Archive for the 'birds' Category

Tales from the Crypt (or, some things that happened on the internet yesterday and today)

10 July 2013

Yesterday’s XKCD makes a good point except of course that belief in the supernatural and cryptozoologic can be stoked, but never be crushed by iPhones or instagram. The ability to construct and disseminate hoax, fraud and rumor follow similar but maybe steeper curves. Not that this is all a grassroots phenomenon.

The following exchange took place in my oceanography class this summer:

student: I know this is going to sound stupid, but I have to ask you this.

me: Go for it.

student: Ok so, I’m a nerd, and I watch the Discovery Channel.

me: I watch Discovery, what are you saying? [note: this is basically a lie, but I thought it would make for humorous banter]

other student: Ohmygawd I LOVE River Monsters.

other other student: I’ve watched that like ten times. It’s ALWAYS a catfish.

original student: No, no, I have to ask this. Is there like a small chance, I mean like ANY chance that mermaids are real?

me: [literally SMH]

Coincidentally (OR IS IT!?) today’s Tet Zoo deconstructs some best of Nessie photos (aka NOW that’s what I call Nessie Vol. IX). Toward the end of that post, Darren reports that props from cryptozoological television specials are now apparently being repurposed to foist new hoaxes on the loch … which no doubt will attract new television crews … who will build more props …

None of which–the sorry state of “scientific” television programming, the slimy hucksters that pose as outsider scientists, the general dumbness of people–particularly gets me down.

Except! I was getting terminal facemelt from today’s B^3 post when it hit me: there are many, many, more people who are obsessed with animals THAT DON’T EXIST, than people who even just maybe know about actual live living real life actually really real magical monsters like Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, or even Resplendent Quetzals (a bird which is, quite literally, money).

Which, I’m too old to be crotchety anymore, but just seems, well, kinda sad.

But then you see an amazing video like the one up top there where a fantastical animal that shouldn’t even be there, calmly waltzes into view and you remember that there is magic in the world that could never be touched by profit-crazed production companies or pseudoscientific fame-whores.

Thanks internetses!

What the huh?

14 March 2013

back in bad old days I would have taken the discovery of extensive hind-limb feathering in Mesozoic birds (Zheng el al. 2013 just published in Science) as an invitation to leap off into half-formed speculations about serial homology and scansoriality, or launch a never to be completed series of posts about phugoids, or try to coin some dumb, clonky neologism like “glight.”

Or at least tilt, askance (if that’s not overdoing it), at some windmill of a science writer, and flail and froth against some perceived distortion or mislocution, all pshaw and tsk and really? I mean, really? I mean. Come on. My disheveled and worn tibiotarsal feathers would have literally ruffled in a sadly unconvincing bluff.

These days I just fly over all that crap. Like glorious tropic bird, I soar far above and beyond  gliding on trade winds over the horizon until my luminous volant form becomes one with comet Pan-STARRS.

But. Let me swoop down among the motley enantiornithine fray for just one sec to say,

The 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx from Germany, sometimes called the first bird, probably had feathers on its forelimbs. But recent fossil finds question whether it was a birdlike dinosaur rather than a dinosaurlike member of the true bird lineage. So the Chinese team wrote that, only until now, no examples of the unusual four-wing structure “have so far been reported in basal birds.”

…what the huh?

Archaeopteryx “probably had feathers on its forelimbs”?

Perhaps, “hindlimbs” is what is meant. If so this passage resolves into semi-comprehensibility. But the whole “birdlike dinosaur” vs “dinosaurlike member of the true bird lineage” circumlocution still bugs me. It underscores why the apparently irrepressible urge to draw a line in the sand with “birds” on one side and “dinosaurs” on the other is entirely misbegotten. Especially with deinonychosaurs and scansoriopterygids and Xiaotingia and even Archie herself dancing around the avialan tree like some drunken dryads at an absinthe party.

Wait. What was I saying? Never mind. Got it out of my system.

Aight, dudes, imma go back to high-fiving Beebe in my celestial pleasure dome. Smell you later.

Interview with an owl is an owl is an

4 December 2012

microecos: Hey dude.

Dr. Neil Patrick Kelley: ¿sup?

m.e.: been awhile!

me: no doubt. did that video though.

m.e.: whatcha been up to?

me: finished my dissertation! also, freelance herp ids on the blogs.

m.e.: big ups. and you had a kid right?

me: Yes! She’s a year old already.

m.e.: explains the slow down around here, I guess.

me: Oh. yeah. sorry. Have you seen my Tumblr?

m.e.: um. yeah. how much of that is “you”.

me: depends. sometimes I append lengthy comments to things there, so I “engage” with the “material” at least.

m.e.: I don’t think that’s how Tumblr works. Anyway with the theme you are using you can’t even see that stuff.

me: you’re probably right.

m.e.: so.

me: so….


me: I was thinking though, now that I’ve got that out of the way I can start reblogging in earnest. I mean, resume blogging. Original stuff.

m.e.: well you’ve got the domain so you need to do something with that.

me: Ugh. that sounds like so much work.

m.e.: love “Dust. Wind. Dude.” though. Classic shit.

me: Yeah.

m.e.: can I level with you?

me: of course!

m.e.: I don’t know. I’m not sure that I can get back to that, *level*. What do people even blog about NOW?

me: Shut up, you read 172 blogs religiously.

m.e.: Srsly.

me: You know that blog, Ichthyosaurs: a day in the life?

