Dr Jordan Bestwick
Reconstructing diets of pterosaurs and other extinct animals – problems and solutions using dental microwear textural analysis.
Guest speaker: Dr Jordan Bestwick
Abstract: Dietary hypotheses of extinct animals are often based on comparative, or even speculative, evidence with little means of robust testing. Using robust, quantitative techniques to infer the diets of extinct animals is therefore essential for representative reconstructions of past ecosystems. One such technique involves quantitative analysis of the sub-micrometre scale areal tooth surface textures of extinct animals, known as Dental Microwear Textural Analysis (DMTA). Microwear is formed during feeding as food items create characteristic tooth surface textures that vary with diet.
This talk covers the principles, power and versatility of using DMTA to infer dietary characteristics of extinct animals. This talk also showcases the first quantitative dietary reconstructions of pterosaurs; extinct flying reptiles which lived above the heads of dinosaurs between 210–66 million years ago, with DMTA. My research reveals that pterosaurs exhibited large dietary variation with different species potentially being fish-feeders, crunchy invertebrate consumers and opportunistic feeders. This is providing the first robust information on how these extinct animals truly fitted within their respective palaeoecosystems.
Biography: Jordan is a palaeobiologist at the School of Geography, Geology & the Environment at University of Leicester, having recently completed his PhD at Leicester in June 2019. Before that, he completed an Integrated Masters degree in Zoology at the University of Leeds. Jordan’s main area of research involves reconstructing the dietary ecology and evolution of modern and extinct reptiles with DMTA, and has won several accolades for his research, including the 2017 Palaeontological Association President’s Prize. In addition to pterosaurs, Jordan has recently expanded his research scope and now researches dinosaurs, crocodilians and mosasaurs.