Application Deadline *EXTENDED*: 5PM EDT on July 10, 2015
Spring 2015 field interns Jeremy Dunham, Adam Bouche, and Sophie Westacott preparing a plaster jacket. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dunham)
Are you interested in a geology and paleontology? How about traveling to Central America and brushing up on your Spanish? Want to gain valuable field experience excavating fossils while enormous cargo ships pass by in the distance?
For this week’s Fossil Friday we have an otolith from a fish called Paralonchurus trinidadensis. This specimen was found at the San Judas site in the lower Gatún Formation and is Late Miocene in age. Otoliths or “earstones” are found in bony fishes and are used for hearing and balance. Otoliths also have growth rings similar to tree rings, allowing researchers to estimate the age of the fish when it died.
This past weekend June 19-21, 2015 I finally had the chance to visit Dawson Clay Pit at Henry County Tennessee, where the fossilized leaves that I am studying were collected. I was accompanied by Nathan Jud, Terry Lott, Dawn Mitchell and Kefren Arjona. We departed from the Museum at 8:30 am towards Tennessee….
Well, its a long way from Gainesville, rollin’ north on 75. We pass through the state of Georgia, heading towards Milan, Tennessee. It was a 14 hour drive to reach Dr. Roger Moore’s house whom was kind enough to give us a place to spend the night. He guided us through the Dawson Pit locality, were we spent most of the day on Saturday collecting new specimens for the museum collection. Most of the fossil leaves were collected from a dark colored shale which is part of an oxbow lake deposit interpreted by Dilcher (1973) . We didn’t find any new species from which we didn’t already have in the museum’s collections but we did find leaves with well preserved cuticle which we will analyze under a epifluorescence microscope.
The cuticle shows the cellular or epidermis details of the leaf’s surface. The cuticle is like a waxy layer that prevent excess water loss and it help controls the gas exchange from the leaf to the atmosphere. Studying the cuticle can be very useful for the identification of plant species, since each species has its own epidermal features and pattern We had a great weekend up in Tennessee, now to analyze the cuticle of the leaves and if possible add them to my research manuscript.
Taylor T. N, Taylor E. L., Krings M., 2009, Paleobotany: The biology and evolution of fossil plants, second edition, USA, 13-15pp
This Fossil Friday we have a caiman (Family Alligatoridae, Subfamily Caimaninae) named Culebrasuchus mesoamericanus. This specimen was found by PCP PIRE Ph.D. student Aldo Rincon on March 13, 2009 at the El Lirio Norte site of the Culebra Formation, making it early Miocene in age. It is the sister taxon to all other caimans, making it the first documented taxon to have diverged in the caiman evolutionary lineage. Because of this, this specimen can help us learn more about the divergence of alligators and caimans.
To learn more about this specimen, read the publication about it here. You can also read an eNewsletter article on other fossil crocodylians from Panama here.
Hastings, A., Bloch, J., Jaramillo, C., Rincon, A., MacFadden, B. 2013. Systematics and Biogeography of Crocodylians from the Miocene of Panama. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33: 239-263. www.dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2012.713814
This week I was lucky enough to have attended a workshop titled “3D Digitization of Fossils for Educators and Citizen Scientists”, organized by Claudia Grant. This workshop was attended by K12 teachers, researchers, and paleo club members, from all over the US. Justy and I were asked to give two half hour demos on using the Nextengine Surface Scanner, which took place on Monday and Tuesday morning. Overall, everyone was very receptive to our demos and many people had great ideas on how to take surface scanning a step further. I also attended many talks between the two days, all of which were incredibly interesting and insightful. I learned about various 3D programs, 3D printing, and how to incorporate this technology into the classroom. A high school student named Sage, who attends a school in California in which Paleo lessons led by UF researchers have been taught, talked about how he was affected by these lessons and the use of 3D printed models during them. I think this was the most powerful talk of all because it gave the educators and researchers insight as to how to create a lasting effect on young people.
Nextengine Surface Scanning Demo (Photo courtesy of Dawn Mitchell).
Identifying extinct species is like solving mysteries (but these mysteries can be more than 56 million years old) and the only way to be certain is by studying the animals teeth. Even with one solitary tooth paleontologist can identify from which animal it belongs.
Mammals usually have four different type of teeth known as the incisors, canine, premolars and molars. Incisors are usually flattened for the purpose of obtaining food. Canines can be conical and larger, usually larger in carnivore which uses the canines to kill their prey or in male mammals which are use for mating purposes. Premolars and molars are also known as the cheek teeth; premolars have simpler crowns than molars and these are used for chewing food.
Let’s imagine for a moment the great western plains of North America. The sky is blue, up above seems to be an eagle soaring with the wind. Towards the horizon all the eye can see is a mountain chain enclosing this immense valley. Suddenly in the distance there is a herd of horses galloping with pride towards your direction. Your first thought when you see them is that they must be quite far, but you begin to notice that as they get closer their size seems to be smaller. They are now galloping next to you and these horses are about 60 cm tall! Continue reading →
In preparation for a presentation Andrea and I will do at the upcoming 3D Digitization of Fossils for Educators & Citizen Scientists workshop next week, we have been practicing using the surface scanner and picking out fun, simple specimens to use for a demonstration. In doing so, we were also able to practice dealing with some of the real world challenges in surface scanning. For those not attending the conference, I’ll save you from missing out on this portion of the talk. Continue reading →
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working around the lab unpacking, organizing, and preparing the Panama specimens. I’ve been organizing the PCP-PIRE cabinets into the specific level of preparedness, whether the specimens need to be washed, identified, and have localities added, all the way to if they just need their identification to be checked.
This past week I’ve been working on putting together several shells from the Caribbean.
These are fun projects to work on because they are puzzles with very visible and tangible results.
To start I washed the shells to make sure they were cleaned then after they had dried in the drying oven I started working on putting them back together. Continue reading →