And Now a Word From Our Sponsors
Don’t worry, this isn’t an announcement about advertisers. This is a few short announcements I wanted to make sure people knew about. I mentioned them on the Facebook page, but wanted them in a more permanent location.
The Arizona Center for Evolution and Medicine has been doing a fair bit lately, holding meetings and seminars, getting research going, and such. They have now also started a new blog that is worth people’s time to read called simply the EvMedBlog. Here is what they have to say about it.
The EvMedBlog, hosted by the Center for Evolution and Medicine at ASU, brings together essays by Core CEM Faculty, Guest Experts, and Affiliated Scientists to elucidate human health and disease through an evolutionary lens. Here we will explore mutations in the human genome, host-pathogen coevolution, human physiology across diverse ecological contexts, early life nutrition, and dozens of other topics at the intersections of evolutionary biology, medicine, and global health.
As seen on the EvMedBlog page. Studies of the Arm showing the Movements made by Biceps by Leonardo da Vinci, c 1510 source:wikimedia
I’ve included the new blog on the link page under the science blogs for easy retrieval.
The textbook Functional Anatomy of the Vertebrates, by Liem, Bemis, Walker, and Grande, usually ranks among the top of most anatomists lists of best comparative anatomy texts available. Ok, admittedly, there aren’t that many textbooks out there for comparison, but this one really is well received. What makes it particularly great for educators right now is that all the images in the 2001 book are available as images in Powerpoint slides for free online. They are organized and downloadable by chapter. They files are small and manageable and there is no login or information required. All they ask is that you do please cite the text when you use them, which is a perfectly reasonable request.
Sharks are on the educational menu this summer (surely not on your plate, right?!) at Cornell University and Queensland University in Australia, who are jointly offering a free online course (yes, one of those MOOCs) called “Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology, and Conservation“. It starts June 28th and only last four weeks, so it will be over before school starts back in August. It is only scheduled to take 4-6 hours a week, so it is not too time intensive, but it should provide a lot of cool information and resources for educators who want to bring cool current shark stuff into their classroom.
If you haven’t seen the videos on evolution on pbs.org, you should really check them out, along with their other great resources at NOVA Labs, which is one of the best spots on the Net for evolution resources for educators. Finally, there is of course TIES, the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science, associated with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Their primary goal is to assist secondary school teachers in teaching evolution in their classrooms and they have a fantastic collection of resources. They also sponsor teacher development workshops, one of which I hope to be running myself soon, which I am excited about, so stay tuned for more about that. All three of these can be found on the Links page any time.
That’s all for now, but there is always much more to come.
Fossil Friday: Stuck on the Rocky Shores
So were you able to identify our fossil this week?
This if Figure 5 from the only real publication on Arkansas fossil barnacles. I posted an articles on barnacles once before, but time grew short and I neglected to mention specifically the Arkansas ones, an egregious error on a website devoted to Arkansas fossils. So I am now correcting that with this post.
As I mentioned in the last post, barnacles are crustaceans and have been around since the Cambrian Period. They can be found throughout much of the Northwest half of the state, basically anywhere not carved out by the Mississippi river. However, other than some miscellaneous purported barnacles borings on clam shells and the like in the Ozarks and Ouachitas, there is not really any published literature on the subject.
For published information, if you really want to know about barnacles, you need to talk to Victor Zullo at the University of North Carolina, Ernest E. Russell of Mississippi State University, or Frederic Mellon. Sadly, you will find that difficult as they are all now deceased, leaving the field of Arkansas cirriped studies completely wide open to the prospective student.
In 1987, the trio published a paper detailing two new species of barnacles found in a quarry in Hot Springs County, Arkansas. The first barnacle was identified as being in the suborder Brachylepadomorpha and was named Brachylepas americana. They listed this as important as being “quite possibly the richest single accumulation of brachylepadomorph material ever encountered.” They also suggest that because of its similarity to other species in Europe that there was “unrestricted communication between these widely separated geographic regions during late Campanian time.”
Another thing I found interesting about these barnacles is where they were found. Thousands of these fossils were found in a gravel within the Brownstone Formation, dated to the Late Cretaceous, and deposited in a littoral environment. This is a high energy, near shore environment. The living representatives of this group, though, are only found near hydrothermal vents.
The other barnacle they discuss and the one which is shown in Figure 5 above is Virgiscalpellium gabbi and a subspecies V. gabbi apertus. These are only known from nine specimens however, unlike the thousands of B. americana. This seems to be a much less common species throughout its range than other barnacles.
Along with the barnacles, the trio mention the Brownstone Formation is rich in fossils of other types, including, the oyster Exogyra ponderosa, several gastropods, a sponge, brachiopod, serpelid worm, bryozoans, nannoplankton, and the odd vertebrate, such as mosasaurs, sharks, and skates.
Zullo, Victor A., Russell, Ernest E., and Mellen, Frederic F. 1987. Brachylepas Woodward and Virgiscalpellium Withers (Cirripedia) from the Upper Cretaceous of Arkansas. Journal of Paleontology. Vol. 61(1):101-111.
