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!

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.)