the fossil record

The Extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger

The Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times.  It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped lower back) or the Tasmanian wolf.  Native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, it is believed to have become extinct in the 20th century.  It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinidae;  specimens of other members of the family have been found in the fossil record dating back to the late Oligocene.

The Thylacine had become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before British settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian Devil.  Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat.  Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none has been conclusively proven.

About the video:  Compilation of all five known Australian silent films featuring the recently extinct thylacines, shot in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, Australia. Benjamin, the last specimen, is shown in the footage starting from 2:05.  The clips are separated by fades.

Video Source (public domain);  reference


Life on earth, as magnificent and versatile as it is, is seemingly tame compared to the weird and wonderful creatures that once existed. All categories of life have reached unimaginable sizes, here are just a selection of prehistoric record breakers!

The biggest shark known to have existed, ruling over the oceans as recently as up to a million years ago. A length of almost 20 metres and weighing in at an estimated 48 tonnes, Megalodon could deliver a crucifying bite of up to 110,000N. It is no surprise that the Megalodon was dubbed the “whale killing shark”.

Our early ancestors would have been quite familiar with Megatherium as they existed up to 8000 years ago, they were in fact the largest sloths to have existed. Sloths have a reputation as being lazy, slow and docile, but Megatherium was a 6 metre long, 4 tonne monster with a killer instinct and knife-like claws. Megatherium’s discovery came before that of the dinosaurs. Skeletons of these prehistoric beasts were a delight to the Victorian public and paved the way for the science of palaeontology.

Literally meaning “large turtle”, Archelon certainly was just that. Existing during the cretaceous, the time of the dinosaurs, Archelon could reach 4.5 metres long and may have lived to over 100 years old. Archelon could not compete with other cretaceous beings in speed and agility, but its blade-like beak was able to slice through flesh and crush though the toughest ammonite shells. Unfortunately Archelon appears to have been a popular snack for other marine dwellers, skeletons are frequently missing flippers or heads and covered in slashes.

When the dinosaurs reign ended, a new era saw the rise of new super-predators, one was Titanoboa, the largest snake ever with a body up to 13 metres long, standing a metre off the ground and weighing up to 2500 pounds. Titanoboa was 30% longer than even todays largest species. Scientists believe this humongous snake hunted like its modern relatives, the boa constrictors, by winding around prey and suffocating them.

Owner of the largest antlers of any animal, up to 3 metres wide, the Irish Elk gets its name from its frequent discoveries in Irish peat bogs. Existing up to 10,000 years ago, these would have been a common sight in grasslands for our ancestors. Many fossils indicate the animals died of starvation which is why the antlers are thought to have been part of elaborate mating contests between males, often resulting in one being fatally injured and unable to feed itself.

A distant relative of the elephants and mammoths, Deinotherium was more sinister, its name translates to “terrible beast”, they would have most likely caused trouble for our ancient ancestors around 1.5 million years ago. Deinotherium is actually considered to be the second largest land mammal of all time, behind Paraceratherium and is iconic in appearance due to its sharp, downward facing tusks.

Known as the short faced bear, they were the biggest bears on record and one of the largest mammal carnivores to have existed. Whilst their skull was short, they were packed with piercing teeth that could deliver a bone crushing bite. Existing up to 11,000 years ago, out ancestors would have stayed well clear of this 900 kilogram predator, with slender limbs and knife-like claws, Arctodus was deadly.

One of the most infamous fossil discoveries in history, Sarcosuchus was the largest crocodile to walk the Earth up to 112 million years ago, this was a crocodile capable of killing dinosaurs. Sarcosuchus was twice as long as a saltwater crocodile, that’s 11-12 metres long and could reach over 8 tonnes. Its jaw was packed full of 66 teeth either side of its jaw and would have clamped down on prey that wandered too near.

