Geeky Goodness from the Fossil Huntress — Palaeo Sommelier. If you love palaeontology, you'll love this podcast. Learn about fossils, head out on palaeontological excavations and meet awesome palaeo folk in bite-size bits. You are welcome to check out the Fossil Huntress Blog ARCHEA at www.fossilhuntress.blogspot.com where you'll find musings meant to captivate, educate and inspire — plus some epic fossil photography.
Building Washington State
There was a large downpour that hit Washington State causing massive slides. The blocks you see here all came crashing down on the hillside.
Once the skies cleared, hikers found plant impressions in the rock and alerted the local paleo community. I was invited to visit just after the slide to photograph the site while George Mustoe took moulds of the palm trunks and trackways.
The slide site at Sumas Mountain revealed many large exposures of fossil plants. Some exposures were 10 feet across. There was great excitement at seeing shorebird tracks and trackways of the large flightless bird Diatryma. Many of these finds can now be seen at the Burke Museum in Washington State. While less abundant, evidence of the animals that called this ancient swamp home are also found here. Rare bird, reptile, and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the soft muds along ancient riverways.
Ktunaxa Nation Eager Formation
Ktunaxa people have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia, Canada for more than 10,000 years. On their land sits one of the outcrops of the Eager Formation, a site half a billion years old with beautifully preserved trilobites. The Ktunaxa have done a wonderful job — both in choosing this beautiful part of the world to call their home — and in being a thriving nation who share their stories, build on traditions and provide leadership and hope to us all.
Dr. Ted Danner, Professor Emeritus, UBC
In May 2001, Dr. Ted Danner, Professor Emeritus from UBC and my mentor gave a talk to the Vancouver Paleontological Society. For over fifteen years, we would meet for dinner on the third Thursday of every month. I would swing by to pick him up and we would head to his favourite restaurant for dinner.
Dinner was a delight of banter, stories and paleontological debate. Dr. Danner had a keen mind and a sharp wit. He passed away in 2012.
Wilbert R. Danner began teaching geology at UBC in 1954 and established the Beer-Pop Can-Bottle Deposit Refund Award in 1989 using proceeds from the return of bottles and cans collected on weekly scavenging treks on UBC’s Vancouver Campus.
Danner’s office was often full of cans ready to be taken to the recycling depot. He raised $46,000 from collected bottles and cans to support students before he passed away in 2012. He chose to name it the Beer-Pop Can-Bottle Deposit Refund Award to show that, over time, even small contributions can have a big impact.
“Ted taught UBC’s introductory geology course for many years,” says geologist and entrepreneur Ross Beaty, a former student of Danner and executor of his estate. “He was a quirky, enthusiastic professor who inspired many students to go into the geosciences, including myself. What a wonderful legacy he’s now left for UBC and future generations of geologists.”
Danner’s bequest endows $320,000 for the Beer-Pop Can-Bottle Deposit Refund Award, which provides two awards annually to geology students who have demonstrated aptitude in fieldwork. Another $320,000 funds the newly established Ted Danner Memorial Entrance Bursary in Geology, provided to a student entering UBC enrolled in at least one geology course.
The Gulf Islands
The Gulf Islands
Of Land and Sea
Many land animals have returned to the sea throughout evolutionary history. We have beautifully documented cases from amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals from over 30 different lineages over the past 250 million years.
Our dear penguins, seals, sea lions, walruses, whales, crocodiles and sea turtles were once entirely terrestrial. Some species dipped a toe or two into freshwater ponds, but make no mistake, they were terrestrial. Each of these animals had ancestors that tried out the sea and decided to stay. They evolved and employed a variety of adaptations to meet their new saltwater challenges. Some adapted legs as fins, others became more streamlined, and still, others developed specialized organs to extract dissolved oxygen from the water through their skin or gills. The permutations are endless.
Returning to the sea comes with a whole host of benefits but some serious challenges as well. Life at sea is very different from life on land. Water is denser than air, impacting how an animal moves, sees and hears. More importantly, it impacts an air-breathing animal's movement on a pretty frequent basis. If you need air and haven't evolved gills, you need to surface frequently. Keeping your body temperature at a homeostatic level is also a challenge as water conducts heat much better than air. Even with all of these challenges, the lure of additional food sources and freedom of movement kept those who tried the sea in the sea and they evolved accordingly.
Pterosaurs: Mesozoic Skies
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria. They soared our ancient skies during most of the Mesozoic — from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 to 66 million years ago).
By the end of the Cretaceous, they had grown to giants and one of their brethren, Quetzalcoatlus, a member of the family Azhdarchidae, boasts being the largest known flying animal that ever lived. They were the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger.
We divide their lineage into two major types: basal pterosaurs and pterodactyloids. Basal pterosaurs (also called 'non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs' or ‘rhamphorhynchoids’) were smaller animals with fully toothed jaws and long tails. Their wide wing membranes connected to their hind legs. This would have allowed them some manoeuvrability on the ground, but with an awkward sprawling posture. They were better climbers with flexible joint anatomy and strong claws. Basal pterosaurs preferred to dine on insects and small vertebrates.
Later pterosaurs (pterodactyloids) evolved many sizes, shapes, and lifestyles. Pterodactlyoids had narrower wings with free hind limbs, highly reduced tails, and long necks with large heads. On the ground, pterodactyloids walked better than their earlier counterparts, manoeuvring all four limbs smoothly with an upright posture. They walked standing plantigrade on the hind feet and folding the wing finger upward to walk on the three-fingered "hand."
These later pterosaurs were more nimble. They could take off from the ground, run and wade and swim. Their jaws had horny beaks and some of these later groups lacked the teeth of earlier lineages. Some groups developed elaborate head crests that were likely used to attract mates' sexy-pterosaur style.