Recent Changes in the Human Cranium: Reprise

As I wrote in a recent post an article was recently published in the British Dental Journal comparing skulls from people who died from the black plague in 1348 (13 males and 17 females) to skulls of people who died in the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1545 (53 males, 1 female) and with skulls of modern individuals (16 males, 15 females, actually, the measurements were taken off radiograms). Eleven standard cranial measurements were taken and converted into angular and linear measurments. Below is a picture illustrating the angular and linear measurements.
Cranial Measurments
An ANOVA was then performed grouping by era. Results indicated that there were some statistically significant differences between the modern goup and the earlier samples – particularly in the area of cranial vault height and maxillary area. In particular, vault height measurements have increased and the maxillary measurements have decreased. So what does it mean?

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Seed Magazine and Challenger

Seed Magazine’s retrospective on the 20th anniversery of the Challenger explosion can be found here

Missouri Creationism: The Silly Season has Begun

Added Later: Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble provides hi own unique take on this bill. Can’t say I can argue with his characterization of the MO legislatures modus operendi.
According to Missouri Citizens for Science (a new blog I just stumbled across) a new creationist bill has been introduced in the Missouri House of Representitives by republican Robert Cooper, and makes for some interesting reading. [Added Later: The scary thing is Rep. Cooper is an MD]
The bill summary states:

This bill establishes the Missouri Science Education Act which
requires instruction for science courses in sixth through twelfth
grades to comply with its best practices within five years after
its passage. The bill defines “verified empirical data” and
“substantive amount” and specifies that information appearing to
be verified empirical data but is not verified must be separately
identified. Information that represents scientific thought, such
as theory, hypothesis, extrapolation, and estimation, among
others, must also be distinguished from verified empirical data
and may be presented in the light of critical analysis. Critical
analysis may discuss problems such as faulty logic, alternate
explanations, or conflicting experiments. A substantive amount
of critical analysis is required when teaching a theory of
biological origins or current scientific theory that deals with
prehistory or the future.
State assessments must comply with the
bill.

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Scorpion Lives Inside Plaster Mold of Fossil

Scorpion
From ABC News:

Don DeBlieux, a paleontologist for the Utah Geological Survey, said he was sawing open the plaster mold when the scorpion wriggled from a crack in a sandstone block.
DeBlieux is still chipping away at the 1,000-pound rock to expose the horned skull of an 80-million-year-old plant eater a species of dinosaur he says is new to science.

How cool – or scary – is that? You find a new dinosaur and a surprise scorpion…

He discovered the two-inch critter on Jan. 5 after spending two months carefully removing the plaster mold. DeBlieux said he’ll spend more than 500 hours cutting the fossilized skull out of sandstone using tiny pneumatic jackhammers.
It took three and a half years to cut the sandstone block in the field, where researchers encased it with plaster. They moved it by helicopter from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to a laboratory in Salt Lake City.
Scorpions, which eat insects, are capable of surviving for months without feeding or moving in a sleep period known as diapause, said Richard Baumann, a Brigham Young University zoologist.
Under other circumstances, the scorpion might have met an untimely end, but DeBlieux said he wanted respected the creature’s will to survive. He set the scorpion free in a field on the west side of Salt Lake City.

Yup, I’d set it free too…
Scorpion

Recent Changes in the Human Cranium

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According to a story on BBC News the human cranium has undergone some interesting changes over the last 600-700 years:

The two principal differences discovered were that our ancestors had more prominent features, but their cranial vault – the distance measured from the eyes to the top of the skull – was smaller.
Dr Peter Rock, lead author of the study and director of orthodontistry at Birmingham University, told the BBC News website: “The astonishing finding is the increased cranial vault heights.
“The increase is very considerable. For example, the vault height of the plague skulls were 80mm, and the modern ones were 95mm – that’s in the order of 20% bigger, which is really rather a lot.”

The study included 30 skulls from the mid 14th century (plague victims), 54 skulls from the wreck of the Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s warship) from 1545 and 31 recent (based on orthodontic records).

New Species of Crocodile Discovered

060125_crocodile_big
The above is a picture of a new species of crocodile, named Effigia okeeffeae, that walks on two feet. According National Geographic News:

Despite the reptile’s resemblance to an ostrich dinosaur, or ornithomimid, Effigia is actually some 80 million years older.
Effigia roamed North America in the Triassic period some 210 million years ago.
“This is totally unexpected and reminds us that crocodilian relatives were more diverse in the past than they are today,” said paleontologist James Clark, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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Transitions

I will be picking a new Site of the Week for Transitions soon. Be sure to check out my new blog at ScienceBlogs