A 23 million year old fossil from the Canadian Arctic has been discovered that has scientists buzzing! This is a fossil remnant of a transitional mammal that has not been seen before. It looked a lot like a seal except for one important difference. Instead of flippers it had front legs! It was a walking seal! This is an artist’s representation of how it might have looked:
A website about Puijila Darwini has been setup here.
The importance of Puijila is that it represents an evolutionary link between a mammal that once walked on land and one that now swims in the sea.
It represents a completely new genus and species, so the scientists who discovered it had to come up with an original name. Puijila is a derivation of a word in the Inuktitut language, which is spoken by the Native Americans who occupy Nunavut, the area of Canada where the fossil was found. It is a word that is generally used to refer to a young seal and is intended to honor the people of Nunavut whose support has been critical in to the success of archeological research in the area.
And don’t ask me how it’s pronounced. This site has a pronounciation guide plus lots more information. The Darwini piece you guys should be able to figure out.
Isn’t this stuff just so much more interesting than reading about the blatherings of Those Darn Republicans? Some days, anyway.
Some of you may know that my daughter is an active volunteer with an organization, National Milldog Rescue, that actively seeks to not only rescue and rehabilitate dogs who have been abused through the puppy mill system but also to put the irresponsible breeders out of business for good. This is Lily, the rescued-from-a-mill Italian greyhound who Theresa Strader, the organization’s founder, adopted, fell in love with and became the inspiration for the organization. Lily’s story is heartbreaking, you can read about it here, but she suffered severe disfigurement as a result of the abuse she suffered and her life was greatly shortened.
ABC’s Nightline just featured a story on puppy mill operations in, of all places, Amish country. Apparently this area has more puppy mills per square mile than any other part of the country. The puppies basically represent livestock in their opinion, and don’t really merit being treated any different than chickens in a coop (and I am NOT advocating for that treatment for chickens either - only free range eggs eaten here!) The farmer being interviewed felt letting the dogs run around on a large version of a gerbil wheel now and then is the equivalent of getting exercise outside. And, unfortunately, the piece did not get into the numerous health problems that puppies in this environment suffer. However they did also document the rescue, from a different breeder, of a beautiful female golden retriever, totally broken down, with open sores, and no longer able to be bred. These people need to spend a few years in a cage themselves and see what it would do to them.
Hubcap in my lap after the first of many recent trips to the vet.
I first saw Hubcap in a decrepit back lot in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. She was a stray kitten and absolutely adorable. Chris and I had just moved in together and we’d talked about getting a cat, so I thought she’d make a perfect surprise housewarming present. I tried to catch her for several days by chasing her, but she was crafty and always slipped through a fence at the last minute. Finally, I set up a burlap bag like a tent with a stick in the opening and I put some cat food down inside. When she finally went in the bag, I ran out and grabbed it up. It took three flea baths at the vet to clean her up, but she took to domestic living fairly quickly. She’s been with us ever since. She’s been a big part of our relationship and our lives.
We decided to send our little buddy Hubcap off yesterday. It was really tough, but the right thing to do. She kept getting worse and we couldn’t keep taking her to the vet. God, she hated going there. It was time. For her and for us.
I’ll miss seeing her crashed out on the couch with her arm covering her eyes. I’ll miss her waiting by the door when I got home. I’ll miss her rolling around on her back when we begged her to “give us a tumble.” I’ll miss watching her snarf down beans. I’ll miss her chasing the beam from a flashlight around the floor and up walls like a maniac. I’ll miss holding “conversations” with her. I’ll miss her staring out the screen window and hearing pedestrians admire her. I’ll miss her sleeping in the crook of my arm. I’ll really miss my little buddy.
But I won’t miss watching her suffer anymore.
Farewell Hubcap. You were a hell of a gal. Rest in peace.
Last week, NASA launched a small telescope named after Johannes Kepler into space. I have my own reasons for enjoying this, but who could not like this squat little spacecraft? It looks like a cross between a Pisco bottle and a Taco Bell Burrito. It’s only a third the size of that maladjusted diva, the Hubble. Its mission is to search for habitable planets circling other suns, taking pictures of them with its 95 mega-pixel camera. It has almost no moving parts. Just a few thrusters and a couple of little reaction wheels to keep it pointed at its chosen section of the Milky Way.
It also has a honeycombed mirror, a couple of starfinders, the 95 megapixel photometer, and a High Gain Antenna so it can call home once a week. All of this wrapped in a snazzy blue solar cape that James Brown might have envied. You could argue that the money could be better spent on earth, but the way the earth is heading, we might need extra planets some day. So Kepler’s not just a pretty face; Kepler’s practical.
Kepler also twitters, somewhat alarmingly, in the first person: . But at least Kepler has enough sense not to talk to strangers:
In 1973, Nasa sent two Pioneer spacecrafts right out of our solar system, and had the bad judgement to affix plaques to them with directions on how to find us. As if that weren’t enough, Man and Woman are depicted on the plaques. Man is a ‘70s white dude with an atrocious blow-dried do (with possible sideburns) and Woman is missing something: her vulva. Carl Sagan, whose bright idea the plaque was, and his wife at the time, Linda, who contributed the drawings, omitted what he called “a very short line” (a few civilizations have fallen on the existence of that “very short line”) to make sure that the plaque would escape earthly prudery and go on to miseducate the universe.
Carl Sagan was a brilliant man and an optimist. But cluing in advanced civilizations on our whereabouts, is that the best idea? Really?
Flambéed? Fricasseed? Sautéed? As she finished her traditional dinner of Virginia Slims and chardonnay with a bile chaser, Ann Coulter contemplated how she’d prepare this tasty young McCain dumpling prior to consuming it whole. Coulter will likely have to unhinge her jaw as a python might to accommodate a tapir. At any rate, this should be interesting, so bust out the popcorn, folks…