STL Science Center

STL Science Center

22 March 2018


I have been pretty sick this week and missed a lot of the week because of it. Rather than saying we will continue next week or I will scrunch all of the Apatosaurus material I have into today and tomorrow, I would like to remind everyone that we have discussed Apatosaurus before around here. The link to the search for Apatosaurus is here. Enjoy looking through a few years of old entries and seeing what kind of information has been doubled up on at different times!

19 March 2018

Movie Overload

Apatosaurus appears in hundreds of movies, feature length documentaries, animated shorts, and television format documentaries. If we consider Brontosaurus involvements in these categories the number of mentions, glimpses, and outright featuring roles of the sauropod in scientific media is well above hundreds. The first animated dinosaur, in fact, is an Apatosaurus (modeled after what was then called Brontosaurus actually, but until the argument over synonymy plays out we will keep these animals together) named Gertie. The Gertie film is the third mass-released animated film and most everyone has seen it in total or at least in part. This and other Apatosaurus videos were shared on this blog in 2013. Apatosaurus, more specifically Brontosaurus before the lumping event of the 80's/90's (more on this history later), was the inspiration for the animated dinosaur Littlefoot from The Land Before Time.
More recently Apatosaurus was used as the model for one of the protagonists of the Disney movie The Good Dinosaur. This is not the most recent featuring role of Apatosaurus though. That most recent role is one of its saddest as a movie screen dinosaur. Jurassic World's Apatosaurus herd was on screen for only a few moments and mostly consisted of dead dinosaurs. However, the behind the scenes building of the physical Apatosaurus head is pretty awesome to watch. I would go far enough to say astounding. I cannot get enough of it.
One of my favorite old, and therefore a little weird and not correct, videos that I saw a number of times growing up (and found online, lucky you folks) is the 1980s Golden Book Video featuring Fred Savage called Dinosaurs! A Fun-Filled Trip Back in Time. In retrospect, a ludicrously 80s video that has an Apatosaurus in it and contains live-action, claymation, and cartoon dinosaurs. That video can be found on YouTube here.

18 March 2018

Same Game Plan

Last week's series of videos worked very well for Sunday Facts, so I am doing the same thing today. We have two videos from the same sources as last week (I'm A Dinosaur and Story Bots). There is also a video from The Dinosaur Club that is the kind of video I would love to have the time to produce myself for this page or my own use in outreach. One thing that I have noticed watching all of these videos (both weeks) is that you will definitely find different interpretations of Apatosaurus in terms of illustration and placement of some anatomy (nostrils in the first two videos). Some of this is influenced by the skull misidentifications mentioned yesterday. Remember that the skull of Apatosaurus was originally thought to be close (or maybe exactly) like that of Camarasaurus and Brachiosaurus; sauropods that have nostrils high on the dorsal surfaces of their skulls. Unfortunately someone (it is the Story Bots video) consulted the wrong information regarding nostrils. This should not ruin your day though.

I'm A Dinosaur

Story Bots

The Dinosaur Club

17 March 2018

A Contentious Sauropod

The name Apatosaurus ajax is not very debated on its own, but it does have a history that includes the incorporation and the "re-splitting" of the genus Brontosaurus . The genus Apatosaurus also contains the referred species A. louisae, which is a second species within the genus but may or may not contain a third species, A. laticollis; presently A. laticollis is considered a junior synonym of A. louisae as described by Tschopp et al. 2015. A large number of Apatosaurus species have been assigned or reassigned since Marsh's initial 1877 description of the "deceptive lizard". Marsh did not have a complete specimen of course, the skull was unknown and confused with that of Camarasaurus until A. louisae was discovered in 1909 with a complete skull, but his description remains one of the first accurate descriptions of a sauropod dinosaur and therefore the world's official, scientific, introduction to some of the largest dinosaurs that we know today.
©Dmitry Bogdanov

14 March 2018

Anatomical Wonders

Velociraptor has some amazing anatomy. The dinosaur had theropod characteristics as well as a number of avian characteristics. Velociraptor has a number of interesting and unique characteristics that are both avian and dinosaur, or are entirely unique to Velociraptor. That anatomy has garnered a lot of attention from a lot of artists, scientists, and the general public, as we know. There is an entire scene about its feet in the original Jurassic Park movie. Before the feathers became the big news about Velociraptor it was the toe claw that everyone was intrigued by. The hollow bones of Velociraptor have also made the news a number of times because of their similarity to the bones of birds. I have to plug an artist as we are talking about a lot of anatomy here to finish up this post. Rushelle Kucala works mainly in markers, colored pencils, and digital finishing points and she is very obviously a serious student of paleontological anatomy. I would love to post some of her work on Velociraptor here, but instead I encourage everyone to increase traffic on her site, using Velociraptor as the gateway at the link here.

13 March 2018

Furculae and Descriptions

Possibly because of the bird-like characteristics of Velociraptor and also possibly because of its fame from both well-known fossils and the popular sphere, there are a lot of articles written about Velociraptor. These range from descriptions of new material, the skull in particular, and even the furcula (referred to in the title and portions of the article as a "wishbone", most likely to appeal to a wider audience). There are also descriptions of the feathers that we now know are associated with Velociraptor remains; as this dedicated study of the quills of the dinosaur shows. Personally, I am always interested in what kinds of clues we have to indicate behaviors or at least what kinds of inferences people have made about behaviors from their interpretations of characteristics of discovered remains and characters associated with those remains. This is why papers that investigate relationships between Velociraptor and its prey and how Velociraptor may have hunted that prey are intriguing to me. These papers by Hamilton, et al. and Finney, et al. model Velociraptor (and some other animals) hunting strategy using complex mathematical modeling and computer algorithms; they are a little intense, but the models in action and the results are both interesting.

