Tetrapod Zoology

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Earlier this year (July) my children’s book on Mesozoic reptiles – Dinosaurs Life Size – appeared in the shops. People seem to like it (yikes, even if some of the ‘life sized’ animals are scaled wrong). July also saw the publication of Dorling Kindersley’s Know It All (Baines 2010): I didn’t write the whole book, just the section on prehistoric animals. Today I’m pleased to announce that my third book for 2010 – Tetrapod Zoology Book One (Naish 2010) – is finally available.

Tetrapod Zoology Book One is a compilation of over 40 articles from Tet Zoo ver 1, and as such only includes articles published in 2006. Before I talk about its contents, a few shout-outs. The idea to make a book out of old blog posts was initially put to me by Karl Shuker in 2007, and Jon Downes (of CFZ Press, the book’s publisher) independently made the same suggestion at a similar time. Karl has always said that getting blog articles into published book form is wise, given that material online is ultimately ephemeral: indeed, I remain paranoid that blog articles – especially those hosted on blogspot and other such networks – might one day disappear without trace, though I don’t know how likely that is. Regular readers will know that the book could have been finished and published literally years ago had I acted sooner, but I lost momentum on it and had to shelve it while other projects took priority.

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Anyway, I also owe huge thanks to Steve Backshall for writing a very kind foreward, to Tone for being so tolerant of, well, everything, and to everyone who provided help and advice during the production of the original ver 1 articles [composite image above shows, clockwise from top left: Naish, Memo and Conway; Saz Fielding and snow-dog; Neil Phillips (pointing at phasianid); Steve Backshall; Phil Budd and Bernie Dempsey in the woods; Tone and Emma; the SV-POW! boys at SVP 2009; and Mark Witton, in full regalia]. And if you’re a Tet Zoo supporter who’s not mentioned or credited in the book, that’s because the Tet Zoo community of 2006 was rather different from that of 2010.

The book is well illustrated throughout, both with photos and drawings. Some of the pictures were penned by yours truly but Mark Witton also kindly provided a few and there’s at least one world exclusive. The photos come from a variety of sources (ahh, the wonders of wikipedia), but thanks in particular to Neil Phillips for his excellent photos of British wildlife.

The colour cover – produced (at really short notice) by C. M. Köseman – is, I’m sure you’ll agree, just awesome. I released the image on the Tet Zoo facebook page a few weeks ago and a lot of people have been trying to guess which creatures it features. At the bottom, we have a Long-eared jerboa, a plethodontid salamander, Common snapping turtle, Alligator snapping turtle and White olm. A Western green lizard, Herring gull and mid-sized azhdarchid (based on Mark’s skeletal reconstruction of Zhejiangopterus) are in the middle, with a kannemeyeriiform dicynodont behind. Over at top right, we have a Shoebill and a Golden eagle, while three fossil mammals – Acrophoca, Pakicetus and Ambulocetus – are at top left. All of these animals (or members of their respective groups, at least) are discussed in the book.

The weirdness of rabbits, and other musings

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Even if you’re a Tet Zoo uber-fan, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember all the articles published on ver 1, so I hope that much or even all of the material will appear novel to the majority of readers. If you’ve only been with Tet Zoo for the duration of the ScienceBlogs version (January 2007 to present), the contents will definitely be (mostly) new.

As I explain in the introduction, it all started with an article on the ability of large eagles to kill surprisingly large prey, and hence it’s only appropriate that this appears as Chapter 1. Regular readers will know that I’ve come back to this fascinating subject time and time again. Summarised very briefly, we then have 46 chapters (the book is 304 pp. long) covering such subjects as bear-eating pythons, snapping turtles, British eagle owls, Eocene stem-whales, Herring gulls and the ‘ring species’ concept, the evidence for British big cats, obscure wading and swimming mice, big-eared jerboas, sauropod hand anatomy, oviraptorosaur diversity, the freakiness of rabbits, the discovery of the Kipunji and Odedi, bird predation in noctules and other microbats, ichthyosaur wars and much, much more.

