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Obscure Taxa; For interesting or obscure organisms you'd like to share.
Topic Started: Dec 14 2016, 09:46 PM (43,808 Views)
DINOCARID
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Okay, the basic idea is to name an obscure, interesting, or just plain weird organism (or just an obscure/interesting/weird fact about a well known one), living or extinct, to try and bring a little discovery to each other's days! Just make sure to post the name, formal or not, some basic information, a picture, and if possible, a link to a relevant wikipedia article or other information source, unless you've covered everything known.

Members of the genus Palaeophis were large aquatic snakes that existed from the maastrichtian to the priabonian ages in the waters of europe and north africa, and while the smallest were shorter than a man is tall, the largest belonging to the species colossaeus were nearly thirty feet long(longer than most orcas!). Studies of their vertebrae show vascularisation suggesting a faster metabolism and higher growth rate then modern snakes. It's unclear, but they may have possessed small but developed hind limbs.

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These guys are probably pretty well known on here, but maybe there'll be someone who didn't know of THE GLORY OF THE SEMI-ENDOTHERMIC DOLPHIN-SNAKES.



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Sphenodon
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I, for one, think that this is an excellent idea for a thread - a resource for those wanting to go about things in a different route or give some otherwise-unseen groups the spotlight.

Anyway, here's an entry to help things off: the palaeomerycids.

Despite being poorly-known, they were actually one of the longer-lasting clades of herbivorous Cenozoic mammals, existing from the Eocene until the late Pliocene - about 50 million years. They also had a fairly large distribution, having inhabited all five of the "main" continents (the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia); they seem to evolved in Europe, with the first fossils of New World specimens being 23-million year old Nebraskan remains. While possessing a nearly world-wide distribution for a time, they seem to have eventually been outcompeted or otherwise driven to extinction in the Old World, with the New World remaining as a final sanctuary for the group until the late Pliocene, at which point the last few species seem to have died out.

Palaeomerycids were ruminant artiodactyls, and seem to have combined features of bovids (general size and a comparably robust limb structure) and giraffids (horn/ossicone structure and tooth shape); they are believed to have been browsers inhabiting wetland forests based off their dentition and where they've been found. Their most notable physical feature, however, would have to be their skulls - in addition to two paired horns/ossicones on the sides of their head, most species possessed a third horn protruding from their occipital bone, effectively making them tricorns. These occipital horns exhibited quite a diverse morphology, from simple straight horns protruding from the back of the skull to T-shaped, recurving structures. As for their phylogeny, little is certain, with three main guilds of thought existing - that they are near to the giraffids, that they belong to the group including cervids, and that they are the progenitors of the modern musk deer.

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A reconstruction of the most recently-discovered palaeomerycid species to date, Xenokeryx amidala
Edited by Sphenodon, Dec 14 2016, 10:52 PM.

We have a Discord server! If you would like to join, simply message myself, Flisch, or Icthyander.
Some of my ideas (nothing real yet, but soon):
Refugium: A last chance for collapsing ecosystems and their inhabitants.
Pansauria: A terraforming project featuring the evolution of exactly one animal - the marine iguana.
Mars Renewed: An insight into the life of Mars thirty million years after its terraforming by humankind.
Microcosm: An exceedingly small environment.
Alcyon: A planet colonized by species remodeled into new niches by genetic engineering.
Oddballs: Aberrant representatives of various biological groups compete and coexist.

..and probably some other stuff at some point (perhaps a no K-T project). Stay tuned!
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HangingThief
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OK, i'm sure plenty of us are familiar with Phylliroe, the sea slug that looks and swims like a fish, but just in case anyone isn't, it's very important that they be informed:
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'Nother squishy creature everyone should be aware of: terrestrial nemerteans.
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That's no flatworm digesting that beetle, folks. It's a nemertean.
They even have that horrific eversible proboscis, just like their big ocean dwelling cousins.
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Sphenodon
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And now for even more obscure groups!


