Friday, September 12, 2014

Strange Critters, a Dinosaur, and Early Permian Night Hunters

We're learning more about life on Earth: and finding that there's more to learn.

For example, those aren't mushrooms. Scientists think they're animals. Probably.
  1. Dreadnoughtus: a bit smaller than a Boeing 737
  2. Oh, Look! It's a — Thing
  3. Dimetrodon Eyes: 'The Better to See You'

God Thinks Big

If you've read other posts here, you probably know why I think God works on a cosmic scale, isn't overextended, and doesn't mind if we use our brains. (September 5, 2014; June 6, 2014)

If you haven't: here's what I think about God's universe —
"How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!

"Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands; to finish, I would need eternity. "
(Psalms 139:17-18)

"The works of God are all of them good; in its own time every need is supplied."

"He has but to command and his will is done; nothing can limit his achievement."

"The works of all mankind are present to him; not a thing escapes his eye."

"His gaze spans all the ages; to him there is nothing unexpected."
(Sirach 39:16, -20)
We're made 'in the image of God.' We have great power: and a frightening responsibility. But unlike God, we don't know everything. I'll get back to that.
"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

"God blessed them, saying: 'Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.' "
(Genesis 1:27-28)

"2 the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being."
("Genesis 2:7")

"When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place -"

"4 What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?"

"5 Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor. "
(Psalms 8:4-6)

The Universe: Good, and Getting Better

Because I'm a Christian, and a Catholic, I believe that God created the universe, and thinks it is "very good." (Genesis 1:31)

By studying the universe, its beauty and order, we can learn something of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 32)

We are made in the image of God: and from the stuff of this world. (Catechism, 355)

God created a universe that is basically good: but it is not perfect. Not yet. It is changing, "...created 'in a state of journeying' (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection...." (Catechism, 302-308)

We have "dominion" over this world: not as owners, but as stewards. Part of our job is managing this world for future generations, and for God. (Catechism, 373, 338-344, 2402, 2456)

Studying this universe, and using our new-found knowledge to create new tools, is part of being human. Using science and inventing new technology is what we're supposed to do. (Catechism, 2293-2295)

We have everything we need for our role as stewards: including our marvelously adaptable brains. But our power and authority comes with responsibility: and that's a scary thought. (March 17, 2013)

Now, some of what we're learning about this world —

1. Dreadnoughtus: a bit smaller than a Boeing 737

(From M. Kliner/Carnegie Museum, via BBC News; used w/o permission.)
("At 26m from head to tail, Dreadnoughtus was longer than two London buses parked end to end"
(BBC News))
"'Dreadnought' dinosaur yields big bone haul"
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (September 4, 2014)

"New fossils found in Argentina represent the most complete giant sauropod dinosaur ever discovered.

"Scientists say they have 70% of the key bones needed to fully describe the creature, Dreadnoughtus schrani.

"It means they can confidently estimate its great bulk - a beast that measured 26m from head to tail and weighed in at almost 60 tonnes.

"Remarkably, the skeletal analysis reveals Dreadnoughtus was still growing at the time of its death.

"Quite how large the dino might have become, no-one can say.

"The Patagonian rocks from which it was pulled suggest that the young animal's life was cut short in a catastrophic flood.

"A detailed write-up on the 77-million-year-old fossils appears in the journal Scientific Reports...."

This dinosaur was bigger than a breadbox, and smaller than a Boeing 737: but not by much.

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)

This sauropod's skeleton has a nearly-complete backbone; part of the head end, bits of the neck; and a nearly-complete front and back leg. That's enough for paleontologists to make a pretty good estimate of how big the herbivore was, and what it weighed.

Size isn't everything: but it's impressive. More to the point for sauropods, being that much bigger than the largest predators made them basically impervious to attack. Unless, of course, the predators were really smart.

Once our ancestors figured out that we can throw spears, for example, we started hunting bigger critters. Some of us still look for 'giant economy size' packages in the grocery, and that's another topic. Sort of.

Predators aren't the only threat critters face. This youngster apparently got caught in a flood, which brings up an interesting question: just how big did these critters get?

