Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Darwin Bicentennial

2009 marks several great anniversaries in the annals of palaeontology. This is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. Festivities have been planned throughout the year, some of which are in conjunction with the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature's Lost World Read 2009, as 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birth. It was also 100 years ago that Charles Dolittle Walcott discovered the famous Burgess Shale fossils, which shed so much light on the sudden diversification of multicellular life in the Cambrian period.

As if on queue, this past February saw the publication of an astounding find: the world's oldest fossils. Identified by traces of their cell membranes, fossil demosponges from Oman have pushed back life on our planet to more than 635 million years ago. LiveScience.com, AFP and Reuters all covered the story. A missing link between land mammals and their oceanic kin was announced in April. An important missing link amongst the dinosaurs was also uncovered. While the link between dinosaurs and birds is the most popular field of study, there have been other questions, like how a lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs became herbivores and grew to become some of the largest animals ever to walk the earth. That missing link was found in Argentina. Back to dinosaurs and birds, the March unveiling of a new dinosaur species from China suggests that feathers evolved earlier than previously thought. LiveScience took a new look at transitional fossils. Meanwhile, back at the Burgess Shale, a birthday present was given to it when the Smithsonian discovered a new species hiding out in its warehouses, which had been collected 100 years ago but not fully prepared and described until now: Hurdia victoria.

The origins of life weren't quite Darwin's forte: his was on the origin of the species. However, origins of a sort are ours. Through this edition of Deepest Darkest Jungle month, we will be going back in time to the origins of dinosaur cinema, in honor of Darwin and Conan Doyle, with a few other tidbits thrown in here and there.

1 comment:

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Fascinating post Cory. Thank you for all the links. Darwin knew his stuff.

Uhh! Conan Doyle -- doesn't he have a late night talk show? Maybe I am thinking of someone else. :-)