Thursday, February 9, 2012

Soundtrack of the Jurassic

Possibly the most amazing aspect of paleontology is not what we know about ancient life on Earth, but how we know what we do.  After all, most of what researchers have to work with is simply bones or impressions of bodies in the dirt; how much could we possibly be able to tell about the life of an ancient organism?  Well, the most challenging – and rewarding – part of a paleontologist’s job is finding ways to use the limited material they have to go beyond simple anatomy and make exciting inferences about prehistoric life: bite marks on fossil bone can tell us about predator-prey interactions; footprints can give us an idea of how ancient animals moved; I’ve posted before (twice actually) about how recent discoveries have actually allowed us to infer the color of ancient creatures.  Well, a new study based on an exceptional fossil katydid – yes, bugs can be fossils too! – is now not only filling out our picture of what the age of the dinosaurs looked like, but also giving us insight into what it sounded like.