Friday, July 15, 2011


Looking over my blog (paying attention to the number of new followers that pretty much subscribed to a stagnant, or, shall we say, dead blog :P) and doing a little websurfing (especially in the area of Biology), I notice that it's time for a new start, or, at least, a new direction. Now, don't freak out and begin complaining about me or to me thinking that I am going to delete this blog because I assure you that won't happen.

Of course, seeing as I did start this my sophomore year of High School (I'm now an adult at the age of 19 and going to college in the Fall.) I realize what I hadn't noticed before; it's horrible. For one, I have no focus and I have been absent for really no legitimate reason. Also, my "Fossil facts" (which became huge hits for some reason(s) I can't fathom)  are totally ignorant. I'm not qualified nor am I knowledgeable in the field of Paleontology to even be doing such things. (I can recommend better sites and people whom I've established valuable connections with throughout my years on the blogosphere. I will list them with brief, minute descriptions of the topics covered at the end of the post.) For that, one could state that I have been committing an act of fraud. And, I'm sincerely sorry.

So, where does this leave me and my blog? Well, as the title says, I'm at a crossroads (not just with the blog but with life); lost, is likely the best word to describe it. I've certainly enjoyed it here and I've developed memorable "friendships" (since I've never met over 80-90% of my reader base, it's not fair nor is it accurate to call them "friends" in the traditional sense of the word.) on the blogosphere. The most memorable are: Dinorider d'Andoandor, Traumador the Tyrannosaur and Jason Westby, since they are some of my first fan base and close "friends" on the blogosphere. I'm grateful to them all; their contributions and support have been astounding and I couldn't appreciate them anymore than I do right now. Thank you, guys, so much!

 Where is my mind headed at the moment I'm writing this? I could continue to post about the basics, and simple introductory concepts in the fields of Biology, Geology, and Paleontology with an occasional article or paper from magazines such as Discover, Scientific American, Science Illustrated, Nature, Plos One, National Geographic, etc. (It's likely that I'll be able to include more literature when I get to college, as many University libraries carry such materials.). The other possibility that I had considered was start a whole new blog (keeping this one) solely about Biology, more or less for reference and I'll be compiling information regarding science's ever greater understanding about the natural world (the biological aspect at least). For that blog as well, I'll try to keep to the basics for non-technical audiences, interspersing technical jargon every now and then so they get used to seeing it and not feel so lost or dumb (remember, the tradition of using Latin or Greek mechanics was, and is, to allow global communication with those of a foreign language, as each language has different common names for the same thing. For example, the typical house feline is known scientifically as Felis cattus derivative of Latin, while in English, it's "Cat", in Japanese, it's "Neko", Spanish, "el Gato", and so on., but more on that some other time.) Of course, I've yet to decide on anything. So, for now, I'm stuck at the crossroads, attempting to get my bearings and move into, what will hopefully be a fulfilling and pleasing direction. 

Better Qualified Bloggers:

