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!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"What about bacteria?" (Dinosaur Color Part II)

Now, let's get back into the topic of dinosaur color. Maybe you're on the fence about the "Dakota" story I wrote about in a previous post, and not entirely convinced that pigment is something that can fossilize at all. Luckily for you, a paper was recently published in Nature showing that the color of an organism can in fact be preserved in the rock record. Even better, actually: it can be preserved in feathers.

Sinosauropteryx and other feathered dinosaurs

It's actually kind of crazy when you think about it. A few years back some researchers discovered melanosomes - cells in living tissue that contain melanin, a light absorbing pigment - in a 40 million year old feather under a scanning electron microscope. They determined that, like a modern European starling, this feather belonged to a bird that had dark, iridescent, plumage covering its body. This was great news for people interested in this type of thing, because it meant other researchers could use this technique to look at more fossilized feathers from both avian and non-avian dinosaurs and potentially determine their colors. And that's exactly what Zhang et al. did (2010).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ducks: Feed with Caution

I could not resist posting a quick set of links on what I know is a remarkably frequent occurrence, but one many people simply cannot believe takes place. Dr. Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology and SV-POW just blogged a new post on the "unique" mating habits of the mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos). A previous TetZoo post on the subject can be found here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break!

Kinda. I'm not at work, but I am working. Just wanted to drop a quick post from Beantown! I'm here with the University of Maryland's Alternative Spring Break program, and we've been battling the weather and trying to get some community service done. You can follow our adventures at the ASB Boston 2010 blog.

If I make it to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, I'll be sure to try and get a post up. Until then, take care!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Every kid wants to know... (Dinosaur Color Part I)

Every child I have ever spoken with about dinosaurs has inevitably ended up asking me one question - a question to which I had no definitive answer: What color were the dinosaurs?

Up until about a month ago, I would have gone into a drawn out explanation that no child really wants to listen to, describing the many hypotheses people have come up with concerning dinosaur coloration. Some believe that the larger herbivorous dinosaurs may have had dull coloration (like modern deer, rhinoceros, or elephants) that helped them blend in to their surroundings and escape predation. Others believe some of the herding dinosaurs may have had stripping or bands of simple colors (like zebra today do) to make it more difficult to be singled out in a group. A different school of thought is that dinosaurs were vividly colored (like their closest living relatives, the birds). This coloration in dinosaurs with crests, frills, domes, etc., may have been used to attract a mate, threaten rivals or predators, or identify an individual amongst a group. I even told several inquisitive children that we do know the colors of many dinosaurs (of the avian variety), and they could discover them simply by looking out the window.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule: The Therizinosaur Gallery

ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule: The Therizinosaur Gallery

It's about time I showcase another blog that I follow - "ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule". For over a year now, the ART Evolved Crew has hosted 6 successful paleo-art themed online galleries, and for their one year anniversary, I decided to throw my hand in at a submission to their most recent, The Therizinosaurs Gallery. As indicated by the name, ART Evolved is a paleo themed blog where they offer reconstruction tips, advice on "going pro", host online galleries, and live blog pieces being created. I've found their input helpful, and their posts entertaining, and if you're even remotely interested in creating or viewing paleo-art or reconstructions of extinct organisms, head on over.