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Michael Habib
Works at University of Southern California
Attended Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Lives in Los Angeles
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Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata type "Shukou" blooming for the second time this year. I tend to get two blooming seasons a year from my V falcata collection, but the Spring season is usually stronger than the Fall.
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+Michael Habib I've built up a small collection of six Neo's in the past 2 years but most are still a year or so away from blooming. Can't wait.
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I've been up to Mauna Kea to take in a bit of this view. It wasn't clear enough to get the full array shown here, but it's still quite the experience.
 
What if you could stand at the top of a volcano and peer out across the universe? If the timing is right, you might see an amazing panorama like the one featured here.

In this case, the volcano is the Hawaii's Mauna Kea, and the time was a clear night last summer In the foreground of this south-facing panorama lies a rugged landscape dotted with rocks and hardy plants. Slightly above and further out, a white blanket of clouds spreads horizontally to the horizon, seemingly dividing heaven and Earth. City lights illuminate the clouds and sky on the far left, while orange lava in the volcanic caldera of Kilauea lights up the clouds just left of center. The summit of an even more distant Hawaiian volcano, Mauna Loa, is visible in dark silhouette near the central horizon. Green airglow is visible above the clouds, caused by air molecules excited by the Sun during the day. The Moon is the bright orb on the right. A diffuse band of light-colored zodiacal light extends up from the far right. Most distant, the dramatic central band of our Milky Way Galaxy appears to rise vertically from Mauna Loa. The person who witnessed and captured this breathtaking panorama stands before you in the image center.

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150511.html
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Can't be afraid of the dark to enjoy the clear view of the universe. 
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Worms are awesome. And an everting proboscis is even more awesome.
 
The Gorgonorhynchus
So the strange white thing that seems to “erupt” from the worm is its proboscis. This is a tubular sucking organ that some worms use to feed.
During eversion, which takes place almost explosively, the short main trunk first appears, then this divides and the finer and filter branches appear, but since each one of these is the result of an evagination the effect is almost indescribable. It is as if a large number of lively, wriggling, minute worms had been shot out.

Paper:
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2457629?uid=3738920&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21106699460623

  #gorgonorhynchus   #worms   #proboscis   #coolcreatures  
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Looks like a thought growing to me. Jumping ahead, then looking back to make sure your reasoning is sound. 
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Mammoth is Mopey: crowdfunding a children's paleontology book

There is an indiegogo campaign up and running now to publish a book called Mammoth is Mopey. This looks pretty cool and I thought others here of a scientific inclination might be interested in supporting the project (I am not directly involved in the project in any way. I did donate some funds to the Indiegogo campaign).

What's neat about this particular book, from my perspective as a paleontologist, is the inclusion of many lesser-known (but very cool) fossil organisms. The book will have lots of Mesozoic dinosaurs in it, of course, but it also includes mammals and birds from later time periods (example: Kooky Kelenken, a Terror Bird from Miocene Argentina). As you might imagine from the title, there is one animal for each letter of the alphabet, and the book teaches you how to pronounce the names. I personally like that the book also introduces some slightly less common adjectives, since I expect that will have substantial reading benefits for kids.

I've included a link below to the campaign page, which includes the summary and some sample creatures.
Mammoth is Mopey is an alphabet book celebrating two great joys: prehistoric animals and language. | Crowdfunding is a democratic way to support the fundraising needs of your community. Make a contribution today!
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I like this idea very much.

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Science News (Pop Sci)  - 
 
+Brian Switek covers the new metoposaur bone bed discovery in modern day Portugal. These animals were large amphibious predators with a cool jaw that could open their jaws via elevation in addition to the typical depression approach (i.e. the jaw could open upwards). The time period involved is also very cool: the late Triassic (about 230 million years ago), when the primary land masses were connected as the supercontinent Pangaea.
Finding fossils takes a combination of skill on luck. You have to be looking in the right place and have some idea of how to distinguish those precious pieces of prehistoric life from all the rock ...
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Because nudibranchs are awesome.
 
Have you heard of Glaucus atlanticus (blue sea slug) and its tinier relative Glaucus marginatus?

The family Glaucidae has just two species: Glaucus atlanticus and Glaucus marginatus. Glaucus atlanticus can be up to 40mm in size and have single rows of up to 84 cerata (outgrowths from the sides of the body).

