nandi's blog

40,000-Year-Old Wolf's Head Preserved by Permafrost Found in Siberia

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The head of an Ice Age wolf was found in permafrost during an expedition of the Mammoth Fauna Study Department at the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia near Belaya Gora, in Russia's Sakha Republic. Experts believe the wolf roamed the earth about 40,000 years ago. ALBERT PROTOPOPOV / AP

A 40,000-year-old wolf's head was discovered in northern Russia — with its ears, fangs, brain and tongue perfectly intact in the permafrost. Scientists believe the beast from the Ice Age belonged to a now-extinct subspecies of wolf that lived during the same era as mammoths. 

The head of an Ice Age wolf, at the Mammoth Fauna Study Department at the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, Russia, June 10, 2019. Experts believe the wolf roamed the earth about 40,000 years ago, but thanks to Siberia's frozen permafrost its brain, fur, tissues and even its tongue have been perfectly preserved, as scientific investigations are underway after it was found in August 2018. (Valery Plotnikov/Mammoth Fauna Study Department at the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia via AP)

The furry head of the wolf was found in the Russian Arctic region of Yakutia last summer, according to a Russian newspaper, The Siberian Times. The wolf's head is about 40 centimeters (almost 16 inches) long, and the wolf was estimated to be between the ages of 2 and 4 when it died.

"This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved," Albert Protopopov, a top researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper. 

"We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance," he added.

The Associated Press reported scientists said the Ice Age wolf was about 25% bigger than today's wolves. Experts at the Swedish Museum of Natural History will further examine its DNA, according to The Siberian Times. 

The discovery was announced at the opening of a woolly mammoth exhibit at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo


JURASSIC MARS: 'Conclusive Proof Dinosaurs Once Roamed the Red Planet'

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The video maker has pointed out what he says are skull parts on the Martian "rock". NASA*PARANORMALCRUCIBLE*YouTube

IT HAS been hailed by alien hunters as undeniable proof that huge dinosaurs, like those that used to live on Earth, 'once roamed' the surface of Mars.

A new image that appears to show the fossilised skull of a herbivore-like dinosaur is going viral online.

Paranormal investigators have labelled the image, marking out significant parts of the skull, such as teeth, mandibles, and a nasal cavity.

The Paranormal Crucible YouTube channel uploaded a video about the discovery, saying it could also be a wild horse type creature.

An array of alleged skulls, and other so-called creatures, have allegedly been found in NASA pictures of Mars taken by the Curiosity rover droid, which is exploring the Red Planet.

NASA denies finding anything of significance, other than signs of water on the surface, and sceptics say these "discoveries" are just odd-shaped rocks coupled with the effects of Pareidolia.


- Pareidolia is when the brain tricks the eyes into seeing familiar objects or shapes in patterns or textures, such as clouds or rock surfaces.

- Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the Man in the Moon, the Moon rabbithidden messages in recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans.

- Pareidolia can cause people to interpret random images, or patterns of light and shadow, as faces.

Throughout our day we don’t always notice the faces hidden in everyday objects around us, you just have to open your eyes to see them. Sure enough they are there!

- Rocks may come to mimic recognizable forms through the random processes of formation, weathering and erosion. Most often, the size scale of the rock is larger than the object it resembles, such as a cliff profile resembling a human face. Well-meaning people with a new interest in fossils can pick up chert nodules, concretions or pebbles resembling bones, skulls, turtle shells, dinosaur eggs, etc., in both size and shape.

But, in a video blurb, Paranormal Crucible claimed on this occasion to have proved it was genuine.

It said: "This artifact is definitely a creature's skull, possibly a dinosaur or an equus feru (wild horse) species.

"I have pointed out areas like the mandible and maxilla as well as six other points of reference, this proves its not a weird shaped rock. I will post the HQ image on my Facebook page as a point of reference for any researchers."

But the channel has been accused of misleading viewers, because it openly admits digitally manipulating the images.

Viewers of the video, however, still need convincing that it is not just another rock.

One, with the user name Rotcod, said: "I taught anatomy for years. This is a stretch."

Simon M added: "Our minds are programmed to create faces in objects. It's a rock."

And another called Fylow said: "I think it's just a coincidence."

But one user with the name, The Top 10, couldn't leave it at that.

They posted on YouTube: "Look at the teeth, eye hole, and jaw line. Also the dust and debris covering it. Too real."

