Arctic Alligators!

After an exciting summer looking for fossils in Wyoming and New Mexico, Matt and Adam are back in action with a Past Time Video!

Adam is pretty excited about a study based on fossils from the far northwest of Canada, but Matt thinks Adam is losing his touch and is a little too excited about a handful of scrappy fossils. It turns out the scraps are key to unraveling the complicated history of alligators and Adam reminds Matt that not all important fossils are beautiful skeletons.

Today alligators are found in China and North America. But how did these freshwater-bound animals cross between the continents? Some animals made the same trek during the Ice Age, but that wouldn’t have been a great time for alligators to hop continents. A new discovery from a 50 million-year-old site on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada may show alligators crossed between Asia and North America very early in the Age of Mammals. The fossils may not be much to look at, but fossils don’t always need to be pretty skeletons to tell paleontologists important details about the ancient Earth.

Paper Citation: Eberle, JJ. Gottfried, MD. Hutchison, JH. Brochu, CA. (2014) First record of Eocene bony fishes and crocodyliforms from Canada’s West Arctic. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96079

Link to the paper: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0096079 

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Episode 13 Field Guide: Following in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs

When we think of paleontologists, we think of people hunkered down with bones, teeth, and shells studying the preserved body parts of dead organisms. But animals leave behind more than just their skeletons. As they walk they can leave behind footprints, as they eat they can leave behind bite marks, and as they finish eating they leave behind…well…what comes from the behind. The study of the traces of past behavior is called ichnology and Dr. Tony Martin (@Ichnologist) and author of Dinosaurs Without Bones is with us to reveal all the amazing insights a paleontologist can learn from the fossil record, even when there aren’t any bones! He takes us through a wandering heard of sauropod dinosaurs, into the burrow of the dinosaur Oryctodromeus, and across the mudflats of an amphibian-dominated Alabama. These animals may be extinct, but their traces bring them back to thundering life in this episode of Past Time!

The easiest way to listen to the episode is to subscribe to Past Time in iTunes at this link. If you would rather download the audio follow this link or stream the episode here. Click below to see images of trackways and for more information on ichnology! If you have a favorite spot for finding footprints, leave your recommendation in the comments section!

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Parasaurolophus baby and adult Triceratops baby and adult skulls

Episode 12 Field Guide: Growing up Dinosaur!

When we think of iconic dinosaurs, like T. rex with its massive head full of teeth, and Parasaurolophus crowned with a gigantic, tube-like crest, we’re thinking of the features of adult dinosaurs. But we know from looking around today that animals change a lot from birth to adulthood. Did T. rex always have a massive maw and Parasaurolophus a huge crest? How quickly did they grow in? What were they used for? To really understand the biology of these titans, paleontologists need to study baby dinosaurs to connect the dots from tiny hatchling to adult dinosaur. Unfortunately, the fossils of dino-toddlers are few and far between because their skeletons are usually pretty delicate. Plus, it can be very hard to tell what species of baby dinosaur you’ve discovered. In this episode we discuss the improbable discovery of a baby Parasaurolophus with Dr. Andy Farke, a paleontologist from the Raymond Alf Museum and Webb Schools in Clermont, California. Dubbed “Dinosaur Joe”, the young dinosaur was found and studied by young, high school scientists from the Webb School. The high school scientists were part of the team that revealed the six-foot-long animal was only one-year-old and had a little nubbin of a what would become that spectacular Parasaurolophus crest. Listen to the episode to learn more about growing up dinosaur!

The best way to listen to the episode is to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or you can download or stream the episode by following this link. For images and more details about the discovery of Dinosaur Joe and the science behind the early years of dinosaurs, click below!

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Happy Birthday Mary Anning!

On May 21, 1811 Mary Anning, one of the first great fossil hunters, got started! Enjoy this video tribute to the woman who spent her life searching for ancient sea monsters!

Google chose to honor one of the greatest fossil hunters of all time for her birthday on May 21st, so we decided to honor her with our first Past Time video!

Check out the monsters she found along the southwest coast of England and subscribe to get more Past Time videos and don’t forget to check out the podcast at www.pasttime.org!

A fun fact that didn’t make it into the video: The tongue twister “She sells sea shells down by the sea shore” may be a reference to Mary’s vast trove of fossil shells collected along the shore while on the hunt for ancient marine reptiles.

She sells sea shells down by the sea shore…while hunting for MONSTERS!