Tet Zoo 5th birthday extravaganza, part II

Welcome to part II of my musings on the 2010 blogging year. You'll need to have read the first part to make sense of it. The article you're reading now is extraordinarily long and I'd normally break up a piece of this length into two, three or even more separate articles. This year I want to get the birthday stuff out of the way as quickly as possible, however, so bear with me. Hey, you don't HAVE to read any of it. And so, off we go...


One of the bigger Tet Zoo-relevant issues of the year was the publication in September of Tetrapod Zoology Book One (Naish 2010a). Already I've seen several reviews (one in-press for a technical journal, the others on amazon or on blogs like Catalogue of Organisms and Geomythologica). All agree in being generally positive about the volume (which is great), but all also agree in noting that the book's chapters often include comments that - while they look fine on a blog - don't really work in a book. Also noted by reviewers is that the inclusion of chapters seems random (that's because it was) and that a phylogenetic structure would be preferable.

These points have been very much noted: if subsequent volumes appear (and this very much depends on whether the first one has sold enough copies to make the effort worth my time) I'm definitely going to arrange the text in phylogenetic fashion. Which is good, as it provides strong incentive to finish such things as the series of articles on anurans.

September is always my busiest month

Moving on, the new Spanish carcharodontosaurian allosauroid Concavenator was also published in September: nothing to do with me, but of great personal interest since I feel that Concavenator's morphology (it's known from a near-complete, articulated skeleton) vindicates one of my apparently stupid ideas about Becklespinax (this being that the animal had a mini-sail restricted to the posterior part of the back and sacrum: see the reconstruction in Naish & Martill (2007)).


I attended the 58th Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy at Cambridge in September. It's always a real pleasure to see the brilliant collection at the university's zoology museum [the adjacent small Okapi was photographed there]. The meeting was made all the more 'special' by the fact that several of the presentations were very much germane/direct responses to work I've been involved in. Don Henderson's take on the flight ability and size of Quetzalcoatlus (Henderson 2010) - he regards the animal as weighing over 500 kg and of being incapable of flight - is of course highly relevant to the Witton & Naish (2008) 'terrestrial stalker' hypothesis (a response to Don's conclusions appeared as part of Witton & Habib's (2010) paper on giant pterosaurs). And Kent Stevens and John Martin both gave talks that were responses to the Taylor et al. (2009) sauropod neck posture work. I didn't speak at the meeting, but a Cretaceous maniraptoran specimen discussed by Steve Sweetman has since been written up by the two of us and is due to be published soon. It's only a single bone, but it's still remarkable. I'll say why when the paper is out. [Composite image below: Martillites (and Bob Nicholls) at SVPCA 2010 (l-to-r: J. Liston, L. Steel, B. Nicholls, M. P. Taylor and D. Naish), a misty Cornish scene, and longhorn cattle, photographed at Came Down (yes, really), Dorset, in August]


September also saw publication of the paper (co-written with Gareth Dyke, Mike Benton and Erika Posmosanu) on the birds and pterosaurs of the Cretaceous rocks of Cornet, Romania (Dyke et al. 2010). Involvement in this project was great, in part because I've been asking Mike and Gareth about the material since the early 1990s, and also because the Cornet assemblage includes... an azhdarchid. And now that we're back on pterosaurs, also in September came news on a much-anticipated new volume about pterosaurs... though exactly when it'll appear is somewhat, err, uncertain. Charles Paxton, Michael Woodley and I also learnt in that month that we'd been successful in pitching our 'Cryptozoology: science or pseudoscience?' symposium to the ZSL. The meeting will happen on July 12th 2011 and I'll advertise it properly some time soon.

Later in 2010, I started the series on pockets, pouches and sacs (go here for list of the articles published so far), I mused a lot about Caperea (the pygmy right whale), and I wrote some stuff about iguanodontian ornithopods for the Scientific American blog. In October I went to a London cinema screening of the Inside Nature's Giants giant squid episode and got to meet Joy Reidenberg. The photo below shows Norman the Gambian pouched rat Cricetomys gambianus with his co-star James McKay, photographed at the Live 'n' Deadly roadshow, in November.


More on books

Quite some months of 2010 (and 2009) were spent editing, proof-reading and sorting out the Geological Society's multi-authored volume Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective (the book was co-edited with Eric Buffetaut, Dick Moody and Dave Martill). As is usual for big books like this, a few problems arose and caused delays. Anyway, the book was published in November and included my articles on early ideas about dinosaur pneumaticity (Naish 2010b) and (co-authored with Dick Moody) a biography of Alan Charig (Moody & Naish 2010). So, four books got published in 2010 - not bad at all. But things could have been better...

