Researchers have uncovered indisputable proof that some dinosaurs dug burrows. First, they found a six-foot long tube of sandstone embedded in rock. They theorized that the surrounding rock was once dirt, and the tube was a burrow that had been filled in by other material, probably washed in by a flood.
They then began excavating the tube, and found the remains of an adult dinosaur and two juveniles. The dinosaur, a new species they named Oryctodromeus cubicularis (Greek for "digging runner of the lair”), would have stood about knee-high to an adult human. It had strong arms for digging, broad hips to brace itself in the tunnel, and fused skull bones, all features typical of modern-day burrowing animals.
The bones were all found at the end of the tube, where the tunnel widened out into a den. It seems likely that a family of burrowing dinos got trapped here in a flood.
Dinosaurs walked the Earth for some 165 million years. It’s no great surprise that some of them would have evolved to fill different ecological roles. The bigger surprise is that their bones were preserved all these years, and that scientists were able to piece together the puzzle of the mystery rocks.
More amazing still is the fact that this discovery was only announced in mid-October, and the dinosaur already has its own
Researchers have found that the mangrove killifish, a two-inch-long fish common to Caribbean coasts, spends several months out of water, living in the hollows of trees. Most of the year, the fish live in muddy pools and are fiercely territorial. But during the dry season, they crawl into burrows carved into the trees by insects, pack themselves together tightly, and alters their metabolism to breathe air.
Oh, yeah, and the mangrove killlifish also has both male and female organs, so it can reproduce without a mate. This is one strange fish.
Click on “Cuero chupacabra” above for some background, but the story, in a nutshell, is this: a rash of suspicious chicken murders in Cuero, Texas, were followed up by the discovery several suspicious-looking animal corpses. Some of the locals believed that these animals were examples of the legendary chupacabra, and a rancher saved one of the creatures’ heads in her freezer, and sent tissue in to Texas State University to be DNA tested.
Well, the “chupacabra’s” DNA sequence turned out to be a “virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote.”
I’m curious as to what was meant by “virtually,” but, yeah, the Cuero chupacabra is a hairless, 40-pound coyote. The wonders of science have single handedly destroyed by post-Halloween euphoria.
Learn more about stupid, boring, tricky coyotes here.
Today while paying for my batteries at Radio Shack in Stillwater, I noticed on the counter a large model (or robot?) of an insect about 4 1/2 inches long. As I queried the clerk about the device. He said It was live and had been a visitor for several days. As we talked it very slowly turned about to face me. I leaned close and moved my head back and forth sideways. It followed my movements carefully. It didn't react fearfully when I touched it. Later climbed slowly on the clerks hand for a better look at me. Now I was surprised that Mantis could be that large, or that friendly. What's with these kind creatures?
Six elephants in India were killed earlier this week after creating mayhem after drinking rice beer in a remote city in northeast India. They were part of a herd of about 40 elephants that overran the town looking for food. The six found their way to a variety of plastic and tin drums that the villagers use to brew their own beers.
After getting juiced up on the rice beer, the six elephants went nuts rampaging through the town. In their fury, they uprooted an electrical power pole that led to their electrocution.
Elephants in the region are known to have a developed a taste for the rice beer. A similar incident with occurred three years ago, leading to the death of four intoxicated elephants.
This all leads to a lot of questions, but the one I really want to know is how much rice beer does an animal the size of an elephant need to consume in order to get drunk?
The “bad or good” value judgment depends on whether or not you plan on killing them. “Them” being the elephants, of course, not Santa. No one should plan on killing Santa. He would know what you were up to if you planned it.
People do occasionally plan on killing elephants, however, which is presumably why they have gotten good at telling who these people are. New research shows that African elephants are often able to distinguish, through sight and smell, between humans who are a potential threat and those who are generally harmless.
