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.
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.
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 ?