As you'll know if you follow my stuff, for a few years now I've eked out a living from freelance authoring, consultancy and editing. While work came in constantly during 2010, the global economic situation hit the world of freelance writing and publishing pretty hard. Three major projects scheduled for the latter months of the year all failed for economic reasons, and several people I was due to work with lost their jobs and essentially went off the grid. At the time of writing I'm manically busy with several concurrent, independent book projects, but this doesn't necessarily mean that things are picking up. Fingers crossed for the future. I really do need some sort of improved financial security, but who doesn't.

I spent some of the last months of 2010 working hard on two large review manuscripts for a book, one on Lower Cretaceous theropods and one (with Steve Salisbury) on Lower Cretaceous crocodilians. Many people in academia know that publishing chapters in multi-authored books is actually a really bad idea: you're working hard on something that won't get an impact factor, it takes months of your time away from publications that will get you an impact factor, and its publication will often be delayed by months or even years by other authors. Alas, I never got this advice when doing my PhD and ended up spending literally years of PhD time writing chapters for books. Oh well, water under the bridge and all that.



I don't just write books, I work as a book consultant as well. I don't talk about these projects: partly because they're written by other people, and partly because the books concerned are written for children and hence aren't of direct interest to the majority of Tet Zoo readers. Among those that appeared in 2010 was Dorling Kindersley's Dinosaurs Eye to Eye, by John Woodward. I really dislike the cover [shown above, at left], but I acted too late to get anything done about it. But don't let the cover put you off the book as a whole: Peter Minister's CG dinosaurs and pterosaurs are very good. Among my favourite spreads is the one where a Therizinosaurus is claw-striking a tarbosaur, splattering blood everywhere. It's also shown above (© DK/Peter Minister) - note that the Therizinosaurus possesses both vaned feathers and those spiny structures known for Beipiaosaurus. And from The Usborne Big Book of Big Dinosaurs and Some Little Ones Too (written by Alex Frith) - - ooh, look - another azhdarchid! (the artist kinda screwed up on the whole pteroid region).

Having mentioned Usborne, another project I acted as consultant for - a series of dinosaur fact cards - has just been published. It took a lot of work to get the art looking good, but I really like the results - here are some of the feathery theropods and, oh no, ANOTHER azhdarchid.


Regular readers will know that I wrote a large popular book on dinosaurs - The Great Dinosaur Discoveries - in 2009. I've received surprisingly little feedback on this volume and have a possibly unrealistic concern that it might have sunk without trace: a shame, as I tried to do something that hasn't been done much before (that is, look at the evolution of knowledge about dinosaurs, rather than the evolution of dinosaurs themselves). My understanding is that the publishers (A & C Black in the UK) had/have plans to translate the book into several different languages. I know that editions in at least a few non-English languages appeared in 2010 (and/or 2009), but it's hard to know as publishers are notoriously bad at keeping authors informed on this sort of thing.

Why blogging = perpetual burning frustration


Blogging at Tet Zoo is hugely rewarding and I love doing it. I also love a lot (but not all) of the stuff I've done in the past, and (at the risk of sounding grotesquely arrogant) I would rather read my own stuff than much of the other material out there in the blogosphere. That sounds bad/makes me sound like a douche, but it shouldn't: after all, I blog for me, and if others enjoy it too - well, that's an added bonus. I know that at least a few other people seem to be reading Tet Zoo: some time during the last few months of 2010, Tet Zoo ver 2 received its 6 millionth hit. By January 2010, Tet Zoo ver 2 had received 4 million hits, and my calculator reveals that this all translates to 2 million hits over the course of 2010. That can't be bad. [Adjacent image shows Sunbittern Eurypyga helias, the stuffed Qatar goat mascot William of Windsor (or Billy) of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and what I think are Brecon buff geese].

But running Tet Zoo is also a bit of a negative experience, and whenever I think about it I am mostly dominated by feelings of frustration. Why? Because's there so much to do, and so little chance to do it. I can say without exaggeration that there are currently about 200 incomplete Tet Zoo articles here in my files, and many more ideas in my head. I just do not have the time to be as productive, and to get through as much material, as I'd like to.

Remember that I would do so much more if I could, and I'm still in quest of that wealthy sponsor or benefactor.