One of the largest lifeforms that has ever stood on the Earth, Argentinosaurus could grow up to 30 metres long with its hind limbs standing 4.5 metres off the ground. They existed between 97-94 million years ago and at adulthood would have been virtually indestructible to predators. Its weight is estimated at a staggering 80-100 tonnes. There hasn’t been another land mammal on the same scale as Argentinosaurus since and it’s unlikely there ever will be.

The largest discovered therapod ever, a group that includes Allosaurus and Tryrannosaurus. Spinosaurus remained an enigma to scientists for decades, the only discovered specimen was sadly destroyed during World War 2 and was not rediscovered until the 21st century. Spinosaurus is thought to have reached up to 16 metres long and weighed in around 12 tonnes, that is almost double the weight of a T-rex!

mischievous-fairy  asked:

Hello 😄 (I'm from Poland so my english might be a little messy). So I've seen a Megalodon documentary on Animal Planet and I just found your blog, so I want to ask: what do you think about all this stuff? Like, do you belive that megalodon might be real? Sorry if that's stuid question,but I'm just wondering and you're the shark specialist so here I am. Also have a nice day! 😊

I really do believe the Megalodon was real. In fact, there’s proof of the existence of this huge shark.

Teeth are still regularly found in deep waters or are washed ashore. These teeth are gigantic. (Left is a Megalodon tooth, right is a Great White tooth)

Other tooth findings indicate that the Megalodon weighed up to 30 times as much as today’s Great White Shark at a hefty 70 to 100 tons.

Here’s the jaw reconstruction, too! This is an estimate remodel using the size of the teeth.

But its fossil record is incomplete and when it became extinct is unclear, according to livescience.

Some people believe that this ancient shark is still roaming the sea. But these conspiracy theories are not backed by science, but it’s still pretty fun to imagine, no?

This shark was real though, and it ruled the sea for millions of years.

FYI your english is absolutely fine! :)


Christmas is almost here, so what better topic to post on than the evolution of the whales!?!?

65 million years ago the earth was devastated by a catastrophic meteor impact that resulted in the death of the dinosaurs. Mammals back then had been slowly evolving but remained small and mostly nocturnal, yet when the dinosaurs perished they quickly took over abandoned niches in the skies, land and water becoming one of the most incredible dynasties the world has ever seen.
Some of the most beautiful of this diverse group are the marine mammals, the cetaceans (whales, dolphins etc). The ancestor of the whales left life on land to make the oceans their home. With over 86 species existing today of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, they make up the order Cetacea which include the magnificent blue whale reaching a whopping 30 metres in length to the little known porpoise species, Vaquita reaching only 4.5 metres long.
The evolution of the whales is documented in an incredibly rich fossil record dating back to over 50 million years ago…

Pakicetus, 50 million years ago
Pakicetus is regarded as the most basal (earliest) whale. Although Pakicetus primarily lived on land, it is the first of the land mammals to show significant developments towards a future in ruling the oceans. Pakicetus is known from only a few incomplete specimens found in Pakistan but it is predicted to have been about a metre in length. Interestingly, Pakicetus was an artiodactyl (or even-toed ungulate, an order which includes the giraffes, camels, pigs and cows), however, Pakicetus shows some defining characteristics of evolving for life in the water such as elongation of the skull and body and the teeth begin to lose the heterodontus nature. The eyes of Pakicetus were also high on its head suggesting a capability to hunt not only on land but in water too.

Ambulocetus, 49 million years ago
Ambulocetus literally means “walking whale” and shows more extreme divergence towards an aquatic lifestyle. Ambulocetus shows even greater elongation of the skull and simplification of its dental morphology. Unlike the marine reptiles of a bygone era, Ambulocetus would have swam through the water with vertical motion. The morphology of Ambulocetus’ inner ear is also similar to that of modern cetaceans meaning it could probably hear well underwater. Ambulocetus also shares some similarities with modern crocodiles such as high nostrils, pointed teeth and a long skull, making it likely that Ambulocetus was a deadly ambush predator, a far cry from its gentle giant descendants.

