Scientists discuss dinosaurs, bones

22 October 2005 | 02:00 Code : 6095 Geoscience events
Dinosaurs have risen from their resting places to take over the Mesa Convention
Dinosaurs have risen from their resting places to take over the Mesa Convention Center at the 65th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Among the scores of dinosaur skeleton replicas, animal skulls for sale, books, field guides and tools for sale, more than 1,000 paleontologists, the second-largest conference ever, browse the convention's vendor section in between the scores of seminars, field trips and presentations on their schedules.
The conference is hosted by the Mesa Southwest Museum, which has been making its mark on the field of paleontology this year - first with the dig of a Columbian mammoth that yielded 40 to 50 bones in Gilbert last August and September and now as a destination for the world's top paleontologists.
"We are trying to make this a big-time museum," said Robert McCord, the Mesa Southwest Museum's curator of paleontology and host committee chairman.
He added, "It's time to change our whole image" and thinks the museum is becoming respected for its research.
The conference, which started Wednesday and continues through Saturday, is a chance for paleontologists to gather and present their findings and learn about other studies, many of them considered groundbreaking within their field.

On Thursday, group members talked about recent research in dinosaurs and other prehistoric mammals.

The studies highlighted included recent findings of the diets of earliest humans (Paranthropus), growth patterns of the first mammals, a development in the size of the olfactory bulb in non-avian theropods, such as the tyrannosaurus rex, sloth extinction during the late Quaternary era and the nursing habits of the woolly mammoth.

"Tusks are remarkable for recording the history of an animal," said Adam Rountrey of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, during his presentation. Because many mammoth tusks found are missing their tips, making it difficult to estimate a precise age of the animal, Rountrey and his team focused on determining an age when young mammoths were weaned, something that could be determined through studying the carbon and nitrogen content of a tusk.

According to Rountrey, what the team learned while studying a tusk found in Siberia was that a "gradual weaning" took place up until about 6 years of age.

Another discovery of their study was that dependence on milk varied seasonally, and young mammoths tended to rely on nursing more during winter months.

"The harsh Arctic environment demands an increased maternal investment in the form of nursing," Rountrey said.

These were only five of the hundreds of talks given and posters hung that were presented by paleontologists from all over the world.

"One of the things people seem to think is that we (paleontologists) already know everything about the field," said Kristy Curry Rogers, a spokeswoman for the conference, explaining the numerous revelations that can come from the conference.

There are new discoveries all the time . . . that just blow us all away," said Curry Rogers, who is also the curator of paleontology from the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The conference and its attendees are doing more than just talking fossils.

Evolution is playing a big role this year as a topic of a town hall meeting on Wednesday and the subject of a Saturday teacher workshop titled "Evolution: Investigating the Evidence."

tags: QAZVIN

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