“Truth also has its Paleontology,” or When Pragmatism Met Uniformitarianism
Extinct
by Max Dresow
2w ago
* This is the second installment in a new series of short essays called “Problematica.” It is written by Max Dresow… In 1871, the superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey wrote to America’s foremost paleontologist, Louis Agassiz, with “a very serious proposition.” The first iron-hulled steamship operated by the Survey, the Hassler, had been outfitted with state-of-the-art dredging equipment for deep-sea exploration. It was soon to depart Boston on its way to South America, and thence to San Francisco via the Strait of Magellan. “Would [Agassiz] go in her, and do deep-sea dredging all the way a ..read more
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Comparisons with Teeth: Two Hundred Years of Actualism in Paleontology
Extinct
by Max Dresow
3w ago
* This is the first installment in a new series of short essays called “Problematica.” It is written by Max Dresow… America’s great confessional poet, Anne Sexton, once wrote that “Nature is full of teeth | that come in one by one, then | decay, fall out.” And thank goodness, too, for without this steady supply of teeth our knowledge of the history of life would be greatly impoverished. The fossil record is mostly a record of hard parts, of which the teeth of gnathostomes, or jawed vertebrates, are exemplary. Variously long and dagger-like, or flat, or pointy, teeth are the commonest elements ..read more
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The De-Extinct Blog, and Introducing "Problematica"
Extinct
by Max Dresow
1M ago
Re: Extinct under new management  I thought I should take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Max Dresow (Dray-zo, if you're curious), and I'll be helming the de-extinction of Extinct. I'm currently a postdoc at the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, and I work on historical and philosophical issues in paleontology and the earth sciences. If you want a better idea of what exactly I’m interested in (or if you just want to see a cute picture of my one-year old), please check out my website. This is my first time writing for Extinct, but I have a little history with the ..read more
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Extinct: Relaunch!
Extinct
by Extinct Blog
1M ago
Hi there, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Well, you’ll be hearing more from Extinct this year: we’re re-launching with a new approach, and new management. Extinct was officially launched waaaay back in January 2016. We published at least four posts a month for two years, switching to one post a month in 2018 and—as is the wont of such blogs—petering by the end of 2019, managing over 130 posts. The blog never officially stopped, but rather the four of us became less able to contribute through a combination of burnout (four posts a month between the four of us for two years), moving on to other ..read more
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The Art of Paleontology
Extinct
by Joyce Havstad
2y ago
Joyce C. Havstad writes… Artfully prepared fossils can be absolutely stunning.  Take a look at these beauties: Dire wolf skulls (top left) at the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits; a crinoid (top middle), an ornithomimid (bottom left), and a nodosaur (bottom right) from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology; Cambrian explosion-era organisms (bottom middle) at the Field Museum of Natural History; and an Anchiornis fossil (top right) on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, while on loan from the Geological Museum of China. All pictures in this post by the auth ..read more
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Landmark Studies
Extinct
by Leonard Finkelman
2y ago
Introduction Paleontology-related social media was recently abuzz with the revelation of new insight into T. rex—in particular, into the jaws of the Tyrant King. New research into T. rex skull morphology by Cost et al. (2019) resolved a conflict between computer models (which showed that T. rex had a bite force capable of crushing a car; see Bates & Falkingham 2012), and skeletal reconstructions (which showed that the bones in T. rex’s skull were incapable of accommodating the strains of such a powerful bite). Cost et al’s research showed that the King’s skull could in fact accommodate suc ..read more
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Skeletons, Specimens, Synoptic Series, Similarity, and Difference
Extinct
by Joyce Havstad
2y ago
Joyce C. Havstad writes…. A collaborator at the Field Museum once showed me something called a “synoptic series,” which he and another colleague had assembled in order to represent the avian skeleton: On the left, a close-up of the Field Museum of Natural History’s “Avian Skeletal Collection Synoptic Series,” assembled by Keith Barker, with key produced by N. Adam Smith. On the right, a shot of the synoptic series in situ. All photos in this post by the author. To summarize, this collection of bird bones functions as a sort of “synopsis” (a general overview) from a “series” (or subset) of avi ..read more
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The Future Geologist and the Anthropocene
Extinct
by Derek Turner
2y ago
In this post, Derek Turner and Adrian Currie take a look at Carlos Santana’s recent paper “Waiting for the anthropocene” (forthcoming, BJPS). The Earth has had a dramatic history—the rise and fall of continents, of seas and of bewildering diversities of life; dramatic shifts in climate, in the composition of the air, and in patterns of biotic exchange. These changes are often global and are often recorded in rock. Have a look at these distinctive sandstone deposits from outside of Sydney: http://fossilsaustralia.com/geology-of-the-illawarra-southern-highlands-html/ The Permian period is coal ..read more
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Place, Place Baby
Extinct
by Extinct Blog
2y ago
IN THIS POST, ADRIAN CURRIE AND JOYCE C. HAVSTAD TAKE A CRITICAL LOOK AT PAIGE MADISON’S RECENT PAPER “ALL THINGS BLEAK AND BARE BENEATH A BRAZEN SKY: PRACTICE AND PLACE IN THE ANALYSIS OF AUSTRALOPITHECUS.” Synopsis… More than sciences like physics, which can replicate experiments in laboratories, paleontology is a science that involves rare, fragile objects that are situated in particular locations—making the practices shaped by those locations a crucial aspect of the discipline. (Madison 2019, 22) There is a tension built into science: a tension between data’s local specificity, and the ..read more
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Hype and Trust
Extinct
by Extinct Blog
2y ago
IN THIS POST, DEREK TURNER AND JOYCE C. HAVSTAD TAKE A CRITICAL LOOK AT ELIZABETH D. JONES’ RECENT PAPER “ANCIENT GENETICS TO ANCIENT GENOMICS: CELEBRITY AND CREDIBILITY IN DATA-DRIVEN PRACTICE.” Synopsis… Elizabeth D. Jones (2019) takes a careful look at the history of research on ancient DNA, and she makes several important observations about how the field has developed. For example, in the early days of ancient DNA research, in the 1990s, there was a lot of concern about the quality of the data. How could scientists be sure that what they had sequenced in the lab was in fact ..read more
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