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.
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.
Guest Author: Jack Cooper, MSc UoB Graduate / PhD Student, University of Swansea
And so we come to the end of Megalodon’s supremacy in the Cenozoic oceans. It had a good run for sure (~20 million years), but unfortunately all good things come to an end. While everything about Megalodon is cool and warrants research attention (why do you think I ended up with 7 blog posts?), a key question of its recent science is when the last of these giant sharks finally died, leaving only its teeth as its legacy.
Guest Author: Jack Cooper, MSc UoB Palaeobiology Graduate / PhD student, University of Swansea
When palaeontologists discuss extinct sharks to the general public, the Megalodon (Otodus megalodon) is pretty much always the first to come to mind. And there’s a good reason why – it’s a giant shark. The name ‘megalodon’ translates to Big Tooth; a name that’s pretty self-explanatory.
Guest Author – James Ormiston Palaeontology MSci Graduate
How do you do study an aspect of ancient life that doesn’t leave behind fossils? Is it even palaeontology if the thing you’re studying wasn’t technically alive in the first place? After all, that’s what the “onto” part means! These are the problems tackled by the strange sub-field of palaeovirology.
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)?
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…)
Guest Author – Mike Hynes Palaeobiology MSc Graduate
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…)