Dinosaurs and Laser Cannons

(From K. Lacorava, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Just its tail would have been 9m in length"
(BBC News))
"...The study group's leader is Kenneth Lacovara from Drexel University, Philadelphia, US.

"He told the BBC that the dinosaur's enormous size would have been intimidating.

"And for that reason, he has given the beast a name that recalls the massive battleships that revolutionised naval warfare in the early 1900s.

" 'Dreadnoughtus was huge, and in its environment there would have been nothing that could have preyed on it; it was essentially impervious to attack,' he explained.

" 'And that evoked in my mind those turn-of-the-last-century battleships - the first really big steel battleships - that were also impervious to attack from the other ships that existed at that time. So, what better name than 'dread nought' - 'fears nothing'."..."
(Jonathan Amos, BBC News)
Jonathan Amos took a side-trip into why Kenneth Lacovara gave Dreadnoughtus that name. Since a BBC editor left that digression in, I'll add my bit about dreadnoughts, naval architecture, and all that, too.

The Royal Navy's HMS Dreadnought entered service in 1906. It was a huge ship in its day: 527 feet, 160.6 meters, long; 82 ft 1 in, 25.0 meters, wide. The ship's name caught on, and this sort of large, fast, heavily-armored battleship was called a dreadnought for much of first part of the 20th century.

That was then, this is now. Military technology has been changing: fast. Today's warships rely on speed, stealth, and artificial intelligence instead of heavy armor. Railguns are still 'in the lab,' but the USS Ponce is testing a LaWS directed energy weapon.

As one of my alter egos, the Lemming, put it:
"It would be nice, in the Lemming's opinion, if everybody would always be nice. That doesn't happen. I've discussed niceness, war, and reality, in 'War is Not Nice,' Another War-on-Terror Blog...."
(December 11, 2010)
More of my take on war, peace, tech, hope, and getting a grip:
Now, back to that whacking great quadruped and its world.

The Cretaceous: Good Times for Dinosaurs

(From Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth in the Turonian stage of the Upper Cretaceeous period, about 90,000,000 years ago.)

(From Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth, about 65,000,000 years ago, after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.)

Dreadnoughtus lived during the last part of the Cretaceous, 84,000,000 to 66,000,000 years back, give or take. That's what we've been calling the Campanian and Maastrichtian ages: and there won't be a test at the end of this post, so there's no need to remember the names.

Those were good times for dinosaurs.

Ankylosaurs like Antarctopelta roamed the verdant plains of Antarctica; Dreadnoughtus shared the Argentine with Overosaurus and Unenlagia.

Earth was home to many large animals then. Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying creatures ever, sailed the skies of North America. Archelon, the largest known turtle, swam the seas of South Dakota; and the world's largest frog, Beelzebufo lived in a part of India that's now Madagascar.

Then something terrible happened. There's evidence of three near-simultaneous impacts, and massive volcanic activity that may have been triggered by a fourth impact. About three quarters of Earth's species didn't survive: including the non-avian dinosaurs. (September 29, 2013)

Some feathered dinosaurs had been downsizing long before the catastrophe, and survive to this day: as birds. Scorpions and cockroaches endured, of course: and were joined by rats about 12,000,000 years later. As I've said before, change happens: and life endures. (November 29, 2013)

More about Dreadnoughtus:
  • "A Gigantic, Exceptionally Complete Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina"
    Kenneth J. Lacovara, Matthew C. Lamanna, Lucio M. Ibiricu, Jason C. Poole, Elena R. Schroeter, Paul V. Ullmann, Kristyn K. Voegele, Zachary M. Boles, Aja M. Carter, Emma K. Fowler, Victoria M. Egerton, Alison E. Moyer, Christopher L. Coughenour, Jason P. Schein, Jerald D. Harris, Rubén D. Martínez, Fernando E. Novas; Scientific Reports (received April 1, 2014; accepted July 30, 2014; published September 4, 2014)

2. Oh, Look! It's a — Thing

(From Jean Just et al.; via Plos One, BBC News; used w/o permission.)
("The bizarre creatures were collected from the deep sea in 1986 during a research cruise off Tasmania"
(BBC News))
"Deep sea 'mushroom' may be new branch of life"
Paul Rincon, BBC News (September 3, 2014)

"A mushroom-shaped sea animal discovered off the Australian coast has defied classification in the tree of life.

