Leicester PhD students win awards at major Palaeontology Conference

Posted by lcb14 at Jan 08, 2018 04:15 PM |
Two Geology PhD students from the University of Leicester have won awards at the Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting, the UK’s largest palaeontological meeting.
Leicester PhD students win awards at major Palaeontology Conference

Chris (left) and Jordan (right)

Jordan Bestwick won the President’s Prize for his talk “Dietary ecology of pterosaurs from quantitative 3D textural analysis of tooth microwear.” Christopher Nedza won the Council Poster Prize for his poster “Taphonomic controls on melanin-bearing tissues from river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis).”

Jordan’s research examines the microscopic surface textures found on the teeth of pterosaurs, extinct reptiles which flew above the heads of dinosaurs, which are formed from interactions with food items. Pterosaur microwear is then compared with that from modern animals, such as bats, monitor lizards and crocodilians with known diets, to infer the material properties of pterosaur diets. Understanding the diets of extinct animals such as pterosaurs is important for representatively reconstructing how ancient ecosystems might have functioned. Jordan’s prize winning talk was also picked up by Nature News.

Chris’ research examines the distribution of the pigment melanin and the morphology of the “biological sacs” that produce it, melanosomes, across the body of the river lamprey. Chris then rots the lampreys in various conditions to understand which parts of the body are more likely to preserve melanin and melanosomes. Understanding melanin distributions across stages of decay can provide vital information for interpreting pigmentation patterns of exceptionally preserved early animal fossils. This in turn can help shed light on key evolutionary developments such as the eye.

Jordan and Chris are both funded by the research consortium CENTA (Central England NERC Training Alliance). Jordan is supervised by David Unwin and Mark Purnell, both of University of Leicester, Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham and Don Henderson from the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Canada. Chris is supervised by Sarah Gabbott and Mark Purnell from the University of Leicester and Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol.

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