  • Traumador the Tyrannosaur of the Tyrannosaur Chronicles- Known for his peanut sized brain and large heart, Traumador is a kind-hearted, extremely knowledgeable "vivus" (the term used for living non-avian dinosaurs on his blog) T. rex whose adventures (or, should I say, mis-adventures) and hilarious antics make him a great read and one of the most, if not THE most successful blog ever!! Check him out and his Palaeo Facts. (He was raised in the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, after all.)
  • Andrew Farke- Paleontologist from out west, whose work, I think, concerns Ceratopsians (but don't quote me on this. :P). Plus, he apparently makes a mean beer! lol! (Before you say anything, I don't drink, I assure you.) Check him out on The Open Source Paleontologist and his Brewing Blog.
  • ReBecca Foster, of the Dinochick Blogs, is a paleontologist from Colorado, USA, whose blog often contains entertaining musings on life and anything Paleo.
  • Dr. Jeff W. Martz, the "erratic" Paleontologist, is a self-proclaimed "underpaid" vertebrate Paleontologist who specializes in a group of Late Triassic reptiles that are closely related to the common ancestor of the Dinosaurs. His musings are often entertaining and insightful, often expanding beyond paleo to life in general. Highly recommended.
  • "Dinosaur George" Blasing- Great friend of mine, actor, public speaker/lecturer, and writer. He is best known for his show on the History channel Jurassic Fight Club (or, as it's known outside the U.S., Dinosaur Secrets). He is curator of the Witte Museum of Natural History in San Antonio, TX which he lives and works as head Dinosaur George, Inc. He has been touring, speaking at libraries and schools since 1998 when he left a "lucrative real estate career" to make a living (though not paid as much as his real estate job) sharing his passion for Paleontology and Natural History with audiences of all ages. 
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science Main Branch's blog, called Beyond Bones, is a terrific resource that covers everything from Biological Anthropology, Dinosaur Paleontology and Geochemistry to Physics and Astronomy with notable contributors like Robert T. Bakker (author of The Dinosaur Heresies and Raptor Red and was a student of the legendary John Ostrom. He and John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, also the modern day civilized counterparts of Cope and Marsh except for the part that Horner and Bakker are good friends, pioneered Dinosaur endothermy during the Dinosaur Renaissance.) Check it out! 
  • Craig Dylke, the CGi artist for Prehistoric Insanity and Primary teacher is extremely knowledgeable and, if you can manage to reach him (he is a VERY busy guy as they all are, considering he just got married, for those who did not know!!! Again, Congratulations to him and the now, Mrs. Rhonwyn (not sure how to spell it, sorry. :P) Dylke!!) who, living and working in New Zealand has had the great experience of working with the only Vertebrate Paleontologist in New Zealand, Dr. Ewan Fordyce. Craig also worked as a Camp Counselor for the Summer camp for the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which he has been visiting since he was very young back when the museum first opened in the 1980s, instructing and entertaining. Again, great guy, highly recommended and highly knowledgeable and qualified to answer any and all questions you may have. Check him out, but don't get upset when he doesn't respond right away (I sent him a question a few weeks ago via e-mail and I still haven't heard back from him. Of course, who am I to demand a response and become impatient and irritable? He has a life and it is a privelege and an honour to have him take the time to answer a question of mine.)
  • Albertonykus ("Alberta Claw") is a Dinosaur enthusiast from, you guessed it, Alberta, and dons the persona of a maniraptoran (the clade of carnivorous dinosaurs that include the "raptor" families and birds) and avid Animaniacs fan. His posts are insightful and entertaining; definitely worth a visit for all your Maniraptoran needs!! Plus, there's the bonus of his delightful sense of humour! :)
If there's any I've forgotten for whatever reason, just let me know who and, perhaps, the URL for their site and I will add them to the list. I want to give credit where credit is due.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Artwork of the Day #15

Utahraptor ostrommaysorum by your's truly as you can see by my signature. I figured it was about to time I posted some of my own artwork, even if they ARE rubbish.

Just a Recap of My Life....A Quick One At That

Broken promises, unexcused absences and just all around unreliability can describe my life the past few months. I've gotten nothing done and I can't even finish a bloody post about the fact of Evolution and the Darwinian Principles that explain it; a subject that is crucial for many reasons and especially crucial for society. That was supposed to be finished Months ago and all I have to show for it are late nights on social networking websites, darwinian sexual selection kicking in ( a crush that finally reached its end a couple of months ago), and no post. My heart is throbbing because I let down my friends, fans and loyal readers. I want to convey my sincere and deepest apologies for my behaviour. I young and that still is no excuse.

On 3 June 2011, I had finally graduated from High School. I am now with my mother, seeing my 1 yr. old niece ( my step-sister's kid), beautiful, funny and bright, Acadia Jennifer Abare-Hoyt who has melted my heart and brought our family nothing but joy. In August, I begin Western Kentucky University as a Freshman (going there with my best friend) working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. From there, I don't know. Anyway, I have four years to be looking for Graduate Schools. There are only 8 Universities in the United States with a Doctoral program in Paleontology, the closest one to me (I'll still be in Kentucky, remember?) is the University of Ohio, I think. So, I'll try to keep you all posted on that as well. Anyway, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. TTFN- Ta Ta For Now. lol! The Raptor is out!

