Monsters of the past

A quick entry: Today, the University of Oslo announced the discovery of 28 excellently preserved Jurassic marine reptile fossils, consisting of a staggering 21 plesiosaurs (long-necked), 6 ichthyosaurs (look like evil dolphins) and one pliosaur (short-necked). The latter stretched to a glorious 8m (26 ft), and was dubbed “The Monster”. The fossils were found at Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard chain. Which I’m sure we’re all familiar with.

It’s an unprecedented discovery – palaeontologist Dr Dave Martill of Portsmouth University rightly called it a “bonanza” of fossils.

Why do I bother bringing it up here? Well, if you’ve been reading this blog, you might be aware of my fascination with all things marine. Especially all things marine that have big teeth and eat smaller things marine. There’s a certain awe that comes from thinking about massive predators lurking in the dark, prehistoric oceans. Ah, the call of the dangerous, unknown abyss… But I think Tor Sponga’s drawings that I have included capture my thousand words better (although I don’t know why he made the ichthyosaurs look so happy).

You can also read about all this here.

Two happy ichthyosaurs munching on a dead plesiosaur (copyright Tor Sponga, BT)

Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
Psalm 104:25-27

News of the Worlde

Over here, the fort holds together, with work piled up as usual.

Over there, in the great Outside, well, there is no fort. Was just browsing through the news, only to find that things have changed rapidly. First, that thwarted terrorist attack story; it seems now that the JTAC feels that the possibility of an attack is still high but not imminent, so the UK threat level has been moved down today, from “Critical” to “Severe”. (They both sound equally scary to me if you ask me, but you won’t.) And this means that thousands of stranded Bri’ish tourists can hope for a slightly easier journey to their holiday destination. Good for them, it’s like 10 degrees here in Bradford in the middle of August, and we’re in coats and umbrellas (rain, not sun). In August. Hurray for the Atlantic.

Next, the Mid-East ceasefire. Huh boy. After 34 days of bashing eachother’s heads in, Israel and Lebanon are asked nicely to put their guns down before any more people get hurt. About time, if you ask me (but you won’t): Lebanon’s dead had passed 1,000 and counting. I also went through the UN’s text, which sounds nice and strict in paper. Let’s see how they enforce it now – those Hezbollah guerillas stuck behind Israel’s lines probably haven’t even heard of the resolution yet. Lots of pissed-off people with guns ‘n’ ammo – they’re probably tempted to use the ceasefire for toilet paper.

We’ll see.

Anyway, I thought I’d write something, and with all the stuff I have to do, regurgitating things you can read on any news site is always good material. And then you can top it off with a paragraph explaining it.

Good-bye, Peter…

One of my favourite photographs: Ferocious power, unbridled force, predacious brutality... Amazing what you can find in the shower.

Well, I’ll be honest. I didn’t plan to write anything spectacular today. I just wanted to do something unusual: Bid farewell to Peter Benchley, author of “Jaws” (the book, not the film), who died today aged 65.

Why do I mention him? Simply because “Jaws” was pretty much the first novel I ever read in English, and also because it was Benchley who first got me fascinated in sharks. And his work on great whites with photographer David Doubilet for National Geographic in April 2000 , was just mesmerising. But then again, I’ve always loved the ocean and have been mysticised by the life we find in the deep places of the world…

Anyway, that’s why I was attracted to Biology in the first place. Life always has, and always will, fascinate me. And Mr Benchley was a part of it.

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Genesis 1:20-22