alphynix

alphynix

Nix Draws Stuff

Paleontology, science, and the general weirdness of nature. Also, feathering ALL the dinosaurs.

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alphynix·18 hours agoPhoto

The enantiornitheans (“opposite-birds”) were the most diverse and widespread group of Mesozoic birds, existing all around the world throughout the Cretaceous period. They retained claws on their wings and had toothy snouts instead of beaks, and while most of them lacked the lift-generating tail fans of modern birds they appear to have still been very adept fliers.

But Elsornis keni here was doing something different.

Known from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, about 80 million years ago, this opposite-bird  lived alongside famous dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Protoceratops in what is now the Gobi Desert. Only a single partial specimen has ever been found, so its full life appearance is unknown and this reconstruction is somewhat speculative, but it would have been around the size of a pigeon at 25cm long (10") – not including any decorative tail feathers it may have had, similar to other enantiornitheans.

It wing and shoulder bones were very odd for an opposite-bird, with proportions that don’t match anything capable of competent flight. Instead Elsornis appears to have been a flightless enantiornithean, a representative of a previously unknown terrestrial lineage.

———

Nix Illustration | Tumblr | Pillowfort | Twitter | Patreon

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alphynix·3 days agoText

bigwordsandsharpedges:

justthesource:

tilthat:

TIL that there’s a spider that is capable of insight, trial-and-error learning, and puzzle solving due its source of food: other spiders.

via ift.tt

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portia_(spider)

All spiders in the Portia genus are fascinating because of how much they accomplish with so little. They’re all tiny little jumping spiders, mostly under one centimeter, so they have tiny little brains.

Most Portia spiders have a brain of only 600,000 neurons, which is physically much smaller than the head of a pin. This forces them to think rather slowly from our point of view, but compared to their prey, they’re devastatingly brilliant.

For example, many jumping spiders are know to take detours when stalking prey. Portia spiders are notable for taking very long detours that break line of sight, which means they must remember and predict where the prey will be when they arrive.

When hunting sedentary web-building spiders, which usually have poor vision, a Portia spider will mimic a bit of leaf or bark to get into attack range. They only move forward during light breezes that shake the web enough to hide their footsteps. If the target moves to defend itself, Portia will disengage, retreat, and try again.

If they can’t get a good approach, they have also been recorded mimicking the vibrations of a trapped insect, or a male spider’s mating dance, to lure the prey spider into attack range. One Portia Fimbriata, the fringed jumping spider, was observed using trial and error to vibrate a target web for three days, repeating any pattern that caused the prey spider to move closer.

In places where other spiders aren’t common enough to be reliable prey, Portia adapts. They’ve been witnessed scavenging and even consuming nectar from flowers. They also innovate new tactics to hunt insects. For example, many insects freeze and stand motionless to avoid predators. Portia spiders counter this by guessing where the prey is and jumping nearby, which often scares the target into breaking cover and running. Then Portia can spot it and resume the normal detour-and-ambush routine.

The population native to Queensland, Australia is particularly inventive. They’re known to drop down on target spiders from above, a tactic called “swooping”. While all other Portia gladly jump into target spider webs, the Queensland orb weaver Argiope Appensa discourages them by shaking the web violently, which disrupts their normal techniques. Swooping counters this defense.

They also use a unique walking gait, slow and robotic, when hunting other saltacid jumping spiders with large forward-facing eyes. They freeze and depend on their natural camouflage whenever the target looks directly at them, so we suspect they prey may not even recognize them as living creatures. Portia rarely uses this “cryptic stalking” technique against any other prey.

Portia Africanus appeared to be a comparatively bad hunter at first glance, but that was in lab testing with 1v1 combat. In the wild, this spider hunts in packs.

Yes, really. They form social groups that hunt cooperatively and sometimes share prey. Groups of mixed ages and sexes will gang up outside the nest of a target spider. They prevent the target from entering or leaving and surround them until one of the Portia, usually a juvenile, manages to lunge forward and bite.

