Recap-orama, 2011 Edition

I wanted to try out a “Best of” for this blog, as a way to pull back readers to things they may have missed, or to bring back attention to things they glossed over, or things I flubbed. Also, things I am proud of.

Top Post

For this year’s “Top Post,” I am not referring to comments, faves, likes, or whatever, but views, and while this tends to incorporate recursive links from within this site, it also indicates exterior links, thus noting what posts other people are pointing out. For this, by a far margin, my “Top Post” was Spinosaurus — a Hint. This post is not only my most referred, but also contains my most popular reconstruction yet:

Silhouettes of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

Despite this, this reconstruction was always intended to be temporary, something I threw together with the intention of eventually improving down the road, especially in the quality of the changeability of all that black space. I would later begin to adopt an alternate physical posture for my silhouettes, to depart from the “Greg Paul model” and prevent comparisons with his work (a problem in some respects, but there you have it).

Following this, the work I’ve put the most into was Making Lip of It, where I tried to cobble together a few leads without spoiling unpublished work as well as taking the thunder from what was rightly others’ to mention first, in order to put a little in on my impression on the “lips or not” issue when it came to dinosaurs. I think the concept is complication due to the variable nature of the various tissues at play, and perfect correlations should be established before anyone starts declaring that they must have had “lips” or not. There’s a ton of work, both on expression of macro-structures, such as foramina concentrations to tissue structures, as well as micro-structures to types of tissue, that I know are being worked on, and I wanted to say something on this issue as it bears on telling how much like a bird the jaws of various oviraptorosaurs might be, especially those with and without teeth.

Top Illustration

The reconstruction above is also the Top Illustration to date by popularity, although it is not MY favorite, which is below. I think that the overall appeal of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, in respect to Jurassic Park fandom as well as the bizarre nature of the animal (probably not unrelated) has made almost anything I do regarding spinosaurids noticeable.

Skull of Velociraptor mongoliensis Osborn, 1925.

The need to create a Velociraptor mongoliensis skull that I could move around and demonstrate mobility in multiple views led me to do what I think is so far one of my more complex, pleasurable and effective pieces of art so far, a piece that is demonstrative of what I want to show off as worthy of being in a technical paper. It isn’t perfect, and indeed I could add in various elements to “shore it up,” including palate, braincase, and the posterior mandible and skull in ventral view, but it was designed initially to be about showing off the “effective oral margin,” where all the teeth are. I spent more work on this piece, with more satisfaction, than any other piece that has appeared on this site.

Unenlagiidae (as Unenlagiinae), modified from Gianechini & Apesteguía (2011, fig. 1).

A paper from Gianechini and Apesteguía (2011) discussing the Unenlagiidae (=Unenlagiinae) used an illustration of mine, as recounted at Southern Raptors: Not What They Seem, and is one of the few times my work has appeared in a technical paper (my first published figure appeared years ago in a little-known newsletter on a subject related to but different from paleontology, at the request of Darren Naish; a part of it represents my Gravatar, a representation of a conodont). This meant that talking about this was pleasing, because I could take a little pride (as an artist) in knowing that various other authors will view this material through a lens I created (and also fearful because they may not want to try me out for their work because of it). My work is largely free if it is in this context (skeletal designs only) because I think the knowledge I gain making them is payment enough; it’s the type of illustration featured above, with the skull of a “raptor,” that I would charge for if commissioned, but I’m not an expensive chump and don’t charge much at all anyways.

Most Underrated Post

… should probably go to Diet in Oviraptorosaurs VII – Measuring the Mandible: Part 3, Measuring Points which, despite the horrendously long title, is about something I think should be more deeply in any anatomist’s concern, and that’s the way orientation of an element affects how you measure it, and how that orientation and measurement impact what data we draw from it. I haven’t finished this series, or the last post on this particular aspect of the jaw, so while it is incomplete and partial, I think more should be paid to this for the large part of being very relevant to that which paleontology draws around. When you something is “x long,” or “x wide,” what are you comparing it to and how are you determining this, so that I may know how this fits into the larger field of data? This should be at the beginning of any anatomist’s to-do list, and I think this should be more refined than it is.

Caenagnathid mandible with points of interest highlighted, in left lateral view. Each portion of the image is a different set of points, or vertices, from which measurements and axes can be drawn from. Mandible modified after Currie et al., 1994.

