The “American Lion”

Panthera atrox Fossil Skull

Writing in the National Geographic blog, paleontologist Hans-Dieter Sues describes the research of a Danish zoologist and American paleontologist into the characteristics of the extinct cat most frequently referred to as the “American lion,” Panthera atrox. As Sues suggests in The ‘American Lion’ is Not a Lion,

“A new study by the Danish zoologist Per Christiansen and the American paleontologist John Harris has recently clarified the relationships of Panthera atrox to other big cats (Pantherinae). The two researchers employed a variety of methods for statistical and shape analysis to compare large samples of skulls of present-day and extinct pantherine cats.

“Their analyses confirmed that the skull of Panthera atrox shares similarities with those of lions but also revealed many differences. The lower jaw of the extinct cat was more similar to those of the jaguar and tiger but also had features not found in any of the present-day big cats.

“In a comprehensive analysis of 23 skull dimensions, Panthera atrox emerged as quite distinct from lion, tiger, and jaguar. A separate study of the evolutionary history of pantherine cats by Christiansen placed the ‘American lion’ closest to the jaguar (Panthera onca).

“The work by Christiansen and Harris makes a compelling case that Panthera atrox was, in fact, a kind of giant jaguar rather than a lion.”

For more, see the post.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yule Love Uncle Mugsy

Uncle Mugsy and the Terrible Twins of Christmas, a rhyming reader by Eric Metaxas with wonderful illustrations by Tim Raglin, is a children’s book in the long tradition of yuletide redemption first broached by Charles Dickens’ with A Christmas Carol. Written with wit and charm, and gloriously illustrated in the Raglin manner, Uncle Mugsy is certain to be a favorite with the read-it-to-me-again crowd.

And, of course, to our considerable pleasure, illustrator Tim Raglin will be joining us here in the Haysville Community Library this coming Thursday May 20th at 1:30 in the afternoon. It’s an event your little ones won’t want to miss.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Secrets of New Guinea

From a tiny forest wallaby and the blossom bat to new species of gecko and frog, an excursion to the remote Foja Mountains of New Guinea funded by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences has unearthed a treasure trove of biological diversity. The BBC News features a small sampling in the brief slideshow ‘Lost World’ of Papua Yields Stunning Secrets.

Update: Better yet, see precisely the same images but a more extensive textual explanation in a slideshow at National Geographic News New Species Found in ‘Lost World’. For yet more on the “lost world” see this item in Science Daily.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Developing Language Proficiency in Young Children

What’s the best way to assure that younger children develop language proficiency at an early age?

It would seem intuitively obvious that having meaningful conversations with them, reading to them, telling them stories, responding to their curious inquiries, and conversing with them about interesting subjects would all to contribute to the development of stronger language skills. Yet there is an enormous variation between families in whether and to what extent these elementary measures are taken.

Now an extensive Dutch study of 150 children (Dutch, Turkish, Moroccan and Berber) living in the Netherlands and conducted over a span of three years confirms what we should already have known: doing all those things really does give children stronger language skills, and an advantage at school. See Talking Seriously With Children is Good for Their Language Proficiency at the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research website.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tornado, 3: Survival

“Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries.”

The best advice for assuring your survival in a tornado is to be prepared. The key is knowledge and planning.

Pictured above is the front page of a 12-page easy-to-read manual entitled Tornadoes: A Preparedness Guide, jointly produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. Despite the 1995 publication date, it remains among the most useful of documents on tornado survival.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers even more concise advice on its Tornado resource pages, including what to do before, during and after a tornado, a glossary of terms and more. See specifically the short page on What To Do During a Tornado.

With knowledge and planning, you can maximize your chances of survival in a tornado.

Tornado South of Dimmit Texas, 1995 (NOAA/NSSL)

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Longest Day

The Columbia Journalism Review for May/June 2010 includes a great retrospective from Michael Shapiro — The Reporter Who Time Forgot: How Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day Changed Journalism. And the book itself remains a fresh, fantastic read to this day.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment