This Week in Science: November 16-22 2013

For as long as humans have gone to war, animals have gone with them.

How Goldilocks Moved to Space and the World of Economists‘.

Not very science-y, but I still like it: What deep thoughts do you have during a run?

Humans are very good at anthropomorphizing nature and that’s not always a good idea.

I learned that hummingbird banding is an adorable endeavor and that hummingbirds use spider webs to make their nests.

The microbial Hunger Games: one of the longest running biological experiments.

Here are some amazing animal hybrids.

The big-fin squid might be what my nightmares are made of.

Ever heard of Delia Akeley? The Field Museum and the American Museum of Natural History have her to thank for their elephant exhibits.

How much gold is Smaug sitting on?

Potential band names taken from scientific papers.

This suction feeding fossil turtle has a strange looking skull.

My Ecology professor had very strong opinions when it came to feral cats. What’s your take?

Sewage provides insight on cities’ drug habits.

How did microraptor fly?

Here are some fuzzy plants.

Reptiles aren’t stupid.

What would a post-antibiotics world look like?

In honor of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary here are some Doctor Who themed stories: Might some of Doctor Who actually by possible? and Geologizing with the Tenth Doctor.

Many arthropods glow under UV light, which means they are having a rave without you.


This Week in Science: November 9-15 2013

Saxophone lung‘ does not sound pleasant.

I have a soft-spot for Ice-Age megafauna: here’s the Woolly Rhino!

Tyrannosaur problems‘ or why you should keep your files properly labeled.

Giant armadillo burrows are home to many animals.

Skulls, Shakespeare, and Tchaikovsky.

Giraffe necks are very strange. How many vertebrae do you think they have?

The Nazi Anatomists: How the corpses of Hitler’s victims are still haunting modern science–and American abortion politics.’

The Rising Star Expedition is excavating hominid fossils in a South African cave. Follow the excitement on National Geographic and Twitter (Rising Star Expedition, Lee Berger, John Hawks, and Alia Gurtov).

How does the world’s largest flower bloom?

Here are 5 creative and unexpected ways that some creatures use their genitals. Here’s another way.

Who knew that there is a saber-toothed opossum?

Armadillo’s bad eyesight could shed light on human blindness‘.

It’s a moss mimicking mantis!

Meet Kevin, the finest known Apatosaurine snout.

Mammograms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

The oldest big cat fossils found in Tibet may reshape the feline family tree. And here’s some new research on the origin of domestic dogs.

Have you heard about Dinovember?

The Phylogeny of Little Red Riding Hood‘.

Statistics can be misleading: linking acacia trees to traffic accidents.

Do Dodo bones belong in a museum?

‘Paleoscatologist’ Karen Chin studies fossil poop and it has a lot to say.

Why do Americans refrigerate our eggs and should we? 

A gigantic Chinese cave has its own weather.

These fossil ‘walrus whales’ are really strange looking.

Some fluid dynamics behind wine snobbery.

Why are some South Carolina dolphins turning into half dolphins?

This Week in Science: November 2-8 2013

How to pin butterflies.

Check out some of the coverage from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting.

Selling fossils makes me sad and seeing them ‘advertised’ at SVP makes it even worse.

Check the blog Mary Anning’s Revenge. Amy and Meaghan have a hilarious, snarky way of talking about paleontology.

Is Europa Too Prickly to Land On?

Linnaeus’ type Asian elephant specimen is actually an African elephant.

This was a good week for dinosaurs! Deinocheirus mirificus, CoelophysoidsLythronax argestes (also here and here), and a clumsy theropod.

The Botanist in the Kitchen teaches you more about the plants you eat.

The oldest fossil tomatillo was discovered in South America.

Were sabertooth teeth deadly, sexy, or both?

The Animated Life of Alfred Russel Wallace, and a slide show of his life narrated by David Attenborough.

Why, and how, do leaves change color and fall?

One of my goals in life … is to make biology look like astrophysics.’

70 million years ago, a baby shark ate a baby turtle and died, and we know this because of poop.

Denali’s DIY ‘Google Street View’.

‘There’s a pretty remarkable fly photograph making the rounds of social media today, and while it originally had me going “Oooooh!”, the more I think about it, the more I feel like we’re staring at clouds.’

A New “Golden Spike” Monument in Colorado Marks Geologic Time‘.

‘We’re lucky if long-deceased creatures preserve anything relating to behavior. This is exactly why the few examples of prehistoric sex are so special.

Enzymes in acacia sap prevent ants from eating other sources of sugar.

Some tags on marine animals could double the normal amount of drag on the animal.

The Science Behind Earth’s Many Colors‘.

The science of Thor.

Crocs eating fruit and hippos eating wildebeests: animal diets are rarely straightforward.

