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Found 2 results

  1. Ankylosaur Nasal Passages

    Research published last month looked at the nasal passages of two ankylosaurs, Panoplosaurus mirus and Euoplocephalus tutus. They found that their convoluted nasal passages would have been efficient heat exchange mechanisms. An article from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/12/dinosaurs-breathed-through-long-tubes-in-their-noses/578512/ The paper: Jason M. Bourke, Wm. Ruger Porter, Lawrence M. Witmer Convoluted nasal passages function as efficient heat exchangers in ankylosaurs (Dinosauria: Ornithiscia: Thyreophora) Published December 19, 2018, PlosOne https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207381
  2. I was around six years old, I suppose, when the rest of my life began - I can recall very few details about myself, but the sequence of events that unfolded remain as clear as day. My godparents had arrived at our old family home for a visit and brought me a present. Since they knew that every kid, myself included, went through a dinosaur phase, they handed me something a little different than I was expecting: a little fossil fish. Many years later, that fish is still sitting beside me on my desk at university. Most of you will recognize this immediately as a very standard, very respectable Knightia eocaena from the Green River Fm - I would not be surprised if many of you have gone collecting out there and chiseled away hundreds over the years. But to me, this was brand new, and I spent hours poring over a fossil guide to identify my new fish. That was the point of no return, and I have never left the long and winding road that is paleontology. Looking back, this turning point was a bit unusual. Before and after that day, I had next to no interest in fossil fish. Reptiles and birds were more my style, and indeed they remain my topics of interest. But my journey towards paleontology began with a fish - and in a delightfully ironic twist of fate, I find myself entering the professional and academic realm of paleo with a fish. Admittedly, it's been a while, hasn't it? Forum stats tell me I was last active sometime in 2016, and my last substantial posts of any kind were even earlier in 2014. It's been more than six years since I first joined TFF, which is incredibly scary, but even then I have relatively little to show for it. To be fair, I've been busy. I've completed my first year of a five-year university program in Philadelphia, working towards an undergraduate degree in geoscience with concentrations in paleontology - and I work at the Academy of Natural Sciences in numerous capacities, both publically, and behind the scenes. It's been a wonderful experience. After my first year, I decided to forgo my one potential summer break in favor of a ten-week, full-time research project in the vertebrate paleontology collections and the Daeschler lab at the Academy. You may have heard of this not-so-little fish called Tiktaalik roseae...apparently it's a pretty big deal when it comes to evolutionary biology...in any case, the Academy played a large part in its discovery and description, and the fossils were held there until about two years ago, when they went back to Canada. Thankfully, a number of casts remain in the collection, along with detailed CT scans of the specimens to be used in future research. Well, apparently we live in the future, because this is where I come in. Since June, I have been poring over the CT data from a large lower jaw of Tiktaalik - all 4000+ slices - and flung myself headfirst into the digital realm to explore details unseen to the naked eye. We have a pretty good handle on the lower jaw morphology of tristichopterid fish such as Eusthenopteron - the case is the same for more derived tetrapods such as Acanthostega. Not so much for the intermediate forms, Tiktaalik and co, these transitional forms. We still haven't properly identified where the bones ARE in the lower jaw (or even how many there are - a newly uncertain statistic in recent years). What can we tell by peering through the bone, identifying dimensions and suture points within the mandible? In context with more primitive and more derived organisms, the results could be insightful. So that's what I set out to do. Last week I presented the preliminary results at our annual on-site undergraduate research conference to the world at large - a wonderful and cathartic conclusion to the summer. (That's me in front of the poster, undoubtedly talking about infradentaries or somesuch...the required poster dimensions weren't nearly large enough for my images at any decent resolution, so I had to get innovative and throw in some pullout tabs for the Eusthenopteron and Acanthostega comparisons. If this arrangement becomes a trend...well, you saw it here first! photo: Vincent O'Leary) (And if you all want, I'll see what I can do about attaching a copy of the poster - it's made up of multiple files due to my somewhat necessary feat of engineering.) And at the same time, it was only the beginning of things to come. There's a grad student at the University of Chicago looking at sutures in the Tiktaalik cranium: since I'm working on the lower jaw, I'll be contacting him soon about the possibility of comparing notes and possibly even getting a model of the whole skull. Starting in the fall I'll be splitting my time between the Daeschler lab and the big prep lab downstairs, working on Jurassic and Cretaceous material recovered from Montana and Wyoming by the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute. In all likelihood, I'll be making the journey out west myself next year, and reaching even more exotic locales over the coming years. On a final note, I was also able to attend my first two academic conferences over the summer: the 2017 International Symposium on Paleohistology (in Trenton, NJ) and the 2017 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting (in Calgary, AB). No presentations from me during either of them - these were just to attend, get to know people, and soak up the atmosphere. They were well worth the time. I have a brand new crop of lifelong friends that I look forward to meeting again many times down the road. It's been a tremendous experience so far, and only in the space of a year...we'll see what the future holds!
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