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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Investigating the creatures that lived on the south coast 200 million years ago

Published: 8 March 2013Origin: Chemistry
Vertebrate Palaeontology

The University of Southampton is fast becoming a centre for fossil research, thanks in part to the rich geological resources on the Isle of Wight and Dorset’s Jurassic coast.

Ocean and Earth Science Senior lecturer Dr Gareth Dyke is supervising PhD, MRes and MSci students working on a range of palaeontology research projects.

Ocean and Earth Science students working on a range of palaeontology research projects
Fossil students

State of the art CT scanning facilities at the University attracted MRes student Brandon Jardine from New York to examine fossil records of one of the earliest mammals. Remains of Morganucodon have been found in South Wales as well as China.

"Morganucodon is important for having enlarged areas of the brain associated with scent, and a mammalian jaw joint. To understand the origin of mammals (the history of our own lineage) we must understand Morganucodon, and CT scanning is allowing us do that in ways we couldn't before," says Brandon.

PhD student Jessica Lawrence, originally from Ohio, is researching the evolutionary history of ichthyosaurs, a giant marine reptile similar to dinosaurs. She says Southampton is a good location for her work because of the large range of specimens within easy travelling distance.

Rebecca Groom is studying for an MSci in Geology. Her work is also concerned with ichthyosaurs, investigating whether the creatures were fast swimmers and adept hunters, Around 200 million years ago they swam in the shallow seas, which now form the Jurassic coastline of Dorset.

Luke Muskutt is studying for a PhD combining palaeontology with aerospace engineering, examining how pliosaurs swim. He is constructing a mechanical rig of the marine reptile's flippers to carry out experiments in the University's towing tank.

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