Archive for the ‘evolution’ category

Reptilian Mammal Fossil Found!

June 3, 2018

Evolution is perhaps coolest when we can discover examples of its transitional phases, and this little guy whose cranium was discovered nearly intact in Utah fits that bill.  Small but mighty, he weighed in at under three pounds and stood only about three inches tall.  He could probably give you a nasty bite on your ankle…

Resembling fossils previously found only in Eurasia and North Africa, the 130-million year old remains indicate that the supercontinent Pangea held together for about 15 million years, considerably longer than previously suspected, allowing for the spread of early mammals such as these and for their exploration of ecological niches.  Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch here was fur covered and suckled their young but laid eggs, similar to the modern-day platypus.  

Described as snout-bearing and catlike with buck teeth, the critter was discovered by accident amidst a cluster of larger dinosaur bones as they were being extracted, under the foot of one of them…ouch!  Just don’t dig up your basement looking for another one…

“The Crossing;” Quirky But Compelling Television!

April 4, 2018

Immigrants are washing up on our beaches again!  They’re not “boat people,” because they have no boat.  They’re not Cubans or Mexicans, and are not here to steal your jobs, bring crime, or drain the safety net in some Trumpian nightmare. These people are as American as most readers of this blog. They just happen to be from the future, and are seeking sanctuary…

The Crossing is a new, 11-episode series whose debut episode has recently run on the ABC network.  Only the pilot episode was made available to reviewers, and not all reviews were favorable.  Accordingly, I initially approached this series skeptically and with low expectations.  I was really won over by what I saw, however, and think that I could become a fan of the series, which blends elements of dystopian science fiction, the paranormal, and even current-day, real-life social issues.  At times, it’s almost reminiscent of X-Files material while promising more episode continuity.

If you find some aspects of the current American and world state disquieting (and I do), you can console yourself with the thought that about 180 years in the future, things are gonna be much worse!  At that time, a genetically-enhanced group called APEX with heightened senses and abilities has taken things over, and essentially waged a genocidal war against the rest of us.  The details of this conflict are only available to viewers in dribs and drabs, but suffice it to say that things became bad enough in the future that a group of several hundred people took a risky time travel venture back to our present reality.  All of the bugs were not worked out, however, with the time travelers not knowing exactly when or where they’d wind up, and in kind of a bad Star Trek transporter incident most of them wind up drowning in the ocean outside of the small Oregon fishing town of Port Canaan.  A small group of about 47 souls survived, however, to wash up on the beaches, presenting first local authorities and soon thereafter the Department of Homeland Security with some interesting questions and problems…and we all know that local and federal operatives tend to get into turf wars and clash.

Sheriff Jude Ellis (Steve Zahn) is a central character, as are Reece (Natalie Martinez) and her eight-year-old daughter, Leah (Bailey Skodje).  Mother and daughter are separated upon arrival by some distance, and Reece in seeking her daughter demonstrates freaky powers, including abilities reminiscent of The Bionic Woman. – – Is Reece of the APEX group, or otherwise some kind of genetic mutation?  Does her daughter Leah likewise have freaky powers, and if so, what are they?

We’ll just have to wait and see, but it’s revealed that an earlier group of time travelers have previously arrived, and some are of the APEX group with desires to change the present in order to shape the future.  Resettled into a kind of internment camp, the time travelers also pose an interesting reflection upon current immigration policies and social attitudes.

This quirky show with legs in several genres has promise, and may appeal well to a niche audience or at least generate a cult following.  It’s worth a look, and in my area airs Monday night at ten on the ABC network…

Cloning a Neanderthal?

January 23, 2013

neanderthal– – Harvard geneticist George M. Church created waves recently when poorly-translated comments he made to a German-language magazine led to reports that he was looking for “an extremely adventurous female human” to serve as a surrogate mother for a cloned Neanderthal using developing technology.  With fragments of Neanderthal DNA in fossils, Church noted that someday it might be possible to assemble them into a complete genome that could be put into a human egg to create a cloned embryo, which in turn could be put into a human surrogate mother to bring back a human relative long extinct.

Church was simply discussing technological possibilities, holding that his remarks were badly misinterpreted, and that he does not advocate cloning Neanderthals… 

Grazin’ In The Grass!

