September 23, 2011
With our baby’s appearance in National Geographic this week, she’s now been in four mainstream magazines:
That’s National Geographic at top left, Macleans next to it; The Scientist at bottom left, and National Geographic Kids next to that. (The articles in the first three of these are available online here, here and here, but I can’t find anything on the NG Kids web-site.)
There is a point to this post, beyond
gloating celebrating Brontomerus: it’s that diligent preparation improves a study’s chance of getting good coverage. A few people have asked us to write a bit about what we did, so at the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, here it is.
Most of Brontomerus‘s visibility is due to the hard work of the UCL Publicity team, and especially the excellent and widely-reproduced video that they made in the Grant Museum. But we made it easy for UCL to take an interest by preparing a bunch of materials ahead of time, before they even knew that there was a paper coming out. We called it the Brontomerus press pack, and made sure it contained everything anyone could need for writing and illustrating stories about our animal:
- The basic story
- Background on what a sauropod is
- Two variations of a life restoration
- A video of a rotating 3d model of the animal
- A photo of all the bones; detailed photo of the important ilium
- A skeletal reconstruction
- A photo of the three co-authors with the material
- Explicit credits, copyrights and permissions for the images and video
- Link to the proof PDF of the paper itself
- A fact sheet, noting common errors to avoid
In short, we tried to give journalists, and radio and TV researchers, everything they needed to put together a story aimed at their own audience. More than that — we tried to make it easy for them. They have plenty going on, after all: Brontomerus came out on the day that the Libyan protests really took off, so it’s not as though news editors were short of material to fill their slots. I suspect that if we’d not got all the ducks in such a neat row, Brontomerus would have disappeared from the news schedule in double-quick time.
Another important thing you can do to make news editors’ jobs easier: make sure that the images you provide are in high resolution, so they don’t pixellate when they’re blown up to fill a screen; and be explicit about image/video credit, copyright and permissions. Let them know what they can use and under what conditions. If you make them hunt for that information, or even chase you for it, they’ll probably lose interest and do a different piece instead. And we really wanted the artist who’d done the Brontomerus work to be credited: Paco Gasco did a fantastic job, and deserved to be known for it.
Equally important, by getting as much material as possible ready before even contacting the university publicity people, we made their job easier. Once they were on board, we were able to extend the page with extras like an official press release and the video, but the framework was all in place ahead of time.
In short, there is a whole load that you can do to prepare a study for media coverage. Not much of it is rocket-science. It’s basically just about getting the work done. And it is work, plenty of it.
Still. It’s worth it.
And another thing …
You should all get across to Heinrich Mallison’s new blog and check it out. Lots of excellent palaeo-photography, even if today’s post is about a stinkin’ mammal.
Addendum (from Matt)
First, some credit where it’s due. We didn’t figure all of this out on our own. For Brontomerus in particular, we took a lot of cues from the fact sheet that Irmis et al. put together for their 2007 “rise of dinosaurs” paper that made the cover of Science.
Second, we did figure some of it out on our own, but not all at once. If you look at Mike’s unofficial online press packs for Xenoposeidon (2007), our neck posture paper (2009), and Brontomerus (2011), you’ll see that each one is better than the one before.
Finally, you may be saying to yourself, “Okay, I understand that I’m supposed to make things easy for journalists and have a bunch of stuff queued up for them. But where do I put it?”
Well, online, obviously. If you don’t already have a blog, WordPress and Blogger and probably a zillion other services give them out for free, and you can make an ad hoc, one-shot blog for every press-release-worthy paper, as Mark Witton and Darren did for their azhdarchid paleobiology paper in PLoS ONE.
But let me wax preachy for a minute. If you’re a young researcher and you’re trying to make an impact, why aren’t you blogging? It’s not an intolerable commitment. Sure, regular posting brings more readers, but irregular posting brings more readers than not having a blog at all.
We started SV-POW! as a joke, and continued it during the actually-posting-weekly-about-sauropod-vertebrae phase (which lasted for 2.5 years) because it was fun and challenging, and maintain it now because it’s fun, we enjoy the wacky discussions that get going from time to time in the comments, and, frankly, we’re addicted to having a soapbox where we can say pretty much whatever we want. We didn’t explicitly plan it as a way to funnel readers to our scientific work, but that has been one of its great exaptive benefits. I’d be shocked if the same isn’t true for other researchers who blog.
