Speaker Series 2015:  “The Role of Beringia in the Global Dispersal of Modern Humans”

Beringia is a geographic area that surrounds the Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, and Bering Sea, and includes parts of Russia and Alaska. It is most famous for being the location of an ancient land bridge that connected Asia with North America at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages.  Although modern humans occupied western Beringia before the beginning of the Last Glacial Maximum, as part of a broader colonization of northern Eurasia that began 50,000–45,000 years ago, they were forced into areas of isolation (refugia) in central Beringia at the onset of the Last Glacial Maximum some 30,000 years ago.

In his talk, Dr. Hoffecker discusses the “Beringian Standstill Hypothesis,” an idea that proposes that when climates warmed and coastal and interior ice sheets in North America retreated, the western hemisphere was rapidly settled by people that occupied these refugia, and who had been genetically isolated for thousands of years.

 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and held every Thursday from January to April 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Please visit the website for more information about upcoming speakers.

Speaker Series 2015:  “The Warm Fuzzies: Mammals and Climate Change in the Eocene of North America”

The Eocene Epoch (~55.5 to 35 million years ago) encompasses a number of significant climatic events in addition to well-documented immigration and extinction events that played an integral part in determining the current distribution of mammals across North America. Fossils found on the American Plains and in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park areas play a key role in determining what happened during that time period.

In his presentation, Dr. Alexander Dutchak from the University of Calgary discusses some of the methods used to identify climatic and mammalian faunal variability in the rock record and how these geologic signatures relate to one another across central North America during the Eocene Epoch.

 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and held every Thursday from January to April 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Please visit the website for more information about upcoming speakers.

Speaker Series 2015:  “A Year in the Life of the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Palaeontology Lab”

With hundreds of fossils being collected every year in Alberta, the preparation laboratory of the Royal Tyrrell Museum is a busy place. As fossils are being cleaned and sent away for study or display, new discoveries constantly roll in through the doors, which mean a palaeontology technician’s work is never done.

In her presentation, Dr. Lorna O’Brien, technician with the Royal Tyrrell Museum, showcases some of the exciting fossils that have been prepared in the past year. From fossils discovered in bonebed excavations to those exposed by the 2013 floods, be ready to be amazed at the rich palaeontological resources in the Museum.

 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and held every Thursday from January to April 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Please visit the website for more information about upcoming speakers.

A new paper released in the PLOS One journal describes sclerotic rings in mosasaurs.

Mosasaurs (Squamata: Mosasauridae) were a highly diverse, globally distributed group of aquatic lizards in the Late Cretaceous (98–66 million years ago) that exhibited a high degree of adaptation to life in water.

To date, despite their rich fossil record, the anatomy of complete mosasaur sclerotic rings, embedded in the sclera of the eyeball, has not been thoroughly investigated. We here describe and compare sclerotic rings of four mosasaur genera, Tylosaurus, Platecarpus, Clidastes, and Mosasaurus, for the first time.

Two specimens of Tylosaurus and Platecarpus share an exact scleral ossicle arrangement, excepting the missing portion in the specimen of Platecarpus. Furthermore, the exact arrangement and the total count of 14 ossicles per ring are shared between Tylosaurus and numerous living terrestrial lizard taxa, pertaining to both Iguania and Scleroglossa.

In contrast, two species of Mosasaurus share the identical count of 12 ossicles and the arrangement with each other, while no living lizard taxa share exactly the same arrangement. Such a mosaic distribution of these traits both among squamates globally and among obligatorily aquatic mosasaurs specifically suggests that neither the ossicle count nor their arrangement played major roles in the aquatic adaptation in mosasaur eyes.

All the mosasaur sclerotic rings examined consistently exhibit aperture eccentricity and the scleral ossicles with gently convex outer side. Hitherto unknown to any squamate taxa, one specimen of Platecarpus unexpectedly shows a raised, concentric band of roughened surface on the inner surface of the sclerotic ring.

It is possible that one or both of these latter features may have related to adaptation towards aquatic vision in mosasaurs, but further quantitative study of extant reptilian clades containing both terrestrial and aquatic taxa is critical and necessary in order to understand possible adaptive significances of such osteological features.

View the full paper here.

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Royal Tyrrell Museum Speaker Series celebrates 140 years of dinosaur discoveries in Alberta.

Dr. François Therrien from the Royal Tyrrell Museum on “Alberta: Land of Dinosaurs and Other Palaeontological Wonders.”

In addition to the Rocky Mountains and its oil industry, Alberta enjoys an international reputation for another type of natural resource: dinosaurs. Based on the high diversity and sheer abundance of fossils found within its borders, Alberta easily ranks among the top five places in the world for palaeontological study and discovery. This exceptional landscape results from the fortuitous combination of the province’s geologic past and modern climate, which leaves fossils well preserved and verily leaping out of the hillsides in the badlands.

Although palaeontologists routinely scour the Alberta landscape in search of new fossils, many significant dinosaur discoveries have been made by members of the general public during recreational activities and by industry during exploration and development activities. In his talk, Dr. Therrien will showcase some of the most significant palaeontological discoveries made in Alberta, from the first member of the tyrannosaur family to the first feathered dinosaurs on North American soil, and demonstrate why our province can legitimately be called the “Land of Dinosaurs.”

 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and open to the public. The series will be held every Thursday until April 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Speaker Series talks are also available on the Museum’s YouTube channel.

Speaker Series 2015: “Messages from Meteorites: The Growth of Planets & the Delivery of Possible Seeds of Life”

While very little evidence is left of Earth’s early days, the highly cratered surfaces of the Moon and Mars indicate that the Earth must have had a very tumultuous past characterized by abundant meteorite impacts. In her talk, Dr. Riches reviews the importance of meteorites in planet formation and the possible role they played, through the transport of water and organic matter, in the origin of life on Earth.

 

 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and held every Thursday from January to April 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Please visit the website for more information about upcoming speakers.

Preparation Lab technicians of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology work with fossils as they are made ready for research and display. Doing so takes great patience and care to ensure that specimens are safely handled and prepared, guaranteeing that they will reveal all they have to offer to the scientists who will soon be studying them and the public who will eventually enjoy them on display. Here is a sneak peek of a typical day in the lab.

 

Field jackets and the fossils inside them are regularly moved around the lab to accommodate changes in work assignments and to make room for priority specimens. As often is the case, the specimens are too heavy to lift by hand and the team will use the three-ton overhead hoist to safely move the specimens around the lab. Here, separate field jackets containing the rib cage portion of a Fort McMurray elasmosaur and an Oldman River Leptoceratops are rearranged to make room for additional fossils to be prepared.

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