Remember Martha, the last of her kind, who died on this day a century ago. September 1st marks the extinction of the passenger pigeon, a species of North American bird with incomparable population numbers before they were completely eradicated by humans at the beginning of the 20th century.
3.7 billion to 0 in forty years.
And if you are wishing this wouldn’t happen again, hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself - remember that we are currently enduring the sixth major mass extinction event. While the other five in our earth’s history were naturally caused by everything from major meteoritic impacts, to extreme cooling or warming of the environment, and frequently changing atmosphere - the latest event, Number Six, is being completely attributed to humans. This is the Holocene Extinction.
In 2012 the IUCN reported that 30% of amphibians are at risk of extinction; as well as 21% of mammals, reptiles, and fish, 12% of birds, 68% of plants. We are looking to lose 30-50% of all species of life on our planet by the middle of the century.
This may feel like a hopeless inevitability, but the future is not set in stone. What we need for this cause is awareness. What we need is an investment of personal interest. We need voices, and students, and teachers. We need scientists, and law makers, and committees and new legislation for the environment. We need communicators. We need enthusiasts and what we really need is to ruin apathy. This is a shared planet, not just between ourselves but with every miraculous piece of life that has erupted on its unlikely surface in the last billion years. We owe it to that great improbability not to mess this up.
Remember Martha, and vow to do all you can to stop such things from ever happening again!
writing adult emails is awful
hi [name of person],
this formatting is making me uncomfortable but I have to tell you something / ask you something that is vital to my career as a student.
I re-read and edited that sentence for an hour, but you’ll probably just glance over it for half a second.
Paul Sereno has released his new version of Spinosaurus… the details are still to be disclosed, but by what I saw in the little picture of his new mounted skeleton, this animal is even weirder than we ever thought, so I have acted accordingly and drastically modified my old version, making is more “current”. I’m doing this rather conservatively… I mean, it is still a sail in my reconstruction… I could have made it a proper Bactrian camel-like dinosaur… but I think the spinal processes are too high to do a bison or camel-like reconstruction like I did with Deinocheirus! However…I still would do it if pushed just a little bit harder… in the meantime, I think it makes sense if we considering that Ichthyovenator also seems to have a deep gap in the middle of the sail! Where Paul Sereno got all the extra material to reconstruct such an incredible sail and neck is still not clear. I’m probably more intrigued by the stiff neck. Hopefully more will be known in the future when Paul publishes everything.
By the way, it seems that this artwork was right on time and will make it to the new African Prehistoric Life book by Anusuya Chinsamy! Please do campare it with the one I published a few blogs ago…Who can now say that Palaeontology is not an edge-of-the-seat thrilling ride?
September 2014 marks 100 years since the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. It’s estimated that the population of these migrant birds fell from 3.7 billion individuals to 0 in about 40 years, largely due to human impact, habitat destruction, and a lack of regulation on hunting, trapping, and their use in competitive tourneys.
Remember Martha, the last of her kind, and what she represents as not just a hallmark of her species, but as a symbol for our fragile environments today.
Whoa, it works:
y’all enjoy your anime gifs while i just
YO THIS SHIT ACTUALLY WORKS
Omigosh this actually works!
From Walking With Dinosaurs (A Time of Titans).
Caltech has made all three volumes of The Feynman Lectures On Physics, the celebrated textbook, available to read online for free.
The site was first launched in September of 2013, with only Volume I: Mainly mechanics, radiation, and heat at first. But now, as KPCC has pointed out, the other two volumes, Mainly electromagnetism and matter and Quantum mechanics have now been posted. The site is even optimized to look good on a mobile or tablet device. Get your learn on!
Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel laureate who was at Caltech from 1949 until the end of his life, is one of the most celebrated physicists and scientific minds of the 20th century. He would win the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work in the field of quantum electrodynamics. Aside from his contributions to the world of physics, he also worked on the Manhattan Project and served on the commission that investigated the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
His personality and enthusiasm made him a beloved figure, which helped to make the world of physics more accessible to the general population. He was known to ensure that students understood the material he was teaching, which earned him the nickname “The Great Explainer.”
The Feynman Lectures are based on lectures Feynman gave to undergrads at Caltech from 1961 to 1963 in order to serve as an updated and streamlined introductory course to physics in light the major advancements being made in the field. Because he only gave the lectures once, they were recorded and first published in three volumes in 1964.
The textbooks have been printed in a dozen languages, and the English copies alone have sold over 1.5 million copies. Sections of the Lectures have been condensed into the books Six Easy Pieces and Six Not So Easy Pieces, and audio CDs released of all 103 hours of lectures that Feynman gave.
This year’s Longitude Prize is focused on the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. They’ve put together a nice image, shown here, which showcases what they term ‘the ten most dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria’. You can read more detail on each of them here:http://www.nesta.org.uk/news/antibiotic-resistant-bacteria
The prize offers a £10 million prize fund for the development of a cheap, accurate, and easy to use bacterial infection test kit, which will allow doctors to prescribe the correct antibiotics at the correct time for patients, to try to help minimise the development of antibiotic resistance.