12 March 2018

Dinosaur Planet

I apologize for this YouTube user's odd placement of the video, but here is a Discovery documentary entirely about a Velociraptor told as a story.

11 March 2018

Velociraptor Videos to Learn From

Here is a trio of helpful videos about Velociraptor that you can learn from this week. The videos include one from I'm A Dinosaur, a classic source of kid friendly facts in cartoon form; one from Story Bots, which is where our Triceratops video came last week from; and the final video is from the Today I Found Out YouTube channel.

I'm A Dinosaur:

Story Bots:
Today I Found Out:

10 March 2018

A Hole In Our Entries

In an amazing turn of luck, or perhaps a lack of fore-planning, I noticed that what I intended to be a review week of another favorite and beloved dinosaur actually appears to be a first full week of dedicated posts to a Mongolian dinosaur that is well heard of, if not accurately known. Seeing as how I love all of the dromaeosaurs and the wonderful array of illustrative interpretations and the varied hypotheses from the time of discovery until now surrounding the animal known as Velociraptor mongoliensis, it is hard to believe that we have yet to cover the animal. I searched in all possible ways through all the entries and we mention Velociraptor plenty of times, but we have yet to dedicate a whole week to this dinosaur. I even searched the Facebook page. I find this oversight amazing, which is the only reason I continue to go on about it.

At any rate, Velociraptor is a misunderstood dinosaur by many and it certainly deserves its time in the highlights of this site. Velociraptor mongoliensis means "Swift thief from Mongolia" and, in a happy coincidence of taxonomy contains the word raptor, which additionally implies a bird of prey. Despite common misconceptions, this violent, terribly-clawed predatory machine that inspires nightmares was huge... only in the eyes of mouse sized mammals and tiny insects. Standing at approximately the same size as a modern Wild Turkey, Velociraptor was, without a doubt, fierce and feared in the eyes of its prey, but was likely a nuisance much like a small dog to the larger animals of its time (think about how odd it would be to see a Tarbosaurus trip over a Velociraptor suddenly running out of the bushes in front of it).
Wyoming Dinosaur Center display of Velociraptor mongoliensisPhoto by Ben Townsend

09 March 2018


Here are a few of my favorite Triceratops paintings for everyone to enjoy today. Feel free to share some of your own favorites.
©Charles R. Knight
©Doug Henderson

©James Gurney

08 March 2018

One of the Most Popular Dinosaurs

Whether we are talking about video games (from Zoo Tycoon to any of the Jurassic Park games), movies (e. g. Jurassic Park) it is undeniable that Triceratops has made a massive impact on popular perceptions of dinosaurs and the way the public thinks of paleontology and science in general. Many other things help to form those opinions, but Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, and a number of other dinosaurs have influenced the public in many ways in the past, well beyond the almost 200 years that people have studied dinosaurs. Triceratops has been the subject of books written for both adults and children and even many with an all ages audience in mind. Do you want to be a Triceratops? There is actually an app for that. Maybe you just want to see a Triceratops mounted with lasers and missiles. As a child of the 1980's I can say that I used to have a Triceratops that did just that and walked (with two C batteries of course). Out of the interest of time I will wrap this up here, but we could go on almost forever, fairly easily actually. Triceratops is immensely popular and has been for a long time. To prove it with one final send off, here is a photo I took a number of years ago of a dinosaur pillow with a dinosaur hand puppet (I do not always have to be professional, right?)

06 March 2018

Two Papers Only?

The number of papers concerning Triceratops (and by proxy of synonymy, Torosaurus) is far beyond anything that could be shared here. The first posts on this site originated in the year following the "loss" of Triceratops, as it was portrayed in the general media. However, as every paleontologist, amateur or professional, knows, the argument for synonymy of Torosaurus and Triceratops would actually be a loss of the genus Torosaurus as it was named two years after Triceratops. Strangely, the media missed this entirely, despite the paper and authors' (Scanella and Horner, 2010) assertions that "lumping" the genera together would cause Torosaurus to forever be referred to as "Torosaurus", meaning that it is a nomen dubium; a doubted name. Seven years later this "Toromorph hypothesis" is still debated within the paleontological community and a lot of rebuttal in publication (See Farke, 2011 and Longrich and Field, 2012 and Maiorino, et al. 2013) has led to a lot of disagreement. This is a common occurrence in scientific fields, but Triceratops status as a beloved dinosaur in the hearts of many makes this debate more contentious than other similar debates.

Many other papers examined other aspects of Triceratops throughout the years. Horn use, cladistic analyses, and even examinations of the manus (I would really like to call them paws here, but I think that might gather some boos from the crowd) have been published. The most popular subjects of study with Triceratops have been centered in thermoregulation and dental topics. The frill on the head of Triceratops has been studied a number of times because, as with any sail-like bodily appendage, we have many ideas as to why it might have existed, but cannot readily test those ideas without the soft tissue or, ideally, a living animal. Some hypotheses can be, and have been, tested, but there is a lot we do not know about the frills still as well. As far as dental studies are concerned, Triceratops mouth was basically a plant shredder and the teeth needed to maintain this function were unique to Triceratops and therefore warrant study apart from other dinosaurs with dental batteries (e. g. studies of hadrosaur chewing and dental batteries).