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If you like Tet Zoo because of the coverage of obscure animals, you hopefully won’t be disappointed with the book’s inclusion of docodonts, Chronoperates, Australian dicynodonts and recently described South American rodents. A very long chapter on MIWG.7306 – the large brachiosaur vertebra known affectionately as ‘Angloposeidon’ – means that the name ‘Angloposeidon’ is now (shock horror) in print. More importantly, the full back-story to the paper that I and colleagues eventually published on the specimen (Naish et al. 2004) is revealed in full.

Chapters that discuss the possibility of parasite control in Mesozoic birds and other feathered theropods, new ideas about compsognathids and tyrannosauroids, and the life appearance of the weird fossil seal Acrophoca should make the book interesting reading for those of you with palaeontological interests, while the several chapters on recently discovered living species should be required reading for those interested in cryptozoology.

The chapter on pterosaur wing membranes (Chapter 30) does the job that, entirely coincidentally, Ross Elgin and colleagues have just done for a technical paper, but at least I beat them into print (kidding. My popular text is not meant to act as a competitor to a technical paper). Oh and, naturally, I included a few tiny deliberate mistakes for eagle-eyed readers (one involves cave-dwelling plethodontid salamanders). And, also too, I did done put in a few sentences what are afflicted with monstrously bad construction (I never did understand that whole active vs passive thing).

Updates: azhdarchids (again), all those giraffes, and the Isturitz statuette

Publishing a compilation of articles originally written in 2006 is a risky endeavour if you want your text to be at all contemporary and/or accurate. After all, an awful lot of new stuff has happened over the past four years. I didn’t want to go re-writing any of the articles included in the book, but I have included an ‘updates’ section. The chapter on azhdarchids is now well superseded by the research Mark and I published in 2008 (Witton & Naish 2008), but I still think it’s a useful review, and a historically significant bit of text in that it chronicles the evolution of ideas on azhdarchid palaeobiology. Chapter 2 discusses inklings (brand-new in 2006) that Giraffa camelopardalis might turn out to be more than one species, and this is also very much redundant now given the publication of Brown et al. (2007).

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Another chapter – the one on the Isturitz statuette (a now-lost Palaeolithic figurine [shown here], apparently depicting a short-tailed, deep-jawed big cat) – is also now looking dated given that the identification I favoured for the statuette (the scimitar-toothed cat Homotherium) has been shown unlikely by Antón et al. (2009). They conclude that the statuette doesn’t depict Homotherium at all, but rather a Cave lion Panthera leo spelaea.

Buy it already

So, if you’re a Tet Zoo fan, I hope you’ll consider buying the book. It looks neat (if I say so myself) and is inexpensive for its size (£12.50 or $23, though not including p&p). It’s fully indexed and, as is the norm for Tet Zoo articles, contains citations and references throughout. It can be purchased from here on amazon.co.uk*, or from here on amazon.com (amazon.com doesn’t yet include a cover image, and it won’t let me upload one. Please help if you can). If you want a signed/personalised copy (as in, with a drawing inside or something), you can buy a copy directly from me, but this will be a bit more expensive because I don’t have the same privileged postal rate that amazon does. I have yet to work out the exact cost, but email me if you’re interested. You should also be able to order it at your local book store.

* Annoyingly, Amazon’s page makes it look like Steve is an author (though it is noted in the details that he only wrote the foreward). If you’re a fan, and if you have time, please consider writing a review for Amazon. No negative reviews please, only positive ones.

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I have no idea how well Tetrapod Zoology Book One will sell, and the appearance of subsequent volumes will of course depend on the success of this one.

Refs – -

Antón, M., Salesa, M. J., Turner, A., Galobart, Á. & Pastor, J. F. 2009. Soft tissue reconstruction of Homotherium latidens (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae). Implications for the possibility of representations in Palaeolithic art. Geobios 42, 541-551.

Baines, F. 2010. Know It All: Facts, Stats, Lists, Records and More. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Brown, D. M., Brenneman, R. A., Koepfli, K.-P., Pollinger, J. P., Milá, B., Georgiadis, N. J., Louis, E. E., Grether, G. F., Jacobs, D. K. & Wayne, R. K. 2007. Extensive population genetic structure in the giraffe. BMC Biology 2007, 5: 57 doi:10.1186/1741-7007-5-57

Naish, D. 2010. Tetrapod Zoology Book One. CFZ Press, Bideford.

