Historical Science and the Case of T. rex’s Puny Arms and Dinosaur Diets

An scan of a page from Ken Ham's "Dinosaurs in Eden" book. Here we can see Tyranosaurus-like dinosaurs with small arms enjoying a diet of flower plants.

Everyone has encountered a T. rex in books, movies or museums.   Besides its size and menacing jaws one of the most striking features of a T. rex is its diminutive arms.   So why were the arms of T. rex so short?   There have been many hypotheses including: 1) they had no use and […]

Historical Science and Perceptions of Age: Craters on Mars

A "young" crater on Mars.  This is a young crater about 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter. How young? The blocks of material ejected from the crater-digging impact sit on top of the sand ripples near the crater. This suggests, from the estimated age of the area's sand ripples, that the crater was formed within the past 100,000 years. The dark sand inside the crater attests to the mobility of fine sand in the recent era in this Meridiani Planum region of Mars.  Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our perceptions of the age of an object are frequently based on our common experience but I have found that for many people those common experiences are of little help when it comes to examining objects for which a person has no experience at all.   A couple of years ago this really hit me as […]

Geological Context V: Human Fossil Footprints Found Below Ice Age Deposits

cliff_erosion_happisburgh

A story is breaking today of a significant fossil find that was made almost a year ago but kept under wraps until the significance of the find could be evaluated.   What has now been reveled is that over 100 footprints were found in newly uncovered rocks along a shoreline of England.  Careful analysis of […]

Fishing for Fossils in the North Sea: The Lost World of Doggerland

The skull of a mammoth is loaded on board a fishing vessel on the North Sea

Imagine trawling for fish and when you pull up your nets you find a massive bone or a huge tooth along with your catch.  For over 100 years fishermen in the North Sea between Britain and Denmark have found such items in their nets but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the items that their […]

Juvenile Dinosaurs Found Huddling in a Nest: A Local or Global Catastrophe?

Remains of 15 baby dinosaurs in a nest. Click to enlarge this image. Image credit: Dr. Kh. Tsogtbaatar

We live in a new golden age of fossil discoveries.  It seems that every week a new and dramatic fossil find is revealed.  This fossil renaissance can be attributed to the opening up of new fossil sources, particularly China and Mongolia but also South America and to improved technology for retrieving and analyzing fossil remains. […]

A Tale of Taphonomy: Clam Shrimp Fossils and the Age of the Earth

A clam shrimp.  This has a nearly clear carapace (the clam shells) and has a large number of eggs in its brood pouch over its back.

One of the great privileges of my job is that I get to  sit on the committees of graduate students. This allows me to get up close and personal with data from areas that often extend far from those of my particular expertise.  You also know by now that I carry a particular fondness for […]

Desert Varnish: A Crude Marker of the Passage of Time

Petroglyph carved into desert varnish found in Dinosaur National Park

Anyone who has spent time in a desert has probably noticed many dark streaks or patches on the rocks.  I expect that most people simply look at these dark streaks and think they are simply stains like a stain on a cement driveway or that line of rust color running down a wall from a […]

Rapid Burial Allows Preservation of a Hadrosaur Fleshy Head Comb

An example of a duck-billed dinosaur (hadrosaur) skull that has a projection from its head that just have supported some sort of projection of tissue.  The fossil we are reporting here had no boney projection but the imprint in the rock showed that it had a fleshy comb above its head anyway. Later hadrosaurs may have evolved these bones projections to support even large fleshy head features.

A mummified fossil of common species of hadrosaur was found recently in South Dakota that showed that this particular hadrosaur had a rooster-like fleshy comb on its head.  Many hadrosaurs have exotic extensions of their cranial bones but this evidence that even the “boring” hadrosaurs had fleshy projections suggests that the hadrosaurs were an even […]

Cosmogenic Dating Methods Allow Estimates of Erosion Rates on Mars

Layers of rock seen at yellowknife bay in Gale Crater of Mars by the Curiosity Rover.  Image: JPL/NASA-Caltech

Just how fast are some rocks on Mars eroding?  A few months ago I asked a Martian rock that question (see: My Interview with a Martian: A Story of Origins) and I was not given a very satisfying answer.  Well, that rock can be excused for being a bit confused about time given how boring […]

Piles of Fossil Poo: Providing a Peak into the Past

Coprolites from site in Argentina.  Image: Fiorelli - See article by Fiorelli et al,, 2013 http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/131128/srep03348/full/srep03348.html

One headline reads “Giant Prehistoric Toilet Found” another refers to the discovery of an ancient latrine.  Don’t know how I missed those a few weeks ago. Surely had I seen that headline I would have had to clicked on it to find out what that was all about.   The actual title, The oldest known communal latrines […]

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