October 08, 2008

Dinosaurs, ancient brains and more on agenda for International Paleontology Conference

Case Western Reserve University Paleontologist Darin Croft is Cleveland host for meeting

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Paleontologist Darin Croft from the department of anatomy in the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will be the host committee chair for the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, October 15-18. This is the first time SVP has held its meeting in Cleveland.

"The public usually doesn't hear about the latest scientific research until it is published," said Croft. "At conferences such as this one, scientists present their latest research and ideas before they are published so they can get feedback from colleagues."

For those unable to make the meeting, the public will have an opportunity to hear from paleontologists when Science Café Cleveland hosts it Monday meeting on October 13 at 7 p.m. at the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Speaking during the Café will be Catherine Badgley from the department of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan and Michael Ryan from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and also co-host of the SVP meeting.

Another related event is the free, public talk by Neil Shubin at the Cleveland Museum of History on Tuesday, October 14, at 7 p.m. Shubin (University of Chicago) is a well-known paleontologist who studies the morphological and developmental origins of the tetrapod limb. He recently discovered Tiktaalik, a species linking aquatic "lobe-finned" fishes with early terrestrial tetrapods. Tickets are required by calling CMNH. The event is part of the Year of Darwin celebration on campus and is sponsored by the Developmental Biology Training Program.

Established in 1940, SPV is an organization of professional and avocational people who are interested in the fossils of yesteryear's backboned animals such as lizards, birds, amphibians, dinosaurs and mammals. More than 1000 people are expected to attend the meeting, making it one of the society's largest.

Among the highlights of the conference will be a symposium focusing on "endocasts"–replicas of the brains of animals based on the shape of the cavity within their skulls. Other thematic sessions will look at human ancestors from some 3-3.5 million years ago and ancient fishes that once populated the Great Lakes region and other areas of the world from 300-400 million years ago.

Croft studies ancient South American mammals, as old as 45 million years and from a time when the continent was an island that gave rise to unique species found only there. He has made a number of major discoveries of hoofed animals, similar to cows, sheep, and horses (though unrelated), which roamed areas of Bolivia and Chile. He has also reported on ancient armadillo-like animals.

Assisting Croft and Ryan with hosting responsibilities are Yohannes Haile-Selaisse (CMNH) and Scott Simpson, also an anatomy professor from the medical school. Haile-Selaisse and Simpson, who do research in the area of hominids, are coordinating a symposium related to that research.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, October 8, 2008 01:14 PM | News Topics: Conferences/Symposia, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, School of Medicine, news

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