And Jimmie Lee wrote: "I would pass this down as a rock but I can't t help but focus on what look like teeth."


Study: Pterosaurs Had Remarkable Ability to Fly from Birth

Thursday, June 13, 2019

On a summer day in the Early Cretaceous 124 million years ago, a hatchling (flapling) pterosaur emerges from the sand and gazes at the sky for the first time. Other hatchlings lie exhausted from their struggles or crawl to safety on trees fringing the beach. The less lucky are caught and eaten by small theropods (Sinosauropteryx). From the safety of the trees flaplings make their maiden flights. Inexperience means that many are killed in accidents or storms, their bodies drifting out into nearby lakes where a tiny few are preserved as fossils in fine muddy sediments that now form rocks that crop out in Liaoning Province China. Image credit: James Brown.

Pterosaurs were winged flying reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs, between 210 million and 65 million years ago. Previously, they were thought to only be able to take to the air once they had grown to almost full size, just like birds or bats. This assumption was based on fossilized pterosaur embryos found in China that had poorly developed wings. However, a team of paleontologists from Universities of Leicester and Lincoln was able to disprove this hypothesis.

University of Leicester’s Dr. David Unwin and Dr. Charles Deeming from the University of Lincoln compared fossilized eggs and embryos of a pterosaur species called Hamipterus tianshanensis with data on prenatal growth in birds and crocodiles, finding that they were still at an early stage of development and a long way from hatching.

“Theoretically what pterosaurs did, growing and flying, is impossible, but they didn’t know this, so they did it anyway,” Dr. Unwin said.

“Another fundamental difference between baby pterosaurs, also known as flaplings, and baby birds or bats, is that they had no parental care and had to feed and look after themselves from birth.”

“Their ability to fly gave them a lifesaving survival mechanism which they used to evade carnivorous dinosaurs.”

“This ability also proved to be one of their biggest killers, as the demanding and dangerous process of flight led to many of them dying at a very early age.”

Since flaplings were able to both fly and grow from birth, this provides a possible explanation as to why they were able to reach enormous wingspans, far larger than any historic or current species of bird or bat.

How they were able to carry out this process will require further research, but it is a question that wouldn’t have been posed without these recent developments in our understanding.

“Our technique shows that pterosaurs were different from birds and bats and so comparative anatomy can reveal novel developmental modes in extinct species,” Dr. Deeming said.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


David Michael Unwin & D. Charles Deeming. 2019. Prenatal development in pterosaurs and its implications for their postnatal locomotory ability. Proc. R. Soc. B 286 (1904); doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0409


5 Dinosaurs We Need To See in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (& 5 That Need To Stay Extinct)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous

The revival of the Jurassic Park franchise following the  success of Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has allowed for expansion into television. In 2020, Netflix will premier Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceousan animated dinosaur adventure created by DreamWorks Animation  and produced by Steven Spielberg that takes place on the other side of  Isla Nublar.

So far, we know that it will involve a group of teenagers that win the chance of a lifetime; a stay at Camp Cretaceous, a unique experience featuring new and old dinosaurs from the Jurassic World theme park. But which dinosaurs will we get to see, and which will be left to become fossils? True to the nature of the franchise, the trip won't go as planned, resulting in terrifying calamity as the teens must survive on their own in the park. Here are the five dinos we hope try to sink their teeth into the youngsters, and five we hope go extinct.


Can there be a Jurassic Park series without the most  famous dinosaur in the franchise taking a bite out of park visitors? The T. rex has made an appearance in every Jurassic Park film to date, and she deserves to come back around to terrify a fresh crop of teenagers.

Jurassic World upped the stakes by including a lot of genetically engineered dinosaurs spliced with other animals. The T. rex remains one of the most impressive threats to park visitors, and has since it escaped its paddock in the original film. It’s been the same T. rex the whole time, and we don’t see the franchise killing her off anytime soon.


These bull-headed creatures were first introduced in The Lost Worldencountered by big game hunter Roland when on a hunt with other InGen personnel to collect dinosaurs for a new island. As a plant-eating dinosaur, they don’t represent a particularly frightening antagonist to park visitors unless made upset by their actions.

Besides, a much more frightening version of this dinosaur was encountered in Jurassic World, after InGen cloned it and used its DNA to create Stygimoloch specimens that were found on Isla Nublar. However, most of those may have been lost during the Mount Sibo eruption in 2018, but maybe they could appear in the next series.


