month, the Boneyard 2.4 is being hosted by David Bressan over at History of Geology, so be sure to stop by and take a look around! I love David's use of imagery woven into his text - it makes for an excellent read!

If you like what you see (and I'm sure you will) follow the Boneyard, or if you're a blogger, submit to next months carnival! Just e-mail a link to your blog post to boneyardblogcarnival(at)gmail(dot)com, with the word "Boneyard" in the subject line. All things paleo are welcome!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Boneyard wants YOU!

Hey, interwebs. How do you feel about paleontology? It's kind of cool right? Maybe you blog about it sometimes? You get all technical, reviewing papers? Or maybe you're more artsy, and just post neat images of things once living, long gone? Either way, you're awesome. Because paleontology is awesome, and you're blogging about it. Share that awesomeness with the world, and submit to The Boneyard Blog Carnival. Just e-mail a link to one of your posts to boneyardblogcarnival(at)gmail(dot)com with "Boneyard" in the subject line. You'll help promote your very own blog, be part of and contribute to a growing community of paleontology bloggers, and you'll get to put this sweet banner on your site. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me.

I ♥ turtles, even the goat sucking ones.

It's true. Every since I was a wee lad, I've had a soft spot for chelonians. Perhaps it had something to do with a group of adolescent, transmogrified, "reptilian" practitioners of an unconventional martial art style. Or maybe it was just because the order Testudines is chock full of really (anatomically) odd, really cool critters. Shame on me, once again, for so far excluding an entire clade of organisms here at Superoceras. I'll use the recent publication of a paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology to change that, straight away.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

... and such a let down.

2:00PM EST. I've been waiting all day for this. Whatever the news, I want to hear it. So I click the link. The link that NASA has been teasing me with all week. The page opens, the NASA TV video player appears and then...

Such a tease...

At 2:00PM EST today, NASA has scheduled a conference on an "astrobiological finding that will impact the search for extraterrestrial life". When this was announced on Monday, the first thought that occurred to many was that life had been discovered somewhere else in the Solar System. Looking at the list of participants, I have to admit I thought it was a possibility. An extremely optimistic one, but a possibility nonetheless. There are several planetary moons in our solar system that have been proposed as potential hosts for life (Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Titan being two of the most prominent). But in my humble opinion, if NASA had discovered life elsewhere in the Universe, they wouldn't have waited a few days to tell everyone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Thanksgiving, watch what you eat...

... because it might just be watching you back!

Try to imagine yourself in the Quaternary Period. You get your first look at this "three foot turkey" as you're riding your tricycle. He moves like a bird, lightly bobbing his head. And you keep still because you think maybe his visual acuity is based on movement - because you heard some guy playing a paleontologist in a movie say that once - he'll lose you if you don't move. But no, not the wild turkey. You stare at him, and he stares right back. And that's when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the sides, from the other two turkeys you didn't even know were there.

Video from YouTube, by chinny814.

I dare you to try and tell me that modern birds are not the descendants of theropod dinosaurs. As if all the scientific evidence wasn't already enough to back that claim, you know you can see the family resemblance after watching that video. I feel bad for the kid, but I know that those turkeys were only trying to balance the scales a little. I mean, if you're in the United States, you're probably attacking a turkey right now. So in the words of Dr. Holtz, enjoy your roasted maniraptoran! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

151 Years of Evolution

On November 24, 1859, the first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection hit the shelves. It sold out the very same day (coincidentally, if anyone has a copy they are looking to get rid of I'd happily find it a good home). Since then, countless editions with countless introductions, forwards, and reviews have been published. You can get an illustrated version, a version bound with the other great works of Darwin, even a free electronic version for your electronic reading device. I'm sure when Darwin wrote of "endless forms" he had no idea he would be, in a way, referring to editions of his work. In fact, I'm sure that thought was far from his mind, being the modest individual he was. Rather, he was probably referring to something more like this:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things that are not dinosaurs: Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs, the (non-avian) flying archosaurs of the Mesozoic seem to be getting a lot of press recently. Strangely enough, in the year I've been blogging here at Superoceras, I haven't really said anything about them. For shame! Pterosaurs are a fascinating group of animals, so for those that aren't too familiar with them, I'd like to provide a brief introduction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like a virgin, NOT touched for the very first time.

Let's face facts. Life on Earth is pretty awesome. But in order to classify as a living organism, you have to do a number of things, like adapt to your environment, undergo metabolism and maintain homeostasis, have the ability to grow, and most importantly, reproduce. Our human-centric view of reproduction is rather limited. Two partners, one male and one female, engage in the act of combining their genetic material to produce offspring. This method of sexual reproduction is found all across the plant and animal kingdoms, and allows certain advantages. The recombination of genes produces new genetic identities, resulting in diversity and variation in breeding populations. This variation is essential when facing selective pressures in the natural world.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Autumn Harvest (Wonders of Fall Part 2)

As weather turns from warm to cold and the days grow shorter, I've found a lot of people start thinking about food. And with good reason. Autumn is a time of year traditionally associated with the harvest, which means a lot of delicious foods are coming into season and are ready to be collected for human consumption. Plants begin preparing for the coming winter as much as people do, moving energy out of their leafy parts, and into their roots. Trees and bushes drop leaves, grasses turn from green to brown,
and the starchy and sugary roots of plants start to mature. It's a great time to harvest foods like carrots, potatoes, onions and yams.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Pink Dinosaurs - The Final Push!

