Category Archives: Fossils

Science Week Begins With Melbourne Museum Stealing My Heart

museum victoria qantassaurus

Qantassaurus

Melbourne Museum – I could totally live in you. I know that sounds like something a psychopath would say, but there’s no other way to put it. And it doesn’t have to be the whole entire building, just the Science and Life Gallery would be fine. And yes, both floors please. Just rope it off and everyone else can go crazy everywhere else. Quietly. I get the dinosaurs and the taxidermy and the insects.

Except you’re going to have to move the spiders elsewhere, particularly the live ones and particularly the live ones that aren’t even in boxes. What is that, MM? I honestly stood there for like five minutes straight trying to come to terms with the fact that there’s literally nothing except a giant room-sized web between those orb-weavers and us, and I know they aren’t particularly dangerous and have no reason to come out of their giant room-sized web and mingle with the humans, but that’s not the point. They’re still spiders, MM. You’re playing with fire in a giant room-sized web.

Science on Show

National Science Week - Science on Show

Science on Show - Mammology Display

National Science Week kicked into gear yesterday and Melbourne Museum was the absolute best place to spend the first day. And I’m not just saying that because that’s what I did and obviously have no comparison. But…

* Live insects

* Museum experts

* Australia’s best scientific illustrators

I rest my case.

I began with Science on Show, which involved half a dozen display tables filled with stuffed, bottled and boxed specimens, Australian megafauna fossils and a model crab the size of a curled up human child and so on, all manned by various experts from the Museum. I got to pat a taxidermied tapir and made some dumb comment about how it looks like it’s stuck in a really powerful wind tunnel with that posture (well it does), rifle through a trolley’s worth of poltergeist-esque sea creatures in jars, and get mad at the terrestrial invertebrates expert for holding up two huge bottled spiders and making me compare their fangs. DO NOT WANT, as they say.

Then I may or may not have rendered myself the creepiest person in the building by deciding I wanted these for my livingroom:

National Science Week - Science on Show

Science on Show - Ornithology Display

Yes. Rows and rows of tiny dead birds. That’s what I want in my house. Jesus. But it might come as less of a shock to you now when I tell you I want this room as my bedroom:

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Filed under Animals, Archosaurs, Art, Events, Fossils, Free Stuff, Insects, Museum Stuff, Science, Sea Creatures

That’s Just Gross, Leviathan melvillei.

leviathan eating whale

The discovery of a giant sperm whale with 40 centimetre-long teeth has shed new light on the types of predators that once terrorised Miocene waters 12 million years ago. Named Leviathan melvillei, after Herman Melvill and his formidable white whale, L. melvillei grew to between 13 and 18 metres long, about the size of a modern sperm whale, but with one important difference – those huge four-inch-wide teeth.

Prior to this find by a team of Belgian palaeontologists on the southern coast of Peru, the only known whales of this size have been suction feeders, such as baleen and sperm whales. Without any functioning teeth in their upper jaw, these whales generate a powerful flow of water to draw in their prey (usually deep-sea cephalopods) and use small, lower jaw teeth to hold and puncture them.

L. melvillei, however, with its robust jaws filled with interlocking teeth the length of prairie dogs, appears to have been a raptorial feeder which, like the modern killer whales (Orcinus orca), would hunt down large prey, inflicting deep wounds and tearing large chunks of flesh out of their bodies. The team suggests that this prey was likely to have been smaller whales.

“We think that medium-size baleen whales, rich in fat, would have been very convenient prey for Leviathan,” said Oliver Lambert, the palaeontologist who discovered the fossil. “With its three-metre-long head, very large upper and lower teeth… this represents one of the largest raptorial predators and, to our knowledge, the biggest tetropod bite ever found.”

Somewhat similarly, another recent discovery has found that the Pristionchus pacificus, a common bacteria-eating worm, will grow a new mouth and eat other worms when starved. “Environmental factors dictate the kind of mouthparts formed by roundworms,” said Ralf Sommer, Director of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the Max Planck Institute.

If a larval P. pacificus grows up in an environment with an abundant supply of bacteria to feed on, it develops a narrow oral cavity and very small teeth-like denticles. However, if it grows up in a heavily-populated area with limited food sources, the larvae will develop a much wider mouth filled with larger, stronger “teeth”.

