Pelican cervico-dorsal transition, backlit

November 24, 2018

What it says on the tin. This is a specimen from the UCMP comparative collection.

I was just going to post this photo with zero commentary, but I can’t help myself. Note that on the two vertebrae in the middle, the crista transverso-obliqua (what in non-avian dinos would be the spinopostzygapophyseal lamina or SPOL) rises higher than either the neural spine apex or the epipophyses. That’s crazy. And it demonstrates something we also see in sauropods, which is that laminae are not merely the plates of bone left behind after pneumatization has scooped all of the unnecessary material out of a normal vertebra–sometimes they are additive structures, too.

If all of that sounded like gibberish, I can sympathize. I spent my first few months as a sauropodologist just learning the lingo (another thing I should blog about sometimes). Here’s a labeled version:

As long as I’m yapping, note the light shining through the honeycombed internal structure of these highly pneumatic vertebrae. For more on the ridiculous pneumaticity of pelican bones, see this post and this one. For more on the homology of bird and sauropod vertebrae, see Wedel and Sanders (2002), and for more on laminae as additive versus reductive structures, see the discussion on pages 210-212 of Wedel (2007).

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2 Responses to “Pelican cervico-dorsal transition, backlit”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    “I spent my first few months as a sauropodologist just learning the lingo (another thing I should blog about sometimes).”

    Oh, definitely. As someone going through a situation where I’m probably going to have to break into a new area of paleontology and relearn everything from scratch, this is the kind of thing I would love to hear about how someone else dealt with it. And a lot of students or postdocs transitioning from one lab or research group to another (or even setting out on their own but unable to work in the subarea that they got their thesis in and spent the last several years of their lives working in) would probably love to hear it too. It’s another one of those “things experienced people should tell younger people, but don’t” that gets covered here on this blog a lot.

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Cool. I had an idea for such a post and just hadn’t gotten around to writing it. Thanks for the push.


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