Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Graduate student Sarah Gibson's DDIG Proposal, "DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The Evolution of Specialized Teeth and Jaws in Early Mesozoic Ray-Finned Fishes and Their Impact on Widespread Niche Differentiation,” has been funded by the National Science Foundation. The PI for the grant is Hans-Peter Schultze, and co-PIs are Sarah Gibson and Paul Selden.

The ray-finned fishes (e.g., trout, clownfish, seahorse, bass) are the most diverse group of vertebrates on Earth today and display a vast array of physical differences with regard to body shape, skull and jaw morphology, and tooth specializations. Ray-finned fishes have a long evolutionary history, and this study focuses on two extinct groups of fishes that lived during the Early Mesozoic (250-190 million years ago): the disc-shaped, deep-bodied dapediids and the torpedo-shaped, primitive redfieldiids. These two groups of fishes provide an ideal contrast (e.g., deep body versus narrow body, differences in jaws) for testing hypotheses of the impact of specialization of tooth and jaw anatomy and morphology. The researches will compare this body shape contrast with the diet, habitat preference, behavior, and niche specialization of the fish. The project will study fossils from the Early Mesozoic, a volatile time in Earth's history with global tectonic events changing the geography of the planet and shaping the diversity of organisms in different ecosystems. This research will increase our understanding of how these two groups of extinct fishes have adapted to occupy different ecological spaces and exploit different food sources. 

The research will utilize state-of-the-art two- and three-dimensional digital imaging techniques, such as micro-computed tomography (CT) scanning. These tools will measure jaw and cranial anatomy and morphology as well as tooth microwear, in well-preserved redfieldiid and dapediid fossils. Using these data the investigators of this project will be able to address hypotheses about how tooth and jaw morphology relate to ecological niche space and evolutionary history. This project will provide graduate and undergraduate training in morphological and morphometric techniques, and data obtained from this study will be catalogued in online data repositories.

Ichthyology
Monday, March 9, 2015

Christopher Beard and colleagues have published their first scientific paper based on field work in Libya that he and colleagues undertook just after the Libyan revolution that overthrew Qaddafi in early 2013. The paper, "A new early Oligocene mammal fauna from the Sirt Basin, central Libya: Biostratigraphic and paleobiogeographic implications,” was published in the Journal of African Earth Sciences:


Abstract
We report the discovery of a new early Oligocene vertebrate fauna from the vicinity of Zallah Oasis in the Sirt Basin of central Libya. The Zallah Incision local fauna has been recovered from the base of a fluvial channel within a rock unit that has been mapped as ‘‘Continental and Transitional Marine Deposits.’’ This rock unit has produced fossil vertebrates sporadically since the 1960s, but the Zallah Incision local fauna is the most diverse assemblage of fossil mammals currently known from this unit. In addition to lower vertebrates, the fauna includes an indeterminate sirenian, the anthracothere Bothriogenys, a new species of the hyracoid genus Thyrohyrax, new species of the hystricognathous rodent genera Metaphiomys and Neophiomys, Metaphiomys schaubi, and a new species of the parapithecid primate genus Apidium. The Zallah Incision local fauna from Libya appears to be close in age to Fayum quarries V and G in the Jebel Qatrani Formation of Egypt and the Taqah locality in the Ashawq Formation of Oman. Considered together, these early Oligocene faunas support a modest level of faunal provincialism across the northern part of Afro-Arabia during the early Oligocene.

Vertebrate Paleontology
Monday, March 9, 2015

Christopher Beard and colleagues have published their first scientific paper based on field work in Libya that he and colleagues undertook just after the Libyan revolution that overthrew Qaddafi in early 2013. The paper, "A new early Oligocene mammal fauna from the Sirt Basin, central Libya: Biostratigraphic and paleobiogeographic implications,” was published in the Journal of African Earth Sciences:


Abstract
We report the discovery of a new early Oligocene vertebrate fauna from the vicinity of Zallah Oasis in the Sirt Basin of central Libya. The Zallah Incision local fauna has been recovered from the base of a fluvial channel within a rock unit that has been mapped as ‘‘Continental and Transitional Marine Deposits.’’ This rock unit has produced fossil vertebrates sporadically since the 1960s, but the Zallah Incision local fauna is the most diverse assemblage of fossil mammals currently known from this unit. In addition to lower vertebrates, the fauna includes an indeterminate sirenian, the anthracothere Bothriogenys, a new species of the hyracoid genus Thyrohyrax, new species of the hystricognathous rodent genera Metaphiomys and Neophiomys, Metaphiomys schaubi, and a new species of the parapithecid primate genus Apidium. The Zallah Incision local fauna from Libya appears to be close in age to Fayum quarries V and G in the Jebel Qatrani Formation of Egypt and the Taqah locality in the Ashawq Formation of Oman. Considered together, these early Oligocene faunas support a modest level of faunal provincialism across the northern part of Afro-Arabia during the early Oligocene.

