Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's scarier than a rauisuchian?

So, how do you celebrate Halloween? This is my pumpkin from last year - an attempt at Postosuchus. I'd say I did a pretty good job, considering I was working with a pumpkin. Some of the teeth may be a little off, but I think I got all of the fenestrae right. I'm thinking I might have to do Poposaurus this year, but I'm open to suggestions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

SVP Annual Meeting 2010 - Evening Events and Final Stats

This year's meeting turned out to be the largest meeting on record at 1,190 attendees and at last count 761 abstracts submitted, the previous record holder being Austin, Texas in 2007. The 28th Annual Benefit Auction and Social went wonderfully, raising $18,500 dollars for the SVP Education and Research Fund. The theme was Star Trek, but we had bets going for the following themes: Lady Gaga, Avatar, Iron Man (and other such super heroes), Alice In Wonderland, and so on.

Although there was no banquet this year, they still held the awards ceremony to a full room. Here are the winners of the two big awards:

Alfred Sherwood Romer Prize
"The Alfred Sherwood Romer Prize recognizes an outstanding scientific contribution in vertebrate paleontology by a predoctoral student. Selection for participation in the Romer Prize Session at the SVP Annual Meeting is based on the scientific value and quality of an abstract summarizing an original research project, and the Romer Prize is awarded on the basis of the scientific value and quality of the oral presentation of that research during the Romer Prize session a the SVP Annual Meeting."

Romer-Simpson Medal
"The A.S. Romer - G.G. Simpson medal, the society's highest award, is awarded for sustained and outstanding scholarly excellence in the discipline of vertebrate paleontology."
Recipient: Dr. Rinchen Barsbold

Congratulations to all of the award winners!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SVP Annual Meeting 2010 - Part 3

Tuesday was really the day for crurotarsans, with an entire session dedicated to crocodylomorphs and 14 posters covering a large diversity of the clade. Here's a quick list of them all.
  • "Phylogenetic analysis of goniopholidid crocodyliforms of the Morrison Formation" by Eric Allen
  • "The evolution of trematochampsid crocodyliforms in Africa: new evidence from the Middle Cretaceous Galula Formation, Southwestern Tanzania" by J. Sertich and P. O'Connor
  • "A new baurusuchid (Crocodyliformes, Sebecosuchia) from the Bauru Group, Late Cretaceous of Minas Gerais, Brazil" by F. Montefeltro and M. Langer
  • "A reevaluation of the crocodyliform Acynodon from the Late Cretaceous of Europe" by A. Turner and C. Brochu
  • "New large blunt-snouted dyrosaurid (Mesoeucrocodylia) from the Paleocene of Columbia" by A. Hastings, J. Bloch, and C. Jaramillo
  • "Crocodylians from the Uinta Formation (Middle Eocene, Uintan) of western North America, response to climate change and the origins of Alligator" by C. Brochu and D. Snyder
  • "New material of Mekosuchus inexpectatus (Crocodylia: Mekosuchinae) from the Late Quaternary of New Caledonia, and the phylogenetic relationship of Australasian Cenozoic crocodylians" by S. Salisbury, T. Holt, T. Worthy, C. Sand, and A. Anderson
  • "Atmospheric hypoxia increases bone robusticity in the American Alligator" by T. Owerkowicz, E. Andrade, R. Elsey, K. Middleton, and J. Hicks
  • "Osteohistological analysis of Alligator mississippiensis indicates absense of fibrolamellar bone in crocodylians and confirms determinate growth with first report of external fundamental systems: implications for tetrapod osteohistology" by H. Woodward and J. Horner
  • "Mandibular mechanics of Alligator mississippiensis from beam models to finite element analysis" by L. Porro, D. Reed, J. Lemberg, U. Zapata, and C. Ross
  • "Asymmetric skeletal adaptation to a debilitating pathology in the hindlimb of Poposaurus gracilis (Archosauris: Poposauroidea)" by M. Shirley, E. Schachner, and C. Shaw
  • "A metriorhynchid crocodyliform braincase from Northern Chile" by M. Fernandez, A. Paulina Carabajal, Z. Gasparini, Y. Herrera, and G. Chong
  • "Clarification of the skeletal anatomy of phytosaurs based on comparative anatomy and the most complete specimen of Angistorhinus" by M. Stocker
  • "The axial skeleton of Gracilisuchus stipanicicorum: autapomorphic charactersand its phylogenetic information within the context of Crurotarsi" by A. Lecuona
  • "Towards a stable phytosaur taxonomy: distinguishing characteristics between Pseudopalatus and Redondasaurus (Phytosauridae: Pseudopalatinae)" by M. Mancini and A. Hungerbuchler
  • "First occurence of the marine crocodyliform Terminonaris from the Upper Cretaceous (Turonian) of Manitoba" by J. Hatcher and A. Janzic
  • "New occurrence of the long-snouted crocodyliform, Terminonaris cf. t. robusta, from the Woodbine Formation (Cenomanian) of Texas" by T. Adams, M. Polcyn, O. Mateus, D. Winkler, and L. Jacobs
  • "One or two species of the giant crocodylian Deinosuchus?" by D. Schwimmer
  • "Dinosaurs walk tall: a crocodilian trace from the Lance Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Wyoming" by P. Manning, J. Milan, and P. Falkingham
  • "A unique Eocene crocodylian from the Uinta Basin, Utah" by S. Masters, S. Sandau, D. Burk, and L. Krumenacker
  • "Crocodyliforms from the Early Miocene Domo De Zaza locality of Cuba" by O. Jimenez Vazquez and C. Brochu
  • "The pulmonary anatomy of Alligator mississippiensis: a unideirectional air flow system that foreshadows the avian respiratory system" by R. Sanders and C. Farmer
  • "Chronic exercise does not alter limb bone morphology or microstructure in the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) " by H. Tsai, T. Owerkowicz, K. Felbinger, F. Andrade, and J. Hicks
  • "The nose knows: the effects of nasal cavity anatomy on airflow in alligators" by J. Bourke and L. Witmer
  • "Estimation of crocodilian body form from snout-vent length and tail girth" by G. Hurlburt 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SVP Annual Meeting 2010 - Part 2

