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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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 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…)
When going from school to school talking about dinosaurs, it’s only natural that one of the most commonly asked questions I get is; “What is your favourite dinosaur?” Perhaps, being as I am part of the Bristol Dinosaur Project, I should say Thecodonotosaurus, but that wouldn’t be true. If I absolutely had to pick just one, my favourite dinosaur would be Baryonyx walkeri. (more…)
Palaeobiology MSc Graduate / Researcher, University of Bristol
When I was younger (and trying to figure out what to do with my life), I never thought I’d end up with a career in science, and yet here I am as a research technician at the University of Bristol working on microfossils. (more…)
2nd Year Undergraduate, Palaeontology & Evolution, University of Bristol
Ichthyosaurs are one of those groups of prehistoric animals that always seem to play second fiddle to dinosaurs in popular science (with the notable exception of the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs). They are usually only mentioned as a way of demonstrating convergent evolution with fish rather than as fascinating and varied animals on their own right. (more…)