Archive for November, 2008

AABQOTW 2

I’m having internet issues again, so please bear with me if there are problems with formatting and I can’t insert tags or mark categories. It’ll be OK in a few days and I’ll fix the backlog, and in the meantime I do have some posts uploaded so it should be fine.

Anyway, here is this week’s AABQOTW, this time dealing with the vexed and ongoing problem of evolution, fact or theory? I imagine most of you will know the answer well in advance, but it’s worth a peek if you have not tought about it before, and is certainly something that should be brought up more often to avoid confusion.

I don’t normally go in for ‘coming soon’ type posts, but as I hope the AABQOTW will be a regular fixture (regular in the sense that I remember to write it, you don’t have much choice in my putting it up) it seems a practical way of introducing the odd upcoming feature. Anyway, even with Christmas on the horizon you can look forward to posts on taxonomy, new Chinese dinosaur footprints, pterosaur terrestriality, BAD-BAND, bone degredation and the progression of science.

Pterosaur references all round

A while back I advertised the ‘coming soon’ new pterosaur website, which has, inevitable hit some delays. One of the comment-ers wondered if we had knocked together an online list of pterosaur papers in the manner of some other archosaur groups, but while a great guess, that wasn’t it. This however, *is* it.

Yes the incomparable (in a good way) Chris Bennett has done just that and put together a very comprehensive list of pterosaur papers going way, way back into history (pterosaurs were named around 50 years before those poxy dinosaurs were fact fans) and covering, well, everything. Not only that but he is also including PDFs where he has them and is taking in more for the pterosaur community as we speak. All in all it’s a great resource to have and I will be using it extensively I am sure.

There is one thing I want to add though, which does not normally seem to be attached to these projects, and reflects a personal view rather than that of Chris, or indeed, any other civic minded researchers who take on such tasks. Please don’t abuse this by just downloading everything regardless and then just passing those PDFs on freely to all and sundry. Yes I *know* the point of science is for it to be accessible, and yes I *know* that is also at least part of the point of these sites is to make papers more accessible. However, there are still issues over copyright with a great many papers and manuscripts (as Chris notes) and there is actually a big difference between a researcher downloading a paper he *needs*, and someone downloading a paper because they *can*. In terms of trying to pacify various copyright people and journals, the former would probably be considered acceptable (as noted by others, they can hardly complain that their publications are being read and cited, though they are theoretically losing money from it since researchers then don’t need to buy the journals to access the work) but the latter would not. We need to show them, or assure them, that the ‘system’ as such is not being abused. If nothing else lot of effort by various people has gone into creating and cataloguing papers as PDFs (especially anything older than about ten or twenty years) and this catalogue should be appreciated, not ransacked.

El Museo del Desierto

p1000213Obviously I have published a few posts off the back of my time in Mexico and will have some more, but first of all I want to deal with the ‘desert museum’ of the title. I owe them rather a debt, not least because I was staying in the house of the museum director Arturo Gonzales, for most of the time I was there, but also because I had not actually heard of the place before I arrived and frankly it is a great museum that clearly deserves more attention than it has been getting.

The museum is on the outskirts of the city of Saltillo which is the captial of the state of Coahuila in North Central-ish Mexico. It is effectively the state museum of natural history, though of course its name is taken from its location and the dominant ecosystem of the state. It covers more than just basic natural history though with some exhibits that can only be described as based in anthropology, archaeology, or even history and the museum tracks the history of the region from the origin of the earth right through to the cultural development of the native peoples, the Spanish invasion and aftermath with each major event or period represented in one of the main galleries. All this on top of ecology, evolution, palaeontology, modern animals of the region and more (and there are plenty of live animal exhibits as well as classic displays of casts and taxidermy).p1000247

Continue reading ‘El Museo del Desierto’

Genuine scientific experiment*

*Or alternatively a really cheap trick to try and increse my number of hits.

As I have observed before, the Wordpess system recognises what search terms led people to your blog. Based on my ongoing observations, there is a myriad of aspects that bring people here, but one overarching one: Jurassic Park.

So, I’m about to do something very cheap in this post and give it a week to see what happens to my hit counter. I’ll let you know…

Tyrannosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Spinosaurus, Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus, Compsognathus, book, film, movie, toys, Lost World, frill, spit, vomit, venom, poison, toxic, frozen, embryo, DNA, cloning, frogs, birds, eggs, blood, open doors, jeep chase, trees, electric, fence, Pteranodon, pterosaurs, pterodactyls, running, speed, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, dinosaurs, genetics, vision, island, Gallimimus, children, Costa Rica, fight, win, teeth, claws, bite, jaws, roar, sounds, rain, feathers, communication, hunting, killing, intelligence, rearing, cheetah, colours, patterns.

That should do it for now. Oh, and i do have an average of my normal traffic, so it should be obvious if there is a big jump.

Deep inside Black Beauty

black-beauty1This was taken of the Tyrannosaurs rex mount we have in the main dinosaur hall of the Palaeozoological Museum that forms part of the IVPP. We were looking up into the chest cavity of the rex known as Black Beauty thanks to the quality and colour of the original bones. In fact the whole thing is a chimera – a composite animal based on three specimens (AMNH 5027, TMP 1981.06.01 “Black Beauty” and TMP 81.12.01 “Huxley T.rex” for anyone who really cares – details courtesy of Don Henderson) and a fair bit of reconstruction in places. As such it is a bit of a mess in terms of details (you would not want to use it as a source of data for limb proportions for example, which was my original intent) but as a mount it looks fine and nothing is out of place.

