In this beautifully illustrated lesson from TED Ed, science writer and educator Carl Zimmer explains some answers to the question, How did feathers evolve?
From his article in National Geographic:
Most of us will never get to see nature’s greatest marvels in person. We won’t get a glimpse of a colossal squid’s eye, as big as a basketball. The closest we’ll get to a narwhal’s unicornlike tusk is a photograph. But there is one natural wonder that just about all of us can see, simply by stepping outside: dinosaurs using their feathers to fly.
With animation by Armella Leung, see how today’s birds are related to the dinosaurs of the past, and how fossils with feathers have helped us understand that connection.
Related viewing: evolution, dinosaurs, birds, flying, and a robot that flies like a bird.
File under laser scanners, 3D printers and dinosaur bones… not so surprisingly a great combination, as introduced by Dr. Kenneth Lacovara of Drexel University:
“For years and years, vertebrate paleontologists have really been confined to working with the shapes, with the morphology, of bones and with skeletons, as you can see behind me here. And our hypotheses about how these ancient animals lived and moved was based on how we could put these bones together in the physical world.
“And now for the first time in the history of paleontology, we’re able to move beyond those methods and into this virtual landscape where we can test our biomechanical hypotheses in rigorous ways that were never possible before.”
In February 2012, Dr. Lacovara’s paleontology department teamed up with the University’s engineering department to scan their fossils to make 3D models that could be made into fully working arms and legs. Wrap some engineered muscles around those… add more parts… and perhaps we’ve got the most accurate robot dinosaur ever made!
To read more, check out Printing dinosaurs: the mad science of new paleontology, from The Verge, July 2012.
From CalAcademy and the University of California Museum of Paleontology, a great introduction on how the Triceratops (named in 1889) and the Torosaurus (named in 1891) are actually the same dinosaur at different stages of life. Both lived around between 66.8 and 65.5 million years ago.