During 2010 you might have noticed that I ran several series of articles devoted to explorations of particular topics, like babirusas, matamatas, bird hands, gekkotans and mammalian 'sacs, pouches and pockets'. Understand that I hardly ever start out with the intention of producing a series of articles on any given topic - quite the contrary - it's just that there's so much to say that things quickly get out of hand. And, because other things get in the way, virtually all of these series remain unfinished, and for this reason I've tried to refrain from starting any more. Gekkotans: still unfinished, with pygopodids and a phylogenetic overview awaiting publication. Matamatas: still unfinished, with fossil species and a discussion of alleged giantism awaiting publication. Bird hands: still unfinished, with text on solitaires, ibises and a few others awaiting publication. Toads: still very much unfinished, with African, Asian and 'ver 2' South American groups awaiting publication. Don't get me started on temnospondyls. Most distressing of all, the series on anuran diversity that I started in 2007 is still incomplete.

Pepsipocalyse 2010, belatedly

There's one big thing I haven't mentioned in these 5th birthday articles, nor in fact at all, and this is the near-meltdown of and mass exodus from the ScienceBlogs network as a result of summer's Pepsipocalyse event (hat-tip to Ed Yong for that term, though sorry if anyone else used it beforehand). Herewith my few thoughts on what happened. The fact that quite a few ScienceBlogs bloggers were so pissed off that they felt the need to quit ScienceBlogs almost immediately put me in a difficult position - should I show solidarity and leave as well, or wait it out and risk seeming cowardly or even unconcerned? In the end I decided to wait it out, a decision mitigated in part by the fact that it wasn't obvious to me how events would affect Tet Zoo's credibility. I can see, however, that this would definitely be more of a concern to some bloggers than others, and I can also appreciate that things would be different if the planned Pepsi blog had set up home here. [Below: zombie Triceratops!].


As many have already said, the Pepsi thing wasn't the only reason for the exodus - for some bloggers it was merely the last straw. I don't want to say much more than that about the status and health of ScienceBlogs: from a purely selfish point of view, I don't think that leaving the network would have been to my advantage. As for why I didn't comment on any of the stuff when it happened... I'm here to write about tetrapod zoology: something I do for fun in my so-called 'spare' time. I'm sorry, but I honestly just don't have enough interest in other stuff to spend time writing about it. Call me narrow-minded or blinkered if you want. Again, I will apologise for not caring enough about the non-Tet Zoo stuff.

A brief rant about Mesozoic archosaurs on the blogosphere


Because I'm supposed to be a dinosaur specialist, people often want me to blog about new dinosaur (and pterosaur) discoveries [adjacent image: Pinacosaurus mephistocephalus at Brussels]. Let me say again that I like Mesozoic archosaurs more than anyone, and I spend a large proportion of my time thinking and reading about them. But - when it comes to blogging - Mesozoic archosaurs drive me insane, to the extent where I sometimes deliberately avoid mentioning them. Why? Because so many other people cover the same stuff before I can get to it. This isn't anyone's 'fault' (and other bloggers should, of course, blog about whatever it is they want to blog about), it's merely a reflection of how sexy archosaurs are. The fact that it bothers me says more about my personal psychoses than anything else.

But I don't see the value in covering something that 10, 20 or 30 other bloggers have covered as well. I often get sent advance copies of neat new papers on Mesozoic animals with an invitation to blog about them. When I then learn that this same material has been sent out to just about everybody else in the world of scientific blogging, I lose the motivation to cover it. Again, I really apologise if this sounds arrogant, but I'm being honest.


So I feel better writing about obscure lizards and snakes, little rodents and toads [adjacent image: a Common toad Bufo bufo I encountered in August]: at least no-one else is saying everything worth saying about them as soon as it's published. These subjects don't quite pull in the same numbers of visitors, however, and getting hold of images I can use is often a problem. As always, cryptozoology remains a big draw on Tet Zoo. The Big Trout Lake monster coverage in May generated a lot of interest, as did the (totally inconclusive) look at the Ozenkadnook tiger photo in August.

An aim I've had at Tet Zoo since 2008 has been to provide adequate coverage of modern amphibians. In part this is because this fascinating tetrapod group requires representation proportional to its size and diversity, but it's also reflective of the fact that the global amphibian crisis warrants extensive coverage. This issue hasn't gone away, of course, and remains of critical concern (even though it's been thought since 2009 that some anurans are developing immunity to Bd (= Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the chytrid fungus that is spreading, infecting and killing amphibians). In the end, Tet Zoo was quieter on amphibians during 2010 than it should have been - other subjects just got in the way. I wrote about amphiumas in May and Old World giant salamanders in November, and the toads series continued. As it will. For years.

