So you think you know Ankylosaurus

It’s a New Paper Day today! Go check it out at the new open access journal FACETS!

An alternate title I kicked around for this paper was “Victoria thinks about Ankylosaurus for a while: What does she know? Does she know things?? Let’s find out!”, because in the end this represents lots of little odds and ends about the most famous of ankylosaurs accumulated since about 2008 until they felt like they gelled enough to make a proper paper out of. In this paper, Jordan Mallon and I tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of Ankylosaurus: what does this animal really look like, what’s up with its weird giant skull, and how did it live?

Here’s a copy of the World’s Fair Ankylosaurus at the Royal Alberta Museum before the museum’s move to the new building – I know it’s partner the Corythosaurus has moved to Jurassic Forest, but I’m not sure where this guy is winding up! Maybe he’ll be at the new RAM?

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Science Literacy Week 2017: Stretching Imaginations

I wanted to end this science literacy week book series on a bit of a different note. I’ve covered some amazing books about how to do good science, what it’s like to be a scientist, and some compelling real life science stories. But I’d be remiss in not acknowledging a huge source of science inspiration for a Past Victoria, in the form of nearly endless science fiction and science fantasy novels. I was, and still am, a pretty avid sci fi reader, and am particularly drawn to stories of evolution on other worlds, and where evolution might take us next. Continue reading

Science Literacy Week 2017: Last Chances

 

 

 

 

 

As a vertebrate palaeontologist, I spend a lot of time thinking about extinction. So for today’s Science Literacy Week highlights, I wanted to talk about books about extinction – not ancient extinctions, but modern biodiversity crises. Two authors that have deeply affected me on this topic are the late Farley Mowat, an iconic Canadian author, and perhaps surprisingly, Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame. Continue reading

Science Literacy Week 2017: How to Be a Scientist

It’s Science Literacy Week here in Canada, a time to celebrate science communication in all media. For the rest of this week, I’m featuring some of my favourite science books! I’ll also be joining the fun with two talks about our new dinosaur Zuul at the Toronto Public Library, and will be hanging out with Zuul for the ROM’s Family Funday: Brilliant Science next Sunday. This is also a good time to remind you to take the reader survey for the Complete Dinosaur, 3rd Edition, a new book I’m editing with Lindsay Zanno and Tom Holtz!

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Evolution at the Zoo: Prehistoric Park Edition

A few months ago I wrote a bit about how zoos incorporate evolution into their exhibits, including examples where extinct species are featured through dioramas or life-size replicas. The San Diego Zoo does a great job of highlighting recently extinct mammals in its Elephant Odyssey exhibit, and today I wanted to share one more example along similar lines – the Prehistoric Park at the Calgary Zoo.

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A Wrinkle in Time

Back in June, after hanging out in the Coal Age Galapagos for a few days, I spent a bit of time at some old haunts elsewhere in Nova Scotia. The Bay of Fundy is a pretty great place because you only have to drive a little ways in any direction to have totally new rocks with different and exciting fossils. If you pass through Parrsboro, you’ll find the Fundy Geological Museum – the home base for my first dinosaur dig experience back in 2004, but with a fresh facelift since I last visited 10+ years ago. Continue reading

The Coal Age Galapagos

The sea cliffs at Joggins, Nova Scotia are a thing to behold – kilometers of gently inclined, layer-cake geology recording thousands of years of a Carboniferous coal swamp’s ebb and flow. It’s a hugely important place scientifically and historically, as it influenced Lyell’s ideas about stratigraphy and geology, and Darwin’s ideas about evolution. It’s often called the “Coal Age Galapagos” because its significance for understanding Carboniferous palaeoecology was akin to the Galapagos for Darwin’s work. It is a cool place to visit, and I got to join Hillary Maddin‘s team from Carleton for a few days earlier this June! In the photo above, Hillary is pointing out some of the lycopod trees that remain upright in the cliff. Follow her arm and you’ll see a great example at about 1:30 underneath the top shadowy layer. All told, we saw about 25 of these along the cliffs during our time there. Continue reading

The Mysterious Fathoms Below

Meet Blue, one of nine blue whales that perished in thick sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland in 2014. Two of these whales washed ashore, and the ROM team salvaged the body that landed at Trout River. After years of preparation, Blue’s skeleton is now part of an amazing exhibition all about the biology, history, and conservation of whales. After a great video introduction to Trout River, and stories about how the ROM collected such a massive specimen, we’re treated to a dramatic view of Blue’s real skeleton. In the background, huge video projections of living blue whales swim by. Continue reading