Rodhocetus, 46 million years ago

Rodhocetus fossils are also restricted to Pakistan and beautifully depict a familiar whale like skeleton with much shorter limbs and elongated hands and feet (that were most likely webbed). The nasal openings of Rodhocetus has also moved higher up the skull and closer to the eyes. Again, Rodhocetus shows specific morphologies that are characteristic of artiodactyls, they have a double-pulley astralagus (heel bone) found in all modern even toed ungulates.  

Basilosaurus, 37 million years ago
Basilosaurus is probably the earliest skeleton that very closely resembles modern whales, the name means “king lizard” which is highly inaccurate but fits well when considering that Basilosaurus had a long and slender body that could reach an almighty 18 metres in length. Basilosaurus also shows an extraordinary reduction in limb size compared to its ancestors meaning it is in no way adapted to live on the land any longer. At the time of Basilosaurus’ existence it was one of the largest marine animals to have existed since the days of marine reptiles (such as Liopleurodon and Mosasaurs). The teeth of Basilosaurus had similar morphology to modern killer whales indicating they were highly active hunters.

The whales of today are some of the most remarkable creatures to have ever existed. We often stand and stare in awe at the immense sizes of prehistoric marine animals in museums and it is easy to forget that we are living at the same time of the largest animals to have ever existed, past of present, the whales. We then often neglect to appreciate how magnificent these creatures are. Sadly this has led to a massive depletion in their numbers and diversity due to pollution, fishing and hunting. The whales and all other cetaceans have some of the most wonderful social structures known in the animal kingdom as well as incredible intelligence. In the last 50 million years this order has conquered oceans across the world and delighted humans all over. Cetaceans are fast becoming more endangered and if we do not act, in years to come our descendants will wonder how their ancestors let these wonderful creatures slip through their fingers.


KNOW YOUR BATS: Yinpterochiroptera!

Bats, which are mammals of the order Chiroptera, were once divided into two main suborders: Megachiroptera (i.e. Pteropodidae, the Old World Fruit bat family) and the Microchiroptera (literally all other bats). But new genetic evidence shook up this traditional view, as well as debunking the commonly-held belief that bats were close relatives of primates. It turns out they’re an ancient sister group to the one that encompasses carnivores and hoofed mammals, with no close living relatives. Given the fact that their fossil record is scanty, with few transitional forms, the origin of bats is still very mysterious!

Since then, the bat families were organized into two new suborders: Yangochiroptera and Yinpterochiroptera. Above is a visual representation of the six bat families that make up Yinpterochiroptera, and below is a phylogeny of how all these families are related:

What do all these families have in common, besides their DNA? Well, all the families except one emit their echolocation sounds through their noses, which is why they often have fantastic skin extensions- or noseleaves- around their nostrils. The single family that does not do this is of course Pteropodidae, the Old World fruit bat group that includes the flying foxes. It’s believed that Pteropodidae lost their ability to echolocate sometime after they split from the rest of Yinpterochiroptera some 60 million years ago. A single genus within Pteropodidae, Rousettus, regained the ability to echolocate through tongue-clicking.

As for what else they all have in common, the answer is… not much, which was why it was such a surprise to scientists when DNA evidence put them all together. But this evidence has a good deal of support, so we must conclude that these families were exceptionally good at finding different niches.

Next time, we will look at the 13 families within Yangochiroptera, but I have a lot of drawing to do before then…

The Three Species of Gigantopithecus

Though so little fossil remains have been found of Gigantopithecus, enough variation has been seen to classify them into three different species. 

The species we know the most about it is Gigantopithecus blacki. The teeth found that were thought to be dragon bones were classified as Gigantopithecus blacki. Through dating the teeth, scientists believe that this species existed for at least one million years. It was believed to be related to the early human Australopithecus. It was later determined the two emerged through convergent evolution, or when similar features develop simultaneously through separate evolutionary lines.

The next species is Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis. Fossils of this species have been found in India. It is believed to have lived about six to nine million years ago.

