Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reports of gut contents in herbivorous dinosaurs

I generally avoid writing "nuts and bolts" posts about dinosaurs, because there's a lot of people already doing that who know what they're doing. There is, however, one topic on which I'm uniquely qualified to pontificate. In a previous lifetime I was a fresh-faced graduate student who wrote his thesis on possible gut contents in the "Leonardo" specimen of Brachylophosaurus. As such, I spent a fair amount of time considering the history of possible gut contents in herbivorous dinosaurs, which consists of an exclusive club populated by four hadrosaurs, one ankylosaur, and one sauropod. In retrospect, the Leonardo project was somewhat beyond my powers, but I battled on against overwhelming oddities and came out of it eventually. (For you folks playing along at home, by "herbivorous dinosaurs" I mean more or less classic dinosaurs that aren't theropods. I've got nothing against birds, which include many a herbivorous dinosaur, but they aren't why I got interested in these things, and I don't feel sentimental about them being dinosaurs, because "my" dinosaurs are almost all ornithischians and have all been dead for 66 million years.)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Historic Twin Cities geologic maps and photos

I've been a bit busy lately, so no full post, but here are some historical geologic images and maps of the Twin Cities, 1877–1941. Enjoy!

A map of the surficial geology of Minneapolis and western St. Paul, from Winchell (1877). Note "Finn's Glen" at the end of Summit Avenue, today's Shadow Falls. Also note Bassett's Creek in Minneapolis, once a major waterway but now built over. Some now-defunct quarries and waterfalls are also marked. As far as I know, this and the other maps included here are the oldest published geologic maps for their respective areas.

Small quarries of Platteville stone once dotted the Twin Cities. This is a fairly late example, pictured in Sardeson (1916). Kansan till refers to a now-obsolete system of glacial episodes

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hyoliths and Scenella

One of the aspects of Paleozoic fossils you learn to appreciate is just how many groups had a brief moment in the sun and then disappeared. I'm not just talking about famous things, like trilobites or ammonites (which saved their best for the Mesozoic, of course). You couldn't wade around in an Ordovician sea without crushing or disturbing something that has no living relatives. In fact, given the diminutive size of most of these things, you would probably endanger an entire fauna with each step, so by all means be careful next time you happen to swing by the Ordovician. Today's spotlight shines on two groups that hang around the fringes of Mollusca, and which show up in small numbers in the Ordovician of the Twin Cities: the hyoliths and scenellids.