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!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

SVP 2011 (Day 4, Part I): Dinosaurs in the Desert

Eat it up, Interwebs.
What can I say?  I like dinosaurs.  Big dinosaurs, small dinosaurs, dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.  I know that there are fossil mammals and fish to consider.  And they are really cool too.  But seriously, look at this kid.  He's so happy about the stegosaur on his sweatshirt.  If it wasn't for dinosaurs, he probably wouldn't know a thing about fossil mammals and fish.  So it would be cruel to deny him his dinosaur talks on the last day of SVP, wouldn't it?  Darn right it would.  So that means a morning spent in Technical Session XIV, listening to all of the theropod talks.   And there were some really good ones this year.

Back in July I wrote about a paper by Xu, You, Du, and Han (2011) that described the new paravian, Xiantingia zheng, and what its discovery meant for the relationships of the "first bird", Archaeopteryx, to other dinosaur groups.   Well today I caught another talk, presented by Xing Xu (2011), on the same subject.  He proposed a new eumaniraptoran phylogeny where oviraptorosaurs are more closely allied with avialans, and Archaeopteryx is more closely allied with the deinonychosaurs.  I'm still not quite convinced that this phylogeny is the one that is going to stick, but the hypothesis is interesting, to say the least.  Regardless of how cladogram actually turns out, it is very cool to know that Archaeopteryx (or at least an isolated feather that has been associated with Archaeopteryx) had black upper primary covert feathers (Carney et al., 2011).

The still unnamed Hell Creek caenagnathid oviraptorosaur, in front of a life restoration by Walters and Kissinger.  This is a section of the Hell Creek mural (which won the Lanzendorf award for two-dimensional paleoart at last year's SVP meeting) at the "Dinosaurs in Their Time" exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Amongst a bunch of other really good talks, there was one in particular that stands out for me.  This is because I had been waiting to see it since I read through the abstract book.  Dr. Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was set to talk about the undescribed Hell Creek caenagnathid oviraptorosaur.  You probably know the one I'm talking about.  Triebold Paleontology Inc. makes a beautiful cast of this guy from the three preserved partial skeletons they excavated.  Scott Hartman has also done a fantastic skeletal reconstruction of the critter.  This oviraptorosaur holds the superlatives of most complete North American oviraptorosaur, most complete caenagnathid discovered to date, second largest caenagnathid known, and possible youngest oviraptorosaur, having lived right up until the end of the Cretaceous.  But it still hasn't been assigned to a known taxa, or given its own name.  When I read the abstract, I was certain that this theropod would no longer be an unknown as of 11:45AM today. But, tragedy; still no name!  At least the specimen was finally described.

By 12:15PM, the last dinosaur talk had ended, and there was only one afternoon session left. Lucky for me, the only thing I love > dinosaurs is crocodylomorphs, and the last session is all croc talks.  I can already tell it's going to be a good afternoon.


Xu, X., You, H., Du, K., and Han, F. 2011. An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae. Nature 475: 465-470.doi:10.1038/nature10288

Referenced Talks

Technical Session XIV. Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Saturday, 05 November, 2011, from 8:00AM-12:15PM.

Carney, R., Vinther, J., Shawkey, M., D'Alba, L., & Ackerman, J.  2011.  Black feather color in ArchaeopteryxPresented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Thursday, 03 November, 2011, at 1:45PM.

Lamanna, M., Sues, H., Schachner, E., Lysin, T.  2011.  A new caenagnathid oviraptorosaur (Theropoda: Maniraptora) from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Hell Creek Formation of the western United States.  Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Saturday, 05 November, 2011, at 11:45AM.

Xu, X., Sullivan, C., Zhang, F., & O'Connor, J.  2011.  A new eumaniraptoran phylogeny and its implications for avialan origins.  Presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Saturday, 05 November, 2011, at 11:30AM.

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