You can’t have a series about Jurassic Park and not include one of its most recognizable species, velociraptors! Since the first film in the franchise, they’ve been some of the most dangerous threats to park visitors. Despite being much smaller than other predators, they use their size and speed to their advantage.

Hunting in packs, they often utilized cunning tactics and strategies to outsmart their prey. One of the most famous of these raptors was Blue, trained by Owen in Jurassic World and reunited with him in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Perhaps in the series, there will be both trained and untrained raptors for the visitors to experience.


This bad boy made its appearance in Jurassic Park IIIthe bigger, meaner monster to take on the original dreaded T. rex. With the size and heft of the T. rex, but somewhat more maneuverable on its feet like the Allosaurus, the Ceratosaurus was a mighty hunter that was defined by the horn on the top of its snout.

Ceratosaurus was also distinct because of its four fingers, as opposed to the usual three found on predators of its size. It was taken from Isla Sorna and put on Isla Nublar, and really is unnecessary given the presence of larger, more impressive threats like the T. rex or even the Indominus Rex.


The small, nimble Compsognathus made their first appearance in Jurassic Park: The Lost World where they went after a young girl who was vacationing near Isla Sorna with her parents. The “compys” are only the size of chickens, but in a “flock” of ten or more they can be deadly. They were able to take down a grown hunter (Dieter Stark) when he strayed from his traveling companions.

It would be fun to see if there were any compys on Isla Nublar, since that isn’t an environment they’ve been seen to inhabit on screen. They would be terrifying scavengers for a group of teenagers to stumble upon, especially after they originally thought the little monsters were “cute” and non threatening.


The Stegosaurus was a prominent dinosaur in The Last World, with Sarah studying them the same way she studied predators on the African Savannah. A stampede of the bulky herbivores almost got her killed, as well as her ex boyfriend, Ian Malcolm, and their adopted daughter on Isla Sorna.

Of all the herbivores that could appear in this new series, the Stegosaurus and their ilk are the least exciting when compared to the options of a Triceratops, or a Brachiosaurus. Besides, visitors getting accidentally killed by a Stegosaurus herd isn’t as riveting as if it was one of the more recognizable predators.


Though they’d been seen in the background of Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the Pteranodons didn’t make their grand entrance until Jurassic Park III, when Dr. Alan Grant and his companions entered their aviary. Soaring above and around them on their giant wings, they were majestic but deadly.

Different versions of the Pteranodons have been seen in the various Jurassic Park films, without much explanation as to the variation. No doubt it’s due to the genetic experiments done by park scientists like Doctor Henry Wu. It would be interesting if they were tamed to be able to carry people on their backs instead of trying to eat them.


These little flying ferocities had a starring role in Jurassic Worldpouring over the visitors to the park in waves while they shopped and dined at the visitor center. Though not much larger than birds, these winged dinosaurs had jaws with razor sharp teeth that they used to gnaw at flesh.

As visually arresting as the Dimorphodons are, if only a few winged reptiles could be included, we’d prefer the pteranodons. The Dimorphodons were mostly used for comic relief, and didn’t have the epic scale of their larger winged peers. They lived in the same aviary, but came off as more of a nuisance than a real threat.


The Dilophosaurus that appeared in Jurassic Park was responsible for one of the most terrifying deaths in the franchise. Though it was a small dinosaur, it didn’t rely on its size to intimidate. It would distract its victim with a brightly colored fan around its neck and then shoot them with poisonous venom.

A population of Dilophosaurus existed on both Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna, and when Mount Sibo erupted in Fallen Kingdom, its not clear if any survived. But the small creatures that hunt by scent would be a welcome addition to the antagonists that visitors face in the new series.


The Indominus Rex was the main antagonist in Jurassic World, designed as a hybrid between a velociraptor and a T. rex, among others. With the strength of the T. rex and the agility and cunning of a raptor, Indominus Rex was a brutal killing machine that reigned supreme on Isla Nublar.

The DNA of the Indominus Rex was used by Doctor Henry Wu to create the Indoraptor in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but both of those hybrids were killed through events involving the original T. rex from Jurassic Park. Therefore it would be impossible to create any further genetic mutations involving the DNA.


