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.

From left to right: Darren Naish, Matt Wedel, Mike Taylor, and the right humerus of Cetiosaurus oxoniensis.  Mike’s T-shirt shows posterior dorsal vertebrae of the brachiosaurid NHM R5937.

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.

No-fossil-ID policy

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 seller 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.

Creative Commons License Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week by Mike Taylor, Matt Wedel, Darren Naish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

28 Responses to “About SV-POW!”

  1. jack pollock Says:

    Sauropod dining question

    Hey everyone, I’ve checking out your site lately and it’s a goldmine!

    I have a very probably dumb question, but it’s one I’ve never seen addressed. No matter what sauropds dined on, I have to wonder how they swallowed. I always hear about the blah blah gastroliths down in the guts, but I never hear about ideas about how they swallow the stuff in the first place. Their heads seem too small to accommodate the firehose sized salivary glands to move that dry sharp coniferous stuff down those lengthy necks.

    The peg or spoon-like teeth which apparently just strip the branches also add to the swallowing puzzle. Like dumping a bowl of dry Wheaties down your throat without chewing and without being able to wash them down with water

    They’re so giant it would seem they would have to continuously gorge to the extent that swallowing a big lump python-like and allowing it to gradually work it’s way down seems a bit awkward, too.

    Have you folks written about the subject or can you direct me to any material relating to sauropod throats and swallowing?

    Thanks! Love your site!

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Hi Jack, sorry to take so embarrassingly long to get back to you on this.

    I don’t know that anyone has addressed this in print, although it’s been the subject of a few bar conversations. It’s a great problem. I imagine many sauropods just drooled like fiends. Which is kinda odd, since it is usually the bloodthirsty theropods pictured with dripping jowls. It would have been a funny sight, watching a herd of sauropods slavering uncontrollably as they approached a stand of trees.

    I have no idea how to test anything in this area. Someone else might, though.

  3. Nathan Myers Says:

    The movie Tremors (or one of its sequels?) introduced the term graboids, multiple, prehensile tongues. Can anyone suggest a more plausible mechanism?

  4. Graham King Says:

    Gravity! It’s an argument for keeping those necks vertical; or at least raising them occasionally well above horizontal.

    Peristalsis might work too; isn’t it pretty well universal across zoology, for gastrointestinal tracts?

    Maybe they ate mostly in the morning, when vegetation was wet with dew; or waited till it rained.

    More fanciful explanations await, but I want to leave scope for other people’s ideas ;-)

  5. Dean Mulyk Says:

    A great website & font of information sauropod.

    Quite probably the most silly question you’ve had.

    It’s about about sauropod breathing. In looking at most sauropods the thing that always strikes me is that they have “tiny” nostrils and the air has a long way to go down the next to the lungs & then back out. Is there any decent soft structure fossil material that helps address sauropod breathing? Is this even a topic of interest?

    Also, what kind of ear bones did sauropods have? Was it the standard reptilian one bone type?


  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, Dean, thanks for the kind words.

    Your question is not a silly one at all: sauropod breathing is a major focus of research, and indeed of discussion on this very site. While there’s no evidence of special adaptations in the nostrils (and I can’t really envisage what such adaptations would look like), there is very good reason to think that the sauropod ventilatory system resembled that of modern birds rather than reptiles — a complex system of multiple flexible air-sacs ventilating an inflexible lung by drawing air through it in only one direction. It’s a much more efficient system than mammals have, which is one reason birds can fly so high, to where oxygen is very sparse.

    For more on this, look at the many SV-POW! posts on pneumaticity, and especially on air-sacs.

  7. […] remember that back when I started to read The Silmarillion, it was largely on the recommendation of my co-blogger Matt Wedel, who had long ago written to me that “Actually, once the world is sung into existence it gets […]

  8. jdmimic Says:

    About the sauropod breathing, I expect you’ve probably already covered this somewhere, but I was wondering if that might have been a selective pressure on the cervical air sacs. It is a long neck, so is it possible that one breath brought the air into the cervical air sacs, the next through the lungs, then start the cycle back out? Birds take multiple breaths to get the air through their lungs and air sacs, this would just add another breath to that cycle, frontloading the lungs as it were.