The final species is Gigantopithecus giganteus. Despite its name, it was half the size of Gigantopithecus blacki, which is the species the height average of ten feet is based off of. This species has the least amount of fossil records, found in India and China.


Crypto-Biology and Unusual Creatures!

On December 22, 1938, Captain Hendrik Goosen caught an unusual fish of the coast of South Africa. He took it straight to port to local museum official and amateur scientist Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who recognized it as an extremely unusual creature and sought to identify it. 

Unable to locate anyone that day and facing the decomposition of the fish she had it stuffed and mounted. It wasn’t until the following February that a local university professor saw it and recognized its importance, naming the species after Latimer and the location it was found, the Chalumna River. The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) is a type of lobe finned fish that first evolved (and is present in the fossil record) over 400 million years ago. The name coelacanth was given by the great Swiss paleontologist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873) and comes from the Ancient Greek word κοῖλ-ος (koilos) meaning hollow and ἄκανθ-α (akantha) meaning spine-the coelacanth has a very unusual central nervous system. The coelacanth was thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. The coelacanth became the defining member (and still most famous member) of a class known as the Lazarus Taxon, species that disappear from the fossil record and are thought to be extinct only to be discovered after their period of supposed extinction. The coelacanth also enjoys minor celebrity status among Fundamentalist Christians, many of whom maintain that the coelacanth confirms that the fossil record is incomplete and not trustworthy, and many of whom use the coelacanth to assert that humans could also have lived alongside dinosaurs.

Video courtesy National Geographic.  Some users will see a brief ad, so sorry!  Note to parents:  extremely mild bleeped out cursing at first 15 seconds.

Happy Birthday, B! You are also a stunning wonder, and every day I am glad to be the one who pulled you out of the ocean, the rarest of treasures!

My favourite thing is when taxonomists use the ultimate descriptor for some new species because I just know that one day they’re gonna find something that is more that one thing and it’s gonna be the colossal/giant squid problem all over again. Two thousand years of calling what is definitely the biggest squid ever “the giant squid” and then somebody finds a bigger one

It’s time for #Trilobite Tuesday! Rich sedimentary formations of Silurian age remain among the rarities of the fossil record. For trilobite enthusiasts, such well-known locales as Wren’s Nest, England and Rochester Shale, New York, stand among the premier Silurian sites on the planet. Another, perhaps lesser known US locality is the Waldron Shale of Indiana, where beautifully preserved 425 million year old examples of such unusual trilobite species as Metopolichas breviceps (photo), Glyptambon verrucosus and Trimerus delphinocephalus have been found in a number of outcrops that dot the state’s southern half. Perhaps closest in its faunal content to the Rochester Shale, there are still marked differences in the material found in the slightly younger strata of the Waldron, and the density of fossilized material also appears to be less prevalent than in the New York locale. Because of their rarity, distinctly mottled caramel color and three-dimensional preservation, Waldron trilobites rank as particularly prized fossils by collectors both near-and-far.
A Possible Break in One of Evolution's Biggest Mysteries
Whales have one of the strangest, least-understood histories of any animal—and barnacles might be the key to unlocking their secrets.
By Peter Brannen

The evolution of whales spans whole ages and unfamiliar worlds. It draws from an oeuvre that includes, not only paleontology, but paleoclimatology, oceanography, geology and paleoecology as well. To get a foothold on this dizzying sweep, UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Larry Taylor has decided to probe something smaller. Not the whales themselves, but the barnacles that cling to the animals—hitching rides around the planet.

As Taylor realized, oxygen isotopes in barnacle shells act as a chemical passport of a whale’s travels, filled with stamps from the world’s various oceans. And humpback-whale barnacles go back millions of years in the fossil record. Taylor hopes to find ancient whale journeys coded in these fossil shells—journeys that could illuminate the evolution of whales and, perhaps even, why some got so preposterously large…


The Thunderbird appears in many Native American legends and is said to be larger than a condor. 

