Saturday, October 25, 2014

Designasaurus II

The year is 1990. The Yankees are terrible, the Berlin Wall has just fallen, dinosaurs are still walking around without feathers, and this type of introduction is not yet a cliche. Edutainment titles are a firmly established genre, and it is only natural that dinosaurs are represented. Among the prehistoric-centric titles is Designasaurus II, which proves to be fairly durable as these things go...

...And suddenly we wake up, and it is back to 2014 (or, I suppose, later, depending on when you read this), and there have been no floppy disk drives for a decade, and your computer will react as if you tried to command it in Etruscan if you try to play Designasaurus II. However, through the magic of DOSBox, it is possible to bring old bones back to life. Designasaurus II has been reviewed in recent times from the perspective of gamers. How does it fare when viewed from a paleontological perspective, by someone who remembers playing it when it was still fairly new?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rostroconchs: Paleozoic taco shells

The Paleozoic was full of invertebrate groups that didn't quite hack it. The kings of extinct invertebrates are, of course, trilobites. The next tier down, widely known to paleontologists, geologists, and fossil collectors, is where we find things like tabulate corals, rugose corals, and eurypterids ("sea scorpions"). Then there are some that linger in obscurity; the aglaspids (Cambrian critters that were something like trilobites with poor-quality horseshoe crab disguises), for example, or cyclocystoids (disc-like echinoderms), which of this writing don't even have a Wikipedia article. Rostroconchs are another group that hangs out near the aglaspid/cyclocystoid end of the scale.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

National Fossil Day 2014

Here in the States, the leaves are turning color, the GSA/SVP conference season is at the doorstep, and National Fossil Day is upon us. This event occurs on the Wednesday of Earth Science Week, fittingly enough, which this year is the 15th. National Fossil Day includes a number of local events across the country, although not all of them are on Wednesday; for example, in the Twin Cities, early readers might be able to catch a fossil and geology event at Coldwater Spring from 9 to noon on Saturday the 11th (and the weather's looking good, too, which is a bonus for mid-October in Minnesota; last year we held a fossil and geology walk the Saturday after National Fossil Day, and just after we finished we had a downpour of ice pellets). If you're unable to get to Coldwater Spring, are busy that day, or would prefer an indoor event, the Science Museum of Minnesota is holding Fossil Day on Saturday the 18th. Of course, there are also plenty of places along the bluffs if you'd just like to spend some time among the fossils in their natural setting before it gets too cold. The flagship events are held in Washington, D.C. In previous years events were held on the National Mall, but because of construction they have been shifted to the National Museum of Natural History. If you're in D.C., I also recommend checking out the building stone as you're walking around; the city has an excellent fossil record on display.

You might think this is an armored dinosaur, but it's actually an aetosaur, a Triassic offshoot of the group that includes crocodilians. The story behind the logo can be found here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A brief history of dinosaurs on the Internet

Thescelosaurus! [now itself extinct since April 2015] appeared on October 7, 1999, under the auspices of a University of St. Thomas student program. 15 years and two changes of address later, it has gone from a shameless imitation of an early version of The Dinosauricon to one of the last sites standing from an earlier epoch in Internet paleontology. 15 years ago, someone interested in dinosaurs would usually hear news first on the Dinosaur Mailing List, and would then find it incorporated into any of a number of personal information sites. Today, that same person may still be a follower of the DML, but they will often hop onto Wikipedia and find the article on the latest new genus, or stop by their favorite blogs, or check the social media chatter. In honor of a site that in all likelihood has outlived most actual thescelosaurs, here's a brief exploration of dinosaur information on the Internet.