LEGO Introduces Classic "Jurassic Park" Gate and T. Rex

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

LEGO Jurassic Park T-Rex (Credit: LEGO)

That is one big pile of....classic Jurassic Park LEGO bricks! Featuring 3,120 building bricks, the upcoming LEGO Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage set allows fans to build the iconic Jurassic Park gate and a buildable brick version of the apex predator, the T.rex

Inside the massive gate are nifty little cubbies that recreate classic scenes from the 1993 film like Dr. Ellie Sattler trying to get the power restored, John Hammond enjoying tubs of melting ice cream in the dining room, and Ian Malcolm (with sexy, exposed chest) healing post dino attack.

LEGO Jurassic Park gate (Credit: LEGO)

For the first time, minifigures of Hammond (Richard Attenborough), Ray Arnold (Sam Jackson) and Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) have been created for this set, and join minifigures of the aforementioned Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), along with Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and a baby dino.

Lego Jurassic Park Minifigures (Credit: LEGO)

But arguably the clincher for this set is finally being able to build a fully posable LEGO T.rex (with terrifying snapping jaws to boot).

LEGO Jurassic Park T.Rex (Credit: LEGO)

LEGO Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage is available directly from LEGO Stores & on July 1, 2019 (June 19, 2019 for LEGO VIP members).


Fossil of ‘Real-Life Loch Ness Monster’ Found in Antarctica: The Biggest Sea Marine Reptile to Date

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

This illustration shows an elasmosaur believed to have gone extinct 65m years agoCredit: Science Photo Library - Getty

Fossil hunters have pieced together the remains of an enormous sea creature which is being labeled a real-life Loch Ness monster.

Researchers have uncovered the 70-million-year-old fossilized remains of a massive elasmosaur from the icy depths of Antarctica unlike anything ever seen before.

The animal would have once weighed as much as 15 tons, and it is now one of the most complete ancient reptile fossils ever discovered.

The marine giant is a terrifying member of the reptile family elasmosaurid and is the largest of its kind ever found.

They make up a family of the plesiosaurs, which represent some of the largest sea creatures of the Cretaceous period.

Some believe Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur -like an elasmosaur- that somehow survived when all the other dinosaurs were wiped out.

They looked a little like large manatees with giraffe necks and snake-like heads, reports the National Geographic.

There are many theories to explain the incredible length of its neck, but most believe it was to help with hunting.

“For years it was a mystery ... we didn’t know if they were elasmosaurs or not,” revealed paleontologist Jose O'Gorman of Argentina's National Scientific and Technical Research Council.

“They were some kind of weird plesiosaurs that nobody knew.”

News of the startling discovery is bound to be welcomed by those who believe Nessie is for real and hiding out in the depths of Loch Ness.

However, most scientists point out the loch is only about 10,000 years old, and plesiosaurs went extinct more than 65m years ago.

For another thing, marine reptiles weren't equipped with gills, so even if Nessie is a plesiosaur, it would still have to surface for air numerous times every hour - making it easy to spot.

And, finally, there just isn't enough food in Loch Ness to support the needs of a 15-ton plus sea monster, say the experts.

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

The Incredible Animals that Once Roamed Prehistoric London Area

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A large scale replica of a prehistoric woolly mammoth of the kind that would have roamed London thousands of years ago (Image: Getty Images)

The way London looks today, it's quite hard to imagine dinosaurs and massive prehistoric beasts lumbering, stomping and roaring through the City.

I guess if you've seen the Juarssic Park films, you might have a better idea of what it could be like, with a huge T. rex going on the loose in New York, bulging right out of the cinema screen.

Either way, it all seems pretty far fetched.

But let's close our eyes for a minute and imagine a London cleared of buildings and roads. Let's go way back to a prehistoric landscape of low undulating hills, bordering a wide river, edged with reeds and muddy swamps.

It was in this pre-London environment that London's prehistoric animals once truly roamed, slithered and stomped.

Under the sea...

Then let's go back even further than that. Back to a time when the site of the future capital was actually under water.

It's hard to believe, but fossils from that time actually still exist, buried way down in the rocks under our feet and etched deep into the stones that make up many of London's great buildings.

Incredibly, the Portland stone that was used to build the Customs House on Lower Thames street for example, still retains a wavy pattern that was once made by the flowing waters of the sea, and there are ancient oyster shells fossilised deep within the stones used to build the British Museum.