"A team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen says the tiny organism does not fit into any of the known subdivisions of the animal kingdom.

"Such a situation has occurred only a handful of times in the last 100 years.

"The organisms, which were originally collected in 1986, are described in the academic journal Plos One...."
Good news: the 28-year-old specimens are well-preserved. Not-so-good news: they were submerged in neutral (Borax) formalin, and then transferred to alcohol. Their appearance is pretty much the same as when they were caught, apart from shrinkage, but their DNA — well, formalin and alcohol don't preserve that. Not in a form that's analyzable, anyway.

More good news: someone made detailed drawings of the things before pickling them, so we've got a reasonably good notion of how they're put together. We also know exactly how big the were: which isn't very. The disc was roughly 10 millimeters/1 centimeter across: very roughly 3/8ths of an inch.

(From Jean Just et al.; via Plos One, BBC News; used w/o permission.)
(Dendrogramma enigmatica: a critter that resembles a lily pad, a mushroom, and and isn't quite like anything else we know of: except Dendrogramma discoides. Someone made these drawings before the critters shrank.)

Scientists are reasonably sure that they're animals, and that we're looking at two species of whatever these things are. Beyond that — they're not quite like anything that's been around since the Ediacaran period, more than a half-billion years ago. That we knew of, anyway.

Earth in the Ediacaran

(From Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth, about 600,000,000 years ago, about half-way through the Ediacaran period, before the Gaskiers glaciation.)

(From Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth, about 560,000,000 years ago, still the Ediacaran period, between the Gaskiers and Baykonur glaciations.)

Earth looked different after the Cryogenian period when Earth froze over: leaving a bit of open ocean near the equator, or not. Scientists aren't sure about that yet.

Earth's atmosphere had oxygen, but not much: about 40% of what we're used to. Carbon dioxide levels were 16 times what we think they were before the Industrial age.

Living critters back then were small, soft, and lived in water. Most looked a bit like segmented worms, fronds, disks, or bags: and none looked much like what's around today.

At least one sort, Cloudinids, had a skeleton. We don't know what the animal looked like. Nothing we're familiar with has a skeleton that looks like stacked ice cream cones.

The critters might have looked like polychaete worms, coral, or something completely different.

Scientists aren't sure whether some Ediacaran organisms were fungi, algae, lichens (fungus-alga symbionts), plants, animals: or a now-extinct form that was intermediate between plants and animals.

Besides being so very different from today's critters, Ediacaran organisms were mostly sessile. It wasn't until after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, about a quarter-billion years back, that most animals here could move around. And that's yet another topic. (July 18, 2014)

Today's Dendrogramma vaguely resemble Ediacaran critters like Albumares and Anfesta, with three-fold radial symmetry; and the oval Rugoconites. But that may be because they're adapted to the same environment. I've talked about sharks, porpoises, and convergent evolution, before. (June 6, 2014)

Diminutive Dwellers in the Depths

(From Jean Just et al.; via Plos One, BBC News; used w/o permission.)
("They resemble organisms from the Ediacaran Period, many of which were thought to be evolutionary dead-ends"
(BBC News))
"...The authors of the article note several similarities with the bizarre and enigmatic soft-bodied life forms that lived between 635 and 540 million years ago - the span of Earth history known as the Ediacaran Period.

"These organisms, too, have proven difficult to categorise and some researchers have even suggested they were failed experiments in multi-cellular life.

"The authors of the paper recognise two new species of mushroom-shaped animal: Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides. Measuring only a few millimetres in size, the animals consist of a flattened disc and a stalk with a mouth on the end...."
(Paul Rincon, BBC News)
They may look like mushrooms, but Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides showed no evidence of having been attached to the seabed, or anything else.

They'd been very near the ocean bottom, off the eastern Bass Strait and Tasmania, but when researchers went looking for more two years later, in 1988: there weren't any around. Apparently the remaining critters had moved elsewhere.

