Whenever I stop posting often I start feeling guilty. I have had enough time to update the blog regularly but just haven't. I have planned a fair few lengthy posts which just don't seem to want to write themselves. So, in order to feel like I am making effort, I am going to do what I usually do when I fall behind. I am going to round up the best stories from ScienceDaily and say a little about them.
Triceratops and Torosaurus Were the Same Animal
A recent extensive study has shown that Triceratops may be a younger version of Torosaurus and that the adults are not simply scaled up juveniles. This is an important lesson for palaeontologists faced with the possibility of naming new species. As we cannot go out and watch our subjects growing and maturing, we cannot know exactly how they grow. If fossils are rare we are left largely in the dark. A young form and an old form can often appear like two different species, though closely related (imagine how wrong we could be with species which metamorphose!).
Another insight from this study is that it means diversity may have been a lot lower than previously thought towards the end of the Mesozoic. This will enable us to better understand what was going on to result in the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs and will also give insight into current extinction. For more, here is the obligatory SD link.
Sabre-Toothed Cats Were Strong Gits
here for more.
Baby Brains and Evolution
More Insights into Multicellularity
Like many other aspects of evolution, the transition simply required using the same proteins for new jobs. The article uses the helpful analogy of a lego set in order to explain this, which I may steal (or perhaps I could say K'nex...). The organisms in question were used because Volvox evolved multicellularity only 200 million years ago, whereas the other groups achieved it over 500 million years ago, so it is difficult to trace their genetic changes. Personally this is one of the more exciting bit of news, for more see here.
here, perhaps more so than the previous mention of multicellularity. Dawkins will probably be drooling over this, as it lends credence to his selfish gene and extended phenotype views. Normally I don't like when scientists, or rather science journalists, claim that a new find will revolutionise our views of evolution, but this one should certainly not be ignored.
Island Evolution Challenged
It is commonly believed that evolution acts differently on islands. Big animals often evolve to be smaller, such as elephants, and smaller animals evolve unusually large sizes. A recent study challenges this view, suggesting that it is merely our perception that sees a pattern, when really none exists. See here.
Ostrich Movement Gives Insight into Dinosaur Movement
I must apologise, I am attempting to speed up here as I intended to go to bed an hour ago. This article is worth reading though.
Two-billion Year Old Multicellular Life
They vary in shape and size, reaching up to around 12cm, making them too big and complex to be single celled organisms. They have clearly defined, regular shapes and appear to have lived in colonies in often calm, shallow marine environments (20 to 30 centimetres). They potentially correlate with a rise in oxygen levels between 2.45 and 2 billion years ago. There was then a drop in oxygen levels around 1.9 billion years ago. This has some interesting implications. It is possible that these were another multicellular 'experiment' by life, much like how many see the Ediacaran forms. All of these Gabon forms may have gone extinct 1.9 billion years ago, leaving the Earth back in the....errrm....hands of the single celled organisms until mutlicellularity evolved again around 600 million years ago (though potential evidence for porifera is a lot older than the Ediacaran fossils).
This is one I am going to have to look more into, but for now I have to go to bed as I need to be up early to go fossil collecting in Runswick Bay, which I will talk about when I get back. Here is the article, hopefully the site where the fossils were found will be protected for years to come.