Bring fossils, questions to museum ‘Ask a Paleontologist’ events February through May

February 8th, 2012

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Area residents who have discovered a mysterious fossil while gardening or hiking and would like to learn more about it now have the perfect opportunity.

The Florida Museum of Natural History is hosting “Ask a Paleontologist” events from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 12), March 4, April 15 and May 6.

Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology collections manager Richard Hulbert and Florida Museum invertebrate paleontology collections manager Roger Portell will identify fossils for visitors and share information about paleontology March 4 and May 6. Hulbert is also scheduled for Feb. 12 and Portell for April 15. (more…)

Florida Museum free public engagement in science speaker series begins Feb. 6

January 31st, 2012

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Join the Florida Museum of Natural History for its first presentation of the “Ken and Linda McGurn Speaker Series: Public Engagement in Science” at 4 p.m. Feb. 6.

Visitors may enjoy an engaging discussion titled “Youth partnering in paleontology: Museums as centers for citizen science” by Robert Ross, associate director for outreach at the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, N.Y. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served after the presentation in the museum’s classroom in Powell Hall on the University of Florida campus. (more…)

Fla. Museum offers opening day activities for new fossil exhibit Feb. 4

January 27th, 2012

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Take a prehistoric road trip with the Florida Museum of Natural History during the opening of “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with artist Ray Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 4.

University of Florida mascots Albert and Alberta are scheduled to appear from 11 a.m. to noon for visitor photographs with the Albertosaurus skeleton in the exhibit. UF paleontologists, paleobotanists and geologists, as well as members of state fossil clubs including the Tampa Bay Fossil Club, Southwest Florida Fossil Club, Florida Fossil Hunters and the Florida Paleontological Society will also speak with visitors and display specimens from their collections. (more…)

Researchers discover oldest evidence of nails in modern primates

August 15th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – From hot pink to traditional French and Lady Gaga’s sophisticated designs, manicured nails have become the grammar of fashion.

But they are not just pretty – when nails appeared on all fingers and toes in modern primates about 55 million years ago, they led to the development of critical functions, including finger pads that allow for sensitive touch and the ability to grasp, whether it’s a nail polish brush or remover to prepare for the next trend.

In a new study co-authored by University of Florida scientists, researchers recovered and analyzed the oldest fossil evidence of fingernails in modern primates, confirming the idea nails developed with small body size and disproving previous theories nails evolved with an increase in primate body size. More than 25 new specimens of Teilhardina brandti – an extinct primate originally described from a single lower molar – include pieces of upper teeth and ankle bones that show the mammal lived in trees. Its nails allowed the lemur-like animal to grasp onto branches and move through the trees with more agility, researchers said. (more…)

Fossil collector donates life’s work to Florida Museum of Natural History

May 4th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The vertebrate paleontology division at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus recently received its largest private donation, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 identifiable specimens.

The specimens formerly comprised the world’s second-largest collection of Florida vertebrate fossils. The museum will honor Lake Wales resident John Waldrop for the donation of his collection during the fourth annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Plaza Hotel in Gainesville.

“Over the decades, Waldrop has had a longstanding influence and impact on what we’ve been able to do, and it’s always been through his collections,” said Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden. “He’s always been extremely generous and encouraged us to use his collection, but now it will be in the public domain forever, which sustains its value.” (more…)

New study first to directly measure body temperatures of extinct species

May 24th, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new study by researchers from five institutions including the University of Florida introduces the first method to directly measure body temperatures of extinct vertebrates and help reconstruct temperatures of ancient environments.

The study, appearing in this week’s online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes how scientists could use carbon and oxygen isotopes from fossils to more accurately determine whether extinct animals were warm-blooded or cold-blooded and better estimate temperature ranges during the times these animals lived. (more…)

Fla. Museum, WUFT-TV to host paleontologist Scott Sampson for free lecture March 25

March 1st, 2010

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Scott Sampson, author and host of the popular PBS children’s series “Dinosaur Train,” will present a free public lecture and book signing at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25 at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Sampson, a curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History, will discuss his latest research and new book, “Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life.” Sampson has published more than 130 scientific and popular articles, lectured extensively to audiences of all ages on dinosaurs and evolution, and conducted fieldwork in a number of countries, including Canada, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico South Africa, the United States and Zimbabwe. He divides his work time between scientific research and a variety of education-related projects. (more…)

Florida Museum researchers: Ancient crocodile relative likely food source for Titanoboa

February 2nd, 2010

Multimedia available: http://news.ufl.edu/2010/02/02/titanoboa-food-multimedia/

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 60-million-year-old relative of crocodiles described this week by University of Florida researchers in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology was likely a food source for Titanoboa, the largest snake the world has ever known.

Working with scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, paleontologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus found fossils of the new species of ancient crocodile in the Cerrejon Formation in northern Colombia. The site, one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines, also yielded skeletons of the giant, boa constrictor-like Titanoboa, which measured up to 45 feet long. The study is the first report of a fossil crocodyliform from the same site. (more…)

Plant fossils give first real picture of earliest Neotropical rainforests

October 15th, 2009

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of researchers including a University of Florida paleontologist has used a rich cache of plant fossils discovered in Colombia to provide the first reliable evidence of how Neotropical rainforests looked 58 million years ago.

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and UF, among others, found that many of the dominant plant families existing in today’s Neotropical rainforests — including legumes, palms, avocado and banana — have maintained their ecological dominance despite major changes in South America’s climate and geological structure.

The study, which appears this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined more than 2,000 megafossil specimens, some nearly 10 feet long, from the Cerrejón Formation in northern Colombia. The fossils are from the Paleocene epoch, which occurred in the 5- to 7-million-year period following the massive extinction event responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs. (more…)

Fla. Museum featured in National Geographic "Prehistoric Predators" TV series Tuesday

April 27th, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — National Geographic Television will feature the Florida Museum of Natural History in a show on prehistoric predators at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden was interviewed for the “Terror Bird” show, which includes footage of the Titanis skeleton sculpture from the museum’s “Hall of Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land” exhibit.

Titanis lived on the South American continent and was a top predator after the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. They used their strong beaks and neck muscles to spear through the meat and bones of captured prey. Most of these birds were flightless. (more…)

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