This Mesozoic Month: March 2017

Well. That was a month, eh? Before we dive into this wild lunar cycle of paleontological action, I'll put out one more call: if you are a paleoartist and you haven't taken the 2017 Survey of Paleoartists, do it! It's easy and won't take too long.

In the News

Ornithoscelida. This is the name given new clade consisting of ornithischia and theropoda, according to a new phylogenetic study by Matthew Baron with Paul Barrett and David Norman. This new model proposes that the sauropodomorphs and theropods aren't quite as closely related as we've thought, with saurischia redefined to be sauropodomorpha + hererrasauridae. Many interesting implications here. Let's see how is pans out over time. Read more from Darren Naish at TetZoo, Ed Yong at the Atlantic, and Pete Bucholz at Earth Archives.

Anchiornis plus lasers! New research using the technique of laser-stimulated fluorescence has "fleshed out" the little-dinobird-that-could, confirming some hypotheses about soft tissue anatomy in paravians and throwing in some surprises, to boot (no pun intended, but the foot integument has stoked conversation online). Read more from Scott Hartman at Skeletal Drawing, Andrea Cau at Theropoda, and NatGeo.

Want more dinobird soft tissue, eh? A newly described, remarkable specimen of Confuciusornis has been found to preserve soft tissue features of the ankle and foot. "Microscopic analyses of these tissues indicate that they include tendons or ligaments, fibrocartilages and articular cartilages, with microstructure evident at the cellular level. Further chemical analyses reveal that even some of the original molecular residues of these soft tissues may remain, such as fragments of amino acids from collagen, particularly in the fibrocartilage." The authors conclude that Confuciusornis represents a transitional state between the leg posture of ancestral theropods and modern birds. Read the Nature Communications paper and the release from Bristol University.

Daspletosaurus isn't left out of the March integument madness. A new species of the tyrant, D. horneri, has been described by Thomas Carr, based on fossils that have been long awaiting description. Another new tyrannosaur, big whoop, right? Well, this one has major implications for restorations of these Cretaceous poster children. Carr and team studied an extremely well preserved specimen, determining that the face was covered by large scales like those of modern crocodiles, and had no lips. Furthermore, the face was supplied with a powerful web of nerves, making it highly sensitive. Read more from Phys Org, Science, and Eurekalert. Already lots of critiques popping up, but of course we'll have to see what pops up in further publications.

The Burmese amber strikes back. This time, mid-Cretaceous amber containing platycnemid damselflies shows evidence of courtship behavior. The insects possessed the enlarged tibiae of their modern relatives. It's a pretty stunning find, and thankfully the private collector who purchased the amber provided it to scientists so it could be published. Read more at Phys Org and Cosmos.

In the discovered-but-not-described bin, another titanic Mesozoic penguin from New Zealand. This new one is about as large as the largest ancient penguins and was found a few meters above the discovery site of Waimanu manneringi, most ancient of the proud lineage. Read more at Laelaps from Brian Switek.

New research has compared the lower jaws of a whole bunch of therizinosaurs to better understand the feeding adaptations of the various species. Read more about it from Albertonykus at Raptormaniacs.

A late Jurassic turtle has been found to have the ability to retract its neck into its shell. Read more on Platychelys from Jon Tennant at PLOS Paleo Community.

Finally, this one seemed to get buried in the press in February, so I'm including it this month, thanks to Ashley Hall calling attention to it. An absolutely gorgeous new fossil of Eoconfuciusornis from the Yixian Formation, preserving soft tissue of the ovaries and wing.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Writing for Palaeontology Online, Elsa Panciroli provides a comprehensive overview of the earliest mammals.

C.M. Kosemen is back on Youtube! Check out his first entry in his rebooted series, in which he tells the Parable of Darth Atopodentatus the Wise.

Luis V. Rey offers an intriguing look at Yehuecauhceratops, restoring it with big, fleshy nostrils.

On Discover's "Dead Things" blog, Gemma Tarlach is profiling up-and-coming paleontologists. The first profile in the series is all about Sanaa El-Sayed and one heck of a big catfish.

Over at the Paleo-King blog, Nima has estimated how much time a sauropod would have to spend eating each day.

Did you hear about all of the new coelurosaurian Monopoly pieces? A penguin, a rubber duck, and a so-so Tyrannosaurus rex. Read more at Everything Dinosaur.

Want to fight back against anti-science forces? At the SciAm guest blog, Jonathan Foley and Christine Arena have some ideas.

Jordan Mallon shared his most-overlooked paper with Dave Hone in an installment of the "Buried Treasure" series. Read more about "Taphonomy and habitat preference of North American pachycephalosaurids" over at Archosaur Musings.

At Mary Anning's Revenge, Meaghan and Amy shared a couple of their recent paleo talks. Check out the vids, do it.

One of my favorite podcasts is In Defense of Plants, so I was extra excited to see that Dr. Caroline Strömberg stopped by to talk paleobotany. She discusses her specialty in researching phytoliths, silica particles produced by certain plants, and gives a wonderful overview of the science.

At New Views on Old Bones, Paul Barrett has been writing about an expedition to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, in search of Early Jurassic fossils. Check out parts one, two, and the recently published finale.

Duane writes about "the longest tenured and most successful marine tetrapod family of all time," the plesiosaurs, at Antediluvian Salad.

Some good posts on female paleontologists for Women's History Month: Learn about American paleontologist Mignon Talbot at the Tetanurae Guy and read about Mary Anning from Fernanda Castano.

The Empty Wallets Club

Cover for Abby Howard's book, Dinosaur Empire

Comic artist Abby Howard (Junior Scientist Power Hour) announced her new book, Dinosaur Empire!, due to be released in August by Amulet Books. It looks amazing - a trip through the entire Mesozoic, with fauna that clearly is based on contemporary science. Check out her announcement comic, and then preorder it!