Things That Make a Vertebrate Paleontologist Weep With Joy - The Integrative Paleontologists by Andrew Farke
There are times when I really wish I were born an invertebrate paleontologist. For many of them*, a few kilograms of rock can contain dozens or even hundreds of specimens of a single species. This is awesome, because some of the best science happens with large sample sizes. The more fossils you have, the easier it is to study variation within a single species, or track evolutionary change, or study the response of a species to changes in local environment and global climate. A single spectacular fossil offers a wealth of information, but a thousand spectacular fossils opens up the firehose of knowledge.
Why are so many invertebrate fossils so common, and thus so easily studied? For one, many invertebrates are fairly small. The smaller the organism, the less likely it is to get broken up by the various forces of nature, and the more likely you are to get a completely intact fossil. Additionally, some invertebrates include quite durable hard parts; thus, the fossil records of snails and clams and corals are pretty awesome. Vertebrate animals include hard parts too–but the complex, multi-jointed skeletons tend to get disassembled pretty quickly. If the skeletons are fragile, such as the hollow bones of flying reptiles (pterosaurs), the situation is even more dismal.
Thus, it is pretty special for paleontologists to find a new, large sample of a single species of extinct vertebrate. Last week, just this sort of announcement from Manzig and colleagues, published in PLOS ONE, caught the interest of the pterosaur community [full disclosure: I was the volunteer academic editor who handled this paper].
A locality in southern Brazil preserved the remains of at least 47 different individuals, all interpreted as belonging to a single species. They were found in at least four different (but closely spaced) layers of rock, with the bulk from two of the four layers. The researchers named the new animal Caiuajara dobruskii, reflecting both its geologic origins (within the Caiuá Group) and its discoverers (Alexandre Dobruski and his son João Dobruski). Caiuajara is distinguished from other pterosaurs by the unique shape of the bones forming its toothless beak, among other characteristics. If you were to see one alive, the most striking feature (after its giant leathery wings) would probably be a massive bony crest atop the skull.
Beyond the fact that pterosaurs are a pretty cool group of animals, and that Caiuajara represented an awesome-looking beastie, the sheer sample size takes one’s breath away. There are large and small individuals, presumably representing young and old alike. Although “only” 47 individuals have been unearthed so far, it is quite likely that hundreds more remain unexcavated at the same site. You don’t often get this kind of sample for any vertebrate animal, let alone one with such a delicate and easily broken skeleton. Indeed, the known bones of Caiuajara are quite three-dimensionally preserved. This is especially rare for pterosaurs, because their thin-walled bones tend to get smashed to roadkill-like oblivion.
Last week’s publication was only a preliminary report, primarily covering the basic description and naming of Caiuajara. Now, the hard work begins–excavating, cleaning, studying, and interpreting the entire sample in detail. We may have to wait awhile, but in the end I suspect this animal will be known better than just about any other pterosaur.
*It is a bit of a misconception that all invertebrate fossils are common, and that all vertebrate fossils are rare. However, the number of common invertebrate species far exceeds the number of common vertebrate species.
Manzig PC, Kellner AWA, Weinschütz LC, Fragoso CE, Vega CS, et al. (2014) Discovery of a rare pterosaur bone bed in a Cretaceous desert with insights on ontogeny and behavior of flying reptiles. PLoS ONE 9(8): e100005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100005
Visit the new UCMP/University of Colorado online exhibit on fossil tracks! It is fascinating to consider that fossil footprints and trackways offer direct physical evidence that ancient animals passed through an area long ago. However, these trace fossils also provide important clues that shed light on several aspects of paleobiology, such as anatomy, locomotion patterns, behavior, and footprint preservation. The website provides basic information about the preservation of fossil tracks, how they are studied, and where they have been found. You can also test your fossil track expertise in the “Who made these fossil tracks?” section.
University of Colorado graduate student, Allison Vitkus is lead author on the exhibit, which was produced with funding from a National Science Foundation grant to Karen Chin and Martin Lockley. Martin Lockley spent his career at the University of Colorado Denver amassing one of the world’s most diverse collections of fossil tracks. This extensively-studied collection was held at the University of Colorado Dinosaur Tracks Museum in Denver but has now been moved to the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder. NSF provided funds to transfer the specimens, make curatorial improvements to the collection, develop a searchable online catalog of the collection, and share information about this exciting collection with the public in this new UCMP online exhibit!
Historically, paleontology has been a male-dominated field. Over the past few decades, more and more women have entered the field, but female African-American paleontologists remain a rarity. Lisa White, UCMP’s Assistant Director of Education and Public Programs, is one of these rare women. She spent 22 years as a faculty member at San Francisco State University and held the titles of Professor and Associate Dean when she came to Berkeley in 2012. White was profiled recently in California, UC Berkeley’s alumni magazine.
White has been involved in a variety of programs that introduce minority youth to the Earth sciences, providing them with hands-on experiences both in the lab and in the field to help make the subject engaging and relevant. Two of these programs are “Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco” (SF-ROCKS) and “Minority Education Through Traveling and Learning in the Sciences” (METALS).
White gets excited by science and she shares that enthusiasm, both with minorities and the general public as a whole. “We’re trying to reach entire communities that may never be able to access the collections at the museum [UCMP’s collections are closed to the public], but I think they can get excited about what those collections tell us about life in the past.”
Lisa White at Cal Day, April 2014. Photo courtesy of Pat Holroyd