About Me

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I am a recently finished palaeontology PhD student at the University of Southampton in the UK, known as Liz Martin-Silverstone in the real world (although more people know me as just Liz Martin). Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I started my interest in palaeontology at a young age being surrounded by dinosaur fossils, and eventually ending up doing an undergrad in palaeo with Dr. Phil Currie on Centrosaurus apertus. After moving to the UK to do my MSc on pterosaur bone mass in Bristol, I moved to Southampton to start a PhD on the same topic. My PhD was on pterosaur biomechanics and mass estimation using CT scans, working with Colin Palmer (UoS/UoB), Mike Habib (USc), Emily Rayfield (UoB), and Jessica Whiteside (UoS) (with some help from the imaging department in UoS from Philippe Schneider). I’m now looking for post docs to continue my research into pterosaurs and pneumaticity. I’ve done several fieldwork trips focusing in Alberta with the U of A Vertebrate Paleontology group headed by Phil Currie, and Romania with the University of Southampton Vertebrate Paleontology Group.

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Me examining pterosaur fossils in the American Museum of Natural History collections

You can follow me on Twitter (@gimpasaura) where I talk mostly about science, but also bits about other things that are important or interest me, especially regarding Canada and palaeontology. I am also a producer for Palaeocast, where we produce educational podcasts based on palaeontology, and share interesting palaeontology-related stories and publications. My blog is part of ScienceBorealis, a Canadian blogging community that focuses on Canadian science or science done by Canadians, where I am also the Membership Coordinator and social media volunteer.

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River site in the Hateg Basin, Romania
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Awesome view from a site in northern Alberta

You can also see my profiles at ResearchGate, Google Scholar, and my ORCID if you’re interested in things like publication lists.

My PhD research was funded primarily by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, with additional support from the Government of Alberta, the Geological Society of London, the Palaeontological Association, and an external funder.

I’m a big proponent of sciart and palaeoart in particular, but I’m a terrible artist myself, so I normally use images of some of my favourite palaeoartists and friends, such as Mark Witton and John Conway who both make awesome artwork, especially of pterosaurs. You should support them and check it out!

Foggydactyls Witton
Foggy pterosaurs, used with permission by Mark Witton.
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6 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Ms Martin – I saw you mentioned in Mr Switek’s article The Smithsonian. Regarding the extinction of pterosaurs, and the survival of birds and mammals, I have often thought one of the major reasons was that feathers and fur provided superior protection and warmth, especially for smaller animals who could find cover from the elements, in the frozen climactic aftermath of Chicxilub. Larger animals who managed to survive the initial aftermath, especially those with exposed skin like pterosaurs, would have been much more likely to succumb to the cold, if the fires did not get them all first. I suspect that long term cold stress could have been the primary determinant in species survival – a test for which the pre-impact environment would have left most animals unprepared. Feathers and fur, for those who had them in lucky abundance, provided a fortuitous survival advantage for land animals exposed to Arctic winds for many years afterwards. And for ocean organisms, those that could not survive in the deep would have been exposed to cold shallow waters of the sort that killed off – even after only a brief spell – many sea creatures in the UK recently. I write to you because I have never seen any of these ideas offered by way of explanation for why whole classes of animals went extinct, while others classes survived and propagated by speciation into the previously occupied environmental niches made available when the climate returned to normal. Regards, Wally Magathan

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Wally! You’re right, I haven’t heard that as an explanation for which animals survived the extinction. I could see how you could think this for mammals and birds, but there were also plenty of animals that didn’t have any kind of feathers or fur that didn’t make it through the extinction, such as turtles, crocodiles, lizards, most traditional “reptiles”. Also, pterosaurs did have a kind of fur-like covering known as pycnofibres, that covered at least their body. This likely provided insulation similarly to those of primitive feathers and fur, so this wouldn’t explain why pterosaurs wouldn’t have made it through, while other animals without insulating integument did make it through. Hope this is helpful!

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  2. Interesting about the fur-like covering for pterosaurs – but perhaps it wasn’t thick enough, especially since they would lose a lot of heat in cold air while flying (or, died of starvation if too cold to fly)? As far as the other skin covered critters, you just need a few survivors Liz! Lucky crocs and turtles could find shelter in a warm stream fed by springs or by geothermal action. Whichever species survived (that is, whatever species had 0.1% of there number survive, since the aftermath of Chicxilub would have nailed quite a few birds and crocs no matter their feathers or luck), they had some kind of way to avoid total annihilation, and there likely was more than one way to escape. As for species who did not survive, they would have had none of those tools or circumstances, with few if any mating pairs surviving. And I imagine that atypical amounts of fur or feathers would be required, not merely a thin layer. But that’s not the only thing that would have helped – as you point out others made it too, Generally, if a species had some kind of bodily or habitat protection combined with fortuitous feeding habits (like small reptiles able to survive a long time between meals while remaining buried, hidden, and unfrozen), it stood a chance. Species perfectly adapted to the existing climate with no such protection, no fortuitous habitat nor feeding habits, lasted only a short while. Not that I was there to witness anything – it’s just enjoyable speculation. It couldn’t hurt to have your own built-in thick winter coat after Chicxilub!

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  3. Hi Gimpasaura Team,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m the Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Gimpasaura has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 20 Paleontology Blogs on the web.

    https://blog.feedspot.com/paleontology_blogs/

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 20 Paleontology Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    We’d be grateful if you can help us spread the word by briefly mentioning about the Top 20 Paleontology Blogs list in any of your upcoming post.

    Please let me know.

    Best,

    Anuj

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