Sunday, April 27, 2008

T.rex - Bird Connection Confirmed

From the National Science Foundation (

Scientists have put more meat on the theory that dinosaurs' closest living relatives are modern-day birds.

Molecular analysis, or genetic sequencing, of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex protein from the dinosaur's femur confirms that T. rex shares a common ancestry with chickens, ostriches, and to a lesser extent, alligators.

The dinosaur protein was wrested from a fossil T. rex femur discovered in 2003 by paleontologist John Horner of the Museum of the Rockies; the bone was found in a fossil-rich stretch of land in Wyoming and Montana.

The new research results, published this week in the journal Science, represent the first use of molecular data to place a non-avian dinosaur in a phylogenetic tree, a "tree of life," that traces the evolution of species.

"These results match predictions made from skeletal anatomy, providing the first molecular evidence for the evolutionary relationships of a non-avian dinosaur," says Science paper co-author Chris Organ, a researcher at Harvard University. "Even though we only had six peptides--just 89 amino acids--from T. rex, we were able to establish these relationships."

Continued on the NSF website.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Post Your Questions

As we wait for our scheduled departure date on June 29th (and it can't come soon enough), we would love to hear from you with your questions. What question about paleontology is vexing you? Are you interested in our favorite camp stove recipes? This blog is your opportunity to ask those questions! Ask away by clicking on the "comments" link just below this post and we'll respond with a full post.

Cincinnati Museum Center's science and natural history research departments have inaugurated a new gateway to their latest news and research at

The features of the site include latest publications, updates from the lab and collection inventories. Designed by Curator of Zoology Herman Mays, the attractive, easy-to-navigate site truly makes the collections and research of Cincinnati Museum Center, and its off-site Geier Center, much more accessible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Field Crew Introduction: Mackenzie English

Hello, my name is Mackenzie English and I am a geology student at the University of Cincinnati. I am also a Paleo Lab volunteer at the Cincinnati Museum Center. I have been working in the Paleo Lab since February of 2005 and I have been to the Mothers Day Site in Montana four times. My first visit to the MDS was in the summer of 2002 and then again in the summer of 2005. During that season Dr. Storrs asked me if I would like to come back the following dig season for the entire season. So for the dig seasons of 2006 and 2007 I traveled to Montana with the CMC. For the 2006 season I worked in the Dodson Quarry until we finished excavating the young diplodocus and for the 2007 season I went prospecting and worked at the MDS. I am looking forward to this season because the I am an outdoorsman and I have been cooped up in dorm rooms and class rooms for too long. I also hope that we find some interesting and good specimens while prospecting and digging at the MDS this up coming season. Plus I really want some of that great field cooked food. Nothing is better than waking up in the morning for refried beans and Spam.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Few More Voices

In the coming days, two of our volunteers will be joining us online to post about their experiences--from the college geology classroom to the laboratory to the field. Please join me in welcoming Mac and Sara.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting Ready for the 2008 Dinosaur Field School

ATTENTION!!! There is still time to sign up for the 2008 Dinosaur Field School. Two sessions are available, either July 6-13 or July 13-20. Call (513) 287-7021 or 1-800-733-2077 x7021.

This year's Dinosaur Field School is shaping up to be one of our most exciting ever. What really makes it so amazing for those of us on staff is the diversity of people who choose to spend a week (or more) of their summer with us. In any given year we can see classroom teachers, engineers, musicians, stay-at-home moms, and anyone from 13 years old to 85 years old (and older). This year we have at least two participants from Milwaukee returning for a second time, and two more coming for the first time from Europe (one from the UK and one from Finland).

Some of our field staff (museum staff and volunteers) will be working on a new discovery made last year in the Beartooth Mountains. Not a dinosaur this time, but an ancient fish...currently "swimming" at around 10,000 feet above sea level. The rest of staff will be digging in at the Mother's Day site and working with the participants from Dinosaur Field School.

There are a few other changes this year...we've moved a little earlier in the season (by about 10 days or so). So, we'll actually be on the ground in Montana by around July 2. This opens up a lot of possibilities for us who are driving out, including one of the largest cookouts you've ever seen on July 4. More news on that as we get closer.

But here we are, in mid-April, waiting for a sustained warming trend in Ohio and dreaming about the 130-degree temperatures we can expect in 3 months or so. We're starting inventories for our gear, reordering supplies and chomping at the bit to get on the road again...

"Taphonomy of the Mother's Day Quarry"

Since we have a wide-range of users visiting this blog, let me first start by defining taphonomy. Taphonomy (tuh-fahn-uh-mee) refers to the circumstances and processes of fossilization. For example, a study of the environmental conditions present when bones or other materials were first deposited and how those conditions affected the process of fossilization.

In 2007, Timothy Myers and Glenn Storrs published their Taphonomy of the Mother's Day Quarry, Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation, South-Central Montana, USA which examines the conditions present at our primary dig site in Montana when the bones of these sub-adult sauropods were deposited some 140-million years ago. This isn't light reading, but for those of you who will be joining us this summer (or who have joined us in the past), it might be of interest.