Friday mystery object #130 answer

On Friday I gave you this specimen to identify:

I thought that some of you might find it a bit tricky, since this is a shell from a group of animals that aren’t that familiar to most people.

Barbara Powell was the first to spot what this shell came from and her identification was supported by Dave Godfrey, Julie Doyle and henstridgesj. It’s a   Continue reading

Friday mystery object #111 answer

On Friday I gave you this object (from the NHM) to identify:

It was a bit of a tricky one for those of you who haven’t seen the First Time Out exhibition (jackashby and David Godfrey obviously did see it). This fossil skull looks like it belonged to some kind of pig rather than a primate – yes, that’s right, I said primate.

The main feature visible here that indicates that this skull may belong to a primate is the enclosed orbit, which isn’t a particularly strong characteristic since various ungulates also have an enclosed orbit – as I said, it’s a tricky one.

The type of primate is the Koala Lemur Megaladapis edwardsi Forsyth Major, 1894 from Madagascar. It was an arboreal, slow moving, gorilla-sized folivore – with superficial similarities to Koalas (hence the name). It is hypothesised that the extended bony nasal region may have supported a prehensile top lip, that would have been beneficial when foraging for leaves in the trees.

I won’t go into much detail here, because other curators have provided their interpretation for this object as part of the First Time Out project, so I will leave you with a link to that information. However, I would be interested in taking a closer look at the dentition and complete skeleton of one of these animals – I’d like to get a better grip on this apparent convergence on a suid cranial morphology and more gorilla-like body. I wonder what it might have looked like?

Gamorrean Guards by Dextar FX

Friday mystery object #110 answer

On Friday I gave you these objects to identify:

Apart from their superficial similarity to chocolate pralines or denuded molluscs several of you managed to identify that these are in fact teeth.

In particular Dave Godfrey, David and Styracosaurus Rider pwned this object with a definitive genus identification of   Continue reading

Back from extinction

Imagine if you could bring a species back from extinction – what would you choose and why would you choose it? There are so many factors to take into consideration it all becomes a bit bewildering – do you choose something on the basis of how well it would reintegrate with existing ecosystems, how useful it might be, how much novel information we could learn from it, how plausible it would be to actually carry out the resurrection process, or simply how awesome it would be to see something that hasn’t walked the Earth for millions of years?

I recently asked four palaeontologists what species they would choose to resurrect and their responses were presented at a Café Scientifique balloon debate at the Horniman Museum, as part of the International Year of Biodiversity activities in conjunction with the Royal Society (who are celebrating their 350th anniversary!). The result was a very enjoyable evening for all involved and an insight into some of the considerations that should be taken into account when contemplating resurrecting extinct species.

Continue reading

Friday mystery object #32 answer

On Friday Dr David Waterhouse presented a guest mystery object from a beach on the Norfolk coast near Cromer:

There were some interesting ideas about what it might be, ranging from oil-spill residue (Gimpy) to shark egg-case (SmallCasserole), but Henry Gee managed to correctly identify the specimen as being a Continue reading