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alphynix·4 days agoLink
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alphynix·6 days agoPhoto

thebashfulbotanist:

Around this time every year, dozens of concerned folks post this lovely mushroom in identification forums, anxiously wondering if they’re found a deathcap. Nope! This beauty is Stropharia ambigua, the questionable stropharia. It’s recognizable by its slate grey gills, yellow cap, and gorgeous, delicate and feathery veil. While beautiful, and likely not poisonous, it has a pretty gross taste (like eating soggy dead leaves) and isn’t considered edible. 

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alphynix·7 days agoPhoto

onenicebugperday:

Sacken’s Velvet Ant, Dasymutilla sackenii, Mutillidae

Sacken’s velvet ant is not an ant, but a type of wasp. Females are wingless and resemble large, fuzzy ants; males look similar but have wings (photos 9-10). Velvet ants are known for their extremely painful sting, so it’s wise to avoid handling them with bare skin (as in photo above). This species is found mainly in California, but its range extends down into Baja.

Photo 1 by kueda, 2-3 by dlbowls, 4 by condylura, 5 by micrathene, 6 by kerry_ross, 7-8 by tempetoon, and 9-10 by edwardrooks

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alphynix·8 days agoPhoto

While most modern echinoderms display the group’s characteristic five-way symmetry, there were plenty of much much stranger-looking forms back during the Paleozoic.

And some of the most confusing of them were the paracrinoids, which evolved an incredibly diverse range of body shapes during their group’s relatively short 40 million year existence during the Ordovician.

Despite the name these echinoderms weren’t particularly closely related to true crinoids, instead being part of a completely extinct lineage known as the blastozoans. Their ancestors had been radially symmetric, but paracrinoids largely abandoned that body plan, instead developing irregularly shaped and often asymmetric bodies ranging from round to flattened. They had between two and five “food grooves” on their upper surfaces, derived from the ambulacra, lined with numerous feeding appendages along only the left side of each.

They were shallow-water animals, living either attached to the seafloor by a long stem or anchored into the sediment by a shorter one, suspension feeding with their appendages and transporting the food particles towards the mouth located between the bases of the food grooves.

(…And speaking of mouths, some paracrinoid species appear to have had two of them.)

Heckerites multistellatus here lived around 458-445 million years ago, during the Late Ordovician. It inhabited the then-subtropical seas of the Baltica region, with fossil material known from what is now Estonia, southeastern Norway, and northwest Russia.

About 10cm tall (4"), it lived on the seafloor in sheltered waters protected from strong waves by large reefs, and is unusual even among its weirdo relatives for features such as retaining feeding appendages on both sides of its food grooves – although irregularly arranged and with fewer on one side than the other. Its body was shaped rather like a flattened bean, with two food grooves diverging from roughly the centre of the top margin, chunky skeletal plates forming a border around its edges, and a short stem at is base.

It also had an unusually large “anal pyramid” on the opposite side of its body from its mouth, and this may have been used for respiration as well as waste expulsion, similar to modern sea cucumbers.

———

Nix Illustration | Tumblr | Pillowfort | Twitter | Patreon

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alphynix·9 days agoText

funkyfrogoftheday:

today’s funky frog of the day is: pseudophryne corroboree! commonly known as the southern coroboree frog, they are one of australia’s most endangered species, only found in kosciuszko national park. these frogs are able to produce their own toxin, an alkaloid called pseudophrynamine, instead of obtaining it by diet like most poisonous frogs. because of this, they have no natural predators, but they are threatened by climate change and habitat disturbance. there are reportedly less than 200 of these frogs left.

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alphynix·10 days agoPhoto

adelicateculturecell:

“The Lacrymaria’s hunting style is incredibly successful, but it’s build in part on chaos. Instead of lying in wait for food to come by, the Lacrymaria plays the odds. It zaps its neck out incredibly fast, sub-second movements to whip around and randomly sample the area around it for food. This strategy helps the Lacrymaria capture all sorts of prey.”

