Courtesy Public domain via WikipediaToday marks the 215 anniversary of self-taught British paleontologist Mary Anning, born this day in 1799. As a young girl, Mary helped supplement her family's meager income selling shells and fossils collected along the Lyme Regis coastline in southwestern England. Her discoveries of ichthyosaur, plesiosaur, and other Jurassic fossils added greatly to the fledgling science of paleontology bringing her praise from, and in contact with many of the established scientists of her time, including Georges Cuvier and William Buckland.
Courtesy Mark RyanA talk presented Monday at the Geological Society of America’s
annual convention in Minneapolis is causing a wave of media reaction, not to mention guffaws and chuckles from the scientific establishment. The talk titled, "Triassic kraken: the Berlin ichthyosaur death assemblage interpreted as a giant cephalopod midden ” created a lot of super-hyped buzz even before it was presented. The crowd filling the room at the Minneapolis Convention Center spilled out into hallway through both sets of doors. I stood near the doorway and could pick out some of what was being said and occasionally glimpse the accompanying visuals. People in the crowd were obviously flabbergasted and baffled by what was being presented. One of the visuals used by the authors Mark McMenamin and Dianna Schulte-McMenamin was of the octopus manipulating a coconut shell for shelter. The McMenamins used that circumstantial evidence, along with photos of an “arrangement” of fossilized vertebrae from the ichthyosaur Shonisaurus popularis into a self-portrait of its own tentacle suction cups (!), to surmise that a giant cephalopod may have created a self-portrait of itself. That alone was enough to set-off my “Uh-oh Alarm”. The authors, both geologists, also showed images from an aquarium where an octopus is seen killing some of the sharks sharing its tank, but presented no hard evidence of a prehistoric giant cephalopod at all to bolster any of their claims. But I have to give them one thing: the talk certainly drew the most attention of any I attended in the past few days at the convention. That may be the point of the whole crazy thing.