Thursday, November 19, 2015

Winter is Coming

           Winter has arrived in Colorado, and the greatest evidence of this other than the temperature and precipitation, is the animals. Reptiles, as you know, are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature internally like mammals can. Around here, the most common lizard is the Northwestern Fence lizard. The latin name for this critter is Sceloporus occidentalis occidentalis. These lizards have seen a decline in my area in last few years and I have started seeing more of them this year.

(The Male Individual)
            These lizards have an obvious sexual dimorphism and the two specimens I caught inside my house the last two weeks are prime examples of this. The first one I found was small, approximately 4-5 inches from head to tip of the tail. It was a light tan with virtually no blue on its underside. Then a few days later, after releasing the first one, I caught another far larger fence lizard in my house. This one was 6-8 inches from head to tail and had far darker colors. The underside of this lizard consisted of a bright phosphorescent blue tint to is belly scales.

(Male's Underside)
          The individual with the blue underside and dark color was obiovusly an older male, while the smaller one was probably a female. These lizards are fantastic animals and are non-aggressive. They are hardy and have evolved to survive in the tough conditions of America's arid deserts. Take a look at a few more images!

(Female Specimen)

(Female Specimen)

(Female Specimen)

(Male Specimen)

(Male Individual)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bio File: Okapi

(Author: David Lichliter)

  • Latin Name: Okapia Johnstoni
  • Height: 4-6ft 
  • Weight: 440-770 lbs; 
  • Length: 6-7ft
  • Diet: Herbivorous
  • Region: Central Africa  

The okapi, or okapia johnstoni, is a striking and unique animal. Sporting stripes, it may appear to be related to zebras on first glance; however, this is not the case. In fact, the okapi is related to giraffes and is their only known living relative.
(Copyright Belongs to Wikipedia: Public Domain)
The okapi is around one-and-a-half to two meters in length, and weighs two hundred to three hundred kilograms, on average. Its top speed can reach sixty kilometers an hour.  The okapi’s long neck allows it to reach higher vegetation and can be used to help defend it. The okapi has a long, black tongue to help it reach leaves at higher branches of vegetation. Their legs feature a spot of tough skin just above their ankles, the long legs also have white stripes that extend to its hindquarters, which is used as camouflage in the jungles it resides. The okapi is an herbivore, but it will occasionally eat reddish clay for the salts in minerals it contains. The animal is shy and elusive and is rarely seen in the wild due to this behavior due to its camouflage. Although seldom seen, they are actually quite common in the remote habitats in which they live and are not classified as an endangered species. The okapi are so elusive the animal was not even classified as a species in the west until the twentieth century.
(Copyright: Photograph: Powell-Cotton Museum
The okapi naturally resides in the rainforests of Africa. More specifically, they are found in the Ituri Forest. Due to this location, few predators actually pursue okapi; but their main threats include: leopards, servals, and humans. The most prominent threat; however, is the deforestation of the rainforests in which they live. 
(Copyright: Public Domain Wikipedia)
The okapi is a profound animal to cryptozoology (The study of unknown organisms like Bigfoot, loch ness monster, etc.) Many people in the western world did not believe such a creature could exist, as it sounded too artificial. One man however, believed the natives from Africa and retrieved skulls and skins from okapi until doubt was lifted enough for him to acquire research funds. This man was Sir Harry Johnston. With the funding he received, he was able to capture live animals, which eliminated any doubt of the okapi’s existence. This could relate to other cryptids (the organisms for which evidence is lacking) that truly exist, but have yet to be discovered. After all, many new species are discovered each year, and an extraordinary organism could very well be the next exhibit at a zoo.

