ISPH 2013 – Inside fossil bones and teeth

Last week was the Second International Symposium on Paleohistology (ISPH.2013), hosted by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.  Histology – the study of tissue – is a growing field in paleontology and is infiltrating all aspects of paleontological research. Paleontologists, specifically, study bone and tooth tissue of fossil and modern organisms.  Bone histology directly relates to the growth dynamics of an organism and helps researchers better understand the evolutionary history, development and maturation, and life history of extinct animals. This conference brought together some of the top researchers in the field of paleohistology – everyone from those who established the field decades ago, to the rising stars, to the students just beginning their scientific careers. As the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology grows larger and larger, these smaller, topical conferences seem to be growing in popularity and abundance, as they provide exceptional opportunities to develop projects, share research, and connect without other people in specific subfields. ISPH is no exception and was a fantastic conference with an international line-up of talks and productive break-out sessions; key-note talks were given by Dr. Jack Horner (Museum of the Rockies/Montana State University) and Dr. Jorge Cubo (Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Sorbonne Universités – Paris). Just check out the talk and poster titles!

Adelie penguins have the most northern
(highest latitude) distribution of the three
Pygoscelis species

The paleontology department at the Sternberg Museum and Fort Hays State University was represented by a talk by Dr. Laura Wilson, co-authored by Dr. Karen Chin (University of Colorado, Boulder/University of Colorado Museum of Natural History), entitled: “Effects of Environment and Behavior on Bone Growth Patterns in Pygoscelis Penguins“.  The talk focused on analyzing the bone growth dynamics of living Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins in light of climatic, biogeographic, and migration parameters.  Focusing on a modern group of birds, this research provides insight into some of the factors (as well as complications) that needs to be considered when analyzing and interpreting growth patterns. This is a key factor to consider when studying extinct organisms (particularly avian and non-avian dinosaurs), so is highly applicable to paleontological research. 

This is just the beginning of histology research at the Sternberg Museum and FHSU, as we are in the process of setting up our own histology lab where we can produce and analyze our own fossil and modern bone specimens.  We look forward to continued analysis, student research, and intercollegiate and international collaborations into the future!

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