November 14 2013

5:00 pm BSRB 154

EcoEvoPub Series

Graduate Student Presentations


Marin Balisi & Caitlin Brown
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

"What Can Paleopathology Tell Us About Hunting Modes?"

Living mammalian predators sustain injuries from hunting that can be preserved post mortem in pathological lesions of the skeleton. Consequently, the distribution of such injuries on a skeleton might reflect the hunting mode of the animal in life. In this study, we quantified traumatic pathologies in predators from the late Pleistocene La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, CA. The two most abundant mammalian predators Canis dirus, the dire wolf, and Smilodon fatalis, the saber-tooth cat are inferred to hunt by pursuit and by ambush, respectively. We surveyed specimens from Pit 61/67 (11,581 +/- 3768 years). S. fatalis exhibited traumatic lesions more often to the scapula and thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and also demonstrated more vertebral fusion, rib, and sternal injuries than C. dirus. The preponderance of C. dirus injuries occurred in the limbs,skull (cranium + mandible), neck vertebare, and sacrum than S. fatalis. Both species showed equal injury frequency between left and right sides. Preservational bias is unlikely to account for the interspecific differences in injury frequency, as Pit 61/67 preserves comparable numbers of C. dirus and S. fatalis individuals. Rather, these differences suggest that C. dirus was a pursuit hunter similar to gray wolves today, suffering injuries to the skull and distal limbs from contact with the hooves of prey. Unlike the putative pursuit predator C. dirus, S. fatalis has very low frequency of distal limb and facial trauma and appears to have sustained torsional injuries during forceful grappling with large prey, suggesting ambush predation. Paleopathology can supplement traditional morphometric and biomechanical methods in inferring hunting modes of extinct predators.

Erin Toffelmier & Mark Phuong
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

"#iamscience: a video series"

Relating the scientific profession to youth is necessary to inspire the next generation of scientists. In an effort to connect to late secondary and early undergraduate students (i.e., those students who are still making decisions about which fields might interest them), we propose to highlight the decision-making moments in the lives of diverse and young graduate students that led them to pursue careers in science. To this end, we are developing a series of short videos in which we attempt to communicate that successful young scientists come from diverse backgrounds and study a vast array of topics in a way that is more accessible to students than the media currently available. We would like to promote these through several YouTube Channels to make them widely available and locally provide them to Los Angeles area high-schools and other venues which host career days and career outreach events.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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