m.e.: Love it.

me: I did this:

m.e.: Yikes.

me: …

m.e.: Ease up on the distortion. Everyone knows you can’t sing. But you are stomping on your jokes there.

me: Jokes?

m.e.: “Nobody was really sure/If she was a stem-archosauromorph?”

me: zing!

m.e.: I like how you break the rhyme there. Very Sir A. L. Webster. But  breviceps is still in Ichthyosaurus right?

me: I think I meant <i>jancieps</i>. Ugh. how did I pass?

m.e.: Generosity. I don’t think we’re in an html interface.

me: This seems indulgent.

m.e.: which?

mi: right

yo: You’ve still got the 15 valid thalattosaur species to blog about right? Everyone’s waiting.

i: depends how you count, <i>Anshunsaurus</i> is a little volatile … ?<i>Blezingeria</i>

m.e.: Dude. Markup.

me: Dude. Marker’s Mark. RIP:

m.e.: Nobody will watch that. WordPress enforces a strict 1 video embed only policy. To preserve people’s sanity.

me: Good for them. ALL of them.

m.e.: I was going to title the one about the North American species: “North American Scum”

mi: I get it, they’re all so fragmentary. Agkistrognathus is pretty sick though, not nearly enough play in the liberal media.

m.e.: Whooping Cranes nearby. Maybe 10 klicks.

me: Private property. Can’t see them.

m.e.: Good for them. ALL of them.

me: Is the Marker video working now?

I’ll take my million in twenties, thanks.

10 November 2011

Ithis photo is worth $4.3 million, I have to imagine this animated GIF I made is worth at least a cool million.

Or maybe an itunes gift card.

Or at least a like on Facebook or Tumblr or something.

Maybe a plus two?

Anarchy Evolution

16 June 2011

Were there anything that might lure the estivating dwarf that is this blog from its moody slumber, you’d hope that it would be that cosmic alignment of punk rock and paleontology that broke back when Rep. Weiner was still talking hacks and incertitudes, back when Amina Abdullah and Paula Brooks were still legitimate lesbians*, as far as we knew.


Anyway, eff the torpedoes.

I speak of course of Qilania graffini that tasty Cretaceous drumstick (‘n stuff) named fo Greg Graffin, author of a seminal survey of religious attitudes among evolutionary scientists, Evolution, Monism and the Naturalist Worldview, and, I gather, member of some rock and roll band.

I mean, leave it to Jingmai O’Connor, rockstar paleontologist if ever there was one (seriously, check out her website), right?

So what if Greg’s choice of favorite dinosaur is a little less than inspired? And apparently Edaphosaurus is a hadrosaur now, whatever.  Or maybe it’s a mistranscription. Who cares?  None of this matters, people – dude’s got his own freaking dinosaur now so haters can step the eff off.

Not that this kind of thing is without precedent of course:

At last gleams of light have come & I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion that I started with) that I am just not (it is like confessing a murder) that into BR.  They seem so phosphatized. In the grand punctuated equilibrium of punk they are the Lingula, the Limulus. They are, dare I say it, the Polypterus of punk rock.

Forgetting perhaps the great hopeful monster that was Into the Unknown.

But then consider this magical moment from the waning days of the Cambrian explosion, remembering that when this was shot,  some of the paleontologists behind Q. graffini weren’t yet even born.

And if, after all of that, you are wondering what the hell I’m on about:

SHU-AN JI, JESSIE ATTERHOLT, JINGMAI K. O’CONNOR, MATTHEW C. LAMANNA, JERALD D. HARRIS, DA-QING LI, HAI-LU YOU and PETER DODSON. (2011) A new, three-dimensionally preserved enantiornithine bird (Aves: Ornithothoraces) from Gansu Province, northwestern China. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 162, 201–219.

*This blog is not, in fact, an estivating dwarf. Creative liberties have be taken in the name of the greater truth.

Dinosaurs: children of darkness

15 April 2011

As you may have already heard, research published in this week’s Science, suggests that many dinosaurs were active at night.  You know who else are active at night? vampire bats.  Also, werewolves.  And I was never exactly sure what a warlock is, but I’m pretty sure they run around hexing things at night to. Oh yeah, and hobgoblins. And whatever the hell is going on here.

Point is, dinosaurs were Satanists. Some of them anyway.  Probably.

Not that this comes as any surprise really.  I mean, Dracorex? Mahakala? Balaur? Rapator? Pantydraco?

Just this week brings word of Daemonosaurus chauliodus an Upper Triassic theropod that one can only assume had a penchant for black candles and Aleister Crowley.

Scaphognathus, it seems, was more of a wanabee “goth” than a true child of darkness: note the contrived faux-vegetarianism (with those teeth buddy? who are you kidding?) and the mascara. (Photo: Lars Schmitz hilariously interpreted by BBC News.)

This, <ahem>, “Pterodactyl dinosaur” might just be having a weird reaction to Ambien.

You might be thinking we are fortunate to be rid of these dark hordes.  Guess you haven’t been hanging out with oilbirds lately.

So, um, if you were hoping for a thoughtful analysis of this cool paper looks like you came to the wrong place.

Fortunately lead author (and friend!) Lars Schmitz has his own blog where he lays out the background, methodology and significance of this awesome study.  Go check it out! (After you watch these Sabbath videos).

All hail mighty Ba’al, or whatever.


2 September 2010

in China.