Cover for Steve White's book, Dinosaur Art 2

Dinosaur Art, the 2012 paleoart book edited by Steve White and published by Titan Books, was such a big deal that we dedicated a whole week to it. The book got a lot of press, but I think it's fair to say that LITC provided the most in-depth analysis you'll find, as each contributor to the blog provided a review, and we published an interview with White. So LITC is pretty excited that its sequel is coming this October! This time, we'll be treated to the work of Willoughby, Witton, Lacerda, Atuchin, and more.

Tyrannosaurus rex illustration by Raven Amos with text saying Science Made Dinosaurs Awesome!
Raven Amos has added another terrific design to her NeatoShop storefront, taking direct aim at the myopic, small-minded, backwards-thinking, and utterly annoying "science ruined dinosaurs" crowd. Science made dinosaurs awesome!

Book cover for Patrick Murphy's Dinosaurs A-Z: Dinosaur Classics
Illustrator Patrick Murphy has released his first book, an introduction to dinosaurs for kids 9 and up. Order it here!

The LITC AV Club

Wound up with more videos than usual, so why not give them their own special section?

Here's short n' sweet PBS News Hour feature on Julius Csotonyi's paleaort. Thanks to Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (and Palaeoblog) for giving big ups to paleoart.

Larry Witmer talks about a sweet, sweet Triceratops brain endocast.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum's speaker series recently featured Peter Larson, who spoke on his research tracking theropod diversity and disparity in the late Cretaceous.

Filmmaker Lexi Marsh is challenging "a lost legacy" with The Bearded Lady Project. Her 20 minute short film, focusing on Dr. Ellen Currano, debuted early this month at the University of Wyoming at Laramie. Read Carolyn Gramling's great interview with Marsh at Science. Check out the trailer above, too.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs has just embarked on another field trip to educate the children of Mongolia about their country's priceless natural heritage. They can always use donations to fund their efforts, or you can visit their shop and pick up a shirt, mug, or print to support them.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

I am a fan of Joschua Knüppe's naturalistic paleoartwork, and when I saw his latest pterosaur illustration for Pteros, I immediately asked for permission to feature it here. Gegepterus changi is a ctenochasmatid pterosaur hailing from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation.

Gegepterus changi, illustrated by Joschua Knüppe, and shared here with the artist's permission.

Read more about lil' G at Pteros. Keep up with Joschua at DeviantArt and Facebook.

Thinking Outside the Box with Eyeshadows

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog. If you see this post elsewhere, it has been stolen.*

When I am not blogging and have free time, I love to play with makeup!  Mostly eye makeup. In fact, I LOVE EYE MAKEUP more than any OTHER COSMETIC PRODUCT! Eye makeup transforms the face since they are the windows to the soul.

I beg you, click to read more »

London Zoo Part II: Happy Families, Into Africa, and Birds

Near the Rainforest Life/Nightlife building at the London Zoo is a section known as "Happy Families", probably because the species that it exhibits are all gregarious.

This is an Alaotran bamboo lemur. Despite being a bamboo lemur, it feeds mainly on reeds rather than bamboo. In the wild it has an extremely restricted distribution even for a lemur, only found around parts of Lake Alaotra.

Some Asian small-clawed otters. Though this species is ubiquitous in zoos (to the fatigue of some regular zoogoers), they were so cooperative during my visit that I couldn't help but snap a few photos.

Their exhibit is quite well-decorated, too.

Also in the same general area of the zoo is Into Africa, essentially the obligatory spotlight on charismatic African megafauna. To its credit, there are a few relatively rarely-seen species on display, such as this okapi.

Additionally, spot the red forest duiker!

Naturally, however, I was most interested in seeing the zoo's bird collection, so I headed to the northern edge of the zoo where there several species are exhibited. Unfortunately, due to recent reports of avian influenza in Europe, the zoo's walkthrough aviaries (of which there are several) were closed during my visit. Regardless, I was able to photograph this green peafowl from outside one of the aviaries.

A tawny frogmouth, which resembles a broken tree branch when at rest and a Muppet when wide awake.

An Edwards's pheasant.

Some northern white-faced owls, which have gained some fame as the "transformer owl".

In fact, here is one in its "camouflage pose".

Some northern red bishops, a type of weaverbird.

Baking Soda Mouthwash (Teeth Whitening)

The benefits of using baking soda in the mouth, and a simple recipe for teeth whitening at home.

1. Nowadays there are many products available to whiten the teeth and clean the mouth however many of these contain harmful chemicals and additives.

2. Baking soda has been used since ancient times as a natural remedy for all kinds of health problems.

3. It is known for its anti-bacterial properties. This can help to clear tartar from the teeth and destroy plaque.

4. It is also a mild natural bleach which will whiten the teeth when used as a mouthwash, or added to toothpaste.

5. Hydrogen peroxide is also a natural liquid which can be purchased easily online.  This helps to whiten the teeth more quickly and can be used with today’s recipe.

6. The following recipe should be used twice per week for the best results.

You Will Need

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
250ml of Hydrogen Peroxide (3 Percent Solution)
250ml Warm Water


Firstly mix the baking soda and salt with a drop of warm water. Dip your toothbrush in this and brush the teeth well  for 3 minutes. Be sure to brush each and every tooth.

Next, mix the hydrogen peroxide and warm water and use this as a mouthwash. Be sure to pull the liquid through the teeth and swish around the mouth for 1-2 minutes and then spit this out. Do not swallow the liquid.

Finally use the toothpicks to remove any remaining plaque or tartar in the teeth as a final touch up.

7. You will soon begin to notice your teeth becoming healthier, and whiter in no time

8. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day to maintain good oral health, and prevent cavities.

