It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a plesiosaur!

Plesiosaurs, a group related to lizards, lived in the sea. Although plesiosaurs were not dinosaurs, they became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, at the same time as the non-avian dinosaurs. Plesiosaurs had powerful swimming muscles attached to their expanded shoulder and pelvic bones, and they used their flippers to swim. 

This Fossil Friday is Thalassomedon haringtoni, a long-necked plesiosaur with a relatively small head and many sharp teeth for seizing fishes and other marine animals. This long, flexible neck, with as many as 70 vertebrae, probably helped in grasping such rapidly moving prey. 

Find Thalassomedon swimming overhead in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins

Image: AMNH/M.Shanley

Stegosaur Fakemon

#???, | Tino | Ground/Rock | Plate Pokémon
#???, | Thagosaur | Ground/Rock | Plate Pokémon

Something about Taiyo’s geology has allowed for a very complete fossil record to exist. Most regions are only home to 2 fossil lines, Kanto is seen as special for having 3, but Taiyo is home to at least 8 discovered fossil lines, with more being discovered all the time.

It wasn’t until recently that scientists realized they could reanimate these fossils of extinct organisms into living, breathing Pokémon. This technology isn’t perfect, of course. Each of the revived Pokémon are part Rock-type, which is not how they actually appeared millions of years ago. Because of the limitations of technology, and the nature of Pokémon fossils, it is unlikely we will ever get a genetically “pure” specimen of an extinct animal.

Genetic purity (or non-purity) aside, Tino and Thagosaur were the first extinct Pokémon to be revived, coming from a Plate Fossil. Most paleobiologists agree that Thagosaur’s back plates were originally fleshy, colorful, and used to attract mates. Without these displays, and without the pressure to mate found in their old environment (i.e., wild vs. domesticated), Thagosaur have been able to focus on more important things such as eating 200 pounds of foliage a day.

Becoming part Rock type may have removed the functionality of Thagosaur’s plates, but it also made its thagomizer (yes, that’s actually what a Stegosaur’s tail-spikes are called) a force to be reckoned with. One swing of its tail can deliver enough force to total a small car, and the fact that this mighty weapon is wielded by a creature with a brain the size of a walnut only adds to the danger.


A Dire Wolf For Fossil Friday!

One of the most iconic fossil canines of all time has got to be the dire wolf. Known to science long before the similarly named animal characters in the Game of Thrones, today the best record of dire wolf populations comes from the tar pits of Los Angeles, California. 

This is a dire wolf skull excavated from the La Brea tar pits, one of several tar pit predator specimens in our fossil collection (the majority of Ice Age fossils from the tar pits is curated in California). The dire wolf was about the same size as modern grey wolves, but the former had a more robust skeleton. These top dogs represent the pinnacle of pursuit predators in the evolutionary history of dogs, having leg joints specialized for long-distance running, with a range of motion restricted to a single plane for increased efficiency. They lived in North America at the same time as large hoofed mammals such as camels, horses, bison, and gigantic ground sloths (a skeleton of which is visible in the background), none of which were easy prey. Evidence of the intensity of predation, or perhaps competition with other dire wolves, can be gleaned from healed injuries such the blow to the top of the braincase that this animal survived prior to being laid to rest in its asphaltic grave. 

New research heavily based on the Museum’s fossil dog collection—the largest of its kind in the world—shows how dogs evolved in response to a cooling, drying climate in North America over the last 40 million years. Learn more about this new research. 

Image: AMNH/J.Tseng, posted on Instagram as part of the #TsengTakeover


Bundenbach Phyllocarid (Nahecaris) & Trilobite - Soft Bodied Preservation

This complete and stunningly beautiful Phyllocarid (Nahecaris steurtzi) with soft bodied preservation from the Hunsrück Slate of Germany. It has fine antennae and articulated legs clearly defined with pyrite. As a bonus, there is a partial Chotecops ferdinandi trilobite with some soft tissue preservation on the backside of the plate. With the closure of the slate quarries, specimens off like this wonderfully preserved 390 million year old, Nahecaris steurtzi will only come from established collections.

The lower Devonian (lower Emsian) slates from Bundenback have been quarried for roofing material for centuries. Quarrying continued until the 1960s, when the competition from cheaper synthetic or imported slate resulted in production decline. The last pit closed in 2000. Mining of Hunsrück slate was important for the discovery of Paleozoic fossils. Although not rare, fossils can only be found through extensive mining of slate and time consuming preparation. Fossils are hard to see lying under the surface of dark slate. In 1970, Wilhelm Stürmer, a chemical physicist and radiologist developed a new method to examine the Hunsrück slate fossils using medium energy X-rays. The Bundenbach “Hunsruck Slate is famous for yeilding one of the most important assemblages of Paleozoic fossils, with 260 animal species including mollusks, echinoderms and arthropods - of which the phacopid trilobite Chotecops is certainly the most abundant.

Phyllocarid crustaceans, like Nahecaris are less common and are rarely found completely intact. With lightly sclerotized exoskeletons, they are typically found as disarticulated headsheild pieces, missing the anterior section and telson.

Bundenbach is one of the few fossil sites that features soft tissue preservation, with many fossils coated with pyrite. Preservation of soft tissues as fossils normally requires rapid burial in an anoxic (little or no oxygen) sediment where the decomposition of the organic matter is halted early. The pyritization found in Bundenbach fossils facilitated preservation and enhanced the inherent beauty of the fossils.

Day 480 - Protoga | プロトーガ | Tirtouga

Protoga’s eyes have a thin semi-permeable membrane that allows it to open whilst submerged in water. There are few land-dwelling Pokémon that are still able to do this easily. You can find wild Protoga around inactive volcanoes, feeding off the obsidian and sulfur.

(P.S. Daily new Pokémon drawings, follow to see them! As always, e-mail for inquiries on prints of all existing drawings and commissions, including pricing info. It is not limited to Pokémon. I can now do playmats for the TCG.)

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The trees of Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan

Lake Kaindy (Kazakh: Қайыңды көлі, Qayındı köli) is 400 metres long and reaches depths near 30 metres in some areas. It is 129 km ESE of the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan and is 2,000 metres above sea level. The lake is very young; it formed after the 1911 Kebin earthquake triggered a limestone landslide which blocked the gorge and flooded the trees. The trees you see in the photo are dried-out trunks of submerged Picea schrenkiana and are not yet decayed.


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The oldest fossilised flower (so far)

The land that became what we now know as central to northern Spain played host to the earliest flower to turn up so far in the fossil record. It lived under the surface of shallow fresh water lakes some 130 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the world in the early Cretaceous. Named Montsechia vidalii, the plant resembled some of today’s aquatics such as hornworts or foxtails, staples of aquariums worldwide.

Keep reading

It’s Trilobite Tuesday! Sometimes trilobites are uncovered in very unusual places. Paleontologists have traveled to the snow-capped peaks of Greenland and the tropical islands of southern Australia in their quest for these ancient arthropods. But sometimes you just have to be lucky. This 5 inch Dikelocephalus minnesotensis from the Upper Cambrian of Wisconsin was found being used as a doorstop in someone’s home about 40 years ago. It is perhaps the only complete example of this species ever found–only disarticulated heads and tails are usually discovered.

Meet more trilobites!