Tetrapod Zoology

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I promised myself back in 2007 that I’d cut down on the number of conferences I attend. There’s a problem with that: I’m pretty bad at keeping promises (at least, to myself). This year I’m attending a ridiculous four conferences, and I’ve just returned from the first of them (please remind me why I have no money, and no spare time). Entitled Sea Dragons of Avalon: the early radiations of the marine reptiles and recovery from the Triassic-Jurassic faunal crisis, with special reference to Street in Somerset and the wider British record, this Palaeontological Association (Pal Ass) seminar included a day of talks on the British marine record, as well as an additional day of field trips to the surrounds (for previous pre-emptive thoughts on the meeting, see here [May 2009], here [July 2009] and here [August 2009]). Yes, more ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs than you can shake a proverbial stick at…

Any conference that discusses marine reptiles and faunal changes across any given boundary is a good thing, of course, but this meeting was actually much more: its raison d’être was to raise a glass to Arthur Cruickshank, a mentor and academic uncle to so many people who work in vertebrate palaeontology today [in the adajcent image, Arthur cuts a specially made cake. Yes, a cake with a historically significant plesiosaur on it: not every day you see that]. Arthur’s impact on the plesiosaur world is considerable, and – in a career spanning five decades – he’s also produced important contributions on archosaurs and synapsids. It seems high time that his role and influence be properly acknowledged. Because of constraints arising from Pal Ass’s charitable status, and (quite separately) from problems that can arise from mixed Festschrifts featuring disparate presentations, we very properly split the meeting into two financially independent elements. It consisted of the Pal Ass seminar proper (held nominally in Arthur’s honour, but with an entirely ‘logical’ programme), and a preceding informal Festschrift-style lunch party and more mixed set of papers. Well done to Mike A. Taylor, Leslie Noè, David Hill and Jeff Liston for the organisation, to Pal Ass for sponsorship… oh yes, and to me (though my role was very minor).

So, we had two days of talks. As usual, I’m not going to review or discuss all of them, but here are thoughts and recollections on, well, most of them.

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Michael Benton reviewed his work on the changing fortunes of dicynodonts across the Permian Triassic Boundary (PTB). Much of this research will be familiar to you if you’ve read Fröbisch (2008) and Surkov & Benton (2008). Permian and Triassic dicynodonts occupied fairly different regions of morphospace, suggesting that they were quite different in terms of adaptations and so on, and that Permian-style dicyndonts failed to recover after the PTB. After the talk it only seemed appropriate to ask what Mike thought of the alleged Cretaceous dicynodont reported from Australia by Thulborn & Turner (2003). It seems that (just about) everyone is happy with its identification as a kannemeyeriiform (if I remember correctly, Tom Kemp stated that he’d examined it personally and was convinced by the identification): the question concerns its alleged Cretaceous date. Methinks we need isotope geochemistry or something to pin down its exact age, as has been suggested by others. While on the subject of anomodonts, the scansorial behaviour just proposed for Suminia by Fröbisch & Reisz (2009) was, needless to say, the talk of the town (figuratively) [adjacent Placerias reconstruction by Matt Celeskey of HMNH].

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Adam Smith spoke about the ‘Dragons’ Dens’ (for those not in the UK, I should note that there’s a TV series called Dragons’ Den): that is, the storage history of the marine reptile collection now kept at the National Museum of Ireland’s Beggars Bush store. It’s a pretty sorry tale of woeful neglect and mismanagement really, as the many specimens have been moved four times and kept from access for decades. The crown jewel of the collection – the amazing, articulated, near-complete holotype of Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni (casts of which can be seen at various institutions) – was, during the early 1960s, broken into bits with a sledgehammer when it had to be moved in a hurry. A new project on this specimen was initiated in 2004 (Arthur provided advice), and here lies the origin of Adam’s Ph.D. work [Adam’s world-famous R. cramptoni reconstruction shown here, borrowed from here on The Plesiosaur Directory].