Journey to the Microcosmos- Lacrymaria: Vicious Long-Necked Predators

Images Originally Captured by Jam’s Germs

Lacrymaria olor 200x, Lacrymaria olor hunting a Halteria 200x, Lacrymaria olor 200x, Lacrymaria olor ripping a ciliate apart 200x, Lacrymaria olor 630x, Lacrymaria olor & Trachelomonas 200x

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alphynix·11 days agoText

withinatale:

todaysbird:

this surprisingly white yellow-throated toucan was spotted in costa rica within its native habitat. the bird’s odd appearance is due to leucism, a genetic condition that leads to an absence of pigmentation. birds with plumage in abnormal colors are prone to increased predation and weak feathers due to lack of melanin.

@elodieunderglass​ A leucistic toucan for you!

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alphynix·13 days agoPhoto

onenicebugperday:

Wheel bug, Arilus cristatus, Reduviidae, (adults, nymphs, and eggs with hatching nymphs)

The wheel bug is a species of large assassin bug found in North America, primarily in the southeastern United States, and identifiable by the cog-like dorsal crest. They are predators that prey mostly on caterpillars and beetles, using their tube-like mouthparts to pierce the body of their prey and inject digestive enzymes.

Handling these bugs with bare skin is not recommended - although they are normally docile, rough handling can elicit a defensive response. Their large mourthparts are capable of breaking human skin in both nymphal and adult stages. These bites are said to be more painful and longer-lasting than that of a wasp sting.

Photos 1-3 by Judy Gallagher, 4 by sionannkane, 5-6 by mmaretz, 7 by rickcorbell, 8 by Judy Gallagher, 9 by spyingnaturalist, and 10 by jcs13

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alphynix·14 days agoPhoto

meadowsofashandwisdom:

ivegotanaceupmysleeve-ohitsme:

dressesandyarn:

magicalhomesandstuff:

What’s encrypting your internet surfing? An algorithm created by a supercomputer? Well, if the site you’re visiting is encrypted by the cyber security firm Cloudflare, your activity may be protected by a wall of lava lamps.

image

Cloudflare covers websites for Uber, OKCupid, & FitBit, for instance. The wall of  lamps in the San Francisco headquarters generates a random code. Over 100  lamps, in a variety of colors, and their patterns deter hackers from accessing data.  

image

As the lava lamps bubble and swirl, a video camera on the ceiling monitors their unpredictable changes and connects the footage to a computer, which converts the randomness into a virtually unhackable code.

image

Codes created by machines have relatively predictable patterns, so it’s possible for hackers to guess their algorithms, posing a security risk. Lava lamps, add to the equation the sheer randomness of the physical world, making it nearly impossible for hackers to break through.

image

You might think that this would be kept secret, but it’s not. Simply go in and ask to see the lava lamp display. By allowing people to affect the video footage, human movement, static, and changes in lighting from the windows work together to make the random code even harder to predict.

image

So, by standing in front of the display, you add an additional variable to the code, making it even harder to hack. Isn’t that interesting? 

via atlasobscura.com

What the fuck.

Oh, this

I like this

If you wrote this into your fictional story, it’d be called too fake.

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alphynix·15 days agoPhoto

The lysorophians were a group of Carboniferous and Permian tetrapods with highly elongated bodies and tiny limbs, usually thought to be part of the lepospondyl amphibians – but some recent studies have instead placed them and some of their close relatives as possibly being very early members of the reptile branch of amniotes.

Brachydectes newberryi here is one of the best-known lysorophians, represented by a good amount of fossil material compared to many of its relatives. Living in the Midwestern United States during the late Carboniferous and early Permian, around 310-290 million years ago, it had a proportionally tiny head and reached lengths of around 60-70cm (2’-2'4").

Its wide shovel-shaped snout and thickened reinforced bones around its braincase suggest it was adapted for headfirst digging, and some specimens have actually been found preserved inside their burrows. The roof of its skull also developed extensive “sculpturing” as individuals aged, with juveniles having smooth bone surfaces and larger adults having a distinct rough bumpy texture.

So I’ve depicted it here with a speculative keratinous “head shield”.

