Sunday, July 11, 2010
Testing, Testing, Is this thing on?
So, I've taken my failed running blog and reinvented it following other blogs I've seen by paleontologists. I will use this as a forum to show images of my travels, discuss my research and thoughts, and whatever else comes along. So, first things first, who am I?
My name is Dana Ehret and I am a Ph. D. student at the Florida Museum of Natural History working on the evolution, paleobiology, and paleoecology of lamniform sharks. What is a lamniform shark you ask? The Order Lamniformes are also known as the mackerel sharks and are defined by a number of key features including: 2 dorsal fins, an anal fin, five gill slits, eyes without nictating membranes, and a mouth extending behind the eyes. Living lamniforms include the white (Carcharodon), mako (Isurus), salmon and porbeagle (Lamna), thresher (Alopias), sand tiger (Carcharias) or 'ragged toothed' (Odontaspis), basking (Cetorhinus), megamouth (Megachasma), goblin (Mitsukurina), and crocodile (Pseudocarcharias) sharks. Extinct lamniforms can be found in the fossil record stretching back to the Jurassic, and include: the megatoothed (Otodus and Carcharocles), crow (Squalicorax) and sand tiger (Jaekelotodus) among a large variety of other species. Sharks pose an interesting dilemma in paleontology because their soft, cartilaginous skeleton rarely preserves in the fossil record. The result is a large fossil recored, almost entirely comprised of isolated teeth.
My research has focused mainly on the evolution of the white shark and the evolution of body size in the megatoothed sharks, which includes Carcharocles megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived. My studies have taken me all over the world, including Peru, South Africa, and Poland to name a few more exotic locales. Much of my research focuses on transitional white shark fossils from the southwestern coast of Peru and includes the most complete white shark fossil known. My research has been featured on the Discovery Channel, NPR, and the New York Times, among other news outlets.
I am leaving for Lima, Peru this coming week to study fossil shark skeletons in the National Museum. These skeletons belong to a species known as Cosmopolitodus (or Carcharodon as far as I'm concerned) hastalis, a taxon that most likely gave rise to the modern white sharks we love today. I'll try to post pictures and details of my journey. Enjoy!