Alright, ladies and gentlemen. On October 31, peter Bond posted an update on the ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule "Pink Dinosaur" fundraising event, extending it to November 10. This was great for me personally, because it gave me time to finish up and submit all 31 of my pink dinosaurs (one for every day of the month). This was also great for the cause, as it has given everyone more time to submit and raise/donate money.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

"We are star stuff."

And just so you don't forget it, take a moment to celebrate the 76th anniversary of the birth of the man himself on this second annual Carl Sagan Day to help "increase public involvement in the excitement of astronomy and space exploration". When the Sun goes down, take a moment to step outside, look up at the stars, and think about life, the Universe, and everything. Maybe even stop on by Hulu and watch an episode or two of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage - for FREE!

Happy Carl Sagan Day, everyone! (Photo of Dr . Carl Sagan taken by NASA/JPL, from Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Boneyard 2.3

Well, well, well, would you look at that. Seems like Superoceras just made it to 100 blog posts. Huzzah! Thanks again to all my readers. Feel free to stop lurking and comment on your favorite (or least favorite) post you've seen here so far. For that matter, feel free to comment on anything. Your feedback will only make the blog better, I promise.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate than checking out this month's edition of The Boneyard! The "blog carnival specializing in items of paleontological interest" is being hosted by Ian Garofalo of Other Branch. This is the first carnival to take place away from home, and Ian did a great job! So be sure to stop by and read the Boneyard 2.3 and follow the official blog of The Boneyard as well. And don't forget. If you're a blogger specializing in items of paleontological interest (or natural history interest in general) submit to The Boneyard yourself! The more the merrier! Just e-mail a link to your blog post to the new submission address, boneyardblogcarnival(at)gmail(dot)com, with the word "Boneyard" in the subject line. You know you want to.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ah, Halloween. Spooky costumes, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and my absolute favorite, jack o' lanterns. Carving pumpkins is something I enjoy greatly, and every year in addition to the standard scary face or two to keep the ghosts and ghouls away, I like to throw a "paleo-pumpkin" into the mix. Last year, I decided the scariest thing I could think of was being attacked by a theropod dinosaur. This year, I found something a lot scarier.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Glendon Mellow's "How Not to Steal Artwork Online"

I woke up Monday morning to an e-mail from Dr. Manabu Sakamoto of the University of Bristol, a respected paleontologist and paleoartist, who blogs over at Raptor's Nest and has a gallery of his original work online. He wrote the ART Evolved e-mail list about the digital theft of some of his work, hoping to alert us all to the importance of copyrighting and clearly stating how you license your work. At first I thought someone had taken something of his and used it without permission - a serious offense in its own right. But as it turned out, the situation was a lot worse.

I won't go into all of the details, as Glendon Mellow of The Flying Trilobite and ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule has taken the liberty (with permission from Dr. Sakamoto) of writing up a summary of the events in the form of a blog post. I highly suggest that anyone remotely interested in or involved in paleo-art or online rights take a look at it. We all stand to learn something from this unfortunate situation. I also want to say how proud I am of the ART Evolved community for banding together and acting perfectly appropriate throughout the entire ordeal. In less than 24 hours they were able to take a bad situation, and make it a whole lot better. You guys are awesome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 2010 Paleo Project Challenge

Good morning! I just want to do a quick plug for Andy Farke of The Open Source Paleontologist and Dave Hone of Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings who have joined forces once more to institute the 2010 Paleo Project Challenge. The idea behind it is a good one...
The Paleo Project Challenge
Do you have a paper that just needs the finishing touches before it heads off to publication? Is there some half-prepped fossil sitting in a cabinet in the lab? Have you started and finished a big blog post half a dozen times, but never pulled the trigger? Is that masterpiece rendering of a live Tylosaurus still sitting on the easel? Stop sitting around, and finish it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hagfish Day 2010!

So apparently today is the 2nd annual Hagfish Day, the celebration of the beauty of the ugly. I can certainly get into that.

Hagfish, doing their slimy, knotty thing. From the Vancouver Aquarium YouTube channel.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Superoceras!

It was Friday, November 3, 2006, approximately 3:30PM. I was sitting in the Geology Building at the University of Maryland, listening to the arthropod lecture in my principles of paleontology lab. As I was handed my lab report paperwork, I began to doodle in the upper right corner of the front page, as was my weekly tradition. But this week, instead of the modest spined spiral I would normally draw, I went all out. A few lines for shading, some stripes on the shell, and a fleshy, way to squid-like head sticking out of the end - I had created a "Super Cooperoceras", or "Super-oceras" for short.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Road from SVP (Wonders of Fall Part 1.5)

Following an afternoon at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (which I'll have plenty of more posts on and photos from in the future), we began the journey back to Maryland from Pittsburgh. I can't say that the weather was as nice on the way back as it was on the way up, but there were some highlights. Rather than talk about the same things as I did in my first "fall journey" post, I'll just run you through it, in picture form.