This effect is also triggered by one of the worms’ pheromones, which at times of high population density, exists in increased concentrations. Situations in which overpopulation is coupled with a lack of food sees the “switching on” of a particular gene in P. pacificus , causing the development of different mouthparts.

This done, the worm will bite a neighbouring worm, tearing a hole into its side to devour its insides as they come oozing out (see image below). Unfortunately for the victim, Caenorhabditis elegans – a smaller, closely related worm – it doesn’t possess the same kind of “teeth” to defend itself with.

Yeah, so I don’t know about this. I’m not one to judge, but a whale who eats other whales? Eeesh… I mean, everyone will be out to dinner somewhere, Leviathan will be late as usual because he knows no one is going to start without him because they’re all terrified he’ll sit on them, which means they’ll probably end up inhaling half a dozen cocktails each to tide themselves over while they wait.

Then finally, finally Leviathan will saunter in, but only Megalodon will have the nerve to be like, “Dude, where the shit have you been?”

“What? I don’t know, at home, oh and the supermarket. I’d completely run out of tea. And you know how I never have any tissues? Well I–”

“‘Alright whatever, let’s just order.”

Easier said than done though, because everyone will be so drunk by this stage, having downed a ridiculous amount of mojitos on very empty stomachs, that the clupeid fish will barely be able to stop giggling long enough to say anything coherent, while the giant squid will be like, “…AND THEN HE ATE IT!! What? Oh I’ll have the crab. Wait, wait, have you guys heard the one about the two sea cucumbers in the nightclub bathroom? …THOSE AREN’T CUVIERIAN TUBULES…!”

But then it’s Leviathan’s turn to order and he’ll be like, “I’ll have the baleen whale, thanks,” and all at once the entire table will go dead quiet, except for some horrified gasps and monacles tumbling from faces and smashing on the floor, and Megalodon will whisper urgently from across the table, “For Christ’s sake, you can’t order whale.”

“What? Why not?”

“Because you’re a whale.”

“So?”

So? It’s perverse! There’s a word for people like you, you know.”

“But I eat whale all the time!”

“Well if I’d known that, I never would’ve invited you. Just order something else, people are starting to leave.”

The longfin mako sharks cancel their orders and head for the door.

“Nice to see you again. Sorry. Here, take a menu.”

“Fine. I guess I’ll have the octopus then.”

The giant octopus sitting three seats down from him will throw seven strawberry daiquiris in his face whilst motioning at the waiter, “Seven strawberry daiquiris please.”

The giant squid will suddenly fall off his chair mid-punchline.

“Actually, make that six.”

“But seriously, you guys,” the giant squid will be slurring as he straightens himself out. “You think this is bad, I once had drinks with a worm who told me he ate his wife for dinner because the delivery guy got stuck in traffic and he was too lazy to get off the couch.”

****

Links: Not Exactly Rocket Science for more on Leviathan melvillei
SV-POW! for more on why Leviathan melvillei might need a new  name already
COSMOS Online for more on Pristionchus pacificus.

Both papers were published in Nature. Access them here and here respectively.

Images courtesy of C.Letenneur and the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology / Andreas Weller.

– bec

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Filed under Animals, Fossils, Museum Stuff, New Species!, Science, Sea Creatures

Wandering Ponies #3

The Internet pretty much begins and ends with this. The vacant, cock-eyed horse stare. The tiny moustachioed gentleman with the shrunken, useless legs. The buxom peasant woman with the giant meaty paws. It’s got it all. You’ll probably listen to it ten times in a row before realising that you just listened to it ten times in a row before listening to it another ten times in a row. Youtube for techno, acoustic and heavy metal remixes.

SHUT UP WOMAN, GET ON MY HORSE

For a number of reasons (or just one who rather inconveniently requires vaccinations during the ridiculously expensive Festival Season ) I’m still too poor to buy the t-shirts I’ve had on my WANT list for months. But those of you who are in a more fortunate financial situation might want to consider picking up a The Open Dinosaur Project t-shirt here. And if you buy one for me while you’re at it I’ll sing a song about you. In my head. And then I’ll tell you about it, that it was really awesome and stuff and you’ll ask if you can hear it but I would have forgotten it by then because I don’t write these things down. Sound good?

As close to a living theropod as you could probably get, the Secretarybird is pretty much the coolest bird ever. Too bad the zoo guy ruins everything with his shit jokes. You could recruit like twenty of these to form a personal army they’d be the most dainty deadly weapon ever.

