Archive for December, 2012

The Archosaur Musings 2012 awards

Well another year has gone and another round of archosaur discoveries can be turned over. Time for a quick sampling of the year and some observations about things past and those to come. I used to do a more general roundup of the year from a personal perspective, but although this has been a full year, it’s not been riddled with the kind of excitement and trips that warrant a review. So, onto the archosaurs.

Continue reading ‘The Archosaur Musings 2012 awards’

Some dinosaur ecology to digest

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had two papers come out in PLoS ONE tackling different aspects of dinosaur ecology. In rather different ways both look at the morphology of various living clades and use that to build up an idea of what patterns are present and how dinosaurs fit into this.

The Musings is set more or less to idle these days, so I don’t want to say anything too extensive here, not least when I have blogged the most recent paper already on the Lost Worlds and Darren Naish has some very extensive coverage of the first one. Still, I don’t want this one to dry up entirely and with a dinosaur-keen audience, it seemed a good idea to get up at least a quick post on the two.

First off there’s a paper on claw shape and how this might, or might not, relate to possible climbing functions. The major results are somewhat equivocal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lot of variation in claw shape (curvature and midpoint dorsoventral height) and that means the boundaries are blurred between those animals that climb from those that are predatory or based on the ground. In short, for most it’s hard to make any kind of confident predictions off of our analysis at least, but there is a lot of scope for further work, and at least some dinosaurs plot out clearly in one behavioural category and well away from the others.

Second, there’s the piece on dinosaur body size distribution. Here non-avian dinosaurs are shown to have a different pattern of body size distribution to various vertebrate clades both living and extinct, with dinosaurs having relatively few small species and a high number of large ones. This nicely fits with the idea that dinosaurs filled multiple niches as part of their ontogeny, with niches for small species being filled by juveniles.

I’ll keep it short and sweet with both being freely available to read as obviously all the details are in there.

Birn-Jeffery, A.V., Miller, C., Naish, D., Rayfield, E.J. & Hone, D.W.E. 2012. Pedal claw curvature in birds, lizards and Mesozoic dinosaurs – complicated categories and compensating for mass-specific and phylogenetic control. PLoS ONE, 7: e50555, 11p.

O’Gorman, E. & Hone, D.W.E. 2012. Body size distribution of the dinosaurs. PLoS ONE, 7: e51925.

Ages 3 and up

Just a bit of fun really, but I’ve just finished off an absolute mass of teaching and have finally come out the other side more-or-less intact. There’s catching up to do on various things and serious blogging will have to wait. Most of the teaching was a huge first year biology class (big in terms of student numbers and the length of the course) which has been challenging but an enormous amount of fun, and I’ve been delighted to get some very positive feedback from both staff and students on my handling of it all.

At the end of my last lecture, I was collared by a group of them who had kindly signed a Christmas card with their thoughts and best wishes, and had clubbed together to shell out for this (obviously very expensive) set of dinosaur toys. I could hardly leave them on the shelf un-blogged, so here they are in all their technicolour ‘glory’.

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Obviously identifications are not the easiest, but my best guesses would be Pachycephalosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Ankylosaurus and Triceratops. They also came with a couple of plastic cacti and a couple of black blobs which I was forced to conclude were rocks (toy rocks! no expense spared, clearly). Anyway, my thanks to them and my best wishes for the rest of the uni careers. I’ve had a lot of fun, and glad I got through the angiosperms.

Palaeocasting

I do have a couple of bits lined up for the Musings over the next week or two, including my traditional end-of-year roundup. The Lost Worlds has been rather more quiet of late than I’d have liked owing to massive teaching commitments. These have finally cleared up, leaving me time to err, catch up on all the work I’ve let drag owing to the teaching commitments, so blogging is still a bit behind.

On the upside, I did find time recently to record an interview with the Palaeocast guys and you can catch it all here. It’s a potted history of my research and with some thoughts about sexual selection, feeding behaviour in theropods, the great rush of Chinese fossil discoveries and sci comms material like Ask A Biologist. So in the absence of more text-based stuff, drop on over there and have a listen.


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