- ., Martill, D. M., Cooper, D. & Stevens, K. A. 2004. Europe’s largest dinosaur? A giant brachiosaurid cervical vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Cretaceous Research 25, 787-795.

Witton, M. P. & Naish, D. 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE 3 (5): e2271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271

Comments

  1. #1 Gregory Pokrywka MD, FACP
    October 7, 2010

    relatively new here but love your stuff. Zoology major form way back. CryptoZoology guy too. Keep on doing it man. Ordering my copy now ! ps- considering an e-book reader soon- is it available in this format ?

  2. #2 Leonardo Ambasciano
    October 7, 2010

    Darren, why – judging from the cover shown at Amazon.co.uk – wasn’t your nice new B/W ‘TET ZOO’ logo featured on the book cover?!
    Anyway, ASAP I’ll definitely buy one copy!

    Leo A.

  3. #3 Michael P. Taylor
    October 7, 2010

    Many congratulations, Darren, on this long-overdue book! Let’s hope it sells well, not only for your sake but to reassure us all about our countries’ level of intelligent interest in science.

  4. #4 Tim Morris
    October 7, 2010

    I hope that, come the next book, I won’t be struck down by illness when I’m required to do illustrations ;)

  5. #5 Jerzy
    October 7, 2010

    Congratulations for the book!

    But I still believe that Isturitz statuette is a Homotherium! There are five or more features wrong for a cave lion: spots, short tail, angular chin, a sort of facial mask, a sort of belly fold or paler belly. The single feature supposedly wrong for Homotherium, the straight back, is unconclusive. The statuette misses lower limbs, so intended posture is unknown.

  6. #6 Jerzy
    October 7, 2010

    BTW – Amazon.co.uk editorial review has several typos.

  7. #7 Dartian
    October 7, 2010

    Awesome! I just ordered a copy.

    And, also too, I did done put in a few sentences what are afflicted with monstrously bad construction (I never did understand that whole active vs passive thing).

    Judging by what I’ve seen, your bad writing tends to be considerably better than most people’s good writing.

    ‘It is said of a certain poet that, though he tortures the English language, he has never yet succeeded in forcing it to reveal his meaning.’
    -Beachcomber

  8. #8 Trish
    October 7, 2010

    Wonderful! I have added this to my Amazon Wish List. All the content seems fascinating but I really hope the wonderful article about Ground Hornbills is in there. I hadn’t even heard of them before; now I’m about the only person who spends any time with them at the zoo. (Franklin Park has them *right* next to their lion. Good jarb, Franklin Park.)

  9. #9 schenck
    October 7, 2010

    Congrats, looks great!
    How is it that there are already 3 used copies for sale? And they’re more expensive than the (US) Amazon price already?

  10. #10 Dave Hughes
    October 7, 2010

    Great news, I’ve just done my bit to boost the sales figures, and look forward to reacquainting myself with the old articles.

  11. #11 MarkW
    October 7, 2010

    Ordered from Amazon UK. (Darren you may recall me as the author of a positive review on Amazon of The Great Dinosaur Discoveries)

  12. #12 Cameron
    October 7, 2010

    and the life appearance of the weird fossil seal Acrophoca

    I’m still deeply confused why Acrophoca is called ‘long-necked’ when the skeletal reconstruction gives it a neck as proportionally long as a harp seal’s. To make matters worse, all pinnipeds have necks proportionally shorter than a dog’s when caudals are discounted.

  13. #13 Hai~Ren
    October 7, 2010

    As a long-time reader since the early days of Tet Zoo v. 1, it gives me great joy to find out that you’re compiling your older posts and releasing a book. Now I know what to ask for Christmas!

  14. #14 David Tana
    October 7, 2010

    This is great. It’s on the wishlist, and will be in the cart as soon as the next paycheck comes. So glad it finally happened!

  15. #15 Dunk The Biscuit
    October 7, 2010

    Ah, Amazon One-Click ordering, you’ll be the death of me yet!

    Seriously, I’m so pleased to see this at last. When I first discovered Tet Zoo I spent a few months happily reading the archives of version 1

    I can think of at least two people who would genuinely appreciate this in their Giftmas stockings, too, so I’m sure I’ll be back for more copies.

