The Expedition

Welcome to this special series of podcasts relating to a fieldtrip that I have been invited on by Dr Martin Brazeau of Imperial College London. I’m being flown out as the Palaeozoic arthropod “expert” of the team and I’ll be there to deal with all the eurypterids and phyllocaridids we come across, along as documenting the whole process for outreach and hopefully your enjoyment. In all, this trip will last around 6 weeks, during which…

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No, Brian Ford, cranial neurovasculature does not mean dinosaurs were aquatic

If you’ve been on twitter these last few months, or follow palaeozoologist Darren Naish on social media, you’ll have surely heard about the new book written by Brian Ford, “Too Big to Walk: The New Science of Dinosaurs”. It’s controversial, to put it politely. Now, apologies to readers who know the back story, but we must set set the scene: Ford isn’t a palaeontologist, for starters, yet somehow he’s managed to wrangle a deal with…

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Progressive Palaeontology 2018

Welcome to our coverage of Progressive Palaeontology, the Palaeontological Association’s conference for early-career academics. The conference this year is held jointly between the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, in a Progressive Palaeontology first! Researchers from both institutions are part of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ancient Life (ICAL), and their research interests span the entire palaeontological spectrum. Research topics include (but are by no means limited to): the origins and early evolution of arthropods;…

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Speculation and conjecture obscures the true pterosaur menu

Whenever we think about extinct animals we often imagine them tucking into their favourite meals, whether it be a Tyrannosaurus rex munching on a Triceratops steak, or a woolly mammoth enjoying an Ice Age salad. But how often do we ask whether our ideas are grounded within scientific reasoning, or are actually little more than hunger-based conjecture and speculation? Representatively understanding the diets of extinct animals is therefore important for learning how organisms fitted within…

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Episode 92: Squamate Origins

Squamates are a group of reptiles that include lizards and snakes, with the earliest fossils occurring in the Jurassic, despite molecular studies dating the group back to the Triassic. The study of their origins has been contentious because of this gap, and the lack of fossils during this time period. However, a new look at a previously-known fossil has changed our view of squamate origins, and discussing this animal and what it means about reptile…

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Pterosaur jaw shape – what does it mean?

I’ve been a little bit busy and haven’t had a chance to blog about the most recent paper I was involved with, on pterosaur jaw disparity! This paper has been a long time coming, and was my lead by my first ever Master’s student, Charlie Navarro. This project came out of his MSc thesis at the University of Bristol, which I helped supervise a few years ago. I’m so happy, and so proud that we…

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Episode 91: Dinosaurs of Appalachia

The Appalachian mountains, span the Eastern margin of the United States of America. They are predominantly composed of Paleozoic rocks, but Mesozoic marine sediments (formed adjacent to the Appalachian continent at the time) can be found along the Eastern coast. It is within these deposits that the remains of a unique dinosaur fauna can be found. Joining us to paint a picture of the vertebrate faunas of Appalachia during the Mesozoic is Chase Brownstein, research associate…

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Being a Postgraduate Palaeontologist in 2018

Since I was child, I wanted to pursue a career in palaeontology.  As I am now starting my career as a postgraduate student in the palaeontological field, I have noticed that it has been filled with quite interesting twists and turns. One thing that I can say about the environment right now is that it is very competitive (particularly in the United States).  I applied to graduate school twice: first when I was near the…

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Episode 90: Ichthyornis

Bird evolution has long fascinated palaeontologists. Despite crown-group birds (birds giving rise to modern lineages today) evolving during the Cretaceous, there are relatively few fossils from this time, making it difficult to understand this key time period and just exactly how modern birds came to be. Dr. Daniel Field, 50th Anniversary Prize Fellow from the University of Bath, studies bird evolution, particularly how crown-group birds evolved. In this episode, we discuss his recent paper on…

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Episode 89: Teeth and herbivory in reptiles

Tooth shape and arrangement is strongly linked with diet, and palaeontologists often use teeth to determine what kind of food an animal may have been eating. Carnivorous teeth are generally more simple, while herbivorous teeth are more complicated. We know that herbivory evolved later, but how did the dentition of herbivores evolve? What kind of variation exists in herbivorous dentition? In this episode, we speak with Dr Aaron LeBlanc, a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the…

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