9. You can also use ground egg shells to make a slightly more abrasive toothpaste. I recommend taking a daily multivitamin to keep the teeth strong. 

10. You can also use crushed egg shell to make a slightly more abrasive toothpaste, and be sure to take a daily supplement of vitamin K to prevent cavities.

11. To learn more about natural remedies and healthy foods, please see our other videos.

It's Utahraptor Week

We've talked about the Utahraptor Project a few times here at LITC, and three weeks ago we launched our latest art challenge to help promote it. To help combine efforts to spread the word about Jim Kirkland's crowdfunding effort to free those dinosaurs from that slab of rock, this week has been declared Utahraptor week, thanks to the Earth Archives/ Studio 252MYA crew. Check out the #utahraptorweek hashtag on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and help spread the word by using it yourself and sharing others' posts.

Here are a couple videos about this pretty awesome discovery: Jim Kirkland tells the story of the find and National Geographic depicts the effort it took to move the block o' raptors from its original site of discovery.

To help support this research:

2017 Survey of Paleoartists: One Week Left!

Just a quick note: there's one week left to respond to the 2017 Survey of Paleoartists. If you missed my earlier post on the survey, please read it to learn more. And head to to take it! It will only take a few minutes, and is relevant for hobbyist and professional alike.

A look at the results so far is pretty interesting, and I look forward to publishing what we find out. So far, we've had 331 respondents from 33 countries. If you're a paleoartist, please add your voice, and share the link far and wide.

London Zoo Part I: Rainforest Life and Nightlife

London Zoo is situated within a large park with abundant opportunities for birding. Here a mute swan browses from a waterside tree.

A European green woodpecker, a lifer for me. This species is ecologically similar to the North American northern flicker, which I'm more familiar with. Both woodpecker species forage mainly for ants on the ground.

I had to restrain myself from spending too much time on birdwatching in the park, but I eventually made it to the zoo.

My first stop was the exhibit closest to the zoo's main entrance, the aquarium. It has a nice collection with many rarely-seen fish species, but it is so dimly-lit that getting any decent photos was a real struggle. My only fish photo taken there that is remotely presentable was of this white-eyed moray.

There is also a poignant display on plastic pollution.

Next, I headed to the Rainforest Life/Nightlife building. Half of this building (the "Rainforest Life" half) is a walkthrough rainforest exhibit where monkeys, sloths, and tamanduas roam freely. Some of the branches in the exhibit are arranged so that the animals can (and do) venture close right overhead or next to the visitors. Here is an emperor tamarin keeping its distance for the time being.

Most surprising to me, however, were the narrow-striped bokies kept in a glass-fronted display on the side of the walkway. Though commonly called the narrow-striped mongoose (including by the exhibit signage), the narrow-striped boky is no longer considered a true mongoose, but a separate radiation of carnivorans endemic to Madagascar. I must have taken around thirty photos of them trying to get a good shot.

The other half of the building (the "Nightlife" half) is a nocturnal exhibit. I'd heard that Panay cloudrunners could be seen here, but, to some slight disappointment, they didn't appear to be on display when I visited.

I did, however, have a great time watching some other rodents present, namely the rakalis. Not only were they a first for me, they are an interesting species in themselves, being the largest Australian rodents. As placentals living in a land of marsupials, rakalis have taken on the role of semi-aquatic predators, a niche that hasn't been exploited by Australian marsupials. They have a decently-sized pool with underwater viewing at the London Zoo, though I didn't see them use it. Regardless, their terrestrial antics were plenty entertaining enough. As is typical of nocturnal houses, my attempted photos turned out less than stellar.

I also received another opportunity to get pictures of Malagasy giant jumping rats. Not there yet...

Say what? It is possible to get halfway decent pictures at nocturnal exhibits? It helps, naturally, when the subject of the photo is one that spends a significant amount of time not moving around much, such as this gray slender loris.

Okra: Health Benefits

The health benefits and uses of Okra also known as ladies fingers.

1. Okra is a delicious green vegetable which has some excellent health properties and is used as a natural medicine. 

2. It is very popular in southern America, but is used all over the world in delicious meals. It is sometimes known as ladies fingers, gumbo or ochro.

3. This has been used since ancient times, most notably by Cleopatra a powerful female Egyptian ruler around 2000 years ago.

4. It contains some fantastic nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, folic acid, magnesium, fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and A.

5. One of the proteins in this vegetable is called lectin. This has been scientifically tested and kills breast cancer cells, and slows cancer growth by 63 percent.

6. Okra is a simply fantastic source of calcium, which helps to regulate your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

7. The excellent amount of pectin in this vegetable can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, by lowering bad cholesterol levels. This also helps you to maintain a healthy heart. 

8. It can reduce the risk of bowel cancer, and can be used to lubricate the large intestines and get rid of constipation. This is a great alternative to laxative drugs.

9. In the Congo they were traditionally used to help pregnant women have a safe delivery.

10. The root of the okra plant is also said to have medicinal properties. In fact, it has been used in South-East Asia as a natural remedy for syphilis. 

11. Eating okra regularly also has anti-depressant effects, and can be used to boost the mood and make you feel happier. 

12. It is used by many Olympic athletes because of its large range of health benefits. These super fit individuals have to stay healthy and energised at all times.

13. It contains polysaccharides which have been shown to have the effect of Viagra, without the need for artificial drugs. This can increase sexual drive and stamina also.

14. It has been used in traditional medicine to control blood sugar levels for those with diabetes. In turkey the seeds would be roasted and eaten, but nowadays okra water is usually made. Please see our video titled Okra for Diabetes for more information.  

15. Okra can have a bitter taste if not prepared properly. It is usually boiled, but can also be steamed, fried or eaten raw.

