Dracula: the largest flying dinosaur yet!

Good news! Jurassic World II comes out this summer. Which means that I’m going to be posting a lot about dinosaurs, because my nerdy evolution heart starts beating faster when we talk about the prehistoric.

For those who remember, pterosaurs were the first flying vertebrates, and ruled the skies. And in Romania’s Transylvania region scientists discovered the bones of a new pterosaur. They nicknamed their find “Dracula.” Using the fragments of bone as their guide, scientists reconstructed a model of the creature—which they say is the largest pterosaur found to date, reaching around 3.5 meters high with an estimated 12-meter wingspan.

The reconstruction is now on display as part of a new pterosaur exhibit at the Altmühltal Dinosaur Museum in Denkendorf, Germany. The exhibit also separately showcases the original specimen’s excavated bones.

Which I will be visiting this summer, because BOY THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!

Read more about it here.

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Why birds matter, and are worth protecting

I’m always amazed by scientists who LOVE their organisms. And bird people really take this to a whole new level.

In 1918 Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect birds from wanton killing. To celebrate the centennial, National Geographic is partnering with the National Audubon SocietyBirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to declare 2018 the Year of the Bird.

To start the year off right, read this impassioned story by Jonathan Franzen about how much he loves birds and why.

And celebrate, the year of the bird!

 

 

Shelf Life: 33 Million Things

@GrrlScientist wrote an excellent article over at Medium (written for the Guardian).

“Natural history museums are many things but they are not the exclusive domain of dry, dusty old white men, rooting around in dry, dusty old drawers, examining dry, dusty old dead things. In fact, most natural history museums are modern research institutions filled with a vast diversity of items and people whose lives revolve around them. They are collections of almost anything you can name or imagine, from centuries-old specimens to more recently collected frozen tissues and digitised genomic data. These collections are essential catalogues to the sciences of taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography, disciplines that provide a firm footing for evolution, natural history, ecology, behaviour, conservation and anthropology as well as insights into more recent processes like human-created climate change.”

Want more? Read about it here!

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Going to a really macabre candy store-except instead of sweets there are tapeworms

If you’re not reading everything that Ed Young writes, you’re missing out.

And he’s once again hit it out of the park with this great post about America’s Largest Collection of Parasites (although when my coauthor Kim Lackey and I cleaned our the parasitology lab a few years ago, it could have been in the running).

These jars of wonder/parasites are kept in my favorite of the Smithsonians, the Natural History Museum. Read all about Ed’s exploration of this TREASURE trove of awesome here.

And remember, Parasitism really is the sincerest form of flattery.lead_960.jpg

 

An epilogue to a mutant snail

Let’s all bow our heads in silence for Jeremy, the brown garden snail. Jeremy was a special snail, and known worldwide for his shell. You see, it coiled left instead of right (not a political metaphor). Because of this , he had trouble mating.

 Jeremy comes from humble beginnings, and was discovered in a compost heap in South West London by a retired scientist from The Natural History Museum. He recognized Jeremy was special and notified Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Nottingham in Britain who studies snails.Jeremy won international fame for a mutation that caused his shell to coil left instead of right.

Dr. Davison wanted to know if Jeremy’s left-coiled shell was inherited or just a strange developmental mishap, and for that he needed offspring. He took Jeremy into his care and appealed to the public to find him a mate with the hashtag #leftysnail. The media followed with #snaillove, and Jeremy became a star. He even inspired a love song.

Hence, there was a worldwide search for Jeremy’s soulmate/any mate will do really. And indeed! Two mates were found:Lefty of Ipswich, England and Tomeu of Majorca, Spain. But alas, they were more interested in each other than Jeremy.

For years, people searched for another lefty snail with which he could mate. Shortly before his death, she was found. His legacy will continue in the genetic knowledge gained from the lefty snail offspring they produced together. However, just days before his death, Tomeu produced more than four dozen offspring, some of which Jeremy likely fathered. He didn’t get a chance to meet them, but “on a scientific note, he wouldn’t have recognized them”.

Jeremy was found dead Wednesday in a refrigerator in a British research lab, and likely died of old age. He will be missed.

Read the whole story here!

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A man accidentally started a social media war between two of London’s biggest museums

With this seemingly non-confrontational tweet, a London man started a battle between museum greats:

Do you remember that argument when you were little “my dad can beat up your dad”? It’s like that only with awesome specimens, and cool science. Hats off to the curators… this was well done.

See below for the beginning of the feud, or read it all here.