Natural History Notes

These are quick stories or news items with less commentary. These may be short stories or comments about other natural history stories from other sources

NH Notes: Tardigrades – Animals that are Part Bacteria, Plant and Fungus

Animated gif of a water bear swimming from the New Cosmos Series hosted by Neil DeGrass Tyson.

A new champion in the crazy genome sweepstakes has been crowned.  And it is a tardigrade. A tardiwhat?  A tardigrade, or better known as those lovable little “water bears” or “moss piglets.”  These tiny (<1mm) animals have always held the fascination of biologists not just because they are so darn cute and photogenic but because they are quite […]

NH Notes: Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina from the Triassic Period

This is a photograph of a typical burrow complex found in Triassic formations in Argentinia.  The scale bar in the pictures is 10 centimeters.  Horizontal shafts are labeled "A" and vertical shafts that continued doen into rock below or would have gone up to the surface are labeled "B". This is Fig 3 from: Colombi CE, Fernández E, Currie BS, Alcober OA, et al. (2012) Large-Diameter Burrows of the Triassic Ischigualasto Basin, NW Argentina: Paleoecological and Paleoenvironmental Implications. PLoS ONE 7(12): e50662. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050662

Fossilized bones of dinosaurs, whales and mammoths get all of the attention but trace fossils provide important evidence for interpreting when and how organisms lived on Earth in the past. Trace fossils are not the fossilized remains of organisms themselves but rather are evidence of the past presence of organisms.  The most recognizable trace fossils […]

NH Update: Fuzzy Orange Galls on Oak Leaves, 2013-2015


My now 7-year-old daughter is very attentive to the insect population around our house. She spends many hours collecting all sorts of insects and other animals.   In the fall of 2013 she brought me a leaf that she thought had a caterpillar of some sort on it.   She is well aware that bugs make […]

NH Notes: A Four-legged Snake – Has the Edenic Serpent been Found?


An exquisitely preserved fossil snake has made its debut on the internet the last couple of days and it’s getting a lot of attention.  Why? Because it has four well-developed legs.  No snake fossil has ever been found with four legs. There are a few with two hind legs but none with front legs. The […]

The Diversity of Life: An Introductory Lecture


Have you even wondered what students at a public university are taught in a general education biology class about the diversity of life?  I can’t promise that what I am going to share is typical but it is what over 100 students heard yesterday in my class.  Below I share a link to a recording (voice/PPT […]

NH Notes: An Ancient Jawbone Found By Fishermen off the Coast of Taiwan


From a net pulled out of the ocean doesn’t seem a likely place to find an ancient human fossil.  But by scraping the bottom of the ocean,Taiwanese fishermen have been pulling up all sorts of unusual items in addition to their targeted prey.  Like some trawlers off the cost of Great Britain these fishermen have […]

NH Notes: Every Breaking Wave – Concretions Resist the Sands of Time

Concretions resist erosion on rocks of Sunset Cliffs near San Diego.  Image taken on Nov 21, 2014 by Joel Duff

“Every breaking wave on the shore Tells the next one there’ll be one more” Bono and Edge, U2 “Every Breaking Wave” 2014 I was in San Diego a few weeks ago attending the Evangelical Theological Society conference. I will report on that later but today I bring you a few pictures I took before hopping […]

Origin of a New Parasite? Tasmanian Devil Transmissible Tumors


Can cancer become an infectious disease?  Usually with think of cancer as limited to the individual in whom the cancer formed.  But what if cancerous cells could infect other individuals. Here is a link to a story on the sad case of what happens when cancer “learns” to infect more than one individual:  BBC News […]

NH Notes: Fossilization Caught in the Act – A Mammoth from Texas

An impressive wooly mammoth skeleton.

Does fossilization require rapid burial as the result of catastrophic global flooding?  Literalist creationists would have us believe so for they point to the fossil record as being proof of a cataclysmic global flood.   Look a bit deeper though and you will find that creationists frequently concede there are thousands of exceptions to this general […]

NH Notes: Natural Trap Cave – An Ice Age Fauna Snapshot

Grate over Death Trap Cave entrance.

A 15-foot-wide metal grate covers a hole in a bare rock outcrop in the high desert of the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.  Beneath the grate lies a 80 foot vertical drop to into a cavern with no other exit.  At the base of cavern situated below the hole in the ceiling are up to 30 […]


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