So, moral of the story: if you’re a researcher and you’re not blogging, you’re missing out. Your work is reaching fewer people than it might. Come out and play. Join the conversation. Interact. Your future self will thank you.
September 20, 2011
The October 2011 issue of National Geographic is out, and in the ‘Now’ section near the front there is a one-page feature on Brontomerus (in the US version anyway). The whole thing is can be viewed online here. It’s page 30 in the hardcopy, but NG seems pretty cavalier about printing page numbers.
The art is by Mauricio Antόn and we’re super happy with it; as before we had the opportunity to go back and forth a lot and arrive at a finished piece that shows essentially everything we wanted. The author of the piece, Catherine Zuckerman, was also very patient in distilling down the reams of information Mike and I sent her about the story. Many thanks to both Mauricio and Catherine for their interest and hard work!
November 19, 2010
Just noticed this over on ScienceBlogs:
SV-POW!sketeer Darren’s Naish’s other blog Tetrapod Zoology has — rightly — often featured strongly in the Readers’ Picks sidebar; but this is the first time I’ve seen it, or indeed any blog, completely monopolise the list.
ScienceBlogs has other blogs that get more hits and more comments than Tet Zoo — mostly because they consist of flamebait — but when you want solid chunks of meaty, scientific nourishment, Tet Zoo now seems to be pretty well established as king of the hill. On the slight chance that any SV-POW! readers aren’t already regulars at Tet Zoo, let me recommend it in the strongest terms: I know of no other blog that does such a good job of presenting hardcore science in a readable, approachable manner.
So congratulations to Darren, and long may it continue!
February 5, 2010
Here’s one of those text-light photo posts that we always aspire to but almost never achieve. In the spring of 2008 I flew to Utah to do some filming for the History Channel series “Evolve”, in particular the episode on size, which aired later that year. I always intended to post some pix from that trip once the show was done and out, and I’m just now getting around to it…a bit belatedly.
Here’s the view out the back door of the BYU Earth Sciences Museum in Provo, Utah. Not bad–the mountains actually made me drag my eyes away from sauropod vertebrae for a few seconds here and there.
Here’s the view in other direction, with Brooks Britt using a forklift to retrieve the big Supersaurus cervical.
And here is said cervical, with a mid-cervical of a giraffe for scale. You may remember the big cervical from this post (and if you click that link, notice how much nicer the new collections area is than the off-site barn where I first encountered the Cervical of Doom). Sauropods FTW!
While the film crew were shooting Brooks and picking up some establishing shots, I was ransacking the collections for pretty vertebrae. We took our treasures up to the University of Utah med center in Salt Lake for CT scanning. Here Kent Sanders is helping me tape down a Diplodocus cervical.
And here’s Kent in the CT reading room playing with the data. Like old times–I spent most of my Saturdays in 1998 and 1999 scanning verts with Kent when he was at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The next morning we went to the North American Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi. Here’s a view down the main drag, with the mounted Supersaurus on the left, mounted Brachiosaurus in the center, and original Supersaurus sacrum (on loan from BYU) in the case on the right.
The highlight of my day trip year.
I was back at BYU just a few months ago shooting another documentary, but that story will have to wait for the dramatically appropriate moment. Stay tuned!
December 15, 2009
So I finally got to see the Discovery Channel’s new series, Clash of the Dinosaurs. The show follows the common Discovery Channel MO of cutting between CGI critters and talking heads. I’m one of the talking heads, and I get a lot of air time, and I suppose I should be happy about that. But I’m not, for reasons I’ll explain.
I need to preface what follows by saying that I thought the other talking heads did a great job. My experience suggests that the scientific problems with the series didn’t originate with the scientists, infrasound weapons excepted. Tom Holtz–another of the talking heads, and a good one–nailed it on the DML:
For those going to watch the show, a warning:
The documentarians often take anything that any of the talking heads speculated about, and transformed these into declarative statements of fact. In some cases this is particularly egregious, because I strongly disagree with some of these statements and believe the facts are against some of these (say, about tyrannosaurid cranial kinesis…) and they present these as facts rather than suppositions.
