Mammoths: The Misunderstood Giants

As someone who works on Silurian age fossils, I can't help but be jealous every time a new mammoth...

Let's hope we don't have another Archaeoraptor on our hands

I mentioned at the end of last week's post about the new "earliest bird" that there were murmurs...

The Earliest Bird: How A Toe Bone Can Change History

Do you know, my original title for this was "The Early Bird Gets the PR". I hastily changed it...

New fossil arthropod named after Johnny Depp

There a lot of rules governing how you name new species. But that doesn't mean that fun things...

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Oliver KnevittRSS Feed of this column.

In a nutshell: I like fossils. But even more than than that, I like arguments about fossils. Which is why my current occupation as a PhD researcher in paleontology suits me well. My research is... Read More »

Usually, you have to be insanely, insanely lucky to name a species. Not only that, after the ages spent finding and researching your animal, you then have the laborious process of getting your new species published.

Well, here is your chance to cut out all that boring crap, and moreover, dispense with the latin pleasantries, and personally bestow a common name on a species. But not just one - there are 10 species names up for grabs, and it couldn't be easier to submit your name: simply post your name in the comments section of the relevant Guardian article. Last years organisms finally to be bestowed names were...

Blue pepper-pot beetle
Most people know that we have tried to judge what may happen during global warming by creating gigantic models of the Earth system, and see how it responds to forcing from different factors.

Another way that we approach the problem, is, (in my opinion) a much more interesting line of research, and that is looking in the geological record to see how the Earth responded in the past to global warming events, and to use these to inform us about what may happen now.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is true of all science, but especially in palaeontology, where only a handful of exceptional fossils can give a disproportionate amount of weight to a hypothesis. As a consequence, palaeontologists are rightly highly suspicious of exceptional fossils, and thus new finds are, at first, treated with derision and pathological suspicion, until, after much scrutiny, they are found to make the grade.

Never was this more the case than with Archeoraptor. Here was a fossil that had a lot to prove and a long way to fall. But, despite the whinings of Kent Hovind and the like, from the very start, very few people were fooled by Archeoraptor, and the whole debacle barely registered within the scientific community.
If only!

If only!

Jun 06 2011 | comment(s)

I suspect a lot of people will be posting this (today's SMBC), but hey, I will totally jump on that bandwagon,

If only it was that easy!

People don't subscribe to homeopathy for logical reasons anyway - which, considering how strange the logic is, is maybe not surprising. They subscribe to it because they are subscribing to an anti-big-pharma ideology, and because homeopathic "doctors" themselves are basically nice people - if a little deluded - and make you feel really nice. Which, because of the wonders of the placebo effect, often equates to "better" anyhow.
Friday Fossil

Friday Fossil

Jun 03 2011 | comment(s)

This rather sorry creature can be found in a lab in the ROM, hidden away with some old CRT monitors,

This guy is Hallucigenia, another fossil from the exquisite Burgess Shale fauna - a contemporary of Anomalocaris of last week's friday fossil.

Hallucigenia is one of the weirdest - and most infamous - fossils to come out of the Burgess Shale - which is really saying something. So why, if it's so famous, is this reconstruction tucked away at the back of the ROM?

Well, that's because it is upside down.
Dear BBC...

Dear BBC...

Jun 01 2011 | comment(s)

Dear BBC,

Before publishing an article like this...


...would you take a step back and think, "Is this really what my facts are telling me?" Because, if they don't, consider your position as a self-styled centre for top quality journalism, and don't publish misleading, irresponsible things like this.

And please, don't adopt the Daily mail tactic of putting a caveat halfway down the page. Or in this case, literally in the second paragraph,