Guest Author – Kim Chandler, MSc 2020 Palaeobiology Graduate
When discussing Palaeontology the topics of most interest rarely include mammals earlier than the charismatic megafauna like the woolly mammoth and the saber-tooths. Mammals first appeared in the Late Triassic, evolving from a group of animals called synapsids (such as Dimetrodon). The mammals that were first on the scene in the Mesozoic, are usually dismissed as tiny rodent-like things of little interest, especially when compared to the enigmatic dinosaurs they shared their habitat with. However, these guys are interesting in their own way, either due to the transitionary period of evolution at which they sat, or their ecology. (more…)
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 – Jack Lovegrove Palaeontology & Evolution MSci Graduate
Ichthyosaurs are one of those groups of prehistoric animals that always seem to play second fiddle to dinosaurs in popular science (with the notable exception of the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs). They are usually only mentioned as a way of demonstrating convergent evolution with fish rather than as fascinating and varied animals on their own right. (more…)