Undergraduate Thesis Or Project

 

SEM Analysis of Digestive Wear on Rodent Bones: A comparison of modern and fossil remains Public Deposited

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  • When people think of fossils, they generally imagine the bones of large, charismatic animals. However, small mammals are an ecologically important group of organisms that show up frequently in the fossil record, and can frequently function as indicators for local environmental and ecological conditions (Terry, 2007, 2010). Rodent and rabbit remains are often locally concentrated and deposited around predator den and roost sites, leaving behind large deposits (Andrews, 1990). In order to determine the identity of a predator responsible for creating a prey “death-assemblage” without accompanying fecal or pellet matrix, we must look to the bones themselves. Digestive wear and pitting is an established metric for identifying predator taxa from prey remains, and is very useful in determining the taphonomic origin of microfossil deposits (Andrews, 1990, Andrews & Evans, 1983). In the John Day Fossil Beds collection there are a number of small mammal fossils that are speculated to have been deposited by predators, possibly owls, but this diagnosis has not been confirmed. Thus the primary aim of this project is to investigate patterns of wear on small mammal fossil samples from the John Day National Monument using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), with the hypothesis that they were ingested by an owl-like bird of prey. In order to do this, a metric for determining predator identity from microscopic evidence must be established.
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  • OSU Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship & Creativity program
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