On the News | USA | Living fossils @ The UC Santa Barbara Current

On the News @ The UC Santa Barbara Current


Living Fossils


Bruce Tiffney amongst the cycads and Auracaria along Pardall corridor on campus. Photo Credit: Matt Perko

“Nothing like cruising campus on your bike and catching sight of a dinosaur. Of course, if it’s not a triceratops in your peripherals but a Jurassic plant, you may zip right on by, oblivious to the ancient wonders rooted on the grounds of a modern university.

Behold UC Santa Barbara’s new installation of cycads, the plants considered “living fossils” that do, in fact, date to dinosaur times. An assemblage of the archaic greenery now adorns a bustling part of campus known as the Pardall corridor. Planted among some existing Araucaria trees — distinctive evergreens that in their own right can be traced to the early Mesozoic age — they are a throwback to our prehistoric past.

“Block out all the buildings, the cement and the people and imagine, if you will, terrestrial dinosaurs roaming right where we’re standing,” said Bruce Tiffney, a professor of earth science and paleobiology at UCSB. “Standing among the cycads you can be transported back 150 million years. It’s a small view of what the Mesozoic might have looked like.”

Tiffney, an evolutionary biologist who specializes in plants and their fossil record, is among the UCSB faculty members who use cycads as a teaching tool (there is a smaller grouping of these plants outside Webb Hall). As part of a course on dinosaurs, for example, students are asked to visit both the cycads and the Araucaria for a glimpse of what their environment might have been like.

“The whole purpose of paleontology, in the broad sense, is to give people an idea of the worlds that have existed in the past, on this planet, only edited for time — and this is a nice little window,” Tiffney said. “Indeed, I suspect botany courses and introductory biology courses will be out here looking at these as well. They’re representatives of a bygone world.”” (…) READ MORE

Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)