Vertebrate Paleontology
Monday, March 9, 2015

Christopher Beard and colleagues have published their first scientific paper based on field work in Libya that he and colleagues undertook just after the Libyan revolution that overthrew Qaddafi in early 2013. The paper, "A new early Oligocene mammal fauna from the Sirt Basin, central Libya: Biostratigraphic and paleobiogeographic implications,” was published in the Journal of African Earth Sciences:


Abstract
We report the discovery of a new early Oligocene vertebrate fauna from the vicinity of Zallah Oasis in the Sirt Basin of central Libya. The Zallah Incision local fauna has been recovered from the base of a fluvial channel within a rock unit that has been mapped as ‘‘Continental and Transitional Marine Deposits.’’ This rock unit has produced fossil vertebrates sporadically since the 1960s, but the Zallah Incision local fauna is the most diverse assemblage of fossil mammals currently known from this unit. In addition to lower vertebrates, the fauna includes an indeterminate sirenian, the anthracothere Bothriogenys, a new species of the hyracoid genus Thyrohyrax, new species of the hystricognathous rodent genera Metaphiomys and Neophiomys, Metaphiomys schaubi, and a new species of the parapithecid primate genus Apidium. The Zallah Incision local fauna from Libya appears to be close in age to Fayum quarries V and G in the Jebel Qatrani Formation of Egypt and the Taqah locality in the Ashawq Formation of Oman. Considered together, these early Oligocene faunas support a modest level of faunal provincialism across the northern part of Afro-Arabia during the early Oligocene.

Vertebrate Paleontology
Friday, February 13, 2015

Desui Miao, collection manager for vertebrate paleontology, has been keeping busy with translations of Darwin’s works and been honored for his contributions. 

His Chinese translation based on the 2nd edition of the Origin was selected by the Darwin scholars and readers in China as one of 108 "all-time must-read books.”  Also, "The illustrated edition of the Origin for young readers", a book he adopted from Darwin's original and illustrated by a well-known Chinese artist and published in early 2014, has been selected by 8 major Chinese newspapers at the turn of the year as one of the "best books of 2014 in China."

The Chinese government just announced the 30 best books of 2014, and "The illustrated edition of the Origin for young readers" is ranked #3 in the Children book category out of 6 total books. Additionally, he is finishing the manuscript on "An abridged bilingual edition of the Origin of Species," based on the first edition and catered toward undergraduate and grad students in earth and life sciences who want to read the Origin and study English. 
More information (in Chinese media reports) can be found here and here

Vertebrate Paleontology
Friday, February 13, 2015

Desui Miao, collection manager for vertebrate paleontology, has been keeping busy with translations of Darwin’s works and been honored for his contributions. 

His Chinese translation based on the 2nd edition of the Origin was selected by the Darwin scholars and readers in China as one of 108 "all-time must-read books.”  Also, "The illustrated edition of the Origin for young readers", a book he adopted from Darwin's original and illustrated by a well-known Chinese artist and published in early 2014, has been selected by 8 major Chinese newspapers at the turn of the year as one of the "best books of 2014 in China."

The Chinese government just announced the 30 best books of 2014, and "The illustrated edition of the Origin for young readers" is ranked #3 in the Children book category out of 6 total books. Additionally, he is finishing the manuscript on "An abridged bilingual edition of the Origin of Species," based on the first edition and catered toward undergraduate and grad students in earth and life sciences who want to read the Origin and study English. 
More information (in Chinese media reports) can be found here and here

Vertebrate Paleontology
Sunday, February 15, 2015

Michelle Casey, who is a post-doc in the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology has just accepted a tenure track position at Murray State University in Kentucky.  She will start there in the fall of 2015. 

Ichthyology
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Graduate student Sarah Gibson, itchthyology, has published research on the evolution of specialized, multidenticulate dentition in a Late Triassic fish from Utah, the oldest evidence of potential herbivory in ray-finned fishes. The paper came out early online access in the journal The Science of Nature: Naturwissenschaften.

 

Ichthyology
Friday, February 20, 2015

The journal Science reports that an analysis that relied on using records of 17,000 marine species documented in the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology supports Cope’s Rule, the classic hypothesis that posits that there is selection for increasing body size..  

The authors (Heim et al., mainly from Stanford, CA, and Swarthmore College, PA) used all 50+ volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (which is published by the KU Paleontological Institute) as the main dataset for the massive study which looked at 17,208 genera of marine animals spanning the past 542 million years. They found that mean biovolume across genera has increased by a factor of 150 since the Cambrian, yet minimum biovolume has decreased by less than a factor of 10, and maximum biovolume has increased by more than a factor of 100,000. They could not explain this by random drift, so suggest that the trend observed and popularized by the famous dinosaur paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in the 1880s–1890s was shown to be accurate.

Also reported by BBC News

Paleontological Institute
Friday, February 20, 2015

The journal Science reports that an analysis that relied on using records of 17,000 marine species documented in the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology supports Cope’s Rule, the classic hypothesis that posits that there is selection for increasing body size..  

The authors (Heim et al., mainly from Stanford, CA, and Swarthmore College, PA) used all 50+ volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (which is published by the KU Paleontological Institute) as the main dataset for the massive study which looked at 17,208 genera of marine animals spanning the past 542 million years. They found that mean biovolume across genera has increased by a factor of 150 since the Cambrian, yet minimum biovolume has decreased by less than a factor of 10, and maximum biovolume has increased by more than a factor of 100,000. They could not explain this by random drift, so suggest that the trend observed and popularized by the famous dinosaur paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in the 1880s–1890s was shown to be accurate.

Also reported by BBC News

Paleontological Institute