What Even Is A Dodo?

When it comes to iconic animals of extinction, there are none better known (or as frequently name-dropped) than the Dodo. An animal so synonymous with the idea of being extinct that it even became a saying, “As dead as a Dodo.” But if you speak to most people and ask what they know about the Dodo, that’s pretty much where the knowledge starts and ends. However, there is a real species behind the legend and it holds more than a few surprises.

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Sacred Ammonites – The Shaligram Stones of Nepal

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeoartist

Ammonites are wonderful things. Staring into their ribbed spirals can be a hypnotic experience. A shape that is vaguely familiar…yet also alien and ancient. Geometrically satisfying, chronologically dizzying. Although being very common, it’s this slight “otherness” which all but guarantees that if you collect fossils, even only a little, you probably have an ammonite in your collection. They have become a poster child for fossils worldwide.

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The Fat Bears Of Katmai – And How They Got There

Guest Author: Sophie Pollard
Palaeobiology MSc Student

While citizens of the city of Bristol and the rest of the UK will remember the summer of 2022 for its record-breaking heatwave, records of a different kind have been set in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska, with sockeye salmon returning in higher numbers than any recorded before. This is great news for the fauna of Katmai National Park, and by extension, for fans of Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week, an annual event in which the bears of Katmai compete to see who best drags the competition, by how much their bellies drag along the ground.

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How Big Were My Dinosaurs? – Part One

One thing we palaeontology communicators repeatedly tell people is that not all dinosaurs were the giants most picture when they hear the name. Many dinosaurs were small, taking up the niches of the nippy little insectivores and seed eaters we see in their modern bird counterparts. However, there’s no denying that when it comes down to it, everyone loves a big dinosaur for the simple reason that they were big. No need to look for any deeper meaning. Big animals are cool. (more…)

How To Evolve Your Dragon: Dragons Under Natural Selection

Guest Author: Emily Green
Bristol Palaeontology MSci Graduate / PhD Student – University of Lincoln

Dragons seem a universal staple of global mythology. Large and fearsome beasts which are so often, in part, based on unexplainable fossil discoveries. Many mythical creatures began life this way, such as the cyclops of Ancient Greece from the skulls of extinct island elephants, or mythical giants found by Carthaginians during excavations which are more likely the limb bones of Mammoths. In creating these myths, these civilisations were trying to explain their amazing discoveries. Now, as palaeontologists, we have a plethora of tools to explain the history of these fantastical beasts, which are sadly far more mundane than the flying fire breathing fiends of popular fantasy.

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Does Jurassic World HAVE to be accurate? – Part Two

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeoartist

This is Part Two of a double-post; to read part one click here.

Bridging the Gap

So far what I’ve done is over a thousand words of moaning, and excessive moaning adds fuel to the weird factionalism that’s appeared in the wake of this debate. So, what can actually be done about it? It was good to see Colin Trevorrow finally take on board peoples’ concerns over the lack of feathers, and getting the well-known dinosaur palaeontologist Prof Steve Brusatte (of the University of Edinburgh) on board for ‘JW: Dominion’ as an advisor is encouraging. For the most part however, the Jurassic franchise is something of a lost cause when it comes to accuracy as it’s already out there. It has its own extended universe, with spin-offs and video games, now cemented in modern culture – pronated hands and all. (more…)

Does Jurassic World HAVE to be accurate? – Part One

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology & Evolution MSci Graduate / Palaeoartist

From Science to Sensation

A short while ago, dark blurry YouTube uploads began appearing of two big dinosaurs fighting in IMAX cinemas. These were covertly-filmed showings of the first few minutes of the next instalment in the biggest dino-franchise of all: Jurassic World Dominion. Though the official global reveal was some way away, these low-quality videos revealed some intriguing details. The online community immediately began picking it apart…and battle lines were drawn. A debate as old as the franchise itself was about to fire up again. (more…)

How The Bunyip Went Extinct

Guest Author: Dr Rachel Kruft Welton
Current Palaeobiology MSc Student

Australia has a wide variety of dangerous and venomous creatures. Half the wildlife, it seems, is out to get you. You would have thought, that with the spiders, scorpions, snakes, sharks, blue-ringed octopuses, hungry crocodiles and biting flies, it would be unnecessary to invent a mythological creature intent on devouring humans. However, Indigenous Australians have long described a deadly water-spirit called a ‘Bunyip’. This nocturnal creature resembles a large seal-like dog, about 2 metres long with a dark shaggy coat. It inhabits river margins and swampy areas, where it lays eggs in platypus nests. In some stories it likes to munch on crayfish, and in others, it prefers human children. (more…)

Red Pandas And The Fossil Record Of Cuteness

Guest Author: Jack Lovegrove
Current Palaeontology & Evolution MSci Student

Red pandas are undeniably cute. This has made them a rising star of pop culture; they have even starred in their own Netflix cartoon the adorable ‘Aggretsuko’. They seem to be increasingly stealing some of the spotlight from their giant namesake. Beyond just being cute however red pandas have a fascinating evolutionary history. These quirky bamboo eaters are the last survivors of an evolutionary dynasty whose domain once stretched from Spain to Tennessee. Consider this article both a dive into the niche subject of fossil red pandas and as an excuse to look at cute red panda photos online.

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Scotland’s Lady Of The Devonian

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeoartist

You very likely know the rhyme “She sells sea shells on the sea shore”. You may also have heard that it was inspired by the famous Dorset fossil hunter Mary Anning. You may, or may not, know that it’s potentially unlikely that Anning was the real inspiration for the rhyme (the rhyme is much older than many people realise). It makes for a nice story though! (more…)