Speaker Series 2017: Discovery, Geological Context and Challenges of Dating a New Hominin, Homo naledi, from the Rising Star Cave, South Africa

The discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of hominin (the group encompassing modern humans, extinct human species, and all close human ancestors) was announced in September 2015. Found in a deep, nearly inaccessible cave system, this was the largest concentration of hominin bones ever found in Africa. The unusual distribution of bones suggested symbolic … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Discovery, Geological Context and Challenges of Dating a New Hominin, Homo naledi, from the Rising Star Cave, South Africa

Speaker Series 2017: Ecological Opportunity and Adaptive Radiation of Fanged Frogs in Southeast Asia

Adaptive radiation is when a group of animals evolve into different forms to fill different roles in their environment. In his talk, Dr. Ben Evans, McMaster University, provides evidence for an example of an adaptive radiation; the fanged frogs of Southeast Asia. Different species of fanged frogs have unique characteristics, including body size and reproductive … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Ecological Opportunity and Adaptive Radiation of Fanged Frogs in Southeast Asia

Speaker Series 2017: Snakes of Alberta

Alberta is home to six native species of snakes. They include the venomous prairie rattlesnake, the bull snake (that can grow up to two metres long), and the western hog-nosed snake that rolls over and plays dead when frightened. Snakes are feared and misunderstood by most of the human population and this can lead to … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Snakes of Alberta

Speaker Series 2017: Mass Extinctions, Ray-Finned Fishes, and the Closing of Romer’s Gap

The actinopterygians, or ray-finned fishes, are a substantial and significant component of modern vertebrate (animals with backbones) diversity. Ray-finned fishes are bony and have paired fins that are supported by rays (the actinosts) that insert directly in the body. Examples of modern ray-finned fishes include trout, eels, and bettas. Despite their prevalence today, the early … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Mass Extinctions, Ray-Finned Fishes, and the Closing of Romer’s Gap

Speaker Series 2017: Sharing Under the Cretaceous Sea: Global Distribution Achieved by Halisaurine Mosasaurs Explained by a New Discovery from Japan

Mosasaurs were large, flipper-bearing swimming lizards from the age of the last dinosaurs, about 100–66 million years ago. Typically reaching the size of a pickup truck in length—and some nearly twice as long—over 70 mosasaur species are reported today based on the fossils collected from all over the world. Out of this highly diverse assemblage, … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Sharing Under the Cretaceous Sea: Global Distribution Achieved by Halisaurine Mosasaurs Explained by a New Discovery from Japan

Speaker Series 2017: The Teeth They are a-Changin’: The Morphology, Disparity, and Evolution of Theropod Teeth in the Late Cretaceous of the Western Interior Basin

Non-avian theropods are among the closest extinct relatives to birds, but our understanding of their diversity, evolution, and extinction are greatly hampered by their incomplete fossil record. Isolated teeth from the Western Interior Basin, though, provide a continuous sample of these taxa through the last 18 million years of the Cretaceous. In his talk, Larson … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: The Teeth They are a-Changin’: The Morphology, Disparity, and Evolution of Theropod Teeth in the Late Cretaceous of the Western Interior Basin

Speaker Series 2017: Extinction of Mainland and Island Mammoth Populations in Alaska 6,000 Years Ago

The extinction of mammoths is the most prominent of Late Pleistocene extinctions that wiped out nearly 70% of large mammals (megafauna) from western Europe through South America about 10,000 years ago. However, on small islands off the coast of Alaska and Siberia, populations of mammoths persisted for many thousands of years after mainland populations disappeared. … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Extinction of Mainland and Island Mammoth Populations in Alaska 6,000 Years Ago

Speaker Series 2017: Almost Like Being There: New Approaches to Deciphering Animal Behaviour from Trace Fossils

The study of ichnology, or trace fossils, is a fascinating field of geology that provides a window into the behaviour of ancient animals. While body fossils help us to understand the morphology of an animal, trace fossils (whether they are footprints, bite marks, or nests) provide evidence that allows us to make inferences about how … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Almost Like Being There: New Approaches to Deciphering Animal Behaviour from Trace Fossils

Speaker Series 2017: Canadian Volcanoes, eh? Active Volcanoes on Canada’s Ring of Fire

Recent volcanic activity in western Canada is not widely recognised, despite the occurrence of at least four important eruptions over the last 4,000 years. This is not surprising given the low eruption rates, the remoteness of Canadian volcanoes, and the low population density in volcanic areas. One of the few events with any confirmed observations … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: Canadian Volcanoes, eh? Active Volcanoes on Canada’s Ring of Fire

Speaker Series 2017: How Did Birds Get Their Wings? Feathered Ornithomimids from Alberta Shed Light on the Origin of Wings

The discovery of the first feathered dinosaurs in 1998 irrevocably changed the perception of the physical appearance of dinosaurs. No longer the scaly reptiles of our imaginations, these animals were covered with feathers similar to birds. Since that first discovery, over 40 different species of dinosaurs are now known to have been covered with feathers … Continue reading Speaker Series 2017: How Did Birds Get Their Wings? Feathered Ornithomimids from Alberta Shed Light on the Origin of Wings