Episode 139: Marrellomorphs

Marrellomorphs are the group of early Paleozoic arthropods that get their name from the well-known Burgess Shale fossil Marrella splendens. They have for a long time been considered to be closely related to the trilobites, based on similarities in their gills, whilst other studies have suggested they could be closer related to mandibulate arthropods (crustaceans,...

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Episode 137: Tanis

The end-Cretaceous mass extinction was a cataclysmic asteroid impact that ushered in the end of the non-avian dinosaurs and forever changed the course of evolution on Earth. But what can we say about the timing of the event, other than it happened 66 million years ago? Well, it turns out that Tanis, a relatively-recently discovered fossil site in North Dakota, is full of lines of evidence that are allowing earth scientists to piece together when…

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Episode 135/136: Burmese Amber Pt2

Continuing our mini series on Burmese Amber, we now turn our focus to the ethics of working on this fossil material. Can possessing or working on amber from Myanmar ever be considered ethical? In the first part of this episode, we examine the political context, work around Myanmar’s fossil exportation laws and follow the money back through the trade routes. In the second part we discuss why it’s currently unethical to study Burmese amber, what…

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Episode 134: Mammal Locomotion and Ecology

In this episode we talk to Professor Christine Janis about mammal palaeontology, and her career. Christine is one of the world’s foremost experts in mammal palaeontology and mammalogy. She has authored dozens of scientific papers, and has been co-author of the major textbook Vertebrate Life for the last 20 years. Christine has had a long and distinguished career, and is currently a researcher at the University of Bristol in the UK. Her work is particularly…

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Episode 133: Drawing and Painting Dinosaurs

It can be argued that palaeoart is the single biggest hook for getting people interested in prehistoric life. It takes the complex scientific terminology and data found within the academic literature and translates it into a reconstruction of an extinct organism. It is only through palaeoart that we can visualise some extinct organisms (particularly the vertebrates, and dinosaurs in this instance, whose external tissues are rarely preserved as fossils) and show some of the behaviours…

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Episode 131: Burmese Amber Pt1

Burmese amber is well known for preserving fossils in exquisite details. This amber is dated to around 100 million years old, representing the Albian – Cenomanian ages of the Cretaceous period, so would have been deposited whilst non-avian dinosaurs still walked the land. Fossils preserved in this amber include representatives from numerous different groups including arachnids, insects, vertebrates, and plants. Whilst the amber itself (as fossilised tree sap/resin) is produced in a terrestrial environment, some…

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Episode 127: Coprolite Inclusions

One of the factors that makes palaeontology such a popular science is its constant ability to surprise us. It seems almost every week that a new study is released that significantly adds to our understanding of ancient life. This could be in relation to a new species, a new analysis or new fossil locality. In this episode, we discuss a new discovery that not only yields a new species, but also provides direct dietary evidence…

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Working as a lab manager

Wow. It’s been over a year since my last blog post. A lot has happened since then, though not a lot scientifically which is why I haven’t posted much. Not a lot of updates for me other than lots of (failed) applications, lack of publishing, and that little global pandemic throwing everything into disarray… One reason I’ve been pretty busy over the last while is that I had the opportunity to work full time as…

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Walking in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs

The recent discovery of a dinosaur trackway site on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, provides insight into “a day in the life of a bunch of dinosaurs just loitering about, 170 million years ago” according to paleontologist Dr. Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences. It was late in the day when I arrived at the site. It had been a long drive. But the scenery of the Scottish Highlands along the…

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