  16. #16 Neil P
    October 7, 2010

    Thanks for the mention, and the placing of me next to Steve Backshall, just to emphasize the difference in our reactions when faced with dangerous animals! Of all the photos of me…
    And I see laurence llewelyn-bowen has made the collage too ;)

    As Ive said before your more than welcome to use my photos, its great to see them used in such a cool book. The one annoyance (as I’ve told you before) is that I probably now have much better versions of pics you have used! Still theres always tertrapod zoology book 2!

    On another subject it was great to see big cats in the UK being mentioned on Autumnwatch tonight, with some decent comments on the matter by Chris Packham.

  17. #17 Kurt Kohler
    October 7, 2010

    The Amazon.com listing has been at least partially fixed. There’s now a cover image and the writing and foreword credits have been corrected.

  18. #18 Steve Bodio
    October 7, 2010

    I love it, I want a signed one and will order from you– will email. Gawd– you even have your Christmas card drawing of the Eevil eagle from Tigner’s ranch, all of 20 miles away! (Only slightly “inside” I hope…)

    Will blog soon too.

  19. #19 Allen Hazen
    October 8, 2010

    Even if Blogspot stays in existence, blog posts SEEM ephemeral, and your … “posts” is inadequate… essays DESERVE better! Congratulations on the new book, which is now on my Christmas list.

    A propos of the deep weirdness of rabbits, and particularly the difficulty of homologizing their cheek teeth with those of more typically tribosphenic mammals (the rabbit essay is one I particularly enjoyed in and remember from Ver 1), have you seen this (published 20 September in Plos One)?

    Kraatz BP, Meng J, Weksler M, Li C (2010) Evolutionary Patterns in the Dentition of Duplicidentata (Mammalia) and a Novel Trend in the Molarization of Premolars. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12838. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012838

    Gives a … convincing-seeming to an amateur like me … story about the homologies of Lagomorph molar/premolar cusps and why they are so hard to decipher, making use of the comparatively recent (last decade or so?) identification of rabbit ancestors: Mimotonids are taken to be paraphyletic with respect to Lagomorphs, with Gomphos particularly close to later forms. Going from Mimotonids through stem Lagomorphs to extant forms (and being careful to look at unworn teeth: extant Lagomorphs apparently exhibit a key cusp only transiently), you get a nice sequence from recognizable tribospheny to deep weirdness!

  20. #20 JohnO
    October 8, 2010

    Darren, long-time reader/lurker here, have (mis)spent many happy hours going through the archives from the old site too. Haven’t commented before, happy just to read and learn from the knowledgeable people who frequent this blog… Anyway, just thought this was an opportune moment to express my admiration for this extremely informative well-written blog – it’s easy to get information on palaeontology, cryptozoology etc on the internet, but getting good, scientifically rigorous, information and opinions is considerably more difficult… Anyway, just to say I’m definitely buying the book come next payday and keep up the excellent work!

  21. #21 Jon Downes
    October 8, 2010

    I hesitate to contradict Dr N, but the book can be ordered through bookshops just by quoting the ISBN number. If bookshops have problems getting hold of it (which they shouldn’t) just tell them it is distributed through Gardners. Or if they haven’t got an account with gardners tell them to email me, jon@eclipse.co.uk, and they can buy them from us at a trade discount.

    I’m the publisher btw…

  22. #22 Michał
    October 8, 2010

    Regarding the Australian Cretaceous dicynodont – Dr Naish, what do you think about Agnolin et al (2010) suggestion that it might actually be a crocodyliform similar to Baurusuchus? Did you adress this in your new book, or did the paper appear too late to be addressed there?

    Also, congratulations on the book!

    Ref:
    Federico L. Agnolin, Martin D. Ezcurra, Diego F. Pais, Steven W. Salisbury (2010) “A reappraisal of the Cretaceous non-avian dinosaur faunas from Australia and New Zealand: evidence for their Gondwanan affinities” Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 8 (2), 257–300

  23. #23 Darren Naish
    October 8, 2010

    Thanks to everyone for comments and congratulatory messages. Doing additional volumes should be easier for several reasons. More specific comments…

    Jerzy (comment 5): on the Isturitz statuette, have you seen Antón et al. (2009)? They argue that the proportions (neck length, hip height, back shape, hindlimb length etc.) are wrong for a homothere (and that the short tail represents breakage). Also, eyes are too big, upper canine tips are not visible etc. I can send you a pdf if you want it.