Simon Carpenter discussed the many excellent finds he made in the Kimmeridge Clay at Westbury Quarry, Somerset. These included turtles, a spectacular pliosaur, and the holotype of the metriorhynchid Dakosaurus carpenteri. Unfortunately, the quarry is now closed, so no new discoveries! We also had talks from John Hudson on collecting trips in Scotland, and from Richard Edmonds on the Dorset Jurassic coast and on the problems of setting up a world-class collection centre in the area.

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In view of Arthur’s involvement with the world of African archosaurs, it seemed fitting that we had at least some archosaur-themed content, and this was fulfilled in the form of David Norman’s talk on Heterodontosaurus. The many excellent illustrations demonstrate that the descriptive work on Heterodontosaurus is somewhere near completion [Heterodontosaurus cast shown here, from wikipedia]. Norman reviewed the discovery history of this unusual dinosaur, and also discussed its chewing behaviour. He argued that medial rotation of the mandibular rami was most likely, and hence that transverse grinding of some sort was occurring. Given that heterodontosaurids seem to be very basal within Ornithischia (Butler et al. 2008), it’s perhaps surprising that a fairly complicated jaw mechanism was already present, and one that was apparently distinct from the pleurokinesis and propaliny present in later, more derived ornithischians. If you’ve been following the dinosaur literature you might be interested, as I was, to know what Norman thinks of Holliday & Witmer’s (2009) contention that cranial kinesis was most likely absent in non-avian dinosaurs (this research was previously discussed here). Essentially, the response is that Holliday & Witmer didn’t discount the possibility of cranial kinesis altogether (they merely discounted certain kinds of kinesis), and that tooth wear data provides compelling support for pleurokinesis and other complex forms of kinesis. I think there’s a very interesting debate to be had here.

Mike A. Taylor and Jehane Melluish discussed the extremely interesting Thomas Hawkins, well known (in British vertebrate palaeontology) for acquiring good marine reptile fossils and for writing about them in (to our eyes) a bizarre style that combines scientific observation with a, shall we say, more colourful interpretation. As demonstrated by a number of feuds, disputes and legal cases, Hawkins was a bully and neighbour from hell (to use Mike’s term); he seems to have gotten some of his money by marrying at least one rich woman.

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Richard Forrest (and an absent Mark Evans) reported the latest developments on the Collard plesiosaur [shown in adjacent pic, and in image below]. This is the small, damn-near-complete, fully articulated juvenile plesiosaur discovered on the beach at Bridgwater Bay, Somerset, by Nick Collard in 2003: quite probably the most extraordinary plesiosaur specimen ever found. It’s been CT-scanned and extensively x-rayed. It’s probably a rhomaleosaur, and possibly similar to the animal called Plesiosaurus macrocephalus: as discussed here, this species is not part of Plesiosaurus at all, and its affinities and taxonomy remain unresolved.

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The flipper tips of the Collard specimen are gently curved posteriorly, suggesting that this was the case in life, and a gap between the coracoids and gastralia might provide support for the presence of a cartilaginous sternum. One peculiarity is that some bones, while clearly visible with the naked eye, don’t show up in the x-rays. Apparently, however, this is an artefact caused by pyrite content. The way the pelvis has collapsed indicates that it was originally quite deep… which of course brings us to the subject of plesiosaur body shape, a topic Tim Morris asked about in the comments a while ago. Plesiosaurs are a reasonably diverse bunch (well, within the constraints of a fairly conservative bauplan) and were not all alike. It seems that some (like cryptoclidids) were indeed fairly round in cross-section, while others (like some rhomaleosaurs) were far flatter, and wider than deep. I’m sure the many plesiosaurologists who visit Tet Zoo will provide additional thoughts in the comments. No pressure.

