Monday, June 11, 2012

One for the Taphonomically Inclined

(Click the image for a larger version.)

About ten days ago I found this dead hawk.  I think that it is a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), but hawk identification is not one of my strong points. It was lying on a nearly vertical stream bank, about a foot above the waterline.  

It had been lying in this position long enough for several twigs to accumulate on it, without having been disturbed by scavengers.  The feathers were still in a configuration which was nearly perfectly life-like. At the same time, what appear to be the neck vertebrae were exposed, indicating that the hawk's soft tissues had been removed, presumably by the action of insect larvae.

The hawk reminds me somewhat of Archaeopteryx specimens with preserved feathers.  It is interesting to consider the length of time that the hawk's feathers and skeletal structure had remained undisturbed, and how this would affect the potential for long-term preservation, in the rare event that such a dead bird would eventually be covered by sediment.    

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An Important Ridley Question

The movie Prometheus, from director Ridley Scott, will be opening Friday.  I don't think that I will see it, because I don't see a lot of movies, and in general I am really tired. But for years, every time that a Ridley Scott movie has come out, I have been plagued by a vexing question: If Ridley Scott were to fight the Ridley Sea Turtle, who would win?

I suppose that, since the turtle only weighs around 100 pounds, the director would win.  But, as in many things, the outcome of the battle would probably be determined by where it took place—on land, or in the water.