05 March 2018

Horns and Videos

The sheer number of videos that Triceratops has been featured in is absolutely astronomical; but I did warn yesterday that Triceratops is a huge fan favorite so this should certainly not be a surprise. Here are a few choice cuts from the internet to watch and share with your friends, starting with a Triceratops talking about itself in a mix between spoken word and rap. The second link goes to a clip from the Discovery series Clash of the Dinosaurs. The third and final link here will take you to one of the first times I ever saw Triceratops on a screen.

04 March 2018

Return to the Favorites

JuraPark in Solec Kujawski, Poland. Image credit: CLI / CC BY-SA 3.0
Because I have decided I want to, and because I am writing these entries, I have decided that this month is going to be a bit retro in terms of animals we are going to discuss. Due to the fact that my favorite dinosaur as a child was Triceratops, this week is going to be all about the best known and baddest three-horned dinosaur in the history of not only paleontology but also the general sphere of knowledge of dinosaurs.

The first named Triceratops was initially discovered in 1887 in Denver, Colorado and consisted of brow horns and a portion of the skull roof to which they were attached. An earlier specimen discovered in 1872 in Wyoming was sent to E. D. Cope. Unfortunately, Cope possessed only post-cranial remains which looked very much like those of a hadrosaur. The remains are currently only provisionally considered those of a Triceratops and are still referred to by the name Cope assigned to it: Agathaumas sylvestris Cope, 1872.

The Denver specimen was sent to O. C. Marsh who originally officially named the specimen Bison alticornis. Marsh reconsidered and renamed the animal after an 1888 discovery by John Bell Hatcher in Wyoming. This was the third specimen presented to Marsh and apparently finally consisted of enough skull material to convince the professor that rather than a Pliocene mammal he was looking at one of those "Ceratops dinosaurs" he had published on sometime between 1887 and 1889 when the newly minted and now official name Triceratops horridus was published. This is the name we use now, in addition to a second recognized species, T. prosus Marsh 1890. 

02 March 2018

Smug Titan

Titanophoneus was a dinocephalian therapsid. A group, as we have discussed, well on its way to possessing characteristics that we identify exclusively with mammals. It is interesting, then, that most of the illustrations that we have looked at this week possess very few characteristics of mammals and look almost like squat reptiles instead. For that reason, it is very important that we end the week looking at a version of Titanophoneus that appears more mammalian than other illustrations. This version appears mammalian mostly due to the fact that a short coating of almost soft appearing hair, maybe we could even call it fur, all along the body of this Titanophoneus. This is also possibly the calmest looking Titanophoneus we have seen this week; the majority of illustrations show Titanophoneus chasing prey, eating, or at the very least in some form of motion (i.e. walking or preparing to chase prey). Find the image at this link on Dmitry Bogdanov's DeviantArt site.

27 February 2018

Titanophoneus Written in Ink

Possessing teeth and bodies that were grotesque and enormous, by Permian standards at least, Titanophoneus has been the center of a few hypotheses (alongside Gorgonops) of how dinocephalians hunted and killed their prey. Existing before Gorgonops (Late Permian), Titanophoneus may have laid some of the behavioral groundwork, in the Middle Permian, for the slightly better known predator of the Late Permian. Barghusen (1975) discussed these hypothetical behaviors and inferred their implications for inter- and intra-species combat in dinocephalians. Some of the adaptations discussed by Barghusen were also discussed by Rowe and van den Heever in 1986 and Hopson in 1995. These two papers both discussed the evolution and characters of the manus ("hand" in some mentions in the two papers) of dinocephalians. The original descriptions of Titanophoneus are largely missing, online. Therefore, the best descriptions that we have online are in these three articles and the Tree of Life website. Lauren and Reisz edited the "Autapomorphies of the main clades of synapsids" page which covers any and all characteristics that may gave been previously overlooked or ignored in the papers on feeding/fighting and the hand.

26 February 2018

The Ancient Earth

I would like to start off today by admitting that I am an absolute sucker for documentaries about animals, not specifically fossil animals either, but animals in general. That is why, despite a large number of videos of animatronic Titanophoneus models and numerous "tribute" videos on YouTube, I want to share a somewhat lower budget documentary about the Permian today. As we should remember, Titanophoneus was a massive predator of the Permian and used its size as well as relatively large canine teeth to subdue ts prey. The producers of the show Ancient Earth, CuriousityStream, run an on demand online streaming site that shows scientific, historical, and technology content (think of it as Discovery back in the mid-90's). A free trial is available for the service and it is the only way I have found, so far, to watch the documentary Ancient Earth. This show has an episode on the Permian which features Titanophoneus and discusses the Permian mass extinction. The two clips linked here show trailers of the show that mention and show Titanophoneus as it appears in the documentary.

24 February 2018

Gigantic Murderer

The Permian landscape was filled with enormous therapsids. As we have discussed in past entries (see Moschops), the therapsids are the group of synapsids that includes mammals and their descendants. During the Permian the group of therapsids known as dinocephalians were a small, but mildly successful group for about 10 million years (270 - 260 million years ago). Some of these animals were absolutely terrifying in appearance, possibly because they look like nothing currently living on the planet. One of the more alien looking, and named, dinocephalians of the Middle Permian was the 5 m (16.4 ft) long Titanophoneus potens Efremov, 1938. The name Titanophoneus translates to "Titanic murderer" and the large carnivore prowled the Middle Permian with an 80 cm (2.62 ft) long skull and teeth to match (in that they are huge, not 80 cm long).
©Dmitry Bogdanov
Titanophoneus & Ulemosaurus

23 February 2018

A Turtley Picture

A lot of images online are non-descript turtles; sometimes freshwater turtles manage to sneak into the search results for Desmatochelys. A number of unidentified, both artist and subject, turtles also appear, making finding an accurate interpretation as well as attributing that interpretation almost impossible in some ways. Regardless, a lot of turtle illustrations are really great, for a number of different reasons. The underwater lighting in most of these images that I have looked at today is wonderfully done, which further enhances the natural majesty of these giant marine turtles. Desmatochelys in action looks, no matter the artist, like many other sea turtles as they swim through the scene in which they are depicted. This version of Desmatochelys is fairly majestic, but has a few non-majestic characteristics as well (I think it might be the angle of the head).