So, yesterday was a big day for crurotarsans (although Crocodylomrpha was most widely represented) and the Romer Prize Session on Monday also included some very good croc talks.

Romer Prize Session:
For those of you who are not as familiar with SVP "the Alfred Sherwood Romer Prize recognizes an outstanding scientific contribution in vertebrate paleontology by a predoctoral student." The Romer Prize Session is a series of talks held during the meeting in which one speaker is then chosen as the winner of the Aldred Sherwood Romer Prize and the winner is announced at the awards ceremony on the last night of the meeting. Below, I list the talks from the session that were pertinent to the clade Crurotarsi, as well as any notes I had on the talk.
  • "Tooth pressure, niche occupation and the evolution of the cranial ecomorphology of crocodylians." by P. Gignac.
    • discussed how body size is mostly able to explain bite force and that tooth pressure in crocodylians often exceeds the shear stress limit of bone
    • produced a model that was able to predict individual bite force, giving insight into individual variation
  • "Seasonality as a potential source of variation in Alligator cranial evolution." by R. Sadleir
    • This was an excellent talk (partially because epigenetics were discussed) focusing on phenotypic plasticity as affected by seasonality (and aseasonality)
    • studied ranch animals and wild animals from the same breeding population (also was very good at taking into account many other variable that may have also been sources of phenotypic plasticity)
    • showed how seasonal vs aseasonal environments induced large amounts of phenotypic plasticity that may explain some instances of speciation within Alligator
  • "Evolution of salt-water tolerance in the Crocodylia and related crocodylomorphs: new insights from stable isotopes." by P. Wheatley 
    • distribution and phylogeny suggests salt-water tolerance as an ancestral trait in crocodylomorphs, evolving at least as far back as Dyrosauridae + Crocodylia and becoming secondarily lost in alligators and gharials
    • since it is quite reasonable to assume that thalattosuchians were salt-water tolerant, they can be used as a geochemical proxy for salt-water tolerance in fossils (using carbon isotopes to show access to marine food sources and oxygen isotopes to show marine vs. freshwater "drinking")
    • Evidence suggests that dyrosaurids were salt-water tolerant and possibly even pelagic. If they were indeed pelagic, why did dyrosaurids survive the K-T extinction when so many other large taxa living in the same environment went extinct? Perhaps the juveniles were living in a freshwater environment (in fact, an audience member confirmed the presence of juvenile dyrosaurids in freshwater sedimentary environments).
If you ask me, I think both Sadleir and Wheatly are good candidates for the Romer Prize. Other talks of note were Jen Olori's talk on "Developmental featured of Microsaurs (Lepospondyli)", J. Scannella's talk on "Triceratops: A Model Organism for Deciphering Dinosaur Heterochrony" (this was a phenomenal talk, but may not get the Romer Prize because he did not focus enough on his own personal role in the research), and M. Spaulding's talk on "Phylogeny of the Carnivoramorpha". Stay tuned to hear about the winner of the prize.