-Thalattosauria: A poorly-known order of Triassic marine reptiles known so far from western North America (from Nevada to Alaska), the Alpine countries of Europe, and China. Seemingly rather primitive, no-one is yet sure as to the closest relatives of the group - affinities to lepidosaurs, archosauromorphs, rhynchocephalians, or even to late-surviving basal neodiapsids have all been proposed. Rather similar to pachypleurosaurs in terms of structure, thalattosaurs are otherwise only really notable due to their skulls. In addition to ancestrally possessing a multitude of palatine teeth, the group is split into two distinct superfamilies categorized by each one's peculiar jaw structure. One group, the askeptosauroids, possessed long, pointed skulls; most had some small teeth, but Endennasaurus was entirely toothless. The other group, the thalattosauroids, possesssed oddly downturned jaws (sometimes nearly at a 90-degree angle) similar to those of spinosaurs; at least one of these, Thalattosaurus, is currently believed to have been a molluscivore. Despite their obscurity, they exhibited a significant range of diversity in terms of both jaw structure (ranging from the bird-like maw of Endennasaurus to the bizarre jaws of Xinpusaurus to the spinosaurian skull of Thalattosaurus itself) and dimensions (from Lariosaurus- to Nothosaurus-sized.).

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A reconstruction of the titular genus, Thalattosaurus



-Coliiformes: Commonly known as the mousebirds, these small birds are a very old group, currently believed to have appeared in Late Paleocene Europe. While bearing a near-global distribution (across two groups - the extant Coliidae and the now-extinct, long-billed Sandcolidae) and high diversity throughout much of the Cenozoic, they suddenly underwent a decline in range in diversity (perhaps due to outcompetition by early passerines), leading to the modern assemblage of six species being restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. The six surviving species (spread through two genera) are the last members of the Coliiformes order, with their closest relatives being the Eucavitaves (woodpeckers, kingfishers, trogons and kin). While outwardly resembling passerines, mousebirds are highly different from them on multiple levels. Their main body plumage consists of fluffy fur-like down, while their feet are pamprodactylous (all four toes point forward naturally, with digits I and IV being opposable to the others at will); in addition, mousebirds have noticeably slower metabolisms than comparatively-sized birds, and spend significant amounts of their time sunbathing. Extant mousebird species combine frugivorous and folivorous habits; this diet, combined with their relatively slow metabolism, is a key factor in the gregarious nature of mousebirds, with groups of up to twenty individuals foraging together and collectively huddling together while roosting to aid in digestion.

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A group of speckled mousebirds (Colius striatus) huddled together on a power line. This photograph illustrates three of the group's distinctive traits: their unique body plumage, their tendency to form tight-knit groups that huddle together often, and the pamprodactyl arrangement of their toes (which leads to their unique posture when clinging to objects such as this power line).



-Janthinidae: Vernacularly referred to as the purple snails or violet snails (only the genus Janthina is comprised of purple-colored species, with the other genus, Recluzia, bearing olive-colored or tan shells), this group of snails has evolved the ability to produce a raft of chitin-coated air pockets from their foot, allowing them to adopt a pleustonic lifestyle. Belonging to the superfamily Epitonioidea, which includes the predatory or ectoparasitic wentletraps, these snails are carnivorous; they base their diet upon free-swimming cnidarian medusae, holding a particular preference for by-the-wind sailors (Velella velella). While larvae are free-swimming, adults rely wholly upon their chitinous rafts for buoyancy and expire upon becoming detached from their floats. Some other adaptations to this lifestyle have occured; adult janthinids no longer possess an operculum, and the walls of their shells are extremely thin to reduce weight. They are commonly washed ashore en masse following storms or strong winds, leaving masses of the gastropods stranded on the beachfront at a time.

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A side view of a violet sea snail (Janthina janthina), the type species of the group and its namesake.
Edited by Sphenodon, Dec 15 2016, 01:21 AM.