———

Nix Illustration | Tumblr | Pillowfort | Twitter | Patreon

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alphynix·17 days agoText

carnegiemuseumnaturalhistory:

Mollusk shells persist long after the death of the soft-bodied animals whose secretions formed the protective covers. These sturdy remains can inform us about species living in an area at that time. Many mollusks occur in specific habitats and during certain time periods in Earth’s history. When we find mollusks in sediment with dinosaur bones, for example, we receive a clue about the geologic age and habitat in which those dinosaurs lived. When mollusks first appear in an area, deposits containing their shells allow us to estimate when events in Earth’s history occurred, including archaeological events, or even relatively recent construction projects.

This morning as I walked across the Panther Hollow bridge near Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I noticed clam shells in the concrete of the sidewalk. What can the presence of these clam shells tell me about how long that sidewalk has been there?

Top: Clam shell in sidewalk on Panther Hollow Bridge. Bottom: Close-up of clam shell, inside view. Scale in mm.

Concrete is a mixture of cement with sand and gravel. When sand and gravel are taken from rivers, this natural resource sometimes contains clam shells. I believe the clam shells in this sidewalk were scooped up along with the sand and gravel to make the concrete. Then after the sidewalk was poured, but before it fully hardened, the clam shells floated to the upper surface.  

As an aside, information about comparative densities is instructive here. Two common crystal forms of calcium carbonate are calcite and aragonite, which have different densities (calcite 2.71g/cc, aragonite 2.93). Most mollusks form shells of aragonite. However, shells are not pure aragonite, containing small amounts of protein and other substances, so clam shells can have densities around 2.5-2.6. In comparison, the density of quartz, which makes up much of the sand used in making concrete, is 2.65. The clam shells are slightly lighter than the sand, which probably explains why they floated up to the sidewalk surface.

I identified these clam shells as Corbicula fluminea (common name: the Asian clam). They have the characteristic shape and size, the outside has strong regular growth ribs, and on the inside, the lateral teeth bear minute serrations. This species was first recorded in North America in British Columbia about 1924. As an invasive species, it has spread, through human activity, to at least 46 US States.

Top: Outside view of clam showing strong ribs. Middle: Partly broken clam, inside view showing external rib impressions in concrete below. Bottom: Close-up of clam’s lateral teeth showing minute serrations. Scale in mm.

When did the species appear in southwestern Pennsylvania? There is a record of Corbicula fluminea in 1979 from the Ohio River just downstream from Pittsburgh and another in Greene County, southwestern Pennsylvania from 1981. Museum records of this species became more common after about 1993, suggesting that the clam probably became more common about then.

Corbicula fluminea collected in 1993 from Loyalhanna Creek, Southwestern Pennsylvania. Top: inside of shell. Bottom: outside of shell showing strong ribs. Scale in mm.

Consequently, I conclude that the Corbicula fluminea-containing concrete sidewalk on the bridge next to Carnegie Museum must have been poured after the late 1970s, and possibly after 1993, when the clam became abundant in freshwater of western Pennsylvania, the region where Pittsburgh is located.

Museum collections provide useful information about when non-native species arrived in an area. Now you know that one of the many uses of mollusks is estimating ages of things.

Although some people might think of clams as an abstract concept, here is an example of clams in the concrete!

Timothy A. Pearce, PhD, is the head of the mollusks section at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.

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alphynix·20 days agoPhoto

mirdam-aves:

Pfeilstorch

Pfeilstorch (German for arrow stork) is a term which describes any of the currently twenty-five storks which when wintering in Africa were struck by an arrow and made it back to Europe alive. 

The occurrence, especially the first one, was crucial at the time for understanding bird migration. The first individual was discovered in 1822 in the German village Klütz, which is located in the state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The bird, which is now known as the Rostocker Pfeilstorch, can today be found in the zoological collection of the university of Rostock

They proved that migration, which back then was just a theory, is in fact the reason for the disappearance of birds such as the barn swallow during the winter. Other theories included hibernation and, from the 17th century scientist Charles Morton  who argued surprisingly well, flying to the moon.

Image source: TUU

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