A load of personal stuff that you shouldn't read if you're only here for the hardcore zoology

My honest plan at the start of the year was to attend exactly zero conferences and meetings; I think I say this most years. In the end I only went to two or three international meetings. A particularly neat little research trip involved a visit to Brussels where Gareth Dyke and I got to work on something amazing (with Pascal Godefroit and François Escuillié). Hopefully I'll be able to talk about it soon. And on the subject of technical projects currently in progress, 2010 proved to be an extraordinarily productive year. If things go to plan, some major things I've been involved in will be discussed here later in 2011. The history of birds, more on pterosaurs, Mesozoic dinosaur palaeobiology, Wealden theropods, new plesiosaurs, and oh those ichthyosaurs...

Two major, unconnected media projects (one of which involved working together with C. M. Kosemen) both died in 2010, but will hopefully get picked up in the future. I really wish I could talk about them. During May I was filmed for a documentary on the Montauk monster (it should be screened some time this year). Throughout the year I spoke with BBC researchers about a big Mesozoic-themed project, but I'm sure most people involved in the world of Mesozoic palaeontology did likewise.


I didn't get to travel much in 2010, though I did move around the UK quite a bit. I also stayed happy in terms of wildlife fixes by visiting a lot of zoos and other collections, and by getting out and looking at a lot of stuff in the field. I went bat-watching in August, and also pursued (sometimes successfully) Water voles Arvicola amphibius, grebes, waders, tadpoles, newts, leaf warblers, longhorn cattle [see photo above], Bohemian waxwings Bombycilla garrulus, those Great bustards and, ha ha, White-tailed eagles. A Wood pigeon Columba palumbus fell down inside the second of our house's chimneys in August - I wonder if it was the same bird that fell down the first chimney in 2007? The dark areas on the sides of its face show where I had to wash dust out of its eyes.

Oh, I helped dissect a crocodile (that reminds me, I still have to write it up for Tet Zoo) and I got hold of one of the most amazing zoological specimens I've ever seen (I'll be showing pictures of it within the next week or so). The skulls of swans, kestrels and squirrels became added to my collection of dead things [part of the Tet Zoo skull collection is shown near the top]. [I seem to have looked at quite a few xenarthrans in 2010 (all in captivity). Three different Giant anteaters Myrmecophaga tridactyla are shown in the composite below.]



Sadly, our pet cat, Tigger Mamum-Ra, had to be euthanised in October following a rapid and catastrophic decline in health. Tone and I had owned her since July 1998 when, desperate for attention and in poor condition, she followed us home from the cinema one night. We never found out whether she was lost or had been deliberately abandoned, but she was a great family pet. She was one of those extraordinarily friendly, talkative cats. She was also physically large, and with particularly big upper canine teeth.

Anyway, I think that just about sums it all up. It only remains to once again say thank you to all my readers, and especially to my community of brilliant and thoughtful commenters. Thanks for continuing to read and visit Tet Zoo. As I've said, a lot is due to happen in 2011 - it should be an exciting year - and there is still absolutely tons of stuff that needs to be covered here. Here's to five years of Tet Zoo.

For previous Tet Zoo birthday articles see...

Refs - -

Dyke, G., Benton, M., Posmosanu, E., & Naish, D. 2010. Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) birds and pterosaurs from the Cornet bauxite mine, Romania. Palaeontology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00997.x

Henderson, D. M. 2010. Pterosaur body mass estimates from three-dimensional mathematical slicing. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30, 768-785.

Moody, R. T. J. & Naish, D. 2010. Alan Jack Charig (1927-1997): an overview of his academic accomplishments and role in the world of fossil reptile research. In Moody, R. T. J., Buffetaut, E., Naish, D. & Martill, D. M. (eds) Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 343, pp. 89-109.

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

- . 2010b. Pneumaticity, the early years: Wealden Supergroup dinosaurs and the hypothesis of saurischian pneumaticity. In Moody, R. T. J., Buffetaut, E., Naish, D. &Martill, D. M. (eds) Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 343, 229-236.

- . & Martill, D. 2007. Dinosaurs of Great Britain and the role of the Geological Society of London in their discovery: basal Dinosauria and Saurischia. Journal of the Geological Society 164, 493-510.

Taylor, M. P., Wedel, M. J. & Naish, D. 2009. Head and neck posture in sauropod dinosaurs inferred from extant animals. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54, 213-220.

