Tetrapod Zoology

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As a famous lady recently said: “I’m back”. At last – having just returned from the Peter Wellnhofer Flugsaurier Conference (held at the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie [BSP] in Munich) – conference season is at an end and I can try to return to normal life. At the risk of spouting forth with the usual gushing over-enthusiastic hyperbole I have previously engaged in on returning home from conferences, it was an awesome meeting that I really, really enjoyed. I’ll cover a few highlights here, but am planning to discuss more details later on (the conference blog can be seen here). The adjacent montage shows various BSP models and skulls, as well as a very happy me holding the skull of the new rhynchosaur (not a pterosaur) Fodonyx (more on it here if you’re interested). Oh, I will say now that never, never, never again will I seriously entertain the concept of attending and speaking at three consecutive conferences, all spaced a week or so apart. In hindsight, it was stupid, stressful and disruptive, and I learnt my lesson. Anyway…

The brainchild of Dave Hone – whom Tet Zoo regulars will no doubt be familiar with (he is also the figurative dad of the excellent Ask a Biologist site) – the Flugsaurier Conference celebrated the work of pterosaur research pioneer Peter Wellnhofer, recently retired from the BSP. It is with some skill and much care that Peter’s ‘guest of honour’ status was kept secret from him until the morning of the meeting: he knew that a pterosaur conference was going to be held at the BSP, but not until the last minute did he learn that it was dedicated to him. Over the space of four days, an excellent assortment of talks and discussion sessions covered pterosaur phylogeny, systematics, diversity, soft-tissue anatomy, functional morphology and research history. An abstract volume exists (I think a pdf should be available soon), and a collection of papers resulting from the meeting will appear in a special issue of Zitteliana in due time.

Not only did the meeting see the gathering of an international audience consisting of most of the world’s pterosaur researchers, it was also exceptional in that some of the most beautiful, fantastic and famous pterosaurs fossils were gathered together for a special afternoon devoted to their examination. Imagine being in the same room as the Vienna Pterodactylus, the Zittel wing, both the Anurognathus holotype and the new yet-to-be-published Anurognathus juvenile, the dark-wing Rhamphorhynchus, the holotypes of Ludodactylus and Tapejara navigans (the latter soon to have a new generic name by the way), and many others. Believe it or don’t, the type specimens of Compsognathus longipes and Archaeopteryx bavarica were there too. It is difficult to appreciate the amount of co-operation and organisation that must have been involved in getting this to work out.

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As usual, it was excellent to meet and talk with many people for the first time. I spent a stupid amount of time staying up way too late and drank far too much on at least a few occasions… the less said about that the better I think. In no particular order, it was great to catch up with Brian Andres, Mike Habib, Martin Lockley, Alex Kellner, S. Christopher Bennett, Atilla ?si, Helmut ‘king of UV’ Tischlinger, Ursula Göhlich, Rico Stecher (discoverer of what is pretty much the most amazing pterosaur you could imagine: a new Triassic taxon, more details soon), Ross Elgin, Patrick O’Connor, Marcus Moser, Leon Claessens, John Conway and others. An official conference photo exists (I’ll post it when it’s available), and I’m also relying on other people to send me various photos of some of the specimens for use here on the blog. My photos are all silly ones of people posing with cocktails and/or hand-puppets that they made from napkins. The amusing photo shown here, taken at about 4am in Dave Hone’s kitchen, shows (from left to right) Mike ‘bitten by everything’ Habib, Count John ‘Vlad’ Conway of Transylvania, Ross ‘not the famous fossil site’ Elgin, and Mark ‘zero state’ Witton. Let me know if you want explanations for these new pet names… at least some are obvious.

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I travelled to and fro with my Portsmouth colleagues Dave Martill and Mark Witton; we had a most enjoyable journey there and back, what with our catastrophic breakdown on a French motorway, and our clever effort to get back to the Channel Tunnel by 4am this morning (UPDATE, added 16-9-2007: Mark has just put up his thoughts on the conference here. Quite why I’m to blame for making him stay up late I’m not sure. But it’s true). And one last thing for now: look what I purchased at the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum. No Aetosaurus, unfortunately. More to come later – thanks again to Tet Zoo regular readers for continuing to check the site while I was away.

