Saturday, January 30, 2010

After the storm...

Because of the storms and high winds which have recently rocked our coast, we've had a number of things wash up on the beach. The most spectacular of which was this...

A Risso's dolphin. We don't know why this guy died, but we do know that he is very young. Risso's get to be 10-12 ft in length, and are born at about 4-5 ft. He may have been just too inexperienced to ride out the storm. We won't know the cause of death for sure until someone does a necropsy. Very little is known about this species, so this little guy will help advance our knowledge.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life Photo Meme: Ancient

I have lots of photos of ancient organisms, but I had to go with this picture of fossilized hadrosaur skin. First off, considering how fossils are formed, I am always impressed by seeing fossils such as these, and I am sure other feel the same way. Secondly, they offer a glimpse of what these animals may have looked like alive. Now, scientist are able to use some of these amazing fossils, notably fossilized feathers and protofeathers, and an old technique to get an even better view of what these animals looked like.

Zhang and others have reported that they are able to tell what color the dinosaurs feathers were by taking a look into the preserved parts of the cell using a scanning electron microscope. Protein pigments present in modern-day feathers and fur have unique shapes based on color, and are fairly resistant to breaking down. When these scientists looked at ancient dino (and bird) feathers, they found the same pigment shapes. Now they can tell by looking for the pigment shapes what color the feather was. What's more, by looking at the distribution of those shapes they can see if it had stripes, spots, or mottling.

I am looking forward to the new and improved museum models showing the actual colors of these amazing dinos and birds!