We have a Discord server! If you would like to join, simply message myself, Flisch, or Icthyander.
Some of my ideas (nothing real yet, but soon):
Refugium: A last chance for collapsing ecosystems and their inhabitants.
Pansauria: A terraforming project featuring the evolution of exactly one animal - the marine iguana.
Mars Renewed: An insight into the life of Mars thirty million years after its terraforming by humankind.
Microcosm: An exceedingly small environment.
Alcyon: A planet colonized by species remodeled into new niches by genetic engineering.
Oddballs: Aberrant representatives of various biological groups compete and coexist.

..and probably some other stuff at some point (perhaps a no K-T project). Stay tuned!
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HangingThief
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One of my favorite and least known groups of insects are owlflies (Ascalaphidae), a family of neuropterans related to lacewings and antlions. The larvae are rather similar to antlions, but they usually wait for prey camouoflaged out in the open, clinging to bark and other surfaces. They're dorsoventrally compressed and have a fringe of bristles around their bodies, making them a lot like little terrestrial wobbegongs.
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Owlfly larvae seem to get preserved in amber a lot, probably because of all the time they spend sitting still on tree trunks.

The adults are dragonfly- like aerial predators. The difference between an owlfly and a dragonfly is immediately obvious- owlflies have long, stiff, clubbed antennae, likely used to help them balance in flight.
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Most owlflies are nocturnal or crepuscular, using their large eyes to spot prey at night. But some are diurnal, and may be quite colorful.
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This one's a decent wasp mimic:
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Edited by HangingThief, Dec 15 2016, 07:14 PM.
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Dakka!
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Remember an ancient show called Prehistoric Park guys? Good times, watched it when I was 7. Really nice show except for the completely impossible time travel. Loved how they portrayed the terror birds and they introduced me to the Toxodon. I don't really know much about them though, just that their lifestyles were probably similar to a hippos.
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The Future is Right
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Great Old Ones
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Unrelated:The Final Spec:What Could Have Been, And Still Can
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Yiqi15
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Dec 15 2016, 07:55 AM
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Remember an ancient show called Prehistoric Park guys? Good times, watched it when I was 7. Really nice show except for the completely impossible time travel. Loved how they portrayed the terror birds and they introduced me to the Toxodon. I don't really know much about them though, just that their lifestyles were probably similar to a hippos.
Actually new findings have disproved it had a semi aquatic lifestyle.
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- After the Holocene: Your run-of-the-mill future evolution project.
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Future Projects
- XenoSphere: The greatest zoo in the galaxy.
- The Curious Case of the Woolly Giraffe: A case study of an eocene relic.
- Untittled Asylum Studios-Based Project: The truth behind all the CGI schlock
- Riggslandia V.II: A World 150 million years in the making

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- Klowns: The biology and culture of a creepy-yet-fascinating being

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Talenkauen
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Dec 15 2016, 07:55 AM
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Remember an ancient show called Prehistoric Park guys? Good times, watched it when I was 7. Really nice show except for the completely impossible time travel. Loved how they portrayed the terror birds and they introduced me to the Toxodon. I don't really know much about them though, just that their lifestyles were probably similar to a hippos.


Actually, they weren't aquatic. Even in Prehistoric Park they said they weren't actually aquatic, as previously proposed. More recent analysis of their limb bones and skull suggests they were fully terrestrial, like modern rhinos and elephants.
Edited by Talenkauen, Dec 15 2016, 12:44 PM.
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UPCOMING PROJECTS:

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LittleLazyLass
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Here's some life reconstructions of a few members of an early group of reptiles, the diadectomorphs.
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Well, except for the part that they aren't really reptiles at all. But you probably believed me, didn't you? They certainly look the part. So they're amphibians? Well, we can't really say. Generally considered the sister group to Amniota, their reproduction is a big mystery. Their adaptations for terrestrial lifestyle are extensive, and they certainly look more reptilian than any other non-amniote. On the other hand, the amniote egg is thought to have evolved in small lizard like creatures, not a description fitting any diadectomorphs, leaving them in a weird limbo between amphibians and early reptiles.