Monday afternoon also yielded a few more talks on Crurotarsans, including one on a phytosaur, Pseudopalatus (although it was a somewhat poor talk), and a fantastic talk on the phylogenetic position of Thalattosuchia.
  • "Fossil crocodyliforms and turtles from the Early Cretaceous of Northeastern Mali" by Hill et al
  • "The endocranium, inner ear, and pneumatic structure of the Upper Triassic phytosaur Pseudopalatus pristinus" by Smith et al
  • "Thy phylogenetic position of Thalattosuchia (Crocodylomorpha) and the importance of outgroup choice" by Eric Wilberg
  • "Opportunism, acoustics and mass: exaptation and patterns of middle-ear expansion in Archosauria" by Dave Dufeau and Larry Witmer
More on Tuesday talks and the auction later.

Happy National Fossil Day!

Today is the first ever National Fossil Day, as a part of Earth Science Week. The National Park Service and American Geological Institute have partnered to host this great event.

The stated mission of the event is such: National Fossil Day is a celebration organized by the National Park Service to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values.

I think we can all appreciate the importance of this mission. Please, check out the website (link above) to learn more about the goals and events surrounding National Fossil Day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SVP Annual Meeting 2010 - Part 1

The annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has been great so far. Pittsburgh is a gorgeous city, with the David L. Lawrence Convention Center overlooking the Allegany River, and the weather has been perfect.

The representation of Crurotarsi at the meeting has started out slow. On Saturday evening, there was a get together of croc workers (mostly Chris Brochu and students) that I attended, but being held in a bar, little discussion of crocs actually took place. Sunday had just about the same amount of crurotarsan content, with only two posters (although quite excellent posters) discussing vertebrates of the Chinle Formation (Petrified Forest area, Arizona):
  • "A new vertebrate fossil locality in the upper Triassic Chinle Formation of Northeastern Arizona" by J. Weinbaum and J. Martz
  • "Understanding and utilizing detailed biostratigraphic data to characterize Late Triassic faunal change: examples from western North America" by J. Martz and W. Parker
Sunday evening was the welcome reception at the Carnegie Museum, which I believe illustrates my reason for naming this blog "Forgotten Archosaurs" quite well. The showcase exhibit of the museum that night was Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Mesozoic hall. After you pass Herrerasaurus to enter the hall, you are greeted by none other than Redondasaurus (shown below).

There are two other skulls of crurotarsans and a shale slab with a squished thalattosuchian to be found in the entire hall. And so, a clade that so dominated the landscape and overshadowed the dinosaurs for the first 50 million years of the Mesozoic and still retained quite a presence (especially in the marine realm as Thalattosuchia and Dyrosauridae) for the remainder of the era, is represented by only 4 species and only one full mounted display, in a hall called Dinosaurs in Their Time. So maybe they aren't entirely forgotten, but "incredibly unappreciated archosaurs" doesn't sound as catchy. And at least the Nile croc got a cool display in the Cenozoic hall (aka. the Mammal Hall...).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting 2010

Tomorrow, I depart for the 70th Anniversary Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, held October 10th through the 13th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center & Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). This year's meeting is being hosted by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which is excited to show off its recently renovated Mesozoic gallery, Dinosaurs in their Time, at the welcome reception Sunday night.

This year's logo features Fedexia striegeli, a tremotopid amphibian from the Late Pennsylvanian of Western Pennsylvania. Fedexia was only just recently published by Carnegie Museum paleontologists in the museum's publication Annals of Carnegie Museum (Berman et al 2010).

As usual, this years talks look like they will be dominated by dinosaurs and mammals, but Tuesday will be the day for Crurotarsans, with an entire afternoon session dedicated to them. I will be posting all that I can about all the new insights into our favorite archosaurs, as well as any other interesting happenings at the meeting, but I do take SVP's embargo policy very seriously. Stay tuned. I am very excited for the meeting and I hope you are too! I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wrong side of the Archosaur tree, but still a great cause

You probably already know, but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My grandmother died two years ago of breast cancer that metastasized to her liver and I live in a cancer cluster (over a dozen women in my neighborhood have been diagnosed in the past few years), so this is something close to my heart.

Over at the blog ART Evolved, they have found a unique way to make a difference. For the whole month of October, they are hosting the Pink Dinosaur Fundraiser for Cancer Research. There are two ways to participate: 1.) Go directly to the event page and donate or 2.) send in a picture of a pink dinosaur. For each dino they receive, they will donate $1. I've already sent in two:

Adult Triceratops (formerly Torosaurus)


Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Gharial

Male Gharial, sporting a large ghara

Species: Gavialis gangeticus (extant) and Siwaliks Gavialis (extinct)
Meaning: derived from Hindi "ghariyal"
Age: Pliocene to now
Location: India and Nepal
Physical Characteristics: up to 6 meters in length, longirostrine (although snouts become shorter and thicker with age) piscivores, possessing laterally flattened tails and webbed hind feet. Males possess "ghara" - a bulbous growth on the tip of the snout - for which they are named.