For the purpose of the study, scientists from the University of St. Andrews compared the reaction of elephants from Amboseli National Park in Kenya to people from the nearby Maasai and Kamba tribes. While Kamba will generally only attack elephants when they invade their farmland, Maasai will occasionally spear elephants as a show of virility. It has been observed that elephants will become defensive or run away as Maasai approach, even when they are still several kilometers away.
The Kamba and Maasai are fairly distinct as to their diets and dress. The Maasai traditionally wear red shawls; the Kamba do not. The Maasai eat lots of milk, and sometimes cattle blood and beef, whereas the Kamba eat plenty of vegetables and maize, and some meat. Scientists believed that this difference in diet could be apparent to an elephant’s sensitive sense of smell.
To test the elephants’ sight reactions, the scientists displayed clean and unworn pieces of white cloth and red cloth on bushes in Amboseli. They found that the animals acted “significantly more aggressively toward the red cloths.” This is one of the more obvious points at which elephants and Santa diverge in their behavior – we all know that Santa has an almost perverse attraction to red cloth.
The St. Andrews researchers then presented elephants with clothing that had been worn for five days by either a Maasai or Kamba man. The elephants seemed to react with greater fear towards the clothing worn by Maasai men, running faster and further away from it, and towards tall grass for cover. Also, according to the researchers, these elephants took significantly longer to relax after they stopped running.
When the same experiments were repeated on Santa, scientists observed that he behaved in a similar fashion, running and hiding from some pieces of clothing but not others. Santa’s reactions of fear, however, appeared to correspond to the clothing of particular individuals, not to that of entire groups. Researchers were denied access to the famous “lists,” unfortunately, and so were unable to crosscheck for specific names. When asked how they intended to continue their research on Santa, the scientists enigmatically replied, “We have no plans.”
This spring I read “The Beast of Bray Road,” a book detailing Wisconsin’s history of werewolf encounters (which have become particularly dense recently).
Ever since, I have been more than a little jealous towards the Wisconsinites. This is a new and uncomfortable feeling for me. Why should they get werewolves and dogmen while, just next door, we have to make due with albino squirrels and Paul Bunyan? They shouldn’t. And we won’t.
Last week, the Duluth News Tribune printed a story on Minnesota’s homegrown Bigfoot. A few local Bigfoot enthusiasts/trackers are interviewed in the article (which is also here, in case you don’t feel like registering at the other site). They offer the following information:
-There are 300, 400, or maybe 500 Bigfoot living in Minnesota.
-Bigfoot are very fast.
-In their haste, they sometimes leave footprints (which are big), and are sometimes seen (there have been 20 documented sightings in the last 2 years).
-They communicate by leaving “piles of branches and stick figures,” and by “knocking on trees.” I do the same.
-Bigfoot have cone-shaped heads, and backwards-facing palms
The article also links Minnesota Bigfoot to Native American tradition, referring to a being called “bugwayjinini,” meaning “wild man.” The bugwayjinini was thought to be a benevolent creature, meant to guide and care for humans. Also, its sightings were often interpreted as a warning of a coming disaster or sickness. So, you know, keep that in mind. If you ever spot one.
While walking in the woods of Michigan (Upper Peninsula) I was amazed at the many mushrooms growing there. I think the one in my photo is an amanita muscaria var. formosa or guessowii, also known as fly agaric.
This variety of mushroom has become famous because of its depiction in Alice in Wonderland (the perch for the hookah smoking caterpillar), the dancing mushroom sequence in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, in children's picture books showing gnomes and fairies, and in the video game series Super Mario Bros.
Fly agaric fruiting bodies emerge from the soil looking like a white egg, covered in the white warty material of the universal veil. As the fungus grows, the red colour appears through the broken veil, and the cap changes from hemispherical to plate-like and flat in mature specimens.