    Trish (comment 8): nope, sorry, ground hornbills didn’t make it as I already had enough content. They can go into book two.

    Cameron (comment 12): in older writings, I definitely erred in following earlier authors (and artists) in interpreting Acrophoca as especially long-necked. The 2006 Tet Zoo text concludes that Acrophoca was a bit longer-necked than other monachines (no discussion of phocines), that the ‘long necked’/swan-necked moniker “really is a bit of an exaggeration”, and that Acrophoca might have looked something like a gracile leopard seal when alive.

    Neil (comment 16): yes, I saw the brief discussion of British big cats on Autumnwatch. There’s also some discussion of the subject on their discussion board. I was a bit frustrated to see them discuss the phenomenon as if it’s all based on eyewitness accounts and not mention the numerous kills, tracks, scats, hairs and even DNA samples that are known. The point about the rarity of spotted cats is always a good one. Inside info leads me to suspect that they will cover non-native cats again…

    Allen (comment 19): yup, I got Kraatz et al. (2010) as soon as it appeared and am happy with their phylogenetic model.

    Jon (comment 21): thanks for correction, I’ve altered the article.

  24. #24 Gareth Dyke
    October 8, 2010

    I am keen to get a review of Darren’s book published in Historical Biology (Taylor and Francis). So, if anyone is interested in writing one for us, then please get in touch with me directly (gareth.dyke@ucd.ie)

    Thanks!

  25. #25 Jerzy
    October 8, 2010

    Hi Darren,

    Please PM me a pdf. I think I read it once but have no access now.

    But I think that it is wrong to ignore main ID characteristics of an animal like spots, tail length etc., but analyze fine proportions of the body like eye size, neck and leg proportions. These are very commonly distorted in art, especially cave art.

    About protruding teeth of Homotherium – there is a suggestion that in life they were covered in loose tissue. I imagine this as flaps a bit like ones the mouth of a bulldog. To protect teeth from damage and cold, and to protect the cat from injuring itself. The statuette’s deep muzzle seems to fit it.

  26. #26 Tamara Henson
    October 8, 2010

    Congratulations on having your book published. I will head out to get a copy right now.

  27. #27 John Harshman
    October 8, 2010

    Congrats & all. Naturally, the shoebill on your cover grabbed my interest immediately. Shoebills are cool for at least three reasons: 1) Use of the faceplant as a predation strategy; 2) Specialization on a single prey species, and a lungfish at that; 3) Strange phylogenetic company: a monotypic genus whose close relatives are another monotypic genus (hamerkop) and a truly odd, though at least polytypic, genus (pelicans); but who would, looking at them, suspect that any two of those would belong together? What was your article about?

  28. #28 Darren Naish
    October 9, 2010

    Michał (comment 22): the text was written in 2006, so there’s no comment on Agnolin et al.’s proposal from 2010. Given the incredibly strong detailed similarity apparent between the Aussie dicynodont fragment and undoubted dicynodonts from elsewhere, I’m not sure that a sebecosuchian identification is plausible.

    Jerzy (comment 25): Antón and colleagues have shown in detail why sabre-toothed cats did not have weird skin flaps or anything like this around their big canines, and they didn’t look much different from modern big cats in head shape (no need for the ‘bulldog hypothesis’). Teeth and gums don’t need special protection from damage and cold, as verified by living sabre-toothed mammals. See…

    Antón, M., García-Perea, R. & Turner, A. 1998. Reconstructed facial appearance of the sabretoothed felid Smilodon. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 124, 369-386.

    Thanks for congrats, Tamara and John. How bizarrely topical that the shoebill should come up (I had a ‘shoebill-themed evening’ yesterday: I’ll explain later). The (brief) section in the book basically covers all the stuff you just have: feeding behaviour (references to faceplant strategy and alleged antelope- and carrion-eating) and proposed affinities (Mayr 2003 was the newest thing available at the time of writing). As for shoebills being monotypic… don’t forget that there are possible fossil shoebills (Goliathia andrewsi).