PS: and why is it that I always come away from conferences with the following tag-line in my mind.. we are humans first, and scientists second. Oh yeah, now I remember :)

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Comments

  1. #1 chris wemmer
    September 15, 2007

    Congrats on completing the conference marathon, Darren, but it’s time to switch from the hydraulic diet and 4 hours of sleep back to solid food and 12 hours of beddy-bye. Your picture worries me, mann — you’ve lost weight!

    [from Darren: I wish!!]

    Your palpable enthusiasm calls back fond memories of bygone conferences and symposia — like the American Society of Mammalogists Meeting in College Station Texas c 1970, when snockered grad students threw practically everyone in the swimming pool. Were we having fun, or what?
    Send us some fun stuff when you are decompressed — we have a TetZoo deficit.

  2. #2 Tommy Tyrberg
    September 15, 2007

    This is perhaps quibbling, but I notice that you suffer from a common anglosaxon affliction: putting-the-umlaut-in-the-wrong-place. It should be “Pal�ontologie”.

    [from Darren: ok, thanks]

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    September 15, 2007

    I can’t wait for the Triassic pterosaur!

    In the meantime…

    Bayerische Staatssammlung f�r P�laontologie

    Pal�ontologie. :-}

    Also, Attila ?si has two accents on his �, not a tilde. I’ll try again as HTML entity: –.

    [from Darren: thanks]

    And the link to Fodonyx says it’s a link between “simpler lizards” and the dinosaurs”… <weep> <wail>

  4. #4 Lars Dietz
    September 15, 2007

    As for the tilde on the O, that’s how Hungarians themselves often write the double-accented O when using a non-Hungarian keyboard. At least, I’ve seen one Hungarian (who lives in France) doing so.

  5. #5 Sordes
    September 15, 2007

    Nice to see you get this nice little Arizonasaurus for your collection.

  6. #6 Georgios Georgalis
    September 16, 2007

    Fodonyx?New Rhynchosaur?
    Is it going to be published soon?
    I am looking forward for this and also ofcourse for the new pterosaurs coming

  7. #7 Mike
    September 16, 2007

    “… the usual gushing over-enthusiastic hyperbole I have previously engaged in on returning home from conferences, …”

    It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

  8. #8 Dave Hone
    September 17, 2007

    Darren, many, many thanks for the kind words. Glad you liked it. For those interested in *Fodonyx* the manuscript is *in press* with Palaeontology, but currently no word of a publication date.

    As an aside the museum acronym is actually BSPG, not BSP (Bavaraina State Collection for Palaeontology & Historical Biology), but rather like the NHM / BMNH situation we have changed over the years and even some of my colleagues get it backwards sometimes.

    PDF abstract volume to appear when I have the time!

    Cheers.

  9. #9 Mike Hanson
    September 17, 2007

    I originally wanted to attend this even, but due to distance (curse living on this side of the Pond) and some other matters getting in the way, I could not. However, one of my illustrations did make an appearance in Hanneke Meijer’s talk on Tapejarid frugivory. So, for those other unfortunates who could not go to the meeting, here is another pretty picture from the meeting to go with those above.
    http://www.archosauria.org/pics/Tapejara.gif

    I should also note the first photo in the meetings blog is incredibly tantalising seeing that it appears to show the *holotype* of Anurognathus ammoni, all published photos of that specimen are particularly awful, leading to a number of… ehrm… problems going about in the pterosaur expert community.

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    Is there any “geology” in “BSPG”? “Historical geology” maybe?

  11. #11 Richard Butler
    September 18, 2007

    Isn’t it the Bayerischen Staatssammlung fuer Palaeontologie und Geologie (Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology)?

  12. #12 Zach Miller
    September 18, 2007

    New Triassic pterosaur? I MUST KNOW!