21 February 2018

Turtle Bits Everywhere

The 2007 Colombian skeletons that were described by Cadena and Parham 2015 consisted of at least four individuals; four skulls that are either entirely or nearly entirely complete were among these remains. The holotype from this set of remains of Desmatochelys padillai consists of one of the incomplete skulls as well as portions of the neck (hyoid and vertebrae 3-8), both forelimbs with incomplete digits, the left shoulder girdle, and most of the upper (carapace) and lower (a partial hyoplastron and hypoplastron) shell. Two additional partial shells were also recovered in 2007. The remains constitute the oldest known marine turtle at approximately 120 million years old; the next oldest fossil marine turtle is an animal known as Santanachelys gaffneyi at 95 million years old.

These turtles were not tiny marine animals either. The Colombian fossils had heads that, at their largest, measured 320 mm (12 in) long and 216 mm (8.5 in ) wide (specimen FCG–CBP 01). The known material of the carapace of this specimen measured approximately 1660 mm (2.17 ft) long and 1353 mm (4.44 ft) wide. As we can see below, this was a rather large and impressive turtle.
©Edwin Cadena

20 February 2018

The Turtle Papers

The history of Desmatochelys is a very well-documented one, with many of the fossils described and analyzed a variety of ways. Some of these descriptions of course include Williston 1894 and Cadena and Parham, 2015. The Cadena and Parham article is fairly long and highly detailed and, thankfully for us, hosted online by the University of California system; the article appeared in PaleoBios which is published by the University of California Museum of Paleontology. A lot of this article discusses the phylogenetics of marine turtles and these sections are accompanied by enormous colorful figures and phylogenetic trees. Much of the discussion contained therein is the result of studies that came before Cadena and Parham, allowing these authors to make the inferences that they detail in their article. Many of those arguments and discussions were originally written by Elizabeth Nicholls in the early 1990's. Nicholls, 1992 detailed an incomplete specimen of D. lowi discovered on Vancouver Island on the Pacific coast of Canada. That specimen marked the first discovery of a marine vertebrate from the Cretaceous along the Pacific coast. In her discussion of turtle specimens Nicholls argued that more specimens of marine turtles discovered in Cretaceous rocks belonged to the genus Desmatochelys and her work on the turtles is inherent in the efforts and descriptions of later marine turtles and Desmatochelys specimens specifically.

18 February 2018

Turtle Facts

Desmatochelys is a somewhat popular turtle. Being the oldest known fossil sea turtle most likely only enhances the popularity of the fossil. However, the fossil has few fact pages and videos online. One of the only human-voiced videos on YouTube is the GeoBeats News video shown below. Enjoy the video today and tomorrow we will look at some of the other videos. Later in the week we will discuss some of the facts that we know about Desmatochelys, where they came from, and how we know what we know.

17 February 2018

The Oldest Sea Turtle

©Jorge Blanco
Desmatochelys is the oldest sea turtle known to science. Consisting of two species, D. lowi Williston 1894 and D. padillai Cadena and Parham, 2015, Desmatochelys is known mostly from Colombian fossils of D. padillai recovered in 2007. However, D. lowi is known from a very well preserved specimen from Nebraska described by Williston in 1894 and potential remains recovered from Kansas in 2008. The reason that the 2007 discoveries and their 2015 description are more well-known is because they are more current, very well preserved, and the description includes an extensive list of characters and depth. All of the known specimens of this turtle genus are amazing, so it really is difficult to say any one is better than the other specimens and each has its merits. As an example, the 2008 Kansas specimen of D. lowii has a very well preserved skull and the humerus is slightly different from Williston's Nebraska specimen of 1894. Variance, preservation, and preparation could account for this, however we may never know exactly why they appear different.

Regardless of their preservational states, the specimens of D. padillai from Colombia was recovered from rocks that are Lower Cretaceous or upper Barremian-lower Aptian, approximately 120 million years old, in age. These fossils make Desmatochelys the oldest known fossil sea turtle by approximately 25 million years. All of the fossils, from all three locations, make Desmatochelys one of the most well represented fossil sea turtles as well. As the week goes on we will list out the specimens and describe this turtle. Today, enjoy this Cretaceous landscape and its giant sea turtle.

16 February 2018

Giant Skeletons

One of the best skeletal reconstructions I have ever seen is that of Futalognkosaurus as illustrated by Nima Sassani. The image is enormous and I am going to link it here rather than describe the image in great detail. Enjoy this enormous dinosaur and its enormous skeleton.

15 February 2018

Quietly Documented

The turnaround time from fossil recovery to description for Futalognkosaurus is actually fairly standard. Discovered and recovered in 200 and described in 2007, Futalognkosaurus was only unknown to the world for approximately 7 years (with the 87 million year fossilization and exposure period). In the grand scheme of fossils that is actually not that bad a return from fossil to publication; considering it includes transportation of a number of very large skeletal elements and preparation, study, and characterization as well it is actually somewhat impressive. Since that publication Futalognkosaurus has somewhat been lost in the general awe of titanosaurs instead of standing out on its own very much.