Witton, M. P. & Habib, M. B. 2010. On the size and flight diversity of giant pterosaurs, the use of birds as pterosaur analogues and comments on pterosaur flightlessness. PLoS ONE 5(11): e13982. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013982

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


More like this

Eeek, zombie Triceratops!

I'm a life-long fan of dinosaurs, so I eagerly read what you have to say about them, regardless of whether 47,128 other bloggers have posted about them first; apart from my personal voracity, the perspective of a professional in the field is always valuable to me, particularly one as insightful as yourself. That said, I understand and appreciate your desire to write about less well-trodden topics, and have learned about many sorts of critters here that I'd never encountered previously.

I only wish I were a billionaire layabout, rather than a working stiff, so I could sponsor the work you do on Tet Zoo. As it is, I can only add my further thanks to the pile you have already received, and so richly deserve.

By Squiddhartha (not verified) on 23 Jan 2011 #permalink

I loved 'Dinosaur Discoveries'!
And I love your essays on toads and battle ducks and all the stuff not being covered by the others. Please keep doing what you enjoy and I'll be along for the ride!

July 12th is my birthday, and I'd love to be involved in your gathering for that date, if I'm able. Keep us all informed!


By Loren Coleman (not verified) on 23 Jan 2011 #permalink

I think it is quite charming that you appear to be so careful of not seeming arrogant when, in fact, you do tend to write (some of) the best blog articles around.

I would like to add to what Squiddhartha already posted: If it was in my power and means, I'd happily be a financial benefactor. I hope (not entirely altruistically) that you will find that sort of person. Surely some readers of Tet Zoo must be among the wealthier population?

Anyhow, I hope you will find the time and means to keep Tet Zoo running for a very long time to come.

"My understanding is that the publishers (A & C Black in the UK) had/have plans to translate the book into several different languages. I know that editions in at least a few non-English languages appeared in 2010 (and/or 2009), but it's hard to know as publishers are notoriously bad at keeping authors informed on this sort of thing."

At least it's been translated to Finnish. It was quite common in the book stores just before Christmas. I hope it sold well too. :)
See for yourself:

The Great Dinosaur Discoveries is exactly what the real dinosaur fan wants: a book on dinosaurs that treats the reader as a real dinosaur fan. Most books about dinosaurs seem to assume that the buyer isn't interested in the subject and shouldn't be bothered with boring details of dull extinct reptiles no normal person cares about. Or, if not a three year old, has the intelligence of one. They are aimed at a "wider audience", i.e. those people unlikely to buy a dinosaur book in the first place. Fundamental marketing mistake, in my opinion.

The historical take, apart from filling a gap is also very appealing. Man is a narrative species (and woman no less so) and we all love a good story, especially told by one as good at telling it as you are. In short, the Great Dinosaur Discoveries is, together with Paul's (quite ahistorical) Field Guide, the best book on dinosaurs presently available. Its only drawback is that it is too short. And basically ends in 2007. I would gladly pay double the price for a sequel, "The New Dinosaur Discoveries", highlighting some of the 170 species named since...

By Mark Konings (not verified) on 23 Jan 2011 #permalink

Many people in academia know that publishing chapters in multi-authored books is actually a really bad idea: you're working hard on something that won't get an impact factor, it takes months of your time away from publications that will get you an impact factor, and its publication will often be delayed by months or even years by other authors. Alas, I never got this advice when doing my PhD and ended up spending literally years of PhD time writing chapters for books. Oh well, water under the bridge and all that.

QFT (same here)

By John Scanlon, FCD (not verified) on 23 Jan 2011 #permalink

Dinosaur Discoveries is a great book, Darren, but I do appreciate your mostly avoiding new dinosaur discoveries on the blog. As you say, lots of other blogs cover them (some of them well), and I wouldn't want to miss your coverage of other subjects in favour of redundant dino coverage.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 23 Jan 2011 #permalink

a Therizinosaurus is claw-striking a tarbosaur, splattering blood everywhere

Now we know what it would look like if Quentin Tarantino started writing dinosaur books for children...

part of the Tet Zoo skull collection is shown near the top

Wow, that's impressive! Is that the skull of a giant chelonian I see behind the roe buck and the seal(?) skulls? What is it and how did you get it?

And I'm sorry to hear about your cat; my sympathies. Was it kidney failure?

That's one cool-looking therizinosaur. And the dinosaur fact cards look nice, too. The zombie Triceratops reminds me of the omnivorous ceratopsians topic.

