Homage to The Velvet Claw (teaser)

i-37692d7450f92d7f82a93125fbbf9f03-Stuart Brooks 1992 Andrewsarchus animation.jpg

If you're like me, you'll know the TV series, and/or the book, well...

Reminiscing about it now, it's impossible to forget how awesome it was. And it was so much more than a history of the carnivorans: it involved dinosaurs, mesonychians, pristichampsines, glyptodonts, future predators, and some plain awesome real-life sequences of carnivorans doing what they do best. I'm hoping to post the full article tonight. And if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about you're definitely in for a surprise!

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After Andrewsarchus, the best known mesonychians are the mesonychids... and, as we saw previously, Andrewsarchus may not be a mesonychian anyway. Mesonychids are a mostly Eocene group that originated in the Paleocene; Mesonyx, from the Middle Eocene of North America, was the first member of the…
Those of us interested in the same subject often tend to have experienced the same sort of things. If you share my interests (as you probably do, given that you're here), you've probably watched a lot of Attenborough on TV. You've probably been to at least one of the bigger natural history museums…
The previous article was a brief, cursory introduction to the mesonychians. Time to look at things in a bit more detail... Andrewsarchus mongoliensis is, of course, 'the' mesonychian for most people, and one might get the impression that it's a typical member of the group. In fact it's most…
We saw in the previous article that Andrewsarchus, most 'famous' of mesonychians (even though it may well not be a member of this group), is not just a scaled-up Eocene wolf, but really something quite unusual. Indeed, it's so unusual that Szalay & Gould (1966) decided that it's worthy of its…

Why isn't it on DVD; that's what I want to know! My video is becoming increasingly frayed and dusty.

I managed to get a copy of the video for £1 at my local library :) Haven't had a chance to watch it yet thou I sense I may be spurred into doing so soon...

I completely missed out on the show, unfortunately, but I was able to snag a copy of the book and absolutely loved it. I can't wait to hear the news!

Certainly, it was a nice show.

I wonder, how much of paleontological knowledge in that series still holds? Are there any anachronisms - things which are now known to be untrue?

I don't think it will be popular in BBC any more, because almost all the footage was captive animals in studio-type settings. (Look carefully!) BBC now avoids it.

I wonder, how much of paleontological knowledge in that series still holds? Are there any anachronisms - things which are now known to be untrue?

Is that the one that asserts that Cimolestes was a common ancestor of Carnivora and Creodonta? That has turned out to be wrong, mighty wrong -- but only this year was it found to be wrong in a serious phylogenetic analysis.

(And we still don't know what, if anything, a creodont is.)

[from Darren: you're referring to Luo et al.'s Yanoconodon paper right? If so, it's not the first study to find Cimolestes to be a stem-eutherian. Anyway, more on this in the next post actually - wait until then!]

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

I miss that series. As outdated as it seems today, it was nonetheless awesome, a brilliant way of presenting modern carnivoran ecology in an evolutionary context.

Off the top of my head, I do recall one sequence which suggested that whales evolved from an aquatic otter-like mammal, which of course has been debunked these days.

Mesonychians being known as "condylarths"... are condylarths even a monophyletic grouping these days?

And I do recall how Barbourofelis was presented together with the sabertooth felids.

from Darren: you're referring to Luo et al.'s Yanoconodon paper right?

While I had simply forgotten about that one, I meant the Maelestes paper (Wible et al.), which has a decent taxonomic sampling of cimolestans and placentals.

are condylarths even a monophyletic grouping these days?

Nope. They have always been considered paraphyletic.

And I do recall how Barbourofelis was presented together with the sabertooth felids.

Apparently it's not even clear whether the nimravids are crown-group carnivores ( = carnivores rather than non-carnivoran carnivoromorphs).

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

Sadly never seen it (no TV) nor read the book.

another on my purchase list, methinks

David wrote:

Apparently it's not even clear whether the nimravids are crown-group carnivores ( = carnivores rather than non-carnivoran carnivoromorphs).

Though it may turn out that barbourofelines are somewhere close to cats after all.

Some of the footage would have been very awkward to film in the wild- Spotted Hyaenas giving birth for instance. Personally I loved it, and the book.

On the errors, well, when it was made phylogenetic analysis wasn't routinely used nearly every time a new genus was described/redescribed as it is now. At the time Pakicetus was only known from the skull at the time, and the next oldest whale was Basilosaurus (The book draws Pakicetus looking more like Rhodocetus did).

By Dave Godfrey (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

It's probably too early to comment since we don't yet have Darren's actual post, but...
Let me second Nick's comments on David's post, about Nimravids and Barbourofelines.
Thje relevant chapter of the big Janis et al. book on North American mammal evolution more or less says Nimravid genealogy is a hopeless mess, but splits Barbourofelis from the other N's. (Barbourofelis shown as sister to all other American Nims on the cladogram; Barbourofelines having originated in Eurasia and shown up in North America about the time the American radiation of earlier Nims went extinct.
And there was a paper by Morlo, Peigne and Nagel in the ZJLS vol 140 (January 2004), pp. 43-61 which argued for raising the B's to independent family status.

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

Thanks, all! Good to see that research is being done on the nimravid question!

Nagel... Nagel... wait... Nagel... something tells me I actually ought to know about that paper. Hm. (Doris Nagel is in the department of "vertebrate paleontology and quarternary research" in Vienna and works on carnivorans.) I'll download it later today.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

Modern molecualr phylogenies of felids shows that all the extant felids are part of a recent radiation with the last 10.8 Myrs starting in the Tortonian of the Miocene. The closest sister group to the modern felids are the lisangs which might have diverged from them over 30 Mya. I suspect that many of the so called felids of the Oligocene are actually convergent forms that lie outside of even the lisang-felid clade and their relationship to extant aeluromorph carnivorans is uncertain. The feline body plan appears to be an attractor to which many a carnivoran lineage converged. Any case The Velvet Claw was enjoyable.
cheers
R

David Marjanovic-- if you are looking for Barbourofeli? references, there is an article in the "Earth and Environmental Sciences Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh" for 2001 by Morales et al. Describes two new early Miocene species (from Africa and Spain), erects a new tribe around them. ... And the title (in that parenthetical bit at the end of Zoology/Paleontology article titles where you put in hints as to what higher taxa the not-too-well-known critters mentioned earlier in the title belong to) identifies the Barbourofelinae as a subfamily of the ... Felidae!

...But this is all a sidetrack: the critters snarling over an Embolotherium carcass in the picture Darren is teasing us with probably aren't Nimravids or Barbourofelids at all. Whales, maybe, though the latest researches seem to be removing Andrewsarchus from the Cetacean vicinity of the mammalian tree (or removing the Cetaceans from the Andrewsarchus vicinity, or something).

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

Anyway, surely Andrewsarchus et al would be examples of the "velvet hoof"?

By Mark Evans (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

The picture is from the Andrewsarchus animation from the series, eating some sort of rhino iirc.

By Dave Godfrey (not verified) on 22 Nov 2007 #permalink

> The picture is from the Andrewsarchus animation
> from the series, eating some sort of rhino iirc.

Dave,

this is not a rhino but a brontothere, probably *Embolotherium*. This said, rhinos and brontotheres are related, both being perissodactyls.

this dinosaur is really fantastic but... i have a question what about ENTELODONTE?