Science, to a Student

Biology student and natural history museum paleontology laboratory volunteer. Career goal is dinosaur paleontology. Blog comprised of any and all things science.

I really need to start charging people for “Hey, what kind of bug is this?” requests.  Today I was shown two entirely different photos of what I was almost certain were wolf spiders by two entirely different people (or as certain as I could be of a fuzzy picture of an already fuzzy spider).

It’s funny to  me how riled up people get over a little spider.  I try to remind them that the family dog is far more of a danger to them, but they never listen. “But I heard these ones are POISONOUS!”  “Um, yeah, but the ‘poison’ is designed to take out flies, not a gargantuan mammalian beastie.”

Today one person was reading a website that, among other things, made the following claim about orb weavers: “Be careful not to walk into their webs at night - the fright of this spider crawling over one’s face can be terrifying and may cause a heart attack, particularly to the susceptible over 40 year olds.”

I spent the next few minutes trying to convince the woman of the blatant inaccuracies of the website (just from what I had read in a few paragraphs), and to convince her that no, the world was not about to end, and no, she and her dog were not about to be murdered in their sleep.

A supportive friend (who is like me, also a lover of arthropods) scoffed that if spiders create a heightened risk of heart attacks, they also create a heightened risk of broken arms, because if they scare you and you fall down….

Oh, and I’m just kidding about charging people.  ;-)

justabrowncoatedwench:

mamasam:

bestrooftalkever:

Two bald eagles in air battle crash-land at airport
Dude these two eagles were fighting mid-air and got stuck. They crash landed at an airport and both survived.
How hardcore is that? Look at their faces tho.
Its like “I swear to GAWD Jerry”

If this isn’t the best metaphor for congress I don’t know what is.

I have a revelation for you.
They weren’t fighting.
They were trying to MATE.
Look it up. It’s hilarious.

justabrowncoatedwench:

mamasam:

bestrooftalkever:

Two bald eagles in air battle crash-land at airport

Dude these two eagles were fighting mid-air and got stuck. They crash landed at an airport and both survived.

How hardcore is that? Look at their faces tho.

Its like “I swear to GAWD Jerry”

If this isn’t the best metaphor for congress I don’t know what is.

I have a revelation for you.

They weren’t fighting.

They were trying to MATE.

Look it up. It’s hilarious.

(via vodkapocalypse)

fightingforanimals:

Baby seagull spray-painted red by cruel vandals

  • The young herring-gull was sprayed all over with red paint by cruel yobs
  • The bird was taken in by Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary in North Yorkshire
  • 'Poppy' will not be live among other gulls as she will be victim of bullying 
  • Wildlife experts call the act ‘disgusting’ and say bird’s feathers are ruined - she will need specialist care for years

A young herring-gull will need specialist care for years after cruel vandals attacked her with spray paint. The bird was taken in by Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, North Yorkshire, after she was found covered in thick red paint.

The baby gull, who rescuers have named Poppy due to her new colour, is only a few months old and now faces a couple of flightless years while waiting for the damaged feathers to fall out.

'She is only a baby and so she is unable to fly at the moment which means she is fairly easy to get hold of,' Alexandra Farmer, who runs the sanctuary, said. 'It looks like the paint that is used on the road. I think two people must have painted her because they have lifted her wings to paint underneath. One person would have held her and the other would have painted. She won’t be able to fly now because the paint has made the feathers rock hard and stiff. She keeps looking at her feet because they are so red but there is no way to wash it off.

'She's going to need a lot of TLC. The paint is very fumy and I've had to keep her in a well aerated room. She smelt terrible when she was found and that amount of fumes would make breathing quite difficult. They have painted her face and so I am taking her to the vet to make sure she didn’t breathe too much of it in.’

'The bird isn't suitable for the wild and is not suitable to be with her own kind. The feathers are ruined and because she is a sea bird she needs to be well oiled which means she is no longer waterproof. People need to know the dangers. It's just disgusting that people can do this.'

POLICE WILL BE WORKING WITH THE RSPCA TO FIND OUT WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE.

ANYONE WHO HAS ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE INCIDENT OR KNOWS WHO IS RESPONSIBLE SHOULD CONTACT NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE ON 101.

(via thenixkat)

Well played, Whole Foods!
Has anybody else seen their dinosaur marketing campaign?  I like it, I’m merely confused why they chose puny toys as models instead of larger, better-detailed ones.  Oh well.  This one here in the photo tickled my fancy quite well.
Taken 8/16/2014 at Whole Foods at Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Well played, Whole Foods!

Has anybody else seen their dinosaur marketing campaign?  I like it, I’m merely confused why they chose puny toys as models instead of larger, better-detailed ones.  Oh well.  This one here in the photo tickled my fancy quite well.