All agree in being generally positive about the volume (which is great), but all also agree in noting that the book's chapters often include comments that - while they look fine on a blog - don't really work in a book. Also noted by reviewers is that the inclusion of chapters seems random (that's because it was) and that a phylogenetic structure would be preferable.

Personally, I would suggest that the best thing would be to embrace the contingency, warts and all, and present the book as if you were publishing a collection of periodical essays (which, in a way, you are). Not only would it be less effort than trying to work things into an integrated book, it would keep the reader mindful of the composition context. Similarly, I'm not sure that a phylogenetic presentation would necessarily be preferable - it may just draw the reader's attention to what's not there (why does this book have six chapters on toads but no nothosaurs/tritylodonts/parulids/insert pet interest of your own here?)

Why is one of your books entitled "TetrapOOd Zoology", while the other edition of the same book (I guess) is entitled just "Tetrapod Zoology"?

By Neogobius (not verified) on 24 Jan 2011 #permalink

I seem to have done a lot of thanking people in the comments lately; in keeping with that, thanks to you all for further thoughts and kind/useful words about the blog and about both Tetrapod Zoology Book One and The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. Please remember that, if you have time and inclination, you can do me a real favour by submitting your favourable comments as reviews on amazon (Mark Konings in particular - I'm looking at you).

Dartian (comment 9): those aren't all my skulls, a lot of carnivorans and artiodactyls aren't included. Well done on identifying the incomplete Grey seal skull. The big skull behind it is indeed a testudine, but it's a Green turtle, not a giant tortoise. It was acquired from a former teaching collection. As for Tigger, the cat... I don't think she did suffer from kidney failure (a common enough problem in cats, as you know). But lots of other stuff stopped working properly - catastrophic weight loss, incontinence etc.

Andrew (comment 13): your essay was interesting, thanks for citing me. I can't seem to post a comment on your site - I wanted to note that the feathered coelurosaur drawing you show (from Inniss's 1986 article) is definitely based on John Sibbick's feathered 'Avimimus' (it's meant to be Avimimus but looks nothing like it*), as featured in in David Norman's 1986 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs.

* Like a few of the dinosaur illustrations in David Norman's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, I'm pretty sure it's based on a silhouette in David Lambert's 1983 Collins Guide to Dinosaurs.

Another fan of The Great Dinosaur Discoveries here. I agree with Mark Konings - it fills the under-exploited non-professional enthusiast (my favourite euphemism for 'geek') niche with aplomb. Hell, it's worth it for the glossy reproductions of great palaeoart alone!

By Marc Vincent (not verified) on 24 Jan 2011 #permalink

Well, these comments are great - I will use them in pitching a second volume to a publisher. As you might know, the book was originally planned to be much longer but had to be pared down because the publishers needed the book to be smaller. The great paradox in writing books (or, the books I've been involved in) is that you always have to work hard to _reduce_, rather than increase, the quantity of text.

I'm happy to say I loved The Great Dinosaur Discoveries as well, and I paid through the nose to get a British copy just so I could get it autographed by the author that very week. It covers a lot of material that's simply not known to the public at large, but is written in a way that's inviting and interesting. It's kind of like reading Tet Zoo, which is why I love it.

If I find the time, I'll certainly submit a review on Amazon. I can't imagine there are many differences between the British and North American versions, aside from the cover (definately better in Britain) and possibly correcting the spelling of words like "colour." :-D

Maybe I am thick, but can you please give adresses of these blogs which supposedly cover latest dinosaur discoveries?

BTW - anybody knows the photo of supposed Old Egyptian duiker online?

re: Jerzy, ditto.

I come here because of all the great stuff, the regular updates and fascinating discussion.

I've tried going to a couple of other blogs, and they just weren't worth the effort of checking regularly.

By David Houston (not verified) on 24 Jan 2011 #permalink

I love your blog but-
I wish people wouldn't use "douche" as a derogatory
term - as I female I find it offensive that something
associated with feminine hygiene is used that way.

For what it's worth, I'd actually prefer the Tet Zoo books to be based on chronology instead of phylogeny. Such a mishmash of superficially unrelated topics is part of what makes Tet Zoo Tet Zoo (at least to me). And it makes the cover look more awesome, too. Such a collection of diverse animals, all united by the clade Tetrapoda. And it'd probably be easier to compile past blog posts and arrange them into one or two volumes instead of continually updating old volumes, as might be the case if phylogeny were the preferred categorization.


The big skull behind it is indeed a testudine, but it's a Green turtle, not a giant tortoise.