The main differences between the two are:
- Glaucus marginatus has multiple rows of cerata and up to 137 cerata in total.
- The tail (metapodium) of Glaucus atlanticus is much longer than that of Glaucus marginatus.
- Glaucus atlanticus is the larger of the two species - Glaucus marginatus only reaches 17mm in length.

more info: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/collections/our-collections/glaucus-atlanticus/
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+Michael Habib funny how that works... now you're buying Aiptasia for the slugs :-) 
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Jaguars appear to be better divers than I expected. Pretty sweet.
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Maternal death rate in United States has increased dramatically

In something of a sad irony (given we just celebrated Mother's Day), some sobering stats from Quartz - see link below. In short, while in most of the world maternal death during childbirth has been dropping (especially in wealthy nations), the rate has been climbing in the United States since about 1995. From 1990 to 2013, childbirth and pregnancy related maternal deaths in the United States rose by a shocking 136%. Not much is known about the specific causes of this trend, but the most obvious factor is maternal health prior to pregnancy. A large proportion of the women who become pregnant in the U.S. now are hypertensive or diabetic prior to their pregnancy, for example. Improved access to health care for women prior to the onset of pregnancy may therefore be one of the key moves to reduce maternal deaths in the United States.
This despite the fact that the US's per capita spending on maternal care is higher than any other country.
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Age specif rates would be of value for comparison
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• Biology  - 
 
Yi qi, the new "bat-winged" dinosaur

The image below is a hot off the press illustration of a brand new dinosaur described last week in Nature. The artwork is by John Conway (check out the rest of his site, it's mighty impressive). The new animal is called Yi qi (which comes from "strange wing" in Mandarin - "qi" means strange and "Yi" that means wing). 

What makes Yi qi so special is that it appears to have been a small, feathered dinosaur with membranous wings. Previously, all known dinosaur wing surfaces (including those of birds) were primarily composed of feathers. A membrane wing is a novelty for a dinosaur (though, of course, both bats and pterosaurs had membrane wings, along with a host of unpowered flyers, so membrane wings are well known among vertebrates).

The original paper is located at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14423.html

Sadly, the paper is paywalled. However, some excellent popular articles on the new find can be found at: 

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/29/chinese-dinosaur-had-bat-like-wings-and-feathers/

http://www.theguardian.com/science/lost-worlds/2015/apr/29/bird-yi-qi-the-dinosaur-evolution-flight-feather-nature

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/fluffy-little-dinosaur-had-bat-wings-180955122/?no-ist

(full disclosure, I supplied all of those authors with feedback on the specimen, and I am quoted in all three articles. I did not receive any pay for my involvement)

+Emily Willoughby has also done a wonderful illustration, with a different wing attachment: https://plus.google.com/+EmilyWilloughby/posts/PigMErV4aTv


Below are some of my more extended thoughts on the new fossil specimen. Some of these comments were supplied to the magazines listed above, so you will find some redundancy with the online magazine quotes:

Yi qi is a scansoriopterygid, and they are strange animals by any measure. That said, this new specimen is fantastically strange compared to other theropod dinosaurs. It has what appears to be traces of a membrane wing preserved, which was not anticipated for a close relative of birds.

Yi qi is not necessarily as weird in an evolutionary sense as it might first seem. Yi qi was a member of a group of feathered dinosaurs near the origin of birds. Living birds have membranes around their forelimbs, including a well developed membrane in front of the elbow called a propatagium. In birds, feathers cover and imbed in the membranous parts of the wing, obscuring the soft tissues and making up most of the wing surface.

It has been often assumed that in the lineages near (and including) birds, the wings evolved with a more or less continuous enlargement of the feather surfaces, and that the membranes in the wing never became more elaborate than in living birds. In Yi qi, however, the membranous part of the forelimbs has been expanded and elaborated far beyond the extent of the feathers, by way of a bizarre "extra" bone from the wrist. In a sense, the lineage containing Yi qi has built a wing using the same basic parts that birds use to build their wings, but this lineage has expanded the membrane, rather than the feathers. The effect is something a bit like an odd bat-like or pterosaur-like wing, with some feathery covering near the leading edge (similar to the fur on the wings of some bats).

While the new specimen is very exciting, there is a lot we don't know. Because the original orientation of the weird long wrist bone (called a styliform element) isn't known, there is no way to tell if Yi qi had a broad, bat-like wing, or a much slimmer membrane. If the membrane was broad, then Yi qi probably would have had enough wing surface to fly (at speeds it could plausibly reach - almost any flat surface will fly if it get it going fast enough) and it would have been relatively stable in pitch while in the air. The broad wing orientation would provide a low enough flight speed for Yi qi to plausibly launch and land safely. But under the more conservative membrane estimates, Yi qi would have had a serious positive pitching moment (nose up) unless it could sweep the forelimbs backwards quite substantially. It would also need to fly (or flap) very fast to stay airborne with the slimmer wing profile, and that would mean reaching quite high speeds when launching (i.e. it would need to be a surprisingly good leaper). The anatomy of the upper arm and thorax do not appear to be consistent with powered flight (i.e. flapping flight), but the preservation of the material is insufficient to conclude that with certainty (for example, the available pectoral muscle mass was probably small, and reinforcement of the thorax against compressive loads seems to be lacking. The humerus also seems to lack reinforcement against the torsional loads that dominate during powered flight).