Many older books list this mushroom as deadly, but deaths from A. Muscaria are extremely rare. The amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom varies widely from region to region, season to season, confusing the issue. Spring and summer mushrooms may contain up to 10 times as much ibotenic acid (poison) as compared to fall fruitings. According to some sources, the ibotenic acid is detoxified by conversion into muscimol when the mushrooms are properly prepared.
Amanita muscaria was widely used as a hallucinogenic drug by many of the peoples of Siberia. I have often heard about people drinking the urine of rheindeer that have eaten the mushrooms, or poor people drinking the urine of those wealthy enough to buy these mushrooms. I wonder if this started the myth about flying reindeer? One source in wikipedia even credits Santa claus and hanging stockings by the fireplace to amanita muscaria cultures.
New York Yankees fans, and some players, are upset that umpires didn’t delay their playoff game against the Cleveland Indians last week when a huge swarm of midges – bugs sort of like mosquitoes – overtook the field.
New York’s pitcher at the time, Joba Chamberlain, hit a batter with a pitch and threw two wild pitches during the eighth inning while he was being buzzed by all the bugs. One of those wild pitches allowed Cleveland to score the tying run and send the game into extra innings, where the Indians ended up winning in the 11th. One Indian batter was able to smack a hit while at bat during the bug flurry.
Umpire Bruce Froemming said that he never considered stopping the game and after about 45 minutes, all the bugs were gone. But the intense blast of bugs lasted for just about 10 minutes. Chamberlain was sprayed with bug repellant twice during the half inning, but it did little to help.
Why were the bugs suddenly showing up for the game? Midges like to breed on warm fall nights near bodies of water. Cleveland’s Jacobs Field is right alongside Lake Erie. Also, they’re attracted to light, and a Major League baseball park has a lot of those burning during a night game. Midges are a common sight in Cleveland on June and July evenings, but not a welcome on in October the Yankees.
Personally, I’m a Yankee hater and love to see any new and creative ways for them to get beat. What do you think about the bug controversy? Share your thoughts here at Science Buzz.
Scientists from Utah have described a new species of power-jawed duck-billed dinosaur in a recent issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
The new find, an unstoppable Mesozoic lawnmower named Gryposaurus monumentensis, was dug out of the mudstones and sandstones of the Kaiparowits Formation at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
Gryposaurs were members of the dinosaur family known as Hadrosauridae, a common herbivore that lived about 75 million years ago near the end of the Cretaceous period, when the North American continent was divided in two by a large inland sea.
Four other members of the genus gryposaurus have been found prior to this, but what makes this new species different from the others is the structure of its jaw.
"The snout is very robust indeed - it is much larger and much stronger-looking than any other duck-billed dinosaur," said paleontologist Terry Gates of the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City. "In addition, the angle of the snout is more vertical, which initially leads to a hypothesis that it had a stronger bite."
With such a powerful bite it’s no surprise to hear Gates’ UMNH colleague Scott Sampson refer to Gryposaurus monumentensis as “the Arnold Schwartzenegger of duck-billed dinosaurs.”
Remains of the new dinosaur were first discovered in 2002 by members of a dig team from Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology the, based in California.
At first only the skull had been found. But soon after the lower jaw and other skeletal remains were located nearby. And the lower teeth matched perfectly with the upper skull.
With more than 300 teeth crammed into its beak and some 500 others waiting in reserve, Gryposaurus monumentensis appears to have been a giant 30-foot power mower, and must have caused the flora of the lush and humid Late Cretaceous period to quake in its roots.
"When you combine the 800 teeth with the very large, strong jaw and beak you have a very formidable plant eater," Gates said. Although the paleontologists discovered more than 20 new species of plants in the same rock unit, none of them would have probably been a match against the duck-bill’s tenacious choppers.
But the super-chomping Gryposaurus had its own worries. While it was busy decimating the Mesozoic botanicals, carnivores were busy eyeing him as their next meal.
“Here at the Utah Museum of Natural History we have examples of duck-billed dinosaur bones that have been eaten by a tyrannosaur,” Gates said.