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The skull of the Chinese Water Deer is one of the most iconic skulls out there. 

Like many small Asian deer species, it does not have antlers. Instead the males fight each other with their extremely sharp tusks, slashing at rivals with downward head swings. 

When not actively shanking others, the tusks can be folded back slightly., so they don’t interfere with eating. 

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New Research: Fossils of New Squirrel-like Species Support Earlier Origin of Mammals

A research team led by paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described three new small squirrel-like species that place a poorly understood Mesozoic group of animals firmly in the mammal family tree. The study, published today in the journal Nature, supports the idea that mammals originated at least 208 million years ago in the late Triassic, much earlier than some previous research suggests.

The three new species—Shenshou lui, Xianshou linglong, and Xianshou songae—are described from six nearly complete 160-million-year-old fossils found in China. The animals, which researchers have placed in a new group, or clade, called Euharamiyida, likely looked similar to small squirrels. They weighed between 1 and 10 ounces and had tails and feet that indicate that they were tree dwellers.

Based on the age of the Euharamiyida species and their kin, the divergence of mammals from reptiles had to have happened much earlier than some research has estimated. Instead of originating in the middle Jurassic (between 176 and 161 million years ago), mammals likely first appeared in the late Triassic (between 235 and 201 million years ago).

Read the full story. 

"How should I decorate this nyala? I’m thinking maybe spiral horns."

"Sure, evolution, spiral horns are pretty cool."

"And orange legs."

"Bold choice, but all right…"

"And maybe some facial markings. And fringy hair!"

"Hey, don’t get too carried away, okay? It’s just an antelope."

"Ooh, how about some stripes? Stripes are majestic."

"Hmm. It kind of just looks like a bird pooped all over it."

"No. It looks majestic.”

"Whatever you say."

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Given how different these skulls look, it’s hard to believe they’re the same species. They’re cats. 

The one on the left is your normal garden-variety cat, and the one on the left is a Persian cat. The capability of selective breeding to mold muscle and bone, is absolutely phenomenal.  

Artificial selective breeding is creature design in practice, bringing to life creatures, in ways designers for games and movies can only envy.

(I posted these photos on my twitter account, challenging followers to identify them. They were correctly identified by User Deadly Beloved)


"I just had the best idea."

"Oh, great."

"You know how most animals poop out blobs or tubes or little pellets?"

"Um…"

"I’m going to make this wombat poop different."

"Poop… different…?"

"I’m going to make it poop cubes!

"Seriously?"

"That way the poops won’t roll away when the wombat uses them to mark its territory.”

"I think you’ve finally lost it."

"It’s called ‘innovation,’ my friend."

Source: Flickr / steven-young / licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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