Ankylosaur tail pathologies.

My most recent paper with my coauthor and supervisor Phil Currie appeared online at Historical Biology this week. It is the last of the chapters from my MSc on ankylosaur tail club biomechanics (although I am still working on ankylosaurs, the focus is now on the phylogenetic relationships within the ankylosaurids and their biogeography). However, it contains very little about the biomechanics of tail clubs…

Most of my MSc thesis used a lot of math and fancy-dancy computer modeling to look at whether it is biologically feasible for ankylosaurids to have used their tail clubs for forceful impacts (and therefore as offensive or defensive weapons). But another way to look for evidence of behaviour is to look for injuries, which can sometimes, if you’re lucky, give you clues about some of the more dramatic moments in an animal’s life. So as I was looking at specimens for my MSc (and into my PhD), I always kept an eye open for anything unusual or abnormal that could be a pathology. Continue reading

Name That Specimen, Smithsonian Edition

The fossil halls at the Smithsonian were great fun, but do you know what might have been my next most favourite hall? The Hall of Bones! I am not sure I have ever seen so many non-mammal skeletons on display. I also liked how a lot of the displays highlighted anatomy and functional morphology. The whole thing was just deliciously old-school museum in all the best ways: detailed, focused, and elegantly presented. In a way it was like stepping into a 3-dimensional anatomy textbook, but more fun because here are the bones right in front of you that you can see from all kinds of different angles, and compare easily.

Continue reading

Look at that…whatever it is.

I had an unsettling moment today when it occurred to me that, perhaps, people don’t learn anything from museums.

I hope this is not true. I say this after having visited the marvellous Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, spending about 5 hours today perusing the galleries and shamelessly eavesdropping on people’s reactions to the exhibits. Kids were certainly excited about the exhibits and eagerly pointed things out to their parents. But what sorts of things did I overhear parents saying to their children? Continue reading

Congratulations Phil Bell!

Some congratulations are in order for my fellow grad student Phil Bell, who successfully defended his PhD thesis today!

Phil’s thesis is titled “Systematics and palaeobiology of the crested hadrosaurine Saurolophus, from Canada and Mongolia.” He’s been working for the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum (previously the River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur Museum) since last fall.

You can read more about his work on Saurolophus in these papers; I’m sure there will be several more to come:

Bell PR, Evans DC. 2010. Revision of the status of Saurolophus (Hadrosauridae) from California, USA. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 47:1417-1426.

Bell PR. 2011. Redescription of the skull of Saurolophus osborni Brown 1912 (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae). Cretaceous Research 32:30-44.

Bell PR. In press. Cranial osteology and ontogeny of Saurolophus angustirostris from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia with comments on Saurolophus osborni from Canada. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.