SVP 2010: The Final Hours

And just as quickly as it started, SVP was on its way to ending. After the last technical sessions and posters, the "Paleo-Terps" met up for one last supper before heading off to the SVP Awards Ceremony. As always I was both pleased and impressed with the winners of the Lanzendorf PaleoArt Award for two-dimensional art, three-dimensional art, scientific illustration, and computer animation, a new category. I was also glad to see the Romer Prize get awarded to Jennifer Olori of the University of Texas at Austin for her phenomenal talk entitled "Developmental features of microsaurs (Lepospondyli), and consequences for the evolution of development and phylogentic relationships within Tetrapoda". All of the Romer Prize talks were good, but Jen's really stood out. Congratulations to all of the award/grant/prize/medal winners!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 4): "Terrible Lizards"? I think not.

What can I say? Despite the fact that there was a symposium on the evolution of modern african mammals, and all of the fish talks right across the hall, I spent my morning in Technical Session XIV starting off my last day at SVP the same way I started my first: in dinosaur talks. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for fossil sharks, proboscideans, lungfish, bats, etc. But I guess I have a soft spot for the group of animals that got me interested in paleontology in the first place. You know you do as well. It's ok to admit it.

The 1st Annual National Fossil Day

It's finally here! The American Geological Institute and the National Park Service have combined forces to bring us the first annual National Fossil Day. Now I'm obviously of the opinion that we should celebrate fossils every day, but I think a national day of recognition is a pretty good deal too. The point of the whole affair is to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value. From stromatolites to Seismosaurus, Climactichnites to coprolites, fossils have a lot to teach us about a world long gone, but hardly forgotten.

So how will you be celebrating? I've got a day full of talks and posters as SVP 2010 comes to a close. There are also some pretty cool things going on at the Carnegie Museum. For those of you back home in the DC area, stop by the National Mall or the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - there will be a ton of stuff going on there as well. Are you out in the southwest region of the country? The Trail of Time is set to open at Grand Canyon National Park. So many things to do, so many places to be, so little time. So everyone get out there and celebrate National Fossil Day!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 3): Archosaurs All Over

Wow, today was a long one. But certainly a good one. I started out the morning in the vertebrate joint symposium with a squamate mandibular symphysis talk by Dr. Casey Holliday, but with the exception of one hominid hip joint talk, it was all archosaurs of the air after that. I managed to make it to one of the only two pterosaur talks of this years meeting, and spent the rest of the morning in Technical Session X for some bird stuff. I've talked about it before, and read through most of the papers on the subject at this point in time, but hearing the fossil feather color talk blew my mind all over again. It was also interesting to learn that the research that lead to the discovery of fossil melanosomes in dinosaur feathers had started with fossil cephalopod ink. There were several talks on new finds in China, and as always, some talks on WAIR and the origin of flight in dinosaurs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 2): Romer, Raffels, Reprints, and Roundtables

The second day of the SVP meeting was even better than the first (and the first was pretty good). The morning consisted of the Romer Prize Session, where predoctoral students present their research and one is selected to receive the Romer Prize for their outstanding contribution in vertebrate paleontology. There were some really great talks this year, covering everything from the phylogenetic relationships of lepospondyls, to cryptocleidoid tail fins, to dinosaur respiratory systems. The competition will be pretty tough this year, and there were a lot of stand out talks, but we'll have to wait until the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday evening to find out who the winner will be.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 1): A Night at the Museum

And what a night it was! The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) played host to the SVP's 70th Annual Meeting Welcome Reception, opening its doors and several of its halls for a fantastic evening. Good food, good friends, good times all around. But despite all of that, the real stars of the show were the fossil vertebrates. This post will talk about a few of the dinosaurs (don't worry non-dinosaur folks, I talk about other vrertebrates in future posts, I swear), in their new exhibit "Dinosaurs in their Time". Here for your viewing pleasure, are a few photos of them (obligatory shot of me with Allosaurus fragilis at left).

SVP 2010 (Day1): From the Sea to the Trees

This afternoon, SVP talks were all over the place. I started out in Technical Session IV, where talks on marine tetrapods abounded. Everything from marine iguanas, to plesiosaurs, to shastasaurids. As someone that started out in undergrad as a marine biology major, and someone that took several classes with Dr. Merck, I've always had a soft spot for the brave tetrapod groups that both left the sea for land, and left the land for the sea once again. My "family" is full of brave pioneers. I couldn't be prouder.

SVP 2010 (Day1): Dinos Galore!

Today, I'm coming to you live from SVP. The 70th Annual Meeting looks like its going to be a good one. Now I'm going to be perfectly honest with you; after reading the SVP embargo policy online, I had thought I'd be able to do some decent write ups of what I was seeing and hearing here during the meeting. But after taking a look at an actual press kit (particularly the line in the policy mentioning pending publications in other journals, and their individual policies), I think I'm going to have to leave you all hanging a little bit . I certainly don't want to step on any toes, and I have the utmost respect for the individuals in this field. All of the talks I've seen have been amazing, and while I'd love to tell you all about them in great detail, perhaps I should let the authors/presenters do that when they actually get published. And rest assured, when these papers hit the press, I will be updating here, and linking to all of them.

