Mateusz Wosik, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology at Misericordia University (MU), recently published a paper in Paleobiology, a Cambridge Core journal. This study tested several methods of identifying individual ages of duck-billed dinosaurs, which involved assessing fossils of the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada.
The paper focuses on the herbivorous duck-billed dinosaurs, also known as hadrosaurs. Fossil remains of these “Cretaceous Cows” are often found among large bonebeds containing hundreds to thousands of individuals, indicating that they traveled in herds similar to modern animals such as zebra and bison. This gathering behavior provided protection from large predators in the absence of lavish frills, horns, and claw-like structures known in other dinosaur groups. Southern Alberta was once a swampy, coastal region similar to modern Louisiana, so it is thought that most of these mass deaths were due to major flooding events during seasonal monsoonal storms.
Titled Testing size–frequency distributions as a method of ontogenetic aging: a life-history assessment of hadrosaurid dinosaurs from the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada, with implications for hadrosaurid paleoecology, the study found that hadrosaurs went through a 7-9-year period of rapid growth and lived a total of 15-20 years. For comparison, it takes an African elephant about 20 years to reach full size even after starting from a much larger initial size.
However, the most surprising finding in his research was that juveniles about one year old would almost always be found separate from the main herd. This suggested that these younger individuals would form their own juvenile gangs independent of adults until they reached a larger size at 2-3 years of age, at which point they would be reintegrated into the herd. “No matter how many ways we thought through the data, we seemed to always come back to the same conclusion,” noted Wosik. This result is the first clear indication of social population structure among gregarious dinosaurs and sets the ground work for similar studies on other dinosaur groups.
Dr. Wosik began his post-secondary education as a music performance and composition major at Elmhurst College (now University), but was drawn to the academic rigor of the sciences in his third-year. He initially pursued a degree in virology and pharmaceuticals, but a comparative anatomy course shifted his career path after Dr. Merilee Guenther, the professor teaching the course, provided him the opportunity to conduct lab research. After earning his Bachelors of Science degree in Biology, Wosik served as a Park Ranger at Badlands National Park in South Dakota, where he participated in fossil digs of extinct mammals and educated the public about the geology, paleontology, and culture of the region.
Being especially drawn to the teaching and interpretation aspect of the Park Ranger position, Wosik decided to further his education at the University of Toronto, where he conducted part of this recently published research in a high-caliber fast-paced lab at the Royal Ontario Museum under the supervision of Dr. David C. Evans. Wosik earned his doctorate in 2018 and shortly thereafter joined the Misericordia faculty as a way to work more attentively with students.
Wosik teaches courses in non-majors and upper-level anatomy and physiology and plans to expand on Misericordia’s current zoology curriculum to establish a pre-veterinary program. MU is also within driving distance of several world-renowned fossil collections, and the addition of the Henry Science Center will allow Wosik to conduct his cutting edge research alongside our students right here in the heart of Dallas, Pennsylvania.