OLD BONES - SVP'S BLOG

Last week some 30 paleontologists presented long-format talks and posters at the Burpee Museum of Natural History’s Annual PaleoFest mini-conference.  Designed to lure both academics and the public alike, PaleoFest consists of unopposed half-hour presentations by scientists that share novel research in paleontology with specialists, interested amateurs, and the public.  In conjunction, the museum runs kid-friendly a... Read More
Posted: 3/22/2016 11:02:21 AM by allisonbeckadmin | with 0 comments
I was asked this question the other day. No doubt the asker, a personal friend, is not the only person who has ever wondered this: "OK, I'm reading all of these variations on the species, and the thought of goats popped into my head. It would work with dogs too. You have a species, with a lot of physical variation in it. All different adult sizes & forms. All of them are the same species, though the breeds are dis... Read More
Posted: 3/10/2016 11:32:05 AM by pennilynhigginsadmin | with 0 comments
How do we determine the ontogenetic (developmental) age of a fossil vertebrate, like a dinosaur? It ain’t easy. One of the best methods is thin-sectioning long bones and counting the growth rings inside, akin to determining the age a tree. However, this isn’t always possible for a variety of reasons, including the unavailability of appropriate fossil material or the prohibition of destructive analysis (museums tend not to... Read More
Posted: 2/29/2016 12:02:10 PM by mallonjordanadmin | with 0 comments
For the general public, the view of the deep past is rather skewed towards dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.  One gets the impression that the first life was bacteria, then bugs, then some fishy things, and then dinosaurs came around and changed the world.  To be fair, dinosaurs were an important and significant part of vertebrate history, but in many cases they were re-inventing ecosystems already established by our own dista... Read More
Posted: 2/24/2016 5:05:02 PM by matthewbonnanadmin | with 0 comments
As a museum curator who regularly interacts with non-museum folks, I'll occasionally talk with a person who spots an error or outdated piece of information in a museum exhibit. Maybe the name for a particular species has changed, or perhaps the posture on a skeleton doesn't reflect the latest state of knowledge. Not infrequently, this is followed by a question: "So, when are you going to fix that?" I have heard thi... Read More
Posted: 2/17/2016 12:00:00 AM by host | with 0 comments
Tortoises have been on my mind a lot lately. It began when we discovered some giant fossil shell and limb bone remains at one of our sites in Bolivia. My collaborators and I eventually determined they were from a giant tortoise of the genus Chelonoidis, the same genus that includes the famous Galápagos Island tortoises. I knew that smaller species like the red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria) still lived in many areas of Sout... Read More
Posted: 2/11/2016 12:00:00 AM by croftdarinadmin | with 0 comments
I prepared this text for my students to help them understand the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement as they work on videos as a class project. There is always confusion about what's legal and what isn't, what exactly constitutes plagiarism, and how copyright figures into this. My students aren't the only ones confused on this point, and as the years have passed I have seen copyright infringem... Read More
Posted: 2/1/2016 12:00:00 AM by host | with 0 comments
What types of food an extinct vertebrate ate millions of years ago seems like one of those things that would be difficult to know. And to a large extent, it is. Short of fossilized gut contents or dung that can be positively attributed to its maker, palaeontologists have no way of knowing with any certainty what an extinct vertebrate ate. Looking at the shapes of the teeth might help (is it an herbivore or a carnivore?), as might ... Read More
Posted: 1/19/2016 12:00:00 AM by host | with 0 comments
Just like animals alive today, dinosaurs changed a lot as they grew up from hatchling to adult. But, evidence of these transformations are often scarce. Young, small dinosaurs were...well, bite-sized, and often didn't make it into the fossil record. And even if they did, their delicate bones are usually destroyed by erosion or even overlooked by collectors.Above: Skeleton of baby Chasmosaurus, from Currie et al. 2016 Paleontolog... Read More
Posted: 1/14/2016 12:00:00 AM by host | with 0 comments
It's that time of year when many high school seniors are in the midst of college applications. A college degree in a relevant field is virtually required for a formal career in paleontology (although many, many individuals without college degrees have contributed to the science in major ways, of course!). But, there are a wide array of choices out there. How is an aspiring paleontologist to choose? First, why does a degree matte... Read More
Posted: 12/27/2015 12:00:00 AM by host | with 0 comments
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