In the fall of 2008 the folks at Dangerous Ltd, a London-based film production company, asked me if I’d be interested in being part of a new documentary project, which had the working title “Dino Body” (this isn’t a trade secret or anything, that title was on the Dangerous webpage for months). The grand idea was to show how much we’ve learned about how dinosaurs actually lived.
Now, this is something I care about a lot. In the past couple of decades we’ve learned about the physiology, diets, nesting habits, growth rates, and social lives of dinosaurs, in unprecedented detail. Things no one predicted and that I would have bet heavily against, like burrowing dinosaurs, four-winged raptors, and comparative studies of dinosaur and pterosaur genomes, are backed by solid evidence. We are in a golden age of dinosaur paleobiology, and new discoveries, even new kinds of discoveries, are stacking up faster than I can really keep up. So it would be a great time to bring all this new evidence to the public.
In the late 2008 and early 2009 I spent a LOT of time with the people at Dangerous Pictures, going over all kinds of questions about dinosaur biology. I sent them papers, links to blog posts, diagrams, you name it. They seemed really keen to get the science right, and I was hopeful that we’d get a dinosaur documentary that wasn’t overly speculative sensationalized BS.
Sadly, that hope was to be mercilessly crushed.
The series has some obvious faults. It is incredibly repetitive, to the point that I found it hard to watch for any length of time without my attention wandering. Not just the CGI clips, but the narration as well. You’ll learn in 30 seconds why females tend to be choosier about mates than males (eggs are more expensive than sperm), and spend the next 15 minutes having that slowly beaten in your brain using as much empty verbiage as possible. Ditto every other fact on the show.
More galling are the places where animation is cleverly cut with talking head bits so that we end up describing things that were never in the script. I explained on camera about the unavoidably high mortality among juvenile sauropods, and how groups of Deinonychus could probably pick off the baby sauropods like popcorn. I had been speaking of hatchlings, but my words are cut together with a scene–which you’ll see about 15,000 times–of three Deinonychus taking down an elephant-sized subadult Sauroposeidon. In the real world, it would have pulped them. In the dramatically-lit world of Clash of the Dinosaurs, the three raptors inflict a handful of very shallow flesh wounds with their laughably tiny claws and the Sauroposeidon expires theatrically for no visible reason.
(If they really wanted to impress the audience with the implacability of Mesozoic death, they would have shown the three raptors mowing down a field of newly-hatched babies like so much wheat…)
I spent a long time explaining the evidence that sauropods buried their eggs, and at their request I mocked up diagrams showing the possible proportions of a hatchling Sauroposeidon. So naturally the program shows a mother abandoning her eggs in an exposed nest, and then a few minutes later, hatchlings that are perfect miniatures of the adults struggling up out of the ground. I guess they cut the scene in which the Sand Fairy buried the eggs, and lacked the budget to perform the simple morph of the digital model that would have made the babies look like babies, instead of ponderous adults emerging from the Sarlacc pit.
Some may complain that I am picking nits. But what the heck is the point of bringing on scientific advisors if you’re then going to ignore the stuff they tell you? Why not just make the crap up out of the whole cloth? In fact, there is far too much of that in the show. There is no evidence that Quetzalcoatlus could see dinosaur pee with its ultraviolet vision, or that a herd of hadrosaurs could knock over a predator with their concentrated infrasound blasts. Sorry, paleontologists, you’ll be fielding questions about these newly invented “facts” for the next decade at least.
It’s like I had this great working relationship with the researchers, and they were really curious and careful, and we went to great lengths to do the best work we could, and then somewhere in between my filming back in February and the airing of the completed show, all of our diligent work was flushed right down the crapper, and a fresh script was written by a hyperactive child whose only prior preparation was reading Giant-Size X-Men and getting hit on the head a few times.
Do I sound too harsh? I’m just getting started. Let me tell you about the sacral expansion in sauropods.
