Friday, February 24, 2006

Jurassic Mammal?

Something interesting has been found in northern China:

It looked like an otter, had teeth like a seal, a tail like a beaver and could swim. And though it died 164 million years ago, it's making a big splash in 21st century studies of mammalian evolution.
So, naturally, the scientists have given it a name that means "otter thingy with a beavery tail".

Seriously, this is a pretty amazing discovery. I love shows like "Walking With (Prehistoric) Beasts", where long-extinct earthly life forms are recreated digitally for our viewing pleasure. The ambulocetus is particularly fascinating, as is the Andrewsarchus ("sheep in wolf's clothing"). Imagine what the world would have been like if we would have to share it with creatures such as these instead of things like cows, horses, and kittycats.

The Smithsonian curator quoted in the article delivers the best description of the human experience that I've seen in a long time:
"No matter what you learn, you're never done. That's what makes it fun."
Learning and fun are what it's all about.

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