  29. #29 Lela Criswell
    October 9, 2010

    Darren,

    Rather than buy from amazon.com.uk, I bought your book via the Book Depository. I live in the U.S., and they ship worldwide for free. You might want to try uploading a cover image to their site.

    http://www.bookdepository.com/

  30. #30 kris
    October 9, 2010

    Any chance I could also have a .pdf of the Isturitz article, please?

    (Also, congratulations! Putting the book on my wishlist now!)

  31. #31 Jerzy
    October 10, 2010

    [sorry, delayed by spam filter]

    Hi Darren,

    Thanks for the references! You made me make a mini-study of Homotherium and other skulls. So:
    - Nobody to my knowledge discussed on the lines on the face of Isturitz statuette. They must be color pattern, akin to lines and spots on the face of some extant cats, although maybe lines don’t exactly follow the real-life pattern. It is hard to interpret them as fur pattern or casual mistake of the artist.
    - Antón et al. don’t discuss colour pattern on Isturitz statuette: spots on shoulders, facial pattern, line along lower sides, which is wrong from lions and cave lion presentation in ice age art (uniform or, rarely, striped).
    - Antón et al. don’t discuss the possibility that statuette could be a cat with sloping back and raised head, or dead cat lying stretched. Images of dead or hunted, dying animals are common in prehistoric art.
    - Antón et al. bring forward the deep gums of primates which completely hide long canines of eg. male baboons and macaques, but dismiss it because small gums are primitive for Feliformia. But no Feliforms discussed by them have so long canines, either.
    - Antón et al. don’t discuss Clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa. As you see on a comparison of skulls of clouded leopard and Homotherium here: http://www.bluelion.org/clouded_leopard.htm canines of clouded leopard are almost as long or equal in relation to braincase as of Homotherium, but hide completely in gums.
    - Upper canines and lower jaw in Clouded leopard and Homotherium, articulate very close together, unlike canines of Smilodon here: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2772/4278438704_0e951bb192.jpg and walrus here: http://www.taxidermy4cash.com/walrustusks.jpg
    This is reinforced by bony protrusions on the lower surface of lower jaw of Homotherium with groves for canines. This leaves no place for skin and fur between canines and lower jaw, and for biomechanical constrains the skin there must be thick otherwise would tear.
    - In sum, I consider that Homotherium must have canines hidden in gums, producing deep-mouthed apperance, although maybe not strikingly so, similar to the statuette.
    - As you see, I have other boring and pending task to do ;)

  32. #32 Dartian
    October 11, 2010

    Jerzy:

    They must be color pattern, akin to lines and spots on the face of some extant cats, although maybe lines don’t exactly follow the real-life pattern. It is hard to interpret them as fur pattern or casual mistake of the artist

    ‘Must’ be colour pattern? Be careful with judging that carving like you would judge a bird illustration in the newest edition of the Collins Bird Guide! How do you know that it’s not an intentional ‘mistake’ by the artist? Not all cultures – or indeed individuals! – go for the hyper-realistic approach. Take this Toltec carving of a jaguar for example: it is very far from being a photorealistic depiction (you can’t see any spots on it, for example). And yet we can’t from this conclude that the Toltec artist didn’t know what jaguars really look like, or that a thousand years ago, Mesoamerican jaguars were dramatically different in appearance from modern-day jaguars. Rather, the artist was just following his/her culture’s particular artistic conventions.

    cave lion presentation in ice age art

    Hmm. But how many cave paintings/carvings have been identified as (cave) lions with any degree of confidence, anyway? What’s the sample size we’re dealing with here?

  33. #33 Jerzy
    October 11, 2010

    @Dartian
    I also thought briefly of X-ray style (skeleton and internal organs superimposed on the outline of animal) which is sometimes present in ice age art, but it doesn’t fit either. Nor a poor style (artist simply screwing up things, which is common in ice age art, too). Stylization also follows rules. It is improbable that artist made something realistic, but added wrong features like spots to a lion.