(Copyright: Public Domain Wikipedia)
Works Cited:
  1. "The Cryptid Zoo: Okapi." The Cryptid Zoo: Okapi. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  2. "Mammals | Okapi." Okapi. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  3. "Okapi." (a Johnstoni). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  4. "Okapi." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  5. "Okapia Johnstoni (okapi)." Animal Diversity Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
  6. "Rainforest Alliance." Okapi (Okapia Johnstoni). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Paleo Files: Stegosaurus

  • Stegosaurus: “Roofed lizard”
  • Height: 4 meters
  • Length: 9 meters
  • Weight: 3 tons
  • Time Period: Jurassic Period (155-145 MYA)

The state dinosaur of Colorado and one of the most iconic members of Dinosauria, Stegosaurus, has a lot of history and theories surrounding it including; where it was found, its behavior, and how it lived. As with most fossilized organisms, there is only so much information that can be gleaned from the material and, because of this, some aspects of its anatomy and behavior can easily be inferred due to the connections that can be made between the animal and its relatives. Stegosaurus has earned its spot as one of the most iconic dinosaurs due to the profound amounts of remains that have been uncovered that allows Paleontologists to understand more about Stegosaurus than other, more fragmentary species.
(Copyright belongs to the Artist; Robert Nicholls) 
The Bone Wars was a period of extreme increases in the collecting and discovery of as many fossils as possible due to a rivalry between two Paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. During the Bone Wars, many new species of previously unknown organisms were discovered. Othniel Charles Marsh originally discovered Stegosaurus in 1877 in Morrison, Colorado. When Othniel Charles Marsh found the remains, he initially thought they belonged to a turtle-like animal thinking that the large plates overlapped one another along the back, but he later retracted this theory for the one accepted today which is to say, the plates lined the back standing vertically. In 1886, Marshal Felch discovered remains of a separate species of Stegosaurus, dubbed sulcatus, in CaƱon City, Colorado. The largest Stegosaurus could stand four meters high at the tallest back plate and could reach lengths of up to nine meters that, in contrast, is the size of a modern bus. But the size alone is not what sets Stegosaurus apart from the other animals it shared its ecosystem with.
(Copyright= Public Domain)
The Plates that line the spine of Stegosaurus are still very much an enigma. Paleontologists have put forth many theories over the years regarding the use of the plates. When Othniel Charles Marsh first found the remains, he thought the plates lay flat against the body like the armor of a Pangolin. Marsh later revoked this theory for the much more familiar one that is in use today, in which the plates stand up vertically along the back. Through the years, Paleontologists have refined the theory regarding the exact configuration of the dorsal osteoderms which went from two lines of identical plates on the back (this theory has been found to be incorrect due to a second, identical, row of plates mirroring the other having never been found), to one row of plates that alternate. What these plates were used for is still up for debate and has been ever since the animal’s discovery. Many scientists have posed theories as to the purpose of the plates including Robert Bakker, World renowned Paleontologist and curator of the Houston Museum of Nature and Science, speculated that the plates of Stegosaurus were the inside, or core, of a bigger plate made of a keratinous material. Bakker also suggested that these horny outgrowths could be semi-movable and the animal might have been able to use them as a sort of defense, splaying them out to the sides to deter predators from coming too close. The other theories include, temperature regulation like the large flat area of an elephant’s ear, to appear larger to predators, and as a sexual display to the opposite sex. Many Paleontologists presently accept that the plates would have had multiple uses and could have been used for any one of these theories as well.
(Copyright of skeletal belongs to; Scott Hartman, Copyright for plate belongs to TaylorMadeFossils)
Even if the plates of Stegosaurus were not used for defense, Stegosaurus also carries with it four spike-like osteoderms on the end of its tail. These spines bent outward to the sides and backwards and could have been used an incredible defense against many of the large predators of the Morrison Formation. In 2014, Robert Bakker found evidence in the pelvis of the Mid-Jurassic Carnivore, Allosaurus, at the Glenrock Paleontological Museum in Glenrock, Wyoming. Bakker found that there was a large open hole in the pubic bone of one of the mounted Allosaurus skeletons and later revealed that the wound fit the tail spike of a Stegosaurus (informally known as a Thagomizer) almost perfectly. Evidence suggests that bacteria, fragmentary bone, and other debris stayed in the wound and infected the area until it eventually killed the animal. According to Robert Bakker, “A massive infection ate away a baseball-sized sector of the bone, Probably this infection spread upwards into the soft tissue attached here, the thigh muscles and adjacent intestines and reproductive organs.” This theory was also reinforced by the fact that the vertebrae in the tail of Stegosaurus had no locking mechanisms and could be swung in many directions as Bakker points out, “Most dinosaur tails get stiffer towards the end, The joints of a stegosaur tail look like a monkey’s tail; They have no locking joints and were built for 3-dimensional combat.” This heavily points to the Thagomizer of a Stegosaurus being used a powerful defense mechanism towards anything it perceived as a threat. Although Stegosaurus was unique in the family Dinosauria, it wasn’t the first or last of its kind.

