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…)
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…)