Misericordia’s Dr. Mateusz Wosik Publishes Research On Dinosaurs And Brings His Knowledge Back To Campus For The Fall Semester
Mateusz Wosik, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology at Misericordia University and Program Director of Clinical Laboratory Science, recently published an article in the Journal of Anatomy, focusing on the life history of the duck-billed dinosaur, Edmontosaurus annectens.
Duck-billed dinosaurs can be thought of as the “cows of the cretaceous.” In Dr. Wosik's own words, “they have no cool weaponry or armor, just dumpy looking dinosaurs that gathered in herds and browsed on vegetation all day.” So why would he find these dinosaurs interesting? “I love studying them because they are instrumental components of the food chain for carnivorous animals of the times. In particular, Edmontosaurus annectens lived amongst the iconic Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex in the northwestern United States and southern Canada until their extinction at ~66mya and are some of the last non-avian dinosaurs to have ever lived!”
Trekking all the way to South Dakota, Dr. Wosik and his co-author, Dr. David C. Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum, analyzed the Ruth Mason Dinosaur Quarry, a very large bonebed that has been excavated for nearly 40 years. This bonebed has produced thousands of Edmontosaurus annectens individuals, making it an ideal candidate for a study of this dinosaur’s life history. The first step of the study assessed the size distribution of individuals from the bonebed by measuring all of the limb bones and plotting them in a size-frequency distribution. This is similar to what we’ve all done in grade school when measuring and plotting the height of everyone in the class. The results revealed five grouping of individuals within constrained size ranges.
To test whether these groupings represented cohorts, several bones were selected from each grouping to undergo histological sectioning. This is a process that involves cutting the fossilized bones to study their internal bone microstructure. Using this method, researchers can tap into knowledge of the animal’s physiology, which is unobtainable from traditional measurements and observations of the bone’s outer surface. The results indicated that the groupings did indeed align with ages, and therefore could be interpreted as cohorts. However, after 5 years of age, the cohorts began to overlap as Edmontosaurus approached its adult size by about 7 years of age. If we compare this to the growth of humans, newborns can be easily distinguished from toddlers, and just the same, a third grader from a seventh grader. But as we approach high school, our heights begin to overlap, and it becomes almost impossible to tease out ages based on general size. Dinosaurs were not excepted from this rule.
But the most interesting finding of this study was that there were no yearlings present in the bonebed, which included individuals as young as 2 years old up through 16 years of age. Modern animals usually provide parental care for their offspring until the young can fend for themselves. However, Dr. Wosik’s work on duck-billed dinosaurs is revolutionizing how paleontologists view their social behavior and demography. Building on his previous publications, Dr. Wosik’s research is providing comprehensive data that duck-billed dinosaurs provided little to no parental care for their offspring after hatching. Instead, the hatchlings would form their own independent juvenile gangs, although more research is needed to validate this hypothesis.
Dr. Wosik is a paleontologist that connects information between modern organisms and the fossil record to test questions about the evolution of anatomy and biodiversity through deep time. “I use bone histology, advanced imaging, and modeling techniques to study how the anatomy of extinct and modern vertebrates transforms from hatching/birth through senescence,” said Dr. Wosik. By using his findings, he is able to extend these relationships to the fossil record to better understand the evolution of major events in the history of life. By doing so, his research can be applied across a wide range of specimens and encourages collaborations with other paleontologists and interdisciplinary researchers.
For the Fall semester, Dr. Wosik is introducing a new course geared towards non-majors on Mondays from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm titled, “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,” a play on the original Jurassic Park. As part of the course, students will take field trips to places like the American Museum of Natural History in New York and welcome world-renowned paleontologists as guest lecturers. The public are strongly encouraged to attend the guest lectures, which will be held on campus around 7:00 pm on Mondays. Dates and guests are to be determined shortly. Bringing even more to Misericordia, Dr. Wosik can now conduct his research right here on campus at Misericordia’s very own Dinosaur Research Laboratory in the Henry Science Center. “I am excited to get going with new research here on campus and provide ample opportunities for students to get involved!” said Dr. Wosik.
The next projects in Dr. Wosik’s research lab include the biomechanics of Edmontosaurus, studying arctic dinosaurs from the North Slope of Alaska in collaboration with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and building partnerships with several National Park Service sites to increase student internship opportunities. For more information on Dr. Wosik’s research and courses, please contact him at email@example.com or call 570-674-8101.
For more information about his published article, Osteohistological and taphonomic life-history assessment of Edmontosaurus annectens (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae) from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Ruth Mason dinosaur quarry, South Dakota, United States, with implication for ontogenetic segregation between juvenile and adult hadrosaurids, please visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joa.13679