The Archosaur Musings 2013 Awards

It’s getting harder and harder for me to write these sadly, with my ever increasing teaching loads, and broader than ever outreach commitments, I don’t have much time to read as many blog pieces and media coverage as I used to, and a look though a few end-of-year reviews suggests there’s a few discoveries and papers I’d missed which is rather annoying. Still, it is good to at least try and look back over the last year and give a bit of a personal perspective and try and have a bit of fun.

Most important new archosaur discovery

I can’t think of any really outstanding candidates this year, thought there has been plenty of interesting finds (Europelta, Nasutoceratops, Vectidraco, Siats, more Deinocheirus) there is nothing that leaps out to me as really special. The obvious candidate is the apparently filamented ornithischian that failed to make an appearance at SVP, but that hardly counts when there’s not even a presentation out there, let alone a paper.

Best newly discovered archosaur specimen

Aurornis is clearly lovely, but I’ll go for Jianchangosaurus – a cracking specimen and one I’d love to see in the flesh.

Best named new archosaur

As ever, this and the next few and extremely subjective and subject to whimsy, so please don’t whinge about my choices because you’re not happy with the incorrect use of Latin subjunctive etc.  This was a good year for names – Radiodactylus, Vectidraco, Siats, and Nasutoceratops were all candidates, but I have to say I really love Lythronax. Sounds great, and has a wonderful and memorable translation.

Worst named new archosaur

Wulatelong. Even though I am an author on the paper, I had nothing to do with this name, honest. It just sounds so awkward on the ears and the syllables are so separate it comes over as three different names before you hit the end of the genus.

The ‘Similicaudipteryx’ award for lest original archosaur name

Yes, there’s a lot of dinosaurs to be named, and no, they can’t all translate wonderfully and be evocative or interesting or meaningful and so on, but I’d hope for better for a Brazilian titanosaur than Brasilotitan.

Most egregious media error on archosaurs

I got rather horribly misquoted on pterosaurs this year, despite making some quite plain statements and emphasising key points repeatedly, which is always a frustration. It’s hard to know quite how people can get things so wrong no matter how careful you are and implies they don’t know any better (which is worrying coming from a professional journalist) or don’t care (which is also worrying coming from a professional journalist). Not the most major of issues, but in the circumstances (time, planning, checking and rechecking) certainly egregious.

Best media report

I’ve read so little in the last year that sadly I really can think of nothing to say at this point. All I can do is point to the usual suspects who continue to do good work and honest, accurate write-ups.

Long time no see award

For all the collaborations I have enjoyed with Corwin Sullivan over the years, (and there are plenty more to come) he’s hardly been out of China for the last couple of years, and I’ve not been there, so it was great to catch up with him this summer and make some progress on papers on a pterosaur specimen, tyrannosaur material from Zhucheng, and some other theropod bits and bobs.

The ‘about time’ award for slow publication

That bloody pterosaur book. Again.  At least now the Burpee tyrannosaur volume is out, but now we’re waiting on the second tyrannosaur volume and sadly the new hadrosaur one has been held back by the publishers.

Ridiculous prediction for 2014

A complete and articulated set of pachycephalosaurs. These animals get ever more interesting, but the material is collectively so limited, despite them appearing in beds that have been well studied and searched and are very productive. A nice solid group of a dozen or so individuals would be an absolute treasure trove on this group. Here’s hoping.

9 Responses to “The Archosaur Musings 2013 Awards”


  1. 1 Hadur 31/12/2013 at 3:14 pm

    Sure, Deinocheirus may not be “important” in the sense that a feathered abelisaur or ornithopod would be (it teaches us little that we don’t already know), but surely the fact that it solves a mystery that we have been wondering about for the last half-century, many of us from a very early age, distinguishes it from the others you listed along it?

    • 2 David Hone 01/01/2014 at 9:29 am

      Well I’m not sure it solves that much, since for a good while most people have been quite happy it’s an ornithomimid, and of course as with the new ornithischian, all we have so far is a conference presentation (that I’ve not seen) not an actual paper, so it part it’s hard to argue this as being a big thing for 2013.

  2. 3 Andrea Cau 31/12/2013 at 7:20 pm

    Agree, Aurornis is lovely… (I’m a bit partisan) ;-)
    Happy 2014!

  3. 4 Reprobus Marmaritarum 31/12/2013 at 9:52 pm

    “Nothing leaps out to me as really special”….Bah Humbug! The all-new sail-backed Deinocheirus ROCKS! A mystery that has been bugging most of us since our childhoods… And what about soft-tissue comb in Edmontosaurus, opening up a whole new world of plausible wattles, crests and dewlaps… Happy new year, may it bring pachycephalosaurs aplenty!

  4. 5 George Hancock 06/01/2014 at 11:17 am

    Dear Dr Hone

    I am a huge fan of your blog archosaur musings, and was inspired after talking with you at the the royal society science fair this past summer. I am currently doing an Extended project on Dromaeosaur predatory function. I have divided up the possibilities into 3 main groups: slashing with the pedal unguls, and gripping/latching prey with the manual unguals as described by John Ostrom in 1969; Swift dispatcher from injury to the neck using both teeth and unguals as proposed by Manning in 2005 (prior to his paper biomechanics of dromaeosaurid dinosaur claws) and Raptor Prey Restraint by Denver Fowler in 2011 (which I am concluding with as the most likely). But I have come across some minor details with manning’s paper in particular that have raised questions for me. Manning Paper for the most part seems to be trying to disprove disembowelment. Which raises the question where did disembowelling as a concept of use come from. In Ostom’s Osteology he refers to it as slashing, which could be of the flanks, back or neck and the majority of Manning’s evidence is against disembowelment not slashing. He also draws heavy comparison of Velociraptors claws to that of an Eagle owl to support pinning, yet I am surprised by not seeing any biomechanical comparison to birds that actually do kick, either for defence or attack e.g. Secretary Bird and Cassowary. Is this due to there being a lack of data on the biomechanics of kicking in birds, however I do vaguely remember a paper on Phorusrachids, drawing comparisons to secretary birds, yet the mechanics are minor http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/272/1574/1769.full.
    So here are my questions,
    Why are Dromaeosaurs described as disembowling, when Ostrom proposes slashing, and disembowlement would require the prey to already be subdued?
    Have there been, or is there enough data to draw comparisons with Dromasaurid anatomy and that of Cassowary’s and Secretary birds to state they dot have a design built for kicking as don’t posses: Length of legs, claw shape and of unguals on the manus?

    • 6 David Hone 07/01/2014 at 9:26 pm

      That’s obviously a very long and detailed question there, and I’ll send you on an e-mail about this shortly, though I’m rather snowed under and quite ill at the moment…

      • 7 George Hancock 07/01/2014 at 9:56 pm

        Thank you so much for replying, I hope you get well soon and that we discover a set of pachycephalosaurs. Hoping 2014 will be a great year of palaeontology.

  5. 8 George Hancock 06/01/2014 at 1:50 pm

    My ridiculous prediction for 2014, a flat print fossil of Velociraptor mongoliensus similar to those of Microraptor gui, with the presence of the feathered prints. That would be a spectacular find.

  6. 9 Mike from Ottawa 10/01/2014 at 5:24 am

    As usual making no contribution on the science, but if you pronounce Wulatelong with the cadence of the title word of the Muppets song ‘Manamana’ you’ll have no problem with it.

    And, btw, while that bloody pterosaur book didn’t come out, another did, Mark Witton’s wonderful ‘Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy’ available at ridiculously low prices all over teh internets. OK, so it’s not a technical work but for us schlubs, it’s a lot easier read.


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