Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ah, Halloween. Spooky costumes, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and my absolute favorite, jack o' lanterns. Carving pumpkins is something I enjoy greatly, and every year in addition to the standard scary face or two to keep the ghosts and ghouls away, I like to throw a "paleo-pumpkin" into the mix. Last year, I decided the scariest thing I could think of was being attacked by a theropod dinosaur. This year, I found something a lot scarier.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Glendon Mellow's "How Not to Steal Artwork Online"

I woke up Monday morning to an e-mail from Dr. Manabu Sakamoto of the University of Bristol, a respected paleontologist and paleoartist, who blogs over at Raptor's Nest and has a gallery of his original work online. He wrote the ART Evolved e-mail list about the digital theft of some of his work, hoping to alert us all to the importance of copyrighting and clearly stating how you license your work. At first I thought someone had taken something of his and used it without permission - a serious offense in its own right. But as it turned out, the situation was a lot worse.

I won't go into all of the details, as Glendon Mellow of The Flying Trilobite and ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule has taken the liberty (with permission from Dr. Sakamoto) of writing up a summary of the events in the form of a blog post. I highly suggest that anyone remotely interested in or involved in paleo-art or online rights take a look at it. We all stand to learn something from this unfortunate situation. I also want to say how proud I am of the ART Evolved community for banding together and acting perfectly appropriate throughout the entire ordeal. In less than 24 hours they were able to take a bad situation, and make it a whole lot better. You guys are awesome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 2010 Paleo Project Challenge

Good morning! I just want to do a quick plug for Andy Farke of The Open Source Paleontologist and Dave Hone of Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings who have joined forces once more to institute the 2010 Paleo Project Challenge. The idea behind it is a good one...
The Paleo Project Challenge
Do you have a paper that just needs the finishing touches before it heads off to publication? Is there some half-prepped fossil sitting in a cabinet in the lab? Have you started and finished a big blog post half a dozen times, but never pulled the trigger? Is that masterpiece rendering of a live Tylosaurus still sitting on the easel? Stop sitting around, and finish it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hagfish Day 2010!

So apparently today is the 2nd annual Hagfish Day, the celebration of the beauty of the ugly. I can certainly get into that.

Hagfish, doing their slimy, knotty thing. From the Vancouver Aquarium YouTube channel.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Superoceras!

It was Friday, November 3, 2006, approximately 3:30PM. I was sitting in the Geology Building at the University of Maryland, listening to the arthropod lecture in my principles of paleontology lab. As I was handed my lab report paperwork, I began to doodle in the upper right corner of the front page, as was my weekly tradition. But this week, instead of the modest spined spiral I would normally draw, I went all out. A few lines for shading, some stripes on the shell, and a fleshy, way to squid-like head sticking out of the end - I had created a "Super Cooperoceras", or "Super-oceras" for short.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Road from SVP (Wonders of Fall Part 1.5)

Following an afternoon at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (which I'll have plenty of more posts on and photos from in the future), we began the journey back to Maryland from Pittsburgh. I can't say that the weather was as nice on the way back as it was on the way up, but there were some highlights. Rather than talk about the same things as I did in my first "fall journey" post, I'll just run you through it, in picture form.

SVP 2010: The Final Hours

And just as quickly as it started, SVP was on its way to ending. After the last technical sessions and posters, the "Paleo-Terps" met up for one last supper before heading off to the SVP Awards Ceremony. As always I was both pleased and impressed with the winners of the Lanzendorf PaleoArt Award for two-dimensional art, three-dimensional art, scientific illustration, and computer animation, a new category. I was also glad to see the Romer Prize get awarded to Jennifer Olori of the University of Texas at Austin for her phenomenal talk entitled "Developmental features of microsaurs (Lepospondyli), and consequences for the evolution of development and phylogentic relationships within Tetrapoda". All of the Romer Prize talks were good, but Jen's really stood out. Congratulations to all of the award/grant/prize/medal winners!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 4): "Terrible Lizards"? I think not.

What can I say? Despite the fact that there was a symposium on the evolution of modern african mammals, and all of the fish talks right across the hall, I spent my morning in Technical Session XIV starting off my last day at SVP the same way I started my first: in dinosaur talks. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for fossil sharks, proboscideans, lungfish, bats, etc. But I guess I have a soft spot for the group of animals that got me interested in paleontology in the first place. You know you do as well. It's ok to admit it.

The 1st Annual National Fossil Day

It's finally here! The American Geological Institute and the National Park Service have combined forces to bring us the first annual National Fossil Day. Now I'm obviously of the opinion that we should celebrate fossils every day, but I think a national day of recognition is a pretty good deal too. The point of the whole affair is to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value. From stromatolites to Seismosaurus, Climactichnites to coprolites, fossils have a lot to teach us about a world long gone, but hardly forgotten.

