What this site is
Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, or SV-POW! for short, was first conceived as a sort of joke response to the excellent Astronomy Picture of the Day. But before long, it became apparent to us that SV-POW! had legs of its own, and that there really was an almost infinite amount of material we could cover. We originally intended each post to be super-short, basically just an image and a caption, but that’s not at all how it’s turned out.
Read what people are saying about SV-POW!.
Who we are
Three of us write this site:
Mike is a research associate at the University of Bristol, UK, Matt works at Western University of Health Sciences, California, USA, and Darren at the University of Southampton, UK. Note that WE DO NOT SPEAK FOR OUR INSTITUTIONS ON THIS BLOG, ONLY FOR OURSELVES.
Darren is an omnivore, and works on pretty much every group of tetrapods: in the past few years he’s published on sauropods, theropods, ornithischians, sloths, birds, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, turtles, all sorts of critters. Matt and especially Mike are a bit more focussed: Matt works on sauropods and, to a lesser extent, theropods including birds, especially in relation to skeletal pneumaticity; Mike works on partial mid-to-posterior dorsal vertebrae of sauropods. We frequently collaborate with each other and with other authors on a whole range of topics, from nomenclature to neck posture.
All three of us are working paleontologists and occasionally, against all odds, we get new papers out. Many of our papers were published before we started SV-POW!, and you can find out about them at the links above. As new papers come out, we’re writing about them here — see this page for an overview.
Why we do this
Although it’s not yet widely recognised, SV-POW! is the future of the Internet. Yes, I (Mike) am serious. It’s nice that companies like Amazon and E-Bay are out there, using the net for useful commercial purposes, but what it’s really about is facilitating small, super-focused groups of people with a shared interest … whether that’s sauropod vertebrae, 14th Century French pottery, the history of biscuits, whatever. I’d love to see more special-interest palaeo-blogs around: Ornithopod Manual Phalanx Picture of the Week, for example, or Basal Tyrannosaurid Metatarsal Picture of the Week.
Does writing this blog “count” in terms of academic credit? When we started writing it, in 2007, the answer was a clear no. Now, five years later, in 2012, it’s not so easy to judge. My guess is that in another five years it will be a clear yes.
From time to time, someone asks us to identity a fossil vertebra. As a matter of policy, we don’t do this, because we don’t know who might be a fossil dealer planning to sell scientifically important vertebrate material into private hands. Rather than giving offence by making a judgement on each individual case, it’s simpler for us to have a blanket policy. We just can’t risk having fossils turning up on eBay with the selling claiming “identified by Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week”. Thanks for understanding.
What you should do instead: First, no matter who you contact, be explicit about who owns the fossil and whether you intend to deposit it in a museum. Don’t be afraid to say that you own the fossil if you came by it legally; there are loads of ways to legally come into ownership of a fossil and, for better or worse, in the US the property laws are almost all on your side. But also do not be surprised if a paleontologist refuses to identify a privately-held fossil; from our perspective, such fossils are lost to science and any time we spend on them is time we can’t spend writing up material held in the public trust. Second, get thee to a museum.* Most natural history museums have some kind of procedure in place for dealing with situations like this, whether it’s a “bring in your fossil” day or farming the work out to grad students who need practice at fossil identification. Try to get an ID from someone who has seen the fossil in person–identifications based on photographs are notoriously dodgy. Third, if it is a fossil that you own, and it turns out to be something important, please consider donating it to a properly accredited museum so that everyone can benefit from it.
* That was a rhetorical flourish–do call ahead or email first.
Copyright and license
All contributions on this blog are copyright their respective authors, except where noted. (An important and recuring exception is that all photographs of fossils held by the Natural History Museum in London are copyright the museum.)
All original content on this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (details below), which basically means you can do whatever you want with it provided only that you credit the authors.