Earth Science Week - 4.54 Billion Years in the Making.

Among other things, today brings the start of Earth Science Week, a time for Earth scientists to share their knowledge and engage students in discovering the Earth sciences, in addition to reminding people that Earth science is literally all around us and that through understanding it, we can become better stewards for our planet. This years theme is "Exploring Energy", selected to do just that, and remind people where our energy comes from, and discuss alternatives for the future.

I can't stress enough how important it is to get people to think about such topics. How often do we think about how the electricity in our home works, let alone where it comes from? How the petrol in their car gets from deep within the Earth to their tank? I'm guilty of the same disconnect. As much as I try to conserve energy and explore the many facets of the world around me, I take a lot for granted. So dedicating some time this week to these topics seems completely worth it to me. It's essential we understand what's happening now so we can plan for the future. In the words of famous Earth scientist James Hutton (popularized by Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology), "the present is the key to the past", or in this case, the present and the past are the key to the future. So grab an Earth Science Week toolkit, plan an event or find one near you to join, enter one of the many contests - there's plenty to do. And not just from the 10th through the 16th of the month, but all year round. So people of Earth, have a great Earth Science Week.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Road to SVP (Wonders of Fall Part 1)

Today, the girlfriend and I set off on the somewhat long journey from Hyattsville to Pittsburgh for SVP. And what a beautiful day for a drive. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining in the sky, and the view was fantastic. If there is one thing I love about this season (admittedly, there are many), it's driving through the mountains and valleys of the Appalachian region. Nothing but fall foliage, road cuts, and outcrops the entire way. This area of the east coast is beautiful any time of year, but there is something about the splash of color in the trees that makes it particularly noteworthy in the fall. Weaving around (and through) the mountains, you can feel the pressure fluctuating in your inner ear and breathe that crisp air that you just don't find at sea level. It's truly wonderful. Lucky for you all, we managed to snap some photos along the way. Please, allow us to share parts of the journey with you (you'll be spared the part where I sing along to John Denver songs at the top of my lungs).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Gearing up for SVP 2010!

There have been a lot of paleo-happenings this week, all leading up to my departure tomorrow morning for the 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Pittsburgh, PA. I am completely unprepared. I probably won't even get a chance to look at the abstract book until I get to Pennsylvania. That being said, I just wanted to do a quick wrap up of the week, considering how many things have been going on. This will be a huge link fest (not that they've become atypical to readers around here), but something is better than nothing, right? Consider it a dry run of my blog carnival hosting skills. Speaking of which, have you seen this months edition of The Boneyard? David Orr, you have my utmost respect.

First a focus on the science blogosphere. Dr. Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology has pulled together a collection of posts from Tet Zoo ver 1 and published them in a paper format. This is awesome. For those who don't follow Tet Zoo ver 2, what are you doing with your life, seriously? Tetrapod Zoology Book One is avaliable for sale on You'd best get to buying it! I want to make sure that enough people purchase a copy to encourage Dr. Naish to put out subsequent volumes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Boneyard 2.2

The Boneyard is back, and better than ever. Check out the October edition over at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus here. Big thanks to Dave Orr AGAIN for getting a post up for me at the last minute. Apparently I've been sending my submissions to the wrong e-mail address!

So go check out the Boneyard 2.2, follow the official blog of The Boneyard (take in that sweet, new banner while you're at it), and submit a post for the November carnival, which will be hosted at Other Branch, to chasmosaurs(at)gmail(dot)com.

Happy Birthday, Tyrannosaurus rex!

That's right folks. On October 5th, 1905, Henry F. Osborn formally named Tyrannosaurus rex in the literature, and of all the dinosaurs known to science, T. rex is by far the animal that pops into the minds of the masses when they think of the "terrible lizards". Now I'll admit, Tyrannosaurus has never been my personal favorite (sorry Dr. Holtz!), but I'll certainly celebrate the day. Why, because of all the dinosaurs, this is the one that has probably had the most influence on the most people. How many times have you walked into a fossil hall and been greeted by a jaw full of banana sized teeth, tiny arms, and a head so massive you know it was impossible to find a decent hat to put on it, even on your birthday? If you're anything like me, more than you can count. So happy (67,000,105th) birthday, Tyrannosaurus rex, and many more!

FMNH PR 2081, also know as "Sue", the largest, most complete, best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered (who just so happens to be celebrating her 65,500, 010th birthday this year) at the Field Museum in Chicago (photo by Steve Richmond from Wikipedia).

Monday, October 04, 2010

Order of the Science Scouts

I cannot believe I didn't post about this sooner, as I've known of it for a while. The Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique (O.O.T.S.S.O.E.R.A.A.A.P., or Science Scouts, for short) is, "by the grace of all that is good about science", awesome. They let you put sweet badges on your website or blog, "tweet" about science all day long, and are gonna have the best secret base ever as soon as they raise the 1 trillion dollars to build it. There are several badges that I'll eventually need to get onto Superoceras, but for now, I think I'll start off with this one.