Academics in various disciplines are known to enjoy reconstructing their own ‘academic lineages’. In any given field of research, it’s often surprising how incestuous things have been, and on how influential one or a handful of individuals have been. Asking the question ‘Is there a Cambridge School of Palaeontology?’, Tom Kemp looked at Rex Parrington’s academic ‘descendants’. He tried to find synapomorphies and identified a clade. If you’re part of this clade, rest assured that you were mentioned – and perhaps even pictured – somewhere during this presentation.

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Our first day finished with Ryosuke Motani’s public lecture ‘Street’s town symbol: the ichthyosaur two centuries since its discovery’. I suppose all I really need say is that Prof. Motani is clearly highly experienced at presenting a huge amount of technical information to a lay-audience in an understandable fashion. He covered his research on eyes, vision and deep-diving, the work on digit homology and flipper anatomy, and also showed how new work in China was ushering in a new phase in ichthyosaur research. It was a very impressive performance, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. On a technicality, one local lady told me that Street is not actually a town, but in fact a village (Europe’s largest village, apparently). However, this was most certainly not Ryosuke’s fault as we provided him with the title! [one of Chris Moore’s ichthyosaurs shown in the adjacent image].

And that’s the end of part 1: more in the following article.

For previous articles relevant to some of the material discussed here see…

Refs – –

Butler, R. J., Upchurch, P. & Norman, D. B. 2008. The phylogeny of the ornithischian dinosaurs. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 6, 1-40.

Fröbisch, J. 2008. Global taxonomic diversity of anomodonts (Tetrapoda, Therapsida) and the terrestrial rock record across the Permian-Triassic Boundary. PLoS ONE 3(11): e3733. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003733

– . & Reisz, R. R. 2009. The Late Permian herbivore Suminia and the early evolution of arboreality in terrestrial vertebrate ecosystems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0911

Holliday, C. M. & Witmer, L. M. 2008. Cranial kinesis in dinosaurs: intracranial joints, protractor muscles, and their significance for cranial evolution and function in diapsids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28, 1073-1088.

Surkov, M. V. & Benton, M. J. 2008. Head kinematics and feeding adaptations of the Permian and Triassic dicynodonts. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28, 1120-1129.

Thulborn, T. & Turner, S. 2003. The last dicynodont: an Australian Cretaceous relict. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270, 985-993.

Comments

  1. #1 Craig York
    August 4, 2009

    Delightful introduction to the conference-looking forward
    to the next installment. I am a little baffled by the
    R. Cramptoni reconstruction-mainly by what looks
    a row of ‘floating’ ribs along the lower line of the
    belly.(I’m probably just mis-interpreting the image.)

  2. #2 Zach Miller
    August 4, 2009

    Sounds fun! Will anyone be talking about mosasaurs, or this conference strictly sauropterygian (as far as marine reptiles)? And if that’s the case, why aren’t placodonts getting any love? :-)

  3. #3 Neil
    August 4, 2009

    A very intersting read. Sounds like a great conference :)

  4. #4 Vasha
    August 4, 2009

    If you think it’s confusing for Street to be a “village”… in New York State (and I presume some other US states), a “town” is an administrative area larger that can be larger than a “city”. For example, the City of Ithaca (5 square miles) is surrounded by the Town of Ithaca (30 square miles). Plus, the administrative area of a “village” here, though smaller than a “town”, can have several population centers within it.

  5. #5 Nick Gardner
    August 4, 2009

    “Given that heterodontosaurids seem to be very basal within Ornithischia (Butler et al. 2008), it’s perhaps surprising that a fairly complicated jaw mechanism was already present, and one that was apparently distinct from the pleurokinesis and propaliny present in later, more derived ornithischians. If you’ve been following the dinosaur literature you might be interested, as I was, to know what Norman thinks of Holliday & Witmer’s (2009) contention that cranial kinesis was most likely absent in non-avian dinosaurs (this research was previously discussed here). Essentially, the response is that Holliday & Witmer didn’t discount the possibility of cranial kinesis altogether (they merely discounted certain kinds of kinesis), and that tooth wear data provides compelling support for pleurokinesis and other complex forms of kinesis. I think there’s a very interesting debate to be had here.”