A diver collects shark teeth in the Sea Life Aquarium in central London. It's a sobering thought, but sharks actually once swam through what is now London

Seaweed can still be made out in the stone used to build Waterloo Station and the skeletons of sharks have also been found in the clay that makes up much of the bed on which London has been built - and into which it is very slowly sinking.

But once the oceans receded and the continents as we now know them began to take shape, the area of London would have been home to just about every prehistoric beast under the sun.

What's more, it would have been very easy for these beasts to lumber across from Europe, because Britain was still connected to the continent by a land bridge until some 8,000 years ago.

So what proof do we have for these ancient animals?

A dearth of dinos

Well strangely, while London's Natural History Museum is World famous for its dinosaur bones, and millions have flocked from around the world to see them, the irony is that no significant dinosaur finds have ever been made in the capital.

Adele Clark, aged 8, looks at an animatronic Gallimimus dinosaur at the Natural History Museum. People flock from around the world to see the museum's dinosaur exhibits but few significant dinosaur finds have actually been made in London itself

This is strange given that more than 500 dinosaur fossils have been found in the UK, and possibly 100 species of dinosaurs would have stalked these islands.

So the lack of finds here is probably more to do with the built-up nature of the area more than anything else and we can rest assured that everything from the two-metre high Iguanodon - one of the duck-billed dinosaurs - the armoured Hylaeosaurus and the massive Megalosaurus would have roamed the area we now call home.

If you want to find out more about these beasts a visit to the Natural History Museum is a must.

But for our very own London examples of Prehistoric animals, we have to fast forward a bit to some 200,000 years ago.

At this time, huge elephant-like animals called mammoths were stomping around the London landscape. Roughly the same size as an elephant and weighing up to six tonnes, these massive beasts roamed around using their tusks for fighting and moving objects. They would have grazed on grasses and no doubt drunk from the Thames.

What a spectacle it must have been for the early humans who were here at the time, the Neanderthals, to see.

These early humans were living a nomadic lifestyle in the London area, hunting animals with stone tools and probably moving their camps to fit in with the best hunting grounds and available food and water at any given time of the year.

A reconstruction of Tautavel Man, an ancestor of the kind of Neanderthal humans that would have lived in London while prehistoric animals roamed here (Image: Getty Images)

Quite how these early humans got on with the mammoths is anyone's guess although it's probable they were too large to hunt with stone tools. Instead they may have scavenged them when they died and the hunters would have used the bones and tusks for making art and tools and the fur for clothing.

But how do we know mammoths were ever in London?

A mammoth discovery

Part of a mammoth's jaw found in London and now displayed in the Museum of London

It was in the 19th Century at a brickworks in Ilford when huge amounts of clay were being dug out of the soil to make bricks, that their remains first came to light.

In 1834 a senior civil servant named Antonio Brady started what was to become a 40-year long excavation of the area around Ilford.

He would, in that time, discover the remains of more than 300 elephants, and the area became known as the Ilford Elephant Ground.

His specimens even formed the nucleus of exhibits displayed in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington when it opened in 1881.

Eventually the remains of some 100 mammoths were found in the area. This means that back in the prehistoric period the place must have been overrun by herds of the huge beasts.

Among these incredible finds was the very rare discovery of a complete mammoth skull. It was found complete with tusks that were some 3ft long!

Ilford also turned up the remains of some other amazing beasts including elephant and hippopotamus teeth and the remains of oxon, so our mammoths definitely were not alone.

Triston Bradfield holds a West African Dwarf Crocodile at Heathrow Airport's Animal Reception Centre. Many imported animals pass through the centre's doors ranging from exotic animals such as Snow Leopards and elephants, snakes and crocodiles, but who knew many of these animals were at one time actually living wild in what is now London? (Image: Getty Images)

African giants...

Not alone indeed. Incredibly, the remains of crocodiles have been found buried in the clay of Islington, suggesting these scaly creatures would once have been slithering through the reed beds and tributaries at the edges of the Thames.

Just as amazingly, the remains of a Prehistoric rhinoceros were discovered underneath the law courts at the Old Bailey. The bones of this ancient beast dated back some 60,000 years to the Paleolithic period when England would have been a cold, dry landscape. It was the kind of woolly rhinoceros that would have roamed the area at the time. A shaggy kind of beast whose think wool would have protected it from the cold - not at all like the African ones we see on TV today.