Some said that the Thunderbird accompanied thunderstorms and that lightning flashed from its eyes. It was said to feed on killer whales. Some called it Piasa, or ‘devourer of man’ and believed the bird required sacrifices or it would attack a whole community.

The Ojibway of Lake Superior said that a Thunderbird fought with Mishipishu, a snake like monster of the lake. In more recent time, the Sioux Medicine Man, John (Fire) Lame Deer told of the Thunderbird and said that the he believed that they had gone to the furthest parts of the earth, unhappy with the dirty and impure civilization of the whites. 

Sightings of the thunderbird go back centuries and fossil records have shown that birds with wing spans between 12 and 18 ft existed alongside early man.



Tanystropheus, infamous in the fossil record as a sea dweller that almost defied the laws of physics and biology. 

With a neck up 3 metres long, (that’s twice the size of an average man) containing only 10 highly elongated vertebrae, Tanystropheus remains one of the most bizarre animals to inhabit the Earth. This neck was also longer than Tanystropheus’ body and tail combined. To put it into perspective, the neck took up almost 75% of the whole body length.

To hold a neck so large off of the ground would have put huge strain on the shoulders and back, for this reason Tanystropheus is believed to have spent most of its time in the water. However the position of the legs and hips suggests that the animal could support itself on land, leading to many palaeontologists suggesting Tanystropheus was adapted to ambush hunting with its body on land and its head submerged in the water. Recent research of fossilised impressions Tanystropheus indicate the rear of the animal had greatly developed muscles shifting its centre of weight further from its neck, improving the balance of a somewhat clumsy looking animal.

Despite spending most of its time in the water, Tanystropheus wasn’t a strong swimmer, its feet were not webbed, and the neck was surprisingly stiff, as it consisted of only around 10 cervical vertebrae, movement was restricted to side to side motion.
Tanystropheus made a name for itself when it was discovered in the mid 1800’s, engineers estimated that this strange animal had the longest neck physically possible of on organism with relation to its body size. Oddly enough, Tanystropheus is a distant triassic relative to pterosaurs, dinosaurs and the modern crocodiles, yet they themselves went extinct around 205 million years ago.

When I was a child, reading was the most desperate escape available to me. I’d sit in the classroom at my conservative Christian elementary school, and hide a novel behind the Bob Jones University press published textbooks, keeping myself entertained while the teacher taught us that the fossil record supported Noah’s flood or that dreams were a way for us to process sin. First I read anything I could get my hands on. John Grisham and Michael Crichton were in heavy rotation. But one day, I discovered a mail order science fiction book club and my life would never be the same, because Terry Pratchett entered it, and changed me forever.

In his books, women were smart, and difficult, and respected, even if they were old or fat. The world was destroyed regularly, and some poor bastard always had to put to back together, but they’d always gripe about having to do it. There were no heroes, no villains, no gods and no demons, just a big swath of undulating gray. So, by the time I was in my teens, thanks to the Christian school and my uneven self guided education through Discworld, I understood more about the basic theories of quantum mechanics than I did math, the scientific method, or basic biology. I also desperately wanted to be a writer, to shape and explain the world around me in the effortless way he did.

I like to joke that I’m a charismatic atheist, because the religious philosophy I have adopted is the surrender to the beauty of the randomness of the universe, our inability to know everything, and the intense improbability of our very existence. But that philosophy was shaped and guided by one man, who would smile at me from the backs of those half size book club books and remind me every day that the world was so daft and so glorious that the only way to survive it was to be kind.

It’s been very hard since he left. Harder than I like to admit. All my heroes seem to be dying off.

Originally posted by quincyprsn


Originated in Northern Asia according to archeological fossil records.

 Spanish missionaries brought figs to the United States in 1520.

The Book of Mormon claims figs were present in the Americas prior to Columbus, This is an anachronism, a subject interjected into the wrong time period. This among many other anachronisms allow us the understanding that the Book of Mormon could not be a true representation of the Americas.