    One would have to wonder if the maxillary movements of pleurokinesis could be explained by mandibular rotation instead, something to think about. ;)

    -Nick

  6. #6 Tim Morris
    August 4, 2009

    Freaking Rhomaleosaurus! WE LOVE YOU DARREN

    Also, one hopes Street would get into the ears of the Jim Henson company excetutives, Carrol Spinney’s “Big Pliosaur” would only a be a heartbeat away.

  7. #7 John Hutchinson
    August 5, 2009

    Darren remember to save your money for ICVM in Uruguay, July 2010! Awesome conference!

    Laura Porro, Norman’s recent PhD student, is now recommended to become Dr. Porro after a viva with myself and Jeff Thomason last week, and her work answers the kinesis/jaw mechanism questions. I’ll leave it to her to explain.

  8. #8 Dartian
    August 5, 2009

    a cake with a historically significant plesiosaur on it

    I know I’ve seen that fossil – or its cast – somewhere… Is it the Rhomaleosaurus/Thaumatosaurus victor holotype?

  9. #9 David Marjanović
    August 5, 2009

    Asking the question ‘Is there a Cambridge School of Palaeontology?’, Tom Kemp looked at Rex Parrington’s academic ‘descendants’. He tried to find synapomorphies and identified a clade. If you’re part of this clade, rest assured that you were mentioned – and perhaps even pictured – somewhere during this presentation.

    Will this presentation turn into a publication? If not, who do I have to kill to get the ppt file?

    what looks a row of ‘floating’ ribs along the lower line of the belly

    are the gastralia, a series of bones in the belly wall that mammals, squamates and derived birds have lost, which is why you’re not familiar with them.

  10. #10 Mike Taylor
    August 5, 2009

    There was only one possible choice for the cake decoration (and I should know as I chose it, though I did consider briefly an ATC glider for Arthur!): the classic Street plesiosaur Thalassiodracon hawkinsi (Owen, 1840) and specifically the holotype of the genus and species in the Natural History Museum, London. A very famous specimen used in all manner of books from Hawkins’s own massive efforts (available online on Richard Forrest’s website http://www.plesiosaur.com) through Buckland’s Bridgwater Treatise ad nauseam.

  11. #11 Richard Forrest
    August 5, 2009

    The historically significant plesiosaur fossil on the cake is the holotype of Thallasiodracon hawkinsii. The original is in the Natural History Museum, London, BMNH 2018. It is well-known in part at least because of the large number of casts which were sold in the 19th century. They turn up in museums all over the world, usually misidentified as Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus due to misidentification in Ward’s catalogue.

    It was figured by that most eccentric of all fossil collectors (and there is **VERY** stiff competition), Thomas Hawkins (exceedingly unpleasant human being and possible serial killer according to Michael Taylor) in his “Memoirs of Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri” as “Plesiosaurus tessarestarsostinus”, and in “The Book of the Great Sea Dragons” as “Plesiosaurus triatarsostinus”. We can be eternally grateful to Richard Owen, who renamed the taxon Plesiosaurus hawkinsi.

    This specimen has recently been taken down from the wall for conservation, and Angela Milner reports that some elements have been reconstructed – not unusual for a Hawkins specimen. There will be considerable interest in developments.

  12. #12 Dartian
    August 5, 2009

    It is well-known in part at least because of the large number of casts which were sold in the 19th century. They turn up in museums all over the world, usually misidentified as Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus

    Ah, now I know why it looked so familiar; I’ve seen those misnamed casts. Thanks for the information, Mike and Richard!

    exceedingly unpleasant human being and possible serial killer

    Serial killer?! Blimey! Details, please!