This is the new "Who needs a post graduate degree? I can do science... CITIZEN SCIENCE!" badge. Given my current lack of Ph. D. and frequent blogging about topics I have no authority on, I hope I'm deemed worthy of "wearing" it proudly. Maybe I'll make one to wear in the real world too. Either way, I can't miss out on posting about the Science Scouts, or displaying their badges. So go get yourself some, and spread the word about the Science Scouts today!

Friday, October 01, 2010


October is here, which for me means a great many things. I love the fall season on the east coast, and this month is by far my favorite for a lot of reasons (Halloween and pumpkin beer being two of the most important). But this October will also going to be great due to the SVP 70th Anniversary Meeting in Pittsburgh, and the first ever National Fossil Day during Earth Science Week. I simply cannot wait, so to start off the month (and get a little inspired), enjoy this ROCK-tober video, showing off the sciencey awesomeness that is the Tesla Coil.

Video posted by emagana100, via YouTube.

I thought that was too cool to not work into a Superoceras post. Hopefully you agree. I'll be covering the events mentioned above in much more detail as the dates approach, and plan on doing some live blogging from SVP when I get there as well. So look forward to that, in addition to other fall related posts in a "Wonders of Fall" series I hope to get off the ground before the temperatures drop and winter sneaks up on us.

Have a great weekend everyone. October is here... get your sweater.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A new pelagornithid from Chile

On Monday, I mentioned that I was planning on blogging about a "newly discovered/published, saw toothed, South American dinosaur whose ancestors survived the end Cretaceous extinction event". I know I must have caught your attention, because I mean, that sounds sensational! Well, ladies and gentlemen, here you have it. Meet Pelagornis chilensis, the "pseudotoothed" Miocene dinosaur that has everyone on the edge of their seats.

Artist's rendering of the skeleton of a new seabird found in Chile with a record-breaking wingspan and bony teeth. Illustration by Carlos Anzures.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jurassic Park: The Musical

This morning, I was going to publish a post on a newly discovered/published, saw toothed, South American dinosaur whose ancestors survived the end Cretaceous extinction event. But it's a rainy Monday where I am, so as awesome as new dinosaurs are, I thought I'd go for something even more exciting to try and lift up the day. Now I know as you read the title of this post, you're probably thinking to yourself, "David, you already wrote about this back in August when you did a post on Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical." Well, you'd be correct, but that is not what I'm talking about. Take out the word "broadway" and change the "q" back to a "k", and you've got the subject of today's post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

ART Evolved's Pink Dinosaurs

This has been a very long week. By yesterday evening, I was completely beat, without an ounce of energy left in me. Walking to my car, I felt the tell-tale buzz of my phone, indicating that I had an e-mail. Reluctantly, I pulled the phone out of my pocket and went to check the new message. I was immediately glad I did. It was a message from the ART Evolved Crew! Joy of joys! I clicked on the item and began to read. With each word, I became more and more interested, and I felt the energy returning to my being. It's official: the "Crew" has it going on, and here is why.

ART Evolved's Pink Dinosaur Fundraising Event, a "Paleo-Art For A Difference" presentation. Images used with permission from the ART Evolved Crew.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Drill, baby, drill!", now on Discovery Networks

I really try to keep religion, politics, and anything of the like off of Superoceras. But I'd be naive to think that I'd be able to do so all the time. I feel like this issue is relevant in some way to my normal musings here, so I'm going to bring it up. But I won't go into to much detail, because as much as I wish what I'm writing about wasn't happening in the first place, and as much as I want to change it, I'm not willing to waste a lot of "breath" on this issue. I've blogged about it before, but have come to the conclusion that some people just don't deserve that much of my attention.

Here's the short version. Sarah Palin is being paid millions of dollars to do a show on The Learning Channel (TLC). It's going to be called "Sarah Palin's Alaska". Discovery Networks doesn't seem to see a conflict of interest between it's mission statement, and Sarah Palin's reputation as an enemy of wildlife and the environment. In fact, they are so into selling themselves out now, that the first episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" is going to feature another "reality celebrity", Kate Gosselin, in an effort to cross promote her new TLC show.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Laelaps at WIRED Science

Good news for the natural history blogosphere! It appears as if Brian Switek has found a new home for his paleontology, evolution and history of science blog, Laelaps, over at WIRED Science. He had been blogging from his author website after a "Pepsi-Induced Hiatus" over as ScienceBlogs, but can now be found here.

Make sure to update your blogrolls, bookmarks, RSS feeds, etc. You're not going to want to miss anything over at the new Laelaps, of that, I can assure you. And congratulations to Brian on the move to WIRED, the upcoming book, and the always entertaining and informative Dinosaur Tracking. I particularly enjoyed "Stegosaurus Week" last Monday through Friday.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New at the Zoo: Elephant Trails (Phase 1)

Friday, finally. I know that once the week finally comes to an end, I'm always looking for something to do, preferably outside. And I think I have my plans for the weekend lined up. Like so many of my weekends, I'll try and spend a chunk of this one at the National Zoo. There has been a lot of stuff going on there recently that I need to check out, and here's one more thing to add to the list. After over two and a half years of preparation and construction, Phase 1 of the Zoo's new "Elephant Trails" is finally open to the public. Huzzah!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Distractions, distractions.

