The Soom Shale is an Ordovician lagerstätte in the Western Cape of South Africa. Whilst it lacks the diversity of organisms seen in other lagerstätten, such as the Burgess Shale or Chengjiang, it more than makes up for it in the fidelity of preservation.

The taphonomic pathway to the fantastic preservation in the Soom Shale is long and complex, reliant not only on local conditions, but also ties into global climatic events. It’s vitally important when interpreting fossils to understand the taphonomy as it provides so much context as to what you can see in fossils and, as equally important, what you can’t.

Joining us for this episode is Prof. Sarah Gabbott, a taphonomist from the University of Leicester, UK.

Direct download: Ep119.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:37pm UTC

Piecing together the early lives of dinosaurs is difficult due to a lack of fossils from juvenile and embryonic stages. In this episode, Elsa Panciroli talks to Dr Kimi Chappelle, a postdoctoral fellow at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, part of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chappelle specialises in sauropodomorphs – the precursors of the giant sauropod dinosaurs like Diplodocus. Her recent work is helping build a picture of their growth and development.

Chappelle is a champion of South African palaeontology and nominated as one of the Mail and Guardian’s top 200 young South Africans in Science and Technology. With her colleagues she has published a stunning new study of sauropodomorph embryos from a fossil nest site in South Africa. This new paper visualises and describes their tiny skulls using synchrotron scan data. These fossils provide new information on dinosaur developmental processes, and places South African fossils at the heart of our understanding of their early evolution. Chappelle also talks about the latest work she’s involved with in Zimbabwe, and future research into the growth patterns of the largest dinosaurs to have ever lived.

Direct download: Ep118.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:36pm UTC