As one of the most complete large dinosaurs ever discovered, it is famous for that distinction if for nothing else. That is a point that has been highlighted numerous times on popular media like the Smithsonian's online magazine and Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week (SVPOW), a popular venue for discussing sauropods. Dinosaur books describing the landscapes of South America that were written after the description was published make mention of the giant and even detail what inferences have been made about the animal, though there are not any singularly dedicated books, for children or otherwise, available on the market at the moment. An application launched in 2013 has probably been the most active way of viewing and interacting with Futalognkosaurus for the public. In conjunction with the Royal Ontario Museum, the app Scopify created a vignette for the display piece of Futalognkosaurus in the museum, bringing the sauropod to life on handheld devices and cellphones.

For the most part Futalognkosaurus does not make a giant impact on popular culture in visible media. However, despite a lack of popular media and materials, Futalognkosaurus has appeared in murals, many illustrations, and features prominently in the Royal Ontario Museum. The name is not well known, but many may recognize the sauropod as a titanosaur in illustrations and murals.

13 February 2018

Anatomy of a Titan

When Calvo, et al. (2007) described the titanosaur Futalognkosaurus they knew that their animal was one of the most immense animals that ever lived and that it was big for a sauropod, which we can all admit is saying something. Imagine someone describing a whale as "enormous, for a whale" and you might have a good idea of the scale of intensity of describing a sauropod that was larger than others of its kind. The description that Calvo, et al. released included some nice photographs, location details, and skeletal maps of Futalognkosaurus. It is not like we do not expect this kind of thing from a description paper, it is just always fairly delightful when this kind of thing is done well and in vibrant colors, as this paper is.

12 February 2018

One Worthy Video

Perhaps because Futalognkosaurus is difficult to say, the titanosaurid sauropod has not appeared in any official film media. There are plenty of amateur images of displays from museums and other things (like illustrations that were scanned). The video from WizScience shown here makes use of both illustrations and display photos. It is also one of the only videos online that talks about Futalognkosaurus in any length.

10 February 2018

Same Hemisphere, Different Continent

©Nobu Tamura
The western hemisphere is not the only side of Earth where we find giants, but we do find a lot of them. Many of these giants come from the tropical Cretaceous of Patagonia, an era and land rich with titanosauriform sauropods. Some of these have very straightforward names (e. g. Argentinosaurus, Titanosaurus) but some have names that are nearly impossible to spell correctly on the first try, such as Futalognkosaurus dukei. Futalognkosaurus is known from a large portion of the skeleton, which is a large skeleton. The neck is composed of 14 tall, deep vertebrae leading to an estimation that the neck itself with soft tissue may have been as wide as 1 m (3.3 ft). The pubis is a 1.37 m (4.5 ft) long bone, meaning that the pelvis is amazingly enormous in this dinosaur. These bones are not the only known fossils of Futalognkosaurus. The entire known skeleton, attributed to three specimens and accounting for 70% of the total skeleton, allows for a well inferred estimation of total length. Estimations run between 26 - 30 m (85.3 - 98.4 ft) of total length for the sauropod. The name reflects the enormous estimations and is, as many dinosaur names are, derived from language of the local indigenous peoples. Mapudungun, the native language of the Mapuche people of Chile was used to name the dinosaur by Calvo, et al. in 2007 and translates to "Giant chief lizard" (pronunciation of this name is given as "foo-ta-logn-koh-sohr-us").

09 February 2018

Adult or Juvenile Size?

Instead of a wonderful work of art this week, we will end this week with a size comparison of Siats and Siats. The fossil remains of Siats that have been discovered and analyzed indicate an animal approximately the size of the darker shaded version of Siats in the image here. The estimated size of Siats, as we can see here, is around 9 m long and 2.5 m tall at the hips. If this theropod was indeed a juvenile, the estimated full grown size of Siats would have been slightly larger than a Tyrannosaurus at 12 m long and 3.5 m tall at the hips. The largest known Tyrannosaurus, Sue at the Field Museum, is 12.3 m long and 3.66 m tall at the hips. The largest estimation for Tyrannosaurus is approximately 13 m long, only slightly larger than Sue or the estimation of an adult Siats.

08 February 2018

What You're Made Of

Reading the description paper or watching the interview with Pete Makovicky allowed one to look at what fossil remains Siats is composed of. In terms of fossil discoveries, from Utah, Montana, China, or anywhere else, Siats is a pretty average fossil. Unfortunately, as someone that studies the skull, there is only post-cranial material for Siats so we do not know much about how its head looked or functioned. Another thing we do not have direct evidence for at this time is feathering on this dinosaur. Inferences can be made regarding the feathering of Siats based on familial evidence, but it is important to note that the illustrations that show feathering are using phylogenetic inferences and not evidence directly from the fossils; in case anyone asks if there are feathers on this fossil when you are discussing dinosaurs one day it is important to have the correct answer.

Despite not knowing much about the skull of Siats there is enough information in the fossils for researchers like Zanno and Makovicky to know that Siats is a theropod dinosaur. These include the shapes of the pelvis and the known vertebral elements, as one would suspect. Seeing those bones on a table and hearing what they are does not necessarily tell anyone where they are in the body or where they were positioned exactly. For that reason we have skeletal illustrations that we can refer to, such as this one. Additionally, there are elements of the legs and feet, specifically portions of the tibia and individual phalanges belonging to both feet. These are not enough to flesh out the entire feet and tell us exactly what the feet looked like either, but remember, a lot of what Siats looked like comes from its known familial relationships. These relationships are well enough known that the scientific illustrations that have been created using the inferences and knowledge of these dinosaurs are well received and considered accurate.
From Zanno and Makovicky 2013

06 February 2018

Dino Paper

Zanno and Makovicky's 2013 Nature paper Neovenatorid theropods are apex predators in the Late Cretaceous of North America is pretty much the only paper that has been published on Siats meekerorum. There are a few other mentions of Siats specifically or descriptions of its family (Neovenatoridae) that sometimes very remotely mention Siats in passing. The majority of these mentions come from papers discussing the anatomy and phylogeny, or a combination of both subjects, of animals like Megaraptor and the early tyrannosaurids. These include Porfiri, et al. 2014, which describes a juvenile specimen of Megaraptor and what its anatomy can tell us about tyrannosaurid evolution and Coria and Currie 2016, which again describes a Megaraptorid dinosaur and discusses tyrannosaurid phylogeny. The reason that Siats is mention so often in tyrannosaurid evolution is that Siats is in an interesting position, phylogenetically.

