How whales and elephants are more closely related to one another than to you

It would be hard, looking at whales and elephants, to see how they could exist in any but the most ancient and distant of branches together, but the history of their divergence is actually much more recent than it seems. Cetaceans (whales and dolphins), pachederms (wooly mammoths and elephants) and serenia (manatees, dugongs) are all part of a much larger subclass of mammals called ungulates.

The name ungulate literally means “toe walkers,” and refers to the species of life that the cooler, drier climates of the post-dinosaur world gave rise to. As grasslands and wide open spaces began appearing, some mammals began walking higher off the ground with their legs directly under them. This is as distinct from Dimetrodon and other mammal-like dinos whose legs were beside the animal.

The early era of ungulates is the era of the “mega-fauna.” These huge species of plains grazing animals included the Uintatherium, which was a species that looked like the modern rhinoceros, which roamed the plains of Wyoming 52 million years ago.

Eventually, some of these ungulate species grew thicker toe claws which eventually became hooves. Horses, goats and the other hooved animals descend from this line.

Still others never developed hooves, but retained the original digits. Of these, some evolved into the pachyderms like great wooly mammoths and elephants. Others returned to the sea and became seals, walruses, manatees and whales. In fact, close inspection of some species of whale’s fins reveals depressions where the old “toe walker” claws still remain.


Get Your Seratonin Necklace Today!

This is sooo cool!

I was looking for something completely different and in that way that makes the Internet so cool, I stumbled upon a site called This site is dedicated to making jewelry and other fashions inspired by the chemical structures of different molecules.

For example, don’t miss the caffeine necklace. Or how about the baby one-sie with a picture of the “Cuddle Hormone,” Oxytosin? My personal favourite is the necklace that spells out “peace” in an amino acid pseudo-alphabet. That rocks.


Pseudo-Random Yuletide Observation

Only the geeks among you will get the “pseudo-random” bit!

Yeah, I know it seems early, but if you go anywhere but work and home, there’s all kinds of holiday crap out there.  And I confess to being a sap for the holidays, and it’s got me thinking:

The missus and I are entering our second Yule using our new LED tree lights, and we’re perfectly happy to do a little to lessen the strain on power resources and do minimal damage to the environment.  However, the real problem for me is that I’m very particular about the look of my tree: I don’t like primary colors at all, and prefer more blending, harmonious mixtures.

For years, I’ve used lights I got from some place online that were strings of two different color combinations: one called “Renaissance” and made up of green, teal, yellow and purple; the other was called “Frost,” and had clear, white frosted, teal and blue bulbs.  I put the Renn colors in the center and the Frost around the outside, and it looked amazing.

Well, now that we’ve switched over for environmental impact’s sake, I’m back to primary colors and I kinda hate it.  I actually like the piercingly direct and uniform color of LED lights, and they tend to shoot out long beams of color that make kinda cool patterns and shadows on the wall.

But I see no logical reason to have to sacrifice good color schemes for the environment, except to say that none of the LED manufacturers have managed any level of creativity.  Damnit!  Won’t anyone at GE hear my appeal?