American archaeologists of their field areas in Malawi, where Louis Jacobs is now. He is working with Dr. Elizabeth Gomani Chindebvu, former SMU graduate student. The Mwakasyunguti valley is below the red layer where the archaeologists were digging. The dinosaur beds are the light colored beds.
A Texas native from what is now Tarrant County, Pawpawsaurus lived 100 million years ago, making its home along the shores of an inland sea that split North America from Texas northward to the Arctic Sea.
By Sarah Puschmann
Laser Beats Rock
In 1819, the German naturalist Lorenz Oken found something astonishing inside a pterodactyl’s broken skull: petrified mud in the form of the long deceased dinosaur’s brain, so well molded into the crevices as to reveal the brain’s two distinct halves.
This so-called “fossil brain” is one of the first known instances of a cranial endocast, an internal cast of the skull that makes the impressions of the decayed soft tissue visible. For paleoneurologists not lucky enough to uncover a natural endocast, some have opted to slice open skulls and made molds using liquid latex rubber or plaster of Paris.
But cutting open a skull for study isn’t always an option, particularly if it is a holotype, the singular specimen used to define a species for the first time. This is the case for the 100 million year old skull from a dinosaur called Pawpawsaurus campbelli studied by Ariana Paulina-Carabajal of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) and the Institute of Investigations in Biodiversity and the Environment (INIBIOMA) and her team, led by Louis Jacobs.
By CT scanning the skull, it was possible to make important insights about the dinosaur’s olfaction and hearing while leaving the precious holotype intact. Their analysis led the researchers to conclude that smell was the sense Pawpawsaurus most likely relied on most, as reported in the journal PLOS ONE.
This is valuable information, especially because so little is known about this dinosaur. What is known is that the four-legged herbivore most likely had long spines on its shoulders and neck, as was the case for other members of the same family of nodosaurids. It also probable that Pawpawsaurus wasn’t endowed with the knob of bone in its tail characteristic of ankylosaurids, a related dinosaur family, nor did it experience the satisfaction of slamming a club tail against, well, anything. (Was there such a thing as tail envy?)
Authors: Louis L. Jacobs1, MichaelJ. Polcyn1, Octávio Mateus, Anne S. Schulp, António Olímpio Gonçalves and Maria Luísa Morais
Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275, United States (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)
Abstract: The separation of Africa from South America and the growth of the South Atlantic are recorded in rocks exposed along the coast of Angola. Tectonic processes that led to the formation of Africa as a continent also controlled sedimentary basins that preserve fossils. The vertebrate fossil record in Angola extends from the Triassic to the Holocene and includes crocodylomorph, dinosaur, and mammaliamorph footprints, but more extensively, bones of fishes, turtles, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, crocodiles, and cetaceans. Pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and land mammals are rare in Angola. The northward drift of Africa through latitudinal climatic zones provides a method for comparing predicted paleoenvironmental conditions among localities in Angola, and also allows comparison among desert and upwelling areas in Africa, South America, and Australia. South America has shown the least northward drift and its Atacama Desert is the oldest coastal desert among the three continents. Africa’s northward drift caused the displacement of the coastal desert to the south as the continent moved north. Australia drifted from far southerly latitudes and entered the climatic arid zone in the Miocene, more recently than South America or Africa, but in addition, a combination of its drift, continental outline, a downwelling eastern boundary current, the Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean throughflow, and monsoon influence, make Australia unique. READ MORE
Another Southern Methodist University alumna (Pony Up!), Eveline graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Economic Sociology. Growing up she “lived for trips to art and science museums, space camp, Pony Club veterinary workshops, and the latest issue of National Geographic.” She was homeschooled for much of her childhood and her parents always made sure she had a healthy dose of curiosity. After graduation, she attended archaeological field school in New Mexico which only reinforced her desire to discover new things and share these experiences. This path has led her to a career inspiring others through science museums.
Congratulations to Timothy S. Myers, Neil J. Tabor, Louis L. Jacobs and Robert Bussert, co authors of a new paper in the Journal of Sedimentary Research titled “EFFECTS OF DIFFERENT ORGANIC-MATTER SOURCES ON ESTIMATES OF ATMOSPHERIC AND SOIL pCO2 USING PEDOGENIC CARBONATE.” READ MORE
SMU alumna, Katharina Marino, who used to prepare fossils in the Shuler labs and then worked as an educator at the Perot Museum, is now pursuing a Master’s degree in science communication at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She has started a blog in which she interviews scientists. Her first interviewee is another SMU alum, Yuri Kimura, who received her Ph.D. at the same time Katharina received her Bachelor’s degree. Please click the link below to read this very nice interview from two of our finest.
CT scans aren’t just for people — they can also be used on dinosaurs.
A skull from the Pawpawsaurus was discovered in North Texas in the early ’90s. It was recently scanned, allowing scientists to digitally rebuild the dinosaur’s brain. Louis Jacobs is a professor of paleontology at SMU and he talks about his research. LISTEN