frozen mammoth

Today is ‪‎National Fossil Day‬!

A fossil is any evidence of life from a previous geologic age (i.e., older than 10,000 years). Most fossils are mineralized, or “turned to stone,” but this need not have occurred for an object to be a fossil. Insects in amber, Pleistocene mammoths frozen in permafrost, and even 80 million year old wood that one can light with a match are all fossils that remain very much like the original organismal remains. Fossils also include traces of the activity of organisms in the form of footprints, tooth marks, trails, burrows, and coprolites, or fossil feces. The fossil record is dominated by the hard parts of living things — bones, shells, wood, etc. — because they resist decay, but if conditions are right, almost anything can be preserved. Fossils of vertebrate internal organs and skin, jellyfish, and even the “flatulence” of protozoans actually exist!

How much do you know about paleontology? Take the quiz and find out.

“you could just say you hate gays and lesbians”

Yeah, you could just say that. You could also just shove millions of spiders up your nostrils and plunge your feet into a barrel of Yoplait. You could “just do” a lot of things that have no real relation to one another. You COULD say that “I use the term ‘queer’ to describe myself and - only myself - because other labels don’t fit or are too obscure to be functional” *actually* means “I enjoy sucking the bone marrow from frozen wooly mammoths in Siberia”. You could say that, I guess.

Dinosaur color

            The main problem, historically, in reconstructing dinosaurs and other extinct animals has been determining their coloration. In some cases, educated guesswork can suffice—most mammals will have hair in some shade of black, brown or blonde, most oceanic fish will be some shade of silver-blue, etcetera. In other cases—such as dinosaurs in general and birds in particular—it’s nowhere near as easy. We can reconstruct musculature and ligaments with relative ease; skin, feathers, and scales can be reconstructed as well, provided detailed enough fossils in which we can find their impressions. But how are we supposed to tell what color they were?

            As it turns out, a way exists. In vertebrates, melanin pigments are carried within specialized organelles known as melanosomes, which are usually found in cells in the skin, hair, feathers, and eyes. Melanin comes in two different types: there is eumelanin, which in turn comes in black (grey in low concentrations) and brown (blonde in low concentrations) varieties; and there is red pheomelanin, pink when in low concentrations, that can mix with brown eumelanin to create ginger hair. Different types of melanin are stored in differently shaped melanosomes, whose shapes vary in a reasonably predictable manner across species—eumelanosomes are generally rod-shaped while pheomelanosomes are usually more rounded. Since at least eumelanin is resistant to both chemical and bacterial decay, melanosomes are known to survive the process of fossilization intact enough to tell what kind of melanin they bore. As such, if melanosomes are found in a fossilized animal, it is possible to tell what color that animal was in life.

            The first time a dinosaur’s color was determined, it was that of Sinosauropteryx, a small (about a meter long, counting its long tail) theropod dinosaur covered in hair-like fuzz like that that, in related dinosaur lineages, gave rise to true feathers. After comparing the melanosomes in its protofeathers to those of modern birds, it turned out that Sinosauropteryx had distinctive ginger-and-white banding all along its tail, possibly for camouflage. The possibility of a light belly and a darker back is also possible, if less certain.

            Anchiornis, an avian dinosaur maybe half a meter long and with a coating of true feathers, is another dinosaur whose coloring is well known. It was determined to have had a primarily grey and black body, with white feathers on its wings and legs and a red crest.

            Archaeopteryx, as it turns out, would have had black feathers at least on the tips of its wing feathers. This actually meshes well with our knowledge of birds, since the physical structure of black melanosomes is such that they strengthen feathers, making them better suited for bearing their owner in flight.

            Similarly, Confuciusornis, a true bird maybe the size of a crow, had a mix of grey, ginger, and black feathers, while Sinornithosaurus, a small dromeosaur that bore true feathers, was patterned in ginger, yellow, grey, and black.

            Feathers are not the only structures whose color can be determined this way: eumelanosomes have been found in the eyes of fossilized Eocene birds, and similar structures have been reported in fossils as varied as the eyes of fish and ichthyosaurs and mammalian fur.

            Aside from dinosaurs, there is one other extinct animal whose color we know—the wooly mammoth. Several mammoths have been found, exquisitely preserved in Siberian permafrost. The level of preservation is such that even their fur has endured, fur that is consistently reddish in color. However, the process of preservation that has allowed the frozen mammoths to endure until the present day would have resulted in chemical “bleaching” of their fur, lightening it. In life, mammoths would have had black coats.