Back in the Back in the Day
In many sauropods and stegosaurs and a few other archosaurs, the neural canal (the bony tube that houses the spinal cord) is massively enlarged in the sacral vertebrae. This is the origin of the goofy idea that big dinosaurs had a “second brain” back there to control their hind end, because the real brain up front was (supposedly) just too darn tiny and remote. The researchers at Dangerous asked me about this sacral enlargement, and this is what I told them (quoted from an e-mail I sent November 25, 2008):
The sacro-lumbar expansion is possibly the most misunderstood thing in sauropod biology. First, there are two separate things that have been referred to as sacro-lumbar expansions. The first is the slight swelling of the spinal cord in that region in almost all vertebrates, including humans, to accomodate the neurons that help run the hind limbs (you also have a swelling in the spinal cord at the base of your neck to help run your arms). Contrary to popular belief, a lot of your stereotyped actions require little direct involvement from the brain and are instead controlled by the spinal cord. When you walk, for example, most of the motor control is handled by the spinal cord, and your brain only steps in when you have to actually worry about where to place your feet–when you step over a puddle, for example. So there would be nothing remarkable about sauropods using their spinal cords to drive many of their limb movements, this is something that pretty much all vertebrates do, it’s just not widely known to the public. [Aside: this is true. Also, I have heard it claimed that sauropods could not have reared because their brains were too small to coordinate such an action. This was claimed by a non-biologist who evidently doesn't know how the nervous system works.]
The other sacro-lumbar expansion really is an expansion, but it’s not unique to sauropods and it has nothing to do with running the hind limbs. Most birds have a very large expansion of the spinal cord in the sacro-lumbar region called the glycogen body. As the name implies, it stores energy-rich glycogen, but the function of the glycogen body is very poorly understood. It has been hypothesized to be an accessory organ of balance, or a reservoir of compounds to support the growth and maintenance of the nervous system. Since we don’t even know what it does in birds, we’re straight out of luck when it comes to figuring out what it did in sauropods. Here’s a brief overview:
Here’s an explanatory diagram I sent with the message:
This business about the glycogen body caused some consternation and dithering in the production process. They wanted to bring up the second brain because it’s so entrenched in the popular consciousness (i.e., bad dinosaur books), but they were unhappy that the real explanation turned out to be so unsatisfying (“We don’t know what it does, but not that!”). In the end, we did discuss it briefly on camera. I said something like, “There was this old idea that the sacral expansion functioned as a second brain to control the hindlimbs and tail. But in fact, it almost certainly contained a glycogen body, like the sacral expansions of birds. Trouble is, nobody knows exactly what the glycogen bodies of birds do.”
Somebody in the editing room neatly sidestepped the mystery of the glycogen body by cutting that bit down, so what I am shown saying in the program is this, “The sacral expansion functioned as a second brain to control the hindlimbs and tail.” I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have a DVR, but that’s basically it. (Update: my memory was pretty good. Here’s the interview transcript.)
Do you see, do you understand, what they did there? I was explaining why an old idea was WRONG and they cut away the frame and left me presenting the discredited idea like it’s hot new science. How freaking unethical is that?
So. I don’t know if the decision to turn my words around 180 degrees was a mistake made by an individual editor, or if it was approved from someplace higher up the line. I aim to find out. Until I do, I’m boycotting Dangerous Ltd, and I encourage you to do likewise.
The Final Insult
Oh, and they spelled my name wrong, throughout. And also mispelled Sauroposeidon in one of the quiz bits at commercial time. “What does Sauroposeiden mean?” It means you don’t know the Greek pantheon, sauropods, or basic spellchecking, dumbasses.
Science journalism FAIL.
UPDATE, January 27, 2010
This is so perfect that it hurts. For “Science Channel” feel free to substitute any of the ignotainment feeds operated by Discovery Communications.
December 7, 2009
Broadly speaking, pneumatic sauropod vertebrae come in two flavors. In more primitive, camerate vertebrae, modeled here by Haplocanthosaurus, the centrum is a round-ended I-beam and the neural arch is composed of intersecting flat plates of bone called laminae (lam above; fos = fossa, nc = neural canal, ncs = neurocentral suture; Ye Olde Tyme vert pic from Hatcher 1903).
In more derived, camellate vertebrae, the centrum and neural arch are both honeycombed with many small air spaces. This inflated-looking morphology is very similar to that seen in birds, like the turkey we recently discussed. The fossae and foramina on the outside tend to be smaller and more numerous than in camerate vertebrae, as shown here in a titanosauriform axis from India (Figure 3 from Wilson and Mohabey 2006). The green arrows show that the fossae visible on the external surface are excavations or depressions into the honeycombed internal structure of the bone.