  13. #13 Richard Forrest
    August 5, 2009

    Re: Thomas Hawkins, possible serial killer.
    Mike Taylor gave us an account of what we know about Hawkins, and I think this will be published before too long. According to some records, he was married three or four times – something he thought not worth mentioning in his autobiography. It was known that he was on the lookout for wealthy women of marriageable age, but there seems to be a veil over what happened after his marriages. Given his character, which suggests that he suffered from an extreme personality disorder, a quiet disposal of his wives after he had his hands on their money seems not unlikely.

  14. #14 Darren Naish
    August 5, 2009

    Richard: seriously? And I thought I was paying attention during Mike’s talk…

  15. #15 Mike Taylor
    August 5, 2009

    Oh dear, my fur and whiskers. I’m glad Darren sand that as i don’t recall it from my talk! I have a feeling this, rather, arose from something I wondered about aloud in the bar after my talk … perhaps as the result of someone in the audience arguing that TH was a good guy, just misunderstood. If I recall rightly, I was talking about how the effect of revisiting a subject is often to revisit one’s assumptions and impressions afresh, and joked that I was beginning to worry about the speed with which Wife No 1 disappeared – but then she was into her 60s if I recall rightly. Murder, serial or otherwise, is certainly not documented!! He was a serial perjurer, that’s for sure. In any case we have only got one wife for sure, for all that local legend did say 3 or 4. See my Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article and a piece in the Somerset Proceedings in 2003 (vol 146 and no, sorry, I don’t have pdfs of either) which cover some of what Jehane and I said.

  16. #16 Craig York
    August 5, 2009

    David-thanks for the information. I guess I have some reading to do…not least on this Hawkins fellow. Can
    anyone reccomend a good general text on his career? He
    sounds a fascininating character. ( And whats the field
    without a few skeletons in the closet, anyway?)

  17. #17 Dartian
    August 5, 2009

    Craig:

    And whats the field without a few skeletons in the closet, anyway?

    Hmm. Leaving aside the possible case of Mr Hawkins, which are the worst actual crimes ever committed by professional paleontologists, anyway? (Baron Nopcsa’s murder of his servant surely must feature highly on such a list.)

  18. #18 Darren Naish
    August 5, 2009

    We might do well to shut down this thread right now. I wish I was joking, but an individual known to many of us in the Mesozoic reptile community was recently charged with the most serious of crimes.

  19. #19 Dartian
    August 5, 2009

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t know that. Delete my comment if you think it’s inappropriate, Darren.

  20. #20 Craig York
    August 5, 2009

    And/or mine as well, Darren. Apologies for the gaff.

  21. #21 Nathan Myers
    August 5, 2009

    the most serious of crimes

    Plagiarism is not unknown even within the world of paleontology.

  22. #22 Colin McHenry
    August 5, 2009

    John wrote:

    Darren remember to save your money for ICVM in Uruguay, July 2010! Awesome conference!

    I’m gutted that I couldn’t get to Avalon, but I’m saving up for Uruguay. Also, there’s the Mosasaur 3 conference in Paris in May next year: http://www.plesiosaur.com/forum/index.php?topic=438.0

    Laura Porro, Norman’s recent PhD student, is now recommended to become Dr. Porro after a viva with myself and Jeff Thomason last week, and her work answers the kinesis/jaw mechanism questions. I’ll leave it to her to explain.

    Congratulations, Laura. I know her thesis includes some excellent work – looking forward to the papers.

    It seems that some (like cryptoclidids) were indeed fairly round in cross-section, while others (like some rhomaleosaurs) were far flatter, and wider than deep. I’m sure the many plesiosaurologists who visit Tet Zoo will provide additional thoughts in the comments. No pressure.

    Ok, I’ll bite. Perhaps the very fact that you are mentioning the possibility of sternum in the Collard specimen earlier in that paragraph tells us how far we are away from understanding basic questions of body shape in plesiosaurs? On top of that, taphonomy overrides so much, and when comparing Liassic plesiosaurs with Middle Jurassic cryptoclidids you’d have to wonder how much the different taphonomic context affects what you’re seeing.

    One peculiarity is that some bones, while clearly visible with the naked eye, don’t show up in the x-rays. Apparently, however, this is an artefact caused by pyrite content.

