Botanical garden birds and flowers

Crocus laevigatus Fontenayi

Today in the botanical garden. There is still some ice in the ponds, as it had been freezing during the night. Some plants already flowering, including snowdrops and Crocus laevigatus.

A great spotted woodpecker in a tree, calling.

A ring-necked parakeet calling and flying.

A long-tailed tit (see also here) in a tree in the fern garden.

A collared dove.

Chaffinches. Blackbirds. A jay. A magpie.

Leefructus is 123 or 124-million-years-old, and is one of the earliest angiosperms – or flowering plants – yet found. That makes it roughly contemporary with the ancestors of all flowering plants around today: here.

Dutch medieval orca bones discovered

This is a killer whale video.

Translated from Ecomare museum in the Netherlands:

First killer whale in the Netherlands – 01/21/1911

Killer whales are very rare in the Dutch waters. Orca Morgan, who last year was found in the Wadden Sea while being sick and weak, was the latest and the 29th killer whale ever. But now another one has been found! This time, not a living one, but the remains of a stranded killer whale from the Middle Ages. It’s not just the latest find, but also the very first!

Remains in the moat

The remains of the killer whale were found during excavations at the site of the medieval Brederode Castle, near the North Sea coast. In the moat four hundred animal remains were found, including 15 species of mammals, 19 species of birds and five species of fish. Among the animal remains were also two vertebrae of a whale. By comparing those with known vertebrae from the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam, the scientists discovered that the remains were of an adult female killer whale.

Special feast?

The remains of the orca have ended up in the moat at some time between the 14th century and 1573. Probably the Lord of Brederode had orderded his servants to bring a stranded orca from the beach to his castle. Even in those days, a killer whale was a rarity and therefore a real trophy. It is even possible that the noble family ate the whale. In the Middle Ages, the flesh of marine mammals was considered to be a delicacy and a killer whale was of course a very special treat.


In our encyclopedia you can read more about orcas and strandings in the Netherlands. More about this find is in the latest issue of Lutra, the journal of the Dutch Mammal Society.

See also here.

Shark-eating orcas wear down their teeth: here.

February 2011. IWDG have received a report from the Irish Naval Service of an unprecedented feeding aggregation of Killer whales Orcinus orca in offshore waters off northwest Ireland, some 30 miles off Tory Island. Lt. Cdr. Paddy Harkin, Captain of the L.E. Niamh reports: here.

Female pterosaur with egg discovered

The female fossil partially prepared (A). After being fully prepared (B), the egg is clear to see (red circle)

From the BBC:

21 January 2011 Last updated at 01:58 GMT

Fossil female pterosaur found with preserved egg

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

For fossil hunters, it represents one of those breakthrough moments.

A pterosaur has been found in China beautifully preserved with an egg.

The egg indicates this ancient flying reptile was a female, and that realisation has allowed researchers to sex these creatures for the first time.

Writing in Science magazine, the palaeontologists make some broad statements about gender differences in pterosaurs, including the observation that only males sported a head-crest.

David Unwin, a palaeobiologist in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, was part of the research team.

He told the BBC the discovery was astonishing: “If somebody had said to me a few years back that we would find this kind of association, I would just have laughed and said, ‘yeah, maybe in a million years’, because these sorts of things are incredibly rare.”

Pterosaurs, also sometimes referred to as pterodactyls, dominated the skies in the Mesozoic Era, 220-65 million years ago. Although reptiles like the dinosaurs were plodding on the ground below them, they were not actually dinosaurs themselves – a common misconception.

This particular specimen has been dated to about 160 million years ago.

It was found by Junchang Lü and colleagues and excavated from sedimentary rocks in the famous fossil-hunting grounds of Liaoning Province in China. Liaoning has yielded many of the great finds in recent years, including a series of feathered dinos that have transformed thinking on bird evolution.

The new creature is from the Darwinopterus genus, or grouping, but has been dubbed simply as “Mrs T” (a contraction of “Mrs Pterodactyl”) by the research team.

The state of the egg’s shell suggests it was well developed and that Mrs T must have been very close to laying it when she died.

She appears to have befallen some sort of accident as her left forearm is broken. The researchers speculate she may have fallen from the sky during a storm or perhaps a volcanic eruption, sunk to the bottom of a lake and then been preserved in the sediments.

“The most important thing about this particular individual is that she has a relatively large pelvis compared to other individuals of the same pterosaur, Darwinopterus,” explained Dr Unwin.

“This seems quite reasonable – females lay eggs, they probably need a slightly wider pelvis. And then the really exciting thing is that she has a skull which lacks any kind of adornment or decoration whatsoever. When we look at other individuals of Darwinopterus, we find quite a few individuals with a large crest on the skull.

“We’re very confident now that we’re dealing with two genders here – males with big crests and small hips, and females with no crest on the skull and large hips.”

See also here. And here.

(Southern Methodist University) Fossil bones discovered in Texas are from the left wing of an ancient flying reptile that died 89 million years ago, representing what may be the world’s earliest occurrence of the prehistoric creature Pteranodon, says paleontologist Timothy S. Myers, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. If the reptile is Pteranodon, it would be the first of its kind discovered as far south as Texas within the ancient Western Interior Seaway, said Myers, who identified the fossils: here.

Pterosaurs soared over the dinosaurs for millions of years without evolving to fill specific niches in the ecosystem. They stayed generalists. It wasn’t until birds showed up that the flying reptiles started getting creative with their evolution: here.

The pterosaur head crest investigated: here.