Brand new site, Pterosaur.net, launched a couple of weeks ago and it’s a ridiculously thorough and nice-looking project run by the likes of Dave Hone, Darren Naish, John Conway (pic above by) et al. dealing with a creature we’re likely to hear a good deal about this year. Best make sure you’ve got your pterosaur general knowledge up to speed first.

And finally, the devastatingly charming Oatmeal’s guide for How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You. I know I’ll be sleeping with one eye open from now on…

– bec

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Filed under Animals, Archosaurs, Art, Fossils, Science, Video

Your Friends Aren’t Just Going To Forget You Envenomated Them, Sinornithosaurus.

According to a new paper coming from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a particular type of small feathered dromaeosaurid might have been armed with a venomous bite. The study, led by Enpu Gong, centers on an unusual 12mm-long anterior maxillary tooth from a Sinornithosaurus, a predatory raptor and distant bird-relative first discovered in 1999 in China’s Yixian Formation. Not only does this tooth seem oddly long and fang-like, but it has a thin, distinct groove running right through it from root to tip, a feature which Gong suggests functioned as a channel for venom to pass from the animal’s skull into the flesh of its prey. Gong goes on to describe the hollow pocket in the side of the face as a possible venom gland, and the pitted canal running between it and the base of the teeth as a venom collecting duct.

Comparing the Sinornithosaurus with other anterior-fanged animals such as vine snakes, Gong suggests that it would mainly hunt small birds and mammals, using its long fangs to “grab and hold” its prey and penetrate the layer of feathers or fur to deliver a 6mm-deep poisonous bite. Describing the nature of the venom he hypothesises, “The poison of Sinornithosaurus may have been similar in properties to rear-fanged snakes and helodermid lizards in that it did not kill the envenomated animal quickly but rather placed it into a rapid state of shock.”

But Gong’s claim is not without its critics. No archosaur has been definitively proven to have been venomous as yet, so to state that the Sinornithosaurus was requires some pretty powerful evidence, and not everyone is convinced these grooved fangs provide that. Tom Holtz, a palaeontologist specialising in carnivorous dinosaurs at the University of Maryland notes, “They give a number of different physical features that they interpret as signs of poison or poison delivery systems but which, in my opinion, are more easily interpreted in other types of biological contexts.”

Interpreting the unusual length of the “fangs” as possibly caused by the teeth slipping out of their sockets, Holtz suggests that the grooves could simply be the depressions found in most theropod teeth, only more pronounced in this particular specimen due to wear and tear. The longer-held belief regarding the function of these depressions relates the teeth to bayonet blades, the groove helping to relieve surface tension post-penetration, ensuring a less painful extraction. Further, Holtz states that many dinosaurs have a small cavity in their jawbone, but these have typically been interpreted as air sacs required for cooling, not venom glands. And that the area of the venom collecting canal is damaged in a couple of Sinornithosaurus fossil specimens really doesn’t help to strengthen Gong’s and co-author, David A. Burnham’s case. No one’s denying the possibility of venomous theropods, but more evidence is needed before their claim can be proven definitively.

Arguments aside, Sinornithosaurus, say you did actually have this venomous bite afterall. I’d imagine it’d be the kind of thing you could easily get carried away with, but much to your own peril, I’d wager. Like, you’ll be playing Battleships at Chirostenotes‘ house because your housemate and his girlfriend are fighting about Mario Kart (again, Sinornithosaurus) all like, “Oh my god, did I not tell you last time I wasn’t going to play with you if you’re going to do those shortcuts? No I don’t want to learn how to do them. Fuck,” when Chirostenotes will be like, “I’m going to make a sandwich. If you cheat when I’m gone I’ll totally know.”

“But it’s like almost midnight…”

“Just because you can’t have carbs before bedtime…”

So you’ll sneak a look a his side anyway, because he pretty much just called you fat but you can’t say anything because you’re a guy and you don’t want to look like an idiot. But instead of, you know, playing it smart and littering your fake guesses with a few decoys so it’s not completely obvious that you’re a massive cheat, you go straight for Chirostenotes’ aircraft carrier the moment he gets back, and he’ll be like, “Oh my god, you totally cheated,” his mouth full of bread and some kind of tiny lizard meat.

“No I didn’t.”

“Yeah right. Hey what are you– hey! Heeey!”

“Oh. Sorry, I thought that was your sandwich.”

