I have tūī in my back garden. Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae to scientists. There are at least three, possibly more, which live in the area and drop in every so often to snack on harakeke (flax) nectar. They also squabble and sing. Loudly. And all of that that is a great luxury to have in the back … More An ode to the humble tui
One of the outcomes of the way the Age of Reason unfolded in the eighteenth century was an attempt to reduce the world to categories. Everything, it seemed, had its place: a slot into which it could be put. That’s often useful – take the periodic table of elements, for instance, which is a way … More Dinosaurs and birds – mixing up the classifications
I lament the way that humans have trampled through the Earth’s fragile environment. We’ve already destroyed a lot of habitats, and with it a dismaying number of species. You can be sure we’ll destroy a lot more before we fall into extinction ourselves, which is where we’re obviously heading if we carry on as we … More Can we undo the eco-damage we’ve been doing, as a species?
Back when I was a kid, paleontology was simple. Life had evolved from one-celled creatures to fish to lizards to dinosaurs to mammals and finally to Tory-voting, club-going Englishmen – all in a giant and wonderful ‘advance’, a relentless march of ‘progress’ during which each new form automatically doomed the last to extinction. Today we’ve … More I like my dinosaur cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices. Do you?
Last week I posted about New Zealand being a lost world of dinosaurs – as long as we think of birds as a dinosaur. Which, of course, they are. This isn’t hyperbole. Today, birds are formally part of the dinosaur clade – the greater family. Specifically, they are avian dinosaurs, whereas the ones that went extinct … More New Zealand – the lost world of the dinosaurs – part 2
If the larger dinosaurs hadn’t been extinguished some 65 million years ago, what would today look like? To me the answer is largely in my own backyard, here in New Zealand. Up until humans first landed here around 800 years ago, New Zealand was very much a ‘lost world’, a place where Jurassic forests survived, and where the classic … More New Zealand – the lost world of the dinosaurs – part 1
In what has to be one of the biggest ‘ewwww-factor’ experiments in a while, paleontologists at Yale recently tweaked chicken DNA to give the birds toothed jaws, a bit like Velociraptor. Although there was a lot of work involved in finding out which two DNA strands to tamper with, the process apparently didn’t add anything … More Chickenosaurus lives! But should we really play God with genes?
I managed to take a selfie with ‘real’ dinosaurs the other week, thanks to some clever SFX. Cool. But in other ways it wasn’t too remarkable – because the latest science says these remarkable creatures, who once dominated the earth and whose chief badass was Tyrannosaurus Rex, are still with us today. We call them ‘chickens’, and usually … More Selfies with dinosaurs – the angry birds of the chalk era
Think dinosaurs and the first thing most of us imagine is a large two-legged carnivore with 15-cm teeth, power-shovel jaws and dinky forelimbs. A beast of prey that spent most of the Upper Cretaceous going ‘raaargh’ and having absolutely anything it wanted for breakfast. It was thanks to those jaws and 6-metre body that Tyrannosaurus Rex – named such in … More Did T-Rex really have feathers and taste of chicken?