The most basic description of what this paper is about is that about 40 million years ago there was a species of oreodont that lived in Eastern Oregon. This species had claws, possibly for tree climbing, and it had a funny fat nose that made it look a little different from other oreodonts.
|possibly it looked vaguely like this except for maybe more in the lines and less... ginger. yeah, prolly less ginger.|
It also had giant fangs, but most oreodonts did because they're awesome and very bitey.
|Fang. Meaghan's hand for scale.|
|dawwww who's the cutest new species? YOU ARE, yes you are!!!|
Still with us? Wanna know what was so important and different about these teeth? Of course you do. Who wouldn't? In most oreodonts, the fourth premolar is pretty boring and unchanged - it can be used for chewing, but it's not very big and so doesn't help out all that much. In this group of oreodonts though, the fourth premolar plays more of a role in chewing. It starts to look more and more like a molar, developing more little bumps to help grind up food.
|The arrow points to the fourth premolar, aka the special tooth|
|Molar with a normal amount of bumps. Trust us, this is normal. There could be more.|
That's pretty much all for the scientific significance of Meaghan's paper, but it does have a little bit of a personal ring to it. Meaghan first thought science was cool when she went to Hancock Field Station in 6th grade, a science outdoor school run by OMSI. Hancock Field Station is situated right next to the Hancock Mammal Quarry - Meaghan walked right by it when she was 12 years old, and learned all about the fossils. She went to camp assuming she was going to be a flight attendant, and decided when she left she was going to be a geologist-paleontologist-herpetologist. She then worked at Hancock Field Station for 10 years, which is where she met her current office mate when she was 16 (SMALL WORLD) and of course, her bestest friend and favorite co-blogger Amy Atwater. Hancock was pretty good to Meaghan, so she's pretty happy that her first paper is about the fossils that inspired her to paleontology in the first place.