“Umm no, that was my leg. Jesus! Wait, you’re leaving?”

And before he can point out that if you bring a bottle of wine to someone’s house, you’re not really supposed to take the leftovers home with you, he’ll go into shock, and you’ll have a clean getaway.

But the only lesson you’ll learn from this whole experience, Sinornithosaurus, is how easy it is to get out of a shitty situation by, you know, poisoning your friends. Like, you’ll be at your girlfriend’s house and she’ll try on this hideous new dress she just bought and she’ll be like, “Does this make me look fat?” and it will, Sinornithosaurus, so you’ll be like, “Hey is that a cheesecake behind you?”

“What?” Ow!”

Your boss will ask you what the hell kind of report was that you just submitted (no kind, Sinornithosaurus) so you’ll bite him and take the rest of the day off. You won’t have any change for the bus and the bus driver will give you this look like, “Whatever, man,” when you try to hand over a fifty so you’ll bite him and then wait for the next bus. But while you might think this is all pretty awesome, remember, Sinornithosaurus, that it is only temporary. You’ll be at some party with your new girlfriend and she’ll be all pissy because you picked her up before she was done getting ready and then your ex-girlfriend will turn up unexpectedly all, “I don’t want to get into a whole thing with you here, but I don’t think you’re supposed to poison your girlfriend and then replace her two days later without so much as a phone call, but whatever.” And then your current girlfriend will get even more pissy because she didn’t even know you had an ex-girlfriend, let alone a fat one, and they’ll end up making friends just to spite you and you’ll end up bitter and alone. Plus your boss will almost definitely fire you when you attempt to turn up on Monday morning and he’s unlikely to respond too kindly to any requests for a reference or free stationery. Hardly seems worth it now does it, Sinornithosaurus?

* Fig. 1 by Emily Willoughby. Buy the print here. Figs. 2 and 3 from original study credited to David A. Burnham.

For more info: Dinosaur Tracking Blog // Not Exactly Rocket Science // Original Paper published by PNAS

– bec

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Oh My God, Whoever Invited the Tyrannosaurs Over is in SO MUCH TROUBLE…

Unusual lesions and puncture marks found on tyrannosaurid skulls have had a major impact on our understanding of the lives of the tyrannosaurs, as detailed by two recent studies coming out of the US. In a paper published in this month’s Palaios, a team from the Northern Illinois University and the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford have focussed their attention on “Jane,” a 7-metre-long Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton with a slightly asymmetrical snout and four partially-healed oblong lesions along the left side of its skull. Discovered in 2001 in the Hell Creek Formation, Montana, Jane could be evidence of intraspecific aggression amongst juvenile tyrannosaurs, most likely competing for dominance, territory, or perhaps resources.

How the team came to this assumption was by comparing the positioning and orientation of the lesions along Jane’s nasal and maxilla regions to the jaw shape of the only fossil vertebrates found in the Hell Creek Formation that would have been large enough to inflict such wounds – theropods and crocodilians. They found that the size, shape, and spacing of juvenile theropod teeth corresponded convincingly to the positioning of Jane’s lesions, unlike those of a crocodilian jaw (see pic below). Evidence of face-biting is not uncommon in the tyrannosaurid fossil record, but this is the first indication that this kind of behaviour was not just restricted to fully-matured adults. As Jane’s age has been estimated at 12-years-old, two years prior to the age of sexual maturity for the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the possibility that this was strictly part of courtship-related behaviour has been ruled out.

Further, in their examination of Jane’s puncture marks, the team found indications of partial healing through bone repair, which suggests that this face-biting was not typically fatal, however could cause a slight warping of the muzzle as it remodelled itself. “Jane has what we call a boxer’s nose,” Joe Peterson, lead author of the study told Science Daily. “Her snout bends slightly to the left. It was probably broken and healed back crooked.”

But if all this talk of tyrannosaurid face sores leaves you with a distinct feeling of déjà vu, Peterson is careful to point out that Jane’s are a different type of lesion to those found on the famous 13-metre-long Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, nicknamed “Sue,” which have recently been attributed to a parasitic infection (see pic above). “The parasite that has been described causes lesions on the lower jaw,” he notes. “With Jane, the lesions are on the actual face and are not the same type of structures we see on Sue.”