External fossae on bones can house many different soft tissues, including muscles, pads of fat or cartilage, and pneumatic diverticula (O’Connor 2006). Pneumatic fossae are often strongly lipped and internally subdivided and may contain pneumatic foramina, which makes them easier to diagnose (but they may also be simple, smooth, and “blind”, which makes them harder to diagnose as pneumatic). But in all of these cases we are usually talking about the same thing: a visible excavation into a corpus of bony tissue, which may have marrow spaces inside if it is apneumatic, or air spaces inside if it is pneumatic (the corpus of bone, not the dent). That’s probably how most of us think about fossae, and it would hardly need to be explained…except that sometimes, something much weirder happens.
Consider this cervical of Brachiosaurus (this is BYU 12866, from Dry Mesa, Colorado). Brachiosaurus and Giraffatitan have an in-between form of vertebral architecture that my colleagues and I have called semicamellate (Wedel et al. 2000); the centrum does have large simple chambers (camerae), but smaller, thin-walled camellae are also variably present, especially along the midline of the vertebra and in the ends of the centrum. As in Haplocanthosaurus, the neural arch is composed of intersecting plates of bone; unlike Haplocanthosaurus, these laminae are not flat or smooth but are instead highly sculpted with lots of small fossae. Janensch (1950) called these “Aussenkaverne”, or accessory outside cavities, because and they are smaller and more variable than the large fossae and foramina that invade the centrum.
And that’s the weird thing. As the red arrows in the above image show, the “Aussenkaverne” are not excavations or depressions into anything, except the space on the other side of the lamina (which in life would have been occupied by another diverticulum). The neural arches of Brachiosaurus and Giraffatitan are not excavated by fossae, they’re embossed, like corporate business cards and fancy napkins.
What’s up with that!? We tend to think of pneumaticity as reducing the mass of the affected elements, but the shortest distance between two vertebral landmarks is a smooth lamina. These embossed laminae actually require slightly more bony material than smooth ones would.
As you can see above, the outer edges of the laminae are thick but the bone everywhere else is very thin. Maybe, like the median septa in pneumatic sauropod vertebrae, the thin bone everywhere except the edges of the laminae was just not loaded very much or very often, and was therefore free to get pushed around by the diverticula on either side, in the sense of being continually and quasi-randomly remodeled into shapes that don’t strike us as being very mechanically efficient. But also like the median septa, the thin parts of the laminae are only rarely perforated (but it does happen), for possible (read: arm-wavy) reasons discussed in the recent FEA post. And maybe the amount of extra bone involved in making embossed laminae versus smooth ones was negligible even by the very light standards of sauropod vertebrae.
Another question: since these thin sheets of bone were sandwiched in between two sets of diverticula, why are the “unfossae” always embossed into them, in the medial or inferior direction? Why don’t any of them pop out laterally or dorsally, looking like domes or bubbles instead of holes, like Mount Fist-of-God from Larry Niven’s Ringworld? Did the developmental program get accustomed to making fossae that went down and into a corpus of bone, and just kept on with business as usual even when there was no corpus of bone to excavate into? I’m only half joking.
I don’t have good answers for any of these questions. I scanned this vert a decade ago and I only noticed how weird the “unfossae” were a few months ago. I’m putting all this here because “Hey, look at this weird thing that I can only wave my arms about” is not a great basis for a peer-reviewed paper, and because I’d like your thoughts on what might be going on.
In Other News
The Discovery Channel’s Clash of the Dinosaurs premiered last night. I would have given you a heads up, except that I didn’t get one myself. I only discovered it was on because of a Facebook posting (thanks, folks!).
COTD is intended to be the replacement, a decade on, for Walking With Dinosaurs. I’m happy to report that one of the featured critters is Sauroposeidon. I grabbed a couple of frames from the clips posted here.
I haven’t seen the series yet, because I don’t have cable. But I’m hoping to catch it at a friend’s place next Sunday night, Dec. 13, when the entire series will be shown again. With any luck, I’ll have more news next week.
Finally, I got to do an interview at Paw-Talk, a forum for all things animal. I’m very happy with how it turned out, so thanks to Ava for making it happen. While you’re over there, have a look around, there’s plenty of good stuff. Brian Switek, whom you hopefully know from this and this, is a contributor; check out his latest here.