Got to my computer this morning. Went to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus. David Orr reminded me of the Indiana University Press sale today. I was good - I only got a few books. Who can resist at 60% off? But then I went to, to see how the 60% off prices compared to their prices. And I ended up seeing Dr. Holtz's/Luis Rey's Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages. Decided to read the reviews. Had to write one of my own. Checked out the "Up-to-Date" information on Dr. Holtz's website. Went to Mr. Rey's website. Saw the 2008 Lanzendorf Award winning "Gigantoraptor Nesting Grounds". Realized that it's time to take the one I grabbed at the SVP auction to get it framed. Started looking at frames. Started looking at other home decor. Realized how poor I am. Thought about getting a second job. Laughed at myself - not possible now that the fall semester has started. Realized I should probably focus on my first job, since I'm currently at work. Decided to blog instead.

It's now 10:15AM. So far, I'd call this a productive morning. Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy 25th Anniversary, Super Mario Bros.

I know this is supposed to be a science related blog, but I can't let this occasion slip me by. And I think I can tie it in with the general Superoceras theme as well. So please join me in celebrating the 25th Anniversary of one of the greatest games of all time, Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Released on 13 September, 1985, I remember jumping through hidden warp pipes and saving the Princess (despite the fact that she always seemed to be in another castle) when I was a very young lad. And it was always a blast. It's hard to believe that 25 years later, the game is still just as fun to play as it was the day I first blew out the cartridge and slid it into the NES console.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A (possibly) feathered allosauroid. Yeah, you read that right.

I have absolutely no time to blog today, and it is killing me. Why you ask? Because of a new theropod named Concavenator corcovatus. I'm sure other paleo bloggers are going to be covering this story (just like the story of the new dromaeosaur, Balaur bondoc, last week) but I have to say something. Again, you wonder why? Take a look at this hypothetical reconstruction from the journal Nature by Raúl Martín.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New at the Zoo: African lion cubs!

Good news everyone! Last Monday night/Tuesday morning, Luke and Shera welcomed four little bundles of liony joy into the world. This is Shera's first litter, and Luke's first surviving litter (following the death of the cub born to Shera's sister, Nababiep, on May 20th of this year), and is truley great news for the Zoo, it's staff and visotors, and lions the world over. Their birth is a momentous occasion, and represents a huge victory for lion conservation. These cubs will help protect the survival of their species by contributing their unique genes to the captive breeding population in the future.

The Boneyard 2.1

I have been without the interwebs all weekend, and it has been driving me nuts. I feel like I'd normally be able to live without it, but I've been super excited about something super exciting that's about to happen. At some point today, the Boneyard 2.1 will be up! Everyone, I command you to click this link, and continuously refresh the page until you see something different. Then tell everyone you know!

Again, thanks to David Orr of Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus for bringing back the Boneyard 2.0, and Brian Switek of Dinosaur Tracking/Brian Switek/Laelaps for starting the original Boneyard.

A previous post to catch you up to speed here. I'll update as soon as I see that it is up and running.

**UPDATE 1:30PM**
The Boneyard is live! Check it out over at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus here! Big thanks to Dave Orr again, especially for getting my ELT post up there even though I didn't submit anything until the last minute. And science/paleo/natural history bloggers, learn from my bad example. Start writing your post submissions for the October "Boneyard" today! We need to keep this thing going!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule: A Pop Culture Gallery

It's that time of year again. The time of year where I get to pretend I'm an artist for all of a day and submit a piece to ART Evolved's Gallery of Life. For the month September, the theme/time capsule was to be "Pop-Culture". I got really excited about this when they announced the theme back on 01 July. The next thing I knew, it was 31 August and I still hadn't started a submission. I took a childhood dream, a pencil, a piece of paper, and about 30 minutes, and came up with this little ditty. I call it "My Fuzzy Friend".

Me and my fictional subadult male Allosaurus fragilis companion, "Morrison".

Friday, September 03, 2010

Like a Shark Out of Saltwater

Here's another piece of local news from the Maryland area. The brother started kayaking on the Potomac River this summer. I wonder what he would think of this NBC Washington headline:

"8-Foot Shark Caught in Potomac River"

Photos (above and below) taken by Christy Henderson, from Buzz's Marina.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Discovery Hostage Situation

As much as I don't want to write about this, I feel I have to say something.

Silver Spring, Maryland, right down the road from where I work and live, and home to the Discovery Communications headquarters building, made national news yesterday as a hostage situation unfolded. "Environmental fundamentalist" James J. Lee entered the lobby of the Discovery building around 1:00PM, 01 September, 2010 firing shots and taking hostages. A little before 5:00PM, police had shot and killed Lee after hours of surveillance and attempted negotiation, fearing for the lives of the hostages as he brandished a firearm and told police he had explosives in the building. Watching the situation unfold via live web streams, Twitter updates, and Google Buzz posts took up a large portion of my afternoon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Hipster Dinosaurs"

A lot of dino-themed art and pop-culture going on here at Superoceras this week. Maybe I've subconsciously been gearing up for ART Evolved's September Time Capsule/Gallery. Or maybe dinosaurs are just awesome, and people are finally realizing that on a mainstream level. Either way, here's another extremely creative spin on dinosaurs in the contemporary world. Courtesy of Buzzfeed, and made known to me by the brother, I present to you, "Hipster Dinosaurs" by Molly Lewis (Molly23 @ twitter). I couldn't come up with this stuff if I tried.

