Bringing Paleontological Research into the Classroom
A recent study conducted as part of the Department of Geological Sciences undergraduate paleontology class was published in PeerJ. The article, entitled “Spider crabs of the Western Atlantic with special reference to fossil and some modern Mithracidae,” describes two new species of spider crab (Mithrax arawakum sp. nov. and Nemausa windsorae sp. nov.) discovered in lower Miocene limestone in Jamaica. The study uses geometrical observations of growth patterns in these new species and two previously described species to establish a quantitative analysis that will help future paleontologists to describe and compare spider crab taxa.
Dr. Adiel Klompmaker introduced this project as part of the Spring 2015 semester’s GLY 3603C Paleontology undergraduate course. Students were asked to measure the fossil crab species of Nemausa, describe all the morphological details, and compare the species to known species in the same genus (extant and fossil). They also had to decide whether an already described species (Mithrax donovani) from the same limestones in Jamaica should stay in that genus or should be transferred to another one. Research continued after the semester with the top performing students of that assignment and was published on Oct. 1st.
This project provided an opportunity for undergraduate students to gain first-hand experience of scientific research and develop an essential skill for any apprentice paleontologist.
Spider crabs of the Western Atlantic with special reference to fossil and some modern Mithracidae, PeerJ, 2015. Read more.
PeerJ is an online open-access journal for the Biological and Medical Sciences that aims to provide fast, fair and widely read peer-reviewed articles.