MSU graduate, professor have cover article in Journal of Paleontology

MSU graduate, professor have cover article in Journal of Paleontology

MSU graduate, professor have cover article in Journal of Paleontology

To have a scholarly article published by an academic or scientific journal is an accomplishment that students and professors aim for. When the article winds up as a cover story on one of the most respected journals of your field, it’s an academic grand slam.

Associate Professor of Geosciences Jesse Carlucci and MSU Texas graduate Gabriel Jacobs hit that mark when their research was published by the Journal of Paleontology, the publication of the Paleontological Society, an international organization devoted to paleontology. The article, “Ontogeny and shape change of the phacopid trilobite Calyptaulax,” appeared in the November issue, with a photo by Jacobs on the cover.

Jonathan Price, Chair of the Kimbell School of Geosciences, noted that the Journal of Paleontology was one of the top publications in the field. “Just getting published in it is a big deal. Getting the cover is way beyond that,” he said. “This was an impressive outcome for Jesse and Gabriel, and for our graduate program.”

Carlucci had been working on the trilobite project for almost five years. When Jacobs entered the Robert L. Bolin Graduate School of Geology when it began in 2016, he and Carlucci decided to make it Jacobs’ master’s project.

“One of the things we study in my lab is the evolutionary and ecologic history of a group of animals called trilobites,” Carlucci said. “They are extinct on Earth today, but they were extremely diverse in the ancient past, hundreds of millions of years ago.”

The research that Jacobs and Carlucci published involved removing hundreds of tiny trilobites of one particular species that were locked away in ancient sedimentary rocks. The composition of the trilobites was different from the surrounding rock, so they used hydrochloric acid to dissolve the rock, rinsed them, and mounted them on insect pins.

“Finally, we used a technique called geometric morphometrics to mathematically study how this one species of trilobite changes shape as it grows. This is related to a concept called allometry – juvenile animals change their shape as they grow in size from small to large,” Carlucci said. “This is why human babies have different proportions than adults. The research in Journal of Paleontology summaries all the mathematical shape changes that take place as this one species develops from a juvenile to an adult.”

The photo used on the cover is a hypostome, the mouthparts of the trilobite.

Jacobs earned his Master of Science in Geosciences in 2017. Carlucci joined the MSU Texas faculty in 2012.

See the November issue of the Journal of Paleontology here. The Journal is published by Cambridge University Press.