16. It often used in delicious soups, stews, curries and salads especially in South America. 

17. When growing Okra yourself, it’s beast to remove the lower leaves of the plant after the first harvest. This causes more growth.

18. Older okra pods may be too bitter, so it is recommended to eat them when young. However, the seeds of mature pods can be roasted and ground to make a coffee alternative.

19. The seeds are also used to make a delicious cooking oil in many Mediterranean countries. 

20. In Turkey the leaves of the plant are often mashed and used as a paste to treat skin inflammation. 

How Therizinosaurs Nibbled and Munched

That new Anchiornis paper is quite something, isn't it? Everyone else is talking about it, so I don't have to, but check it out if you haven't already.

Instead, I will discuss another recent paper about a different group of maniraptors, the unusual therizinosaurs. Since 2012, a series of publications on the functional biology of therizinosaurs, primarily authored by Stephan Lautenschlager, have contributed greatly to demystifying these bizarre herbivorous theropods. (A selection of these papers are linked in the preceding sentence, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.)

These previous papers have largely focused on the therizinosaur Erlikosaurus from the Late Cretaceous Bayan Shireh Formation in Mongolia, a sensible choice given that this genus has the best-preserved skull material of all known therizinosaurs. The new study, also conducted by Lautenschlager, takes the logical next step by asking: how does Erlikosaurus compare to other therizinosaurs?

Phylogeny of therizinosaurs with digital models of the lower jaws of taxa used in the analysis, from Lautenschlager (in press).

To answer this question, Lautenschlager digitally modeled the lower jaws of other therizinosaur taxa, including Falcarius, Jianchangosaurus, Beipiaosaurus, Alxasaurus, and Segnosaurus, and subjected the models to finite element analysis (FEA). Under FEA, stress (force per unit area) experienced by the jaw under different simulated feeding conditions could be calculated, as could relative bite force. The different feeding scenarios tested were biting using one side of the jaw at different tooth positions, biting using both sides of the jaw at different tooth positions, clipping using the tip of the jaw, pulling an object upwards, pulling an object downwards, and pulling an object sideways.

The results of finite element analysis simulating potential feeding behaviors in different therizinosaur taxa, from Lautenschlager (in press).

It is worthy to note that this study did not calculate the absolute bite force of these therizinosaurs, only their relative bite forces. In other words, instead of estimating how strong a bite the therizinosaurs were actually capable of generating, the study estimated which therizinosaur could generate the highest bite force if all of them exerted the same amount of force with their jaw muscles.

With that in mind, what did the results say? It turns out of the taxa tested, Falcarius and Alxasaurus had, on average, the highest relative bite forces. This is consistent with the idea that Falcarius was more omnivorous than other therizinosaurs and may have still fed on some animal prey. Alxasaurus has also been interpreted as a more generalist forager than other therizinosaurs on the basis of its claw morphology, so having a relatively high bite force may have increased the variety of foodstuffs it could feed on.

On the other hand, the results indicated that Falcarius and Alxasaurus would have experienced greater amounts of stress during feeding than other therizinosaurs, whereas Erlikosaurus and Beipiaosaurus would have experienced the least. Additionally, all therizinosaurs would have experienced less stress while pulling items downwards compared to pulling upwards or sideways, suggesting that they habitually fed at or above head level. However, Erlikosaurus and Segnosaurus were more suited to pulling objects sideways than other therizinosaurs. What appears to have made the difference in this case is that Erlikosaurus and Segnosaurus both had a downturned lower jaw.

This is an interesting result considering that a downturned lower jaw has independently evolved in other herbivorous dinosaurs. The unusual ceratosaur Limusaurus even gained one during growth (in addition to losing its teeth)! This study confirms that such a jaw would have been advantageous for herbivores by helping to mitigate stress while feeding. A similar adaptive benefit has been attributed to the widespread presence of a beak in herbivorous dinosaurs (including therizinosaurids).

Among the taxa studied, Erlikosaurus and Segnosaurus were contemporaneous with one another, suggesting there may have been niche partitioning between them. This is supported by the study: Segnosaurus had relatively higher bite forces (as well as probably higher absolute bite forces, considering its larger size) and may have been able to feed on tougher plants, but Erlikosaurus experienced less stress during feeding and may have been able to use a greater variety of feeding methods. Though not discussed in the paper, one wonders whether the same was true of Jianchangosaurus and Beipiaosaurus, both found in the Yixian Formation. Here, however, the differences are less explicit: Beipiaosaurus experienced lower stresses while feeding, but both had similar relative bite forces.

Reference: Lautenschlager, S. In press. Functional niche partitioning in Therizinosauria provides new insights into the evolution of theropod herbivory. Palaeontology in press. doi: 10.1111/pala.12289

Makeupdrop: Beauty Blender of Silicone Sponges

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog. If you see this post elsewhere, it has been stolen.*
*PR sample*

Silicone sponges are proliferating the beauty market and they appear to be a serious makeup tool for well-established makeup artists.  Why not? Silicone sponges are easy to clean and they use less makeup.  They definitely last longer than the average liquid soaking sponge.  But what makes one silicone sponge different from the other?  I didn't know until I tried the Makeupdrop.

I beg you, click to read more »

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Although I am not in love with the politics of liberal journalist Fareed Zakariah, I very much liked what he had to say about a liberal arts education at the 2014 commencement at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers.  I commend it to you:

You are graduating from Sarah Lawrence, the quintessential liberal arts college, at an interesting moment in history—when the liberal arts are, honestly, not very cool. You all know what you’re supposed to be doing these days—study computer science, code at night, start a company, and take it public. Or, if you want to branch out, you could major in mechanical engineering. What you’re not supposed to do is get a liberal arts education.

