Down Under Came A Spider

Guest Author – Dr Rachel Kruft Welton
Palaeobiology MSc Graduate

It is possible, if you have never lived in Australia, that you have never come across a brush-footed trapdoor spider. These beauties are abundant in Australia and can be found from the tropical rainforests to intertidal coastal regions to the dry interior. They live in shallow burrows, often with a double front door, and some are known to climb trees where they make burrows in suitable cracks and cervices.


Too Late For A Dive: A Perspective Of Sea Spiders Past Diversity

Guest Author: Dr Romain Sabroux
Marie Curie Fellow in Earth Sciences, University of Bristol

I have to make a confession. I am not much of a diver.

As a marine biologist, this probably sounds odd. But if you make something as demanding as SCUBA diving, especially when you are on an actual scientific expedition and that you need to sample several times per day for a whole month, you need a good reason. My reason would be the animals I have been studying for eight years now: the pycnogonids, also known as sea spiders.


The Headless Herpetón of Aust

Guest Author: James Ormiston
Palaeontology MSci Graduate / Palaeoartist

Herpetón‘ – Noun, from the Ancient Greek ἑρπετόν meaning:
A four-legged animal, or an animal that creeps, e.g. a lizard or snake

Gather ‘round ye rock hounds and I shall tell ye the tale of the slippery serpent of the Severn. ‘tis a tale of obscure mystery, war, obsessive Victorian collectors and a headless reptile over 200 million years old. That reptile is Pachystropheus.


Are Your Teeth Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Guest Author – Sophie Pollard
Current Palaeobiology MSc Student

Teeth, or at least tooth-like structures, can be found in every jawed vertebrate group living today, and it’s rare to find any lineage which has lost them completely. There is no doubt that teeth have been a key development in vertebrate evolutionary history, but where did they come from in the first place?

The answer is much more complicated than you might expect!



The talks we have make on this web site may be used in many ways: school teachers can use them as direct presentations to their pupils; individual academics or students can to use the talks for one-off presentations.

We suggest that institutions consider organising an engagement/ outreach programme as a way to achieve greater impact.

Organisation of an outreach programme

The outreach coordinator might like to organise a team of final-year undergraduates or graduate students to deliver the talks. These students should be keen volunteers, ideally with reasonable to good presentation skills, and certainly with an appetite for enthusing people about science.

The coordinator might also use a departmental administrator or secretary to co-ordinate bookings for the talks. It will be necessary to contact schools, and encourage them to make bookings, so it’s a good idea to have one person to promote the service and take initial bookings. The local education authority can probably provide a list of schools and/ or names of relevant teachers so first contact can be made. Then it may be easiest to generate bookings and to keep in touch by using an emailing list.

There will be some modest costs in visiting schools. It’s important to have a small budget so students can at least claim their travel costs for school visits. You may be able to tap into local funding for “widening participation” or “outreach”.


The students who are to give the presentations must be trained – there’s nothing worse than sending someone out who lacks experience and gives a dreadful science show.

Your college or institution may already offer suitable training sessions. Another option is to invite a trainer to come from one of the many Engagement training agencies. Failing these, your outreach coordinator can train the students, perhaps using the Powerpoint we offer here:

This brief training module contains the basics, so that a small team of student presenters may avoid some of the obvious pitfalls. It’s important to run through the key points with the group, and then to ask each student to present a short prepared section of a science show.

You should make students aware that they may be rejected at this point if they lack the ability to engage an audience and to speak confidently and conversationally.

We strongly recommend that each student volunteer goes out on the road at least twice with an experienced presenter. They can perhaps participate in the show, and take over a larger part each time before they are sent out on their own.

BDP Christmas Special 2019

One of the finest traditions of all media at Christmas is to shamelessly rip off a classic bit of literature now in the public domain. A palaeontologist studying this phenomenon over time may well describe it as a long-fuse adaptive radiation; diversity and disparity of the text exploding after copyright expiration. Seeing as it is the holiday season, I thought we’d have a bit of fun with this ourselves whilst still learning about palaeontology. And so, without further ado, I present to you, the BDP Christmas Carol… And no, I can’t believe we’re doing this either.