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2023-06-08 08:42:06

    Why are slimes placed as an early branch off of the kingdom Animalia?

    Slimes are enigmatic. Taken at face value, they could fit anywhere or nowhere in the tree. They tick all of the boxes required to be defined as an animal, but don’t closely resemble any real phylum, though they do bear some resemblance to certain basal animal groups such as ctenophores and cnidarians. 

    Why is the elytra branching off from the insects?

    The word elytra refers to the hard wings of beetles. This is where beetles would be placed on the tree.

    Why is the shulker a mollusk?

    It’s a shelled invertebrate - anything beyond this is unclear. It has a pair of shells like a bivalve, but could belong to any of a number of different related groups. 

    Why is the sea pickle so close to vertebrates?

    The sea pickle is either based on a real life sea cucumber (an echinoderm), or a sea pickle (a tunicate). Either way, both of these groups are deuterostomes, which means they, like us, develop their anus before their mouth. Yeah. 

    Why are guardians labeled as manufactured?

    It’s an idea I’m not totally sold on, but a theory nevertheless. It has been posited that guardians were created to guard underwater monuments and are not actually animals. I am of the opinion that if this is the case, they are still at least partially biological, as they do drop edible raw fish. In this case, they likely represent a lineage of jawless fish comparable to real life ostracoderms that was further modified for their role as temple guardians. 

    Why are the dragon and sniffer related? Why do they branch off the tree so early?

    Both are 6 limbed, meaning they are not tetrapods, the group which includes all real terrestrial vertebrates. Instead, they may represent a different lineage of fishes which separately developed a third limb girdle and then followed a line of parallel evolution with the tetrapods. This is comparable to the various invasions of land by arthropods, in which arachnids, myriapods and insects separately evolved mechanisms of terrestrialization while also convergently evolving many of the same structures as each other. 

    Aren’t creepers described as “plant-like?” Why are they included with the vertebrates?

    They have indeed often been described as plant-like by various developers. It is my belief that they are vertebrates with a symbiotic relationship with some form of plant, probably a moss. This is why they are also included in Bryophyta on the other side of the tree. All promotional merchandise that shows creeper internal anatomy shows the presence of bones and the general anatomy reflects a familiar yet distorted version of the common tetrapod body plan. They do not share much in common with either reptiles or mammals, and so I split them off early in the vertebrate portion of the tree. While creepers share a developmental history with pigs, they do not actually bear any synapomorphies to suggest this relationship is canon, and so I chose not to place them nearby. 

    Why are phantoms reptiles?

    I’m honestly not sure what else they could be. The underside of the texture reminds me of the plastron of a turtle, though the wings are arguably more bat-like than anything else. Phantoms are all undead and their living version is likely now extinct, so we can’t fully understand the anatomy they would have had. 

    Why are striders synapsids? What is a synapsid?

    Synapsids are mammals and their extinct, reptile-like ancestors. Striders have hair, like living mammals, but otherwise share very little with modern mammals, suggesting they split off early in synapsid evolution.

    What is the warden/sculk?

    I don’t know. It’s very purposefully the most alien life in Minecraft. Most realistically, I think it’s not from the overworld at all. However, that’s not really in the spirit of this project. Therefore, I hypothetically place it as a fungus, as fungi are capable of the sprawling growth in dark environments and possible parasitism in the case of the warden itself. 

    Why are blazes labeled as “manufactured?”

    I haven’t got a clue what blazes could be. Are they sentient fire? Are they living creatures that mimic fire? Who knows. I finally ended up considering them to be something akin to vexes or golems - summoned by someone or something to guard nether fortresses, rather than naturally evolved creatures. This is actually supported by a really old (and likely since retconned) article from the Minecraft website. https://www.minecraft.net/en-us/article/visit-nether- 

    Why is glow lichen connected to two separate branches?

    Because lichen is a symbiotic structure formed by both algae and fungi!

    Why are chorus plants where they are?

    They are angiosperms, meaning they bear flowers and fruit, but do not have the characteristics of either of the more derived major lineages of flowering plants.