This is not really a joke anymore. The governors of Texas, Florida and North Carolina have announced that they do not intend to spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts. Florida Governor Rick Scott asks, “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” Even President Obama recently urged students to keep in mind that a technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history. Majors like English, once very popular and highly respected, are in steep decline.

I can well understand the concerns about liberal arts because I grew up in India in the 1960s and 1970s. A technical training was seen as the key to a good career. People who studied the liberal arts were either weird or dumb. (Or they were women because, sadly, in those days, the humanities was seen as an appropriate training for an aspiring housewife but not for a budding professional). If you were bright, you studied science, so I did. I even learned computer programming—in India in the 1970s! When I came to the United States for college, I brought with me that mindset. In my first year at Yale, I took a bunch of science and math courses. But I also took one course in the history of the Cold War. That course woke me up and made me recognize what I really loved. I dove into history and English and politics and economics and have stayed immersed in them ever since.

In thinking about my own path, I hope to give you some sense of the value of a liberal education. But first, a point of clarification. A liberal education has nothing to do with “liberal” in the left-right sense. Nor does it ignore the sciences. From the time of the Greeks, physics and biology and mathematics have been as integral to it as history and literature. For my own part, I have kept alive my interest in math and science to this day.

A liberal education—as best defined by Cardinal Newman in 1854—is a “broad exposure to the outlines of knowledge” for its own sake, rather than to acquire skills to practice a trade or do a job. There were critics even then, the 19th Century, who asked, Newman tells us, “To what then does it lead? Where does it end? How does it profit?" Or as the president of Yale, the late Bart Giamatti, asked in one of his beautiful lectures, “what is the earthly use of a liberal education?”

I could point out that a degree in art history or anthropology often requires the serious study of several languages and cultures, an ability to work in foreign countries, an eye for aesthetics, and a commitment to hard work—all of which might be useful in any number of professions in today’s globalized age. And I might point out to Governor Scott that it could be in the vital interests of his state in particular to have on hand some anthropologists to tell Floridians a few things about the other 99.5% of humanity.

But for me, the most important earthly use of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough. I realized that coming from India, I was pretty good at taking tests, at regurgitating stuff I had memorized, but not so good at expressing my own ideas. Over the course of that semester, I found myself beginning to make the connection between thought and word.

I know I’m supposed to say that a liberal education teaches you to think but thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. The columnist Walter Lippmann, when asked his thoughts on a particular topic, is said to have replied, “I don’t know what I think on that one. I haven’t written about it yet.”  There is, in modern philosophy, a great debate as to which comes first—thought or language. I have nothing to say about it. All I know is that when I begin to write, I realize that my “thoughts” are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them. It is the act of writing that forces me to think through them and sort them out. Whether you are a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant, or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and brings clarity and order to your ideas.

If you think this has no earthly use, ask Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Bezos insists that his senior executives write memos—often as long as six printed pages—and begins senior management meetings with a period of quiet time—sometimes as long as 30 minutes—while everyone reads the memos and makes notes on them. Whatever you will do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and—I would add—quickly will prove to be an invaluable skill. And it is, in many ways, the central teaching of a liberal education.

The second great advantage of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to speak and speak your mind. One of the other contrasts that struck me between school in India and college in America was that an important part of my grade was talking. My professors were going to judge me on the process of thinking through the subject matter and presenting my analysis and conclusions—out loud. The seminar, which is in many ways at the heart of a liberal education—and at the heart of this college—teaches you to read, analyze, dissect, and above all to express yourself. And this emphasis on being articulate is reinforced in the many extra-curricular activities that surround every liberal arts college—theater, debate, political unions, student government, protest groups. You have to get peoples’ attention and convince them of your cause.

Speaking clearly and concisely is a big advantage in life. You have surely noticed that whenever someone from Britain talks in a class, he gets five extra points just for the accent. In fact, British education—and British life—has long emphasized and taught public speaking through a grand tradition of poetry recitation and elocution, debate and declamation. It makes a difference—but the accent does help, too.

The final strength of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to learn. I now realize that the most valuable thing I picked up in college and graduate school was not a specific set of facts or a piece of knowledge but rather how to acquire knowledge. I learned how to read an essay closely, find new sources, search for data so as to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and figure out whether an author was trustworthy. I learned how to read a book fast and still get its essence. And most of all, I learned that learning was a pleasure, a great adventure of exploration.

Whatever job you take, I guarantee that the specific stuff you have learned at college—whatever it is—will prove mostly irrelevant or quickly irrelevant. Even if you learned to code but did it a few years ago, before the world of apps, you would have to learn anew. And given the pace of change that is transforming industries and professions these days, you will need that skill of learning and retooling all the time.

These are a liberal education’s strengths and they will help you as you move through your working life. Of course, if you want professional success, you will have to put in the hours, be disciplined, work well with others, and get lucky. But that would be true for anyone, even engineers.

I kid of course. Remember, I grew up in India. Some of my best friends are engineers. And honestly, I have enormous admiration for engineers and technologists and doctors and accountants. But what we must all recognize is that education is not a zero sum game. Technical skills don’t have to be praised at the expense of humanities. Computer science is not better than art history. Society needs both—often in combination. If you don’t believe me, believe Steve Jobs who said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts—married to the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

That marriage—between technology and the liberal arts—is now visible everywhere. Twenty years ago, tech companies might have been industrial product manufacturers. Today they have to be at the cutting edge of design, marketing, and social networking. Many other companies also focus much of their attention on these fields, since manufacturing is increasingly commoditized and the value-add is in the brand, how it is imagined, presented, sold, and sustained. And then there is America’s most influential industry, which exports its products around the world—entertainment, which is driven at its core by stories, pictures, and drawings. (Did I mention that Julianna Margulies was offered $27 million?)