Friday, December 31, 2010

The End Is Nigh....At least, For This Part of my PaleoQuest

It is the eve of the New Year and multitudes of people from across the planet await with an unfathomable anxiety and excitement for the upcoming year. For many, the new year marks a new beginning, for others it marks another lap in this track called life. This is also a time to reflect and to make commitments, even ones that very likely won't be kept. So, as 2010 comes to a close, and 2011 draws nigh, I await the end of Part I of my PaleoQuest, that is, the graduation from High School and the move into College where my Quest can really begin.

I began my odyssey in the Fall of  2008, my Sophomore year in High School, with a goal in mind: Vertebrate Palaeontologist. I knew this odyssey would not be easy, and I have come to rely on several people to assist me and support me through the plethora of roadblocks that were extremely difficult to maneuver past. There have been times where I just wanted to give up, to question my abilities, my own intelligence, and even whether my heart and my soul are even commited. I owe these people an unfathomable amount and, I would like to give credit where credit is due:

  • Mark Lewis, my Father, who has raised me since birth and brought me up to become the man I am today, and the kind of man I aspire to become.
  • Candace Partridge, my Mother, of Mi Chiamo Candace, has been there for me much like my dad has, even after their devorce when I was 5 years old.
  •  David Partridge, my step-father, has been there for me for spiritual guidance, for excellent music (he plays a mean acoustic) and love and support. I am truly grateful for the love and support of two fathers.
  • My grandfather, now deceased, was, and continues to be a huge influence on my life and without him, I might be lost, or, at least, lacking in inspiration.
  • Robin Lewis, my step-mother, has taught me the skills and tried to give me the courage to be my own person. Strict, and a bit impulsive and sensitive, I love her dearly and she loves me, though I can not lie and say we get along all the time.
  • The author Michael Crichton, has been my hero for the last 4-5 years and continues to be a huge influence on me as a scientist, a thinker and a human being. Honestly, there are times where his influence rivals my father and my grandfather in influence on my life.
  • Robert T. Bakker is a big inspiration to the kind of paleontologist I would want to become.
  • John R. "Jack" Horner, professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, is an iconoclastic paleontologist and another equally influencing force for me as a paleontologist.
  • James Richardson, one of my best friends and a childhood friend, continues to be a huge help in the social aspects of my life. His humour is wry, but it keeps me going.
  • Austin Wilkerson, childhood friend and David Gilmour nut, is much life Richardson in how he helps me in my life.
  • Kyle Wilkerson, childhood friend and younger brother of Austin Wilkerson, has a childish air about him, but his intelligence is staggering. He is also very philosophical and loves video games as well as art, like his brother.
  • Aimee Evans, childhood friend, loyal and funny. I doubt I could've made it through Middle School without her.
  • Traumador the Tyrannosaur, "friend" and all around fun coelurosaur, is what got me into blogging if you recall. *laughs* If you read The Tyrannosaur Chronicles, you'll be able to follow the zany adventures of this pint-sized Tyrannosaurus rex, and watch how this unlikely hero fares against the dreaded Pack of the Primordial Feather.
  • Jason "Naveed" Westby, zany, intelligent and certainly paranormal himself, is a close friend on the Blogosphere and loyal fan from the start, as I am on his blog. Join him as he blogs about the Paranormal and other cool bizarre topics of interest. 
  • Thomas R. Holtz, jr., American Vertebrate Paleontologist and professor of Geology at the University of Maryland, is now a friend of mine through Facebook and occasional e-mails. I find getting to know him is the best way to get inspired and to keep me going. Plus, I am indebted to him because of his willingness to assist in my teaching.
  • "Dinosaur George" Blasing, creator of Jurassic Fight Club, Public Speaker, and curator of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, has been friends with me for the last couple of years or so. He is certainly very Witte (sorry, horrible pun *laughs*). I am indebted to him for his willingness and enthusiasm for Paleontology. He has an uncanny background of amateur research and is a gifted teacher. Without him, this blog probably wouldn't be very successful.
As 2011 draws nigh, I will admit that one of my largest regrets is not being nearly addicted to Facebook. *laughs* and not being on here, teaching as much as I'd like. However, most of my time has been spent going through school, moving, and occasionally family drama. I hope I can say I'm back, but I can't guarantee that. *laughs* Although, I will certainly say I will be on here more in the future and less on Facebook.. *laughs*

