The spotted owl's habitat is threatened by the logging of old-growth forestsa€”an industry that has lawmakers inquiring about more high-tech measures to save the birds in an effort to justify more deforestation.
Editor's note: Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, and the 2006 laureate of the Dr.
In the movie Jurassic Park, a tree extinct for millions of years delights the paleobotanist. De-extinction intends to resurrect single, charismatic species, yet millions of species are at risk of extinction. Perhaps so, but other practical problems abound: A resurrected Pyrenean ibex will need a safe home, not just its food plants. Yes, the set of plants alive a century or so ago when the passenger pigeon went extinct are probably still here. De-extinction is much worse than a waste: By setting up the expectation that biotechnology can repair the damage we're doing to the planet's biodiversity, it's extremely harmful for two kinds of political reasons. The official Facebook page of The Martian has posted some concept art pictures for the movie. Bryan Versteeg is one of the best conceptual design artists for space exploration nowadays.
A few weeks ago, as we chatted over dinner, some paleo-minded friends and I debated when the safest time to take a dip in the prehistoric oceans might have been. Paleontologist Nadia Frobisch and colleagues have named the predator Thalattoarchon saurophagis – the “lizard-eating ruler of the seas” – in today’s issue of PNAS. Look into the petrified mouth of almost any ichthyosaur and you’ll find lots of simple, pointed, conical teeth. Unfortunately, the front portion of the sole Thalattoarchon skull eroded away before the animal was collected. Other animals found in the same strata may help explain why Thalattoarchon was so well-armed. REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: Any and all image uses must (1) bear the copyright notice and (2) be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata. DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving this image to pay a fee determined by National Geographic.
This is what the jaws of Thalattoarchon looked like when they were discovered by Field Museum preparator Jim Holstein on July 24, 1998.
The new study does not present any direct evidence of ichthyosaur-on-ichthyosaur predation, but, based on the anatomy of the newly-described predator and the local richness of other marine reptiles, Thalattoarchon may have been a top predator that was especially adapted to hunting other ichthyosaurs. But the fact that Thalattoarchon existed at all tells us something important about life 245 million years ago.
Thalattoarchon lived only about five million years after the worst mass extinction the world has ever seen.
I think I recognize the second photo in the article from a small National Geographic magazine article back maybe between 2008-2010. Who We ArePhenomena is a gathering of spirited science writers who take delight in the new, the strange, the beautiful and awe-inspiring details of our world.
Erika Engelhaupt is the online science editor at National Geographic and manages the Phenomena blog network. Maryn McKenna is an award-winning journalist and the author of Superbug and Beating Back the Devil.

DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. De-extinction can only be an infinitesimal part of solving the crisis that now sees species of animals (some large but most tiny), plants, fungi, and microbes going extinct at a thousand times their natural rates.
Those of us who attempt to reintroduce zoo-bred species that have gone extinct in the wild have one question at the top of our list: Where do we put them?
It is a fantasy that real scientistsa€”those wearing white lab coatsa€”are using fancy machines with knobs and digital readouts to save the planet from humanity's excesses. Conservation is about finding alternative, sustainable futures for peoples, for forests, and for wetlands. Fossil preparator Jim Holstein found the animal while searching the Middle Triassic rock of Nevada’s Augusta Mountains in 1997. This is the dental arrangement of a grabber – a predator that catches small, slippery prey such as fish and squid.
Yet, from the back of the cranium, Frobisch and collaborators were able to determine that Thalattoarchon had large eyes – the animal’s orbit is about a foot across – and a head that was almost twice as large for its body size compared to contemporary ichthyosaurs. The quarry where the creature was discovered has yielded multiple specimens of other ichthyosaurs – mostly the similarly-sized Cymbospondylus, and the much smaller Phalarodon.
A macropredaceous ichthyosaur could not have evolved unless lower levels of the trophic scale – the producers, first order consumers, and so on – were already in place.
During this catastrophic event – likely triggered by massive volcanic outpourings that dramatically altered the atmosphere, the climate, and the oceans – as much as 95% of known marine species perished.
Of course Thalattoarchon is not just a tetrapod but an amniote – was there ever anything like a marine super-hynerpeton and if not why not? Phenomena is hosted by National Geographic magazine, which invites you to join the conversation. No Place Like Home is her space to talk about space—from other worlds to the fabric of the universe.
Laelaps is his writing laboratory, dedicated to sifting through natural history for tales of evolution, extinction, and survival.
Not Exactly Rocket Science is his hub for talking about the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science to as many people as possible. This movie later shows us how to re-create the dinosaur but not how to grow the tree, which at that size would be perhaps a hundred or more years old, or how to do so metaphorically overnight. Surely, the plants on which these animals depend still survive, so there is no need to resurrect them as well!" Indeed, botanic gardens worldwide have living collections of an impressively large fraction of the world's plants, some extinct in the wild, others soon to be so. In this fantasy, there is none of the messy interaction with people, politics, and economics that characterizes my world. Rich only in the diversity of life amid which they eke out their living, they generate no money for my university. From the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, the marine realm was dominated by successive arrays of big, toothy, apex predators that crunched prey just as large, if not larger, than they were. After the specimen was finally collected in 2008, the fossil proved to comprise the back of the skull, much of the vertebral column, parts of the hips, and elements of the rear fins from a single animal with an estimated length of 28 feet.
All of these animals were descendants of land-dwelling reptiles that slipped into the water and rapidly became adapted to lives spent entirely at sea, part of a great reptilian invasion of the oceans that started early in the Triassic. Specialized apex carnivores only appear when communities hit a particular level of productivity and richness, otherwise there simply isn’t enough for them to consume.

Macropredatory ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic and the origin of modern trophic networks.
It’s tempting to think the niche was locked up by large carnivorous fish until they were wiped out by the end-Permian extinction, but generally fish came through that better than most, didn’t they?
Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences awarded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
To sustain even a single dinosaur, one would need thousands of trees, probably of many species, as well as their pollinators and perhaps their essential symbiotic fungi. Their absence from the wild is more easily fixed than the absence of animals, for which de-extinction is usually touted.
Reintroduce a resurrected ibex to the area where it belongs and it will become the most expensive cabrito ever eaten. There is nothing involving the real-world realities of habitat destruction, of the inherent conflict between growing human populations and wildlife survival. Too many other universities equate excellence with funds generated, not with societal needs met.
At worst, it seduces granting agencies and university deans into thinking they are saving the world. Pliosaurs, marine crocodiles, and mosasaurs thrived in ancient seas, each radiation stranger and scarier than what had come before. What’s left of the carnivore’s head is what makes Thalattoarchon so fearsome and so noteworthy. Measuring about four inches tall, with a two inch crown, the largest Thalattoarchon tooth is blade-like, compressed from side-to-side and bearing two cutting surfaces.
Nothing like them had ever existed before, and today’s whales continue the marine tetrapod legacy that ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles pioneered. Species that were resilient enough to survive the end-Permian devastation set the stage for the next 250 million years of evolution, including the origin of toothy oceanic terrors.
Check out our coverage on species revival, the topic of a Friday TEDx talk at National Geographic. If this seems cynical, then consider the cautionary tale of the Arabian oryx, returned to Oman from a captive breeding program. Over my career, molecular biologists flourished as university administrators drooled over their large grants and their expensive labs. It gives unscrupulous developers a veil to hide their rapaciousness, with promises to fix things later. And, so far as we know, the long tradition of macropredatory marine reptiles started with a roughly 245 million year old ichthyosaur that bore a vicious grin double-edged teeth. The sharp surfaces are not serrated, but, in overall form, the dental armaments resemble the teeth of mosasaurs, large pliosaurs, some marine crocodiles, and one later ichthyosaur called Himalayasaurus tibetensis. Their numbers have declined so much that their home, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was summarily removed from the register. Many otherwise prominent universities have no schools of the environment, no ecology departments, no professors of conservation.

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Rubric: Microwave Faraday Cage


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