- Hatcher, J.B. 1903. Osteology of Haplocanthosaurus, with a description of a new species, and remarks on the probable habits of the Sauropoda, and the age and origin of Atlantosaurus beds. Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum 2:1–72.
- Janensch, W. 1950. Die Wirbelsaule von Brachiosaurus brancai. Palaeontographica (Suppl. 7) 3:27-93.
- O’Connor, P.M. 2006. Postcranial pneumaticity: an evaluation of soft-tissue influences on the postcranial skeleton and the reconstruction of pulmonary anatomy in archosaurs. Journal of Morphology 267:1199-1226.
- Wedel, Mathew J., Richard L. Cifelli and R. Kent Sanders. 2000. Osteology, paleobiology, and relationships of the sauropod dinosaur Sauroposeidon. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 45(4): 343-388.
- Wilson, J. A. and Mohabey, D. M. 2006. A titanosauriform axis from the Lameta Formation (Upper Cretaceous: Maastrichtian) of central India. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26:471–479.
May 28, 2009
[I wrote this in the cafe on the ground floor of the BBC's Millbank studios, where I spent much of yesterday, just before I headed off for Paddington and the train home. I have lightly edited it since the original composition.]
It’s been a day spent doing publicity for the new SV-POW! paper on sauropod neck posture.
Overall, there’s been a little less interest than we were able to rustle up for Xenoposeidon, but we nevertheless got a live TV interview on Channel 4 News, plus radio interviews on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, BBC Scotland, BBC Radio Solent (twice) and finally BBC Wales (which turned out to be my favourite). In the mean time, Darren was being interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live. So a very BBC-centric day, with Channel 4 the only independent to take up the story. (That contrasts with Xeno, when I seemed to spend the whole day doing interviews on the mobile phone for various independent radio stations as I was rushing between studios for the big boys.)
We got pretty good coverage in print, too. I bought all the national dailies and went through looking for sauropod-neck news. There was a good third-of-a-page story in Guardian (thanks to their fine science reporter Ian Sample who also did such a good job on Xeno), and smaller spots in the Times and Independent. The Telegraph, oddly, included a nice photo of the NHM Diplodocus with an inset of Mark Witton’s artwork, but accompanied it with no text other than a 38-word caption. Go figure. There were brief mentions in the early editions of the Mirror and Sun, although they dropped out in later editions; I couldn’t find anything in the Mail, the Express or the Star — I think that’s everything. There was a nice bonus in Metro, London’s free daily, which had half a page on the story including a nice big photo of the Berlin brachiosaur, with me by its elbow for scale.
As I write this, I’ve not been able to check on the net and see what the online coverage has been like, beyond a very quick informal scan this morning before I left the house I was staying at for the first radio interview. I did find a story in the Times that was considerably more detailed that what made it into the print edition, so the same may have been true of other papers, too. I’ll see what Google News digs up for me when I get home. [Update: we're tracking Internet coverage on this page.]
A few themes emerged as the sequence of interviews progressed. Most predictably, lots of interviewers wondered whether this meant that the NHM would have to remount its Diplodocus skeleton. Not at all: the pose that it’s in is still a perfectly valid one, which it would have gone through in the transition between drinking and browsing poses; it’s just not what we think would have been the habitual pose. Paul Barrett was quoted for the counter-view in several of the printed reports, and made that point (though usually it was reported in truncated form). The BBC web-site’s coverage was unusually good in carefully reporting what we’d actually told everyone, that the mounted pose is one that would have been adopted from time to time, so hopefully no-one at the NHM will come away from thinking we were getting at them.
Another recurring theme was whether Seymour’s blood-pressure argument was good evidence that our proposed habitual posture is wrong. I didn’t want to say too much about this, because our thoughts on the subject are still in the process of approaching their final form and are not ready to be published, but hopefully I was able to say enough to satisfy the interviewers and listeners without giving it all away.
Another point that I tried to make when given the opportunity is that we don’t see this paper as closing the debate and settling the issue of posture once and for all — as if that could ever happen for any palaeobiological controversy. What we hope we’ve done is at least to reopen the debate and the end the unchallenged reign of the DinoMorph-compliant hangdog pose. Needless to say, plenty of work remains to be done on the issue of neck posture, and there are now at least two published arguments in favour of each candidate posture. The time may be ripe for a review article. For now, though, we confidently expect a published response from Kent “DinoMorph” Stevens, who we’ve discussed our work with at some length, and who has had a preprint for a few weeks now so that he could get working on it! Ah, the cut and thrust of debate — bring it on!
