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Archive for February 2011

The Opportunistic T. rex

Looks like the tyrant lizard wasn't so scary after all.

UCMP's Mark Goodwin and Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, have been working in the late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of Eastern Montana for decades, an area famous for its impressive fossil assemblages including fish, mammals, and dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex.

Based on a census of predator and prey found at several of the time intervals represented in the Hell Creek Formation, Goodwin and Horner concluded that T. rex was far too abundant to be a lion-like top predator. Top predators are usually one-third or one-fourth as abundant as their prey due to their larger energetic requirements. Opportunistic carnivores like hyenas, however, can number twice that of top predators. With the results of their census and no evidence that T. rex was an extra picky or capable hunter, the scientists suggest it likely subsisted on both live and dead animals, exploiting a variety of food sources like the hyena.

Check out the press release to find out more!

Happy Valentine's Day from the Caldwell Lab

Love is in the water, and UCMP's Roy Caldwell has the photos to prove it! The cephalopod resource website TONMO has posted a sequence of Roy's crystal-clear photos depicting a pair of mating Abdopus aculeatus octopuses. Readers can follow this relationship from the first, tentative moments of courtship through to a brood of adorable octopus eggs.

Click through to TONMO for the photo essay and accompanying commentary.

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Happy Birthday, Darwin!Our old buddy Charles Darwin turns 202 this Saturday and the Berkeley Natural History Museums aren't letting him forget it.

In addition to a Darwin-inspired photo contest, the Essig Museum of Entomology, on behalf of the Entomology Student Organization, will be giving several tours of their new museum space on Friday before a birthday party complete with photo judging and, you guessed it, cake!

To find out more about how people across the world are celebrating Darwin Day, check out the International Darwin Day Foundation.

And from all of us here at UCMP and the Berkeley Natural History Museums, have a happy Darwin Day!

Mastodons in the Caldecott?

A gomphotherium jaw, from the Blackhawk Quarry

Yes! And that's not all! Construction of the new fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24 is cutting through fossiliferous rocks in the East Bay Hills deposited some nine to ten million years ago. Rocks of this age have produced fossils of mastodons, several kinds of horses and camels, and carnivores including a hyena-like dog and a saber-tooth cat – so those involved in the drilling process are keeping an eye out for any such finds.

To illustrate what has been found in earlier excavations, UCMP has provided an exhibit of fossil representatives of some of these mammals. The fossils were actually collected at the Blackhawk Ranch Quarry on the eastern slopes of Mount Diablo, but they represent the same fauna as the fossils that have been found at the Caldecott Tunnel.

The exhibit has been developed in cooperation with the Lafayette Historical Society and also includes examples of restorations of the ancient flora and fauna prepared by a local artist, the late William Gordon Huff. Some of these restorations were shown at the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair.

The exhibit will be on display at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center (3491 Mt. Diablo Boulevard) until early March. The Lafayette Historical Society is sponsoring a lecture, "Old Bones in the New Tunnel", to be held at the library on February 16th at 3:00 PM.

If you miss this exhibit, fossils and archives from the exhibit will be on display at UCMP during Cal Day, April 16, 2011, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM and learn about "who" wandered Berkeley before the Cal Bears!

See more Blackhawk Quarry fossils, and a drawing by Huff at the UCMP Flickr photostream:

Borophagus skull from the Blackhawk Quarry Hipparion skull from the Blackhawk Quarry Camel skull from the Blackhawk Quarry Dog drawing by William Huff