November 14, 2012

– – Shut up and eat your creamed spinach!  New research has suggested that early human ancestors in central Africa 3.5 million years ago ate a diet of mostly tropical grasses and sedges before evolving a taste for meaty flesh.

After studying the fossilized teeth of three early human relatives excavated at two sites in Chad,  Oxford researchers found the signature of a diet rich in plant foods through analysis of carbon isotope ratios in specimen teeth.  They were not equipped as carnivores are with sharp teeth and also lacked cow-like guts to break down food such as leaves, so probably feasted more on roots and bulbs at the base of the plants.  Their diet was more like that of a cow than that of a Great Ape, indicating that our ancestral human diet diverged from that of the apes much sooner than was previously thought…

Not Lazy, Just Evolved…

August 12, 2010

– – Orangutans aren’t exactly balls of fire but rather simian slackers; they can sleep for twelve hours a day, and then nap for several hours more!  In fact, orangutans use less energy, pound-for-pound, than any animal except for the tree sloth.   This is not necessarily a bad thing…

It turns out that orangutans are not lazy, but simply energy-efficient.  In the wild, orangutans live mainly off fruit, which can be hard to come by in their forest habitat for several months of the year.  Those who can survive on the least food for the longest therefore have the best chance of surviving and reproducing.  Although a large male orangutan can weigh in at over 250 pounds, a new study in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that such an animal consumes less than 2,000 calories a day, which is 20% less than a typical human male.

This can be considered an evolutionary adaptation to deal with their habitat, with sleep being a low-energy state…

What’s In YOUR Backyard?

July 8, 2010

– – Just  when you think that everything’s been discovered, someone digs up something that’s new…and we’re not talking about mob hit victims!

A guy excavating for a swimming pool in his Brighton, Tenn. backyard unearthed the fossilized jawbone of a prehistoric mammal, possibly a trilophodon, part of the mastodon family who were in turn the extinct relatives of today’s elephants.  The remains later uncovered were estimated to belong to an adult who stood up to eight feet tall and weighed up to two tons.  This would be the first time that such a species has been found in the mid-American south.

…and why can’t I dig up anything good in my backyard?!

The Dino Dilemma…

March 7, 2010

– – How, oh how, did the dinosaurs die off?- – For many, the answer has been an asteroid impact, while others have blamed the eruption of a mega-volcano. Yet others think that they smoked too much… (Gary Larson, et al)

Well, the latest is that a “dream team” of 41 researchers from 12 nations continue to feel that the evidence points overwhelmingly to a mountain-sized asteroid more than seven miles wide impacting with the earth at twenty times the speed of a rifle bullet about 65 million years ago, leaving a 120-mile-wide scar, the Chicxulub crater,  on the Mexican coast. An impact-induced environmental catastrophe ensued,  with melted rock raining as far as northern Canada followed by caustic chemicals, dust, and soot filling the air, shutting down photosynthesis and causing darkness for perhaps as long as a year...major bummer!

The dinos, however, were in decline for millions of years before the asteroid strike, and the celestial hammering may be seen as presenting additional circumstances that collectively the saurians couldn’t cope with, causing 60% of all species to  go extinct at that time.

…and how about a “Dream Team” of  researchers?- – Can you imagine all of those pocket protectors?- -The nerdish laughter?- -The sexual frustration?!

Turkeys and T-Rex…

November 27, 2009

– – Dinosaurs, like turkeys, had a wishbone, called a furcula.–I love that name so much I wish I had one, too…fur-cula! It was really the fusion of two collarbones at the sternum, where a bird’s flying muscles link up.  It’s elastic and great for flying.

Turns out that T-Rex and the Velociraptor had wishbones, too.  While they of course didn’t fly*, this discovery is one of the many bits of evidence that shows birds evolved from dinosaurs!

(*Wouldn’t a flying Velociraptor be extremely cool, though?)

– –Happy Thanksgiving from Foxsylvania, BTW!

Anniversary of Evolutionary Theory

November 25, 2009

– – It was 150 years ago (1859) that Charles Darwin released his theory of evolution, a cornerstone of the sciences…

…and yet, evolution remains controversial in some circles 150 years later…

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