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!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things that are not dinosaurs birds: Archaeopteryx?

Since its discovery 150 years ago, Archaeopteryx has been considered the most basal bird ever discovered.  In fact, current phylogenies show Aves (birds) comprises Archaeopteryx and Pygostylia (every other bird ever), meaning Archaeopteryx comes as close to "not-being-a-bird" as a bird can get.  Its discovery also initially helped support the now firmly established notion that modern birds evolved from within a group of theropod dinosaurs.  In my opinion, Archaeopterxy is as close as you are going to get to finding a "missing link", as it possessed traits found in both non-avian dinosaurs and birds.

The infamous "Berlin Specimen" of Archaeopteryx lithographica (HMN 1880) on display at the Humboldt Museum für Naturkunde. Photograph  by H. Raab, from Wikimedia  Commons.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Backyard Botany: Native Maryland vines

As I mentioned in my last post, I spend quite a good deal of time fighting the growth of invasive vines in my yard.  I'll admit, I always feel guilty killing off any plants, invasive or not.  But controlling invasive species and making sure they do not spread is essential to protecting and preserving the local ecosystem.  That is why as I tear non-native plants out, I always try and replace them with species that can be found growing naturally in my area.  And lucky for me, there are several such species that can be found in the region of Maryland that I call home.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia, working its way up my gutters.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Backyard Botany: Invasive vines

Invasive vines: climbing fences and choking out bushes like a boss.

My yard is covered in vines.  Terrible, invasive, non-native vines, that seem to grow a lot faster than I can get rid of them.  It has become a serious problem.  Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), English ivy (Hedera helix), and mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum perfoliatum) can all be found on my property in Edmonston, Maryland. Initially brought in for ornamental purposes, their agressive growth have allowed them to take over large portions of  my yard.  They grow over natural groundcover, trees, shrubs, fences, gardens, sheds, and even the house itself.  It makes me very unhappy.  But their is one invasive vine that really gets under my skin, much more so than all the others combined: Porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tetrapod Zoology (and a bunch of other blogs), now at Scientific American.

When I got back to my computer this morning after the long weekend, I came to find that Dr. Darren Naish (previously of  Tetrapod Zoology ver 1 and ver 2) has made the move from ScienceBlogs over to Scientific American.  You can now find Tetrapod Zoology (ver 3) at Scientific American Blogs.  Be sure to update your blogrolls... very carefully.

 In my excitement over the move this morning, I inadvertently deleted mine.  Like... the entire widget, with the list of 80 plus blogs I follow.  I found a web cache of the blog, and I think I've managed to rebuild it, but let me know if you're missing or want to be added.  My apologies to all my fellow bloggers!

But back to the topic at hand, please join me in congratulating Dr. Naish on the move, and check out his introductory post here.


It would appear that Eric Michael Johnson of The Primate Diaries and The Primate Diaries in Exile has also joined the gang over at Scientific American Blogs.  Check out The [new] Primate Diaries at Scientific American!


And another great new blog has joined Scientific American.  Check out Symbiartic, where Glendon Mellow and Kalliopi Monoyios write about the "art of science and the science of art".

Friday, July 01, 2011

Backyard Ornithology: House finch breeding

A while back I left a teaser on the end of a post about house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), and never got around to telling you all the reason that, despite their non-native status, they are a joy to have around the house.  One word: babies!

A house finch nest, conveniently placed in one of my hanging planters.