The study's authors agreed with reviewers that Dendrogramma are probably a new phylum: but said that there isn't enough evidence to be sure. Not yet.

They're pretty sure that they're animals, though.

"We Think it Belongs in the Animal Kingdom Somewhere...."

(From Jean Just et al.; via Plos One, BBC News; used w/o permission.)
(Dendrogramma: all 15 specimens. The three marked with an asterisk are Dendrogramma discoides, with a complete disc and proportionally shorter stalk. The others, Dendrogramma enigmatica, have a notched disc and longer stalk compared to the disc: up to 70% of the disc diameter.)
"...During a scientific cruise in 1986, scientists collected organisms at water depths of 400m and 1,000m on the south-east Australian continental slope, near Tasmania. But the two types of mushroom-shaped organisms were recognised only recently, after sorting of the bulk samples collected during the expedition.

" 'Finding something like this is extremely rare, it's maybe only happened about four times in the last 100 years,' said co-author Jorgen Olesen from the University of Copenhagen.

"He told BBC News: 'We think it belongs in the animal kingdom somewhere; the question is where.'..."
(Paul Rincon, BBC News)
If these things aren't animals of some sort: well, they're not all that different from other sponges jellyfish, and other two-layered critters, so they're probably animals.

They're almost certainly eukaryotes of some sort. That's an organism whose cells have a nucleus and other structures, each enclosed in membranes. Animals, plants, and fungi are eukaryotes. So are usually-single-celled critters like algae and amoebae.

Phylum, by the way, is a group of related critters, part of one of the kingdoms, having one or more classes within it. Phyla are defined either by genetic or developmental similarities, or by body plan.

Since we don't know of any other critters with a disc, a stalk, and a mouth at the end of the stalk: yeah, we're probably looking at a new phylum.

More about these critters:

1. Dimetrodon Eyes: 'The Better to See You'

(From The Field Museum, via Reuters; used w/o permission.)
("A skeleton of a Dimetrodon, an ancient relative of mammals, is shown in this handout photo provided by The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois on September 3, 2014."
"Ancient nightlife: Forebearers of mammals were nocturnal partiers"
Will Dunham, Reuters (September 3, 2014)

"A nocturnal existence is a way of life for numerous mammals, from bats that swoop through dark skies to skunks that emit their noxious spray under moonlight and majestic lions, tigers and leopards that prowl the night.

"But this love of nightlife appears to have begun much earlier than previously believed in the lineage that led to mammals - perhaps 300 million years ago - way before the first true mammals skittered under the feet of the dinosaurs about 100 million years later.

"Scientists on Wednesday said a study of fossils of small ring-shaped bones embedded in the eyes of an important group of ancient mammal relatives called synapsids indicated that many of them thrived at night or in the twilight...."
"Synapsid" means "fused arch." Synapsids have one temporal fenestra on each side of the skull, a low opening behind each eye. They first showed up about 324,000,000 years back, and are still around. All mammals and many mammal-like critters today are synapsids.

Today's mammals don't have those ring-shaped bones in our eyes. Birds have scleral ossicles, and that's yet again another topic.

Measuring scleral ossicles tells how big an animal's eye were: which gives a pretty good idea of whether they were adapted for daytime, twilight, or night. Turns out, some early synapsids had big eyes: and were probably most active at twilight, or at night. The earliest were almost certainly nocturnal.

Dimetrodon, the sail-backed critter in the photo, was one of the nocturnal synapsids. Like today's lions, these big predators hunted at night. The last I heard, scientists are still debating why dimtrodons had that sail, and that's — another topic.

More about really old eyes:

(From Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth in Dimetrodon's day: the Early Permian, about 280,000,000 years ago.)

The last dimetrodons had been dead 40,000,000 years when the first dinosaurs appeared: but like I said, synapsids are still with us. All mammals are descended from critters like dimetrodon: whales, bats, cats, and — humans.

Knowing that I come from animals like dimetrodon doesn't bother me. As a Christian, I'm aware that we're made from the stuff of this world. All that's changed in the last few centuries is how much we know about the "clay" God used. (December 13, 2013)

If you haven't had enough of my take on life, the universe, and everything; there's more:

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.