So how will you be celebrating? I've got a day full of talks and posters as SVP 2010 comes to a close. There are also some pretty cool things going on at the Carnegie Museum. For those of you back home in the DC area, stop by the National Mall or the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - there will be a ton of stuff going on there as well. Are you out in the southwest region of the country? The Trail of Time is set to open at Grand Canyon National Park. So many things to do, so many places to be, so little time. So everyone get out there and celebrate National Fossil Day!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 3): Archosaurs All Over

Wow, today was a long one. But certainly a good one. I started out the morning in the vertebrate joint symposium with a squamate mandibular symphysis talk by Dr. Casey Holliday, but with the exception of one hominid hip joint talk, it was all archosaurs of the air after that. I managed to make it to one of the only two pterosaur talks of this years meeting, and spent the rest of the morning in Technical Session X for some bird stuff. I've talked about it before, and read through most of the papers on the subject at this point in time, but hearing the fossil feather color talk blew my mind all over again. It was also interesting to learn that the research that lead to the discovery of fossil melanosomes in dinosaur feathers had started with fossil cephalopod ink. There were several talks on new finds in China, and as always, some talks on WAIR and the origin of flight in dinosaurs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 2): Romer, Raffels, Reprints, and Roundtables

The second day of the SVP meeting was even better than the first (and the first was pretty good). The morning consisted of the Romer Prize Session, where predoctoral students present their research and one is selected to receive the Romer Prize for their outstanding contribution in vertebrate paleontology. There were some really great talks this year, covering everything from the phylogenetic relationships of lepospondyls, to cryptocleidoid tail fins, to dinosaur respiratory systems. The competition will be pretty tough this year, and there were a lot of stand out talks, but we'll have to wait until the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday evening to find out who the winner will be.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SVP 2010 (Day 1): A Night at the Museum

And what a night it was! The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) played host to the SVP's 70th Annual Meeting Welcome Reception, opening its doors and several of its halls for a fantastic evening. Good food, good friends, good times all around. But despite all of that, the real stars of the show were the fossil vertebrates. This post will talk about a few of the dinosaurs (don't worry non-dinosaur folks, I talk about other vrertebrates in future posts, I swear), in their new exhibit "Dinosaurs in their Time". Here for your viewing pleasure, are a few photos of them (obligatory shot of me with Allosaurus fragilis at left).

SVP 2010 (Day1): From the Sea to the Trees

This afternoon, SVP talks were all over the place. I started out in Technical Session IV, where talks on marine tetrapods abounded. Everything from marine iguanas, to plesiosaurs, to shastasaurids. As someone that started out in undergrad as a marine biology major, and someone that took several classes with Dr. Merck, I've always had a soft spot for the brave tetrapod groups that both left the sea for land, and left the land for the sea once again. My "family" is full of brave pioneers. I couldn't be prouder.

SVP 2010 (Day1): Dinos Galore!

Today, I'm coming to you live from SVP. The 70th Annual Meeting looks like its going to be a good one. Now I'm going to be perfectly honest with you; after reading the SVP embargo policy online, I had thought I'd be able to do some decent write ups of what I was seeing and hearing here during the meeting. But after taking a look at an actual press kit (particularly the line in the policy mentioning pending publications in other journals, and their individual policies), I think I'm going to have to leave you all hanging a little bit . I certainly don't want to step on any toes, and I have the utmost respect for the individuals in this field. All of the talks I've seen have been amazing, and while I'd love to tell you all about them in great detail, perhaps I should let the authors/presenters do that when they actually get published. And rest assured, when these papers hit the press, I will be updating here, and linking to all of them.

Earth Science Week - 4.54 Billion Years in the Making.

Among other things, today brings the start of Earth Science Week, a time for Earth scientists to share their knowledge and engage students in discovering the Earth sciences, in addition to reminding people that Earth science is literally all around us and that through understanding it, we can become better stewards for our planet. This years theme is "Exploring Energy", selected to do just that, and remind people where our energy comes from, and discuss alternatives for the future.

I can't stress enough how important it is to get people to think about such topics. How often do we think about how the electricity in our home works, let alone where it comes from? How the petrol in their car gets from deep within the Earth to their tank? I'm guilty of the same disconnect. As much as I try to conserve energy and explore the many facets of the world around me, I take a lot for granted. So dedicating some time this week to these topics seems completely worth it to me. It's essential we understand what's happening now so we can plan for the future. In the words of famous Earth scientist James Hutton (popularized by Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology), "the present is the key to the past", or in this case, the present and the past are the key to the future. So grab an Earth Science Week toolkit, plan an event or find one near you to join, enter one of the many contests - there's plenty to do. And not just from the 10th through the 16th of the month, but all year round. So people of Earth, have a great Earth Science Week.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Road to SVP (Wonders of Fall Part 1)

Today, the girlfriend and I set off on the somewhat long journey from Hyattsville to Pittsburgh for SVP. And what a beautiful day for a drive. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining in the sky, and the view was fantastic. If there is one thing I love about this season (admittedly, there are many), it's driving through the mountains and valleys of the Appalachian region. Nothing but fall foliage, road cuts, and outcrops the entire way. This area of the east coast is beautiful any time of year, but there is something about the splash of color in the trees that makes it particularly noteworthy in the fall. Weaving around (and through) the mountains, you can feel the pressure fluctuating in your inner ear and breathe that crisp air that you just don't find at sea level. It's truly wonderful. Lucky for you all, we managed to snap some photos along the way. Please, allow us to share parts of the journey with you (you'll be spared the part where I sing along to John Denver songs at the top of my lungs).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Gearing up for SVP 2010!