            At the moment, the main problem with further color reconstruction for extinct animals is twofold: first, melanosomes are not always preserved, and thus reconstructing what color a fossil animal had in life depends of being lucky enough to find the right fossils. Second, melanosomes with distinct shapes do not occur evenly in all vertebrates. In fact, the only animals in which a clear distinction between rod-shaped eumelanosomes and round pheomelanosomes exists are mammals, birds, and the birds’ closest non-avian dinosaur relatives. In other vertebrates, they are uniformly rounded in shape, regardless of the type of melanin they contain. As such, even if fossils melanosomes were discovered in a non-mammalian or avian fossil, they wouldn’t tell us much about the animal’s color.

            We’ll almost certainly never know the true color of all, or even most, prehistoric animals. But it’s just as likely that our knowledge of prehistoric color will expand beyond the handful of examples we have now. All we need is a bit of luck and a few more fossils with preserved melanosomes or, failing that, the discovery of something other than a mammoth frozen in the Siberian permafrost.

A Refreshing Start (Part Five)

Description: Bucky x Reader. The reader, a trained assassin, decides that she no longer wants to be a killer and that a new start is in order with help from the most unlikely places.
Words: 1,472
Warnings: None
Author’s Note: AHHHH. I’m loving this series. I’ve still got a plan up to at least part 10 so actually we’re only really getting into the juicy bit now ;)

Catch up here: Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four

Tagging: @thinkwritexpress @winchester-with-wings @castihelloboys @starkingdom @heismyhunter @kenzie-110101 @maha-pambata-is-my-patronus @bookshido @jodyri @adriellej @mora-firestone @pickylittlebitch @kitchenwitchsuperwhovian @nobodylastname @the-fastest-mutant-sith @colouredwater @the-renaissance @soivebuiltupaworldofmagic

“I know you,” Steve said, his face hardening, eyes flicking back to Bucky in confusion. “You’re the Hydra assassin.”

“Not anymore,” you said quietly. You glanced to Bucky who gave you an encouraging nod. “I was never particularly a fan, but also never particularly on their side.“

"Tell me why I shouldn’t turn you in here and now.”

“Steve, Y/N is-” Bucky interpreted.

“I want to hear it from Y/N.”

Bucky sat back in his chair in defeat, throwing you an apologetic look. It wasn’t the end of the world, you’d handled worse situations but you’d been quite enjoying your date evening. You took a large sip of wine as Steve sat down in the empty seat next to Bucky, his eyes never once leaving you. He was bigger up close that was for sure, and you weren’t a fan of how he scrutinised your movements… Yet there had to be a reason Bucky trusted him so much.

You knew you could lie (and be damn convincing at it) but what was the point? With how much you’d divulged to Bucky in the past little while, anything you didn’t say would be filled in later anyway. You’d read a fair few files on Steve Rogers before now, you supposed it’d only be fair to level the playing field a little.

“I was a gun for hire, a specialised one. Hydra hired me the last time we met, but equally so have governments and even SHIELD. A job is a job… but I’ve given it up.” You looked around, making sure no one else was listening in on your conversation. “I make coffee now.”

“Coffee?” Steve said skeptically. You never knew the beverage could be spoken of in such a passive aggressive tone.

“Yes. Coffee.”

Steve looked to Bucky whose eyes were fixed on you. He looked as nervous as you felt and you couldn’t help but offer him a small smile. He returned it briefly but jumped as he realised his friend was clearly expecting a comment judging by the intense look.

“Hey, it’s good coffee,” Bucky said simply throwing you a wink. Steve noticed it but chose not to comment on that.

“Forgive me, but that’s hard to believe…” Steve trailed off, looking between the pair of you cautiously.

“Says the man who spent how long as a frozen mammoth?” you countered.

Bucky smirked and you felt a small inkling of pride. Sassing his best friend was going to go one of two ways and you were pleased it was a positive reaction. It meant a lot that he was sticking up for you, even if it was only subtly. Just a couple of brief comments was more loyalty than you’d seen in years.

“And you’re okay with this?” Steve said, uncertainty still in his voice as he turned to Bucky.

“Yeah, it took me a little while but yeah, I’ve not seen any reason yet to doubt what Y/N’s said.”

“Then I guess that’s good enough for me for now,” Steve said, pulling a tight smile. “You give me one reason though.”

“I won’t hurt you, Bucky or anyone - scout’s honour.”

Steve nodded slowly, settling back into his chair as he cast another brief look to his friend.  "Look, I came for a quick take away meal, came here a lot when I first woke up. They package it up normally but I’ll ask for a plate while you start from the beginning and explain. Deal?“


So you did - with some details softened a touch for his patriotic ears. He knew Bucky’s and the infamous Black Widow’s colourful histories so you were sure he could fill in any blanks you’d skirted around. You briefly told him how you came to be in that line of work and you told him what lead you to quit, the bits in between were irrelevant. You spoke of the coffee shop and your apartment above it that you basically had to yourself thanks to your absent roommate. Bucky chipped in sometimes with little details he remembered you mentioning about your new work and the conversation drifted on from there.