    There are at least several tens of consistent and realistic images of Cave Lions. For overview see:
    http://www.beringia.com/research/lion.html

    You may also be interested in a fantastic book, which I recommend to anybody interested in Pleistocene and modern mammals and human culture. Written by paleontologist and part-time Alaskan hunter, annoying art historians, but this is the first time I see convincing interpretation of pleistocene art:
    http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Paleolithic-Art-Dale-Guthrie/dp/0226311260

  34. #34 Dartian
    October 12, 2010

    Jerzy:

    It is improbable that artist made something realistic, but added wrong features like spots to a lion.

    But how do you know that those ‘spots’ on the Isturitz statuette are really meant to be pelage spots? To only have spots on the shoulder area seems like an odd colour pattern; spots and specks, when present in carnivores, are usually distributed fairly uniformly across the torso. Is it recorded in the literature that identical spots were to be found on the left side of the Isturitz sculpture too?

    There are at least several tens of consistent and realistic images of Cave Lions.

    In your previous comment, you said that some (supposed) cave lion images are uniform in colour, while others are striped. That doesn’t sound terribly consistent to me.

    convincing interpretation of pleistocene art

    Do you find that book convincing because of the author’s rhetorics, or because actual, rigorous evidence is presented?

  35. #35 Jerzy
    October 12, 2010

    About spots – two options: statuette was spotted all over the back, but spots elsewhere worn off. Or live Homotherium was faintly spotted (like North European lynxes in winter) and the artist rendered them this way.

    About lion – see ref. 1.

    About book – must read yourself. For the first time, many paintings are interpreted as showing actual things and objects, rather than as mystical concepts or shamanic visions (which I consider a sort of poor science in many anthropologists – claiming that the picture shows shamanic vision is a convenient way to hide ignorance, everything can be put as unreal vision).

  36. #36 Albertonykus
    October 13, 2010

    Just ordered this book a few days ago. How could I not?

  37. #37 Dartian
    October 13, 2010

    About spots – two options: statuette was spotted all over the back, but spots elsewhere worn off. Or live Homotherium was faintly spotted (like North European lynxes in winter) and the artist rendered them this way.

    Oh, there are more options than that. Here, a further two:
    -Some/most/all of the ‘spots’ are nothing but dirt or damage on the original photograph of the statuette, and further reproductions of the photograph have distorted and exaggerated the size and number of the ‘spots’.
    -The ‘spots’ are real but are not intended to represent pelage markings; in other words, the statuette is a Paleolithic voodoo doll which the artist was pricking for some religious/cultural reason (whatever that was in his particular tribe).

    About lion – see ref. 1.

    You mean the link to the lion article on the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre webpage? The one that lists The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book as one of its sources?

    About book – must read yourself.

    That would be ideal, I agree. Thing is, however, that I’ve grown very suspicious of (popular) science books that even hint at revolutionising our understanding of any given subject at one fell swoop. I’ve read a few too many disappointing books of that kind over the years. If I happen to come across Guthrie’s book someday, I might give it a go. But it’s pretty far down on my future reading list.

    And this kind of description of the book doesn’t exactly enthuse me:

    For the first time, many paintings are interpreted as showing actual things and objects, rather than as mystical concepts or shamanic visions

    It is definitely not the first time! I’ve read about ‘naturalistic’ interpretations of cave paintings in books that were written in the 1960ies! Does the author himself make that claim, or is it just from a sensationalist jacket blurb written for marketing purposes?

  38. #38 Jerzy
    October 13, 2010

    @Dartian
    Dave Guthrie’s book is not popular in a sense of poor science. Guthrie is professor emeritus of paleontology. I am not sure if there are rigorous standard of interpreting art. The book is most famous of claim that cave art was made mostly (but not all) by children and teenagers not shamans.

    Animal-wise, Guthrie as both zoologist and Arctic hunter discovered lots of overlooked information. Lines interpreted as spears or random scribbling denote color pattern and fur pattern of cave lions, giant deer and wild horses. You can identify sex, age, behaviour and even geographic variation of many species.

  39. #39 Dartian
    October 13, 2010

    Dave Guthrie’s book is not popular in a sense of poor science. Guthrie is professor emeritus of paleontology.