Ah, OK (but note that I didn't ask if it was a 'giant tortoise', I asked if it was a 'giant chelonian').

the book was originally planned to be much longer but had to be pared down because the publishers needed the book to be smaller

Say what? In that book (or in the original double-O 'Tetrapood' edition, anyway), each new chapter always, always begins on an odd page - which has resulted in more than 20 blank pages! Had they wanted to, the editors could easily have fitted at least three or four articles more in that volume!


I'd actually prefer the Tet Zoo books to be based on chronology instead of phylogeny

I think what you, Darren, need to ask yourself is this: Do you want future Tet Zoo books to be collections of _your_ articles, or of your _articles_? (Note the emphasis.) If it's the former, you should stick with having them in chronological order; if it's the latter, you should group the articles thematically. And grouping them phylogenetically is one option, but it's not the only option* nor necessarily even the best one (as Christopher suggested).

* If you need inspiration, you could do worse than to check out how Stephen Jay Gould did it. In his many essay collections, Gould always structured his stuff thematically (if idiosyncratically).

Weighing in:

+++GDD. I wished the stories could have run longer than two pages apiece. Publishers are so cruel ... except to Scott.

I don't have the Tetrapod Zoology compendia, so maybe I should have no say, but treatment of TZ as even more diaristic could only improve such a book, e.g. footnotes revealing what you were supposed to be working on when you wrote each entry. A phylogeny can be presented in a page or two at the end -- or on the cover! -- with dates at the leaves. Such a graphical index would be fun just to look at. Maybe a science communications grad student can work with you on a volume as a loving tribute and thesis project.

Avoiding coverage of new discoveries-of-the-day has served you well, and it would be crazy to try to stop. To apologize for it strikes this American as an endearing English tic. If you can't indulge yourself in your own blog, where can you? Likewise, apologies for arrogance. Arrogance is a habit of treating others' ideas, particularly because they are others', as unworthy of serious consideration. I've never seen any hint of arrogance here, quite the reverse. You may feel as if your encyclopedic knowledge, superb technical judgment, and inconceivable capacity for excellent work entitles you to be more arrogant, and they may, but it just isn't in you.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 24 Jan 2011 #permalink

I wish people wouldn't use "douche" as a derogatory term - as I female I find it offensive that something associated with feminine hygiene is used that way.


It's worse than useless, it's counterproductive, because it destroys the acidic pH that keeps bacteria out. It must be based on some ignorant d00d's idea of hygiene, not on actual medical considerations.

I suppose that's why it never spread beyond the USA. It's unknown over here. In the original French, for instance, douche simply means "shower".

"Douche" is a nicely fitting insult for misogynists.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 25 Jan 2011 #permalink

The things I learn at Tet Zoo: I had never suspected that 'douche' - which I've been mentally pronouncing as "dootch" and only knew as a term of disparagement - had anything to do with Swedish dusch "shower".

A perusal of the Mesozoic section of the Tet Zoo blogroll should provide all the dino coverage the avg dino geek could wish for.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 25 Jan 2011 #permalink

On blogging on the latest sexy Mesozoic archosaur findings:

I know what you mean, for pterosaurs at least. It doesn't help that I've often been involved with press work for said findings, either: it makes me feel that I should be telling people about things on something like the Pterosaur.Net blog. Thing is, there's often not much more to say that hasn't already been said on a dozen other blogs, so I'd rather use my time to talk about slightly more obscure topics that are not so well covered elsewhere. And then there's the time factor, too: topically covering new discoveries means you have a small time window to post something up, and producing something substantial to a strict deadline when you've got a dozen other projects, jobs and real life to consider can be difficult.

I'd say stick to your guns of posting about obscure, brown lizards and passerines: people primarily come to Tet Zoo to read things they've never heard of before, not to keep up with the latest news in vert. palaeo.. And besides, 6 million readers can't be wrong: it doesn't seem like avoiding the topical palaeonews is doing you any harm.

'Douche' simply means 'shower'(the one you take, not the rain) in Dutch. So in German, etc, with some spelling variation.
Actually, I never saw it before as a term of disparagement. Does it in that case connect with French 'douce'?


I never saw it before as a term of disparagement

Did you ever use to watch South Park in English? 'Douche' (or sometimes 'douchebag') was one of the most commonly used insults in that show. (At least in the early seasons; I stopped watching SP many years ago.)

Darren: I'm not sure why you couldn't post comments - I've got it set on anyone can post. Feel free to select 'anonymous' and drop your name and a link back to TetZoo as a signature in the post!

