Author Archives: Guypaquin

Diomedavus, Ancient Albatross from Oligocene of Washington State

Albatrosses are a group of seabirds related to petrels that are specialized for soaring on long wings, and include the “great albatross” Diomedea, which has the largest wingspan (11+ feet) of any bird living today. (Some extinct types of seabirds (pelagornithids, not closely related to albatrosses) had estimated wingspans up to 24 feet!) A new paper describes fossils found in Washington state that add important details of the evolution of albatrosses. The material was found near Knappton in Pacific County by Burke associate and fossil collector Jim Goedert (one of the authors on the paper) and comes from two formations, the late Oligocene Lincoln Creek Formation and the middle Miocene Astoria Formation.

The Oligocene-age fossils include diagnostic material from wings, legs, and vertebrae, with additional material thought to be from the same species, including a partial pelvis. Because the anatomical details set the bird apart from any known form, the authors made it a new genus and species called Diomedavus knapptonensis. Diomedavus (“Diomedea ancestor”) was related to the modern great albatross but was much smaller and had notable differences in its wing structure.

The Miocene fossils also clearly come from some type of albatross, but don’t currently include parts that allow the ancient seabird to be rigorously compared at a species level with material known from other fossil albatrosses. Although it’s very likely that the fossils do belong to a new species, the authors have decided for now not to give it a formal scientific name and refer to it as the “Astoria Formation albatross.” The Miocene albatross was larger than the earlier Diomedavus and a bit smaller than the living black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris).

Gerald Mayr & James L. Goedert (2017) Oligocene and Miocene albatross fossils from Washington State (USA) and the evolutionary history of North Pacific Diomedeidae. The Auk 134(3): 659–671

http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1642/AUK-17-32.1

Free pdf:

http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1642/AUK-17-32.1

July Meeting – Sunday July 23, 2017

Our July NPA Meeting is generally a low key affair on the patio at The Burke Museum. Many folks are in the field during the mid-summer months, but we still like to meet up. Bring a fossil to talk about, some snacks to share and ideas for NPA to pursue.

Prospective members are always welcome!

Burke patio
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

June Hands-On Microfossil Event

With instruction from Brody Hovatter, NPA members sorted microfossils under microscopes for storage in the Burke collection.

Major New Dinosaur Finds from Montana and Alberta  

Daspletosaurus horneri, New Tyrannosaurus Relative from Montana

Tyrannosaurus rex remains the best known (and maybe the most popular) dinosaur, but the huge meat-eater had relatives that paleontologist are still discovering. The latest new member of the tyrannosaurid family was found in Montana and lived about 75 million years ago, about 10 million years before Tyrannosaurus. Paleontologist have named it Daspletosaurus horneri (in honor of Montana paleontologist Jack Horner!) and published a short description in a new scientific paper (available for free). The genus Daspletosaurus “frightful lizard” was first described from another species (Daspletosaurus torosus) that lived earlier and was found in Alberta in Canada. The new species D. horneri differs in a number of small ways from D. torosus, but may, in fact, be a direct evolutionary descendent of the earlier Alberta species, a process called anagenesis. Read More →

May 2017 Meeting Photos

Jim Chatters Presents Naia’s Hard Life at Society for American Archaeology Meeting

During Jim Chatters’ presentation on March 26, NPA members and guests got an exclusive sneak preview of new discoveries coming out the Hoyo Negro underwater cave in Mexico, including some information that can’t be discussed pending formal scientific publication. One of topics that can be mentioned now was how X-rays of the bone structure of the teenage girl Naia’s skeleton reveal a hard life, with periods of nutritional stress, and evidence of pregnancy and injuries. On March 30, a few days after his NPA presentation, Chatters gave a more technical version of the Naia story at the 2017 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada, as reported in the journal Nature and elsewhere.   Read More →

Caroline Strömberg Gets Charles Schuchert Award

Burke Museum Curator of Paleobotany and UW professor Caroline Strömberg has received the 2017 Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society in recognition of her ground-breaking work on fossil phytoliths as a way to understand ancient plants and environments, and in particular grasses and the animals that feed on them. Phytoliths are tiny silica bodies that form in the tissues of some plants. Because phytoliths are made of mineral, they are preserved in soils when plants die and decompose, and thus may leave no other fossil traces. The microscopic shapes of phytoliths are distinctive to particular plant groups, sometimes down to the species level. However, the role they play in plants is not completely understood. Phytoliths make grasses gritty for animals to chew–according to traditional thinking, leading to the evolution of high-crowned (hypsodont) teeth that grow as they are worn away, as in horses and other grazing animals. Read More →

John Rogers Elementary School Visit

Gregg, Gretchen and Tom represented the NPA at John Rogers Elementary School in North Seattle!

Friday, April 21

Hands-On Activity Photos

Guest Speaker Brody Hovatter – Sunday May 21, 2017

We will begin our May 21, 2017 NPA Meeting a bit differently…

Brody Hovatter will provide a tour of the Burke collections at 1 p.m. on the 21st. The tour should only take 30 to 40 minutes, and a class from UW will be in on the tour too.

1:00 pm: Burke Collections Tour
1:35 pm: NPA Meeting starts in Burke Room
1:50 pm: Presentation by Brody Hovatter

Brody will be our speaker addressing:
Mammal Diversity and Ecology Across the KT Boundary
(and up to 1.2 million years afterwards)

Brody Hovatter is the Assistant Director of the DIG Field School and manager of the Wilson Paleontology Lab at the University of Washington. In addition to serving as Assistant Director, he has been an instructor for the program since 2014. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Washington in 2014. His research in the Wilson Lab focuses on fossil mammals from northeastern Montana, for which he has received funding from the Mary Gates Endowment as well as departmental awards within the Biology Department. He has presented his research at numerous conferences, including the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Washington. Brody has loved teaching since an early age, and has served as a research mentor or co-mentor for numerous undergraduate students at the University of Washington. He also enjoys participating in local scientific outreach, and has served as a tutor for many middle school and high school students in the Seattle area.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the May 21st meeting!

(Also: Another reminder about our Hands-On Activity in the Burke Room this Sunday, May 7th 10-2pm)