The Wild Wild West

I’ve just returned from a Turonian dinosaur hunt in New Mexico! Dinosaurs from this age are extremely rare in North America (and globally as well). Sea levels were at their highest at this time and much of North America was either totally submerged under the Western Interior Seaway, or were rapidly eroding highlands that are gone today. In the United States, New Mexico is the place to be if you want to find dinosaurs from this age, so we spent two weeks checking out the Moreno Hill and Crevasse Canyon formations in the western edge of the state.

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Ankylosaur Fight Club

Pseudoplocephalus has a new home! WELCOME!

Over the many years I’ve spent thinking about ankylosaurs, I’ve amassed a not insubstantial collection of ankylosaur stuff. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that when ankylosaurids are shown wielding their tail clubs as weapons, they are almost always fighting some kind of tyrannosaur (but usually Tyrannosaurus, of course). Are there any illustrations that show ankylosaurids fighting anything different?

Back in January I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to look in their homes for ankylosaurs fighting things and to let me know what they found, and now, blog readers, I am asking the same of you! Find some ankylosaurs fighting something and either tweet it to me (@VictoriaArbour) or leave a comment below!

Here’s what the preliminary results from my January request look like! (And yes, there was one example of an ankylosaurid tail clubbing a human.) The data I get from all of you will help me develop hypotheses for better understanding the selective pressures that led to the evolution of tail weaponry in ankylosaurs. Have at it!

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Ankylosaurs by the sea

Ankylosaurs, like probably most other dinosaurs, were landlubbing, terrestrial animals without obvious aquatic adaptations. And yet, surprisingly, their fossils are found in marine sedimentary environments more often than most other dinosaurs (except hadrosaurs). Some, like Aletopelta, wound up in shallow or lagoonal environments – Aletopelta’s carcass became a reef! – but some, like the Suncor nodosaurid, wound up far away from shore.

Aletopelta! See if you can spot the oyster marks, invertebrates, and shark teeth around the pelvis and legs.

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Social engagement in Dino 101

Happy new year folks! There are no pictures in this post, SORRY NOT SORRY.

A group of researchers at the University of Alberta recently published a study on learner engagement in Dino 101, and I thought I’d summarize it briefly here and share a few thoughts about it. You can read the original article online for free via Google Books: “Emotional and social engagement in a massive open online course: an examination of Dino 101“. You might also want to check out another summary of their data at the University of Alberta’s site.

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Blog survey results!

It’s hard for me to even believe this, but I’ve been writing Pseudoplocephalus for over 5 years now. I’d been an avid reader of many science blogs for a couple of years before I decided I wanted to try it out myself, and I decided to jump in finally because I was going to be spending three and a half months working and traveling around Korea, China and Mongolia back in 2010 on an NSERC-funded study abroad kind of thing. I figured that blog updates would be the best way to show what I was doing to friends and family, and if I liked it, I’d maybe keep writing about my research afterwards.

As I started writing here, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to use Pseudoplocephalus as a science outreach tool (as opposed to keeping a grad school diary for my own benefits, etc.). At this point, my general goals with the blog are:

1.  Providing summaries of my research papers for nonspecialists, especially for papers that are paywalled.

2. Showing what it’s like to be a research palaeontologist, for people who aren’t scientists. (And, to be visibly female while doing so.)

3. Promoting the research environments of the various institutions I’ve worked at, to help increase the public’s appreciation of research in museums and universities.

4. Talking about other issues of interest to me, like where palaeontology intersects with popular media and social justice issues. For this goal, I’m interested in reaching both scientists and nonscientists.

So, am I accomplishing any of those goals? I took part in Paige Jarreau‘s science blog survey and some of you were kind enough to fill out the survey, so here’s a little bit of what I learned and how it relates to what I’m doing.

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Heroes in a half shell

In my continued quest to betray my dinosaurian research roots, I went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York to look at turtles! And what turtles they were – this is the skull of Ninjemys (the ninja turtle!), a giant meiolaniid turtle from Australia. Meiolaniids are the best turtles you’ve never heard of and it’s a crying shame that they don’t feature more prominently in prehistoric popular media.

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