Mystery Monday, a Sticky Wicket
It has been a long time since I have posted a new mystery fossil. I will kill two birds with one stone today by revisiting a type of fossil that I have shown before, but for which I neglected to provide some specific Arkansas detail. See if you can figure out what this is and tune back in Friday to find out what I didn’t say last time.
The Griffin and the Dinosaur
The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson review summary: Get it. put it in your library collections. It has science, history, sociology, and documents the efforts of the researcher so people can see how ideas are put together, all in an easy to read, accessible format. There is even a free online education guide, with classroom activities matched to sixth grade common core standards. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school libraries. To see why, read the full review below.
The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science.
by Marc Aronson with Adrienne Mayor. Illustrated by Chris Muller
Publication Date: 2014
National Geographic Society. ISBN: 978-1-4263-1108-6 (trade hardback) 978-1-4263-1109-3 (reinforced library binding) Available from Bound to Stay Bound Books
ATOS level: 7.4, AR quiz availability: reading practice, 1.0 AR points
Recommended: Grades 4-8
If you are looking for a book about dinosaurs or myths, get another book. But if you are looking for a book about how myths are made and how dinosaurs play into that, this is a great book. The story here is one of cultural interpretations of the natural world. Before people knew about dinosaurs, they found their bones and tried to explain them as best they could according to their worldview. This book tells of the search by one woman to unravel the origins of myths with the hypothesis that they began as most stories do, with a kernel of truth.
Adrienne Mayor has written two influential books, called The First Fossil Hunters and Fossil Legends of the First Americans, in which she lays out all her evidence to support the idea of dinosaur bones being the kernel of truth upon which some of the myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans and the native Americans were built. However, these books together run almost 900 pages, which, while interesting to the serious student, are a bit out of reach for the casual reader. The Griffin and the Dinosaur makes an excellent introduction to this work that is accessible for anyone who can read beyond the basic learning to read books.
Marc Aronson has written several books for children and young adults, mostly relating history in a way that people will actually read. The writing is clear, easy to follow, and relatable enough to keep most readers engaged. The book is illustrated with numerous photos of archaeological artifacts, historical photos and drawings, and the occasional dinosaur. There are too few dinosaurs for my taste, especially for a book with the word dinosaur in the title, but the book is focused on the history and myth interpretations, not dinosaurs. The photos are supplemented with illustrations by Chris Muller, which add to the feel of the book, connecting the bones to the imagination.
The book is split into eight chapters, each only a few pages long. The first chapter, “Prairie Girl”, describes Adrienne Mayor’s childhood and her developing interest in nature and ancient myths. The second chapter, “The Sound of Heat’, finds Adrienne in Athens studying ancient Greek manuscripts in Athens. I’m not too fond of this particular chapter. In a chapter only three pages long, two pages are taken up mostly describing the conditions of the library in which she studied. Only on the third page does Aronson talk about griffins and Mayor’s question about what kind of fossil animal might have inspired it. The last paragraph of the chapter tells of her discovery of the “monster of Samos”.
“Sketching Griffins”, the third chapter, describes her discovery of ancient bronze griffins on Samos, but only giraffe bones for the monster, which could not have inspired the myth. It does answer a question I have long wondered. How did an obviously wingless dinosaur become the winged griffin? The answer to that lies in the very earliest depictions of griffins, which did not have wings. The wings were added later as the myth of the griffin grew and became more fanciful. The other thing I like in this chapter is the discussion of search images. When people have an idea in their head of what something should look like, it aids them in identifying it quickly, but it blinds them to possibilities outside that image.
Chapter four deals with Adrienne changing her search image by more study of the development of the griffin myth through history as well as any connections others had made, which led her to the work of Othenio Abel, who had asserted the cyclopean myths came from mammoth skeletons.
Chapter five continues her search for the historical origins of the griffin tale. During this time, she discovers Triceratops, which she thought might be the kernel of truth behind the myth. This is a nice chapter because it shows that even big, embarrassing mistakes does not mean that one should give up. They merely teach you what you need to learn next.
“The Secrets of the Flaming Cliffs”, chapter six finally introduces Adrienne to Protoceratops, a small, beaked dinosaur that was found associated with eggs in a nest. It had a small frill and a long scapula, or shoulder blade, which could have been mistaken for a potential wing support. At least, it could if someone didn’t know very much about anatomy, which includes most people.
The last two chapters deal with the publication of her work and her continuing research into other myths and legends. It ends with a reference back to expanding our search images to find the truth behind the stories.
The book ends with few nice addendums. There is a map of the world showing where things mentioned in the text were found. There is a page of suggestions for further reading, which include her other books, books for younger readers, and online resources. A combined glossary and index covers the more challenging and interesting words. The book wraps up with a page about Marc Aronson and how the book came about.
So to sum up, there is precious little dinosaur and a whole lot of griffin in this book. But it does a wonderful job of depicting a personal story about how dinosaurs have played a role in the development of our cultural beliefs. It also serves as a reminder that we should not dismiss stories as pure fantasy. Strip away the fantastical and you may find something real underneath.