Taken 8/16/2014 at Whole Foods at Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.

As you can see, figuring out which rib section goes with which turned out to be much less of a nightmare than I had feared.  I am easily gluing them back together after having removed all of the attached matrix.  I had to stop so I could work my assigned shift as Gallery Interpreter, but you can see I have many more fits, including some I glued after putting my camera/phone away.  My phytosaur is almost done!

The last photograph shows me tools.  Not sure if that fascinates anyone, but as a kid I lived for pictures like that.

Photographs taken yesterday.

Well, the glue sure worked, all right.  Now I had rock glued far too strongly to bone.  Brushing on acetone (as was our plan) turned out to be far less effective than I had hoped.  My only solution was to bathe everything in acetone and hope I could “reverse engineer” the order each bone went in.  These photos are after said acetone bath (which removed most of the rock), and the third photo shows me taking a few bits and doing a second dunk in acetone to remove all of the resident glue and consolidant. 

I realize I forgot to post these, this was a while back as I was continuing to work on my phytosaur rib.  You see here I am attempting to keep everything glued together as I work on it. 

aurusallos:

astrotastic:

Man, I really love quartz crystals, you know? But every time I consider buying jewelry with quartz crystals, I’m all self conscious ‘cause I don’t want people to think I’m into that “crystal energy” pseudoscience shit.

Yo. We should go get some quartz jewelry and just wear it and be like “No, I’m not into the pseudoscience, quartz is actually one of the most abundant minerals in the Earth’s crust…” and go all into a geology lesson.

Do it!

Scientists Find Fossil Menagerie in Huge Wyoming Hole - NBC News

Lies, damned lies, and 'Thalassodromeus sebesensis' - Mark Witton.com Blog

Yesterday, a huge team of authors called out the science behind ‘Thalassodromeus sebesensis’, an alleged new pterosaur species 40 million years and thousands of miles out of time and space (Grellet-Tinner and Codrea 2014). As with many outlandish palaeontological claims, the evidence behind ‘T. sebesensis' really falls apart rapidly under scrutiny, principally because the alleged pterosaur remains actually represent an unremarkable piece of turtle plastron (Dyke et al. 2014).

A, the plastron of the fossil Romanian turtle Kallokibotion magnificum, compared with B, the alleged holotype ‘cranial crest’ of ‘Thalassodromeus sebesensis’. For further details, see yesterday’s post. Since then, the response to our comment has been published (Codrea and Grellet-Tinner 2014). I’ll admit to being surprised that Codrea and Grellet-Tinner maintain the specimen as a pterosaur, and consider the arguments raised against our points as weak, hypocritical and problematic, but whatever: the two arguments are now out, and the palaeontological community can judge for themselves. CT scanning is apparently planned for the specimen (Codrea and Grellet-Tinner 2014), which should put ‘T. sebesensis' to bed once and for all.

This post isn’t really about that, though: it’s about correcting a mistruth in Codrea and Grellet-Tinner’s response. Their comment shows little decorum or professionalism, attempting to undermine our response with ad hominem potshots at some authors of Dyke et al. (2014), including criticism of their editorial skills and the taxonomic confusion surrounding specimens described by the authors. Moreover, they criticise us for not examining the specimen, UBB ODA-28, before publishing our response. They state that:
"…UBB ODA-28 is housed in an official and recognized Romanian institution, thus available for examinations to anyone interested. This includes Dyke’s July 2nd 2014 written request to examine UBB ODA-28, which was immediately granted, although, Dyke went on writing its hasty comment without examining UBB ODA-28.”
Codrea and Grellet-Tinner, 2014, p. 3-4 (my emphasis)
Well, this isn’t really true. Some of it is: Gareth Dyke did write to ask for permission to look at the specimen this year - specifically between July and September - but ‘immediate’ access was not granted. Rather, eventual access was promised following on-going studies, including CT scanning of the specimen, the dates of which was not disclosed. This is not, as Codrea and Grellet-Tinner describe, ‘immediately’ granting access, but nebulously promising access at an undetermined future date. 
This may not seem like a big deal, but our integrity is being questioned for having not seen the specimen, so we - the authors of Dyke et al. (2014) - think the record should be set straight. There’s no doubt that examining specimens is the way forward in any research. But it was clear from Gareth’s correspondence that accessing UBB ODA-28 was going to be difficult for the immediate future, and all the while the science behind ‘T. sebesensis' remained extremely problematic and in need of swift rebuttal. Why? In short: none of us concerned with pterosaurs or European palaeontology want to deal with this outrageous, nonsensical claim in future publications. Hence, we fell back on using the published accounts of UBB ODA-28 to construct an argument against the pterosaur identification. Given that our authorship team has collectively amassed thousands of hours examining actual thalassodromid pterosaurs, as well as turtle plastrons, and how obvious the turtle affinities of the specimen are, this method seemed more than sufficient for the task at hand. Despite allegations from Codrea and Grellet-Tinner, these were not the actions of a team hastily assembling a rebuttal, but a collective of experienced individuals succinctly calling out obvious flaws in bad science.
So there we go: that’s our side of that mistruth. Hopefully, that’s the last we’ll hear of ‘T. sebesensis' around these parts, for there are much more interesting and exciting things to cover: palaeoart guides, Triassic fuzzy saltating xerocoles, dinosaur fat humps… all coming soon.

