Why I think the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary is super important

Mass extinctions are insanely catastrophic, but important, events that punctuate the history of life on Earth. The Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary, around 145 million years ago, was originally thought of to represent a mass extinction, but has subsequently been ‘down-graded’ to a minor extinction event based on new discoveries.

However, compared to other important stratigraphic boundaries, like the end-Triassic or the end-Cretaceous, both time periods representing mass extinction events, the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary actually remains really poorly understood. This is both in terms of what was going on with different animal groups at the time, and what environmental changes were occurring alongside this.

Well, I have a new research paper out now that synthesises more than 600 research articles, bringing them together to try and build a single picture of what was going on around this time! It’s free to read here, and is essentially the literature review from my thesis, or as I like to think of it, the justification for my existence as a researcher!

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The Cambridge Science Festival

This originally appeared at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1152

Last night, I was honoured to have spoken at the final evening lecture at the Cambridge Science Festival, along with Nick Crumpton, Anjali Goswami, Rob Asher, and Stephanie Pierce, about why palaeontology is important. Below is a rough transcript of some of what my talk was about. Unlike the others, I didn’t discuss my own research. Instead, by general gist was that although palaeontology is useful in addressing some of the greatest scientific questions of our time, like the evolution and history of life on Earth, the current narrow framing of science in terms of impact is being quite detrimental to creativity and exploratory science. As such, should palaeontology be more focused on its emotive qualities, and be used as a ‘hook’, or ‘gateway’ into the other fields of science?

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The underworld thief returns from the dead

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=942

So I don’t normally blog whenever a new dinosaur pops out the pages, but a new one, Acheroraptor temertyorum received quite a welcome back to the living world with this exquisite illustration by Danielle Dufault. I’ve asked for her permission to post on here, and it’ll appear on the front cover of Naturwissenschaften (December issue, probably), so defo worth checking out a hard copy!

Acheroraptor, in all its glory

Acheroraptor, in all its glory (click for larger, or email Danielle!)

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Dinosaurs of a feather?

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=690

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)

Reconstruction of Aurornis xui. Credit: Masato Hattori (source)

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Fly my pretties, fly!

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/2013/03/20/fly-my-pretties-fly/

The origin of bird flight is one of the greatest stories evolution has ever told us in the history of life on this planet. To imagine how organisms that once ran around on the ground have descendants that soar through the skies is truly phenomenal, and represents a truly great leap in increasing the awesomeness of these animals. The secret of how it came about though is hidden away in the fossil record, with the mysterious tale ever-shifting as our understanding of early birds and feather precursors evolved.

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