The Magi present gifts to the Christ child

Here comes Santaposeidon!

December 22, 2009

Ever since we started working on Sauroposeidon, Rich Cifelli and I dreamed of seeing the reconstructed neck on display. That vision has come to fruition.

The Oklahoma Museum of Natural History opened a totally new building in 2000. Coincidentally, the opening ceremony for the new digs was held the same week that the paper naming Sauroposeidon came out in JVP. The exhibits in the new building were pretty cool right out of the gate, but the exhibit people have not been idle, and if you haven’t been there in a year or three you will find many things that you have not seen before.

My favorite upgrade is the new orientation gallery, which introduces museum visitors to the functions of the museum and the kinds of work that go on in the research wing, including most of the traditional -ologies. The reconstructed neck and head of Sauroposeidon hang from the ceiling, spanning most of the length of the gallery and extending out into the museum’s great hall.

The beast was reconstructed by Research Casting International. I got to visit their workshop in Ontario, Canada, a little over a year ago to see how things were coming along. The people there were extremely serious about getting things right (how refreshing!). We spent quite a while talking about how Sauroposeidon was different from Giraffatitan (RCI remounted the Humbolt dinos) and sketching out what the missing bits might have looked like, especially the skull.

Of course we don’t have any skull material from Sauroposeidon, but we do have skulls and partial skulls from several other basal titanosauriforms. Together with one of the people working on the Sauroposeidon project, I filled up a couple of pieces of paper with sketches showing what a slender mid-Cretaceous brachiosaur might have looked like. In particular, and in keeping with the gracility of the cervical vertebrae, we narrowed the skull a bit to get rid of the dreaded Giraffatitan Toilet-Bowl Head.

The completed neck and head were already mounted in the OMNH when I visited last Christmas, but the gallery wasn’t open yet so all I got–and all I could pass on to you–was this teaser. The new orientation gallery opened in the middle of this spring, so Sauroposeidon has been hanging out there for a while. This is just the first chance I’ve gotten to go see my baby.

What a fine present. Merry Christmas from the SV-POW!sketeers!

Update from Mike

Here is my Christmas card to you all.

Happy Christmas from Mike Taylor and brachiosauridae incertae sedis BMNH R5937, "The Archbishop", coalesced dorsal vertebrae 8-9 (in right lateral view, like you need me to tell you that). Image in part copyright (C) the Natural History Museum, but it's the season of goodwill so they probably won't sue you even if you send copies to all your friends.

I hesitate to inflict these images on SV-POW! readers, but I have to post them somewhere if only so I can point my family to them; and who knows, maybe some of the rest of you will enjoy the amusing hat.

Last Friday (17th July), I drove down to Portsmouth, with my wife Fiona, to graduate — the consummation of my Ph.D programme.  I’d expected to be issued with a sober black robe and one of those hats with a flat square on top, but I was unprepared for just how silly the kit would turn out to be:

Me with Fiona, trying not a laugh at my nice red uniform

Me with Fiona, trying not to laugh at my nice red uniform

In fact, I looked less like a palaeontologist and more like a member of the Spanish Inquisition.  Which, I’m sure I need not point out, was the last thing I’d expected.

My supervisor Dave Martill was there for the ceremony, also dressed up as a silly person; and Darren came along in civvies to say hello before the show, and to meet up afterwards at the reception at the Department:

Me, Dave Martill and Darren, sharing a joke about astrapotheres or something.

Me, Dave Martill and Darren, sharing a joke about astrapotheres or something.

Also present and graduating was Portsmouth pterosaur maven Mark Witton, but I don’t have a picture of him in regalia, as he turned up too late to have his photo taken — wise man.

As I sat through the very, very long ceremony — if you’ve never listened through a list of 600 names being read out and watched 600 people walk up on stage and shake hands with the pro vice chancellor, you don’t know the meaning of the word “party” — I became bored enough to read the programme cover to cover, and so I discovered that photography during the ceremony is strictly forbidden.  Fiona, however, did not realise this, and so I am able to show you this actual photograph of me caught in the act of graduating:

Me at the moment of graduation.  Or perhaps Bigfoot.

Me at the moment of graduation. Or perhaps Bigfoot.

We doctoral graduands got special treatment: not only did we shake hands with the pro vice chancellor — as though this were not thrill enough — but we also had the titles of our dissertations read out.  As mine sounds rather vague (“Aspects of the history, anatomy, taxonomy and palaeobiology of sauropod dinosaurs”) I was left wishing that I’d stuck with my original title.

After the ceremony it was back to the department for nibbles and also to — finally! — pick up the printed-and-bound copies of my dissertation, which until then I’d not seen in the flesh.  Apart from the two mandatory copies (for the University and Department libraries), I had four printed — one each for me, Dave, Darren and Matt.  Those of you not fortunate enough to have received one of the printed copies can assuage your lust for my dissertation by buying it in mug form:

My dissertation, on a mug, for some reason.

My dissertation, on a mug, for some reason.

I’m not quite sure what made me think this would be a cool thing to do, but anyway I did it, and this is now my first-choice mug as I make my way through the numerous cups of tea that, as an Englishman, I am obliged to drink each day.  (And yes, you really can buy one of your very own.)

Irrelevant addendum

You may wish to know that, at the time of writing, the top five search terms that are bringing people to SV-POW! are: rabbit, flamingo, basement, svpow, and twinkie.

The ghost of Christmas past

December 25, 2008

santaposeidon-480

But also of Christmas future.

Or, perhaps, the spirit (pneuma) of the season.

Merry Christmas to all! We’ll see you back here in 2009.

Cheers,

The SV-POW!sketeers

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