Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cenozoic Cheat Sheet

Meaghan likes to give homemade Christmas gifts. Last year she made nerdy science-themed chocolates, and the year before that she designed dorky mugs. This year, she decided to go a big more useful and create the only calendar that really matters... the Cenozoic calendar. Really, Meaghan was just kind of tired of looking up the NALMA (North American Land Mammal Ages) divisions and decided to make a cheat sheet for herself illustrated with her lab's favorite Cenozoic animals!  

Hadrianus, a big ol' tortoise

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fossils, Feral Cats, and Fire: Meaghan's Summer at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Spending a summer in Dayville, Oregon, probably doesn’t sound like much of a career-advancing opportunity unless you study obscure small towns or farming (or fire – we had lots of those). It’s deep in Eastern Oregon, so deep that it’s a 30+ minute drive if you want more than the canned beans and melted men’s deodorant the only store in town has to offer. The population is 145, but the age distribution is akin to a teetering, inverted triangle - I saw an order of magnitude more rattlesnakes than I did people under the age of 35. But Dayville is home to much more than cows and near-retirement ranchers: it has huge exposures of millions of consecutive years of fossil-forming layers of the Cenozoic and is a 15-minute drive from the world-renowned John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. As a paleontology doctoral student studying Cenozoic mammals, there’s no place in the world I’d rather be located (also, I conveniently like rattlesnakes).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Horse Evolution Rap Battle: Equus vs. Eohippus

We've been talking about it for a year, and it's finally here: the horse evolution rap battle that you didn't even know you were waiting for featuring Equus (aka the modern horse, aka Amy) versus Eohippus (aka the Equid Ewok, aka Meaghan). This video is probably about PG, for that time Amy rides the tiki torch and also mentions "Flipping the Bird." Full lyrics below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Jump into a Barrel of Monkeys (NSFW: Graphic images!)

Capuchin Pre-Mortem.
 Paleontologists typically deal more with bones than with the icky fleshy bits, but accurate reconstruction of their morphology and ecology is impossible if you know nothing about anatomy of the gross bits too. Amy took Primate Anatomy this fall and dissected a capuchin monkey (Genus: Cebus)  over the course of 15 weeks with her lab partner Katie. Amy is now very assured that her future is in fossilized bones and not dissecting monkey boners, but she also learned a lot and is now going to share all that with you, including many different gag-worthy photos (turns out monkey dissections are the creepiest dissections).  So fair warning: MOST OF THESE PHOTOS ARE SUPER DUPER GROSS BUT ALSO REALLY COOL. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Awesome Dead Shit of the Whatever Time Period We Damn Well Please: Crocodylus anthropophagus

This month(ish, whatever) we are featuring one of our cold-blooded cousins, Crocodylus anthropophagus. For those of you who don't speak greek, let's break down the scientific name: the word "anthropos" means "human" in Greek and "phagos" is the Greek word of "eater." Yes, that's right, the human-eating crocodile.

It's all fun and games until someone's ancestor gets eaten by an enormous extinct crocodile.
The existence of this man-eater brings Amy a particularly large amount of joy right now. See, Amy joined an Anthropology department where she gets to cuddle dead monkeys (you can follow that horror-fest on Instagram if you like) and loves it, but she also has to take a lot of other anthropology classes cuz nothing in this world can be perfect.

And so, a poor vertebrate paleontologist with a background in geology can feel like being the odd duck out in an anthropology department. Amy occasional suffers from apoplectic fits about the small number of specimens but huge number of conclusions drawn in many scientific papers about human evolution. This month to metaphorically work out some of that "human evolution is stupid" rage she is supremely pleased to discuss the only Plio-Pleistocene animal that brings her true happiness, the ancient crocodiles that ate the human ancestors everyone places so much damned importance on.