You will notice that so far I have spoken about ways that a liberal education can get you a job or be valuable in your career. That’s important but it is not its only virtue. You need not just a good job but also a good life. Reading a great novel, exploring a country’s history, looking at great art and architecture, making the connection between math and music—all these are ways to enrich and ennoble your life. In the decades to come, when you become a partner and then a parent, make friends, read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, see a play, lead a conversation, those experiences will be shaped and deepened by your years here.

A liberal education makes you a good citizen. The word liberal comes from the Latin liber, which means “free.” At its essence, a liberal education is an education to free the mind from dogma, from controls, from constraints. It is an exercise in freedom. That is why America’s founding fathers believed so passionately in its importance. Benjamin Franklin—the most practical of all the founders, and a great entrepreneur and inventor in his own right—proposed a program of study for the University of Pennsylvania that is essentially a liberal arts education. Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph does not mention that he was president of the United States. It proudly notes that he founded the University of Virginia, another quintessential liberal arts college. 

But there is a calling even higher than citizenship; ultimately, a liberal education is about being human. More than two thousand years ago, the great Roman philosopher, lawyer, and politician Cicero explained why it was important that we study for its own sake—not to acquire a skill or trade, but as an end unto itself. We do it, he said, because that is what makes us human: It is in our nature that “we are all drawn to the pursuit of knowledge.” It is what separates us from animals. Ever since we rose out of the mud, we have been on a quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe and to search for truth and beauty.

So, as you go out into the world, don’t let anyone make you feel stupid or indulgent in having pursued your passion and studied the liberal arts. You are heirs to one of the greatest traditions in human history, one that has uncovered the clockwork of the stars, created works of unimaginable beauty, and organized societies of amazing productivity. In continuing this tradition you are strengthening the greatest experiment in social organization, democracy. And above all, you are feeding the most basic urge of the human spirit—to know.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2014, Godspeed.


Let’s think together again, soon.

Source: Fareed Zakaria, commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, 2014, available online at:

Canadian paleontologists tell their stories in "Dino Trails"

A great new series of short documentaries on Canadian paleontology was just released on YouTube by TELUS Optik. "Dino Trails," a project by filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk, kicks off with a profile of Phil Currie and Eva Koppelhus. This episode also features our own Victoria Arbour, who talks a bit about our favorite clobberin' thyreophorans. Subsequent episodes give a chance to see the Suncor nodosaur in prep, tag along on a fossil hunt with Wendy Sloboda of Wendiceratops fame, and spend a nice chunk of time with the Tumbler Ridge dinosaur tracks, featuring friend of LITC Lisa Buckley. And so much more!

I appreciated Yanchyk's focus on the stories of discovery, study, and the people who do it. As researchers tell their stories, a running theme of the importance of protecting our fossil heritage emerges, and they offer impassioned arguments for their various fields of study. Sit back and enjoy!

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Private Lives of Animals: Prehistoric Animals - Part 1

It Came From the 1970s! Originally published in Italy in 1971, Prehistoric Animals is part of the Privates Lives of Animals series, which otherwise featured entirely extant wildlife. When I posted a little something from this book on Facebook, it quickly became apparent that a number of people, including palaeontologists and artists, remember this book very fondly from their childhoods. It isn't surprising - the art in this book combines a surprisingly high level of technical proficiency with flagrant Knight/Zallinger/Burian copying and a healthy dollop of pulp. Why, they even managed to get Burian himself involved. Many thanks to Benjamin Hillier for sending me this one - it's a corker! (Just see how many 'homages' you can spot to classic palaeoart pieces on the cover alone.)

While no author is credited in this 1975 English edition (Frederick Warne & Co is the publisher), the list of illustrators is alarmingly long, comprising the following (deep breaths now):
Andrew W Allen, Olimpia Buonanno, Sergio Budicin, Zdenek Burian (for it is he), Tino Chito, James H Cracknell, Edward S Dacker, Giorgio Degaspari, Bruno Faganello, Ezio Giglioli, M Fausta Vaglieri, Guido Zucca
...with Carlo Acciarino as compiler (artwork) and Lorenzo Orlandi as 'researcher'. He didn't stretch himself too much, as we shall see. Sadly, individual illustrations aren't credited, although a very small number are helpfully signed. Given the large number of artists involved, one would expect a certain amount of variation in the quality of the artwork, and this is indeed the case. None of it's terrible (for the time) but the perfunctory contributions of some contrast vividly with the exciting, painterly, often quite visceral contributions of others.

Take this Bronto spread, for example. It's highly reminiscent of work by Knight and Burian, and it's...fine. It's pleasing in a Ladybird sort of way. One could say much the same about the illustration in the top right, a blatant Knight copy. The most remarkable illustration on this spread is, surprisingly, not given central prominence.

Now, if you ever loved dinosaurs as a kid, you'll recall that by far the most breathtaking illustrations in your various dino-books featured clashes between the great reptilian gladiators of prehistory. Tyrannosaurus v Triceratops. Allosaurus v Stegosaurus. Deinonychus v Iguanodon, which appeared quite a lot, even if it didn't really make sense. Everyone loves an epic reptile battle, and this book surely delivers. Here, a brontosaur engages two ceratosaurs in mortal combat. The text implies that boor old Bronto will flail uselessly before collapsing into a bloody heap, but the creature in the artwork is clearly having none of it, crushing one of its attackers underfoot while turning to face the other with a suitably stern look on its vanishingly tiny face. What a fantastically energetic and evocative piece - gotta love it.