    What do you think? Am I way off base for some reason?

  9. Doug Raymond Says:

    No comment. Just a subscription request.

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Doug, the easiest way to subscribe to the site is by the RSS feed.

  11. Hi, Mike,
    Your web site “sauropod vertebra” is very interesting. Herein, we are working in a local web about titanosaurs. I hope see you soon.

  12. Sameer Says:

    Great Website..

  13. Roby Braun Says:

    Darren Naish
    Matt Wedel
    Mike Taylor
    Awesome reading!
    Stumbled upon your site while researching sauropod weight estimates…as one does while watching the snow fall outside on a crisp Long Island day.
    I have been reconstructing ancient life forms now for over 30 years and never seem to tire of it. I left the UK about 20 years ago after populating as many museums as I could with my work. ….Relocated back to the USA where I still continue to resurrect prehistory. My hats off to you three! It is always refreshing reading the hard work of other paleontologists. We stand on the shoulders of giants….so to speak!
    If you are ever in need of proper reconstructions by all means contact me on robybraun@me.com or Tel: 631 374 5211.
    tel: 631 374 5211
    P.S: old website contact info is obsolete.

  14. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Roby! Glad we’re able to help.

  15. Great blog! I have bookmarked and plan to share with my friends soon :)

  16. steve johnson Says:

    I believe i’ve found an ancient vertabra.it has hole where spinal cord went through.inside 1 end of hole is an interesting reddish brown “stone”. let me know what you think i can send pic. thank you Steve.

  17. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, Steve. I’m afraid we can’t ID your fossil — see the No-fossil-ID policy section above. Thanks for understanding.

  18. […] when we started SV-POW!, Mike predicted that the technical niche blog was the wave of the future. That prediction does seem to be coming […]

  19. Slimo Says:

    Steve, are you sure it isnt a discarded donut?

  20. Hey, interesting site, just stumbled upon it. Im from southern Oregon, USA, and was wondering if you guys were familiar with Prehistoric Gardens. Used to go there when I was a kid. Its about 10 miles south of Port Orford, Oregon. Here is a link to pictures on google of the place. best regards


  21. Mike Taylor Says:

    ‘fraid not — I’ve never been to Oregon at all, or anywhere in the northwest of the USA. Looks like a fun park, though.

  22. Ah Cetisaurus, with poor reconstructions galore!

  23. […] Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week (SV-POW!) is a fantastic blog that focuses on ancient animal species, including dinosaurs, and their fossils and general anatomical variation.  Ran by palaeontologists Matt Wedel, Mike Taylor and Daren Naish, SV-POW! also covers a broad arrange of topics related to academia, research and scientific publishing, particularly in relation to copyright and public access to scientific literature. […]

  24. Fair Miles Says:

    Hi Mike

    Please do a self-check on your optimism and edit the section “Why do we do this” on this “About” post. Just one year to go (2016 now) and blogging still “does not count” (at all?) for academic merit.

    Anyway, your writings, rants, comments et al. on open access et al. (sauropod vertebra I can live without… well, you know what I mean) DO COUNT for me [yeah, I know, that is a much more modest achievement…]. I have been reading for two years now but never said a word, so this is just to thank you.

    And do keep on: maybe in 2022 evaluating peers will be more prone to value scientific communication rather than agreeing algorithms on journal’s IF by T-R©… or at least thay will be more conscious on the impact of their criteria on the kind of science thay are promoting… or on the transference of power and resources to commercial journals that the unidimensional evaluation implies… of course, if by 2022 they still exist (I mean, evaluating peers!)

  25. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thank you, Fair Miles, it’s always encouraging to get messages like yours. I like to imagine that there are other appreciative lurkers, but it’s good to know it!

    I think you’re right that I was over-optimistic on the schedule of blogging becoming of value for career purposes. But time will presumably fix that.

  26. […] can’t even blog the CC BY-SA images because everything we put on this blog is CC BY (except where noted by a handful of more restrictive museum image use policies), and it would more […]

  27. George Happ Says:

    Keep me informed about new posts. Thanks

  28. Mike Taylor Says:

    George, check out the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” box down near the bottom of the right sidebar.

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