Regardless of which of these papers you are reading, Neovenatorids are contained within the Allosauroidea. Megaraptorids are in a controversial position, with Siats resting either right outside the Megaraptora or as a stem member, depending on which papers one is reading. The cladograms presented on Wikipedia for Siats and Megaraptora, developed using different papers, disagree on this point. However, this shows the history of the phylogenetic positioning of Siats, not current disagreement on its position. These clades are often discussed within discussions about tyrannosaurid evolution because Coelurosaurs, the group to which tyrannosaurs belong, are the sister clade of Allosauroids, the group in which Siats is found. Phylogenetics can be intense to read about, but bearing in mind that the papers linked here discuss Siats and Megaraptorids because they are distant cousins of the tyrannosaurs that the phylogenetic discussions mention, may help sort out the importance of these familial bonds.

05 February 2018

Described by the Author

In this video Peter Makovicky introduces the world to Siats meekerorum. There are no other professional videos of Siats. There are a number of amateur dinosaur enthusiast videos online, but this 8 minute video has a lot of information on the fossil and is an interview with one of the main authors. Enjoy the interview and a look at the fossil!

03 February 2018

Neovenator Family Expansion

©Julio Lacerda, commisioned by
the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
In 2013 Lindsay Zanno and Peter Mackovicky described and named a fossil from Utah of a theropod dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous around 98.5 million years ago, making it slightly older than Tyrannosaurus rex. This large predator, Siats meekerorum, filled the role between its gracile cousin Allosaurus and the heavyweight Tyrannosaurus on the North American landscape. The animal is important for a number of different reasons, including, and maybe foremost, showing that allosauroid theropod predators remained dominant from the Jurassic when Allosaurus began to out compete dinosaurs like Ceratosaurus nasicornis until the very Late Cretaceous when dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus began to out compete Siats and other predatory dinosaurs contemporaneously living in North America. Siats also fills the role of apex predator in the region during its fossil record, not that there was any shortage of predators from Utah during this time; dromaeosaurs like Achillobator and Deinonychus were also stalking prey around this time. One of the problems with this animal, as we will see during the week, is that the fossil possesses characteristics that reveal that it may be an immature specimen, and naming new species from juvenile skeletons is not ideal, though it is not unprecedented and, in a number of cases, not unwarranted either. Regardless, this week we will go over what remains were found, what they look like, and what we know about Siats meekerorum, a predator from Utah named after a Ute myth about a human-eating monster.

02 February 2018

Pick a Favorite

Picking a favorite Placodus illustration is actually quite difficult. I assumed that it would be simpler given that Placodus is a relatively simplistic looking marine reptile. However, despite its rather boring looking body plan, it has clearly inspired some rather interesting illustrations. Instead of going on about my favorites and why they are my favorites, here is the size comparison illustration and a nice study of Placodus by Dmitry Bogdanov. The size comparison shows how small Placodus actually was compared to the average human. Bogdanov's illustration shows Placodus from the side and in great detail.

01 February 2018

Popular Teeth

Placodus is a very well known marine reptile to a majority of paleontologists and the public at large. As stated on Monday, even with this popular knowledge out there floating around Placodus remains largely absent from popular culture. This is far from the first time that a widely known fossil animal has made little or not impact in popular culture. However, this armored "Triassic sea cow" has managed to exist in somewhat common knowledge despite the lack of references. Instead of harping on the lack of references, though, let us quickly look at some of the items that have managed to exist and further knowledge about Placodus. One such item is a cast that could be bought, and may have shown up in fossil theme parks. The cast is a little different from most interpretations of Placodus, but does still bear a good resemblance to the animal, particularly the front teeth, and is reasonably priced, for a large statue of a Triassic reptile. Scientific models like those made by Jacek Major and Jarosław Kołodziejski are of slightly higher accuracy, but are not mentioned specifically as being for sale. If statues and scientific models are a little big or expensive, there are toys, though I have found out that these are discontinued toys made by a company called Playvision. Placodus is shown second from the left in the bottom row:

30 January 2018

Teeth and Fossils

Teeth in the fossil record are massively over-represented. However, as one of the hardest bits of the body and a portion that is replaced often and with some regularity, the discovery of teeth more than any other portion of a fossilized body is not at all surprising. Placodus teeth have been recovered for centuries in fossil deposits and at one point or another various species of the genus were identified mainly by teeth. A species named by Owen in 1858 (and another species given the same name in 1863 by Meyer) was described using teeth and partial cranial remains, but has since been reassigned to another genus of placodonts (Cyamodus). The cranium and skull (cranium plus mandible) have been described numerous times with different goals in mind. Sues (1987) described the phylogenetic relationships of the placodonts using a description of the skull of P. gigas. Fifteen years later the skull of P. gigas was again described, but with a more specific goal in mind. Neenan and Scheyer (2012) specifically described the anatomy of the inner ear and the braincase of a specimen of P. gigas using computed tomography (CT).