By way of contrast, here is a piece completely lacking in dynamism - Stegosaurus rendered almost as a rockface. Thanks to canny use of perspective, gazing upon this colossal lizardy lummox is like looking up the sides of Cheddar Gorge, an impression aided by the clever inclusion of vegetation twisting around the animal's spiked tail. Even if it's horribly dated, it's beautifully painted and very captivating.

Of course, it's not long before Stego, too, ends up in trouble with a large Jurassic predator. The typical scenario, as illustrated in countless dinosaur books, envisages Allosaurus either circling warily around its armoured quarry, or else busy getting a face full of thagomizer. Here, however, Allosaurus has actually managed to flop Stegosaurus down onto its side, tearing into its flesh while pinning it down using one of its plates. The gnarled, sinewy look of the Allosaurus is just fantastic, as is the largely impressionistic backdrop (the better to bring the action to the fore), although it's probably best you don't think too hard about the anatomy.

On to the Cretaceous now, and as I've often said on this blog, I have a lot of sympathy for artists who, working in the pre-internet age, often had to work hard to find anything close to a decent three-dimensional reference when restoring prehistoric animals. Burian famously did the best he could, but a lot of his reconstructions still ended up being quite ill-proportioned. I will therefore refrain from being too critical about this very Knight-inspired Triceratops, even though its head appears to have been steamrollered.

Some things in life, like death, taxes, and Brexit, just seem to be inevitable, even if they are a bit depressing. So it is with depictions of Triceratops confronting T. rex, an ostensibly exciting 'clash of the titans' scenario that is rarely executed well. The sky here is lovely, but this piece contrasts unfavourably with the earlier 'Bronto v ceratosaurs' and 'Stego v Allosaurus' illustrations. Triceratops' efforts just look a little half-hearted. Got to love the unusual 'primitive tank' comparison, though.

Triceratops' contemporary Trachanatedmontotitan also puts in an appearance, initially in a guise that will be very familiar to anyone who appreciates a bit of Burian (even the colour scheme is the same). It's serviceable, if not especially interesting.

Now this is more like it! The style here is wonderful, like Burian, but gnarlier (this seems quite likely to be the same artist as with the Stegosaurus fight scene). No attempt is made at strict 'realism' with the colours here - it's all about imbuing a suitably primordial atmosphere, lending an otherwise quite tranquil scene a strange, almost eerie quality. It's an approach that a lot of today's palaeoartists could learn something from.

And then you have a dirty great theropod with a conspicuously inaccurate number of fingers preparing to grab some poor Burianesque hadrosaur by the throat. Of course, there's only one sizeable Late Cretaceous theropod that deserves a page all to iself...

Struthiomimus! Again, this isn't bad for the time; the artist has taken care to avoid giving the animal disproportionate limbs, tiny Trumpian hands, or a chicken beak. They forgot to draw in the basketball it's dribbling, but other than that, it's a decent effort. Once again, though, the 'behaviour' illustrations are much more entertaining.

"Oh bother, there goes my tail again." Incidentally, you probably know "Phobosuchus" better as Deinoscuhus.

Oh boy. Here we go. Rexy had yet to go through his first 'timid scavenger' phase when this book was written, and so he's naturally described as the most terrifying juggernaut of a beast the Earth has ever seen. The "most bloodthirsty predator ever to exist," "every living being would have fled," "no creature could have offered any resistance to it except perhaps Triceratops" - you get the picture. My particular favourite line here is
"Moreover, even if the fiercest wild animals we know today - tigers and lions - were to face this monster in combat, they would look like kittens compared to it."
Yeah, take that, David Norman! The illustration here is quite typical of the time, in that the animal is depicted as a tail-dragging tripod, but at least it appears lean 'n' mean, with suitably muscular legs and an angry eyebrow and big nostrils, like it's been restyled by BMW. I'm quite sure this illustration has been copied many times, and it may itself be something of a knock-off - feel free to chip in if you can shed any more light.

Happily, an entire page is dedicated to the murderous adventures of the Tyrant King, who rampages through time and space in his rapacious quest to rend more and more dino-flesh. Particular highlights here include:
  • A very Burianesque Rexy materialising among a group of terrified hesperornithines on an otherwise barren shoreline;
  • Rexy striding confidently over to poor old retro, squatting Scolosaurus, safe in the knowledge that even its armour plating "will not protect it from being torn to pieces";
  • Rexy travelling over 85 million years back in time in order to savage Diplodocus while posing for Charles Knight.

And finally...let's take a look at the whole page, shall we? After all, that tyrannosaur tussle at the bottom there is quite delightful. Note also the inclusion of the dead Rexy in the lower right, a reminder that empires are fleeting, everything dies, and geological time will ultimately bring oblivion to all.

On that note, have a lovely week! You'll note that I haven't mentioned any otherprehistoricanimals. This book will return..

Lemon and Salt: for Blackheads (on Nose)

A natural remedy using lemon and salt for blackheads on the nose. 

1. Blackheads on the nose are a common problem and can be difficult to get rid of entirely. Our skin produces a lot of oil which clogs the pores and creates little plugs which are called blackheads. This happens to both women and men but the good news is that they can be treated at home using a natural remedy. 

2. Many people squeeze blackheads using their fingers, but this can cause bacteria to get into the skin and cause pimples. We suggest using this natural remedy to clear our blackheads quickly and easily, without the need for expensive treatments.

You Will Need
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Spring Water

Mix these ingredients in a small bowl and massage the mixture into your skin around your nose, and other areas on the body where you have blackheads. 

Take around 5 minutes, and use circular motions with your fingers, getting all of the mixture into the skin. Do not scrub the skin as this can make it become inflamed. Simply massage gently.

Then rinse the face with warm water to remove the solution, and finally close the pores using a splash of cold water. 