The strange styliform element was subjected to chemical analysis, and it seems to have been bone-like, but not identical to the bone material of the fingers. It may have been comprised of lower stiffness bone or cartilage, allowing it to bend slightly when the membrane was tensioned under aerodynamic load or by muscle forces. That may seem like a minor feature, but it's a key component in making a membrane wing work effectively.

All told, this is an unexpected, exciting specimen that changes our views on the evolution of flight in dinosaurs. It appears that multiple types of wing surfaces evolved within the relatives of birds, making the origins of avian flight potentially more complicated than previously thought.
_Yi qi_ is a newly discovered birdy-theropod with membranous wing-y things. Unlike what youll see in a lot of reconstructions, theres no reason to think it was a particularly angry animal.
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Great post +Michael Habib! Here's my somewhat tongue-in-cheek illustration of Yi qi http://goo.gl/Xp081b
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Cute and fun. Bird and Moon often has excellent biology-inspired graphics and/or comics.
 
Via Bird and Moon Comics
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We definitely like to go dinosaur-spotting, especially around the river Cam.  It's been a long-running joke in our family, of course, but when Peo saw a swan standing a few feet away from her and how enormous it was with those dangerous-looking dino-legs, it really hit home for her that yeah, that's a frickin' DINOSAUR.
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Work
Occupation
Assistant Professor, Cell and Neurobiology
Skills
Anatomy, Biomechanics, Paleontology
Employment
  • University of Southern California
    Assistant Professor, Cell and Neurobiology, 2012 - present
    I teach Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric). I research biomechanics, paleontology, robotics and comparative anatomy. Growing interest in astrobiology.
  • Chatham University
    Assistant Professor of Biology, 2009 - 2012
    I taught Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric), Evolution, and Biostatistics. I had a fruitful research program in biomechanics, paleontology, and comparative anatomy.
  • National Aquarium
    Animal Husbandry: Rainforest, 2001 - 2001
    I provided animal care at the National Aquarium for reptiles, birds, and invertebrates. (https://plus.google.com/+nationalaquarium/posts)
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Los Angeles
Previously
Baltimore - Ellicott City - Charlottesville - Pittsburgh
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Story
Tagline
Paleontologist. Gets to play with flying reptiles, dinosaurs, and swarms for a living. Enjoys tea and Kung Fu off the job.
Introduction
I spend my time teaching human gross anatomy and studying strange creatures from the deep past of Earth's history. I am particularly fond of publishing works on giant flying reptiles. When not contemplating the fossil record I can be found studying Kung Fu and growing orchids.

(Profile photo by Gus Ruelas)

My Curriculum Vitae


Some of my recent papers:

Han G, Chiappe LM, Ji S-A, Habib M, Turner AH, Chinsamy A, Liu X, and Han L. 2014. A New Raptorial Dinosaur with Exceptionally Long Feathering provides Insights into Dromaeosaurid Flight Performance. Nature Communications. 5 (4382)


Chiappe LM, Zhao B, O’Connor JK, Chunling G, Wang X, Habib M, Marugan-Lobon J, Meng Q, Cheng X. 2014. A new specimen of the Early Cretaceous bird Hongshanornis longicresta: insights into the aerodynamics and diet of a basal ornithuromorph. PeerJ 2:e234 


Hone DWE, Habib MB, Lamanna MC. 2013. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of Solnhofen (Upper Jurassic, Germany) pterosaur specimens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Annals of Carnegie Musuem 82(2): 149-175.


Habib M. 2013. Constraining the Air Giants: Limits on size in flying animals as an example of constraint-based biomechanical theories of form. Biological Theory: Special Volume doi: 10.1007/s13752-013-0118-y






Habib M. 2010. The structural mechanics and evolution of aquaflying birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 99(4): 687-698


Habib M.  2008. Comparative evidence for quadrupedal launch in pterosaurs. Pp 161-168 in Buffetaut E, and DWE Hone, eds.  Wellnhofer Pterosaur Meeting: Zitteliana B28

Bragging rights
I was selected as one of the "Brilliant 10" in Popular Science Magazine for 2014. My research was featured as one of the top 100 stories of 2009 by Discover Magazine.
Education
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Anatomy (Ph.D.), 2004 - 2011
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (M.S.), 2001 - 2004
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (B.A.), 1998 - 2001
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Gender
Male