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All the best dinosaur toys

See the Dinotoy blog for lovely and accurate models of dinosaurs.

Beautiful fossil in Alberta

Piece of Ankylosaurus fossil

A sharp-eyed oil-field worker noticed something odd about the rocks where he was clearing away soil in advance of construction. He stopped his digging machine. pictures were taken and sent to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. They sent an expert who identified the fossil as an ankylosaurus. It’s about 40 million years older than most Alberta dinosaurs, It might be the oldest, most complete fossil ever found in Alberta: 113 MYO perfect, 3-D Ankylosaurus!

UPDATE: You can read more about the find at Everything Dinosaur.

Bird digits vs. dinosaur digits

More from Penguinology: the mystery of bird-vs.-dinosaur digits seems to have been solved. (Dinos have digits 1 – 3, birds 2- 4 or some such, out of the five possible.)

Russet feathers!

Before birds, there were feathers–naturally enough. Feathers, like hair, no doubt provided insulation and were grown by dinosaurs. Indeed, reptilian scutes when properly treated with a mild acid can fall apart into a feather-like structure. I suspect that the first advantage that they imparted was warmth for a small animal. But camouflage probably came second. When you have temporary structure like feathers, you can change color with the seasons. The color can vary by combining red and black pigments. It can pulse on and off as the feather grows or in different parts of the body to form pigmented bands. I have seen dinosaur-bird fossils where the bands in the feathers call to mind the wings and tail of a hawk.

But that’s just a hypothesis! Scientists have shaved a pigmented fossil into microscopic bits to identify the pigment granules and classify their color type: black or Irish-setter red. They applied their findings to the reconstructed fossil to see its color pattern. Behold!

True colors

The lovely illustration is by Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing

GrrlScientist has a fine, detailed description and lots of images of how the research on Sinosauropteryx was done with scanning electron microscopy.

It’s easy to create lines, cross-hatching, or speckles when two such color pulses combine into a moire pattern.

New Dinosaur Gallery – now with added Barosaurus

At long last, I’ve posted to flickr my images of the Royal Ontario Museum’s new dinosaur gallery, with several shots of their new exhibit, the Barosaurus.

Four years of science blogging

It’s been four years since the Globe & Mail stirred my indignation by promoting a caricature of evolution in its headlines. There’s nothing more egotistical than presuming someone will be interested in your words. But then I was fascinated by the story of H. floresiensis, a new species of Homo that apparently lived into modern, almost historical, times. Flores Woman appeared to have descended directly from H. erectus rather than H. sapiens sapiens or H. sapiens neandertalis. A fine scientific controversy erupted, with some people resisting the conclusion and others pointing to the gathering evidence that H. floresiensis really was something different. Why shouldn’t island dwarfing apply to humans? Why couldn’t there be an branch of the family isolated for 800,000 years? Heck, one isolated valley in Australia still has a remnant population of Tree 2.0, from 100 million years ago, with leaves like a cross between a palm leaf and pine needles. H. floresiensis was worth blogging about. I began to discover other online sources and other people discussing the issues.

It has been a journey that has educated me in several ways. I’ve experimented with thrice-daily updates, automatically scheduled and leavened with LOLcats. In the end, I switched back to more spontaneous and longer articles.

cat
more funny cats

I’ve learned a little bit about presenting information and more about HTML. In fact, the technical skills enabled me to accept contracts for creating HTML Web content.

It has gotten me a little bit of recognition and enabled me to meet a lot of very interesting, intelligent, and just plain nice people. I met Prof. Larry Moran and benefitted from his understanding of evolution. I’ve had dinner with science bloggers from other countries and enjoyed their conversation.

This culminated in a major vacation, where the excuse was this year’s scienceblogging conference at Research Triangle Park, followed by a visit to a major exhibition of Chinese dinosaurs, and a side trip to see Nigersaurus at the National Geographic Society Museum in Washington, D.C. Without science blogging, none of those experiences would have happened.

In addition, I took part in creating the media hype that exposed the movie Expelled as a trashy piece of propaganda. When PZ Myers was barred from attending the movie, I was blogging about it before the movie ended. (See “Expelled: FAIL!” and “Expelled producers wield weapons-grade stupidity.”) It was gratifying to see the story picked up in the New York Times.

It also gave me a chance to highlight issues that I think are important, from upcoming plagues to global warming and the nature of scientific thought.

In the excitement of following the U.S. federal election campaign and PZ Myers’ visit to Toronto, I missed the actual blogiversary. And that’s good: it’s more important to enjoy the journey than to count the days.

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