There are more of them! It just keeps getting better.

(Click to embiggen.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dinosaurs on Broadway

I wasn't exactly sure what to think when I first heard about this. It took a lot of background investigation for me to believe this was a actual show, and not just someones elaborate (and completely amazing) internet prank. But as it stands, this is both completely legitimate, and completely innovative.

"Jurassic Parq" is a Broadway Musical about, you guessed it, "Jurassic Park", and the story of Isla Nublar from the perspective of the dinosaurs. Sounds interesting, yes? Here is a brief description from the Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical blog:

"Boldly re-imagined and retold from the perspective of the dinosaurs, Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical is an unflinching mediation on gender, sexuality, and racial identity in an evolving landscape destined to stun you with its importance. Chaos is unleashed upon the not-so-prehistoric world when one dinosaur in a clan of females spontaneously turns male... because of the frog DNA. The mutation spawns a chain of reaction of identity crises forcing dinosaurs to question the very facts of life they've held as truths."

Monday, August 30, 2010

The 50 Best Blogs for Paleontology Students

Another quickie - the fall semester started up this week, so I've had to spend a lot more time working and a lot less time blogging as of late. But I did want to congratulate many of my fellow bloggers on making the Bachelors Degree Blog's list of 50 Best Blogs for Paleontology Students. Blogs from "A" to "Z" (or in the case of paleo-blogs, Archosaur Musings to Tetrapod Zoology) are included in this list. Congratulations to all who made it in the top 50, and to everyone else out there blogging about paleontology, natural history, and science in general. I highly recommend checking out the list, and the blogs on it. You're seriously missing out if you don't.

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A whale of a name change.

Just a quick update on a post I did a little while ago regarding the giant predatory Miocene whale Leviathan melvillei. Or should I say, the giant predatory Miocene whale formerly known as Leviathan melvillei. As it turns out, the genus name Leviathan was already taken (as a junior subjective synonym for Mammut). The authors of the paper recently published a corrigendum in the journal Nature explaning this, and giving the whale a new genus name, Livyatan. So Leviathan is really Livyatan (like Brontosaurus is really Apatosaurus, and Torosaurus is probably really Triceratops). This type of nomenclature change is not that uncommon in the world of paleontology.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time to step it up, Jersey.

Just a quick one today, as this bit of information needs to be disseminated as quickly as possible.

There is a quarry in New Jersey where dinosaur track ways from the Jurassic have been preserved. Awesome.

There is also an "active adult community" developer who wants to build villas, a spa, and a clubhouse on the site. Not awesome.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get ready to dig, The Boneyard is reopening!

Years ago, Brian Switek (of Laelaps, Dinosaur Tracking, and Brian Switek) had the brilliant idea to start up a paleontology themed blog carnival, appropriately named The Boneyard. Then (I would imagine) Brian got super famous and the carnival had to leave town. I mean, The Boneyard had to close. Well... you get what I'm trying to say right? There was no more "Boneyard". And it's been that way for about two years. Sad, true. But completely understandable. I can hardly keep posts regular on my single blog. I can't imagine what it would be like for three plus a carnival.

So why bring it up now? Well it turns out that David Orr of Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus is also brilliant, and has gotten permission from Brian to reopen The Boneyard. This is fantastic news for science/paleo/natural history bloggers like myself, and for blog followers who like to read those science/paleo/natural history blogs. I think that, given the number of blogs out there today, the ball will get rolling pretty easily on this one. The content is out there (just look at my blogroll to the right). Now it's time to bring it all together.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Earth, Life, and Time: A Lasting Legacy

WARNING: The following post contains little science, and lots of "touchy-feely" stuff, but I'm putting it out there anyway. Consider yourself warned.

I will never forget the day of my college orientation. I had been invited to join the College Park Scholars, and had selected the "Earth, Life, and Time" program as my focus. Walking into the basement classroom of one of the imposing University buildings, I took my seat with all the other "ELT" scholars in front of two gentlemen who would, over the course of the next few years, change the way I looked at everything. They introduced themselves as co-directors of the program, said that they were vertebrate paleontologists, and that was pretty much the last thing I remember. There is a definite possibility I blacked out; I was immediately swept up by a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th (August 2010)

I'm not really one for superstitions, but I figured since Friday the 13th only comes around every so often, I thought I'd try and think of something science related that I could tie into what is traditionally known as the unluckiest day of the year. Black cats? The number 13? How mirrors work? All decent topics with a scientific twist that are associated with 13th, but I think I'll save them for future Fridays. This time around I want to focus on something that could be considered very unlucky and is genuinely related to science: intense storms continuously raging through your country.

I caught wind of this YouTube video on Wednesday. This is a storm that hit the Helsinki and Pori regions of Finland at around 16:00 on 08 August, 2010. I'll let the video speak for itself.

