Is talking to enthusiastic scientists with a story to tell. When I was at the AMNH Extreme Mammals preview on Tuesday, I talked with Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, one of the scientists who discovered this fossil, Puijila darwini. It’s an exciting find: a pre-pinniped (pinnipeds are a group of animals that include seals and– a personal favorite here– walruses). This animal could walk as well as swim and probably looked a little an otter. But other features, such as the teeth, make the connection to their coastal kin. Here’s the research paper in Nature, Nature‘s Behind the Paper (both require subscriptions), and a National Geographic News story.
It’s fun science, and I’m sure as a former laboratory scientist that I romanticize the whole field component of heading out into the wild world of the Arctic for a month in the summer to look for fossils. It’s hard work, too. But talking with her about the work, the excitement of the find, the work they hope to do this summer, I caught the buzz, too. One of the great perks of my job is the opportunity to talk with scientists who are passionate about the process and effuse that excitement. The fact that she just published a paper in Nature— well, that bit is great for her career and helps us sell a story. But, in terms of my personal enjoyment, it’s icing on the cake.