Not all of the studies conducted with Placodus are description based or anatomy centered of course. A number of studies such as Diedrich 2010 and Diedrich 2013 have assessed the paleoecology of Placodus. Diedrich 2013, specifically, describes the life of a Placodus as very "sea cow" like; in other words, Placodus was, as we mentioned on Saturday, very much like a Triassic manatee. Bone beds of "several thousand individual 'Triassic sea cows'" are used to describe the communal living of Placodus in the shallow seas covering an immense portion of what is now Europe. Diedrich 2013 was based partially off of the conclusions of Diedrich 2010 which discussed the paleocological role of Placodus using anatomical characteristics and laying the foundation of the "sea cow" - like analogy.

29 January 2018

Facts and Movies

Movies featuring the stocky marine reptile Placodus are difficult to find because it is not an animal that routinely features as a main character in documentaries, films, or any other medium that incorporates fossil animals. I did not find much in the way of fact films or many new or interesting fact pages online yesterday. However, there is an application created by Corinth, a Czech educational company, that contains information on paleontology related topics, including this short clip featuring Placodus. There are a number of short videos that display animation models of Placodus, though they are short clips with very little contextual information. However, these clips have been informed by the skeletal biology of the animal and, we hope at least, some knowledge, or consultation with people who understand, biomechanical principles of locomotion. This does not apply to the model presentation clips, like this short spinning clip. A knowledge of biomechanical principles is helpful, and probably should be required for clips like this movement test of a Placodus on a rocky beach. Potentially, in the future, there will be more animated Placodus characters in games, movies, and other media.

27 January 2018

Flat Teeth in the Ocean

Illustration by Zdenek Burian, 1962
 "Prehistoric Sea Monsters," 1964
In the Triassic a group of large lizards lived in the marine waters of what is now Central Europe and Asia, as far as we know currently from fossil remains found in Poland, France, Germany, and China. Possessing flattened teeth, stocky bodies, and long tails, Placodus gigas Agassiz, 1833 (type species) and Placodus inexpectatus Jiang et al., 2008 swam around the shallow waters and was related to the stem animals of the Sauropterygia, the group that includes plesiosaurs and nothosaurs. The skeletal remains of these animals show a squat animal that appears heavily armored and very "negatively buoyant". Essentially this means that Placodus was born ready to sink and may have either been a poor swimmer or was a very strong swimmer. After an initial look, it appears that Placodus was possibly very hippo-like, or perhaps even manatee-esque. The diet of Placodus was much closer to hippos and manatees than it was to its descendants, so these may not be terribly distant comparisons.

26 January 2018

Bear Art

There are a quite a few interesting illustrations of Arctotherium. A healthy percentage of these illustrations show the size relationship of this bear with other bears or with human silhouettes. These are helpful for appreciating the size of the largest known bear and it is this claim, of course, that interests so many people. Despite having shared few illustrations showing the bear in any type of action this week, those kinds of illustrations do exist and they are of extremely high quality. Many of these illustrations are not released into the public domain; however, we can share links to these illustrations without effectively stealing from the artists. The most colorful action illustration shared via link here is Arthur J. Doretty's Arctotherium. This illustration shows the bear confronting a pair of Smilodon as they appear to protect a carcass. Scavenging the kills of other animals was probably a very viable source of food for Arctotherium. Another interpretation of this image is that the bear may have wandered away, for water or to sleep for example, and come back to find scavengers at its kill and this is an act of reclaiming a meal. This appears to be in contrast to a much clearer depiction of carcass stealing by Diego Barletta. Barletta's bear is highlighted by, from what I can tell, a very diagonally oriented series of digital pen strokes to accentuate the rainy scene of an Arctotherium attacking a group of canids and claiming their meal for its own. The heavy details of the rain make the whole scene appear to be slanted and adds in an aesthetic that probably has a term in the study of art that I do not know but very much enjoy and appreciate in appropriate scenarios, like this image.

24 January 2018

Anatomy of the Bear

From Soibelzon and Schubert, 2011
The anatomy of Arctotherium is, at least superficially, almost the same as that of extant bears. There are differences in bone size and morphology from extant bears. The body plan has not changed in a very long time for bears because it is a very successful body plan. During the species exchange of the Great American Interchange the ancestors of Arctotherium and their competitors such as Smilodon were very successful in their invasion of South America. The portions of the anatomy that ultimately made Arctotherium successful, within the ursine body plan, were the robust limbs and strong but versatile cranium and teeth. As with extant bears, Arctotherium likely, as we have seen in papers, had an omnivorous diet. An omnivorous diet allows an animal like Arctotherium maintain the high caloric intake that a body of its size would require during times when either vegetation or prey animals might be scarce. A flexible diet is a winning characteristic in an invasive species as it allows it to expand into any niche that it can muscle itself into. Not having any natural predators or being a nearly 2 tonne bear certainly helps as well.

23 January 2018

Bears On Paper

The makings of a giant bear are of great interest to many paleontologists, and therefore papers describing their size as well as their diet and how they got to be their giant size are common topics of study. In 2011, when the largest Arctotherium was discovered and made a great deal of news, Soibelzon and Schubert 2011 described that enormous specimen and inferred from the fossil the age as well as the diet of both Arctotherium and bears as an entire group; the more recent Soibelzon, et al., 2014 further details diet using isotope analysis and pathological evidence from fossils. Only a few years before the description of this enormous specimen Soibelzon, et al., 2009 had described an Arctotherium den and the inferences made from the den and the items found within greatly influenced the inferences that were then made on diet and size in the 2011 paper. The den also provided the first evidence of familial behaviors in Arctotherium. These two papers possess a lot of knowledge about these bears, their anatomy, and their behaviors. As such, we actually have a very large amount of data on Arctotherium behaviors and ecology. The many descriptions of fossil remains provide us with a great deal of anatomical information as well. However, many of the original descriptions are not hosted online, making Soibelzon and Schubert 2011 a good quality anatomical description of Arctotherium to consult for today.