Synopsis and the Blog

It’s been a fun year, I think, despite spending large portions of it writing a few large pieces and some highly critical ones (such as my argument involving “Were There European Oviraptorosaurs?“), which stresses the evaluation of problematic and curious material, and the potential that this material can lead us to surprising conclusions. I remain highly critical of the Linnaean System and its abject abuse even by its own critics, as well as happily giddy at the mention of any new oviraptorosaur, but mostly, I am more pleased by biomechanics and the achievement of learning how things work.I will strive to include less dinosaurs in my blog in the future, which will be easy with several papers in the pipeline. I will also hopefully try to submit at least one actual paper before the end of 2012, although it will be a boring, boring thing. My criticism of various analyses notwithstanding, I will seek in the future to be overall less caustic, and more optimistic, a trend I hoped to start with my review of Denver Fowler and colleagues’ work demonstrating raptor-like pedal restraint capability in dromaeosaurids and possibly all other paravians (with the added spice that the pedal adaptations can either appear in other taxa less likely to be herbivores, or may be related to other behaviors entirely). This arises from my more public disagreements with Denver Fowler.

That said, I appreciate the traffic and commentary that has come from interested laypersons as well as professionals, especially the latter as, while I enjoy the ability to learn and teach, I prefer the former and would like to be schooled than to lay the schooling down. I am dumb, and appreciate the opportunities to fix what I don’t know about a thing. I spend more and more time researching some of my posts than I used to thanks to the need to extensively backcheck comments on this blog, to which I owe people like Mike Taylor and Denver Fowler a major thanks.

Future Prospects

I never intended this blog to be big, important, or prominent on anyone’s blogroll, merely as a place to say things I want to say about paleontology. for the most part, this means I am not going to be extensively whoring the site, because it’s not that important, even if I spend a decent amount of time working on it. I get to show off art and ideas, with the caveat that it is all going to change, eventually. I wanted also to use the site as a place to challenge people’s preconceptions, especially defying the feeling that people put a little too much stock in what they push in their publications. To me, this is designed to create publicity beyond the sake of science, and while being absolutely honest means sometimes you don’t get to write certain things, I think this should be better for us, not worse; the science should come first, and if it means you don’t get to name something, then so be it. If I post too many critiques, such as on blatantly unsupported conclusions, then I think it deserves just as fair a shake as the more publicized paper its critiquing. I’m in my element, so to speak, when talking about teeth and oviraptorosaurs, and because of this much of the subject matter focuses on those things, so one of my future goals is to break from this and try my hand at different things that are correlated, and interesting, but require me to learn more.

This blog spawned at least two intended publications, one of which gained a coauthor as an attempt to round it out. A third publication was prepared, but I’ve been trying to hold back on it because I simply do not have the wit or knowledge to push the paper where I feel it must go. But that’s what I wanted out of the blog in the first place, a jumping point. So it’s working out.

Hopefully, 2012 will bring me many new things to blog about until the world “ends” in May, at which point there won’t be anyone worth caring about my blog to keep writing. I continue to eventually flesh out my “interesting teeth” series, while at the same time eventually showing off a reconstruction of the skull of the bizarre Masiakasaurus knopfleri. I will continue to post on subjects dealing with the taxonomy and ontogeny of particular marginocephalian dinosaurs, as well as continuing to rant on BANDits (people who favor the “Birds Are Not Dinosaurs” hypothesis) and related papers. I will continue to criticize publications that seem to erect unnecessary nomenclature, especially for extremely limited material including for teeth (taxonomy for the sake of itself, especially in connection with the Linnaean System, is useless to Science) — but will tone it down a bit. I will continue to write “Brachiosaurus brancai,” however, because it only emphasizes this particular philosophy of what one should avoid doing.

Try to at least leave a comment or two!

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4 Responses to Recap-orama, 2011 Edition

    • Everything!

      It’s the official end of the world, according to the Mayan calender, didn’t you hear? There’s whole billboards that drive across the United States proclaiming it (it’s rather funny in some cases). They went up right after the LAST widely publicized end of the world proclamation was found to fall flat on its face, or the “true” proclamation mere months afterward.

  1. Andrea Cau says:

    I follow Indu Calendar.

  2. Andrea Cau says:

    I meant “Hindu”.

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