Either way, they were among the first large terrestrial vertebrates, appearing in the early Carboniferous with the large herbivorous Diadectes (c) being in the range of three meters long. Limnoscelis, (a), was a two or so meter carnivore or piscivore. Tseajaia (b) was an omnivore that generally comes out as being more closely related to Diadectidae than to Limnoscelis. They went extinct in the Wuchiapingian, and so weren't around at the time of the Great Dying. The last known taxa are from China.
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Sphenodon
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Here's some info another obscure group, the ptolemaiids.

Ptolemaiids are an obscure, mysterious, and poorly-known group of afrotherians that are known from a sparse smattering of remains from across northeast Africa. They seem to have had a fairly long run in the game of life; the earliest remains, from the Jebel Qatrani Formation in Egypt, are from the latest Eocene, while the youngest remains are late Miocene-aged specimens from Kenya and Uganda. The main reason for both their obscurity and mysterious nature is the nature of the remains found of them; postcranial materials are unknown, with existing material being comprised of various teeth, jaw, and skull elements. The fleeting nature of these remains has led to their re-classification several times since the discovery of the type species Ptolemaia lyonsi; originally believed to be primate remains, the discovery of subsequent species led to them being theorized as anything from hyaenodonts to pantolestids to shrew relatives. They are currently classified as afrotheres due to similarities in skull features with aardvarks, with their exact relation to Tubulidentata unknown.

One characteristic, however, has remained the same throughout all these reclassifications: they are theorized to have been either partially or fully carnivorous, converging upon canids to some degree. Their skulls are similar in proportion to those of canids, and they possess long canines similar in regards to those of carnivorous animals; their odd molars, however, have led some to cast doubt on the idea that they were exclusive carnivores, as they seem poorly adapted to shearing. Whatever the case, little can be said for their postcranial structure, but analysis of the partial skull of the youngest species, Kelba quadeemae, suggests it was similar in size to a more heavily-built coyote in terms of structure and size, and possessing a wide, unspecialized diet as indicated by its similarly unspecialized teeth.

A very large picture of some ptolemaiid remains; very few reconstructions of them exist, so this was chosen instead.

We have a Discord server! If you would like to join, simply message myself, Flisch, or Icthyander.
Some of my ideas (nothing real yet, but soon):
Refugium: A last chance for collapsing ecosystems and their inhabitants.
Pansauria: A terraforming project featuring the evolution of exactly one animal - the marine iguana.
Mars Renewed: An insight into the life of Mars thirty million years after its terraforming by humankind.
Microcosm: An exceedingly small environment.
Alcyon: A planet colonized by species remodeled into new niches by genetic engineering.
Oddballs: Aberrant representatives of various biological groups compete and coexist.

..and probably some other stuff at some point (perhaps a no K-T project). Stay tuned!
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LittleLazyLass
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Hmm, wonder if you could make neo-hyaenodonts out of those.
totally not British, b-baka!
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I don't even really like this song that much but the title is pretty relatable sometimes, I guess.
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Sphenodon
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You probably could; my personal theory (based mostly off their weird molars, which in Kelba seem to have indicated exposure to a hard or abrasive diet) is that they were a bit like an odd combination of canids, suids and entelodonts in terms of niche, being primarily carnivorous (and able to crack into bones if necessary) but consuming plant matter if required/present (a bit like wild boars diet-wise, except with the proportions of animal to plant matter being reversed and a proclivity to hunting).

And now, for another entry - the glass sponges (hexactinellids).

