Greetings! This is Lucas. Yes, I am actually a paleontologist. I have the hammer, fedora, (upcoming) Master’s degree and everything. Being a paleontologist, though, isn’t really about these things. It’s about curiosity. Curiosity for ancient life, and curiosity for what that ancient life–usually in the form of fossils–can tell us about, well, us.
Right now, outside my window, birds are singing their morning chorus, greeting the sun. Due to some shared characteristics that include an S-shaped, curved neck, and large eye openings in the skull, birds have been linked genetically to dinosaurs. In fact, birds are technically avian dinosaurs.
When the meteor struck some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs went extinct. The birds, however, clearly survived the cataclysm.
Our mammalian ancestors also squeaked by, and to great effect: the meteor closed the curtain on the Age of Reptiles, and ushered in the dawn of the Age of Mammals, which is where–or when–we are today.
So, when I hear the birds chirp at each other outside, I see the 6 mile-wide meteor striking Earth those many ages ago. (I imagine the meteor half-illuminated at night, à la the moon). I see small mammals like Cimolestes surviving, and I see large dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus going extinct. I see evolution by means of natural selection. But, most importantly, I see us. Or what would become us, scurrying around back there.
Welcome to my blog. Here you will discover scribbles from one paleontologist’s field notebook. His musings, diggings, observations.
-Lucas Joel, Monday morning, Southern California, summer 2012. Clear skies.