    I know who he is (btw, it’s Dale, not Dave). It’s just that as far as I can tell, many of the claims that he’s allegedly making in his book about the cave art and its creators are inherently unfalsifiable (and hence unscientific).

    claim that cave art was made mostly (but not all) by children and teenagers not shamans

    That’s the kind of claim I have a problem with. How could Guthrie (or anyone else in this world, for that matter) ever either prove or disprove the age, gender, or profession (e.g., ‘shaman’) of the maker of any given cave painting? No doubt he can write up a plausible-sounding scenario, but just because something sounds convincing doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct.

    lots of overlooked information

    Overlooked by whom? Considering that Guthrie, a paleontologist, is a relative outsider regarding this topic it’s not unreasonable to ask how thorough his research has been. Could it be that it’s actually he who’s overlooked something?

    Lines interpreted as spears or random scribbling

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the book doesn’t seem to contain a single photograph of actual cave art items – only Guthrie’s drawings of them. Is there any way for a sceptical reader to independently judge whether the author’s renditions are correct?

  40. #40 Darren Naish
    October 13, 2010

    I’m a huge fan of Dale Guthrie’s writings (his book and articles on ‘Blue Babe’ are among my favourite works on Pleistocene mammals), but it’s worth noting that his book on Palaeolithic art has been heavily criticised (and even out-right ignored) by some. It’s been said that his interpretations are, well, too interpretative.

    I have no strong opinion either way: I remain confused that, while some authors claim that cave art was only produced by special, high-status, experienced individuals, others say that the pictures were random scribblings produced by a huge sector of the population. Unless drawing and leaving marks was somehow prohibited by culture – was it? – experience of modern humans leads me to favour the second interpretation. If so, at least some cave art might be fanciful or unrealistic (and, indeed, there are quite a few unexplained ‘monsters’ or ‘hybrids’ in cave art).

  41. #41 Jerzy
    October 13, 2010

    @Dartian
    Read the book. Cultural historian would not notice things obvious for a zoologist or a hunter. For example whether a line, supposedly a spear, touches the place on animal where hunter would really aim. Or a posture of a bison hunted down and about to die. Or that mysterious patches on animal body are in places of vascularized tissue where a hunter should aim.

    @Darren
    Ignoring the evidence is never a good thing. I understand ire of an art historian who is told that his beloved masterpiece is essentially an 40.000 year-old porn or graffiti of spelunking teenager.

    I don’t agree with all of Guthies interpretation. But I am convinced by Guthrie’s stats. Things are consistently selected or absent. For example, like 85% of artifacts identifable to age (footprints, handprints etc) were left by children and teenagers. Lines and patches on cave lions, horses, giant deer and reindeer fall consistently in the same places. Etc etc.

    About Blue Babe – naturally, Guthrie’s biggest claim of fame is that he and his few colleagues actually tasted Bison priscus. ;)

  42. #42 Dartian
    October 14, 2010

    I should probably let this go already but I couldn’t let this pass by without comment:

    85% of artifacts identifable to age (footprints, handprints etc) were left by children and teenagers

    And from that Guthrie jumps to the conclusion that the children/teenagers also made most of the paintings? That’s like concluding that a kindergarten is run by toddlers because they outnumber the adults there! Are those Paleolithic children’s footprints even exactly contemporary with the paintings? (Nitpick: footprints aren’t ‘artifacts’.)

  43. #43 Jerzy
    October 15, 2010

    Dartian, identifying the size of painter from (some) paintings is one of topics explained in Guthrie’s book.

  44. #44 Felipe
    October 19, 2010

    Sorry to break the Guthrie discussion, but any chance of getting the Tetrapod Zoology book for Kindle?

  45. #45 Eliot Beeby
    October 22, 2010

    Congratulations Darren, I’ve been skulking for a while and purchased your long overdue book, it arrived a few days ago. Excellent.
    Teeny-tiny gripe that is clearly out of your hands; you can tell its first edition – my copy says ‘Tetrapood Zoology’ on the spine!

  46. #46 Allen Hazen
    April 6, 2011

    I think if you asked me to name a favorite post from Tet Zoo version 1 (= first year), I think I’d pick the article on the origins of the domestic dog, which isn’t included in the book. Are you thinking of revisiting this topic?

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