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…)

The Museum Of The Mundane

During the summer of 2020, I posed a question to the BDP volunteer community. I asked them to rummage through their collections and present what they felt was “the most underwhelming fossil or rock” in there. The dream was to create the most disappointing show and tell the palaeontology world has ever seen. I can happily report, the people heeded the call.

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How Fast Was My Dinosaur?

Guest Author: Dr Rachel Kruft Welton
Current Palaeontology MSc Student

In 2013 we went on holiday to Portugal. It was blisteringly hot every day and sightseeing involved an effort of will. I was, however, not going to miss out on the famous dinosaur tracks that litter the Lusitanian Basin around Lisbon. We parked next to the Nossa Senhora de Cabo on the Espichel Coast and made our way over the cliffs, down a stony path. We were near two sites containing trackways: one called Pedra da Mua and the other called Lagosteiros. (more…)

Jurassic Tacos – A Beginner’s Guide To Thylacocephalans

I’ve previously talked about one aspect of my Masters project on this blog, discussing the poor benthic crustaceans of Jurassic Somerset. If somehow you missed that blockbuster entry you can find it here. Sorry if the ending has been spoiled for you because of all the conversations and memes it no doubt inspired over the past few months. But there was more to my project than what was scurrying across the sea floor, I also looked at the monsters floating above them. To understand them, you first must ask one question; what on earth are Thylacocephalans?

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Time Burton’s Dinosaurs Attack! – The Jurassic Park Rival That Wasn’t

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology MSci Graduate / PalaeoArtist

We all know the story leading up to the summer of 1993: God creates dinosaurs, God kills dinosaurs, God creates Steven Spielberg, Spielberg creates dinosaurs, dinosaurs inherit the box office (other creation timelines are available). The titanic impact of Jurassic Park brought a head to the public’s interest in dinosaurs which had been bubbling over for some years.

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Spider Evolution – 3D Trigonotarbid and the Spiders from Tars

Guest Author: Dr Rachel Kruft Welton
Current Palaeobiology MSc Student, University of Bristol

The story of spider evolution starts over 400Ma, when their eight-legged, thick-waisted ancestor crawled out onto land. The pre-cursor to spiders were chunky beasts called trigonotarbids. The earliest trigonotarbid fossil comes from Silurian rocks near Ludlow, Shropshire. Trigonotarbids were a successful group of arthropods, whose fossil record stretches from the Silurian, through to the Permian. Unlike spiders, they had a segmented abdomen (opisthosoma), which can be seen in the 3D fossil (Figure 1), and no spinnerets, suggesting that they did not make silk, or at least not strands of it.

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My Top Three Lagerstätten

Guest Author: Dr Rachel Kruft Welton
Current Palaeobiology MSc Student, University of Bristol

Lagerstätten are fossil deposits containing exceptionally preserved remains of creatures from the past. Often soft parts have been preserved and snap-shots of organisms in life-like positions have been captured. The creation of such a fossil deposit is an enormously rare event, and as such, Lagerstätten have been enthusiastically studied.

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