There have been a lot of paleo-happenings this week, all leading up to my departure tomorrow morning for the 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Pittsburgh, PA. I am completely unprepared. I probably won't even get a chance to look at the abstract book until I get to Pennsylvania. That being said, I just wanted to do a quick wrap up of the week, considering how many things have been going on. This will be a huge link fest (not that they've become atypical to readers around here), but something is better than nothing, right? Consider it a dry run of my blog carnival hosting skills. Speaking of which, have you seen this months edition of The Boneyard? David Orr, you have my utmost respect.

First a focus on the science blogosphere. Dr. Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology has pulled together a collection of posts from Tet Zoo ver 1 and published them in a paper format. This is awesome. For those who don't follow Tet Zoo ver 2, what are you doing with your life, seriously? Tetrapod Zoology Book One is avaliable for sale on You'd best get to buying it! I want to make sure that enough people purchase a copy to encourage Dr. Naish to put out subsequent volumes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Boneyard 2.2

The Boneyard is back, and better than ever. Check out the October edition over at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus here. Big thanks to Dave Orr AGAIN for getting a post up for me at the last minute. Apparently I've been sending my submissions to the wrong e-mail address!

So go check out the Boneyard 2.2, follow the official blog of The Boneyard (take in that sweet, new banner while you're at it), and submit a post for the November carnival, which will be hosted at Other Branch, to chasmosaurs(at)gmail(dot)com.

Happy Birthday, Tyrannosaurus rex!

That's right folks. On October 5th, 1905, Henry F. Osborn formally named Tyrannosaurus rex in the literature, and of all the dinosaurs known to science, T. rex is by far the animal that pops into the minds of the masses when they think of the "terrible lizards". Now I'll admit, Tyrannosaurus has never been my personal favorite (sorry Dr. Holtz!), but I'll certainly celebrate the day. Why, because of all the dinosaurs, this is the one that has probably had the most influence on the most people. How many times have you walked into a fossil hall and been greeted by a jaw full of banana sized teeth, tiny arms, and a head so massive you know it was impossible to find a decent hat to put on it, even on your birthday? If you're anything like me, more than you can count. So happy (67,000,105th) birthday, Tyrannosaurus rex, and many more!

FMNH PR 2081, also know as "Sue", the largest, most complete, best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered (who just so happens to be celebrating her 65,500, 010th birthday this year) at the Field Museum in Chicago (photo by Steve Richmond from Wikipedia).

Monday, October 04, 2010

Order of the Science Scouts

I cannot believe I didn't post about this sooner, as I've known of it for a while. The Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique (O.O.T.S.S.O.E.R.A.A.A.P., or Science Scouts, for short) is, "by the grace of all that is good about science", awesome. They let you put sweet badges on your website or blog, "tweet" about science all day long, and are gonna have the best secret base ever as soon as they raise the 1 trillion dollars to build it. There are several badges that I'll eventually need to get onto Superoceras, but for now, I think I'll start off with this one.

This is the new "Who needs a post graduate degree? I can do science... CITIZEN SCIENCE!" badge. Given my current lack of Ph. D. and frequent blogging about topics I have no authority on, I hope I'm deemed worthy of "wearing" it proudly. Maybe I'll make one to wear in the real world too. Either way, I can't miss out on posting about the Science Scouts, or displaying their badges. So go get yourself some, and spread the word about the Science Scouts today!

Friday, October 01, 2010


October is here, which for me means a great many things. I love the fall season on the east coast, and this month is by far my favorite for a lot of reasons (Halloween and pumpkin beer being two of the most important). But this October will also going to be great due to the SVP 70th Anniversary Meeting in Pittsburgh, and the first ever National Fossil Day during Earth Science Week. I simply cannot wait, so to start off the month (and get a little inspired), enjoy this ROCK-tober video, showing off the sciencey awesomeness that is the Tesla Coil.

Video posted by emagana100, via YouTube.

I thought that was too cool to not work into a Superoceras post. Hopefully you agree. I'll be covering the events mentioned above in much more detail as the dates approach, and plan on doing some live blogging from SVP when I get there as well. So look forward to that, in addition to other fall related posts in a "Wonders of Fall" series I hope to get off the ground before the temperatures drop and winter sneaks up on us.

Have a great weekend everyone. October is here... get your sweater.