I was certainly interested in your comments about the likely origins of Jim Holloway's feathered coelurosaur - now I know where he copied it from! Also, I've already got some feedback asking for more info on 'where dinosaurs are now (in terms of scientific thought)' - I've referred them to the Amazon page for Great Dinosaur Discoveries...


Happy 5th blog-birthday! Keep up the blogging, you've covered some really fascinating things that I haven't seen anywhere else. I understand now why there isn't as much dinosaur related stuff as I'd've expected. Even though one of the things that makes this blog awesome is that it covers stuff you don't hear elsewhere, it would be good to hear /your/ thoughts on some of those well covered topics too. Considering that you've been working on Bird hands, comments on Linhenykus would be appropriate, for example.

Is that card series you mentioned "100 Dinosaurs to Spot , Spotter's Cards. Author: Rogers, Kirsteen"?

Again, keep up the great work.

So many great comments... and so little time to respond. Thanks Zach, David Houston, Dawn, Albertonykus, Dartian, Nathan, Mark and Robert for your thoughts on blog content and both Tetrapod Zoology Book One and The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. In agreement with what most of you have said, there are no plans to change here: obscure little lizards, dull little birds, toads and so on will get as much coverage as (or more than) big dead dinosaurs.

Dartian: when I was saying that "the book... had to be pared down", I was referring to The Great Dinosaur Discoveries.

As for other blogs dedicated to new archosaurs (comment 18): do as Andreas says (comment 25) and check out the Mesozoic part of the blogroll. Obviously some of the blogs linked to there are more specialised than others: Chinleana, for example, is devoted to the Triassic while Theropoda and The Theropod Database (obviously) only cover theropods.

Robert (comment 30): the Usborne card series is here. As for Linhenykus, I have no immediate plans to write about alvarezsaurids (too much other stuff lined up, but with not enough time to finish it). I'm still surprised that they totally ignored European alvarezsaurids.

Finally, on the term 'douche'... I refer those interested to urban dictionary.com.

It's been a very good five years, sir. Thank you for providing consistently fascinating content for that long!!!

First, congratulations on your fifth blogiversary, Darren! Writing regular and consistently-good posts is a tough gig, and you should be applauded for your endurance.

I did want to throw in my $0.02 (I know it's even less in the UK with the conversion, but that's all I've got) about The Great Dinosaur Discoveries and Mesozoic-themed paleo blogs.

I loved The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. It was a deep, rich book chock-full of excellent illustrations. But that might have been what kept it from really blowing up. In format it resembled an encyclopedia - with each dinosaur getting their own section rather than discoveries being placed into a larger narrative - and I have to wonder if this made it primarily appeal to people already interested in dinosaurs. Since there are so many illustration-packed dinosaur books out there already, I imagine that it is very difficult to get any such book to stand out! This is all speculation - and I am also disappointed that the book has not received the attention it deserves - but I have to wonder if the overall presentation of the book made it difficult for readers other than dino fans to notice it. If the book had been a more 'traditional' nonfiction book - lots of text, with the discoveries woven into a narrative that flowed from chapter-to-chapter - I wonder if the reception might have been different.

As for paleo blogs, I hope what I am other bloggers write is not preventing you from covering the same topics. Each blogger has their own voice and perspective - the way you cover a new discovery is not the way I am going to do it. More than that, I don't actually see very much overlap among paleo blogs. There are a number of specialist blogs, and discoveries announced in Science and Nature often appear on multiple blogs, but overall there don't seem to be very many paleo bloggers that write regularly. (And many blogs simply copy-and-paste abstracts with no additional analysis.) In your case, especially, you have a very high level of expertise that bloggers like myself lack, so it would be worthwhile to hear from an expert in regard to important discoveries (as when you commented on Concavenator). I am not saying this to tell you what to blog, but I hope that you are not being discouraged from blogging about dinosaurs or Mesozoic archosaurs because of writers like me.

You mentioned working on a book (or at least a publication) on Lower Cretaceous crocodilians? I assume you'll provide the info on the blog. As a student extremely interested in Crurotarsan morphology and paleoecology, I'm pretty excited about anything on the subject.

By Ian Cannon (not verified) on 28 Jan 2011 #permalink

All I have to say is that I got my book from Amazon and I was sad that it wasn't the one with POO in the title. ;) I hoped that I'd ordered soon enough to get in on the misprint. ;)

Darren, have you read, "Prehistoric Monsters, The Real and Imagined Creatures of the Past that we Love to Fear." by Allen A. Debus? I thought of your work several times while reading it.

By arachnophile (not verified) on 05 Feb 2011 #permalink