Big word of the month: adapiforms

This month’s instillation of the BWOM is inspired by the recent unveiling of a phenomenal fossil from the Eocene epoch (approximately 55 to 35 million years ago). This period in geological history is notable for the emergence of many modern forms of mammals. The fossil, dubbed Ida by its discoverers, is from the Messel Pit in Germany which has yielded many exceptional fossils. Her scientific name, Darwinius masillae, honors Charles Darwin (one of the founders of modern evolutionary biology) andRead more

BWOM: Accuracy or Precision?

This month’s Big Word of the Month post involves two words that are not very big but have very specific meanings in science. Take a look at our collections of hygrometers/thermometers from the reptile room. The electronic and analog meters are in very close agreement on temperature, all around 79°F. There is a little more disagreement in the measurements of relative humidity. The electronic ones are in the 20’s while the analog one is reading around 50%. So which oneRead more

BWOM: Odontochelys

The Big Word of the Month, Odontochelys, is a mouthful and is the genus name of the a newly discovered fossil turtle. It was found in China in late 2008. Odontochelys semitestacea is the oldest known example of turtles and the specimen differs from modern turtles in two important ways. First, the species has a toothed mouth rather than the toothless beak of present day turtles. The “odonto” in the name comes from the Greek word for “teeth”. Secondly, thisRead more

Big Word of the Month: Biodiversity

This month’s big word is not that obscure or difficult to pronounce but the concept behind it can be a bit large to grasp. Biodiversity is a word and idea that tries to capture the complex relationships among different forms of life. It came into widespread use beginning in the 1980’s in scientific and political circles as an organizing theme in discussions of conservation. The rise of the word coincided with a change of focus for environmental groups from theRead more