Well, according to Sesame Street, all you need to do is sing the palaeontologist theme song!
So forget studying, research, and years of training. Actually, it is pretty cool – it does show this; all you need to do to become a palaeontologist is have a fascination for the natural world, and get your hunting hat on!
Some dinosaurs were utterly bizarre. You may have heard of them before, but one particular group called therizinosaurs belonged to the meat-eating theropod dinosaurs (those that led to birds), were really awesome. However, they actually at some point made a conscious evolutionary decision to stop being badasses, and become Cretaceous-cauliflower* munching pansies.
So I hit the 9 month barrier for my PhD the other day. Where ze hell did all that time go??
Well, you can actually see if you want – I’ve uploaded the 9 month report to Figshare, excluding the preliminary results (which are beginning to look awesome btw). You can find it here: http://figshare.com/articles/9_month_PhD_report/738023, where it’s already had almost 200 hits. Figshare is so awesome it hurts.
The primary task is to assess biodiversity patterns over the Jurassic/Cretaceous interval
Primary data collection for this is now complete, and some preliminary stats run on it to account for imperfections in the fossil record
There is a hell of a lot to do
I’m actually in Munich at the moment, working on alternative route to assessing this first point. I’m using a method called ‘phylogenetic diversity’, which essentially maps evolutionary trees onto time (stratigraphy), and you can interpolate where you know species should be but haven’t been found, based on their evolutionary relationships and artificially inflate diversity through time. I’m doing this for about 500 species atm, so it’s taking a lot of time, but looking pretty awesome atm – stay tuned!
Oh, the title? Not a clue – I’ve only had one coffee. PhD research is tough – you work long hours, do difficult work, and get paid a pittance, so times it can be a bit much, but it’s totally worth it; there are many paths the research could take; and thyme, never enough thyme..
Anyway, have a flick through and let me know what you think! If you think there’s something I’m missing, or an avenue in particular you’d like me to explore, drop a comment here (this is funded by UK taxpayers’ cashmoney after all)
What comes to mind when you think of dinosaur interaction? Large carnivores chomping on unsuspecting little ornithopods? Ceratopsians jousting for their next mate? Large hadrosaurs tenderly mothering their cute newborns? There are many possible images of community-level dinosaur interactions, and there is a host of evidence out there that take dinosaurs beyond the bones and breathe new life into how they lived.
Feathered dinosaurs might not still be the new boys in town in the fossil world, but there’s still a tonne of cool research being done on them. One of the main fields is trying to figure out if different species were capable of powered flight, like in most modern birds. The recent finding of Aurornis xui appears to have confined the ability to fly just to a single feathered lineage, the one leading to modern birds, but how do we figure out whether they could fly or not?
Reconstruction of Aurornis xui. Credit: Masato Hattori (source)