PeerJ Award winner Delphine Angst from French Paleontological Association meeting shares about fossils and giant extinct birds

by | May 15, 2019 | Awards, Interviews

Congratulations go to Delphine Angst, winner of the PeerJ Award for Best Oral Presentation at the annual meeting of the Association Paléontologique Française. The meeting was held last month in Aix-en-Provence, France. Her presentation was on the jaw of a giant bird from the Eocene of France. The PeerJ Award, aimed at benefitting students and early career researchers, includes a free publication in PeerJ (upon submission and acceptance through our normal peer review system).

After the conference, Delphine took part in fieldwork excavations in southern France. Upon her return, she provided the following details about her presentation and research. Read on to join in her discoveries!

  • Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I am currently a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bristol in the School of Earth Sciences.

My research focuses on the paleobiology and paleoecology of large terrestrial fossil birds, using a multidisciplinary approach. I am specifically interested in the determination of their diet, locomotion, reproduction, sexual dimorphism, and population structure. To this end, I use a large range of tools including finite element analysis, bone histology, isotope geochemistry, and a morpho-functional approach.

I have had the opportunity to work on many fossil birds, from several countries and ages, including a large late Cretaceous bird from France named Gargantuavis and the large South American flightless Phorusrhacidae birds, or Gastornis known during the Tertiary period mainly in Europe and North America. My current research focuses on reconstructing the ecology and biology of the famous dodo.

Delphine collecting fossil eggshells of giant birds in southern France. Photo credit: Eric Buffetaut.

  • Can you briefly explain the research you presented at the French Paleontological Association Congress?

I presented a recent work that I just finished about a new mandible of a giant terrestrial bird. My presentation, “A new Gastornis mandible from Saint Papoul: implications of its unexpected size”, was focused on the description of this new fossil, the comparison with the other known comparable specimens and the final attribution to Gastornis parisiensis.

However, this work was more exciting than expected because, during my work on this mandible, I noticed that this fossil is much larger than the mandible known for the same birds elsewhere in France. This new mandible is so large that it forced us to propose new hypotheses to try and explain this size difference. After the rejection of several hypotheses, the final interpretation is to propose a new import sexual dimorphism among the Gastornis, which has never been described before.

Delphine in the laboratory. Photo credit: Eric Buffetaut.

  • What are your next steps? How will you continue to build on this research?

The next step for this particular research will be to completely test this new hypothesis. We will need a new review of all fossils attributed to these birds and we will need to use new tools to test if this important variation in size can be observed for other bones.

More generally, I will continue to work on the paleoecology and paleobiology of giant extinct birds.


View PeerJ research in Paleontology and Evolutionary Science

About: PeerJ publishes two open access, peer-reviewed publications: PeerJ serving the Life and Environmental Sciences and PeerJ Computer Science. Additionally, PeerJ is thrilled to be accepting submissions as of January 2019 for five newly launched, open access PeerJ Chemistry journals. We also publish PeerJ Preprints which is an innovative ‘preprint server’ covering Biology, Medical, Environmental, and Computer Science. Our mission is to make Open Access affordable, fast, and easier for researchers and institutions.

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