Green Tea and Velociraptors

Green Tea and Velociraptors

It’s kind of like a turtle-fish-dolphin…

Close your eyes. Go back in time 250 million years, and the world would seems as strange to you as a different planet. On land, there was a whole host of bizarre and now extinct animals: strange, crocodile-like things, and the precursors of dinosaurs; weird mammal-like beasts, that looked like the lost offspring of a hippo and a monitor lizard.

In the seas, marine reptiles dominated. A whole range of unusual animals lived, such as the long-necked plesiosaurs, popularised with reference to the mythical Loch Ness monster. Alongside these were the equally unusual ichthyosaurs. At first glance, a typical one might look like to you much like a dolphin.

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New ‘fish lizard’ used to prowl the Scottish seas

New ‘fish lizard’ used to prowl the Scottish seas

A cool new ichthyosaur – a type of marine reptile – has just been named in the Scottish Journal of Geology. I’ve written about it here, with some great comments from the lead author (Steve Brusatte). Most reports on the new beastie just focus on the finding, but we’ve gone for a different angle by delving into what it means for the evolution of ichthyosaurs during the Jurassic period. Enjoy!

In the mean time, enjoy this maybe-photoshopped reconstruction by James Lewis. Original artwork by Todd Marshall.

It’s a ruminant snout, deer

It’s a ruminant snout, deer

So the last couple of posts have been a bit of an eclectic mix of open access-y stuff and some of the research I’ve been doing on crocodiles as part of my PhD. This one is gonna be a bit of a change, about research that I recently published following my masters project a couple of years back. Weirdly, this was on the snouts of ruminants, and what they can tell us about their ecology.

The whole idea behind the project was to test previous research – to what degree can we use the different snout shapes exhibited by ruminant species to infer their ecology, based on feeding style. Traditionally, ruminants are classified into two groups – browsers and grazers – with the former being ascribed ‘pointed’ snout shapes, and the latter a more ‘blunt’ shape, for a more random cropping process when eating. We wanted to see what degree this was accurate.

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Top 10 dinosaur facts!

For those of you who may not have been aware, I was fortunate enough to recently publish a dinosaur book for kids, complete with build-it-yourself pop-out dinosaurs. I’ve recently published an article in The Guardian about it, which features much of the great artwork by Vladimir Nikolov. It’s all about some of the perhaps less well-known dinosaur facts that feature in the book, so enjoy!

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