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Blog Profile / Laelaps


URL :http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/laelaps
Filed Under:Biology / Paleontology
Posts on Regator:2165
Posts / Week:6.4
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Laelaps is On the Move

I can’t remember the exact date anymore, but sometime last month I reached my six year science blogiversary. I was just a directionless Rutgers University undergraduate at the time I started writing. I loved paleontology, but was unsatisfied with my college education, so I pursued the subject on my own time and used my blog [...]

Carnivorous Neighbors – How Sabercats and a Bear Dog Managed to Coexist

Prehistoric predator traps are wonderful things. From the Allosaurus-dominated bonebed at the Jurassic Cleveland-Lloyd quarry in eastern Utah to the dire wolf and Smilodon-filled graveyard of Los Angeles, California’s La Brea asphalt...Show More Summary

Scientists Reveal Jurassic Forest’s Hidden Hangingfly

At first glance, the newly-named fossil hangingfly Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia doesn’t look especially impressive. Found in the roughly 165 million year old beds of China’s Jiulongshan Formation, and described by paleontologist Yongjie...Show More Summary

A Feast of Feathery Fossil Posts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the American holiday wouldn’t be the same without moist slabs of gravy-drenched dinosaur meat on the table. Of course, our species was not the first to dine on dinosaur, not by a long shot, but we do it with a bit more style than the alligators, lice, sharks, and other creatures [...]

Great White Shark Ancestry Swims into Focus

Few predators terrorize our imaginations as fiercely as the great white shark. The immense fish is sublimely attuned to an environment that is alien to us, and, despite the rarity of accidents, the nightmare of slipping down the shark’s throat...

Eocene Big Bird Not so Scary, After All

The reign of the dinosaurs came to a catastrophic end 66 million years ago. That’s the common trope, anyway – a holdover from before we recognized that at least one feathery lineage survived and proliferated after the K/Pg devastation. We still live in the Age of Dinosaurs – a 230 million year old success story [...]

Pterosaur Takeoff Tussle Highlights Science News Fumble

Earlier this week I received a press release about pterosaur takeoffs from Texas Tech University. Rather than launching into the air through a pole-vault motion, as paleontologists such as Michael Habib and Mark Witton have argued (check out the video), the email said that giant pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus required a “10-degree downhill slope” where they [...]

Smilodon the Vampire

Aside from the woolly mammoth, no Pleistocene creature is more iconic than Smilodon. The vanished sabercat is a symbol of North America’s recently-lost megafauna, but it’s also an Ice Age mystery. While the carnivore broadly resembled other felids – a cat is a cat is a cat – the predator’s fangs have confounded paleontologists for [...]

The Fall of the Carnivorous Mastodon

Extinction sucks. Only yesterday, in geologic terms, did mastodons, sabercats, giant ground sloths, and their charismatic Ice Age contemporaries roam North America. Humans even encountered these beasts, but I was born about 10,000 years too late to see the Pleistocene menagerie. I just missed some of the most wonderful mammals ever to trod the continent. [...]

Researchers Chew Over a Prehistoric Bear’s Diet

Of all the bears to come and go during the group’s 23 million year old history, none had a bite more powerful than Agriotherium africanum – a ursid as large as today’s grizzly and polar bears that roamed Africa during the latest Miocene and earliest Pliocene epochs. In a new Journal of Zoology paper by [...]

Variety is the Spice of Life

This past week, I attended the 72nd Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m still on the mend from the science hangover. Still, while my memories are relatively fresh, I want to mention one of the important themes that ran through some of the meeting’s sessions. Paleontologists are drawing more information from [...]

Paleontologists Reveal the Identity of “Predator X”

Paleontology often relies on superlatives to entice the public. Fossil species are touted as being the biggest, oldest, strongest, weirdest, or whatever other –est applies if the designation will help popularize a discovery. But, sometimes, hype precedes science. In 2009, journalists heralded the arrival of “Predator X” – an immense, big-headed marine reptile said to [...]

The Family That Nests Together, Rests Together

Fossils tell stories. I’ve written about this beautiful fact over and over again, but the multiple perspectives on prehistoric life afforded by even the most mundane petrified scrap never cease to impress me. Fossils are not merely individual facts of nature that educate us simply by their identification and accumulation. They are more than that [...]

Lemur Headgear Helps Researchers Probe Prehistory

Lemurs in fancy hats are helping researchers better understand how extinct creatures moved. Although “fancy” may not be the best word for the attire (sadly, we’re not talking about fedoras or bowlers here). As part of a new PNAS study, researcher Michael Malinzak and colleagues fitted lemurs, lorises, and galagos of the Duke Lemur Center [...]

Great White Shark Diet is More Than Seals

Late last year, while on a tour of California’s Año Neuvo State Park, I saw a shark attack victim lying on the beach. She was a Northern elephant seal, and looked quite placid despite the gaping, crescent-shaped hole in her neck. She bore the traumatic hallmark of the great white shark. Years of watching Discovery’s Shark [...]

The Lemur That Was a Fish

Fossils are not always what they seem. Megarachne, once heralded as the largest spider of all time, was actually a sea scorpion. The squishy Cambrian critter Nectocaris has been transformed from one of our early chordate cousins to an enigmatic invertebrate of unknown affinity. Tracks thought to be left by an enormous hopping amphibian were [...]

Fossil Untangles Horseshoe Crab Mystery

A little while back, I went on a tear about the phrase “living fossil.” We should scuttle the baggage-ridden aphorism – extant crocodiles, coelacanths, and tuataras are not “unchanged” remnants of an earlier era, but the last branches of amazing animal groups that flourished during Deep Time. I almost wish that I had waited another [...]

Repost: American Lion, or Giant Jaguar? – In Search of Panthera atrox

[I'm out in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for some late season fieldwork this week. Here's an essay from the archive, originally posted on October 24, 2011.] The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is a wonderful place. I don’t mean wonderful in the overused, everyday sense of “That pizza was wonderful”, or “If [...]

Repost: Inside the Columbian Mammoth, Signs of a Woolly Cousin

[I'm out in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for some late season fieldwork this week. Here's an essay from the archive, originally posted November 28, 2011.] I’m picky about my paleo t-shirts. If I’m going to lay down twenty five bucks for fossil-themed apparel from a museum gift shop, I want the long-extinct critter on the [...]

Repost: Honey, I Shrunk the Coyote

[I'm out in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for some late season fieldwork this week. Here's an essay from the archive, originally posted on February 27th, 2012.] When I think of the La Brea asphalt seeps, coyotes don’t immediately jump to mind. Sabercats and dire wolves are the sorts of carnivore I have come to associate [...]

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