References

  • Codrea, V. A., & Grellet-Tinner, G. (2014). Reply to Comment by Dyke et al. on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur” by Grellet-Tinner and Codrea (July 2014)”  Gondwana Research. IN PRESS
  • Dyke, G. J., Vremir, M., Brusatte, S., Bever, G., Buffetaut, E., Chapman, S., Csiki-Sava, Z, Kellner, A. W. A., Martin, E, Naish, D, Norell, M, Ősi, A, Pinheiro, F. L., Prondvai, E, Rabi, M, Rodrigues, T., Steel, L., Tong, H, Vila Nova B. C. & Witton, M. (2014). Thalassodromeus sebesensis-a new name for an old turtle. Comment on” Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Gondwana Research. IN PRESS.
  • Grellet-Tinner, G., & Codrea, V. A. (2014). Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur. Gondwana Research. IN PRESS

'Thalassodromeus sebesensis': pterosaur out of time and space? Nope, just a misidentified chunk of turtle. - Mark Witton.com Blog

Thalassodromeus sethi after some worms. Note: not a turtle. From Witton (2013) Today sees the publication of an article challenging an exciting claim made in recent pterosaurology (Grellet-Tinner and Codrea 2014). If you missed it, the article concerned identifies a thalassodromid pterosaur in uppermost Cretaceous rocks of Romania and the erects a new species, Thalassodromeus sebesensis Grellet-Tinner and Codrea, 2014. At the centre of this is ODA-28, an (alleged) fragmentary cranial crest only fully exposed on one surface. None of this may not sound like a big deal, except that other thalassodromids - including the alleged sister species, Thalassodromeus sethi - are only known from the Lower Cretaceous Araripe Group of Brazil. T. sebesensis thus is about 40 million years out of time and thousands of miles out of place, and also occurring when azhdarchid pterosaurs basically represent the entire diversity of Pterosauria (Grellet-Tinner and Codrea 2014). Suddenly, the routine act of naming of a new animal is rewriting our understanding of pterosaur evolution.

There’s more. Despite having only a scraps of bone to work with, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea (2014) suggested the T. sebesensis crest anchored muscles to form a ‘sizeable fleshy crest’, acted as a rudder in flight, that it somehow highlighted co-evolution between Romanian pterosaurs and angiosperms, and ecological segregation between azhdarchids and thalassodromids. All of these ideas are pretty radical in one way or another, especially considering the fossil material they are based on.

Blah blah blah… extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence etc. When T. sebesensis was published it raised the collective eyebrows of pterosaur workers for all the wrong reasons. ODA-28 has no obvious ties to Thalassodromidae (or Thalassodrominae, if that’s how you roll - see Witton 2009), Pterosauria, or even to a cranial crest. Today, I and 19(!) other authors have said this in print (Dyke et al. 2014), noting that ODA-28 lacks any pterosaurian synapomorphies or even features typical of the group. As anyone who has handled pterosaur fossils can attest, pterosaur remains are distinctive at gross and microscopic level, and ODA-28 lacks any features expected in pterosaur bone (e.g. extremely thin bone walls separated by trabeculae). Any resemblance to the Thalassodromeus sethi holotype is entirely superficial, and shared characters between the two specimens - notably the ‘fossae’ at the base of the ‘T. sebesensis’ crest - are really incomparable on detailed examination. A clear lack of symmetry in ODA-28 shows it is not a medial skeletal element either, and thus not the cranial crest of anything. In short, cancel the text-book revisions: the temporal and palaeobiogeographical anomaly of ‘Thalassodromeus sebesensis’ is just a fairly major misidentification of a scrappy fossil (Dyke et al. 2014).
The ‘flying turtle’: the holotype of ‘T. sebesensis' compared with the plastron of the turtle Kallokibotion. A, NHMUK R4930, the lectotype plastron of Kallokibotion magnificum with the portion corresponding to ODA-28 outlined in black (photo supplied by S. Chapman, Natural History Museum, London); B) ODA-28 (modified from Grellet-Tinner and Codrea, 2014). Abbreviations: hypo, hypoplastron; hxc, hypoplastron-xiphiplastron suture; ihc, intra-hypoplastral suture; ib, inguinal buttress; ps, pubic scar; meso, mesoplastron; mhc, meso-hypoplastral contact; pll, posterolateral lip; xiphi, xiphiplastron. Scale bar for A equals 50 mm. From Dyke et al. (2014).
Is ODA-28 anything exciting at all? Well, not especially. The specimen is clearly a piece of turtle plastron, exactly matching the internal structure of the hypoplastron and xiphiplastron of the Maastrichtian, Romanian genus Kallokibotion (above, Dyke et al. 2014). The anatomy of Kallokibotion has been documented fairly thoroughly and known for about 100 years (e.g. Gaffney and Maylan 1992), allowing us to be confident in this identification. Ergo, ‘T. sebesensis’ offers nothing other than new a piece of fossil turtle and a name for the Kallokibotion synonymy list.

