Herd Mentality Saved Mammoth Lives

An elephant herd consists of a matriarch, her sisters, one happy mal17-11-14 mammoth skeletone, and all of their immature offspring. Once juvenile male elephants reach adulthood at approximately 14 years of age, they are expelled from the group and either live alone or pal around from time to time with other bachelors.

As is known for at least one other contemporary species, young male elephants lack life skills and good judgement, and so they may exhibit risky behaviors, including lethal ones, such as getting mired in bogs. Read more

Ivar the Boneless

17-11-07 Norse landing party for Ivar the Boneless postCatherine the Great. Richard the Lion-Hearted. Ivan the Terrible.  By their names alone, these leaders commanded respect, perhaps fear. How would you feel about marching into battle behind a war lord named Ivar the Boneless? I would always be thinking of Gary Larsen’s cartoon, The Boneless Chicken Ranch–chickens are lying fried-egg-flat on the ground or draped limply over the fence like Salvador Dali watches. Read more

Genuine Hate Produced the Bone Wars

17-10-24 Marsh, armed assistants, bone warsPaleontology, the study of fossilized life forms, has had some quirky disciples, none more so than Othneil Marsh and Edward Cope. Both paleontologic giants, they were also egomaniacal, ambitious, jealous, and rich. Author Url Lanham describes them this way:

At a level above the ordinary garden variety of malicious gossip is genuine hate, which probably is one of the most valuable forces in existence for producing, quick, accurate, incisive, and original thinking. Both Cope and Marsh enjoyed the benefits of this emotion to an unusually high degree.  Read more

Bone’s Second Class Cousins

What about those hard things that protrude through the scalp on moose and reindeer, elephant tusksthrough the feet on hoofed animals, and through the gums on most vertebrates? Are they bone? In the instance of teeth, no. Although teeth and bone are both hard and calcium-rich, they have entirely different chemistries and structures. Same for tusks, which are continuously growing front teeth. They are ivory.

What about hooves, claws, beaks, and maybe  your mother-in-law’s fingernails?
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Why Bone?

Because of its unique properties, bone supports vertebrate life and later reveals Earth’s history and human culture.

No material compares. For instance, mud mushes. When it dries out, it crumbles. Limestone, granite, concrete, brick, and china were all once mud. They don’t crumble, but they are brittle and their weight and bulk limit their usefulness for building, especially for things that are supposed to move. Metal makes for lighter construction, and if you bend metal a bit, it springs back, which is usually fine. Bend metal some more, it stays bent, which can be bad. bridge collapsePlastics are environmentally unfriendly. Wood is good because it is a bit flexible, easy to join, relatively light weight, and biodegradable; but it can rot or burn.

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