Mathematics and Palaeontology - An Unlikely Pair? No!

  • Date: 05/05/2011
Dr. Donald M. Henderson, Curator of Dinosaurs, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller Alberta

Calgary Place Tower (Shell)


Palaeontology has traditionally focused on describing new fossils and determining the relationships and evolutionary history of extinct life forms. Sometimes, it even attempts to understand how the unusual animals of the past would have gone about their daily lives. However, apart from statistical analyses, mathematics has generally not been applied to the study of fossil organisms and as an aid in understanding their biology. This talk will present the methods and results of four recent studies that applied quantitative and computational methods to answer palaeontological questions:


1) simulation of the erosion of dinosaur footprints in an attempt to distinguish weathered surface tracks from 'undertracks';

2) examining the systematic changes in body shape and rotational inertia during the evolution of carnivorous dinosaurs, and the possible implications for their locomotion and feeding strategies;

3) estimating the body masses of pterosaurs and what modes of flight were possible, or not; and

4) estimating how many dinosaur skeletons have eroded away and been lost forever from Dinosaur Provincial Park prior to the arrival of palaeontologists in the early 20th century, and how many are still in the ground awaiting discovery.



Calgary Place Tower 1 (330 5th Avenue SW), Room 1116/18

Sign-up Deadline: Monday, May 3rd, 2011 by noon.


Everyone is welcome. A light lunch will be served.

Other Information: 

The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences is grateful for the support of Shell Canada Limited, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, and the University of Calgary for their support of this series of lectures.


pimsshellucal ucal