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

Fossil Hunting in the Badlands of South Dakota

A portion of a jawbone I picked up off a hillside in the badlands of South Dakota. Photo: Joel Duff

So many highlights from our vacation but I am going to hold off on some of my favorites until I am able to work through my images and develop more back story to go with them.  Instead, I will start with a short stop we made at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  We were there all […]

Reflections on the Death of Toads and the Edenic Perfect Paradise

FrogsinspringfieldBog

Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the interactions of organisms with each other and their environment.  Wherever you live the animals and plants around you are living in relationship with each other and the environment, including yourself. Around your home you may have considerable control over the environment – moisture, nutrients, whacking with spinning nylon string and steel blades […]

Exploding Termites – Sacrifice of an Individual for the Good of the Whole Organism

blue-term-ex

When do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, as Spock suggested in Star Trek II? I have no interest in defending the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, especially as a guide for understanding human moral psychology, but it is interesting to observe that some simple organisms display […]

Titanosaurus: Largest Dinosaur Ever Found But is it the Largest Animal?

A single femur from the newly found titanosaurus. PR photo:  MEF

What is the largest animal to have ever lived on the Earth?  Most people will answer “dinosaurs” or “sauropods” in particular.  While some titanosaurs may have been the heaviest land animals they were not the largest animals to have lived on Earth. That distinction goes to an animal that is very much alive today:  the […]

Dodging Darwin: How Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Slowly Embracing Evolution

MacMillan-Evolution-Creationism-Ken-Ham-Ancestors-full

As the strict young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis work to complete their Ark Encounter “theme park,” they have expended an impressive amount of energy organizing the millions of species of land animals alive today into a handful of small groups they call “baramins.” Creationists insist that while adaptation or speciation within a particular “baramin” is observable (and, indeed, necessary in order to account for the present observed diversity of life), there is never any overlap between separate kinds. Unfortunately for the young-earth model, the push to minimize the number of animals riding on the Ark has exposed a major problem with this view.

NH Notes: John Ray on the Purpose of Creation in “The Wisdom of God”

Sunflower struck by the suns rays at sunrise. Late summer in northeast Ohio.  Photo by Joel Duff

The Englishman and natural historian John Ray is best known for his book, The Wisdom of God.  Like many other books of the 18th century, he continually revised and reissued his book until the time of his death.  Even after his death notes that he had made on manuscripts were incorporated into later editions.   As a result of […]

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
http://www.plosone.org/article/info: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

Wasp-galls-oak-leaves-leaf-22Aug2015

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?

sn-fossilsnakes

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 […]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,039 other followers