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Commission: Patagonia and Necrolestes

December 5, 2016

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Another commission by Julio Lacerda.

Necrolestes and Patagonia were two unique Miocene mammals from South America. These were among the very last non-therian mammals on the planet – a dryolestidan and a gondwanathere, respectively -, making them sort of archaic holdovers in our age of placentals and marsupials. Both were subterranean species, probably due to competition from more “modern” mammals.

In essence, they were to South America what modern monotremes are to Australia. It’s worth to note that it’s been suggested that marsupial moles are living dryolestoids, meaning that Necrolestes may still have modern relatives at least.

Sun and Moon in Ancient Crete

November 27, 2016

This is a warm article. A better sourced, better written and better everything is on the way.

From what we can figure, the sun was a female entity in Minoan religion (Nanno et al 2013), possibly related to the “snake goddess”, perhaps via a “pan-goddess” caveat. Many greek goddesses (Rhea, Demeter, Artemis, Cybele, et cetera) are associated with lions; the lioness as a sun symbol is well attested in Hittite and Egyptian religion, and was probably a common Middle Eastern motif wherever solar goddesses were relevant.

The bull was relevant in minoan religion to the point that it is one of the most well known aspects of this culture. The “Moon Bull”, as it is, has been connected to the sun by classical authors, exposing the typical “every god is a sun god, every goddess is a lunar goddess” nonsense. However, the bull is a generally lunar symbol in the Near East (semetic, where it is connected to the many moon gods, anatolian, where it is similarly connected to the moon gods, even greek and egyptian, where it is associated with Selene and Dionysus and Osiris respectively), and a masculine moon god role can comfortably be implied.

So, basically:

Lion Sun Goddess

Bull Moon God

However, this leaves us with two hiccups:

– Talos, the “greek Helios”, which is the de facto word for “sun” in Crete and whose use may extend further back in time. Zeus as Tallaios is a solar god. That said, since Zeus Tallaios is more of a “death and rebirth” deity (mind you, almost no solar deity is one), it may call into question the status of Talos as originally a sun god.

– The Minotaur’s true name is Asterion. This has been interpreted as a vestige of solar symbols, since the “labyrinth” would instantly become the zodiac. That said, “Aster” and it’s derivatives are rarely applied to the sun outright, and could suggest a more esoteric stellar meaning.

It’s possible that, like ancient egypt, russia and india, the Minoan Civilisation perceived the sun as both male and female depending on the context. I’m leaning with a generally “Sun Lioness” for a solar figure and Talos as specifically the body of the sun.

Bat elbow styliforms?

November 13, 2016

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Picture of a Lasiurus bat. Note rod-like element on the brachiopatagium, stretching from the elbow.

In my discussion on flying volaticotheres, I’ve pointed out that a possible way to infer volant capacities in mammals with patagia was the presence of styliform elements in the brachiopatagium.

Styliforms are cartilaginous/osseous rod-like elements developed in the wing membranes of nearly all gliding and flying amniotes, brought into attention thanks to the discovery of the notorious gliding theropod Yi qi. These structures presumably evolved to strengthen wing membranes and prevent fluttering, as well as extend the patagium in at least flying squirrels and anomalures.They are generally speaking original structures, independently acquired in the various clades.

They are present in a variety of arrangements and positions: in the wrist (flying squirrels and Yi qi), in the propatagium (pterosaurs; their iconic pteroid bone is a particularly specialized styliform element), in the uropatagium (the chiropteran calcar; the pterosaurian fifth toe is styliform-like in appearance, though not an original structure) and, most notably, in the middle of the brachiopatagium, projecting from the wrist (colugos, anomalures, marsupial gliders, eomyids, gliding glirids).

This latter arrangement in particular was discussed in the above post. I argued that it’s presence (or absence) could be a factor in determining on whereas an animal was a glider or flyer. It seemed intuitive to assume that such an awkwardly placed structure would be detrimental to wing strokes; this reasoning has been applied as a counter-argument for Yi qi being a powered flyer.

As it turns out, the one group of unambiguous flying mammals, bats, do seem to have elbow styliforms:

NGS Picture ID:1356044

 

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These structures are clearly solid rod-like styliform elements, similar to those observed in gliders:

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Colugo, anomalure and Eomys respectively.

Yet, these structures on bat wings are not discussed on the Yi qi paper, and don’t appear to really discussed or even named anywhere!

Further adding to the drama is the fact that at least some bats appear to lack these structures all together!

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Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

Flying foxes.

This is quite fascinating and unexpected, and I feel is worth further discussion.

References:

Jackson, Stephen Matthew and Schouten, Peter. Gliding Mammals of the World, Csiro Publishing, 2012

Xu, X.; Zheng, X.; Sullivan, C.; Wang, X.; Xing, L.; Wang, Y.; Zhang, X.; o’Connor, J. K.; Zhang, F.; Pan, Y. (2015). “A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran theropod with preserved evidence of membranous wings”. Nature. 521: 70–3. doi:10.1038/nature14423. PMID 25924069.

Commission: Ichthyoconodon jaworowskorum by Julio Lacerda

November 11, 2016

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Ichthyoconodon jaworowskorum by @paleoart.

For use in Wikimedia and many other things.

Yes, I have paid for an Ichthyoconodon commission before, but lets be honest, a possible flying mammal found out at sea deserves as many representations as Tyrannosaurus rex.

Yes, they would

November 9, 2016

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Commission: Bathornis veredus

October 24, 2016

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Bathornis veredus sketch by @paleoart. For use in Wikipedia

Easily the most underated of all theropods, Bathornis was a highly successful genus of predatory, flightless birds related to the more iconic terror birds and the modern seriemas, spawning several species across the Eocene to Miocene… in North America. Some of these were as large as modern ratites at over 1,20 meters of height, ergo the genus’ name, “tall bird”. One species, Bathornis grallator (aka “Neocathartes”), has a reasonably preserved skull, which indicates that these were, in fact, predators.

Hunting leaves one spleepy, which is why this one is yawning.

Commission by Sheather: Liaoconodon

October 9, 2016

Made by sheather888@deviantart.com (also known as Dylan Bajda), of the great eutriconodont mammal Liaoconodon.iypw9ai