Now, before I wrap up here, I would like to share that I was accepted to Western Kentucky University, College of Science and Engineering for the Fall 2011 term! ^_^ I am extremely excited!! And, also, for the New Year Celebration and Newport, New Hampshire, USA's 250th Anniversary as a town, I will be ringing the church bells at Midnight!! Well, that's all for now, I suppose. Take Care and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tyrannosaurus rex- Apex Predator or Lowly Scavenger?

I know this is my first post in months, and I promise I will explain more in due time, readers. However, I keep seeing the controversy over T. rex's ecological trophic level. So, I thought that this "Exhibition Fact," as I'd like to call it, would be a perfect way to add my input on the controversy and bring the questions to a close.

Tyrannosaurus rex is probably the most infamous species in the fossil record. Growing to a length of about 40 feet, 20 feet in height, in addition to an estimated whopping 6-7 tons, T. rex is a monster. It's little wonder why it's embedded itself in our imagination. He has been depicted as a killing machine for well over a century. First described by Barnum Brown around 1902-1903 in the badlands of Montana, Tyrannosaurus rex has both thrilled and frightened us in movies, television shows and literature. However, the old, inaccurate stereotype that embedded itself on the reputation of the Dinosauria had gotten the so-called "King of the Dinosaurs." The first specimen was mounted in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City at the commision of Henry Fairfield Osborn, the curator at the time. The great animal was mounted with it's tail lying on the ground, it's head rising menacingly over 20 feet above the visitor's heads.

But, was T. rex really so terrible? Was the the Apex Predator that we loved to hate or was he a lowly scavenger who's lifestyle was Nature's garbage Disposal? Or, was he both: a scavenger AND a and Apex Predator? Well, that's what I intend to find out, and I invite you, readers to come along on this journey into the life of the most infamous and most loved beast to have ever evolved.

From Cold-Blooded Monster to Warm-Blooded Menacing 6-ton Chicken that would Have eaten Col. Sanders

Ironically, the first view of Dinosaurs had been the correct one. In the late 18th to early 19th centuries, fossil bones began showing up regularly in European towns. No one could explain these bones and many people thought that they must be giant remnants of extant animals, since God created the Earth in the biblical 7 days and everything that was tever created was thought to be alive and God would NEVER allow any of His creations to go extinct, right? The view of the world at the time was a static, unchanging world; extinction was impossible as individual animals might die, but whole species did not.

Enter the Baron Georges Cuvier, the leading Anatomist of his day at the intellectual center of the world: Paris, France. He concluded that the bones were of taxa no longer alive and that animals might become extinct. Cuvier reluctantly accepted extinction but never accepted evolution (however, that's another topic for another time).

In 1841, Sir Richard Owen first recognized the Dinosauria as a distinct vertebrate group; a very hot-blooded, active group, to be more specific. He described the genus, Iguanodon, with the conclusion that the teeth resembled an iguana's (hence the name). His view of Dinosaurs had been accepted for the next several decades until.......larger specimens were being excavated; large sauropodomorphs, Hadrosaurs, and Ceratopsians altered that view. It was the Sauropods that convinced the public that, because they are extinct, they must have been unsuccessful, dumb, clumsy creatures. (One has to keep in mind that this view originated in the Victorian era, where progress was on everyone's mind and those mistakes from the past mattered little. Hence, why Dinosaurs obtained such an unfortunate stereotype).