A Prehistoric Woolly Rhinoceros from the pleistocene period is displayed at Sotheby's auction house in Paris. This kind of shaggy beast was also once stomping around London and its wool would have kept it warm from the freezing climate at the time (Image: Getty Images)

We're so used to seeing  hippos roaming around on the African mud flats on television wildlife programmes, that it's easy to think they could never live anywhere else.

Thug, a 17-year-old pygmy hippo, moves around in a new enclosure equipped with solar panels at London Zoo, but bones discovered in the ground under our feet show hippos were once roaming wild here thousands of years ago.

But go far enough back in time and they would have been here too. The remains of a hippo dating back some 120,000 years have been found under a quiet suburban street in Brentford. So where people now park their cars and commute too and from jobs in the City, herds of these massive and highly dangerous beasts must have been roaming. That is until brave early humans started to hunt them down with stone tools.

A herd of American bison. Evidence shows similar animals would have been roaming London in prehistoric times and would have been hunted for their hides, meat and bones.

Buffalo skeletons have been located beside St Martin in the Fields church, a brown bear near North Woolwich and reindeer, giant beavers and hyenas have also been uncoveerd. So London clearly was home to a complete menagerie of just about every kind of ancient animal you can think of.  

The skulls of wolves have even been found in Cheapside and Shepperton. They date to some 3,400 years ago, a time when wolves would have roamed all over England in packs. The skull dates from the Neolithic period, a time when the first farmers were starting to cultivate land for cattle in a settled way. They would have started to hunt the wolves at this time to keep them away from their livestock.

Beasts of London

Fast forward thousands of years and amidst the civilised chaos that is the City of London, a brand new exhibition at the Museum of London is celebrating London's prehistoric animals and all those beasts, large and small, which have inhabited the City ever since.

Beasts of London takes visitors on an amazing interactive tour through the ages to meet different animals from London's history in an incredibly imaginative show.

The animals all have characters and are voiced by some of London's best known performers.

There are Prehistoric woolly mammoths and Roman eagles, the fleas that carried the Great Plague, urban pigeons and 21st century pets. There are the leopards, lions and tigers that were brought to the City to parade in circuses.

Then there's the urban animals such as foxes which make unexpected homes in the City's streets and alleys and domestic animals like cats and dogs that we so love today.

Each animal has been inspired by objects that the museum has in its collection.

You can find out full details and opening times of the exhibition here .

The exhibition makes clear that teh animals and beasts we have shared our City with continue to fascinate and inspire us, and none more so than the amazing prehistoric beasts that once grazed and hunted where we now work rest and play.

Could there be a time in the future, among the broken down remains of the City as it sinks into the clay beneath, long after humans have left, when the beasts take over once again?


Netflix's Jurassic World Animated Series Could Be Better Than the Sequel

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Streaming service Netflix will collaborate with Dreamworks and Amblin on Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, an animated series focusing on a group of teenagers trying to survive being lost in the Isla Nublar park. By harkening back to the original film in the franchise, the animated Jurassic World series very well could be better than the actual Jurassic World films.


The Jurassic World films explore a universe where the dinosaur-centric park has become a huge success, allowing generations to see the extinct beasts. But, as always, ambition leads to humanity's ruin. In the first film, a new genetically modified dinosaur is unleashed, leading to outright chaos around the park. Many more dinosaurs get loose, and humans are quickly chased off the island or turned into food. The sequel broadens the scope of the series, destroying the island of Isla Nublar with a volcano but releasing dinosaurs back into the ecosystem.

Although the Jurassic World films have been major commercial successes, they haven't been particularly received well critically. The films have been overstuffed with plots about genetic tampering and the weapons applications of dinosaurs. The original Jurassic Park was much more focused on the terror that comes when dinosaurs target people, specifically children. That element was lost in the sequels, but the premise for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous puts that element front and center once again.


The synopsis that's been revealed for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous says the series will focus on a group of teenagers who happen to be at an adventure camp on the island when the events of Jurassic World result in dinosaurs getting loose. While they manage to survive the initial surge of dinosaurs, they're not able to make it off the island. The group is trapped on the dinosaur-infested island and will have to try to adjust and adapt if they want to survive. The brief teaser for the series  really plays up the scariness of the situation. Even in broad daylight, a raptor could find you and attack, and it will be fast, brutal and terrifying.