    Why are dripleaf plants alismatales?

    To me, they bear a great resemblance to members of the arum family, such as elephant ear plants, arrowhead plants, and Monstera. 

    Torchflower?

    It bears greatest resemblance to bromeliads, a group of plants related to grasses.

    Why is the spore blossom placed where it is?

    The spore blossom is another anomalous species. If “spore” is taken seriously, it must be a fern. However, ferns don’t have flowers, so I assumed the spores are actually just pollen. I placed it as a dicot based on the fact that dicots typically have flowers with 4-5 petals, while monocots have flowers with petals in multiples of 3. 

    Why aren’t vines and glow berry vines placed together?

    The “vine” form has evolved dozens of times in separate lineages of plants, just like the “tree” form. It alone is not enough to indicate a close relationship. I tentatively placed vines where the grape family would go, and placed the glow berries where staff vines (Celastrus) should be. 

    Why aren’t dead bushes grouped with sweet berry bushes and azaleas?

    Like vines and trees, “bush” is a description of a body form and not an evolutionary group. I depicted the dead bush as a real form of desert bush, a tumbleweed, specifically the Russian thistle, a common tumbleweed in the order Caryophyllales.

    Sweet berries, on the other hand, are most likely based on lingonberries, a commonly grown crop in Sweden, where Mojang is based. These belong to the order Ericales along with azaleas, as well as many other common plants not yet represented in the game such as blueberries and cranberries. 

    Pitcher plants are real - why isn’t there a “confirmed” lineage on the tree?

    Pitcher plants have evolved several times in different lineages, and there is no clear indication which ones the ones in Minecraft are. In fact, most likely, the Minecraft pitcher plants don’t belong to any real group of pitcher plants, as none of these produce “pods” nor do they have similar leaves. However, the most likely candidates are the family Nepenthaceae (order Caryophylalles) or the family Sarraceniaceae (order Ericales).

    Shellback Crabs: these crabs create their own shields out of clamshells; their semi-membranous bodies can be pressed into the contours of the shell, producing a suction mechanism that holds the shell in place

    The members of this genus (Hypoconcha) have a series of unique adaptations that facilitate this kind of camouflage behavior. Many of the Dromiidae crabs (e.g. hermit crabs, sponge crabs, shellback crabs, etc.) are equipped with a specialized pair of legs that enables the crab to hold a shell, sea sponge, and/or ascidian against their body, but shellback crabs also have a flexible, semi-membranous body that can be tucked more firmly into the contours of a bivalve shell, producing a suction mechanism that keeps the shell firmly locked in place.

    The body of the shellback crab is also covered in a very fine layer of hair-like structures called setae, and when the crab presses itself against the shell, these membranous "hairs" can take on an almost translucent appearance, particularly around the margins of the crab's body.

    I recently posted some photos/info about some of the crabs in the genus Lamarckdromia (which belongs to the same family) and as I was doing the background research for that post, I was just kind of mesmerized by all of these weirdly adorable crabs that seem to exist within the Dromiidae family tree. Each genus has its own unique adaptations that allow the crabs to use specific materials for camouflage -- some of them use living sponges, clamshells, ascidians, etc.

    And I could not stop laughing at the little faces on these crabs. They've all got the same bemused/indignant expression...as if some random asshole has just walked up to them, shoved them over, and announced to the entire ocean that there's a crab hiding beneath that disguise; as if that actually happens to them quite a lot, and they're getting really sick of it.

    Sources & More Info:

  • Crustaceana Monographs: Comparison of the Shell-Carrying Behaviors of Desmodromia, Conchoecetes, and Hypoconcha (the relevant info is on page 191)
  • South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: Shellback Crabs and their Larval Stages (PDF)
  • South Carolina Public Radio: Shellback Crabs
  • Again, I don't normally feature crustaceans on my blog...but I really couldn't resist this one.

    Scientists have repurposed human stomach cells into tissues that release insulin in response to rising blood sugar levels in a breakthrough that promises an effective way to manage conditions such as type 1 diabetes.