In all, a bit of an anticlimax. How did our short paper end up with 20 authors? The response was started by experts in the terrestrial faunas of upper Cretaceous Romania, who asked me and the Natural History Museum’s Lorna Steel if we could contribute a few paragraphs targeting the flawed pterosaur identity of the specimen. While we were working, it emerged that pterosaur experts from Brazil were also planning a response. The editors of Gondwanan Research, who published Grellet-Tinner and Codrea (2014), understandably only wanted one response, so the two teams joined forces. By the time experts in turtles, Romanian fossils and pterosaurs were all on board, we ended up with a truly international background: the USA, UK, Brazil, Romania and France are all represented.

A final note: this is not the first time thalassodromids have been pulled to the top of the Cretaceous. Kellner (2004) and Martill and Naish (2006) argued that a partial skull and mandible from the Maastrichtian Javelina Formation of Texas represented a thalassodromid based on perceived similarities with the thalassodromid Tupuxuara. While others have argued against this idea (the mandible and premaxillary morphology are more similar to those of azhdarchids - Lü et al. 2008; Witton 2013) - these claims have not been met with a sledgehammer response because the suggestions are not unreasonable. Sure, I don’t think the Javelina material in question is thalassodromid, but I can see why others might. ‘T. sebesensis’ has been swiftly rebutted by a crowd of experts because the underlying science is so clearly bogus that all concerned with pterosaur and Romanian palaeontology wanted it’s impact nipped in the bud. A response from Grellet-Tinner and Codrea will be published soon, so we’ll see what they make of our rebuttal. To end on a high: there are exciting pterosaur remains coming out of Romania, and some of them are in the review/publication system already. Hopefully, we’ll have some news on these out soon.

References

  • Dyke, G. J., Vremir, M., Brusatte, S., Bever, G., Buffetaut, E., Chapman, S., Csiki-Sava, Z, Kellner, A. W. A., Martin, E, Naish, D, Norell, M, Ősi, A, Pinheiro, F. L., Prondvai, E, Rabi, M, Rodrigues, T., Steel, L., Tong, H, Vila Nova B. C. & Witton, M. (2014). Thalassodromeus sebesensis-a new name for an old turtle. Comment on” Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Gondwana Research. IN PRESS.
  • Gaffney, E. S., & Meylan, P. A. (1992). The Transylvanian turtle, Kallokibotion, a primitive cryptodire of Cretaceous Age. American Museum novitates; no. 3040.
  • Grellet-Tinner, G., & Codrea, V. A. (2014). Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur. Gondwana Research.
  • Kellner, A. W. A. (2004). New information on the Tapejaridae (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea) and discussion of the relationships of this clade. Ameghiniana, 41, 521-534.
  • Lü, J., Unwin, D. M., Xu, L., & Zhang, X. (2008). A new azhdarchoid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China and its implications for pterosaur phylogeny and evolution. Naturwissenschaften, 95(9), 891-897.
  • Martill, D. M., & Naish, D. (2006). Cranial crest development in the azhdarchoid pterosaur Tupuxuara, with a review of the genus and tapejarid monophyly. Palaeontology, 49(4), 925-941.
  • Witton, M. P. (2009). A new species of Tupuxuara (Thalassodromidae, Azhdarchoidea) from the Lower Cretaceous Santana Formation of Brazil, with a note on the nomenclature of Thalassodromidae. Cretaceous Research, 30(5), 1293-1300.
  • Witton, M. P. (2013). Pterosaurs: natural history, evolution, anatomy. Princeton University Press.

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