Thomas Jefferson Built This Country On Mastodons

Jefferson liked science more than he liked politics. He was a fastidious vegetable breeder and weather recorder, he led the American Philosophical Society for eighteen years, and he once spent a while re-engineering the plow according to Newtonian principals. He particularly loved fossils, and collected and speculated on them so avidly that he is considered “the founder of North American paleontology,” says Dr. Mark Barrow, an environmental history professor at Virginia Tech.

And he spent his life in a quiet war about the importance of american mastadons.

Read more about it here!

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T. Rex couldn’t stick out its tongue

Dinosaurs are often depicted as fierce creatures, baring their teeth, with tongues wildly stretching from their mouths like giant, deranged lizards. But new research reveals a major problem with this classic image: Dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues like lizards. Instead, their tongues were probably rooted to the bottoms of their mouths in a manner akin to alligators.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-06-rex-couldnt-tongue.html#jCp

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Newly discovered sea creature named after my president

It was an uneventful marine creature, thriving 500 million years ago. Tiny, disc-shaped and ~1/2 inch long with raised spiral grooves on its surface. It spent it’s entire life embedded on the ocean floor, and likely never moved. It is among the earliest animals to exist on earth, and was recently discovered in a remarkably well-preserved fossil bed.

But now it holds a unique and unusual honor: it’s been given the scientific name Obamus coronatus, in honor of President Barack Obama’s passion for science.

Read more about it here!

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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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Oxygen is responsible for the Cambrian Explosion? Maybe not.

Approximately 540 million years ago, life rapidly diversified in an evolutionary burst — a biological “Big Bang” that witnessed the emergence of nearly every modern animal group. Scientists have long sought to determine what caused the Cambrian explosion, and to explain why animal life didn’t take this step at any point about a billion years earlier. (Please note: “explosion” indicates things happened rapidly! Ask a paleontologist what “rapidly” means and you’ll notice you may need to redefine your idea of “explosion”)

“The most popular narrative puts oxygen front and center. The geological record shows a clear link, albeit an often subtle and complicated one, between rises in oxygen levels and early animal evolution. As Quanta reported earlier this month, many researchers argue that this suggests low oxygen availability had been holding greater complexity at bay — that greater amounts of oxygen were needed for energy-demanding processes like movement, predation and the development of novel body plans with intricate morphologies.

“It’s a very attractive, intuitive explanation,” said Nicholas Butterfield, a paleobiologist at the University of Cambridge. “And it’s wrong.””

Want to know what I love most about paleontologists? They are so unabashedly willing to argue (to the death!) small points with very little data. It is fascinating, and worth reading about this oxygen vs. complexity saga here.

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The Origin of Modern Languages

“Five thousand years ago nomadic horseback riders from the Ukrainian steppe charged through Europe and parts of Asia. They brought with them a language that is the root of many of those spoken today—including English, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and Persian. That is the most widely accepted explanation for the origin of this ancient tongue, termed Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Recent genetic findings confirm this hypothesis but also raise questions about how the prehistoric language evolved and spread.”

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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What’s better than Dinosaurs? Baby Dinosaurs

Paleontologists just discovered the mother lode of pterosaur eggs, and they are over the moon.

“Extraordinary.” “Stellar.” “Truly awesome.” “A world-class find.”

That’s how paleontologists are reacting to the discovery of several hundred ridiculously well-preserved pterosaur eggs in China, some of them still containing the remains of embryos.

Want to know more about baby dinosaurs? Read about it here!

Side note to avoid people telling me I’m wrong: The pterosaurs were an order of flying reptiles that went extinct some 66 million years ago. They were not actually dinosaurs, but they went extinct at the same time.

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