News from the field through the grapevine

19 September 2009. Edmonton, AB Canada

About half-way through the week I received news that our lonely Tibetan Plateau field crew has returned to Beijing.

Because of extraordinary circumstances all coming together this year, the Natural History Museum did not participate in the fieldwork in Zhada Basin, western Tibet. However, the small crew of six discovered a hyaenid palate with lower jaws on the second day after their arrival in Zhada!

After a brief two-week stay in the basin, the crew drove back to Qinghai Province where they did some geologic work on the section we call Quanshuiliang, where all the fossil bovids have been discovered. We hope to be able to put our fossil discoveries into a vertical (stratigraphic) context, so that we may better understand how the animals were evolving locally.

No brand new photos to show from the field because I was not there ;(



Thinking about goats

18 September 2009. Edmonton, AB Canada,

Today I finally got my shipment of books from Beijing, after sending them off to sea there in July. The books came about one month later than my shoes and clothes...I wonder if they were "checked" before passing customs. Oh well, at least now I can read articles in paper form and not just on the computer screen.

Doing research in what is now my official "study" in the heart of Edmonton, south of the North Saskatchewan River, I am discovering some fascinating possibilities about the Tibetan Plateau goats Qurliqnoria cheni which I have been examining since my days in Beijing.

[a partial skull of Qurliqnoria cheni from the Qaidam Basin on the Tibetan Plateau, Dr. Xiaoming Wang and Guangpu Xie discovered this specimen last year on our trip.]

Where on Earth did these goats come from? After comparing them to fossil bovids (family of cows, goats, sheep, etc.) from Europe and Africa via published findings, I am taking a guess that these are related to more basal goat-like bovids from the eastern Europe / Middle-Eastern region in the genus Tethytragus.

How nice to have goats and other prey to think about on my breaks from building computer models of vicious dogs and hyenas?