Friday, 30 June 2017

Monday, 26 June 2017

Sunday, 25 June 2017

THEROPOD HUNTING



FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

Audaces fortuna iuvat
Ursus curious! A young Black Bear (Ursus americanus) cub checks out a frisky, startled Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) both native species in southern British Columbia. Generally, the aroma from a skunk is enough of a deterrent to keep curiosity at bay. Not in this case.

Bear cubs are known for being playful. They usually stick pretty close to Mamma but sometimes an intriguing opportunity for discovery will cross their path and entice them to slip away just for a few minutes to check it out.

The karma gods were good to this wee one. Nobody was skunked in this quest for exploration, though not for lack of trying.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

GROUSE GRIND: RITE OF PASSION

Vancouver, Canada's third-largest metropolis, is home to many natural wonders. One of these is the Grouse Grind hiking trail. Here, steps shrouded in mist invite you to test your mettle against one of our hallmark rites of passion.

Monday, 19 June 2017

MISTER FINALLY: PERCHED


Highly adaptable to hot and cold temperatures, Peregrines boast a breeding range that stretches from the icy cold Arctic tundra to the searing Tropics. This fellow, Mister Finally, is lucky to be in the temperate climes near White Rock on the US border.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

FALCO LINNAEUS




















Reaching speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph) Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), are exquisite birds of prey. They are worthy predators in the air and one of the fastest moving creatures on the planet. I've had the great honor to work with several of these amazing creatures and can personally attest to both their speed and quirky yet charming personalities.

Highly adaptable to hot and cold temperatures, they boast a breeding range that stretches from the icy cold Arctic tundra to the searing Tropics. 

We've had Peregrines on this beautiful big blue planet since the Late Miocene (with closely related Raptors as early as the Eocene). Sadly, the Peregrine Falcon was added to the endangered species list back in the 1970's after their population took a beating from food sources contaminated with pesticides, DDT being the main culprit. With the ban of DDT and active breed and release programs, their numbers have significantly increased. Score one for humans being thoughtful of those we share this planet with.

Friday, 16 June 2017

OF SNOW AND ICE

Twenty thousand years ago, the last Ice Age was at its frozen peak.

While some of our ancestors were making a living in what is now Europe, they were pressed between the permanent ice fields that covered all of Scandinavia and the mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps.

Much of our present-day oceans was locked up in vast ice sheets, lowering the sea level by as much as a hundred metres lower than it is today.

It was a time of scarcity and risk. Cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, at once a food source and skilled predator, enjoyed the same hunting grounds, similar prey and competed for many of the same shelters. Cave hyena, Crocuta spelaea, also looked to these shelters and while smaller, were encountered as packs.

Beyond days filled with an endless search for food, primarily through scavenging off the kills of hyena and others, there was also the no-small-feat of checking well-situated caves for other, rather scary, inhabitants.

Large prey could be taken down by an organized hunt. Wooly rhinoceros, Coelodonta antiquitatis, and majestic Irish Elk, Megaloceros giganteus, being two of the most prized.

For many, there was a regular cycle of gathering mollusks, seaweed, and birds eggs at the shoreline and picking the fungi and other small offerings from the woodland areas. Once an area had been harvested, the nomadic life continued, with groups moving from camp to camp and participating in organized annual hunts.

Nomadic groups gathered peacefully at places where large herds of bison, reindeer or other hard to hunt beasties were forced into a narrow channel to cross a mountain, river or stream. I'm impressed by this. Both at the organization of such large hunts and by the lack of evidence of warring between nomadic groups when scarcity was the norm.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

ICE AGE PROBOSCIDEANS



















This disarticulated fellow is Mammutus primigenius from the Pleistocene of Siberia, Russia. He's now housed in the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain in a display that shows thoughtful comparisons between the proboscideans. They have a wonderful display of mammoth teeth, the diagnostic flat enamel plates and the equally distinct pointy cusped molars of the mastodons.

He was a true elephant, unlike his less robust cousins, the mastodons. Mammoths were bigger (both in girth and height), weighing in at a max of 13 tonnes. They roamed widely in the Pliocene to Holocene, covering much of Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.

We see them first some 150,000 years ago from remains in Russia. They enjoyed a very long lifespan of 60-80 (up to 20 years longer than a mastodon and longer than modern elephants) and quite surprisingly, at least to me, the last mammoth died just 3,700 years ago in the icy frost of a small Alaskan island. 

Not all had the shaggy coat of long hair we picture them with. But all of these behemoth proboscideans boasted long, curved tusks, big ears, short tails and grazed on leaves, shrubs and grasses.

So why the tusks? Likely for displays of strength, protecting their delicate trunks, digging up ground vegetation and in dry riverbeds, digging holes to get at the precious life-giving water. It's a genius design, really. A bit like having a plough on the front of your skull.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

CRETACEOUS SPINE LIZARD

Spinosaurus was a huge carnivorous theropod dinosaur who lived in the swamps of North Africa during the upper Albian to upper Turonian stages of the Cretaceous, some 112 to 93.5 million years ago.

Larger even than some Tyrannosaurus and Giganotosaurus, this fellow weighed up to 21,000 kg and with all that mass was still an accomplished swimmer.