Category Paleontology

Non hopping Kangaroo

When asked what defines a kangaroo, most people would probably say it’s the fact that they hop. Christine Janis of Brown University was studying a species of giant kangaroo, the Procoptodon goliah when it occurred to her that its weight of 240 kg, it’s bone structure and the fact that its spine showed signs of […]

Shrinking is Easy

There’s a basic asymmetry in macro-evolution. On the evolutionary scale shrinking is easy and growing large is difficult. This is probably due to the emergence, during a trend of increasing maximum body size, of a series of anatomical, physiological, environmental, genetic and other constraints that must be overcome by evolutionary innovations before further size increases […]

The Short Origin of Species

Cope’s rule, that species tend to increase body size over time, seems to reinforce the present day believe that bigger is better. Why else, if not for evolutionary advantages, would species evolve towards bigger size? Unfortunately it is precisely this deterministic thinking that we’ve become a victim of. In fact growth towards large size cannot […]

Cope’s (non)Rule

Cope’s rule states that, as geologic time progresses, body size increases. Edward Drinker Cope, a dinosaur fossil hunter who postulated the rule at the end of the 19th century, based his theory on the analysis of over 1500 fossil families. The more recent species in his collection were on average almost 10% larger than the older […]

Hot Adaptations

Palaeontologists studying fossilised horses have found a direct link between the size of mammals and climate change. According to Dr. Jonathan Bloch, curator of the Florida Museum of Natural History, as temperatures go up size goes down, and vice versa. Bloch: ‘Horses started out small 56 million years ago, about the size of a small dog. What’s […]

Big Bird

The research for The Incredible Shrinking Man broadens, and some surprising connections are surfacing. In earlier reports on dwarfism and gigantism we discovered the special position of islands in regards to the size of its inhabitants. The Indonesian island of Flores is again the stage for an unexpected meeting of 2 examples of this phenomenon. […]

Is Global Warming Shrinking our Brain?

This study by Jessica Ash and Gordon G. Gallup Jr. suggests that human cranial capacity as an indicator of brain size grew dramatically during our evolution, and that variations in global temperature as well as progressive shifts toward global cooling account for as much as 50 percent of the variation in cranial capacity. The research […]

Prisoners of Size?

In the short article Size and Shape the late paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould remembers how he once overheard a children’s conversation in a New York playground:  “Two young girls were discussing the size of dogs. One asked: “Can a dog be as large as an elephant?” Her friend responded: “No, if it were […]

The Hobbit of Flores

Homo floresiensis, nicknamed “hobbit”, is an extinct human species discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete skull. This hominin is remarkable for its small body and brain and for its survival until as recently as 12,000 years ago. The first set of remains […]