3. The citric acid contained within the lemon helps to clear out the oils trapped within the pores, killing any germs. 

4. The salt also works as an antibacterial and opens the pores up, allowing the blackheads to be released. 

5. If you use this mixture daily, you will soon notice that your skin is becoming brighter, healthier and blackhead free.

6. If left untreated, blackheads can turn into pimples as bacteria gets trapped underneath. By eating a balanced diet, and using natural remedies such as this, you can prevent acne from forming in the first place.

7. To learn more about healthy foods, and natural remedies please see our other videos. 

Taking Inventory of Our Mental Assets and Liabilities©

Last night I came across a great thought by Napoleon Hill, one of the early apostles of success and positive mental attitude which provoked my thinking. He spoke of taking “inventory of mental assets and liabilities.”(1) This was a new idea to me; one which it struck me was a great one, a very useful one.These days it seems that we only inventory our mental assents but it is rare to consider our mental liabilities.The exception here may be the stark recognition of our nearly total lack of education, or lack in a specific field which interests us. Otherwise there also seems to be a tendency to assume that the right mental assets–good memory, quick mind, and the like will compensate for any liability we may have.

It is useful, however, even if it is hard on the ego, to be honest in evaluating you mental liabilities. To do so, one needs to think broadly about what constitutes a  “liability.” Mental liabilities can go far beyond a poor memory, a bad or mediocre education, or being a bit slow to pick up on complex ideas and principles.  

Mental liabilities may also include mental laziness, cynicism, doubt, mental procrastination, lack of interest in or concern for truth, avoiding problem solving, over reliance on feeling and emotion rather than rational thinking, limited vocabulary, limited ability to express one’s self in writing, dependence on the opinions and thinking of others, poor reading skills, bad attitudes about school and education generally, lack of curiosity, apathy and/or indifference, contentment with one’s opinions, prejudices, biases, and ignorance; lack of understanding of the dangers and limitations ignorance imposes on a person; pride, arrogance, hubris, conceit, being a know-it-all--all of which inhibit your teachability; unreasonable skepticism, hypersensitivity to the opinions of others about you, and a host of others.[Feel free to add to this list in the comment section.]

One must admit that the list in the preceding paragraph contains some fairly lethal liabilities, which if not corrected will at the very least keep us on a low plane intellectually, and at worst to lead to a disastrous waste of one’s life. Introspection about one’s mental liabilities is important because recognizing a weakness is the first step to correcting it; the first step to overcoming mental liabilities. It is a challenging thing to list in two columns one's mental strengths and weaknesses. To do the latter may require more thought than the former, inasmuch as most of us are perhaps more aware of our mental strengths, or what we think they are, than we may be about our mental weakness, which we may tend to ignore. It is quite a challenge. Are you up to it? I urge you to give it a try, it may be a game changer for you.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Napoleon Hill, cited in Angela Ahrendt, “From the Heart,” commencement address at Ball State University, 8 May 2010, available online at:

The Beauty Wishlist of Z-Listed Beauty Blogger

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog.*

After being declined and having a crappy internet connection, Murphy’s law was at my web or blog door.  I figured if things could go wrong or not work out when pursued, then why pursue them?  I took a break.
I beg you, click to read more »

The Stomping Grounds: A Dinosaur Art Zine

Recently, there has been some back-and-forth on Facebook about what capital-P paleoart is, as John Conway proposed some guidelines for the Paleoartists group. While certain genres of dinosaur art - for instance Jurassic Park fan art - aren't too hard to rule out, other forms are a harder call. The group has been debating whether fantastical pieces based on close anatomical study of ancient life are allowable. Others have mused about how stylized something can be and still count as paleoart. I've certainly wondered that about Mammoth is Mopey. And it's a balancing act we've played at LITC, for instance with our 2013 All Yesterdays competition. But while we may debate the place and the value of Rigorous Paleoart vs. "mere" illustrations of prehistoric life, I think we can all agree that it's good for pop culture to be permeated with more depictions of prehistoric beasts based on contemporary paleontology.

This leads us to the subject of today's post. As I was traipsing through the dinosaur realms of DeviantArt recently, I came across a wonderful stylized Amargasaurus illustration by Tanya Kozak, AKA Virsiris. It looked like it could have been a still from a dinosaur cartoon I'd definitely watch. The description said that the illustration was part of Stomping Grounds, a dinosaur art zine. I followed the link to Gumroad and picked up a copy. It's sold on a pay-what-you-want scheme.

Carnotaurus © Tanya Kozak, shared here with the artist's permission.

Released about a year ago,Stomping Grounds couldn't be simpler in its execution. It is focused solely on illustration, without any text besides credits for the creators. I'd have appreciated a bit of background information on the species and the artist's rationale for each illustration, and I'd think it would justify a bump up from pay-what-you-want to a set price to cover the additional layout work required.

The zine is decidedly not filled with capital-P paleoart, but that's not the intent. This is a celebration of dinosaurs. Kozak invited a range of artists, many of whom work in animation, to contribute. So it's not surprising that the art bursts with character, like Squeedge's slavering Cryolophosaurus in pink plumage or Kari Fry's Dracorex standoff. My personal favorite was Neogeen's Troodon flock, dramatically rendered in red and drab green, all fully feathered. More than any other piece in the collection, Neogeen's suggests a wider world and I'd love to see it stretched out into a comic or animated piece. Kozak, whose Amargasaurus led me to the zine in the first place, has a few pieces in the zine, with standouts like a fierce Mosasaurus , a Carnotaurus with subtly but effectively exaggerated features, and a fuzzy, ready-for-cartoon-villainy Dilophosaurus.

The zine is well worth picking up and throwing a few buck the artists' way. It's heartening to see artists who aren't scientific illustrators continuing to absorb the good news of our current paleontological golden age. Head to Gumroad to download for free or name your price.