The other kind of face lesions which appear on many tyrannosaurid specimens, including Sue, indicates that the tyrannosaurs faced a far more serious threat than aggressive, face-biting peers. In a recent study published in PLoS One, Ewan Wolff from the University of Wisconsin describes a parasitic infection which causes severe erosion of the jaw bone and ulceration of the mouth and oesophagus, ultimately leading to death by starvation. Of the 61 tyrannosaurid specimens Wolff examined, 15% of them have the tell-tale signs of this infection – several smooth-edged pits in the lower jaw bone – as opposed to the more rough-edged bite marks found in Jane’s skull. However, in many of the specimens examined both kinds of lesions are present, suggesting that the infection could have been transmitted through intraspecific face-biting in much the same way as the cancer currently threatening to drive Tasmanian devils to extinction.

What Wolff also found is that the lesions in the jaw bones of these tyrannosaurid specimens are remarkably similar to those found in the beaks of modern birds such as turkeys, chickens and pigeons which have been infected by a protozoan called Trichomonas gallinae. These modern birds can pass trichomonosis on by simply touching each other on the beak, which can lead to a severe ulceration of the upper digestive system and then starvation. This shared affliction is yet further evidence of how closely related birds are to their dinosaur ancestors.

So all of this fighting and infection pretty much means the Tyrannosaurus Rex is the grossest dinosaur ever and woe betide anyone who invites one or more of them into their house to hang. Like one aftermoon Pteranodon would be over at Euhelopus’ house having Fruitloops and expensive dessert wine because Euhelopus’ parents are away for the weekend and Pteranodon is all like, “Dude. I cannot believe you didn’t tell me your parents were going away. What’s the fucking matter with you? We have got to have a party.”

And Euhelopus is like, “I guess I just forgot. Yeah, we could have a few people over. So long as they mind the carpet and shit.”

And with that Pteranodon goes a bit nuts and invites half the year (the cool half) to a party at Euhelopus’ place. Then they go to the bottle shop with Euhelopus’ little brother and their fake ID’s to pick up some Jager, (but Euhelopus’ little brother has to wait in the gift shop next door because he’s too little to have a fake ID) and Pteranodon’s all, “He doesn’t expect to come, does he?” expressing concern that he might spread his tweenaged uncoolness everywhere and make them look uncool by association. Euhelopus is like, “Well yeah, we can’t kick him out of the house, plus we have to keep him happy or he’ll call mum.”

“Fuck that. I’ve got an idea.”

So they sit Euhelopus‘ little brother down and Pteranodon’s all like, “So we’ve got a special job for you at the party. We need you to wait at the front door and make sure no one who isn’t on the list comes in. Sound good?”

“I guess.”

“Cool. And just remember one thing – it’s very important that you don’t let the Tyrannosaurus Rex twins in.”

“Why not?”

“Because they have gross skin problems and they’re always fighting. They’re fucked. If you have to choose between the Tyrannosaurus Rex twins and a homeless leper, we’d rather you choose the leper. But obviously don’t, because they’re fucked too.”

“Don’t swear in front of my brother.”

“Sorry.”

So a few hours into the party and Euhelopus has already gotten properly drunk and is slurring to the Diplodocus about assignments or something in the kitchen, while Pteranodon has disappeared altogether (although someone said they thought they saw him sneaking off to the park with some lady Pterodactyl under his wing). Suddenly Euhelopus’ little brother runs into the kitchen all panicky like, “Erm, promise you wont be mad…?”

And Euhelopus is all, “Ugh. Can’t speak. Not mad. I think I threw up in mum and dad’s shower.”

“In that case… I accidentally let the twins in and… Hey are those two girls making out? They need more alcohol. You’re not going to finish this, are you? Cool.”

Lucky for his little brother, Euhelopus is too drunk to care and/or comprehend, and manages to wander out onto the front lawn to pass out instead, but not before Pteranodon saunters over all like, “Dude.”

“Ugh… Hey where’s the girl?”

“She needed to pee, so I walked her to the bathroom, but then she passed out.”

“Damn.”

“Nah it’s cool. She let me touch her boobs first.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah. Erm, you know your brother let the Tyrannosaurus Rex twins in, right? Euhelopus? The twins…? Euhelopus..?”

Meanwhile the twins are stomping around the largely deserted living room with a bag of wine grasped in each little hand, taking generous gulps before spitting it out on the walls and carpet because it hurts too much to swallow.  Then one of them is like, “Whoa, your face herpes looks fully gross in this light.”