Steve began to relax, telling you of a mission that somehow obscurely related to coffee by the end and you were all laughing together. It was only when a waiter came over, visibly nervous to interrupt that you all realised the time. The place was meant to close at 11 and that time had gone by about 20 minutes ago.

The waiter placed the bill on the table apologising before he walked off to allow you to pay.

"I’ll hand it to you, you don’t seem like a bad person,” Steve said, looking from you to Bucky with smile.

“Thanks?” You said with a chuckle. You dug through your purse and found enough to cover your share of money to put on the little silver dish and a little extra tip as an apology for the overtime. You placed it down, only for Steve to suddenly burst into life.

“Oh no, Y/N it’s on me,” Steve said, tipping it off so it landed in front of you and grabbing his wallet. He leafed through, finding enough to cover all three of you and put it down on the tray as you looked at your money, confused. “I disturbed your night. Keep it for the next time you two go out.”

You felt your cheeks flush and you hoped that it was dark enough that no one would see. It was an embarrassing reaction that didn’t want anyone to see and as you looked to Bucky you realised he had definitely noticed, his gaze fixed on you with a slight smirk. Asshole.

“Thank you,” you said grabbing your money back with a sheepish smile, “Despite the initial surprise it’s been a pleasure.”

“Likewise,” Steve nodded, standing up and tucking his chair in.

“How’d you get here? D'you need a lift?” Bucky said, moving to stand up. You followed his lead and gathered your bag and cardigan as Steve spoke.

“Nah, we’re only 4 blocks from the tower, I ran here. I’ll walk back though, nice to stretch my legs.”

“Of course you did,” Bucky scoffed, “See you at the tower then, just need to drop Y/N back.”

Steve nodded giving the pair of you a polite nod before he wandered off. You watched him go and turned to Bucky, who was just shrugging on a jacket. Exchanging a few last thank you’s with the waiter as he wiped down a table, you made your way back to Bucky’s loaned car.

“Sorry it wasn’t the low key, normal evening I planned, doll,” he said, opening the door for you to get in.

“I seem to be having a lot of that kind of luck lately,” you said with a laugh as you got in.

Bucky smiled and nodded, closing the door and jogging around to the driver’s side to get in. He opened the door and slid in, switching the car on and he did so. It purred into life and you sighed contently as you felt the engine rumble through you. You wondered if he was going to say anything as he began to drive so chose to break the silence yourself instead.

“I honestly thought to start with he was going to drag me outside and try to kill me.”

“Try to?”

“Well no one’s succeeded yet,” you shrugged, “Must admit I’d always hoped my first chat with the great Captain America would be on slightly different circumstances.”

“He’s not all that perfect…” Bucky started. You detected a slight hint of jealousy in his snappy reply but his face fell minutely as he spoke again. “Well, I know he’s better than me after all I’ve done, better than I could ever be now, but I still like to think back to when he was a weedy little punk.”

“You’re not a bad guy,” you said quickly. You knew he hated his Winter Soldier self. You paused, deciding on your tact and spoke again with a dark kind of optimism, “Look, at least you were brainwashed to do what you did, mine was entirely optional. Shit happens.”

Bucky grimaced and you could see he didn’t quite know whether to laugh at the attempt to make him feel better or focus on the later phrase. You liked keeping him on his toes like that.

“But you’ve made a change.”

“And so have you,” you reminded him with a small smile, “Plus you’ve been nicer to me than anyone else in town. Thanks for tonight, minus the fearing for my safety it was lovely.”

“I’m glad,” Bucky replied. He paused, raising an eyebrow and glancing at you, “Hopefully we could do the same again sometime? Minus the fearing for your safety, of course.”

“Yeah,” You laughed, “That’d be great.”


Part Six

anonymous asked:

If humans went extinct but monkeys/apes didn't and you were alien paleontologists you'd probably say humans were completely covered in fur because that's basal among primates.

A) I never said all dinosaurs were feathered. I said that any dinosaur could be, and it’s much more likely that some were than not 

B) Yeah, that would actually be the more parsimonious explanation, without other evidence available. And they’d be wrong. But you have to go with the simplest explanation in science, that’s how it goes. 

C) Aliens would probably find evidence for clothing and maybe even, I don’t know, some of all this evidence we’re leaving behind that would show we don’t have most of our fur anymore, so it wouldn’t be the most parsimonious explanation anyway

D) We are covered in fur. We have tiny little hairs all over our bodies. When I say “any dinosaur could,” those that we know had scales I mean “had small little feathers like we have hair on our bodies” 

E) If we didn’t have frozen mammoth bodies and cave paintings to show they were covered in fur, like apparently the aliens wouldn’t have any evidence of what we looked like despite all the shit we’re leaving everywhere, you’d assume they were mostly hairless because modern elephants are