Proto-palaeontologist, working on a PhD at Imperial College in vertebrate macroevolution (dinosaurs et al!). Sci comm and sci policy geek. Podcasts at www.palaeocast.com, blogs at http://fossilsandshit.wordpress.com/ and http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/. Tweets as @protohedgehog
Understanding if life could ever have existed on Mars is one of the most challenging scientific questions facing us in the 21st Century. We know that the Martian surface at present is an arid environment bombarded with ultraviolet radiation, so the chance of finding living organisms existing there today is extremely unlikely. However, Mars has not always been this way, its history is divided into three distinct geological periods; the Amazonian, Hesperian, and the Noachian. The oldest of these, the Noachian, is likely to have been a significantly more promising time for life to potentially evolve as liquid water persisted on or near the surface long enough to carve valleys into the Martian surface and leave behind distinctive rock units. For example, in Gale Crater Curiosity Rover discovered minerals that indicated the presence of a freshwater lake at the time of their formation billions of years ago, an environment…
In terms of iconic dinosaurs, the gargantuan sauropods are certainly up there. Along with the mostly meat eating-theropods, and herbivorous and often armoured ornithischians, they form one of the three major groups, or clades, of dinosaurs, and were the biggest animals to ever walk this Earth.
The end of the Jurassic period, some 145 million years ago, was a pretty important time for sauropods. Their diversity was already in decline through some of the latter part of the Jurassic, but it seems that they were hit pretty badly at the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary, in an extinction event that may have been quite severe among land and marine-dwelling animals.
“Postpublication peer review on social media is like the mosh pit at a punk rock conference. It’s fast, uncoordinated, a lot less subtle, more in your face, and involves a few more risks.’
Peer review is the cornerstone of scientific legitimacy – it is the process where research is analysed by your professional peers. Traditionally, this has been conducted before the publication of an article. However, with the advent of the digital age of communications, particularly with regards to social media and the advent of ‘Web 2.0’, things are beginning to change. We now have systems in place where not just experts, but anyone, can comment on and evaluate research at many stages of the research publication process.
It rises from the dark waters like some behemoth from the deep, and lets out a blood-curdling roar. It’s feeding time. One of the most iconic scenes from Jurassic Park III is where the long-snouted, sail-backed giant theropod dinosaur Spinosaurus emerges from underwater to try, yet again, to eat our beleaguered rabble of misfortunates. It’s always been the way these dinosaurs have been portrayed, including one of Spinosaurus’ close cousins Baryonyx from the UK. With their long snouts, bulbous tips, and pointy teeth, it’s often been thought that spinosaurid dinosaurs were quite a lot like modern crocodiles. But how much of this is true?