(Copyright of art belongs to; Robert Bakker), Copyright of Fossil segment is Public Domain)
Since Stegosaurus was the first of its kind to be discovered, its phylogenic suborder and family were named after it. After Stegosaurus’ discovery many other members of Stegosauridae were discovered including; Kentrosaurus, Dacentrurus, Lexovisaurus, Miragaia, and Hesperosaurus from different parts of the world like Africa and Europe. These relatives generally all shared a similar body plan as Stegosaurus only variations being the plates, spines, and skull shapes. Stegosaurus existed from the early Jurassic to the early Cretaceous and then went extinct, most likely due to other more successful herbivores taking over the Stegosaur niche. Stegosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic period from around 155-150 million years ago. It was the largest member of Stegosauridae yet to be discovered and would have to eat constantly. However, the exact feeding strategy of Stegosaurus and Stegosaurs in general is still not yet fully understood. The teeth of Stegosaurus are peg shaped and coupled with the wear on the teeth and the restrictions regarding the jaws, suggests that Stegosaurus could only move its jaws up and down. Since the head of Stegosaurus was small, pointed, and stood at most three feet off the ground at all times the animal was most likely a low level browser of soft material like shoots and fruits. According to an analysis done on the jaw strength of Stegosaurus done in 2010 the bite force of the animal was about half that of a common dog, or about 140 Newton for the anterior, 183 Newton for the middle, and 270 for the posterior teeth. This proves problematic to the understanding of how an animal the size of Stegosaurus could have a big enough food intake to survive and more research need to and is being done on the subject. The one thing fossils have a hard time explaining is how the animal that the fossils belonged to lived.
(Copyright for art belongs to; Geocities)
The brain of Stegosaurus, although not quite walnut-sized, was unusually small compared to the body mass and has the smallest brain size to body mass of any other dinosaur species. This presented a problem to the animal; how could it survive without a higher intelligence, and giant bony billboards and four large sword-like spikes were the answer. Paleontologist Matthew Mossbrucker discovered footprints of Adult, juvenile, and Hatchling specimens in 2007 in the Morrison Formation, which suggests that Stegosaurs stayed together in small groups, most likely for protection against predators. Another problem that Stegosaurs faced but fixed with armor was its speed. Stegosaurus has extraordinarily short front legs compared with the back legs and the femur was longer than the tibia and fibula of the leg which would have made walking any faster than six to seven kilometers an hour rather difficult. The other animals that Stegosaurus shared its environment with include, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and many others. Stegosaurus most likely fit into a niche that none of the other organisms around it did, however that niche is not well understood as stated previously. Although there is evidence that suggests whenever an Allosaurus did attack a Stegosaurus it met its end, there is also fossil evidence for the opposite suggesting that Allosaurus did, in fact, prey on Stegosaurus and were able to bring them down. There is a specimen of Stegosaurus in which a U-shaped bite mark is visible on one of the plates on the neck. This suggests a hunter/prey relationship that went both ways in fatalities.
(Copyright for art belongs to; Geocities)
Stegosaurus can be considered the Rhinoceros or Hippopotamus of the Late Jurassic as it was both an herbivore and highly dangerous to anything it perceived as a threat. Due to the excessive deposits of this animal’s fossils, it has become the state fossil of Colorado and a universal icon of the small group of famous dinosaurs of pop culture. Stegosaurus ruled whatever specifically was its niche in its time period and then it and its relatives died out near the end of the Jurassic leaving only fossils and footprints as a reminder of its existence. However, Paleontologists have been able to, using the fossils and a little bit of guesswork, roughly understand how this animal behaved, how it lived, and how it died.
(Copyright for Stegosaurus belongs to; Gregory S. Paul)

(Copyright belongs to; PrehistoricWildlife)
Works Cited
Castro, Joseph. "Stegosaurus: Bony Plates & Tiny Brain." Livescience. Purch, 08 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 June 2015.

