Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What a big momma alligator in her burrow tells us about dinosaurs

What's safer for offspring than a gated community? A gatored one. Mother alligators fiercely guard their dens.

Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin writes for BBC Earth about his research on the Georgia barrier island of Saint Catherine. Below is an excerpt:

"Birds are dinosaurs. This scientifically correct statement has been said often enough during the past 20 years that even children understand it and have been teaching it to their parents, who somehow missed the memo.

"Yet in my experience, nothing transports people back to the Mesozoic Era quicker – in a retro sort of way – than a massive, scaly reptile with big teeth, powerful jaws, and the ability to make lunch of you.

"This is one of the reasons why I love the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), and you should, too. As a palaeontologist who also is an ichnologist – someone who studies tracks, burrows, nests, and other signs of life – I am fascinated with these reptiles and their traces, and began studying them as analogues for dinosaur-like behaviours. ...

"Fortunately, I live in Georgia (USA), which has no shortage of alligators, and most of my research on them and their traces takes place on the undeveloped Georgia barrier islands, which teem with these large predators."

Read the whole article at BBC Earth.

And check out Martin's blog, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, for more on his research.

Tell-tale toes point to oldest known fossilized bird tracks in Australia 


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