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Powdermill Nature Reserve, SVC to Present Fourth Lecture in Series on Evolution, Ecology March 27

Public Relations
Posted: Friday Mar 14, 2014

March 14, 2014

Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Saint Vincent College Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing will jointly present “The Origin of Modern Birds: New Fossil Evidence from the Cretaceous of China and Antarctica” by Dr. Matthew Lamanna, vertebrate paleontologist and assistant curator of the Carnegie Museum, as the fourth lecture in the Evolution and Ecology Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27 at the Luparello Lecture Hall in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion on the campus of Saint Vincent College. Admission is free and no registration is required.

Modern birds are today’s most diverse group of land-living backboned animals, though their origins during the Age of Dinosaurs are a mystery. Lamanna will chronicle his expeditions to China and Antarctica in search of fossils of ancient birds and discuss the implications his discoveries hold for the rise of modern avians.

Comprising more than 10,000 species, modern birds (Neornithes) are today’s most diverse group of land-living backboned animals. Nevertheless, the origins of these birds from toothed, long-tailed ancestors during the Cretaceous Period (the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era, or Age of Dinosaurs) remain poorly understood. Expeditions led by Lamanna and colleagues have uncovered dozens of exquisitely-preserved avian fossils – many of them including soft-tissues such as feathers and skin – from 120 million-year-old sediments in the Changma Basin of northwestern Gansu Province, China. An overwhelming majority of these specimens belong to Gansus yumenensis, a semi-aquatic bird that, despite its great antiquity, is thought to be closely related to Neornithes. More recently, Lamanna and another group of collaborators have conducted expeditions to latest Cretaceous exposures in the James Ross Basin of the Antarctic Peninsula in search of what may be the world’s most ancient neornithines.

The Evolution and Ecology Lecture Series was developed to address topics of special interest regarding biodiversity, conservation, behavioral ecology and evolution. This joint venture – which capitalizes on Powdermill Nature Reserve’s global network of researchers and Saint Vincent College’s commitment to education for its students and the community – provides the opportunity to hear from some of the world’s leading figures in ecology and evolutionary biology.

The series is being coordinated by Dr. John Wenzel, director of Powdermill Nature Reserve, and Dr. Bruce D. Bethke, associate professor and chair of the biology department at Saint Vincent.

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Photo: Dr. Matthew Lamanna

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