Anyway it just seemed like an interesting composition – you don’t often get to see a tyrannosaur from this angle. Nor indeed could you, thanks to the absence of the gastralia.

Bayan Mandahu field work

fgh-383I have been promising a post on this summer’s fieldwork in Inner Mongolia since my return, but the almost immediate trip to Mexico, followed by ‘grant season’ has left me with a huge backlog of real work and distractions (not to mention things like Epidexipteryx) so I have simply not been able to get beyond those few early posts. As I have mentioned before this was my first proper time doing fieldwork so it was both eye opening and exciting, not to mention getting the opportunity to see a lot more of China close at hand. Continue reading ‘Bayan Mandahu field work’

AABQOTW

Since everyone else on the web seems to have some kind of weekly feature I thought it was time I joined in. I don’t have a huge archive of publishable photos, so I’m going to need something that I can easily purloin or link to with minimal effort that will make a quick post. Of course given the other palaeo / bio websites I’m involved in it seemed obvious to steal from my own creations (if such a thing is possible) and so I bring you the Ask A Biologist Question Of The Week or the incredibly catchy acronym of AABQOTW (the SV-POW boys have nothing on me).

So each week I’ll trawl through the AAB archives (and if you don’t know what that is by now, shame on you!) and pull out one of the more interesting questions and reproduce the text here. It *is* a cheap and easy post for me, but hopefully it will bring a new audience to AAB and let me explore some arrears of biology wither beyond the archosaurs, or to areas that are directly relevant that I rarely get the opportunity to crowbar into my posts (like mate choice, or feeding behaviour).

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Hopefully this will be the first of many, and of course you should feel free to browse the 1300 questions (and over 4000 answers!) available over at AAB or even leave a question yourself (since that’s kinda the point).

This week I have picked the (apparently) endless question of Tyrannosaurus:predator or scavenger. It is not the most fascinating of questions in my opinion, but these kinds of issues can drive huge amounts of research as people come up with more and more ingenious ways of looking at the fossil record (and living animals) to try and answer the question, and for this reason at least it is still a major subject in palaeotology.

Happy Birthday, or 100th post, or something

The Musings has effectively had two incarnations, this one, and the original on DinoBase (there was a brief aborted version way before this that I don’t really count). While I notice everyone seems happy to mark their various blog ‘birthdays’ and records, it’s hard for me to keep track of. I passed my “one year in blogging” anniversary a couple of months back without realising it, so I missed that one.

This is my 100th post on the Mk II musings, but that is a bit dodgy too because I imported a bunch of Mk I posts with new edits and pictures, so they don’t really count, so that’s not quite right either.

In total though, I’ve done well over 100 posts (over 150 actually) and have been going for more than a year (closer to 15 months actually). So, errrr, well done me. I would like to thank those who have contributed comments, links and especially the guest posters (more of these soon I hope) and please keep reading. Please. Go on, please. Really.

Gastralia

My courses as part of my batchelors degree contained little enough anatomy, and most of that was either avian or, more often, mammalian. There was therefore, quite a few surprises waiting for me when I got into the details of reptilian anatomy (and given my record with anatomy, probably quite a few still to come) as part of my PhD. One of these surprises was the gastralia.

Continue reading ‘Gastralia’

Not exactly fieldwork

dsf353I still have not got around to writing up the report on this summer’s fieldwork, either the stuff from Inner Mongolia in August, or my September trip to Mexico. I will get around to it once I have some time to get a clear run-up, but despite the flurry of blog posts, I’m actually incredibly busy right now. In the meantime, here is a photo of the jackets of material brought back from the Chinese fieldwork currently awaiting preparation in the IVPP outstation. There was actually a fair bit more than this collected as several of the smallest jackets are hidden at the back of the pile, two of the largest are elsewhere undergoing preparation (and yes, we do have something very nice and very exciting in there), and finally there are plenty of bags of bits of various levels of excitement back in the IVPP. It will inevitably be months before we largely know what we have collected and probably a year or more until any of it makes it into press, but at least it is there in waiting.

Why science?

I mentioned the ‘why science‘ webpage a few days ago on here, and I actually got in touch with the creator to off my congratulations on a well thought out and much needed site. He kindly asked me to contribute and I now have which is nice. If you want to see my (incredibly) short post on the importance of palaeontology then have a look. It is being updateed every few days with new posts and new scientists, and unlikle my various other projects, is not based around archosaurs or biology, but all of science. I do hope to put up more there in the future, but after all, I already do the musings, AAB, Dinobase and the new pterosaur site – one more might be getting beyond me…

Tyrannosaurus vs Giganotosaurus

Over on AAB I have been debating the relative sizes of the giant theropods Tyrannosaurus and Giganotosaurus with sauropod expert Mike Taylor. Those regular readers of this blog will know I have a longstanding interest in dinosaur body sizes and mass estimates and they are a question that comes up again and again when then the public or media get to grill palaeontologists, if only as framed as “which was the biggest?”.

Continue reading ‘Tyrannosaurus vs Giganotosaurus’


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