And the other one responds, all like, “Bullshit, it’s not face herpes and you know it. Plus yours is way worse anyway. Which is just as well because it takes the focus away from your ugly.”

“Ha. I’ll show you ugly!” And with that an all-out face-biting brawl errupts, their tails swinging violently into Euhelopus‘ mum’s vases, the Diplodocus’ bottle of Jack, and Euhelopus‘ little brother’s fish tank, sweeping them all onto the floor in a sharp, soggy, and occasionally twitching mess that would likely result in an enormous stained patch of carpet no one could walk on in bare feet for months.

At that moment Euhelopus‘ parents return home early and start furiously kicking everyone out, just as Pteranodon is stumbling into the loungeroom with a lady Pterodactyl (a different one) under his wing all like, “I can’t believe you just showed me your… Shit.”

Pteranodon, OH MY GOD, who let tyrannosaurs in our house, why is the carpet covered in wine and goldfish, and did someone give our budgie face herpes?!”

PLoS One (open access) // Palaios // Second illustration by Erica Lyn Schmidt.

– bec

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Umm Yale? Belemnotheutis Antiquus Called: He Wants His Sepia Back.

belemnite

Recently, a team led by British Geological Survey palaeontologist, Dr Phil Wilby, uncovered a 155 million year old squid-like creature with a full and perfectly preserved ink sac. Found near the small village of Christian Malford, Wilshire, this slim-line cephalopod known as Belemnotheutis antiquus is a perfect example of a process of fossilization known as the Medusa effect. “In normal circumstances, the decomposition process means only the hard parts of animal are preserved, such as the bones, shell and teeth. The odds of this find are easily a billion to one and probably much greater,” Wilby told the press. “We call it the Medusa effect: specimens turn to stone within a matter of days, before the soft parts can be eaten away.”

Recalling an experiment performed in 1826 when William Buckland sent Sir Francis Chantrey a sample of preserved sepia from a fossilized cuttlefish with which he was successfully able to draw a picture, Wilby’s team produced a portrait of the Belemnite, having returned the ink to liquid form by mixing it with an ammonia solution. The remaining ink has been sent to Yale University for further analysis.

squid ink

Now I know you must have a problem with this, Belemnotheutis antiquus. First they take away your ink sac, cruelly using the sepia within to render a grisly likeness of your handsome dart-shaped self, which is kind of the equivalent of extracting a part of your brain and making you eat it (kind of…), and then they send the rest of it to some laboratory where they’ll do all kinds of untold experiments on it. You might never get it back, Belemnotheutis antiquus, and that’s your ink sac.

My advice, disgruntled cephalopod? Steal that shit back, of course, and enlist the help of Buckland’s equally disgruntled cuttlefish, because I’m sure he feels he’s got a score to settle (even if the chances of him getting his own sepia back are quite slim given the amount of time that’s already passed since its removal). All you’ll need to do is give Yale a call and schedule an interview with some hot young lab technician. Show up at her lab with Buckland’s cuttlefish in tow and get him to hide behind the door while you introduce yourself and try to get the hot young lab technician to like you. You won’t have to do much, Belemnotheutis antiquus, because as is, you’re kind of a palaeontological wonder, and thus quite a catch (*cough*).

Be sure to make like you’re interested too, Belemnotheutis antiquus, but don’t do that thing where you smile coyly while glancing down at the ends of your tentacles. That’s what girls do. Be all, “Hey there… lab lady. You look pretty swell in your, umm, lab coat…” and she’ll giggle and tell you her name is Daphne. At this point you’ll probably need to sneak Buckland’s cuttlefish into the lab, so create a diversion by telling the hot young lab technician that you like her hair, how it’s all wavy and light-coloured or something (whatever you can come up with, Belemnotheutis antiquus, it doesn’t really matter). She’ll giggle again, look down at her shoes and unwittingly give Buckland’s cuttlefish the perfect opportunity to slip through the door undetected.