    The experiment, led by researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in the US, revealed transplants of gastric insulin-secreting (GINS) cells reversed diabetes in mice.

    Pancreatic beta cells normally do the job of releasing the hormone insulin in response to elevated sugar levels in the blood. In people with diabetes, these tissues are damaged or die off, compromising their ability to move glucose into cells for fuel.

    While GINS cells aren't beta cells, they can mimic their function. The gut has plenty of stem cells, which can transform into many other cell types, and they proliferate quickly. The hope is that those with diabetes could have their own gut stem cells transformed into GINS cells, limiting the risk of rejection.

    Continue Reading

    We need everyone's help right now to protect the rainforest and Indigenous People

    The Amazon Rainforest is under a massive threat. I know you've heard this a million times, but this is different. There is a piece of legislation that will decimate the rights of Indigenous people of Brazil, who have been protecting the rainforest. It's unfathomably bad. It has majority support. And they're voting tomorrow.

    As reported he
    re, the Bill allows "the Brazilian government to find energy resources, set up military bases, develop strategic roads, and implement commercial agriculture on protected Indigenous tribal lands, without any prior discussion with the affected peoples."

    The thing you can do—and I know this sounds overly simple—is sign this petition—and tell your friends to do the same: SIGN HERE.

    As reported here, the Bill allows "the Brazilian government to find energy resources, set up military bases, develop strategic roads, and implement commercial agriculture on protected Indigenous tribal lands, without any prior discussion with the affected peoples."

    Again, this bill has majority support. You may be wondering, why will a petition signed by people who don't live in Brazil make any difference? Because it will give those opposing it political air cover. It will show the world is with them.

    But we need a LOT of signatures.

    Please do this simple act and spread the word.

    levonsnape

    I love The Golden Girls.

    gholateg

    Ya’ll don’t have any idea how fucking brave and needed these plot lines were.

    This was before Ellen came out.

    This was before civil unions.

    This was before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

    This was when your ass could be fired, blacklisted, and shunned with no legal protections for even being hinted at being gay.

    And the Golden Girls said “Fuck you, Fuck this, we’re doing it anyway.”

    transdankovsky

    I think it should be noted that Blanche’s quote about AIDS is also “It is not god punishing people for their sins” and that the episode also deals with slutshaming.

    darkravn

    I don’t know if people realize how much activism these women did for gay right and during the aids crisis. If you think about it they were all long established in Hollywood and Broadway. They had tons of friends personally affected and dealing with the aids crisis. Estelle Getty lost a nephew. I think they helped plant seeds in people who watched Golden Girls that helped make things a little more normalized and mainstream.

    Germany returns 'stolen' dinosaur fossil to Brazil

    A handout photo released by Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology shows the fossil of a rare dinosaur that had been taken irregularly to Germany three decades ago after being returned to Brazil at the Minister of Science and Technology headquarter in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 5, 2023.

    A fossil from a rare dinosaur that roamed South America 110 million years ago has been returned to Brazil from Germany, ending a diplomatic spat triggered by charges that researchers stole it.

    The small dino, called Ubirajara jubatus, which had an early form of feathers and spearlike rods jutting from its shoulders, fascinated scientists, who identified it as previously unknown species in a paper published in 2020.

    But it soon sparked a scientific and ethical scandal, when Brazilian researchers accused the German team behind the paper of illegally removing the fossil from Brazil.

    After a nearly three-year standoff, a delegation led by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock returned the fossil Sunday during a visit to Brasilia, officials said.

    Continue reading.

    Hell Creek is Real-World Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park features 7 very different dinosaurs throughout the film, Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Gallimimus, and Parasaurolophus. Each animal being significantly different from the other.

    What most of the animals have in common is having themselves or standin relatives (or generally standins) living in Hell Creek. For some, it's very obvious, for some, I have to take some very speculative leaps.

    Homo sapiens -

    No Homo sapiens in Hell Creek! I'm the reference here so, yeah. No humans. It would've been funny to include Purgatorius here but humans weren't cloned for Jurassic Park. Carry on.

