Long time readers will know that a couple of times on here I’ve promised a ‘new pterosaur website’ that never quite appeared and those with clicky fingers might well have spotted the link to a site called Pterosaur.Net lurking around on here. Well, I can now officially announce that the long awaited Pterosaur.Net has at last taken off and soared onto the web.
If you have been over there in the past (and i know some have) you will have seen various incomplete and half constructed versions, but this is pretty much the finished deal and while we do hope to make a few more additions the site is essentially done. First and foremost, full credit to John Conway for the design and execution, though there are a large number of contributors to the site. So if you want to read Mark Witton’s review of pterosaur ecology, Darren Naish on crypto-pterosaurs, Mike Habib on the mechanics of flight, myself on pterosaur origins and relationships and Dino Frey, Ross Elgin and others get stuck into various taxa then get on over there. You’ll also find artwork by John, Mark and Luis Rey and all manner of pterosaur specimens including lots of new UV work by Helmut Tischlinger and we were able to get permission from a number of institutes to publish images of important fossils, some of which are rarely illustrated. There’s also an integrated blog on the site which hopefully will be updated regularly with various posts from the contributors.
Pterosaur.net is however rather different to the various other projects that I’ve put together or worked on before in that it is largely supposed to be a ‘static’ information site, as opposed to a blog, forum or other more ongoing or interactive website. The reason for this goes back to the origins of Pterosaur.Net which started outside a cafe in Munich back in 2007 and the Wellnhofer Pterosaur Meeting.
So on afternoon during the conference a group of were sat around a table discussing the frankly shameful state of information on pterosaurs on the web. There are frankly hundreds of dinosaur sites and while most are pretty average, there are at least a fair few good ones. Pterosaurs on the other hand seemed especially prone to creationist / mad crypto-zoology-ness / general disinformation and the few sites that did at least attempt to provide some real scientific information were either badly outdated or pretty mediocre or both. In other words, short of wikipedia there was very little going and a lot of what was out there was effectively misinformation.
Perhaps inevitably we decided to produce something ourselves and so pretty much because we were the people sat around the table at the time, we became an informal group to go ahead and tackle it. Lorna Steel offered up her registered but unused domain name, John Conway (perhaps rather foolishly) volunteered to create the site, Luis offered up his artwork and the rest of us got writing to our various interests, with me handling most of the wrangling duties as some form of overall editor.
As a result the site is, as I say, a static one. Pterosaur.Net is really there primarily to give some solid scientific basics on pterosaur biology and to try and dispel a few myths and misinformation about them. Hopefully anyone out there looking up pterosaurs for the first time will come across us and make use of this site. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people who want a one hour primer on what are most people’s second favourite pneumatic flying archosaur (damned birds get all the attention) from the people who know them best. Admittedly we do a fairly poor job of advertising our credentials, but I do think it’s fair to say that between us we are enormously qualified to talk about pterosaurs compared to pretty much every other website out there.
So, that’s it really. I guess most of my normal audience will head over there sooner or later and read the content and rarely if even return, which is fine. However, as I say the Pterosaur.net blog will hopefully act as a central source of pterosaur stuff from regular bloggers like Mark, Ross and Darren as well as providing a spot for Mike and the others so is worth keeping track of things on there. Also we probably will add a few extra pages in the future and the various galleries and micro-biographies of various taxa are still being complied and improved so do take another look later on. Finally, do please link to the new site and mention it on your own blogs, forums, etc. etc.
This is I hope, not just a great little site in its own right, but I would hope could serve as a prototype of others of this kind. Science communication thrives on putting out the best information in and accessible way that can be reached easily by the public. This site (I hope) achieves this, but let’s face it, its one small site on a pretty minor group of extinct vertebrates. It’d be great if other research groups and colleagues could come together and produce something similar. A simple review of every major clade out there by the researchers involved would be an incredible online resource, and add to that the developmental biologists, ethologists, geneticists, anatomists, ichnologists and the rest and biology would be exceptionally well served. A forlorn hope perhaps, but more and more people are producing better and better websites to convey their research both to each other and the general public. Still, I think a few more like this effort would hardly go amiss if you fancy having a go at it and I do know a fair number of professional palaeontologists read the Musings. (Though we are hardly the first to go down the route, there are some superb sites out there by researchers on their favourite organisms).
Right, off you go and read up on pterosaurs while I trawl through my collections one last time for a few extra photos.
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