Top Bristol students probe the habits of our earliest ancestors
22 June 2009
Two MSc Palaeobiology students in the Department of Earth Sciences have had notable successes in their work on the habits of some of the earliest mammals to have lived, some two hundred million years ago.
Nick Crumpton was awarded ‘best presentation’ at the 2009 Progressive Palaeontology conference held at the University of Birmingham – a notable achievement for an MSc student, as the meeting is primarily aimed at PhD students. His innovative project, entitled Microwear and morphology: a quantitative analysis of diet in two of the earliest mammals, involves an investigation of tooth-wear patterns in living bats with known dietary preferences in order to determine the different dietary habits of two of the earliest mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium.
Kelly Richards has received £800 from the Alumni Foundation towards her MSc research project The postcranial skeleton of Morganucodon watsoni: phylogenics, biomechanics and variation. Kelly’s project is to assess well-preserved but undescribed fossil material of the early mammal Morganucodon found in the Bristol Channel region in order to determine whether its posture was sprawling or classically mammal-like and upright in stance. The funding will enable her to CT scan many of the best preserved postcranial bones and construct prototype plastic models.
Professor Mike Benton of the Department of Earth Sciences said: ‘Our students often amaze us with their achievements, and we are delighted that Nick and Kelly have been rewarded so well for their enthusiasm and the quality of their work’. Dr Emily Rayfield, who is supervising both students, added: ‘It’s very exciting that we’re in a position to apply new and innovative techniques to shed light on the function and ecology of such important fossils’.