Anyone who has kept up with the Musings in it’s various incarnations and the blogs of various associates will be well aware of the fact that in the autumn of 2007 I organised a pterosaur meeting in Munich to celebrate the career of pterosaurian research legend Peter Wellnhofer and generally have a nice meeting on my favourite flying archosaurs. If you have somehow missed out on this you can find posts on the Musings and elsewhere on the accompanying exhibition, the meeting itself, and most recently the research volume.
This is the real subject of this post as the proofs are now in, final formatting is underway and with a following wind, 2008 will (just) see the publication of “Flugsaurier: pterosaur papers in honour of Peter Wellnhofer”. (We have not had a final date from the printers yet and with Christmas approaching, it might end up being early January, but I hold out hope for a 2008 date). This should be quite a moment in pterosaur research as dinosaur volumes are common, but pterosaur ones are very rare (there have only ever been three serious books on pterosaurs and just a couple of research volumes before this one) so any new compilation will be important for any interested parties.
So what does this stunning volume contain I hear you ask? Some 17 papers on pterosaur research, totalling 264 pages (A4 sized, including some coloured plates) covering, well, everything – systematics, origins, locomotion, biomechanics, ichnology, reproduction, behaviour, history and histology. Tell you what, I’ll even list every paper for you (and when it comes out, I’ll be slinging out a few reviews too):
Peter Wellnhofer (who asked to contribute to this volume before he was even aware it was in his honour, and thus perhaps has an unusual position as the author of a paper in his own tribute) kicks us off with a brief review of the history of pterosaur research, from the first discovery of a pterosaur to the present day.
Kevin Padian follows this with a paper on pterosaur origins and the vexed issues of terrestrial locomotion in the dinosauromorphs and its relation to said origins.
Next you get my (possibly) long awaited paper on pterosaur origins (with Mike Benton) and the conflicts present in various cladistic analyses and a possible resolution.
This leads us to probably the most important paper in the volume, the incredible catalogue put together by Paul Barrett and his colleagues that tracks down pretty much every single pterosaur specimen ever and tells you both when and where it is from. This kind of paper is a godsend to anyone seriously contemplating any kind of macroevolutioanry, biogeographical or other similar large-scale analysis, and even if you just want to investigate one clade of pterosaurs, it’s incredibly useful to know what is out there – it’s not all that easy to find out when specimens range over hundreds of institutions, dozens of countries and over two centuries of research. I can see this paper being cited hundreds of times in the next few years, seriously.
Lorna Steel then brings some histology to the proceedings, looking at the fascinating structure of pterosaur bones (something I must get around to on here myself at some point).
Chris Bennett continues with a paper on the muscles of the pterosaurian arm and answers that long standing question of just how the wingfinger ended up 180 out from the rest of the hand. Combine this with his 2003 paper on the shoulder and chest muscles and we now have a picture of the whole pterosaurian arm. I am sure I am not alone in wishing him well with doing the head, neck, legs, body, tail and feet muscles as it should only take another 20 years or so.
Next we have Mark Witton’s take on pterosaurian body mass and associated flight calculations. This is another trying issue in pterosaur research as trying to work out how they flew when you have both mass estimates and wing areas differing enormously kind of hampers your calculations.
Mike Habib then drops in with his work on pterosaurian launching – there is plenty of research published on pterosaur flight and possibly even more on them on the ground, but how exactly did they get up there in the first place?
My student Ross Elgin (in a paper with a number of colleagues, including myself) continues the flight theme with a paper on the aerodynamic (or otherwise) properties of the Pteranodon head crest, one of those oft discussed but little studied areas of palaeontology.
Mark Witton then makes a second appearance in a paper lead by Dave Martill on a fascinating pterosaur specimen which clearly had a rather unusual demise.
Echoing Paul Barrett’s review of body fossils, Martin Lockley and others (including Musings regular Jerry Harris) give us a review of the pterosaur ichnological record (that’s footprints and other traces to non-experts), again bringing a wealth of information together in one place and making it easily accessible.
On the subject of traces, or more specifically eggs, Dave Unwin and Charlie Deeming pitch in on pterosaur eggshells and the likely nesting habbits of pterosaurs.
Dave Martill then returns with his co-authors with a report on a possible British azhdarchid which is an odd little discovery.
We stick with taxonomy as Taissa Rodrigues and Alex Kellner combine to produce a much needed review of the ornithocheiroid genus Coloborhynchus which certainly clears up a few issues, and knowing taxonomists, prolongs a few other disputes.
Junchang Lű (last mentioned on this blog here) and his colleagues provide new information on those tricky (and sadly much ignored) istiodactylids in China.
Finally Dave Martill (again!) and Eric Buffetaut each provide a brief review of some enigmatic pterosaur fossils from the UK and France respectively.
Phew! That should keep you going for a bit.
I especially want to promote this volume, not because I am the editor and author of a couple of papers (though of course I am proud of the fact) but because of the cash ploughed into the project by my previous employers – the BSPG. If I have not said before, they are a small institution with only a very limited budget and it is to their huge credit that they supported my meeting and then this volume with their funds and more importantly time so that it happened at all. They are (I suspect) taking quite a hit on producing this volume since the authors (and there are a lot of them) get a free copy, as do normal subscribers to the journal (this is Zitteliana B, the special publications arm of Zitteliana) and there are few people left to buy a copy in the pterosaur realm once the authors (which is just about every pterosaur researcher!) have their copy. Therefore, anyone who wants one, or can badger their university library into buying one will not only get a cracking volume of pterosaur papers, but will also be helping out a small and vulnerable research institute break even on an expensive project.
Just to make things a little more problematic, it’s hard to get your hands on a copy since while it can be ordered online, they can’t take credit card payments, so it’s have to be checks and other arcane transfers of money. Still, it’s well worth it – while final confirmation has yet to be reached, it will only cost around 30 Euros (about 20 GBP, or 40USD) and would quite literally be cheap at twice the price when you compare it to many other academic publications. I will of course put up more details here as soon as I have them, but for now do start saving your Christmas pennies for a New Year’s pterosaurain treat, and do please ask your institution to cough up for a copy for their library, and do pass the word on with your blog, mailing list, or other weapon of choice.