Video posted on YouTube by Carthag0Eagle.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Guess the Squamate" Roundup

A month and some change back I posted some of my photos from the "Lizards & Snakes: ALIVE!" exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History and asked you all to to do a little homework. Well, fellow blogger Susan stepped up to the challenge and successfully named each one of the squamates I photographed. As promised, now it's time to briefly talk a little about each of them and their relationships with one another. I'll also be including a ton of Wikipedia links so that those who want to find out more about the species or clade I'm talking about can easily do so (I normally take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but to be fair, they are starting to cite a lot of references so check those out too).

The first squamate pictured was the serpent Corallus caninus, commonly known as the emerald tree boa. This boid is a arboreal native of the rain forests of South America, and as you can see, is a pretty good looking animal. This specimen in particular is seen in a typical Corallus pose, coiled around the branch of a tree, head in center. It will remain like this for most of the daylight hours, as it is a nocturnal hunter. Staying coiled up as it hunts, it extends the head and neck out, waiting patiently for a small mammal, bird, or frog to pass by before it strikes with atypically large teeth for a non-venomous snake. It then pulls it's prey in, and like other boas, constricts it until it suffocates. And for those who already think snakes are creepy enough, here's a fun fact for you: Corallus is ovoviviparous, meaning that the mother never lays eggs, but rather, retains them inside of her body as the young develop and hatch, until she finally gives birth to live young (Mehrtens 1987). Awesome.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Paleo-artists lose creative license (Dinosaur Color part III)

Wow. I've gotten notoriously bad at starting post series here at Superoceras and never finishing them. Sorry guys and gals. I think I'll go ahead and spend the week catching up on all the things I need to finish, and then get into some more new material. Let's go ahead and look back a few months to when I started a series on color in (non-avian) dinosaurs.

In the first post, I talked about "Dakota" the mummified Edmontosaurus, and the traces of what appeared to be pigment patterns on the fossilized skin of the arm and tail. In the second, I talked about feathers and feather-like structures in three dinosaurs, and how researchers were able to determine the coloration of the feathers on certain parts of the body in Sinosauropteryx by looking at fossilized melanosomes (pigment containing cells) and comparing them to those found in modern birds. Fascinating stuff, but it only gets better from there.

Anchiornis, Huxley's "near bird"
Figure 4 from the Science article reconstructing plumage color in Anchiornis, color plate by M. A. DiGiorgio.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Fibonacci Film Friday!

The Fibonacci Spiral, or Golden Spiral, from Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Friday everyone! In the interest of getting some content out before the weekend, I figured I would share something with you all that really made my day. Digital artist and animator Cristóbal Vida has made a wonderful short film called "Nature By Numbers" in which he showcases the elegant relationship between mathematics and the natural world. Check out the project webpage here for an introduction, here for a look at the Fibonacci Sequence and background information, or here to view the video.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. If weather and time permit, try and get outside and observe math in nature for yourself!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

New at the Zoo: Japanese Giant Salamanders

Andrias japonicus, edited by SMcCandlish, original by Opencage, from Wikimedia Commons.

Giant news today from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park: five Japanese giant salamanders (Andrias japonicus) have made their way across the globe and are taking up residence at the Zoo. A. japonicus is the second largest amphibian alive today (there were some giants in the past), and is a close relative of the North American hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) both being in the cryptobranchid family. They are nocturnal hunters and are completely aquatic, living in clear, fast flowing, cold water streams. In the wild, they will travel upstream to mate and spawn, and the male provides a substantial amount of parental care (Adler & Halliday, 1986).

Monday, August 02, 2010

DON'T PANIC: Triceratops is here to stay!

I got an e-mail from a friend this weekend with a link in it to a Gizmodo article titled "The Triceratops Never Existed, It Was Actually a Younger Version Of Another Dinosaur.

I have an exam tomorrow, so I don't have a whole lot of time to blog today, but I had to write something given the content of Friday's post. I check Gizmodo most days of the week, and really enjoy their articles and reviews, but maybe they should stick to technology and gadgets. When it comes to paleontology, they are way off the mark. (Above, Torosaurus (top) and Triceratops (bottom) the subjects of the study, as reconstructed by Nobu Tamura, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Squamates in art.

No, not paintings of polychrotids nor sculptures of scincids, but plenty of photos of pythonids! Artist Guido Mocafico has two beautiful sets of photos of serpents of all shapes and sizes posted on his website (among other fantastic images). I highly recommend checking out the rest of the photos. If you're not a snake fan now, you will be after you see the grace and elegance of the limbless tetrapods highlighted in these photos. Well maybe not, but enjoy nontheless!

Gonyosoma oxycephalum © Guido Mocafico, 2003 (from his website).

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Wrong, wrong, triple wrong."

I started talking about this subject a long time ago, touched on it a few more times in between other posts here at Superoceras, and I have no doubt that I'll write more in the future. But I want to finally finish up a post series that is long overdue, and answer a question that inspired me to start blogging in the first place: what do I think of the discovery or Ardipithecus ramidus, and the scientist that claimed that "apes descended from humans"?