Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vintageosaurus mistakeii

Reconstruction of Laelaps (now known as Dryptosaurus) - by Edward Drinker Cope - possessing a typical (at the time) vertical posture, slouching head and useless arms. Image from Love in the time of Chasmosaurus

We occasionally make mistakes. Everyone can think of at least one major mistake they've made during their career (undoubtedly we make a couple in our personal lives which we may or may not wish to recall). But I want to look into some memorable vintage palaeo mistakes. . . the ones generally made when there is nothing in the known world (19th century known world) that can be comparable to the discovery of massive "lizard bones":

Most people will recognise this dinosaur more than the first palaeo reconstruction mistake, Megalosaurus. The first reconstruction of iguanodon was the huge iguana-like statue which still stands at Crystal Palace, south London, by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. The "thumb spike" was placed on the tip of the snout, creating a more lizard-like appearance. In some aspects, Hawkins' iguanodon resembles a horned, very toothy chameleon.
The initial reconstruction of Iguanodon by Hawkins, and the current corrected version by Raul Martin.

Apatosaurus (formerly Brontosaurus)
Apatosaurus went through many changes, but one of the more notable was the correction of its skull. For many years until 1975, the poor sauropod borrowed the skull of a distantly related cousin, Camarasaurus - more closely related to Brachiosaurus. The contrast in the two skull types are quite astounding.

Left is the Camarasaurus skull, which for years was placed upon the body of "Brontosaurus", the skull on the right is that of a Diplodocus, a close relative of Apatosaurus (NE: Brotosaurus) and displays what the skull of Apatosaurus should have been like. Image from Taylor, M.P., Wedel, M.J., Naish, D. 2009. Head and neck posture in sauropod dinosaurs inferred from extant animals. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 54(2): 213-220

Posture, poise and grace

For most dinosaurs, the position of the legs and the weight-bearing stance was often incorrect.
Tyrannosaurus, Iguanodon, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and even large sauropods have all fallen at the unbalanced positioning of their limbs and tails. Tyrannosaurus, for example, for many years had been depicted as near vertically erect like an alert meerkat and balanced precariously on its tail (which dragged along the floor similarly to sauropods depicted around the early 20th century). In the case of the sauropods, (such as Diplodocus) they were occasionally illustrated with bow-legs; dragging their enormous bulk through the dirt, long tail limp behind them. Due to this hefty burden, most sauropods were placed in an aquatic setting to allow them more buoyancy. Providing evidence in the fact that poor teaching and a long-standing reliance in religion and Creationism doesn't achieve results in reality.

The reason for bringing up some of the errors in palaeontology (and particularly reconstructions) is in showing that when first uncovered, after the initial analysis and subsequent recording of characteristics and features, not everything about a specimen will be correct. More often than not, since science is forever updating its knowledge and techniques, things which may not have been considered important may, in fact, turn out to be the exact source of information which could completely alter the definition of that specimen... as an example, I turn your attention to BMRP 2002.4.1 "Jane"... (in my heart, always a Nanotyrannus), or maybe the example of the absorption of Stygimoloch and Dracorex as individual species into different growth stages of Pachycephalosaurus would be for better understanding.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Bird brain"... not such an insult

So, I was going through the TED library of film clips for something interesting to watch and I stumbled upon this piece of gold: Einstein the Parrot.

This was as equally impressive as the documentary I saw of Alex the African Grey who passed away in 2007 at age 31. The vocal range of these guys is amazing and the understanding and recognition of commands and simple words and phrases is really impressive. But the brains don't end at the African Grey Parrot. . .

The kea, (possibly my favourite parrot of mischief) a large New Zealand parrot, have also been know for their intelligence. They've been observed to become destructive (damaging cars, bins, and home roofing), disruptive and bored whilst in captivity; requiring mental stimulation in the form of rather complex puzzles.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Year On

As I sit in those moments of quiet,
When sadness invades me,

I know that yesterday,

You were here.

Now you are away from us,

Not knowing your future,

Or when you'll come home, but yesterday,

You were here.

It has now been a week,

A week since you last were in the house,

An entire week since we carried you away,

To the place where we did not know your future,
but just last week,
You were here.

Another day passes;

A week ago, you were still with us,

In daily reports from the clinic,

They did not know your future, But we could still hope, and,
You were here.

More days pass,;

A week ago you left us,

Your head cradled in our hands,

Your spirit gracefully moving upward,

But for a few hours of that day,

You were here.

Sadness invades again,

As I know that once those hours pass,

I can no longer look back,

Over the span of a familiar week's time,

To find that comforting point when,

You were here.

More time will pass;

Sadness will not so much invade as menace,

And I will mark the days,
Saying things like,
"last month, last summer, last Halloween, last year,"
You were here.

I dread that day,

One year from now,
That first marking of the time,
That your body was no longer with us;
Though we will never forget you,

Your tangible memory fades,

The feel of your fur, your head, your back, your weight against us,

The smell and sounds of you when,

You were here.

The emptiness is beginning to fade,

To change into another reality,
One with you still playing a part,

But a role of ethereal presence rather than physical comfort we crave;

Your memory, your spirit, your essence and counsel,

Dwell with us, but this feeling is not the same as when,

You were here.

--"You were here" by Jenine Stanley


A year ago today, I said goodbye to you for the last time. I held you and pleaded to keep you longer if you were willing. You were too weak, and I knew I was being selfish. It felt like the longest drive, and when we arrived, I wished it had taken longer. I carried you in your blanket; you didn't fight... I knew by then that you had given up. I lay you on the table, the Vet came in to see us. Not once did I stop holding you - but she had to take you away through the back door. You weren't gone long, but you came back ready to leave. I held you again and whispered in your ear, and then your legs gently buckled and you got very heavy. You lay there, head slumped in my hand; and I closed your eyes. The Vet checked your vitals and announced "She's gone now". I cried. If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.

I still cry, but maybe not as much.

I know I have my memories... but I only wanted you. You're my best friend and were always there for me through the hard times. I miss having you there... with all your quirks and love and life. You were more than a cat to me, I grew up with you forever by my side. You'll always have a special place in my life and I'll always love you for how you were and not how you left.

Forever loved; Always missed
"Seal Moosh"