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!

Friday, November 04, 2011

SVP 2011 (Day 3): Nerds in Nevada

First and foremost, trust me when I say that I don't mean "nerd" in a derogatory sense.  In fact, it's quite the contrary! There has never been a better time to be a "nerd", "dork", or "geek", especially among a group of people like this:
"Elvisaurus" and the rest of the "Rock Vegas" gang at the SVP 29th Annual Auction.
Viva "Rock Vegas" indeed!  We were all having a hard time trying to figure out what the theme would be for this year's auction, and I don't think anyone saw this coming.  But more on the auction later.  For now, lets talk about talks.
Symposium 4 on "Vertebrate Diversity Patterns and Sampling Bias" had very little bias when it came to the vertebrate groups covered in the talks.  Many different lineages were represented: therapsids, pterosaurs, early tetrapods, dinosaurs, "fishes", and mammals all made an appearance, although I can't say I saw talks on all of the above.  I was drawn into Technical Session IX, which hosted talks on sauropsids of all shapes and sizes.  F. Robin O'Keefe presented the work he co-authored with Luis Chiappe (in a paper published in Science last August) on Polycotylus latippinus, a plesiosaur that not only swam through the Western Interior Seaway of North America, but also gave birth to live young in those very waters during the Late Cretaceous period.  Many paleontologists had hypothesized that viviparity was a likely method of birthing for plesiosaurs, but this particular specimen yeilded the first definitive evidence.

The polycotylid plesiosaur Dolichorhynchops, photographed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Of course, Polycotylus was not the only viviparous lepidosauromorph talked about in the morning sessions.  The Early Cretaceous squamate Yabeinosaurus tenuis, also made an appearance.  The discovery of a female specimen with embryos in her abdomen showed that live birth in squamates evolved in at least one species around 30 million years earlier than previously known.  Yuan Wang and Susan Evans had published on this specimen last summer (in the journal Naturwissenschaften), just as O'Keefe and Chiappe had with their plesiosaur, but seeing the talks at SVP was still a real treat.  There is still a lot to be learned from a 15 minute talk, even if you've seen the papers before.  That's one of the great things I enjoy the most about attending the meetings.  It doesn't have to be new research being presented for the first time in order for it to be informative.

A life sized model of the sauropod Astrodon johnstoni, the Maryland state dinosaur, on display at the Maryland Science Center.  If you've ever seen this guy in person, you know that is not a smile on his face.  
After the 2nd Annual Paleo-Terps lunch (by the way, does anyone have photos from that?) it was off to talks in Technical Session XI, which was dominated by the largest living land animals of all time, the sauropod dinosaurs.  After a quick run through of the poster session, it was off to dinner at the Bellagio before returning to the SVP 29th Annual Auction.  I was disappointed to hear that I missed out on Jenn Hall's dinobird painting at the silent auction, but I was thrilled with the beautiful dinosaur quilt I got at the live auction.  It features James Gurney's Cretaceous scene from the 1997 "The World of Dinosaurs" stamp series on a truly amazing hand stitched quilt commissioned by Laura English, and crafted by Carol Bietz and Angie Stuart.  The photo of the quilt I tweeted really doesn't do it justice, and I'll take some proper ones soon.  But in the event that any of the above mentioned ever come across this page,    I have but one thing to say: thankyouthankyouthankyou!  I really love it.

Referenced Talks

Symposium 4: Vertebrate Diversity Patterns and Sampling Bias. Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Friday, 04 November, 2011, from 8:00AM-12:15PM.

Technical Session XIPresented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Friday, 04 November, 2011, from 1:45PM-4:15PM.

Evans, S., & Wang, Y.  2011.  The early Cretaceous lizard Yabeinosaurus: Insights from new specimens.  Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Friday, 04 November, 2011, at 10:45AM.

O'Keefe, F., & Chiappe, L.  2011,  Viviparity and cetacean-like life history in a Mesozoic marine plesiosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia).  Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Friday, 04 November, 2011, at 9:00AM.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary of the meeting; it was a lot of fun, I'll be interested to see if Raleigh can top it.