However, it wasn't until the 1960s did Paleontologists start going back to Sir Richard Owen's depiction of active, intelligent, hot-blooded, socially sophisticated animals on the order of Birds. This became known as the Dinosaur Renaissance (Renaissance means "re-birth") and many Paleontologists, including Robert T. Bakker, John "Jack" R. Horner, led by John Ostrom of Yale University. This change in thinking was soon adopted, rather reluctantly, by most researchers and the public at large and induced a lot of re-positioning of all museum mounts from tail draggers to being balanced by their tails, in addition to more active, life-like positions.

From Consensus to Division- Disputes among Friends about Tyrannosaur Behavior/Trophic Level

Colleagues and friends, Robert T. Bakker and Jack Horner have been among the earliest proponenets of the Dino-Bird Theory and Dinosaur endothermy (commonly known as "warm-bloodedness," these animals are so-called because of their bodies to maintain homeostasis without influences from the environment as in reptiles, fish, amphibians, and athropods.) yet, found a wedge split them apart when it came to T. rex's trophic level/environmental niche. Horner saw the large theropod as a scavenger and pointed to several things:

  • Well-developed Olfactory Bulb provided an incredible sense of smell over long distances which helped him to locate carcasses.
  • "Poorly" developed Optic nerve, inhibits effective hunting.
  • Small, nearly vestigial fore-limbs would have prevented him from catching himself if he tripped and fell.
  • huge bulk made him too sluggish to catch prey.
All of which are absurd as I'll explain in a minute. Robert Bakker, as well as many Paleontologists such as Dr. Philip J. Currie of the Tyrell in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, Dr. Lawrence Witmer of Columbus Ohio, Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. of the University of Maryland Geological Dept., Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, Gregory S. Paul, Dr. Xu Xing, Dr. Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Pete Larson of the Black Hills Geological Institute, among others agree, as well as I do, on the following:

  • CT Scans of Tyrannosaurid brain cases show the Optic Nerve was Well Developed and, T. rex had it's eyes facing forward, giving him binocular vision, and great depth perception.
  • The Olfactory lobe  was well developed allowing scent distinction, allowing the animal to distinguish the smell of prey, another predator, or family members.
  • Recurved teeth are designed for hanging on to prey, and the jaw is designed to saw through thick hide. Why is this needed if he was just scavenging dead carcasses?
  • Bite Force has been estimated to be several tons per square inch, enabling bones to be crushed with ease. Again, not necessary to be a scavenger.
  • Then, there's the issue with metabolism. The large the muscle mass, the more energy you burn. This animal could not hope to wander aimlessly looking for a fresh carcass to steal for itself.
  • It's a social animal, with possible complex social structure for a being of it's immense size. Being a scavenger, you really need to be solitary; family is not needed.
Finally, I am in favor of the Opportunistic Hypothesis which means, in a nutshell, predator first, then scavenge if it came across something and it failed to catch a meal (which is a lot more frequent in the animal  kingdom than you might think). Often, in nature, the prey gets away, leaving the he predator, hungry and/or injured......or dead. And, when the predator does make a successful kill, it will hesitate and be alert, checking for competition from another of it's own species. Tyrannosaurus rex, apex predator or lowly scavenger? I say, both! What about you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

"So Much To Do.....So Little Time" -Napoleon Bonaparte Yet, When it Comes to a Museum, There is Plenty of Time!!

It is this quote that fits the typical human being, and I am no exception. And, though I have little respect for emperors and warlords like Mr. Bonaparte, I do admit he "hit the nail on the head" with this statement, if you will. We all have societal obligations as well as familial ones. However, no matter how busy one's life becomes, one should always find time to indulge in his/her own individuality. If this does not happen, then we may very well lose our sanity (....or....what's left of it......if we had any to begin ;)) and life will undoubtedly become unbearable.  Thankfully, the aforementioned outcome is highly unlikely as each of us finds time in one form or another.

