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Jason R. Moore

Palaeoecology and Taphonomy



Contact Information:

Dartmouth College
Department of Earth Sciences
HB 6105, Fairchild Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
Email: Jason.R.Moore (a) dartmouth.edu
Office: 222 Fairchild
Office Phone: 603-646-6954

I am fascinated by the range of ways in which the fossil record can inform us about the ecological responses of living organisms to their environment, even for species that have been extinct for millions of years! I primarily focus my research on terrestrial vertebrates, but it is the ecological questions that drive me, rather than the particular taxa that I study. Consequently, I have contributed to research on Permian brachiopod faunal dynamics and Carboniferous seed predation patterns.

At the moment I am teaching Paleobiology (EARS 31, Spring MWF 11) and have assisted on the Bighorn Basin leg of the Stretch field course. I have active fieldwork in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and India. I have a number of field, laboratory and computer-based research opportunities for interested undergraduate and graduate students, please send me an email if you're interested.

For information about other interesting interdisciplinary palaeobiology research and teaching at Dartmouth, please visit the Dartmouth Paleobiology Group blog.


Paleobiology - EARS 31, Spring Term, MWF 11:

The Earth formed around 4.5 billion years ago and the first, albeit somewhat controversial, evidence for life is found only 700 million years later! Living organisms have, therefore, been present for 85% of the history of the Earth and have shaped the planet in a myriad of different ways as life has evolved. Incremental, frequently infinitesimal changes in morphology over inconceivably long time periods have produced the tens of millions (if not more!) of species that we see interacting around us today. Fortuitous confluences of geological forces have led to the preservation of evidence of past life for millions, and in some cases billions, of years.

In this course we will investigate: how life, from individual organisms to entire ecosystems, has changed during its 3.8 billion year history; the processes that can lead to the preservation of organic remains over geological time periods; and many of the ways in which we can make inferences about biological processes from the limited, often biased information preserved in the fossil record. I hope this course will provide you with a firm foundation of tools and knowledge that you will be able to use to find the answers to any questions you might have about the history of life.

Please see they syllabus for more information. Note that the most up-to-date syllabus will be available on Blackboard.

Current Research:

Mammalian faunal response to the earliest Oligocene Greenhouse-Icehouse transition:

Despite one of the largest, most rapid instances of climate change experienced by mammalian faunas (8-9șC over the course of 300,000 years), the extinction and origination rates of mammalian lineages during the earliest Oligocene vary very little above background. I am currently assessing whether faunas responded ecologically, rather than evolutionarily, to these climatic perturbations, or showed no response whatsoever.This approach requires the use of newly collected, palaeoecologically representative samples of faunas across the earliest Oligocene transition, and recently developed methodological advances to account for the influence of preservational bias. This research will provide important information on the fundamental factors controlling faunal structure and the response of mammalian faunas to climate change.

Patterns of reptilian reproductive ecology:

Like birds and many reptiles, dinosaurs laid eggs. Several localities around the globe provide a window into dinosaurian reproductive ecology via the exceptionally preserved nests, eggs and embryos found therein. Using comparative analyses of the reproductive characteristics of modern reptiles (birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles) in a phylogenetic context, in conjunction with histological examination of the bone tissues in nest associated dinosaur specimens and new excavations of classic dinosaur nesting localities, collaborators from Montana State University and I are investigating the parental care strategies of a range dinosaur species that are known from complete clutches of eggs.

Taphonomic chara
cterization of ancient faunas:

One major problem with the investigation of faunal paleoecology in the fossil record is the ubiquitous and varying influence of preservational bias. Without a quantitative understanding of what has been lost from a fossil assemblage and why, it is very difficult to assess and attribute causes to changes in paleofaunal structure. I am currently building multivariate statistical models to assess the loss of specimens from vertebrate fossil assemblages. From these forward models, it will be possible to generate inverse models that will account for the influence of preservational bias on fossil faunas, facilitating palaeoecological comparisons.

Faunal transitions in the intertrappean sediments of central India:

The Deccan Traps are a series of stacked flood basalts of latest Cretaceous to earliest Paleocene age found throughout India. They form one of the largest igneous provinces in the world. The volume of lava and associated gases erupted during their formation had a severe effect on regional, and possibly global ecosystem structure and function.  A moderately diverse vertebrate fauna is preserved in the sediments deposited between sequential flood basalt eruptions (the intertrappean sediments). I am interested in the faunal and sedimentological changes that occur throughout the intertrappean sequence, potentially in response to these major volcanic eruptions. By comparing new samples of the intertrappean faunas with a high resolution palaeomagnetic and geochemical stratigraphy, colleagues at the University of Washington and I hope to track faunal responses to these major perturbations.

If you have an interest in my research, would like reprints of any of my papers or would like to develop a collaborative project please contact me.

Student Research Opportunities:

I currently have two students working on separate research projects in my lab at Dartmouth:

Paige Wilson ('14) is investigating the links between palaeoenvironment, taphonomic modification and vertebrate palaeoecology in the Poleslide Member of the Brule Formation, using data from Badlands National Park, SD. Watch this space for exciting early results of her research!

Kara Farnes ('15) is assessing the palaeoecological changes that we see in the vertebrate faunas up to, and across, the major extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period - that which wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs. She will also be looking at environmental changes across the K-Pg boundary in India. Kara's work is funded by a WISP internship.

I have a large number of other potential research projects, ranging from field-based palaeoecology, though lab-based taphonomy, computer modelling and GIS analysis. If you have an interest in paleobiology and would like to join the lab (whether you're a freshman or prospective graduate student), please send me an email or drop by my office.

Selected Recent Publications:

Moore, J. R, In press - April 2012, Do terrestrial vertebrate fossil assemblages show consistent taphonomic patterns? PALAIOS.

Moore, J. R. Krumenacker, L. J. and Varricchio, D. J., In review, Assessing the range and patterns of taphonomic modification in terrestrial vertebrate fossil assemblages. GSA Special Paper.

Fall, L. M., Olszewski, T. and Moore, J. R., In review, The effects of basinal disruptions on brachiopod metacommunity processes and structure in the Delaware Basin, Texas. Geology.

Moore, J. R. and Norman, D. B. 2009, Quantitatively evaluating the sources of taphonomic bias in element abundances in vertebrate fossil assemblages. PALAIOS, 24, 591-602.

Varricchio, D. J., Moore, J. R., Erickson, G., Norell, M., Jackson, F. D. and Borkowski, J. J. 2008, Avian Paternal Care had Dinosaur Origin.  Science, 322, 1826-1828

Moore, J. R., Norman, D. B. and Upchurch, P. 2006, Assessing relative abundances in fossil assemblages. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 253, 317-322
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