Materpiscis - the worlds oldest Mum
Valessan
ozraptor4
From the 375 million year old Gogo Formation comes the worlds oldest hard evidence for live-birth and internal fertilization (ie. real sex). The specimen - a pregnant placoderm fish with an embryo inside complete with permineralised umbilical cord (and possibly even the yolk sac). It also provided the opportunity for my second painting to be featured in Nature!



Long, J.A., Trinajstic, K., Young, G.C. & Senden, T. 2008. Live Birth in the Devonian. Nature 453, 650-652.

For more information (with CGI fish with my colour scheme) =

http://museumvictoria.com.au/About/MV-News/2008/Mother-fish/

Every home needs a house-goanna!
Valessan
ozraptor4
This is what every home needs - a house-goanna! Its just like having a house-cat, but without the fleas, furballs or stench of urine. His/her (can't determine gender as juveniles) name is Dash and s/he is an eight week old Ridge-tailed Monitor (Varanus acanthurus). S/He will get to a maximum adult length of about 70cm. S/He like sleeping, scuttling and tormenting crickets.




Feathers for Velociraptor
Valessan
ozraptor4
While this has been known for years among fossils of its Chinese cousins, we finally have hard evidence that Velociraptor itself was feathered.

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/317/5845/1721

Swedish museum crawl
Valessan
ozraptor4
My feet are killing me...Got up at 6 in the morning and jogged to the subway, taking the train to central station. I walk out and see a street second-hand book sale that stretches down the mall for what must have been a kilometer! The vendors had practically everything, even 1960s black and white pornography being peddled by an appropriately fat and pimply, StarTrek shirt-wearing Nerdmeister. Didn't buy anything though since it was kind of all in Swedish (how am I supposed to read untranslated porn?)...

1st stop was the Vasamuseet, a place I've wanted to visit for decades! Yes, the Vasa is everything its cracked out to be and completely blew me away.

Then it was off the the Skansen open air museum. An enchanting place to relax and explore, with antique buildings from all over Stockholm maintained in their original state - even period actors in costume inhabiting some of them! The park is a celebration of pre-industrial Sweden yet they somehow pull it off without being cheesy! Went to the zoo and saw my first Wisent! Patted a moose! Nearly retched when I saw the wolverine feeding!

The next place I wanted to see was the Aquaria Water Museum - given the limited amount of space I was astounded at what they had done! First was a tropical walkthrough South American rainforest exhibit. In the middle of Sweden!? You're surrounded by jungle vegetation and have to walk over a rickety bridge with real RED-BELLIED PIRANHAS in the water beneath you. Arowanas! Amazon River Rays! Arrow-poison frogs! At one point everything went dark and they simulated a jungle thunderstorm with lightning and sprinkler-generated rain. Then there was a small mangrove exhibit with real mangrove trees followed by one of the most stunning coral reef exhibits I've ever seen in a non-tropical climate. Given that the Melbourne aquarium features plastic coral and plastic mangroves, seeing these thriving live examples in a country that experiences snow gave me a profound respect for their custodians.

Finally I came to a showcase of the local freshwater fish. Given how low the diversity was they made a stunning display including a rippling simulated mountain stream with bright red alpine char. And geez, check out the size of that pike. And those Wels catfish are about the size of U-boats!

Was getting late when I finally stumbled out but somehow summoned the strength to check out the Nordiska Museet. It was well worth it, full of all manner of stunning cultural heritage items from the 1500s onwards. But I was still too geeked out at all the cool fish I'd just seen...

Uppsala and beyond!
Valessan
ozraptor4
The Uppsala Early Vertebrates Conference is over and I can categorically state that it was one of the most rewarding weeks of my life, both in terms of friends made, sights seen and astounding scientific discoveries revealed. And all set in the stunning Uppsala University, halls which have felt the footfalls of scientific giants with names like Linneaus, Celsius and Angstrom.

Notable presentations include a transitional proto-flounder from the Eocene (the eye has only just started to migrate across the head), a new complete specimen of the fishapod Panderichthys (first time the back legs/fins preserved), the first comprehensive description of the skeleton of the Great White Shark and superlative specimens from Yunnan Province, China (complete sharks and the oldest ray-finned and tetrapodomorph fish).

I myself presented a new genus and species of Devonian ray-finned fish from the famous Gogo Formation of Western Australia.

As this year marks the tricentennial of Linneaus's birthday I could not leave without paying homage to the man who gave us our binomial method of classifying life. First to his tomb at the grand Uppsala Cathedral, then a look at his life and times at his restored residence.

Now am in Stockholm, it is 8:20pm and I am all alone in the Geology collections building of the Natuhistoriska Riksmuseet with tens of thousands of fossils ranging from anomalocarids to glyptodonts. I intend to spend the night here...

Hello from Sweden!
Valessan
ozraptor4
Here I am in the land of ABBA and Ikea catalogues.

After over 20hours of flight time I can catagorically state that I intend to never sit in economy on intercontinental flights. Am now at the University of Uppsala attending the 40th Anniversary Symposium on Early and Lower Vertebrates and will be presenting a new taxon of Devonian Fish on Wednesday. Uppsala is a beautiful tiny city with immaculate gardens and stunning archetecture. It is also the old stomping ground of a certain Carolus Linneaus who amongst other things gave us our binomial system of nomenclature for naming living things (ie. genus and species).

... am getting a bit peckish now. See you later.

Drake the Snake
Valessan
ozraptor4
Thought I'd introduce you to Drake who has been my housemate since April. A young male Centralian Carpet Python (Morelia bredli) and probably the friendliest reptile I have ever met.

50cm long when he first hatched in February, 2 sheds later he is growing rapidly on a weekly pinkie rat diet. He is now well over 80cm long. Adult size = 180-240cm.

Juvenile bredlis like Drake have a rich brown colouration but within a year his scales should get the spectacular fiery red-orange sheen as seen in the adult below. (Photo by Darren Whittaker)

The ultimate magic mushroom.
Valessan
ozraptor4
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/2664113.html

The enigmatic plant fossil Prototaxites from the Silurian-Devonian has been confirmed by isotopic evidence to have been a gigantic fungus. At over 8m tall this would have been the tallest thing on the planet at the time. To see the ancient otherworldly landscape dominated by these giants would have seemed a bit like living through the hallucigenic effects of some of their modern-day cousins.

Off to the ACT
Valessan
ozraptor4
This Friday I will be driving myself and a pair of visitors from the Beijing Academy of Sciences off to ANU, Canberra, taking some time to take in Koz. National Park along the way. Intend to be back the Friday after that!

See ya

CAVEPS and billabongbugs
Valessan
ozraptor4
Heh, its been about a bazillion years since I've had the time to update my journal. Currently in an exhausted state after a SUPERLATIVE 11th CAVEPS (Conference on Australasian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics). The whole con was a palaeo-geeks dream come true with incredible new data on Devonian fish (my presentation on the Gogo ray-fins was well received), stem-tetrapods (Jason Down's with the branchial skeleton of Tiktaalik, Jenny Clack with new Ventastega material), Mesozoic reptiles (Queensland pterosaur with a 12.5m wingspan) and early whales (Oligocene New Zealand had Sabertooth dolphins!)

On a somewhat different tangent, one animal I've longed to keep is the shield-shrimp Triops, an ancient 3-eyed crustacean found in ephemeral desert pools. Their eggs are dessication proof and widely available in US petstores but I've had no success in locating a source in Australia... until now!

http://www.billabongbugs.com/

Will definately be getting some of these babys!

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