fossil image


3-D computer imaging of a trilobite

ISPH 2017 - Day 2: The One Where I Just Geek Out With Phil Manning All Day

Much has happened today so let’s kick things off with the only mounted skeletons of Dryptosaurus in the world that were posed just like Charles Knight’s illustration because the exhibit designers at the New Jersey State Museum are adorable nerds

Our opening keynote lecture today was by Phil Manning, who gave an updated and expanded version of his talk on synchrotrons, fossil imaging, and “chemical ghosts”. Let it be stated on the record that I love this man and his work to death. As I was saying to my friends/colleagues earlier today, the guy’s a total powerhouse and publishes on absolutely everything. He was still in the field trenching out giant sauropods yesterday morning before flying over to Jersey for the day (and he’s back at it tomorrow).

We were able to catch up with him and Peter Dodson later in the day and had some good discussions. You might know that Manning likes to give out little tidbits and secrets peppered throughout his presentations, but he and his team are working on stuff that I legitimately can’t even mention offhand because of paperwork and press releases. All I can say is that from a perspective of education, outreach, and data collection, I am so incredibly excited about the announcement within the next few months, which at the bare minimum will necessitate literal decades of future research.

On that bombshell, onto the first session of the day on biomechanics:

  • Alida Bailleul showed us evidence of avian-style cranial kinesis in Tyrannosaurus, based on preserved cartilage implying the presence of synovial joints
  • Jordi Estefa explained how a salamander-like posture isn’t really a good model to reconstruct stem amniotes, and made a convincing case based on humerus morphology that we should really be using echidnas instead
  • Lucas Legendre gave us a whirlwind overview of aardvark long bone histology, and suggested that their high-energy digging lifestyle can be seen within ontogenetic changes. Also the man wrapped up with a relevant set of Louis C.K. gifs and I have nothing but respect
  • We moved right into a short session on practical methodology where the chief preparator at the Yale Peabody Museum Marilyn Fox gave us some best practices and things to look out for
  • Alexandra Houssaye went over the methods she used for quantitative 3D analysis of mammal bone, and reaffirmed to everyone that R is The Best Program

After lunch at the local BBQ (when a native Texan compliments the food you know it’s good), we moved onto physiology:

  • Tim Bromage showed us some cool pictures of Spinosaurus bone showing osteons and preserved collagen fibers, work that I think is especially useful given the hoo-ha about the genus in recent years (out-of-context quote of the day: “we need more birds”)
  • Maïtena Dumont noted a decrease in cortical vascularity percentage with development and bone remodeling among sauropod dinosaurs, which was work done via synchrotron
  • Zachary Boles (one of our own colleagues) talked about turtle types within the Late Cretaceous of New Jersey, and showed that habitat and probable life history could be determined based on shell histology
  • Rodrigo Pellegrini brought out some samples of the New Jersey crocodyliform Hyposaurus and gave us a sneak peek into the preliminary histological work being done on a wonderfully intact specimen

The next session was a special one focused around archaeology, so our group went off on our own to explore the museum and point out which specimens we’d seen before in the Academy prep labs. (There were many.)

Tomorrow: phylogeny, poster sessions, and the arguably quintessential Jersey finale…

Cyclops or elephants?

In 1914, Othenio Abel, an Austrian paleontologist, suggested that the Cyclops of Homeric legend was based on fossil elephant finds in antiquity. Abel, who excavated many Mediterranean fossil beds, related the image of one-eyed giant cavemen to the remains of Pleistocene dwarf elephants, Palaeoloxodon antiquus falconeri, common in coastal caves of Italy and Greece. Shipwrecked sailors unfamiliar with elephants might easily mistake the skull’s large nasal cavity for a central eye socket.

Skull of Palaeoloxodon falconeri, from Museum of Natural History of Verona.

Marble head of Polyphemus, first or second century A.D., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The small elephants ranged from 3 to 6 feet (1-1.8 m) high at the shoulder, and the skulls and teeth are much larger than men’s. In profile, elephant skulls do resemble grotesque human faces, and the vertebrae and limb bones could be laid out to resemble a giant man.

Since Cyclopes lived in caves, the ancient Greeks imagined them as primitive  troglodytes who used rocks and clubs as weapons. The great piles of bones on the cave floors might be the remains of shipwrecked sailors—the savage Cyclopes were probably cannibals! Human occupation of Sicily and other islands where dwarf elephant bones abound occurred long before Homer, and descriptions of them probably circulated among sailors from Mycenaean times onward. The Cyclops story was assimilated into the epic poetry tradition and made famous in Homer’s Odyssey.

Palaeoloxodon antiquus falconeri was an archaic elephant that developed insular dwarfism due to the lacking of predators on mediterrenean islands.


The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times. Adrienne Mayor

Bloody Sunday

The darkest day in Kanto now loomed over Red.  An evil greater than even Dome had come and usurped the power of the Voices.  A single man, pridefully calling himself “Destiny,” invaded the medium Twitch’s mind.  Six-thousand followers he had.  Six-thousand disciples of this great evil, who used both anarchy and democracy as tools for their massacre.

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018 Pidgeot

With Twitch plays Pokémon being very popular and even causing Pidgeot to be quite relevant I decided to jump onto the hype train myself and create one of my shape vectors of him.

I may make an Omanyte when/if you all restore that helix fossil. If you all manage to get past that darn tower!



Message me with your favourite Pokemon and give me a follow, i might just make your choice!

Fossils In Three Dimensions

Go over to the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology’s Online Repository Fossils. The site offers images and interactive 3-D models of fossils that visitors can explore from any angle. From ancient snail shells to giant mastodon skeletons, UM’s 3-D tool lets a person investigate every nook and cranny. 

The team behind the site promise to present more fossils of extinct species soon.

The gif above is a 3-D rendering of the Buesching mastodon, a 33-year-old male that died 12,000 years ago of wounds he sustained in combat with another male. The skeleton was found in northern Indiana. Courtesy University of Michigan.

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