    Interesting. The Kronosaurus specimen I CT scanned in my thesis had various sutures and cracks infilled with siderite, which showed up pretty clearly on the X-rays. The areas of bone which were hard to distinguish from the matrix seemed to have very similar mineralogy to the matrix (as I undertsand it, it’s contrast in X-ray attenuation that is the major signal for showing structure in CT).

  23. #23 Allen Hazen
    August 6, 2009

    By coincidence, I had skimmed the Surkov and Benton paper the day before this post. There is apparently a significant difference between earlier (Permian, early Triassic) and later (late Triassic) Dicynodonts in skull proportions: all the later ones have comparatively high (as opposed to comparatively wide) occiputs. From which geometry suggests that the muscles for raising the head had greater mechanical advantage. From which the successive conclusions drawn were (i) late Dicynodonts tended to be high browsers (ii) so they lived in forests (iii) because this gave them a better chance of escaping from fast-moving archosaurian predators. Plausible, but it seemed to me that each step was more speculative than the preceding one.

    Sounds like a fun conference. As a Synapsid/Theropsid chauvinist, I’m glad there was at least one talk that WASN’T about marine Sauropsids! (Grin!)

  24. #24 David Marjanović
    August 6, 2009

    Baron Nopcsa’s murder of his servant

    Should probably be called a double suicide of him and his gayfriend. It’s not clear (to me) if the latter gave informed consent, though…

  25. #25 Darren Naish
    August 6, 2009

    It’s usually stated that Bajazid Elma Doda’s death was murder, but one biographical article (Elise 1999) merely said that Bajazid ‘died with’ Nopcsa. I always think it’s unfortunate that Nopcsa’s personal life has so often been of more interest than his scientific work. As Weishampel and Reif emphasised, he was no outsider or heterodox thinker in his own day, and contributed a lot. Then again, few of us aim to become King of Albania.

    Oh, and I won’t even mention that turtle.

  26. #26 Dartian
    August 6, 2009

    Darren:

    It’s usually stated that Bajazid Elma Doda’s death was murder, but one biographical article (Elise 1999) merely said that Bajazid ‘died with’ Nopcsa.

    Indeed, those are the words used by the author* of this article. But surely Nopcsa’s own words must count against the suggestion that there was some mutually agreed-upon suicide pact? In his suicide note, Nopcsa wrote that “I shot my longtime friend and secretary, Mr Bayazid Elmas Doda, in his sleep without his suspecting at all”. That certianly sounds like a murder confession to me.

    * Nitpick: the author’s name is Elsie, not Elise.

  27. #27 Darren Naish
    August 6, 2009

    That’s the article I’d checked, thanks. So: Elsie, not Elise.

  28. #28 John Scanlon, FCD
    August 6, 2009

    Thanks for reminding me I need to read that Weishampel and Reif piece. I did read somewhere, about ten years ago, that DW was working on a more complete biography of Nopcsa, but haven’t followed up what was already published. I had to learn German just (mainly) to read Nopcsa’s work on Cretaceous marine snakes for my PhD, so I invested pretty heavily in the guy not being a complete crackpot. And needless to say, I don’t think he was…

    He did some good solid work on dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds, varanoids and archaic snakes, which remains poorly known and is worth not only acknowledging but reading afresh to see what has been missed or ignored since. The same goes for his theoretical ideas in palaeobiology. There is supposed to have been animosity or resentment against him during his life, and there certainly seem to have been biases against him since, so that lack of citation is not hard to explain. E.g., Georg Haas was old enough to have met him, but Haas did not use his stuff even though he was certainly aware of it (mentioning without actually citing). Also, being multilingual, a large fraction of his work has never been directly available to monoglot scientists in any country.

