ROM Research Colloquium: David Rudkin

Posted: January 23, 2013 - 09:45 , by ROM
Palaeontology, Research | Comments () | Comment
Pages from a puzzle-solver’s notebook – piecing eurypterids back together … on paper.

Name: Dave Rudkin

Title: Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology

On February 8th from 9:15am to 6:30pm ROM experts deliver fascinating 15-minute presentations on the latest research in the arts, archaeology and pure and applied sciences. Free (Museum admission not included). Signy & Cléophée Eaton Theatre. Please enter the ROM by the President's Choice School Entrance, located at the south end of the building on Queen’s Park.

Pieces of a Palaeontological Puzzle

Fossils very rarely preserve the intact remains of ancient organisms. What palaeontologists usually have to work with is an incomplete and confusing array of fragments, often representing bits of different individuals, and even different species, mixed and mingled together. Making sense of what comes out of the fossil record has been likened to assembling a complex jigsaw puzzle for which any number of pieces is missing. Toss in a few extra pieces from several other puzzles, shuffle all the pictures on the box lids (or, better yet, throw them out), and there you have it – a typical palaeontological challenge! 

My presentation at the 2013 ROM Research Colloquium focuses on just such a puzzle – one that I’ve been working on with colleagues at The Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg) and the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) for several years now. It involves rare fossil eurypterids, a group of extinct sea-dwelling scorpion relatives, from 445 million-year-old deposits in central Manitoba. We think we’re getting close to solving this particular conundrum, and the key has been finding fossil equivalents of those elusive puzzle box pictures: a series of more or less complete eurypterid specimens with most of the important bits still attached. The “pictures” are slightly smudged and torn, but the pieces are finally falling into place!