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

The Amazing Killdeer: Designed for Deception, a Good Creation, or Both?

Birds, like all organisms, employ many strategies to ensure that their offspring will survive, thereby allowing the continued existence of the species. Some birds produce elaborate nests high in trees, on rocky ledges or even inside caves to protect them from ground-dwelling predators. Others, like penguins and many shorebirds, nest together, overwhelming predators by sheer […]

Observing God’s Good Creation: The Fascinating Life History of Killdeer

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) birds are masters of deception. They lay eggs on the ground—right in plain sight—except that they are hard to see.  If their nest is approached, the killdeer parent will distract the intruder by running along the ground, sometimes calling loudly—hence the vociferous portion of the Latin name provided to them by Carl […]

The World’s Largest Rock Tumbler is an Unusual Testimony to an Ancient Earth

Evidence that some features of earth’s landscape are the product of processes acting over longer periods of time can be found everywhere we look.  Some of this evidence, such as that from the Grand Canyon, may be familiar to us but other evidence is far less familiar but tells the same story.  For example, high […]

Consider the Ostrich: Literal-Day Creationists Unsure about the Ostrich’s Created Condition

Ostriches are curious creatures. They are very large birds that, although they have large wings, are incapable of flight. They make themselves at home in some of the most inhospitable places.  They lay their eggs in simple dirt nests and behave in ways that have perplexed our ancestors since they first laid eyes on them.  […]

Reconstructing the Past from Observations in the Present: A Practical Example from the Outer Banks

We use present day observations to infer past events every day.  I look out and see the patio is wet and a large dark cloud has just passed overhead.  From this I derive a very reasonable hypothesis despite not being an eyewitness to the history: my wet patio was caused by a rain shower.  I […]

Thousands of Fossilized Elephant Footprints Preserved in the Arabian Desert

Thousands of footprints preserved in a windswept eroded rock surface deep in an isolated desert region of the Arabian peninsula tell the story of an ancient herd of elephants walking across an ancient muddy landscape.   These are possibly the longest continuous set of footprints in the world and have been described in an article in the journal, […]

Remnants of a Shallow Sea: A Visit to Monument Rocks in Kansas

In remote western Kansas, groups of rock pillars stand like a natural Stonehenge over the grassy plains.  One such group of these pillars south of Oakley is named Monument Rocks.  Returning from our Wyoming and Colorado adventure, we stopped overnight in Scott City, Kansas just south of this interesting rock formation. The following morning we made our way along many […]

Fossil Hunting in the Badlands of South Dakota

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

Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the interactions of organisms with each other and their environment.  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, lawn-mowing, week control, pest removal – and thus you are probably […]

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

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?

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

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”

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

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

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 […]