Yale Peabody Museum Summer Internship

Earliest Paleocene Archaic Ungulates (Mammalia, Condylarthra) from the Camel Butte Locality in Southeastern Montana

Advisors: Professor Eric Sargis (YPM Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology) and Professor Stephen Chester, Brooklyn College (YPM VP curatorial affiliate)


Length: 8 weeks in the summer


Project Description:

Undergraduates are invited to participate in paleontological research during the summer of 2019 to work with a curator and curatorial affiliate from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (YPM) in New Haven, CT. This project focuses on the faunal recovery of mammals in the earliest Paleocene following the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction event. Though the K-Pg mass extinction is best known for the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs, evidence from the fossil record suggests that this event was also extremely important for placental mammals because it set the stage for the mammalian adaptive radiation that occurred shortly after dinosaurs went extinct. Archaic ungulates (“condylarths”) first appear in the fossil record in the earliest Paleocene and quickly diversify into one of the most abundant groups of mammals present during this time period. Condylarths have traditionally been considered ancestors of extant hoofed mammals, and their evolutionary relationships are still debated.


Patterns of mammalian recovery have been well documented in the Hell Creek area of northeastern Montana, but few productive earliest Paleocene vertebrate localities are known from elsewhere in the region. To fill this gap, a decade of YPM expeditions has yielded thousands of fossils including hundreds of archaic ungulate teeth and jaws from the earliest Paleocene Camel Butte locality of the Fort Union Formation in southeastern Montana. These fossil teeth will be critical for understanding taxonomic boundaries among condylarths, as well as reconstructing their body mass, diet, and evolutionary relationships.


The undergraduate researcher will be involved in multiple aspects of this project. They will learn to identify condylarth taxa to address questions such as 1) how many condylarth species were present at Camel Butte in the earliest Paleocene, 2) are any new species present, and 3) what is the relative abundance of condylarth species and individuals within this fauna? The researcher will learn how to postprocess microCT scans of these fossils, generate three-dimensional renderings of specimens, and measure taxonomically informative features of dental morphology from the 3-D models. The researcher will also learn how to statistically analyze the completed dataset. Hence, the researcher will have the opportunity to learn postprocessing techniques and methods of morphometric data collection and analysis. This project could lead to an expanded senior thesis project, a professional presentation at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and/or a peer-reviewed publication in a paleontological journal.


Stipend: $3000


CLICK HERE to apply!