This harkens back to the frightening tone of the original film, specifically the sequences where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and his older sister Lex (Ariana Richards) are chased by raptors through the kitchen inside the Jurassic Park main building. The scene is one of the most memorable in the entire film, and among the most tense in any Steven Spielberg film. By refocusing the narrative onto kids of that same age group (which also happens to be the target demographic for this show), Jurassic World could bring the scope of the series back into focus.


The synopsis for the show reveals the unfortunate teens trapped on the island will begin the series as strangers. All brought to the titular Camp Cretaceous, this could allow the creators a lot of freedom in who they cast. Like a teen-targeted version of Lost, the characters could come from any number of places in the world. Even the single teaser image of the cast showcases a range of character types, and their forced cooperation will bring all their differences to the forefront. The synopsis also teases that the group will slowly transform from a group of strangers to a family willing to fight side by side, indicating the peril will bring them together.

The age-range of the characters also means there probably won't be any actual experts on dinosaurs. This means there won't be any Chris Pratt-esque raptor trainers leading a pack to save the day. Instead, they'll be learning as they go, making mistakes and surviving by the skin of their teeth. This will keep the tension ratcheted up throughout the series. The Jurassic World films have traded suspense for spectacle. They go bigger than anything in the original films, up to and including giant dinosaur duels and Toby Jones trying to auction off dinosaurs as living weapons. Instead, the series needs to embrace the horror and tension that were the best parts of the original beloved films. Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous seems to be taking that to heart.

If the show manages to stick the landing and really deliver a tense series set in the Jurassic Park universe, it'll have succeeded where Jurassic World failed by replicating the tone of the original. Plus, it'll still have dinosaurs.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is set to premiere on Netflix sometime in 2020.


Feathers Evolved Millions of Years Before Birds, And Maybe Even Before Dinosaurs

Monday, June 10, 2019

(Benton et al., Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2019)

Feathers are not simply the domain of birds, nor did they arise solely for flight. New research on China's rich fossil record suggests instead that these structures arose 100 million years before birds, and maybe even before dinosaurs themselves.

The breakthrough came late last year, when researchers were studying two new fossilised pterosaurs in China. Once considered scaly and reptilian, these prehistoric flying reptiles (closely related to dinosaurs)were covered in four kinds of tuft and down.

Pterosaurs, it would seem, had feathers remarkably similar to their dinosaur relatives. They must have had a common ancestor.

"This drives the origin of feathers back to 250 million years ago at least. The point of origin of pterosaurs, dinosaurs and their relatives," says lead author Mike Benton, a palaeontologist from the University of Bristol.

"The Early Triassic world then was recovering from the most devastating mass extinction ever, and life on land had come back from near-total wipe-out."

As this places the origin of feathers way back in the Early Triassic, it means feathers appeared long before the first birds, such as Archaeopteryx, came on the scene. This was a time of evolutionary turmoil, when the ancestors of dinosaurs, known as archosaurs, were in a fierce arms-race with the ancestors of mammals.

Feathers probably arose to help in the contest, providing insulation in the warm-blooded precursors of dinosaurs and pterosaurs. Only afterwards would these structures have been used for display or flight.

"[T]hus," they authors write, "the small dinosaurian ancestors of birds were pre-adapted for a life as active flyers."

(Yuan Zhang)

Ever since 1994, when thousands of dinosaur specimens from China were found with feathers, palaeontologists have been grappling with the revolutionary idea.

"At first, the dinosaurs with feathers were close to the origin of birds in the evolutionary tree," explains co-author Baoyu Jiang from the University of Nanjing.

"This was not so hard to believe. So, the origin of feathers was pushed back at least to the origin of those bird-like dinosaurs, maybe 200 million years ago."

Then, a dinosaur from Russia named Kulindadromeus broke the main rule that glued this theory together.

"This dinosaur showed amazingly well-preserved skin covered with scales on the legs and tail, and strange whiskery feathers all over its body," recalls co-author Maria McNamara from University College Cork.

"What surprised people was that this was a dinosaur that was as far from birds in the evolutionary tree as could be imagined. Perhaps feathers were present in the very first dinosaurs."

(Benton et al., Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2019)

Not all paleontologists agree that feathers come from a single origin. Some think they arose independently in both birds and dinosaurs. But the new analysis suggests otherwise.

Apart from recent palaeontology research, the findings are also bolstered by genetics. In 2017, a study found that the same genome regulatory network drove the development of reptile scales, bird feathers, and mammal hairs.