Update (later the same evening)
I have finally managed to make an MP3 of the last interview — the second one with BBC Radio Solent, with Sasha Twining who was standing in on the Steve Harris Show.
And a plea for help: although the Channel 4 News interview is still available on Channel 4′s own site, I know it won’t last for long — probably no more than a week — so if anyone is able to make an MPEG, AVI, FLV or similar of these, please please do, and send it my way. Thanks!
April 29, 2009
If you woke up this morning and thought, “Global warming is on the rise, amphibians are in a race to see who can go extinct first, the economy is in the toilet, any day now my boss will discover that I don’t actually do anything at work, and my blog will never have the eclectic cachet of SV-POW!, but at least Mike Taylor doesn’t have a Ph.D.,” then it is my happy duty to ruin your day. Mike defended today, successfully.
Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present Michael P. Taylor of Ruardean, Englishman, adventurer, raconteur, Doctor of Philosophy in the paleontological arts. Note that when recumbent he is approximately equal in length to 1.5 Sauroposeidon cervicals, and appears to be cradling an invisible wine glass. Don’t stare too long, or you might not be able to look away.
Congratulations, sir! Let the blogosphere ring with the happy news, and undescribed sauropods cry out for recognition.
Update (from Mike)
Thanks to Matt, and all commenters, for your kind words. I wondered when the “Latin love god” photo was going to appear, and that day has finally come. What Matt doesn’t know is that this photo was used for the cover of my forthcoming album:
March 2, 2009
There is almost too much coolness going on right now. Here’s a brief rundown.
SV-POW! on Tour
Mike and I just got back to our respective homes from the AMNH, where we spent a crazy day in the big bone room and received illumination at the shrine of Barosaurus (above). We came back armed with a gig or so of cool pictures, some of which you’ll see here in the near future and some of which we’ll put off showing you until the relevant papers come out (hopefully!).
Sauropods on TV
When I checked e-mail Thursday night I found out that I had been on TV and not known it. The US-based Discovery Channel spinoff Animal Planet is running an 8 episode series called Animal Armageddon, about the great mass extinctions. I’m in the two episodes devoted to the KT. I expected that they would run the episodes in the same order as the extinctions occurred, but they’re not, which I would have known had I checked the handy-dandy episode guide here (there’s one at the Animal Planet website, too, but all their animated geegaws make both me and my computer nauseated). Why is this relevant here? Because some of my talking-head time was given over to Alamosaurus, which will be on this week’s episode if it survived the cutting room floor. Tune in Thursday, March 5, at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific to find out.
Free Papers That Are Actually Free
Finally, what about the titular free papers? SV-POW! and Tet Zoo regular Ville Sinkkonen turned up some goodies at the Biodiversity Heritage Library and passed them on to me, and now I am passing them on to you:
These are far from the only sauropod papers at the BHL; in fact, they are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m listing these four specific papers because they’re the ones Ville sent and because they exist as stand-alone PDFs. For others that you find, you can either download a PDF of the entire volume in which the paper was published, or use a nifty online PDF generator to make a PDF of just the pages you want. Click the “Download/About this book” tab on the bar above the page viewer and then “Select pages to download”. User-generated PDFs will be hosted by the BHL for a while but not forever. Ville reports that the ones listed above should be good for 30 days (through the end of March 2009); after that you’ll have to make your own. Which is not onerous at all, considering how much literature is being made available for free here. The glass is not just half full, it is running over. Go slake your thirst for obscure sauropod papers, and don’t forget to hoist a metaphorical glass to Ville, or a real one if you get the chance!
November 15, 2008
Happy Xenoposeidon day! Today, November 15, 2008, is the one-year anniversary of the publication of Xenoposeidon Taylor and Naish 2007.
By happy coincidence, I’ve just been sent a courtesy copy of Kids Only, a new guide-book for the Natural History Museum … and there is Xenoposeidon on page 5, exemplifying dinosaur diversity. Rock!
It’s good to see our baby out there educating people!
For much more of Xeno, see Xenoposeidon week.