EGU Blogs


Dwarf crocodiles in Munich

My PhD consists of two parts. The first is investigating the dynamics of biodiversity across the Jurassic/Cretaceous interval about 145 million years ago. I want to see if when we consider the biases of the fossil record whether there was a ‘hidden’ mass extinction, and what were the ecological, physiological or environmental factors that correspond to this. This involves looking at turtles, birds, dinosaurs, marine reptiles, lizards, snakes, crocodiles and any other tetrapod group at the time – that’s anything with four feet, flippers or wings (see previous post for an update on all this jazz).

Evolutionary relationships of major tetrapod groups – many extinct, and many still with us today! Source.

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Horse poop, frozen rhinos, and crocodile skulls. All is well at the Royal Veterinary College.

Following on from the adventures in the Natural History Museum in London, checking out some of their extant crocs and the material of Theriosuchus pusillus, a dwarf croc from the Upper Jurassic of England, I made a trip to the Royal Veterinary College just north of London to see what they had on offer. John Hutchinson was kind enough to sort things out at short notice, and I actually got to check out what’s in John’s freezer, and see the mighty Freezersaurus! Entombed in icy death, John had everything from turkeys, elephant feet, a whole manner of ‘primitive’ birds (such as ratites), bits of rhino, and a miscellaneous melange of fleshy pseudopodia. All for science. As well as this, there were some living birds, including emus, for live biomechanical testing.

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Crocodiles! They’re everywhere!

The Natural History Museum in London contains some of the most diverse vertebrate Palaeontological collections in the world, in terms of number of species. As part of my PhD, I have to learn detailed crocodile anatomy, mostly skeletal (osteology), to help identify and describe the particular group I’ll be researching into. The Zoology Department would normally be a great target to go and learn this, but for reasons undisclosed, they were unavailable for research visits. Fortunately, Lorna Steel, a curator of the fossil vertebrates, informed me that they had some extant croc material I could come and play with! Seeing as Imperial College is next door to the NHM, I trotted off to have a peak.

Croc 1 – Guesses as to species below! (click for larger image) Copyright: Natural History Museum