The primary decorative flooring tile in the Southpark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, is fossiliferous limestone that contains Jurassic ammonoids and belemnoids. Visible in these tiles are more than 500 ammonoids, many of which have been cross sectioned equatorially perpendicular to the plane of coiling. Upperlevel undergraduate students from UNC Charlotte used this data set to measure ammonoid coiling geometry and, thus, coiling strategy, and their findings were compared with earlier reported research presented in highly respected paleobiology journals. This example of urban paleobiology utilized a large, easily accessible, and readily available fossil data set to introduce functional morphology of coiled cephalopods. Similar data sets are available in public buildings around the United States, providing a valuable fossil resource at a time when shrinking academic budgets would prohibit purchasing such a collection (and many collections have not been updated in decades). As students compared their results with those previously published by professional paleontologists, they were exposed to the methods and limits of the scientific method in the historical sciences, as well as the dangers of poor sample selection.
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Vol. 74 • No. 6