Now, this post is to notify you, readers, that I am down in Houston, Texas, for the Weekend visiting my grandparents. Tomorrow, my mom, Candace, my step-dad, Dave, and I are taking the day to visit the many Museums in the area, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the new exhibit on the famous Jurassic Age Solnhofen Limestone Quarry where the first specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica  was  first discovered and described in 1860, the Houston Museum of Art, the Holocaust Muesum, etc.

As such, I will be completing a blog post about the trip, prior to Fossil Fact #14 tomorrow. Alas, it is getting late and I'm suffering from jetlag. So, I bid you adeiu and good night, readers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Artwork of the Day #14!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 This depiction was obtained from the site: of the Cambrian Agnatha Haikouichthys. A Facebook friend  suggested I discuss this really ancient group of Chordates that still exist today in the form of Lamprey and Hagfish in Fossil Fact #14. Unfortunately, I feel I need to do a lot of research prior to even starting this post as I am unfamiliar with this group. All I can say is keep watching Facebook and Twitter, as well as Blogger's Post Notifications, for news of the post! I am unsure of the artist otherwise I would gladly cite him/her and Definitely link to him/her.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fossil Fact #13!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have officially returned, readers and I just want to first apologize for my two-month absence. It was rude and insulting to leave such loyal readers "hanging," like that for two months (the activities during those said months will be explained in greater detail in future posts.). For that, I am truly sorry and I hope you all can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Now, that this is all said and done, I want to do this Fossil Fact as a reward for your patience (and, in some cases, impatience) for the first post in two months of school and growing up. The topic for today, at the suggestion for my new friend, Ian Garofalo, is the so-called "Dino-Bird Theory" here in "pop culture" of Paleontology. ;) The theory describes the relationships between our flying neighbors the birds, and theropods.  So, let's get right into it! :)

Dinosaurs Alive? A Look at the Relationship between Birds and Dinosaurs:

What's that up in the sky? It's a plane! No, it's a Bird! No, it's a......Dinosaur?! That's what the latest research on theropod dinosaurs seem to tell us. Now, I assume that you all look a bit incredulous, and, believe me, that is truly understandable. The relationship between birds and Dinosaurs is clear in the genetics, molecular biology and anatomy of many coelurosaurs. The implications indicate that a change in taxonomy is needed, or is it? That depends on how you could classify a bird and a dinosaur.

What is a Dinosaur?
Now, recall that a Dinosaur is a unique type of Archosauria ("ruling reptile") with the ability to walk either upright, bipedally or quadropedally, thanks to their hip design (The Saurischians have their pubis pointed backwards, with it, the illium and the ischium creating a ball-and-socket joint with the femur, while the Ornithischians have a much similar design yet, the pubis and the ischium pointing forward, still creating that ball-and-socket joint with the femur, much like the Saurischians, or Theropods and Sauropods.). The Dinosaurs are also unique in many respects, depending on the stage of their diversity and evolution.

For examply, the Triassic saw many early carnivores like Eoraptor, Herrarasaurus, Coelophysis and Liliensternus, share many of the same features as the archosaurs they co-existed with, yet, some of the primitive features of a "true" theropod; the ankle joints weren't as pronounced as in later taxa. They had features such as fore-arms with the primitive five-digits of their predecessors, the brain wasn't as developed, et cetera.

The Fossil record indicates that as many families progressed in their evolution, many limbs were merely shadows of their former selves, meaning they're vestigial. (Vestigial simply means that limbs or body parts that once had a use in our bodies, no longer carry on that function. i.e. the human appendix.) Specifically digits in the most of the larger theropod species going from five, to four, to three, and in the case of the Tyrannosauridae, two. (Actually, later Tyrannosaurs in the Cretaceous, such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Tarbosaurus bataar, Albertosaurus sarcophagus, Daspletosaurus, et cetera actually have three digits; one is merely small and vestigial, giving the appearance of two, though that's not necessarily incorrect either.)

What is a Bird?
Birds, or Aves, is a class of endotherms (animals that have to consume other organisms, in order to generate and maintain a constant body temperature, commonly referred to as "warm-blooded")  that lay hard-shelled amniotic eggs (Thus, making them one of a myriad of other animals classified as "Amniotes.") that evolved during the mid to Late Jurassic period.

