Riding the sivathere

My good friend Luis Rey was kind enough to pass on the following photos, taken at the Jardin Des Plantes in Paris. It's the extinction carousel, (presumably) the only place in the world where you might ride a sivathere...


... or a meiolaniid, or an elephant bird...


... or a dodo...


Yes, yes, I know that the creatures aren't totally accurate (the meiolaniid in particular), and if you know your extinct animal artwork you'll have realised that the animals are all based directly on the paintings that Eric Alibert produced for Jean-Christophe Balouet's 1990 book Extinct Species of the World: Lessons for our Future. Other creatures on the carousel (being British, I would call it a merry-go-round) include Triceratops, Glyptodon, thylacine, giant panda, gorilla, lion and Asian elephant.

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... or a dodo...

The carousel's official name seems to be the le Dodo Manège.

What's with the over-representation of sivatheres? All other species appear to be represented by only one individual.

I love that carousel (was just at the Jardin a few days ago even!). Well worth a visit- not far at all from the majestic comparative anatomy/paleo museum- and only 1 euro or so for a ride. My daughter loved it.

Maybe we should arrange some sort of Tet Zoo field trip. I'll go if someone can find me the money :)

The carousel also has a Triceratops. I see the potential for a PZ Myers moment...

As for me, I'll definitely be at the Jardin des plantes tomorrow, as it will be "science week-end", with open doors in the labs etc. OK, I know there are professional paleontologists here, it wouldn't be fun for them, like going to work during week-end... But as a beotian, I enjoy it every year. I had a great time listening to Christian de Muizon (two years in a row!) explaining how he was preparing a wonderful and almost complete archeocete fossil (the labelled as Dorudon atrox, but now called Cynthiacetus something).

If there's a Tet Zoo field trip to Paris, don't forget to inform me!

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Something I can't help but be angry about is the fact that many of these extinctions were caused by humans. I think I recognized the Cape Lion and the Dodo, is that large bird a Moa or Aepyornis? In any case, thanks to the actions of some of my fellow humans, I'll never get to see any of them!

Unfortunately, I'm seriously ill and will thus most likely miss the entire Science Weekend. :-( That's even worse given the fact that I already missed it every time previously due to shameful ignorance!

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

That merry-go-round (there still called that in America too) is very cool. I remember seeing a book any years ago in which it was argued that surviving sivatheres were the the original of the oriental dragon horse (qi-lin). I read the book in the local college library but when I went back there recently they no longer had it. Unfortunatly I can no longer remember the book's title or the author. The book itself was similar in format to Richard Carrington's "Mermaids & Mastodons" and Willie Ley's "Exotic Zoology" but it was not either of these. If anone can give me a clue as to the title and author of this book I would really apriciate it.

Thank You, Laura

I actually used to work at an antique Carousel in high school. The different names (Carousel vs Merry-go-Round) don't actually have that much to do with geography. Carousel's go around counter clockwise, Merry-go-Rounds clockwise regardless of which country your in. Although as I understand it which direction it turns is determined by whether its based on an English (clockwise) or America (counter) design.

Thanks Ryan,I never knew that. I wonder how strict people are about that now. I always called them merry-go-rounds.

I wonder which sivathere they were trying to model. The ossicones are throwing me off.

A Tet Zoo field trip to the extinction carousel? I'm so there. I want first on the Glyptodon!

By Sebastian Marquez (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

The horncores are Sivatherium maurisum, the african sivathere.

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Also, that's an Aepyornis, it's based on the National Geographic illustration.

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Carousel's go around counter clockwise, Merry-go-Rounds clockwise

Are you sure you're not making this up?

It reminds me a lot of how millions of well-read Americans grew up believing there was a difference between the colors grey and gray before they finally found out, years later, that it was just a difference between British and American spelling. (Warning: I'm going by memory here. The site is not online right now, probably because it's 3 or 4 at night where it's hosted.)

And of course such a difference doesn't occur in any other languages I know of. German has Ringelspiel and Karussell, and they're just synonyms.

My German-to-English dictionary lists "roundabout", "merry-go-round" and "Am. car(r)ousel" as synonyms, though with only "merry-go-round" used for metaphoric purposes.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Tim Morris (comment 15) writes...

Also, that's an Aepyornis, it's based on the National Geographic illustration.

No, it's based on Alibert's version (as stated above). For those who might not know, 'elephant bird' = Aepyornis.

David and Darren,

At least growing up in southern America, I learned it as a merry-go-round, and learned very late in my adolescence (through dictionaries) that there were any other names for it -- this is after attending several large parks such as Disleyland in Anaheim and the San Diego Zoo. A quick test with a brother without using either name (he was raised in the US NW) also provided merry-go-round, which I don't use as I don't reference the ride. I am fairly certain some entries in your dictionary are out of date, David, if it's giving a potentially American spelling of carrousel.

Very nice, though you'd never see one of these things in typical fairs here in the US as anything like espousing evolution or past life draws the ire of certain groups.

By Jaime A. Headden (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink




I second the Holtzian motion.

I want to see the Glyptodon! I want to see the Glyptodon!

Field trip idea.. oh joy! also would like one to http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/english/

Very nice, though you'd never see one of these things in typical fairs here in the US as anything like espousing evolution or past life draws the ire of certain groups.

Jaime, d'you mean there are groups who object even to the portrayal of such extinct creatures? Why? Do they deny these animals even existed?

I thank God for every creature that has ever existed.. and lots of imagined ones too! Wonderful life!!

LOL I just Googled meiolaniid, searching for Images. Among those displayed, spot the odd one out.. a picture of a Doedicurus (glyptodont)!

I love the elephant bird; my favorite on a traditional carousel was always the ostrich. I also grew up in the southern US (Texas, to be precise - where no one I knew thought that "grey" and "gray" were anything other than alternate spellings of the same word, btw), and merry-go-round was typically used to refer to the child-powered playground version. Carousel was more often used to refer to the motorized, amusement park version with animal-shaped seats.

Noticed the meiolaniid immediately in the picture above the fold, and apart from the far-too-deep Testudo-like shell, those straight horns reminded me of something from Quatermass and the Pit (I only saw it once about a quarter-centuray ago, I guess it left an impression). Except for the lack of curvature, the non-flattened horns make it most similar to the New Caledonian species Meiolania mackayi, which makes sense for a French reconstruction.

Glyptodonts are not the least appropriate things to turn up in an image search on meiolaniids; the combination of body armour and spiked tail-club makes them closer analogues even than ankylosaurs.

In my opinion, all of the reconstructions out there get the shell, the head, the tail, the limbs or some combination of these badly wrong; and that includes the best of the lot, the composite skeletal reconstruction shown in Gaffney (1996), where I reckon the carapace is too vaulted (would be better to make it fit the flatter shape of the complete shell photographed in situ, fig. 3 in the same monograph). Does anybody have a copy of the Burke et al. paper (Curator 26(1): 5-25) describing how they built it?

David M: get well soon, you've made yourself indispensible.

By John Scanlon FCD (not verified) on 22 Nov 2009 #permalink

Oh... I drank absurdly over-priced tea in the rain & watched kiddies riding the triceratops with my ex when we spent two days in Paris. It was a school holiday & getting into the museums was hell. So memorable. Thanks for posting this. I loved that carousel.

The part about carousels going counter-clockwise & merry-go-rounds going clockwise is true. My sister's run a carousel for many years & is the one who taught me that.

Some future archaeologist is going to dig this up and cite it as evidence for late-surviving silvatheres