"Stegosaurus - Dinosaur - Enchanted Learning Software." Enchanted Learning. Enchanted Learning, n.d. Web. 19 June 2015.

Holtz, Thomas R. Jr. (2012) Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages, Winter 2011 Appendix.

Lambert D (1993). The Ultimate Dinosaur Book. Dorling Kindersley, New York. pp. 110–29. ISBN 1-56458-304-X.

Carpenter K (1998). "Armor of Stegosaurus stenops, and the taphonomic history of a new specimen from Garden Park Colorado". The Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation: An Interdisciplinary Study. Part 1. Modern Geol. 22. pp. 127–44.

Carpenter K, Galton PM (2001). "Othniel Charles Marsh and the Eight-Spiked Stegosaurus". In Carpenter, Kenneth. The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press. pp. 76–102. ISBN 0-253-33964-

Pastino, Blake De. "Allosaurus Died from Stegosaur Spike to the Crotch, Wyoming Fossil Shows." Western Digs. Western Digs, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 June 2015.
"Stegosaurus; Colorado State Fossil." State Symbols USA. STATE SYMBOLS USA, n.d. Web. 21 June 2015.

Jacobson, Rebecca. "First Steps of a Baby Stegosaurus, Captured in 3-D." PBS. PBS, 16 July 2014. Web. 22 June 2015.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Introduction to: The Expeditioner's Discovery Guild

(Author: Destin Bogart)

                Here at the Expeditioner’s Discovery Guild, we look at the living world around us and bring to you our findings and hypothesis for your criticism. This website, although about the life sciences, will strive to cover the sciences of Biology, Botany, Zoology, Geology, Mineralogy, Paleontology, Cryptozoology, Xenobiology, Astrobiology, and Speculative Evolution.

                 If you are wondering what these sciences are than it is best we explain: Biology is the study of living things and encompasses many different sciences, Botany falls under Biology alongside Zoology with Botany being the study of plant-life and Zoology being the Study of animals. Geology is another large encompassing science that explains the earth and its processes; Paleontology and Mineralogy fall under this category. Paleontology is the study of ancient organisms and Mineralogy is the study of crystals and minerals. These are the known and solid sciences; however, we here at the Guild have an interest in some other, more loose sciences. Cryptozoology is the study for unknown organisms, more commonly known as Cryptids; like Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, and the Chupacabra. Cryptozoology gets a bad reputation due to the large amount of amateur “monster hunter” types that make a name for the science. Astrobiology, Xenobiology, and Speculative Evolution are all fictitious flights-of-fancy and serve only to help people understand the mechanisms of Evolution as well as an entertaining look into what could be. Astrobiology is the search for extraterrestrial life, Xenobiology is the study of extraterrestrial organisms and is entirely fiction just like Speculative Evolution, which basically takes an event, or situation in which evolution could occur differently than how it has and then imagine organisms along this separate timeline. This group will focus mainly on the solid sciences and will occasionally delve into these fictitious sciences to prove, disprove, and approve.

                Our team here at the Expeditioner’s Discovery Guild will continue to bring to you only the most accurate and scientifically acceptable information and speculations that can be created. Over the timespan of this project you will learn through videos, presentations, talk-seminars, and info videos about the earth, its composition, the life that lived and still lives on it and speculations on the future of Earth and other life carrying bodies in the universe. As of now our crew consists of Destin Bogart, Brandon Ahrens, Sergio Treviso, and David lichliter. Together we will bring to you the very latest in scientific literature in as entertaining a light as we are capable of. We would like to have new videos for you every week Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Thank you for viewing; The Expeditioner’s Discovery Guild!