In other words, the root of all three structures may have been present in a common ancestor that existed up to 420 million years ago.

How exactly all three fit together in the evolutionary tree is still unclear. Scientists have shown that the scales on modern birds, such as the legs and necks of chickens, are feathers that have reversed to scales.

This suggests that feathers might have been a default condition for dinosaurs, which was only later suppressed in large, armoured members of the group.

"This does not diminish the importance of feathers as key to the success of birds," Benton and his co-authors write, "but shows that birds did not emerge rapidly from reptiles, but that their set of 30 or more adaptations accumulated stepwise over some 100 [million years]."

The research has been published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.


‘Jurassic Park’ Killed ‘Godzilla’ For Americans

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Photos: Everett Collection ; Illustration: Dillen Phelps

Godzilla is more than a monster at this point. He’s a dark myth, a cinematic icon, and according to Deadline, “tired IP.” Even though Hollywood’s latest take on the legend’s story, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s still being hailed as summer’s first major dud. The movie’s $49 million open fell far short of its $60 million projections, and the steep drop off box office receipts suggested the film won’t be able to gain legs.

Essentially, American audiences seem to be over the great behemoth of the deep.

So what’s wrong with Godzilla? Why can’t the great Kaiju of yore spark the imaginations of Americans today? Sarah at LaineyGossip suggests it could be a cultural thing. “[M]aybe nothing is wrong with Godzilla. Maybe it’s just not our story to tell.” That makes a lot of sense. After all, Godzilla is a distinctly Japanese character. He originated as “Gorjira” in a 1954 Japanese film that was as concerned with the monsters lurking in the deep Pacific waters surrounding the island nation as it was with the literal (and emotional) fallout of nuclear catastrophe.

Photo: Everett Collection

That’s all true, and I would go further. I would argue there’s no way for Godzilla to thrive in a culture that has decided Jurassic Park is its great monster myth. Thanks to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 hit film, the Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptors, and their prehistoric ilk have toppled Godzilla in the hearts and minds of modern American filmgoers.

To understand Godzilla’s initial appeal, you have to put yourself in the mindset of a pre-CGI filmgoer. The effects in early Godzilla films were awe-inspiring. Whether you feared the great lizard king or were delighted by the carnage he wrought, it still looked badass. That is, until directors like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg started to understand the best way to use CGI on screen. Cameron, of course, revolutionized the way action film utilized computer generated imagery in The Abyss, his Terminator films, and later Titanic and Avatar. But in Jurassic Park, Spielberg figured out not only how to make it look like dinosaurs were walking the earth, but he did it with lyricism. After being blown away by the mere visual effects in Jurassic Park, you can’t blame audiences for feeling let down by Godzilla (especially since Hollywood’s 1996 attempt to resurrect him was less than stellar).

Photo: Everett Collection

Since Jurassic Park has debuted, dinosaurs have arguably taken up the role in the average American psyche that Godzilla, Mothra, and their pals hold in the Kaiju-loving quarters of the world. Most Millennials and Gen Z members know more about Velociraptors than they do about Kaiju, and as such, a showdown between a monstrous new Indominus dinosaur and a bunch of likable Raptors. Don’t believe me? Just compare the box office of 2015’s Jurassic Worldwith 2014’s Godzilla reboot. The 2014 film is the highest grossing Godzilla film stateside ever, raking in $200 million. Jurassic World made well over three times that figure. In fact, all but one film in the Jurassic Park franchise has made less.

Of course, there might be more to Jurassic Park‘s pull on the American psyche than just great effects. Unlike Japan, the United States is not an island nation, but a vast, colonized continent. We’re also a relatively young country, and we owe much of our success to aggressive exploration and innovations. Jurassic Park is a story about these concerns, not the concerns of a post-WWII Japan, still stinging from the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We are a culture not-so-secretly wary of the technological Pandora’s Box we’ve opened, and subconsciously aware that there might be something dire and dangerous buried under the ground we’ve built our great cities on. It’s not necessarily that we think dinosaurs could walk again, but that our own avarice to push technology could birth our own destruction.

So if you’re asking yourself why Americans aren’t into giant lizard creatures fighting to the death in a mythic battle that represents deep-rooted cultural fears, well, we do. We just prefer our T. Rexes to our Kaiju. Jurassic Park is America’s Godzilla.