mark-and-matt-with-the-sauropod-dinosaurs

Quick heads up: Mark Hallett and I are both at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Salt Lake City. Tomorrow afternoon (Friday, October 28) at 4:15 PM we’ll be signing copies of our book, The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants. If you’d like to get a copy of the book, or to have your already-purchased copy signed, please come to the Johns Hopkins University Press booth in the exhibitor/poster area tomorrow afternoon. We’re both generally happy to sign books whenever and wherever, but if you’d like to catch us both at the same time, this is a good opportunity. We’re hoping to do another joint book signing in Los Angeles before long – more info on that when we get it arranged.

In the meantime, or if you’re not at SVP, or if you just like cool things, check out this rad claymation video of fighting apatosaurs, by YouTube user Fred the Dinosaurman. I love this. My favorite thing is that if you’re familiar with the previously-produced, static visual images of neck-fighting apatosaurs (links collected here), you’ll see a lot of those specific poses and moments recreated as transient poses in the video. This was published back in June, but I’d missed it – many thanks to Brian Engh for the heads up.

Hallett and Wedel 2016 with friends

I came home from SVPCA to find a heavy box waiting for me. It had my author’s copies of the book. I figured maybe they had gone out in advance of wide release, but nope, the book is shipping right now. This is welcome but unexpected. We only got the final files in a little over three months ago. I have no idea what alchemy the folks at Johns Hopkins University Press worked, to get the book out so fast, but I’m grateful.

We’ll have a book signing at SVP, at one in the LA area with both of us, and probably some local ones in Oregon and SoCal with just one author. I’ll announce those when we get them set up.

I have about a zillion people I need to thank, and I’ll probably do a FAQ about the book soon, but for now: it’s out.  JHUP page. Amazon page.

Hallett and Wedel sauropod book on Amazon

Publisher’s description here, Amazon page here.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the future, but the short version is that I met Mark Hallett at one of my first SVP meetings in 1997 or 1998. Way back then, he shared with me his vision of doing a big, lavishly illustrated book on sauropods. Fast forward to 2011, when Mark contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to serve as a reviewer for the sauropod book that he was writing. I told him that because I was on the tenure track I had to be pretty jealous with my time, so there was a limit to how much time I could invest as a reviewer. However, if he would take me on as junior author, the book would become part of my professional output and there would be no limit to how much time I could put into it (words that would turn out to be prophetic!). Mark agreed, and after 5 years of hard work, mostly on Mark’s part, here we are. The wheels are turning and with any luck the book will be out before the end of the year.

Mark and I owe a big debt of gratitude to the people who did agree to review the book: Kristi Curry Rogers, Carole Gee, John Hutchinson, and Paul Upchurch. We couldn’t have asked for a better team.

Stay tuned!

Dodo monograph cover - Claessens et al 2016

Here’s an awesome thing that just landed in my mailbox: the new monograph on the Thirioux dodos by Leon Claessens and his collaborators. They’ve done a better job describing what’s cool about these specimens than I could, so for the rest of this post I’m just borrowing their text from the Aves3D site, where you can view 3D models of whole dodo skeletons and many individual elements (not to mention zillions of elements from lesser, non-dodo birds):

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) skeleton on exhibit at the Durban Natural Science Museum is one of two unique skeletons discovered and assembled more than a century ago by the amateur naturalist Etienne Thirioux. Thirioux’s two dodos are unique, not just because they are the most complete skeletons in existence, but also because they are the only two skeletons comprised of the bones of either a single individual bird (the Port Louis dodo), or the bones of (only) a few different birds (the Durban dodo). In contrast, all other known dodo skeletons are incomplete and are typically put together from separate fossil bones uncovered at a marsh called the Mare aux Songes.

Port Louis dodo skull - Claessens et al 2016 figure 6

Port Louis dodo skull – Claessens et al 2016 figure 6

The Thirioux specimens contribute greatly to our understanding of the anatomy of the extinct dodo and are the subject of a new, major monographic treatise:

Anatomy of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus L., 1758): An Osteological Study of the Thirioux specimens.
Leon P. A. M. Claessens, Hanneke J. M. Meijer, Julian P. Hume, and Kenneth F. Rijsdijk (Editors).
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 15, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology Vol. 35, Supplement to No. 6.

We are pleased to make the Thirioux dodo skeletons available to the public for viewing on Aves 3D and Sketchfab. Please enjoy these wonderful scans of the skeleton of a fascinating bird, and check back on the site frequently, as we continue to upload more new dodo bone scans each week.

Sincerely,
Leon Claessens
for the Dodo Research Programme and the Aves 3D team

Congratulations, Leon and team, on a landmark publication. And thanks for all the free dodo visualizations!

For previous dödö-related musings, please see this pöst.

Port Louis dodo skeleton - Claessens et al 2016 plate 1

Port Louis dodo skeleton – Claessens et al 2016 plate 1

Building on the pioneering work of Karbek (2002), Darren Naish (circa 2004) conceived a theory of sauropod locomotion that has not been as widely accepted as he might have hoped. Sadly, other projects captured Naish’s attention, and his interest in writing up his theory waned. All that now remains of this sadly unpublished work is this speculative life restoration:

darren-naish--sauropods-as-agile-cursorial-bipeds

We can only lament the loss of this unique perspective to science.

References

  • Karbek., T. R. 2002. The case for Stegosaurus as an agile, cursorial biped. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22(Suppl. to 3):73A.

Building on the pioneering work of Myhrvold and Currie (1997), Darren Naish (circa 2003) conceived a theory of sauropod defence that has not been as widely accepted as he might have hoped. Sadly, other projects captured Naish’s attention, and his interest in writing up his theory waned. All that now remains of this sadly unpublished work is this speculative life restoration:

darren-naish--flagellicaudatan--tail-as-weapon

References

  • Myhrvold, Nathan P. and Philip J. Currie. 1997. Supersonic sauropods? Tail dynamics in the diplodocids. Paleobiology 23:393-409.

I’d hoped that we’d see a flood of BRONTOSMASH-themed artwork, but that’s not quite happened. We’ve seen a trickle, though, and that’s still exciting. Here are the ones I know about. If anyone knows of more, please let me know and I will update this post.

First, in a comment on the post with my own awful attempts, Darius posted this sketch of a BROTOSMASH-themed intimidation display:

apatosaurinae_sp_scene

And in close-up:

apatosaurinae_sp_scene-closeup

Very elegant, and it’s nice to see an extension of our original hypothesis into other behaviours.

The next thing I saw was Mark Witton’s beautiful piece, described on his own site (in a post which coined the term BRONTOSMASH):

BRONTOSMASH Witton low res

And in close-up:

BRONTOSMASH Witton low res-closeup

I love the sense of bulk here — something of the elephant-seal extant analogue comes through — and the subdued colour scheme. Also, the Knight-style inclusion in the background of the individual in the swamp. (No, sauropods were not swamp-bound; but no doubt, like elephants, they spent at least some time in water.)

And finally (for now, at least) we have Matthew Inabinett’s piece, simply titled BRONTOSMASH:

brontosmash_by_cmipalaeo-d9dy1kg

I love the use of traditional materials here — yes, it still happens! — and I like the addition of the dorsal midline spike row to give us a full on TOBLERONE OF DOOM. (Also: the heads just look right. I wish I could do that. Maybe one day.)

Update (Monday 26 October)

Here is Oliver Demuth’s sketch, as pointed out by him in a comment.

uqske

Thanks, Oliver! Nice to see the ventral-on-dorsal combat style getting some love.

So that’s where we are, folks. Did I miss any? Is anyone working on new pieces on this theme? Post ’em in the comments!