Palaeo Pop-Culture: The Inspiring (and Tragic) Story of the Pterosaur Ornithopter

Guest Author – James Ormiston
Bristol Palaeontology MSci Graduate / PalaeoArtist

The road to flight is littered with the snapped airframes, tangled control lines, burnt out engines, and the torn wing fabric of countless victims to gravity’s crushing hand. For every successful attempt by humanity to get a face-full of cloud, there are scores of attempts met with a face-full of mud, grass, tarmac, water, the list goes on.

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BDP Christmas Special 2019

One of the finest traditions of all media at Christmas is to shamelessly rip off a classic bit of literature now in the public domain. A palaeontologist studying this phenomenon over time may well describe it as a long-fuse adaptive radiation; diversity and disparity of the text exploding after copyright expiration. Seeing as it is the holiday season, I thought we’d have a bit of fun with this ourselves whilst still learning about palaeontology. And so, without further ado, I present to you, the BDP Christmas Carol… And no, I can’t believe we’re doing this either.

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In The Field – Polish-Mongolia Expeditions 1963 – 1971 (Part 2)

This is Part Two of a blog about these expeditions – For Part One, follow this link!

Guest Author – James Ormiston
Bristol Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeo Artist

Mongolia’s ancient underbelly had proved so productive that after suspending fieldwork for one year, the Polish returned in 1967 for another three year stint. This was a smaller scale operation, like in 1963, aimed not at excavating but prospecting. They were accompanied this time by only one member of the Mongolian team for each year, joined also by a car and driver. Returning to the Flaming Cliffs in search of Cretaceous mammals, this cluster of mini-expeditions turned out 20 mammal specimens, as many lizards and a crocodilian.

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In The Field – Polish-Mongolia Expeditions 1963 – 1971 (Part 1)

Guest Author – James Ormiston
Bristol Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeo Artist

Of the many countries around the world that have seen palaeontologists scouring their strata for fossils, Mongolia is one of the most intriguing and inspiring. Landlocked and sandwiched between its neighbouring geographical behemoths, Russia and China, Mongolia is itself a very large country. Across 1.5 million square kilometres The Country of Blue Sky’s expanse covers parts of the Altai Mountains in the north, the Gobi Desert in the south, and vast grassland steppes in between. Such a landscape, along with its sparse human population, certainly calls to mind the kind of place where you’d expect to see a small gaggle of sunburnt scientists under their wide-brimmed hats chipping away at nature’s time capsules. And since the early 20th Century that’s exactly what has happened.

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Palaeo Pop-Culture – SUE the T. rex

Guest Author – Han Kemp
2nd Year Undergraduate Student in Palaeontology, University of Bristol

Twitter is a great social media platform that’s allowed me to follow along with all kinds of palaeontologists and fossil aficionados. One such account is SUE (@SUEtheTrex), representing one of the largest and most extensive Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found. The 67-million-year-old enthuses over Jeff Goldblum, plays Dungeons and Dragons with their followers, and gets angry at people who mention meteors. This might sound a little confusing, so let me add some context.

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Misconceptions – Dilophosaurus Duality

Today is the 5th November, the annual British holiday of blowing things up to celebrate things not being blown up. Seeing as it is such a flashy vibrant event, I’m turning my attention to what is perceived as one of the flashiest and showiest of the dinosaurs; a star of Jurassic Park, Dilophosaurus.

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Current Palaeo – The Spookiest Thing About Bats

A bat silhouette means one of two things is near: Halloween or a crazed masked vigilante.

With Halloween only two days away, I thought we should turn our attentions to an animal which has become synonymous with the holiday. The word ‘Halloween’ conjures up a series of distinctive shapes in our minds; a pumpkin, a ghost, the far too early Christmas tree in the shops, and the silhouette of a flying bat. But how long could it have been this way? Would a bat have been a symbol of Halloween in the Mesozoic (if dinosaurs had been capable of celebrating this autumnal festival or been dextrous enough to craft decorations to mark it)?

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Misconceptions – The Grass Divide

How often do we as regular humans, living on this planet, think about grass? We don’t ever really. Grass is just there and, as far as most are concerned it always has been and always will be. But grass is a living organism, subject to all the same rules of life as everything else. Grass had to evolve which means, by definition, there was a time, a very long time, when it didn’t exist.

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Current Palaeo – Luckless Lobsters

Everyone knows about the great extinction at the end of the dinosaur age, but it was far from smooth sailing up until then. The Mesozoic era stretches out 180 million years, during which time many different groups of animals exploded into abundance and then died away. Even without anything so dramatic as an asteroid impact much of these were still significant catastrophes. One such time is the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE). (more…)

Current Palaeo – Bocas Core Spicule Project

Guest Author – Mike Hynes

Current Palaeobiology MSc Student, University of Bristol

Although I have spent large parts of my science career working on Mesozoic fossils, including my current MSc project on feathered dinosaurs, I want to take a moment here do discuss some lesser known applications of palaeontology. (more…)