    Tyrannosaurus -

    Tyrannosaurus rex is known from all across western North America, ranging from the south to north. It's range is especially large, and its most well known locality is Hell Creek.

    The Tyrannosaurus specimen used was AMNH 5027, the same specimen Jurassic Park used for both its Tyrannosaurus design and its logo. With the in-film size being roughly around 4 meters tall and fairly large, it only somewhat outsizes the actual AMNH 5027 specimen, where the individual is rather 3.6 meters tall and 11.5 meters long.

    Triceratops -

    Triceratops is a very well known ceratopsian and is prominent across North America, but especially within Hell Creek. The species T. prorsus was intentionally chosen to have an emphasis on the nasal horn. The actual species basis of the film is not stated, but some can assume T. horridus was used only because of it being the type species.

    Velociraptor (as Dakotaraptor) -

    Dakotaraptor is a large dromaeosaur known from Hell Creek. A lot of its anatomy is highly controversial with it being a potential chimera (beyond the obvious confirmed for the mixed-in turtle material). Because of it, many things cannot be reliably inferred for how it looked and behaved. Some speculation of taking the leg and arm material seriously leads it to be a fairly tall and cursorial-built theropod, adapted for high speeds. The validity of this though is up in the air until more specimens are gathered.

    Dakotaraptor was chosen as the standin for Velociraptor mongoliensis due to Jurassic Parks' interpretation of it being a human-height sprinter-type animal found within North America, similar to what potentially Dakotaraptor would've looked somewhat like and behaved.

    Brachiosaurus (as Alamosaurus) -

    Alamosaurus is a titanosaur that roamed across the North American Ojo Alamo Formation and some nearby locales. Its position in being a Hell Creek sauropod is disputed, with there being a megafaunal barrier between North-South, preventing sauropods like Alamosaurus venturing any further north into Hell Creek. Although some speculation of it venturing in occasionally at some point in history is somewhat likely.

    Alamosaurus was chosen as the Brachiosaurus standin only due to it being the nearest North American sauropod to being a Hell Creek sauropod. Brachiosaurids died off in the middle Cretaceous as sauropods generally leaned to extremes of small or large.

    Dilophosaurus (as Anzu) -

    The biggest reach of this post is Dilophosaurus, since Dilophosaurus and its closest relatives died off in the early-middle Jurassic due to them being an intermediate tetanuran, rather than being part of a surviving lineage.

    Anzu fills in the role of a fairly nimble yet taller-than-Dakotaraptor theropod, with a prominent facial crest and potentially predatory diet. Ironically, Anzu is known from smaller specimens and is often undersized, with there being larger specimens out there implying a near 3-metre height.

    Gallimimus (as Struthiomimus) -

    Struthiomimus is an orninthomimid that lived across North America, often alongside other species of itself and Orninthomimus. It is the largest of the two known orninthomimids in Hell Creek.

    Like Gallimimus, Struthiomimus is a highly speedy and sizeable theropod that is a very close relative.

    Parasaurolophus (as Lambeosaurinae indet.) -

    While Hell Creek has Edmontosaurus annectens, potential unnamed and unpublished material exists that may likely be a Lambeosaurine, adding to the roster of Hell Creek ornithopods. Parasaurolophus itself is a Lambeosaurine and lived in other nearby formations, although earlier in time. The possibility of Parasaurolophus living to end-Maastrichtian in Hell Creek is fairly low but not impossible. Though compared to Alamosaurus, it seems less likely to happen. A safer estimate (and something that would help publicize the idea) would be using the Lambeosaurine indet. as reference.

    The Lambeosaurine itself is referenced from Hypacrosaurus and Magnapaulia, two nearby lambeosaurines from very similar timeperiods too. Some adjusted anatomy was used to make it stand out more, as we do not have much of this specimen.

    Thank you for reading this very nerdy paleo-blog that helps somewhat justify my chart. Science will change, so the possibilities of this blog changing too (and the artwork) is likely, or just a republished rewritten version. We'll see!!!

    Thank you, - Jennifer