Glass sponges are usually grouped under Porifera, but some think that they deserve their own separate subphylum on the tree of life due to their extensive differences from other sponges. Their name is derived from their internal structure; hexactinellids are unique among multicellular life in that their "skeletal" structure is comprised of a complex lattice formed of silica spicules. These structures, almost always arranged in a simple basket-like pattern, bear intricate patterns down to a microscopic level, and are often extremely strong. The peculiarities do not stop there; the non-structural living parts of glass sponges are mostly comprised of large swathes of undivided multinucleate cytoplasm, and they do not possess epidermal cells, instead possessing a "net" of amoebocytes penetrated regularly by silicate micro-lattices. They are also capable of rapidly conducting electrical impulses throughout their body, allowing for stimula response rates far exceeding those of normal sponges. Hexactinellids are also special in that they are incredibly long-lived; the exact extent is unknown, but one specimen was modelled to possibly be a ridiculous 23,000 years old. Whether or not this is the case, glass sponges are very slow-developing species, and are almost universally restricted to deep seas and cold waters. In a rare few areas (such as off the coast of British Columbia) they are known to develop reefs to an extent; otherwise, they grow in lone outcrops or small "groves".

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The lattice of a Venus' flower basket (Euplectella aspergillum), the most well-known species of hexactinellid. The intricacy of the sponge's lattice can be seen here, as well as the tuft of silicate anchoring fibers possessed by Euplectella aspergillum and some of its relatives.
Edited by Sphenodon, Dec 15 2016, 08:47 PM.

We have a Discord server! If you would like to join, simply message myself, Flisch, or Icthyander.
Some of my ideas (nothing real yet, but soon):
Refugium: A last chance for collapsing ecosystems and their inhabitants.
Pansauria: A terraforming project featuring the evolution of exactly one animal - the marine iguana.
Mars Renewed: An insight into the life of Mars thirty million years after its terraforming by humankind.
Microcosm: An exceedingly small environment.
Alcyon: A planet colonized by species remodeled into new niches by genetic engineering.
Oddballs: Aberrant representatives of various biological groups compete and coexist.

..and probably some other stuff at some point (perhaps a no K-T project). Stay tuned!
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Keeping track of this thread...
F.I.N.D.R
Mapping the Multiverse

Basic Project ideas and notes. Subject to change as I get my thoughts straight.

Katiwala - A pulp fiction Lost World, with a logical evolutionary history, but hopefully still capturing the atmosphere.
Heaven & Hell - Two factions of an otherworldly species that came to earth to harvest humanity and inspired our views of Angels and Demons.
замороженный конец - An Ice Age world populated by tripodal organisms. (Might not keep the Ice Age part, though I worry it might be too much like Nereus that way.)
The Great River - a world consisting only of a massive, ever looping waterway.
New New Amsterdam - Exploring life in an abandoned city, still being upkeep-ed by automated systems.
The Everdark Forest - The plants here have a near perfect light absorption rate, forcing the fauna to make due without sight.
The Gate Worlds - A fantasy world split apart by the gods into one biome 'realms', populated by monsters also of their making.
Aether - A "Space is an Ocean" style world of floating mountains, sky whales, and a breathable void in between.
Apocalypse - Metaphysical forces have changed this world into one both beautiful and terrifying
Bottle Beasts - A Pokemon style world where humans live alongside creatures of fantastic power.
Tiny Buns - a study into the nature of Friendship Magic. Yes, really.
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Dr Nitwhite
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As will I. I have to go to sleep now, but rest assured I'll be making a post or two here tomorrow. See yall then!
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Sayornis
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Typhloesus, an enigmatic fossil from the Carboniferous. Formerly thought to be the "conodont animal," but the conodonts in its gut were later determined to be from its prey. It has a structure known as the "ferrodiscus" ("iron disc," because in the fossil it contains iron deposits), the function of which is unknown.
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Escumasia, another mystery creature from the Carboniferous. Possibly an offshoot of cnidarians, though a very strange one, as it has bilateral symmetry.
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Edited by Sayornis, Dec 15 2016, 10:25 PM.
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Aug 19 2016, 07:42 PM
As I said before, the Library is like spec crack.
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