New papers in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology and Journal of the Royal Society Interface

NEW! Odin, G.P., McNamara, M.E., Arwin, H., Järrendahl, K., 2018. Experimental degradation of helicoidal photonic nanostructures in scarab beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae): implications for the identification of circularly polarizing cuticle in the fossil record. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 15, . DOI: .

NEW! Yang, Z., Wang, S., Tian, Q., Wang, B., Hethke, M., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Xu, X., Jiang, B., 2018. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and biostratinomic analysis of the Jurassic Yanliao Lagerstätte in northeastern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, xx, xx. DOI:


Friday 21st September at 5pm!

Come visit UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences for an amazing interactive event that will let you get up close and personal with everything from creepy crawlies to sharks to gems and feathered dinosaurs! Touch and feel rare and valuable specimens from our collections, including hedgehogs, shark jaws, lava and fossils.

Take a closer look in our Micro Lab, where you can use microscopes, magnifying glasses and zoomboxes to investigate everything from tiny creatures living in the River Lee, to grains of sand, to plant cells. Find out what it’s like to be a scientist in our Meet the Scientist room. Don’t forget to visit the albatross photo booth, test water samples, watch plants drink and take part in a fossil dig!

New paper in Nature Communications on fossil colour

(image: black aggregates of melanosomes in a histological section of extant frog liver)

UCC palaeontologists make new discovery forcing rethink on colours of fossil birds, reptiles and dinosaurs

A UCC-led discovery of new sources of the pigment melanin will force scientists to rethink how they reconstruct the colour of fossil birds, reptiles and dinosaurs.

Many recent studies of fossil colour have assumed fossilized granules of melanin – melanosomes – come from the skin. But new evidence shows that other tissues – such as the liver, lungs, and spleen – can also contain melanosomes, suggesting that fossil melanosomes may not provide information on fossil colour.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, is led by UCC’s Dr Maria McNamara in collaboration with her PhD student Valentina Rossi, Dr Patrick Orr from UCD, and an international team of palaeontologists from the UK and Japan.

‘It’s absolutely critical that we understand the origins of melanosomes in fossils if we want to produce accurate reconstructions of the colours of ancient animals,’ said Dr McNamara.

The team studied internal tissues in modern frogs with powerful microscopes and chemical techniques to show that internal melanosomes are highly abundant.

“This means that these internal melanosomes could make up the majority of the melanosomes preserved in some fossils,” said collaborator Prof. Mike Benton at the University of Bristol.

The team also used decay experiments and analysed fossils to show that the internal melanosomes can leak into other body parts during the fossilization process, “like snowflakes inside a snow globe”, said Dr Orr.

There is a way, however, to tell the difference between melanosomes from internal organs and the skin. “The size and shape of skin melanosomes is usually distinct from those in internal organs’, said Dr McNamara. ‘This will allow us to produce more accurate reconstructions of the original colours of ancient vertebrates.”

The paper is published today in Nature Communications:

See below for some news items on the study:

NEW! 4-year fully funded PhD position available

The impact of organic matter on heavy metal bioavailability in urban soils: experimental and field-based approaches

Heavy metal (HM) contamination in urban soils is a major global geohazard, but data on this issue in Ireland is lacking, particularly the extent to which the amount and type of soil organic matter affects the bioavailability and chemical state of HM. The proposed research will resolve these issues using a powerful dual approach combining the first systematic survey of urban soils in southern Ireland, focussing on soils in recreational areas, and innovative laboratory experiments exploring the impact of different sources of organic matter on heavy metal solubility, oxidation state and local chemical environment. The study will provide baseline data on the extent and toxicity of HM contamination in Irish urban recreational soils, guiding planning and bioremediation, and will serve as a platform for developing research capacity on the fate of HM in the geosphere. Diverse dissemination activities will ensure visibility of the research amongst academics, policymakers and the public.

The project is funded under the iCRAG – GSI Environmental Geosciences PhD Programme and is supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the GSI.

Projects are fully funded for four years with a stipend of €18,500 per annum plus fees for EU applicants.


Key dates

Project start date: 3rd September 2018

Application deadline: 1 pm Friday 22 June 2018

How to apply

Applications must be submitted via the online application portal before the application deadline. If you have any queries about the application process, please email:

More information


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