Abolished parks, the Kraken, and dead plants: Geological Society of America’s 125th Annual Meeting

I was lucky enough to spend the better part of last week at the Geological Society of America’s 125th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. This was my first conference and it was an amazing experience!

My flight to Denver can be described with one word: mountains. I left the ancient Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee for the younger, taller Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The views were beautiful and the temperature in Denver was much more pleasant than what I had left in Tennessee!

Some of the exciting things I did:

On Monday, I presented my talk  ‘Paleoclimate Reconstructions of Three Mid-Atlantic Miocene Sites’ in the session Quantitative Reconstructions  of the Large-Scale Cenozoic Climate Change.

I met Dave Marshall of Palaeocast fame and he interviewed me about my paleoclimate research. On Tuesday we had the opportunity to interview Drs. Bob Bakker and Matt Mossbrucker. If you check out the Palaeocast recap of the conference, you can hear me talk about my research at ~21:05 on Day 2 and on Day 3 at ~14:48 you can hear Dave and I talk to Drs. Bakker and Mossbrucker about the tale of the Brontosaurus.

I really enjoyed Dr. Holly Dunsworth’s talk ‘The Sub-Saharan Origins of Cercopithecoids, Hominids, Hominins, and Humans‘. It was nice to have a little biological anthropology sprinkled in amongst the geology!

On Tuesday night the Denver Museum of Nature and Science was open after hours to students at the GSA conference. It’s a fantastic museum and I highly recommend visiting. I especially enjoyed the Prehistoric Journey exhibit.

At the end of the conference, I went to Dr. Mark McMenamin’s talk ‘The Kraken’s Back: New Evidence Regarding Possible Cephalopod Arrangement of Ichthyosaur Skeletons‘. The room was packed and there was even a film crew! Dr. McMenamin is a fantastic speaker and the presentation included beautiful artist reconstructions, but overall I was not convinced that there was evidence of Kraken attack and subsequent arrangement of bones.

Some of the interesting things I learned:

For me, the first morning of the conference was dominated by the session Geology in the National Parks: Research, Mapping, and Resource Management I. I learned about Fossil Cycad National Monument, a former national monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota that was removed from the National Park System in 1957.

I made sure to attend Dr. Benjamin Burger’s talk ‘Mammal Species Durations in the Fossil Record: Answering the Question, Which Species has the Longest Duration in the Fossil Record?‘. The answer was the fossil insectivore Centetodon magnus. I was pleasantly surprised that a Gomphothere came in second place!

The session Dinosaurs & Diamonds: 125 Years of Geoscience in Museums started with the talk ‘Let’s Talk About Rex, Baby: Communicating Science and the Myth of Dumbing Down‘. Dr. Richard Kissel addressed the idea that museums ‘dumb down’ their material for the visitors. This is not necessarily, and should not be, the case. Instead, it just takes a different way of presenting the information.

On Tuesday afternoon I went to Richard Harris’s (of NPR) talk ‘Why People Trust Scientists but Not Science: Climate Denial in Context’. He talked about the fact that most scientists believe that the lack of acceptance of science (particularly with respect to climate change) stems from the absence of information. Instead, it likely stems from different moral priorities as well as a misunderstanding of how science works.

All in all, the GSA Annual Meeting was a great experience. I met some interesting people, learned some geology and paleontology, and had the chance to miss classes to spend a week in Denver! Hopefully I’ll get the chance again next year!

This Week in Science: October 26 – November 1 2013

Listen to this podcast of a NOAA scientist performing a necropsy on a giant oarfish that washed up on a southern California beach.

Opening the Fossil Record for Open Access Week‘.

Nebraska approves a climate change denying study, but scientists refuse to carry it out.

What does ancient pollen say about the fall of great civilizations?

Why the survival of the avocado is surprising.

Scientists who study dinosaurs are paleontologists, but not all paleontologists study dinosaurs. That is where the misconception lies.’

If you thought the olinguito was cute, its babies are even cuter!

Did allergies evolve to save our lives?

Genes ‘for’ disease might be an outdated concept‘.

What Is Sex Like for Someone with Synesthesia?

Why Are Reindeer Eyes Golden In Summer But Blue In Winter?

Teachers: don’t release animals outside. They could be invasive.

The trick to pronouncing scientific names: just say it with confidence.

Here‘s what a sauropod might have looked like when it walked.

Hot water freezes faster than cold and here’s why.

Real-time map of births and deaths around the world.

Some more citizen science: Microplants Collection Connection.

The speed that you walk depends on whether you’re walking with a friend or a lover.

‘The 16-Foot-Tall Reptilian Stork That Delivered Death Instead of Babies’.

I bet you never thought of earthworms as invasive.