Matthew Skinner tests the Island Rule in the Triassic

Matthew Skinner, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology at Bristol in 2019, has just published his research in Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. He studied a collection of fossils rom Ruthin Quarry in South Wales, which in the Late Triassic was a small island set in a tropical sea. Matthew discovered that most of the Ruthin beasts showed greatest similarity to relatives from North America.

He also found that many of the reptiles were more primitive than expected, a common feature of island species, and there was some evidence for the species-area effect (many animals on large islands; fewer on small islands). Matthew also named a new species, Smilodonterpeton ruthinensis (‘chisel-toothed reptile from Ruthin’), a procolophonid with strange, chisel-like teeth, and he used Ct scanning to determine the true nature of a mystery reptile that had been named from Ruthin in the 1950s, the plant-eating Tricuspisaurus thomasi (see scan and 3D digital model).

Read Matthew’s paper here.

Emma Schachner plots lung damage by Sars-Cov-2

Former Bristol MSc Palaeobiology student Emma Schachner, noted professor at LSU Health Sciences Center, Utah, has made the link from dinosaurs to the impact of the Sars-2 virus! She and collaborators modelled the impact of Sars-Cov-2 on the lungs of three patients from CT scans, and included a healthy person for comparison.  Emma’s journey is roughly this: Dinosaur-mad person -> experimental studies of respiration in modern crocodilians and dinosaurs (crocodilians, by the way, provide evidence for having a bird-like one-way respiratory system, evidence they were formerly endothermic, and reverted to ectothermy) -> human lungs and Sars damage to lungs. Excellent.

Read Emma’s paper here.