Dinosaurs, Space-shuttles and Synchrotrons

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00pm

Speaker: Phillip Manning (The University of Manchester)

Dr Phil Manning heads the Palaeontology Research Group in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES) at the University of Manchester. Dr Manning is also a Research Fellow at the Manchester Museum and a Research Associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Colorado, USA).

Program Description

The Hell Creek Formation (Late Cretaceous) consists a productive succession of sediments that contain the fossil remains of dinosaurs and other contemporary fauna/flora. A recently discovered site in South Dakota is yielding vertebrate (dinosaur, bird, mammal, fish, crocodilian and turtle) and invertebrate material (arthropod cuticle, feeding traces, etc.) and a diverse flora (including seeds, leaves and amber), making this an important multi-taxa site. The traditional approach to excavating such sites often overlooks key chemical information that is present in both enclosing sediments and fossil remains. The easily comprehended physical fossil often takes precedent over the less visible 'chemical fossil'. However, it is the latter that might hold the key to the reason behind the organism being fossilised in the first instant.

The application of synchrotron-based analyses at SSRL have already proven very successful when distilling crucial information that allows interpretation of the burial history (taphonomy) of fossils; including iconic fossils such as Archaeopteryx, Confuciusornis and the mummified skin from a hadrosaur dinosaur. Is it possible that the application of similar techniques to the analyses of samples from the Hell Creek bone-bed might also provide information pertinent to both the environment of preservation and also the conservation of any bone and soft tissues? Such studies have the potential to ultimately yield a more robust taphonomic model by which the kinetics of mass transfer of elements and compounds in buried organisms can be better understood.

Dinosaurs, Space-shuttles and Synchrotrons
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