Project Nim

I first wrote about Nim back in June of 2008 when I reviewed the book Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess. In September of 2011 I mentioned that a documentary had been made based on the book by Hess. HBO aired the documentary last night and is airing it again on 10/19/14 (check your listings). I highly recommend it, but be warned it will make you sad and cause you to question the collective sanity of humans…


Interesting Science Picture XVII

Evidence of a crocodyliform feeding on a juvenile ‘hypsilophodontid’ dinosaur:

Croc Trauma(Source) Figure 2. Feeding traces on juvenile ‘hypsilophodontid’ bones (Kaiparowits Formation) compared to those derived via actualistic experiments. A. Skeletal reconstruction of the undescribed ‘hypsilophodontid’ from the Kaiparowits Formation with known material shown in white (modified from [65]). B. Partial left scapula (UMNH VP 21104) with feeding traces collected from UMNH locality 303. C. Outline drawing of left scapula (UMNH VP 21104) with feeding traces highlighted and colored boxes showing the locations of figure parts D, F, and G (colors match the respective figure parts). D. Bisected pit on the left scapula (UMNH VP 21104). E. Bisected pit on a modern cow femur produced by Alligator mississippiensis during actualistic experiments [20]. F. Small pit (highlighted by white arrow) on the proximal portion of the left scapula (UMNH VP 21104). G. Series of small scores present along the ventral margin of the neck of the left scapula (UMNH VP 21104). H. Distal portion of a right femur (UMNH VP 21107) with feeding traces collected from UMNH locality 303. I. Outline of right femur (UMNH VP 21107) with feeding traces highlighted and colored box showing the location of figure part J. J. Puncture containing an embedded tooth present on the right femur (UMNH VP 21107) and a small pit (highlighted by white arrow) just ventral to the puncture. K. Puncture present on a modern cow femur produced by A. mississippiensis during actualistic experiments [20]. L. Reconstruction of the hypothesized impact of the crocodyliform tooth with the right femur, creating the puncture observed in UMNH VP 21107. M. Reconstruction of the hypothesized fracturing of the damaged crocodyliform tooth crown, resulting in the embedded tooth observed in UMNH VP 21107. Scale bar equals one meter in A, 10 mm in B, E, H, and K, 2 mm in D, F, G, and J. Abbreviations: cort, cortical bone; dis, distal; dor, dorsal; f, tooth fragment; lat, lateral; med, medial; pr, proximal; t, tooth crown. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057605.g002

I put hypsilophodontid in quotes for several reasons. First, there is good evidence to indicate the taxon is paraphyletic. Second, the authors of the paper the picture was taken indicate the specimens are from a previously undescribed taxon and refer to the specimen as the ‘Kaiparowits hypsilophodontid.’


Boyd et al (2013) Crocodyliform Feeding Traces on Juvenile Ornithischian Dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian)
Kaiparowits Formation, Utah. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57605. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057605

Book Review: Science and Human Origins – Chapter One: Part One

This little book is one of a class that was more common twenty years ago, when any acute literary critic thought he could demolish Darwin. Mr. Syme has, however, the advantage of having read some of the best works both for and against Darwinism, and is thus able to support his views by quoting writers of eminence. He begins boldly. In the table of contents of the first chapter we find such headings as, “A fatal admission—Darwin’s definition misleading—Refutes his own theory.” But when we look for the proof of these statements we find they rest on misconception, misrepresentation, or misquotation. A few examples will show that this is the case. – Alfred Russel Wallace 1891. Another darwinian critic. Nature 43 (1119): 529-530.

The above quote from Alfred Russel Wallace comes from his review of On the Modification of Organisms by David Syme. As the quote shows, criticizing Darwin as been a cottage industry since on the Origin of Species was published in 1859. As the above quote also shows, the reliance on misconception, misrepresentation, and misquotation has been a standard tactic in the arsenal of creationists for over one hundred years. As we will see below (and in future posts), the latest entry, Science and Human Origins, in the cottage industry continues this illustrious tradition.

Science and Human Origins was written by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. Science and Human Origins was published by the Discovery Institute earlier this year and created quite ruckus in the science blogosphere when it did. You can see this post (and the links therein) for additional details. Originally I was just going to review the section on fossils but have decided to review the entire book – or at least those parts I feel competent to deal with. This post looks at chapter one. Continue reading


Interesting Science Picture XVI

The story:

“Scientists have collected tens of thousands of fossils at this site in recent decades,” notes co-author Dr. Stephan Schaal of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, “but only these turtles are known to occur in pairs, a total of nine so far.” Detailed analysis of the fossil material revealed that each pair consists of a female and male individual. More importantly, even though the males typically face away from the females, the tail of some male individuals can be found wrapped under the shell of the female. “There is no doubt in my mind,” says Dr. Joyce, “These animals died some 47 million years ago in the act of mating. No other vertebrates are known to have died during this important biological process and then been fossilized.”

Source: W. G. Joyce, N. Micklich, S. F. K. Schaal, T. M. Scheyer. Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0361


Book Review: Carnivores Of The World

I have been meaning to review this book for quite some time now. Carnivores Of The World is a field guide that covers all 245 species of terrestrial carnivores (the Pinnipedia are not covered). It is publish by Princeton University Press as part of their field guide series. The book is written by Luke Hunter (president of Panthera – an organization devoted to the conservation of the world’s wild cats). The carnivora are the fifth largest mamalian order and contain, as mentioned above, 245 species. The book divides these up into thirteen families (Felidae, Hyaenidae, Herpestidae, Eupleridae, Prionodontidae, Viveridae, Nandiniidae, Canidae, Ursidae, Procyonidae, Ailuridae, Mephitidae, and Mustelidae). Each of these families is discussed as a whole in the introduction with the key features of each being identified. In the chapters following the the introduction, the individual species are discussed. For each species the following information is provided; common name(s),scientific name, length and weight, pelt color and variation, subspecies (if any), distribution and habitat, feeding ecology, social and spatial behavior, reproduction and demography, and status and threats. Continue reading


Mini Book Review: Daniel Lieberman The Evolution of the Human Head

I just bought a copy of Daniel Lieberman’s The Evolution of the Human Head the other day. I’m only on chapter three (hence a mini review), which gives an overview of the embryological development of the head. However, based on what I have read so far I would highly recommend it. The central premise is that hominins vary very little postcranialy – arguable, but somewhat correct – but vary quite a bit cranially. The book sets out to explore why this is the case and so far has been a fascinating read. I’ll do a full review when I have finished the book.


Do Chimpanzees Mourn For Their Dead?

Note: The next addition of the Four Stone hearth will at This is Serious Monkey Business on February 2nd. Pleas get your submissions in!

That seems to be the way the press is portraying the video below. The video was released in conjunction with an article published in the American Journal of Primatology (the article can also be found here) Continue reading