Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Food for thought: Omnivore’s dilemma

In case you pay attention to the latest paleontology news, there’s been a lot of publicity towards the ever-growing case for giant flightless birds being herbivores. Isotope analysis done on the Eocene Gastornis and Pleistocene Genyornis suggest diets high in fruits (for Gastornis) and grass (Genyornis), overturning the long-held assumption of them as predators.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00114-014-1158-2 So that’s that, it seems; we made a mistake, and now these brilliant scientists have demoted these terrifying runners into placid, docile browsers according to the headlines.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00114-014-1158-2

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Documentary Review: Walking With Monsters 2005

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally time we finish the “Walking With” trilogy. True, there’s the three Chased by Dinosaurs specials and Allosaurus and Walking With Cavemen, but this one is the closest to the original in terms of structure.  It’s very different, however, in many ways, from running time to presentation. It’s certainly ambitious and explores much-neglected times and places in prehistory. People often forget that these periods existed, and only the trilobite, Dimetrodon, and possibly Meganuera as familiar to most of the public. They’ve always played second fiddle to dinosaurs, so much that Dimetrodon is more often placed with dinosaurs than with fellow Pelycosaurs. It’s telling that in the former exhibit Life Over Time, there was a corridor visitors could take to bypass the entire Palaeozoic and go straight to the dinosaurs (thankfully, Evolving Planet does not). It’s certainly the longest in terms of time periods covered, while it’s much shorter in running time: at 90 minutes, it’s half the length of the first two.  So without further ado, let’s look at the prehistoric clip show to see how they can deal with 280 million years of evolution in one and a half hours.