    …but there was this one scene that really needs to be in a film. As Director of the Geological Survey of Hungary, he hosted a meeting of the Paläontologische Gesellschaft in Budapest in 1928 but was apparently mostly absent from the proceedings, being pushed into the hall in a wheelchair and giving a speech on the history of palaeobiology and his ‘neo-Lamarckist’ ideas on the role of disease-mimicking physiological adaptation in evolution. He included a couple of oblique references to his condition of (apparent) paralysis, but I don’t know if anyone knows whether he was actually ill, injured or (I like this idea) experimenting on himself to study changes in his skeleton due to prolonged inactivity. I found a copy of the text in the Institut für Paläontologie in Bonn, and part of it goes like this (in my trans., which doesn’t seem to be up at the Polyglot Palaeontologist, maybe I forgot to post it):

    I had planned for today a lecture on the ossification-delaying effect of aquatic life, but unfortunately I cannot at this time stand before you armed with the full scientific equipment, and I must therefore limit myself to bringing to your attention certain remarkable parallelisms between the skeletal changes of marine vertebrates and those terrestrial vertebrates which suffer from thyroid gland deficiency…

    And then he goes a bit needlessly messianic at the end,

    Gentlemen! With a weak hand have I tried today to draw aside a heavy curtain, to show you a new dawn. Pull more strongly on this curtain, particularly the younger ones among you; you will notice the morning light becoming ever stronger, and you will witness a sunrise.

    It all seems a bit – oh, I don’t know, operatic?

  29. #29 Dartian
    August 6, 2009

    That same author, Robert Elsie, has also written an article about Nopcsa’s ‘secretary’/victim, Bajazid Elmaz Doda. Doda was, by the way, himself the author of at least one book* that was about rural life in – where else? – Albania.

    * He finished the manuscript in 1914, but the book wasn’t published until in 2007!

  30. #30 Nick Gardner
    August 6, 2009

    “It seems that some (like cryptoclidids) were indeed fairly round in cross-section, while others (like some rhomaleosaurs) were far flatter, and wider than deep. I’m sure the many plesiosaurologists who visit Tet Zoo will provide additional thoughts in the comments.”

    RE: cryptoclidids and body shape,

    O’Keefe and Street (2009). Osteology of the Cryptocleidoid Plesiosaur Tatenectes laramiensis, with Comments on the Taxonomic Status of the Cimoliasauridae. JVP 29(1): 48-57.

  31. #31 David Marjanović
    August 8, 2009

    Oh, and I won’t even mention that turtle.

    Kallokibotion bajazidi, apparently a stem-turtle…

  32. #32 B.E. of N.Y.
    August 16, 2009

    The Adelaide Museum in South Australia had a Curator of Mammals in the nineteenth century who would have fitted in well with the gentlemen above. He would place letters inside his prepared exhibits detailing his hatred of seemingly every person he had professional dealings with. They are all still there, he did excellent work. As I recall museum staff take scrupulous care of everything he made, nobody wants to open anything up, and the letters may not be all that he put in there. Also he had a shed out the back of the Museum where he boiled down specimens, and every so often came to the door with a handgun and blazed away at all the local stray dogs congregating there. I will see if I can find his name.
    Darren, thanks for the blog. It is the most interesting thing I read these days.

  33. #33 Mark Evans
    August 16, 2009

    I’m genuinely disappointed to have not been able to have attended the meeting, both because of the subject matter, and in being another of Arthur’s academic nephews.
    Anyway, I’m back now, so I’ll bite too…
    Plesiosaur body shape is tricky to reconstruct as they do tend to get flattened. As Daren says, they were reasonably deiverse, within a conservative bauplan, so what seems to be the case for one shouldn’t apply to all. The best evidence of a deep bodied plesiosaur, IMHO, is Peloneustes, in which the coracoids seem to have made an angle of roughly 90 degrees (or so) with one another at the midline. However, in others it’s more a case of trying to articulate distorted ribs and transverse processes together. That said, an animal with widely projecting lateral cornua on the posterior ends of the coracoids (eg Cryptoclidus) would seem to demand a wider body shape than one without.

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