Page 8 - 2010 - 2011 Annual Report

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Florida Museum of Natural History
David Steadman, Andy Kratter and Jessica Oswald incorporated data
from both living and fossil birds to understand the complex history
of bird communities in the tropical dry forests of northern Peru.
Steadman and Oswald’s studies of Ice Age birds from northwestern
Mexico revealed the blackbird family, including blackbirds, cowbirds,
grackles and orioles, thrived until the collapse of the large mammal
faunas. Florida’s Early Miocene birds continue to become better
known through excavations at the exceedingly rich Thomas Farm
fossil site in Gilchrist County. Discoveries during the past year
include fossils from undescribed species of falcons and owls and
only the second known bone from an undescribed species of tody.
Invertebrate Paleontology
With support from the Toomey Foundation, Roger Portell made
important collections of invertebrate fossils at Guantanamo,
Cuba. Doug Jones and Portell received an NSF grant to curate
and database two exceptional fossil collections, one assembled
by Jules DuBar during nearly a half century of fieldwork in the
Carolinas, Florida and Texas, and the other consisting of 7,500
micropaleontology slides from the Florida Geological Survey.
Portell and colleagues reported a new genus and species of
Miocene seastar,
Kionaster petersonae,
from Calhoun County,
Florida. Excavations near the Panama Canal began, with dozens of
new Miocene invertebrates discovered including crabs and a small
seastar. Jones and Irv Quitmyer studied shell growth increments
in hard clams,
as a proxy for population dynamics and
water chemistry. Their data show prehistoric Native Americans over-
harvested the clams, whereas modern coastal residents do not over-
harvest the clams, but nevertheless degrade the water quality.
Paleobotany and Palynology
Steve Manchester studied the Early Paleocene flora of the Deccan
Traps, India, which feature fossil plants from just after the extinction
of dinosaurs. Manchester also examined the Middle Eocene fruit and
seed flora from the Messel oil shale in Germany. A highlight of his
research on the fossil history of grapes and their relatives included
an article on grape seeds in the
International Journal of Plant
. Manchester and graduate students Fabiany Herrera and
Greg Stull investigated the fossil history of the Annonaceae (custard
apples), Arecaceae (palms) and other tropical families from Central
and South America and the southeastern United States. Hongshan
Wang continued his research on the Cretaceous angiosperm floras
of the Western interior and the Eocene angiosperm floras from the
Southeast United States. Wang described a new genus and species
of sycamore in the same issue of the
International Journal of Plant
in which Manchester’s paper appeared.
Vertebrate Paleontology
Jon Bloch and his students collected mammalian faunas across the
Paleocene-Eocene boundary in the central Bighorn Basin, Wyoming,
as part of a collaborative project to document biotic changes in
response to a rapid, large-scale global warming event 55 million
years ago. Fossils from this time interval also are crucial for
understanding the origin and early evolution of primates. Funded
by NSF, Bruce MacFadden, with co-PIs Bloch and Jones, began a
major five-year program of collaborative research, education and
outreach on Miocene fossils from Panama, especially land mammals
and marine invertebrates. This highly interdisciplinary, international
project takes advantage of a once-in-a-century opportunity to
explore for fossils along the Panama Canal in sediments freshly
exposed while the canal is being widened and deepened.
research locations
Florida –
All counties with special attention to Alachua,
Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Columbia, Duval, Gilchrist, Glades,
Hamilton, Highlands, Jackson, Lee, Levy, Liberty, Marion, Monroe,
Nassau, Pinellas, Polk, St. Johns, Sarasota, Suwannee, Volusia and
Other States –
Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii,
Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Washington
International –
Australia, Bahamas, Bhutan, Canada, China,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Greece, Guam,
Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines,
Poland, Puerto Rico, Solomon Islands, St. Lucia, Thailand, Turks and
Caicos and United Kingdom.
Paleobotany collection manager Hongshan Wang examines plant fossils from China
in the research lab. Wang co-authored a study published in Nature naming a new
eudicot genus from China,
Leefructus mirus
, which lived during the early Cretaceous
period about 125 million years ago.