There are approximately 9000 species globally. The fact that they are the descendants of the Dinosauria  is well-established among the majority of Paleontologists. However, they have evolved specializations for flight and a "unique 'one way' breathing system." The bones are light, yet strong. They have powerful flight muscles, and a skeleton in which many bones are fused or lost. And, the most defining feature--Feathers!

Now, granted, there are many bird species that are unable to fly, meaning that flight shouldn't be the defining characteristic of this clade to differentiate between birds and theropods. Early fossil birds, such as Archaeopteryx, lack the sternal keel where the flight muscles attach, that is also missing in the group of flight-less birds known as the ratites (the group that includes ostriches, emus, and rhea).

The Dinosaur-Bird Connection

Previously, I listed some of the characteristics of the two groups, but nothing truly defining of each group. This is the problem with the current taxonomic system (although, recent changes in the system have labeled Birds as a specialized sub-group of theropod dinosaurs).

Now, why the change? As you have been reading this post, I can only assume you have noticed that the line between the two clade has blurred significantly. The criteria for this change will be discussed in this section, in addition to the theory on Avian Origins, or, more popularly, known as the "Dino-Bird Theory."

Take the common domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), for example. The domestic chicken is hardly built for high-performance flight. Yet, the skeleton for Gallus gallus domesticus are clearly present. The sternum bears the aforementioned prominent sternal keel where the flight
muscles attached.

The furcula, a fused clavicle (collar bone), serves as a brace during the flight stroke; in the chicken it's appearance is a Y-shaped bone in front of the sternum (breast bone). The same clavicle in non-avian Dromaeosaurids, which provided a brace for the shoulder girdle while holding prey.

In order to reduce their weight, birds have highly shortened tails compared to extinct taxa like Archaeopteryx, whose tail contained at least 15 vertebrae in it's tail. Living birds lack teeth in the bill unlike their Mesozoic relatives.

Finally, there's the "most obvious anatomical feature" of all birds- Feathers! Of course, recent exquisite specimens from China revealed that certain genera had feathers or primitive "proto-feathers." Feathers are simply highly modified scales which are important for several reasons:

  • Soft Down Feathers trap still air close to the surface of the body thermally insulating the animal.
  • Contour Feathers establish the smooth contours of the animal's body.
  • "Flight Feathers" form the aerodynamic surfaces of the wings and tail.
Finally, feathers are important for display to females saying "hey, sexy, Check me out!" and say to rival males "I'm an adult and I'm ready to fight." Behaviors like this enable Paleontologists to hypothesize theropod behavior, since "behavior doesn't necessarily fossilize." For more information, I encourage anyone interested in the connections between Birds and Theropods, check out the sites in the Works Cited section of the post and check out some of the journals on the subject.

Works Cited

Waggoner , Ben. "UCMP Web Lift To Taxa". University of California at Berkeley. 7/4/2010 .

"Bird". Wikipedia. 7/4/2010 .

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Artwork of the Day #13!!!!!!!!!!!!

Artist Reconstruction of the amazing Toodontid, Jenfengopteryx elegans. This is a preview for the 13th Fossil Fact where I will be discussing the "Dino-Bird Theory" in Paleontology. Stay Tuned as this will be my first post in a good while! :) Did you miss me? The Raptor Is Back!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Decade!!!! Here's to 2010!! Happy New Year!!!!

Well....we've reached the end of 2009 and it has been another eventful, and historic year for everyone! I hope you, readers, have had a terrific year and decade!! I know I have!! Anywho, I just wanted to wish you all a safe, and happy new year!!!

2010 marks the beginning of a new decade!! It's odd as, to me, it seems like yesterday we were celebrating the end of the 1990s, the new millenium! So, I just hope and pray from the bottom of my heart that you, your families and your friends have a safe and happy 2010!!!

All right, now this post is getting repetitive. lol! So, let me wrap this up readers with one more final wish and Farewell until I return!!! :) HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!