But of course, being the clumsy screw-up that he is, Buckland’s cuttlefish will accidentally knock a rack of test tubes off the bench as he scuttles towards your ink sac, which will be conveniently sitting out, (fortunately for the both of you, Belemnotheutis antiquus) as the hot young lab technician hopes to ask you a dozen or so questions about it, because that’s why you’re there. The test tubes will likely smash quite loudly on the laboratory floor, being made of glass as they normally are, but please don’t think you will need to expose yourself to the hot young lab technician in order to distract her from the commotion. I’m sure your cephalopod genitals are treasured and revered by all the lady cephalopods back home, but to human females, my good belemnite, probably not so much. Just laugh really enthusiastically at the last thing the hot young lab technician said, and if she gives you a puzzled look, just be like, “Oh, sorry, ‘Chromatoelectropherograms?’ I thought you said, ‘hydraulic ram!’ You’re funny.” She won’t get it, Belemnotheutis antiquus, and nor should she because it won’t make any sense, but that’s not going to matter because the point is she’s going to think that you think she’s really funny, and girls like that.

By this stage Buckland’s cuttlefish will have safely stowed your ink sac somewhere near his anus (don’t be embarrassed, Belemnotheutis antiquus, you can’t help the anatomical organisation of your molluscular class) and will be making for the open window. Ask the hot young lab technician where the bathroom is and tell her you’ll probably need to visit it immediately and for a good while as the plankton you ate earlier doesn’t seem to be sitting right. This will of course be a big fat lie, Belemnotheutis antiquus, being your very clever avenue of escape, but don’t worry, the hot young lab technician will get over it eventually.

You’ll lollop your way over to the tree you agreed to meet Buckland’s cuttlefish under to retrieve your ink sac in return for an appreciative pat on the mantle, but oh shit, disgruntled cephalopod, that sneaky fuck will never show. You’ll be waiting there for hours for Buckland’s cuttlefish like some kind of idiot while he’ll be long-gone, painting the town inky with his ill-gotten appendage. I’d love to say that none of us could see this coming, Belemnotheutis antiquus, but, well…

Times Online // JS Blog

– bec

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It’s Not All Mindless Sex With Beautiful Women, Placoderm

Dunkleosteus_BW

A team led by Australian palaeontologist, Dr John Long, have discovered one of the oldest reproductive organs to date, potentially shedding light on the sexual evolution of vertebrate organisms. Belonging to a 400 million-year-old Devonian armoured placoderm from the Gogo region of Western Australia, this long bone clasper with a knobbly end was attached to the pelvic organ and used to grip inside the female mate to assist with fertilisation.

According to study author and palaeontologist, Dr Kate Trinajstic, “It penetrates the female, and acts like a funnel, allowing the transfer of sperm.” Originally passed off in 2001 as just part of the pelvic girdle, Trinajstic reports that closer inspection revealed its true function, “We were surprised because it’s so big. We were expecting something smaller.”

The discovery, which will be published in the upcoming edition of Nature, follows on from the previous report by the Museum Victoria team revealing the first evidence for internal fertilisation with the discovery of a 380 million-year-old pregnant female placoderm fossil.

Now you might think this is all pretty awesome, Placoderm, being one of the first vertebrates to have a (surprisingly large) working penis, because it kind of means that all the ladies will have no choice but to sleep with you until the rest of the vertebrates hurry up and evolve. But I bet real soon you’re going to get pretty sick of being known as the only whore in town. Like sometimes you’re just going to want to go out for ice cream with some Coccosteus you might have accidentally had sex with this one time when you were both really drunk, but she’ll fully get the wrong idea and turn up to the gelato stand wearing her best clingy scales, and you’re like, “Well shit, I kind of just wanted to get ice cream and talk about the stock market with you, but we’re going to have to have sex after this aren’t we?”

And then you’ll get a text from some Rolfosteus being all, “Hey, what’s up? Haven’t seen you in ages!” and you’re like, “Yeah I’ve been busy. Work and whatever. How’s your weekend looking?” and she’ll be like, “Not bad, what are you doing Friday night?” And then you’ll accidentally invite her for drinks at the Sand Bar because you were going there anyway and you’d feel kind of rude if you didn’t, but then she turns up and you’re like, “Where are all your friends? Did you think this was a date? Oh…” And you’ll fully have to avoid her the whole time and tell your friends that you kind of hooked up with her like two years ago and you think she might still like you and it’s all really awkward. But of course your friends will think it’s totally hilarious and do their best to make things even more awkward for you by always going to the bathroom or the bar en masse, so you’ll end up doing a heap of shots and accidentally go home with some Pseudopetalichthys you just met instead.

Bet you miss the old days when it was all uncomplicated external fertilisation, now don’t you, Placoderm?

– bec

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