Dinosaurs. What springs to mind when they’re mentioned? Colossal, towering sauropods? Packs of feisty feathered fiends? Or huge herds of hadrosaurs, chomping their way across the plains of long-lost worlds? Most, including myself, will automatically default to any one of these images when dinosaurs come up in conversation (what, you mean it’s not that frequent for normal people?) But we often neglect to think the earliest dinosaurs, spectacular organisms that gave birth to the most successful, and on-going, terrestrial vertebrate radiation of all time.
How can the dead help the living? This is a question a lot of fossil-fanatics have bent a lot of time towards over recent years, partially due to a desire to make palaeontology ‘relevant’ as a modern science, and secondly to help guide our efforts in conservation biology. A new series, edited by my supervisor Dr. Phil Mannion and others, focusses on the way we interpret palaeobiodiversity, biodiversity in the fossil record, for different groups and the issues and solutions facing the field. The final article in the volume struck me in particular.
How can fossils help us to protect these now and in the future? Source.
Crikey, it’s been 3 months already?! *panics* At Imperial College, new PhD students have to produce an initial plan of study within the first three months of setting off, and submit it for independent assessment. Having uploaded mine just now (not in the slightest bit late..), I figured I’d share it here! It’s a broad outline of what I’m aiming to do for the next wad of months – any comments or feedback will be massively appreciated!
Proposed title of thesis: Diversity crash at the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary: a forgotten mass extinction?
Recently, a really important paper by Alex Dunhill of Bristol University, UK, (@AlexDunhill on Twitter) has been published looking at the problems of using rock outcrop area as a sampling proxy for understanding patterns of biodiversity in deep geological time. What this paper highlights is the important distinction between geological and anthropological sampling proxies, and their relative importance in an on-going international series of projects and collaborations in understanding the patterns and processes that influence biodiversity through geological time.
The reason that this topic is so thoroughly studied are two-fold. Firstly, the co-evolution of the Earth and it’s floral and faunal constituents through time is one of the most important questions of our time, relying on integration of molecular systematists, palaeontologists, geologists, zoologists and botanists (and microbiologists, I guess..). Secondly, understanding the responses of organisms during times of high ecological pressure, high global extinction rates, and strong climatic fluctuations is of obvious importance in the modern world, during this time of rapid global climate change and increasing anthropogenic pressure on the environment. Therefore, studies like this are crucial in aiding our understanding the diversity dynamics of extinct, but still highly relevant, groups. Continue reading →