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!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

One less tiger in the world.


Sad news yesterday from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Rokan, the almost 20 year old Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), was euthanized after several years of worsening health conditions. He was an amazing big cat who sired 10 cubs during his lifetime. He should be remembered and celebrated for the contributions he made to tiger conservation efforts. You can read more about the story at the Zoo's Tiger Diary.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(New) soft bodied cephalopods from the Cambrian.

Is it Cephalopodmas already?!?! No, but it sure feels like it. Today the journal Nature published an article describing a previously known species, Nectocaris pteryx, in an entirely new light. In their new paper, Martin R. Smith and Jean-Bernard Caron reinterpret Nectocaris based on the holotype and 91 additional (brand spanking new) specimens that help show where this peculiar Middle Cambrian critter belongs on the "Tree of Life".

Restoration of Nectocaris based on old evidence, by Ghedoghedo, from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dana Carvey is "DARWIN".

I'm a huge fan of Funny or Die, and as you all probably know, of Charles Darwin as well. So naturally, I got a good laugh out of this. I just hope that people appreciate it for its humor, and not for its inaccurate portrayal of a remarkably humble and non-violent man.

By Dana Carvey & Spike Feresten, via Funny or Die.

For more accurate portrayals of Mr. Darwin, check out "Creation", "Darwin's Darkest Hour", and "Darwin's Dangerous Idea".

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

R. Dakin & Co., 1986 - My First Dinosaur Toy Collection

(Complete?) collection of dinosaur toys, made by R. Dakin & Co., 1986

To be young again. I just posted an inquiry on The Dinosaur Toy Forum (the official forum of The Dinosaur Toy Blog) regarding the above pictured vinyl dinosaur figures I got when I was only three or four years old. These things are adorable, and I'm sure are what inspired what has been a life-long hobby of collecting dinosaur (and other extinct and extant animal) figures.

These cartoonish depictions are clearly based on known species, and given the diagnostic characters they posses, I imagine we are looking at (back row, left to right) Apatosaurus, Saurolophus, Spinosaurus, (front row, left to right) Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, and Monoclonius. I particularly like the fact that they went for less well known (at the time) species like Monoclonius and Spinosaurus, rather than Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus.

So, now the question: does anyone know anything about these figures? The only identifying feature on them is an inscription on each figure that reads "(c) R. Dakin & Co., 1986". Google search results haven't yielded a lot of clues, but if anyone else out there has ever seen these figures or knows anything about them (particularly if I have a complete set), I'd appreciate the information.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Universal Common Ancestry : I got it.

Yay science! Great news from the journal Nature this week. Douglas Theobald from Brandeis University (who writes for TalkOrigins from time to time) has published a paper that, for the first time, tests the theory of universal common ancestry. This a central part of the theory of descent with modification via natural selection (or evolution, for short), and while most scientists had accepted the notion that all known living organisms share a common ancestor at the base of the tree of life, no one had actually gone about formally testing the idea.

The "Tree of Life", courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010's "7 Dinosaurs You Could Take in a Fight"

My friend Susan over at Crurotarsi: The Forgotten Archosaurs recently posted a link to's "The 10 Lamest Dinosaur Names" before I could get myself together with a post, so I wanted to beat her to the punch with this one.'s "7 Dinosaurs You Could Take in a Fight"

While I have to admit that Compsagnathus, Archaeopteryx, Microraptor, and Epidendrosaurus might not be able to inflict a terrible amount of damage on your average human (given the impossible scenario that a human would ever encounter one), I still think they'd be able to get a quick bite or scratch in there if you aggravated them. Nigersaurus could definitely break a few bones if it bumped into you, but as long as you didn't run up to it screaming your head off and flailing your arms, it would probably remain pretty calm and go about its business. But Therizinosaurus would definitely put the hurt on you with its meter long, scythe-like claws. It's reasonable to believe they used them to fend off predators, and I'm sure they were pretty effective defensive weapons. And Carnotaurus would probably straight up eat you. The unnamed dinosaur they advise not to harass is Masiakasaurus. I probably wouldn't recommend it either, even though its dentition indicates it probably fed on fish and small mammals.

Still, it's a great article for any paleo enthusiast, and there are a couple really good zingers in there. Thanks!