Darwin Day Disney Quiz
Here's another fun little trivia quiz. Just check out the pics and try to guess, were these fossils, dinosaurs, and prehistoric beasties found at Walt Disney World parks and resorts... or someplace else?
Modern elephants and Woolly Mammoths share a common ancestor, according to mDNA research by Michael Hofreiter and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. According to the same research, African elephants separated from mammoths first, about 6 million years ago, then Asian elephants differentiated from mammoths about 440,000 years later. So modern Asian elephants have slightly more in common with woolly mammoths, than do African elephants. Also, African elephants have been around a really long time. Here's an article about it.
Ankylosaurs were a kind of armored dinosaur and were among the longest surviving. They lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Victoria Arbour, from NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, studied how the ankylosaur developed a clubbed tail and published her findings in a paper in the Journal of Anatomy. She found the handle developed first, and then the knob at the end after. The knob is made up of osteoderms, bone formed in the skin. That's something only the armored dinos had. The handle is the lower part of the tail and provides support for the knob.
She explains that, “In order for an ankylosaur to be able to support the weight of a knob and swing it effectively, the tail needs to be stiff, like an ax handle... the vertebrae along the tail had to become less flexible, otherwise the momentum generated by the knob’s weight could tear muscle or dislocate vertebrae.” Read more about it here.
In August of 2016, a joint Mongolian-Japanese expedition found a dinosaur footprint which measures 106 centimetres (42 inches) long and 77 centimetres (30 inches) wide and is thought to be the largest in the world, so far. It was found in the Gobi, the Mongolian desert. The fossil print was found in a 70 million to 90 million year old geologic layer. It was probably the footprint of a Titanosaur. Here's where I heard about it.
Brontosaurus or Apatosaurus? For years the brontosaurus faced criticism from folks who said brontos were really just apotosauri. But no more. Emanuel Tschopp, from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal says you can tell a brontosaurus from an apotosaurus by its neck. Brontos are more slender necked, and their necks are taller. Apotosaurs are different in some other key ways too. So stop telling poor brontosaurus she doesn't exist. Does so!
This turtle fossil is more modern than its even more ancient cousins, but you can see how it fits somewhere in between. Modern turtles tend to have more rounded skulls, except for leatherbacks, which have "soft" shells for deep diving. You can also compare the feet to see the changes over time. Modern sea turtles have flippers, but many older ones had stocky feet, more like modern snapping turtles. A relative found in Alabama demonstrated the link between snapping turtles and sea turtles quite well.
The oldest turtle ancestors had teeth, instead of sharp jaws. And one Paleocene species, Archelon ischyros, grew up to 9 feet 10 inches! No modern turtle grows quite that big, though leatherbacks can group up to about 7 feet, so that's pretty big. You can learn more here.
Some scientists have come to believe that life on Earth could potentially have started not in deep ocean fissures, but in meteor or comet impact craters. It's far from an agreed upon fully explored theory yet, but findings have shown that the necessary components would be present if the crater was filled with sea water, but then cut off from the sea for enough time for certain reactions to take place. I think I got that right. Read for yourself, here.
Loch Ness not an extinct dino. Ok, I know, it's fun to think a real dinosaur could still be alive and peacefully residing in the Scottish lake. Vox recently did a nice recap of many of the reasons why this is just not so. The lake is too small, too cold, doesn't contain enough fish, and has been thoroughly searched for bones or signs of life. If a dinosaur ever lived in it, she has long sinced died and completely and utterly disappeared, leaving not a bone or a fragment of a fossil.
Giant ground sloths were among the most widely dispersed of the giant mammals, with examples found on every continent but Antarctica. The Shasta ground sloth is smaller than the other mega fauna sloths, but still measured about 7 foot from tip to tip. It is said to have been significant in the wide dispersal of Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia). Some preserved ground sloth dung bolus contained Joshua tree leaves and seeds. By feeding on the trees and then depositing their dung with the seeds intact, they helped the tree reproduce and spread all over the lower half of the North American continent. Some suggest that the loss of the Shasta ground sloths caused the trees to suffer. Read a short fiction story about the Joshua tree here or here.
NC researchers including paleontologist M. Schweitzer, used 68 million-year-old dinosaur collagen to determine the evolutionary relationships of Tyranosaurus Rex as reported in Science
Colleagues at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, and Harvard sequenced the protein. Researchers compared the sequence data from T. rex to a database of sequence data from 19 animals, including living animals. The results put T. rex in the class Archosauria -- between the ancestors of modern-day alligators and the modern-day chicken.
Since then, the team have also analyzed proteins from a Hadrosaur, or duck billed dinosaur.
Did your teacher tell you that oil was made of dead dinosaurs? Well, that's not exactly true. In fact, the DOE says, "...most of the fossil fuels we find today were formed millions of years before the first dinosaurs." Around 300 million years ago, plants and early animals died, and their remains floated to the bottom of the sea where they were covered over with silt. Time and pressure eventually turned them into oil. Added heat and even more pressure resulted in natural gas. So oil isn't dead dinosaurs, but it was once many living things, millions of years ago.
Oh, and coal is compressed plant matter, or the carbon from that plant matter. So there's no need for this dinosaur to be angry at your car. Unless, of course, he was trying to hitchhike.(It's so hard to hitchhike without thumbs.)
What this means is, Ellen's Energy Adventure really needs an update, and not just to add feathers to those dinosaurs!