Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Get me a guard and make it snappy...

Earlier this month, a 5ft long reptile called 'Mr Teeth' was found protecting a large stash of cannabis in the home of Assif Mayar in Oakland, California. The creature, initially thought to be an alligator was soon identified as a caiman by local veterinarians.

The unfortunate reptile, unexpectedly discovered in the wake of a drugs raid, has since died at Oakland Zoo. Mr Teeth had been kept in poor conditions for many years, confined to a 8-foot-by-2-foot plexiglass tank. He was originally bought by Mr Mayar to 'commemorate the death of rapper Tupac Shakur' in 1996, according to a police spokesperson at the Oakland Police Department. 

As well as significant drugs charges, the caiman's ex-owner is now set to face additional animal cruelty charges in the wake of Mr Teeth's untimely death.

Mr Teeth. RIP.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My, what exoskeleton crushing teeth you have!

A bird with some seriously robust teeth has been unearthed recently in Liaoning province, China. The fossilised remains of Sulcavis geeorum are described in the January issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and show some unusual dental morphology - not only does this bird have teeth, but they're sharply pointed with distinct grooves on the inside surface.

This sparrow-sized flier, which belonged to the enantiornithine group of toothed birds, lived between 121 and 125 million years ago, consuming a diet of smaller hard-shelled creatures such as insects or crabs.

As rare as hen's teeth might be today, it seems that the group to which this bird belonged to were evolving new and toothy ways to exploit a variety of ecological niches - at a time when other birds were losing their dentitions.

Although small, this bird and it's relatives were certainly toothsome. I like to think of them as Darwin finches with attitude...

Sulcavis geeorum skull, a fossil bird from the Early Cretaceous.
Photo by Stephanie Abramowicz. Scale bar in mm.