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!

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.

Unlike Sunday's dinosaur talks, today focused on the saurischian branch of the family tree, not the ornithischian branch. The morning actually started off with one talk that was not on dinosaurs, but rather, on dinosauromorphs, the dinosaur stem-lineage that gave rise to the dinosaurs. Last Friday, I wrote (very) briefly about a discovery in Poland that shows dinosauromorphs may have been diversifying to fill in the empty niches left after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, as evidenced by some new fossil trackways. The trackway helps shed light on the rise of the dinosaurs, and their early history as a group. The talk on the subject that accompanied the recently published paper was really good.

After that, there were a couple sauropod talks covering new species from China (there is a lot of great research and material coming out of China right now if you hadn't noticed), evolution of tail variation, tooth morphology and replacement rates, and vertebral fossae nomenclature. But the majority of the morning was dedicated to theropods. There were some talks on earlier forms like Tawa hallae and a new taxa from the Ghost Ranch quarry, as well on those on more derived forms, including both a new troodontid and ornithomimid, an Australian spinosaurid, and Paul Sereno's cursorial, fossorial noasaurid (I can almost guarantee you'll be hearing more about that one). The tyrant kings of the lizards were also well represented in talks on ontogenic variation in Tyrannosaurus rex, and tyrannosaurid evolution and endemism. And if that wasn't already enough to be thankful for, free National Fossil Day pins were also being distributed. I'm eager to get my hands on a whole set, including the elusive, possibly non-existent Allosaurus/Forest Service pin. Anyone have a spare, or know if it's actually real?

The afternoon brought continued theropod talks in Technical Session XVII. All were well done, and as stereotypical as it is to favor theropods most among dinosaurs, I have to be honest with you, and tell you I'm going to be equally stereotypical and say that without a doubt, I favored the talk on the new island dwelling dromaeosaurid, Balaur bondoc, more than any other theropod talk I heard all day. This critter is seriously cool, and I don't just say that about any maniraptoran. Check out the paper and see for yourself. I liked the theropod forearm and digit talks too. Now if we could just get some consensus as to what was going on in the theropod forelimb, I'd be a happy man.

I'd be lying if I told you I stuck around for the stratigraphy and isotope talks. Getting back to the room for a shower and nap before the Paleo-Terps Dinner and SVP Awards Ceremony and After-Hours Party was a bit more pressing. I will have coverage of those events in tomorrow's post, as well as any other adventures that take place between now and my return from SVP. But so far, it's been a pretty good first National Fossil Day. For now, please enjoy some more Carnegie Museum photos of a few saurischian dinosaurs.

The basal sauruschian/early theropod Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis, at the entrance to "Dinosaurs in Their Time".

Apatosaurus louisae (I'm pretty sure this is the holotype specimen) chattering away with "Dippy" (out of frame), when it should be watching its baby...

... because this cunning Allosaurus fragilis is planning on having sauropodlet steaks tonight.

A juvenile Camarasaurus lentus, in situ.

Two Tyrannosaurus rex argue over who's going to have the leftover hadrosaur.

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