If you have any interest in the fossil history and relationships of the Carnivora then you will almost certainly know the work of Blaire Van Valkenburgh. Currently a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, she is also President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. You may have seen Prof. Van Valkenburgh appear recently on the BBC programme “Ice Age Giants”. Her research has tackled questions about the lifestyles, forms, and niches of many extinct species but her association with the sabre-cat (Smilodon fatalis), and dire wolf (Canis dirus) from the tarpits of Rancho La Brea has resulted in multiple publications in Science and other top-tier journals. Blaire’s intimate understanding of these remains ensures her presence whenever an authority is needed on the topic of ice-age carnivores. Through minute inspection of the fantastic tarpit skulls, Prof. Van Valkenburgh and colleagues were the first to show that rates of tooth-breakage among Pleistocene carnivores were up to 3 times higher than are found in modern-day predators, suggesting an intense competition for access to food during the waning of the ice-age. Tough times at La Brea, indeed!  Written by Ross Barnett (@DeepFriedDNA). edited by Brenna (@brennawalks)

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