21 January 2018

Always Short Faced Bears

In general a lot of the pages and videos relating facts about extinct giant bears very vaguely name those bears "short-faced bears". Commonly, this is the name that is associated with the genus Arctodus, though the common name is often applied to Arctotherium as well. The name, when specifically referring to Arctotherium is typically amended to include the continent as well; South American Short-faced Bear. This article on LiveScience follows this trend as well, but does draw a very clear line by only discussing Arctotherium within the article. Many fact page online do not host pages for Arctotherium specifically, or do not add much information beyond what is available on Wikipedia. Interestingly, there is a very useful image that contains a lot of facts about the bear (specifically A. angustidens) shown as a layout in an issue of Epoca, a Brazilian magazine, from 2011. You may need a translator to find it useful. Also, feel free to correct this; there are three Epoca Magazines globally and the archives are not searchable for any of them.

20 January 2018

The Biggest Bear

There is a plush Wookie on my table where I was trying to think of what animal we should focus on this week. The animals I decided to discuss this week, after staring at the plush toy for a few minutes, constitute the largest genera of bears that ever walked the planet. Consisting of 5 recognized species, the genus Arctotherium is a group of bears estimated to weigh in at a range from 1,588 to 1,749 kg (3,501 to 3,856 lb), though its height is similar to its ancestors, the bears of Arctodus. Most closely related to the extant Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) of South America, Arctotherium represents one of the many animals that moved from North America to South America in the midst of the Great American Interchange. The largest specimen of the genus is an animal representing A. angustidens Gervais and Ameghino, 1880 recovered from Argentina. The other four species (A. vetustum Ameghino, 1885; A. wingei Ameghino, 1902; A. bonariense Gervais, 1852, type; A. tarijense Ameghino, 1902).

19 January 2018

Shrimp in Action

We have shown many different illustrations, models, robots, and 3D models this week. Instead of a big long post about illustrations and all kinds of discussion about art, here is my favorite interpretation:
©Andrey Atuchin

18 January 2018

The Popular Shrimp

In case anyone did not realize how popular Anomalocaris is, after all of the documentaries (minor and major) and different books, texts, robots, and multiple illustrations and photos of the Cambrian's largest predator, here is a picture I took Monday afternoon at Michael's, a hobby and craft store:
Though the eyes were not colored in like compound eyes, we can see that they do still feature prominently on this version of Anomalocaris. Toys are not the ultimate models of fossil animals, though this toy Anomalocaris does look a lot like a number of the good museum models that exist across the world. As an example, here are models from the National Dinosaur Museum in Canberra, Australia (left) and the Houston Museum of Natural Science (right).
Photo by Yinan Chen; CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Photo by Photnart; CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

Perhaps, however, the ultimate popular culture manifestation of the admiration and love of Anomalocaris might just be this plush version of our favorite ocean going arthropod. I have to say that it honestly looks a little bit more fluffy and adorable than it does frightening and carnivorous.

17 January 2018

Mouths and Arms

James St. John - (Burgess Shale Formation, Middle Cambrian;
Walcott Quarry, above Field, British Columbia, Canada)
The grasping appendage, sometimes called an arm, of Anomalocaris was approximately 45.72 cm (18 in) long and covered in spiky barbs. The arms and the spiky barbs would have served two important uses in the feeding behavior of the Cambrian predator: 1) to grasp and hold prey items and 2) to move the food near and into the mouth of Anomalocaris. These long grasping appendages, in coordination, with the large compound eyes made Anomalocaris an accurate predator, though of course we do not have any way to gauge its actual capture rate. Dragonflies, in the world of extent arthropods, are the most successful hunters with a prey capture rate that is approximately 95%. The current apex predators of the ocean, Great White Sharks and Orcas, have widely variable hunting success rates that are reported between 48% (for Great White Sharks) and 95% (for Orcas). Anomalocaris could have fallen anywhere in this range, but was most likely fairly successful given its high mobility, articulate (appearing) arms, and compound eyes. The mouth, of course, had quite an impact on the feeding capabilities of Anomalocaris as well.
James St. John - Anomalocaris canadensis mouthpiece
(~5.25 x ~4.25 cm) from the Walcott Quarry, Burgess Shale

The mouth of Anomalocaris consisted of 32 oral plates that have, multiple times, been compared to pineapple rings. The plates were constituted of 4 large and 28 small interlocking plates that were ringed internally by denticulate prongs that, thanks to multiple specimens, have been observed stretching down the entire gullet of the animal. This ring, save where the denticulate prongs would meet or occlude, was capable of closing and crushing, effectively biting in a circular motion, the trilobites that it shared the Cambrian waters with.

16 January 2018

A Few Good Papers

There are numerous papers on trilobite wounds and feeding in the Cambrian sea as inferred from ichnofossils and taphonomic studies (as a singular example consider Selly, et al. 2015). Many of these address the mouth and feeding appendages of Anomalocaris; however, before considering how the animal was capable of biting and wounding prey or grasping its prey and pulling it toward its mouth, one needs to understand how all of the elements of Anomalocaris anatomy come together. Descriptions of the animal can be found in many different places, but one of the more intense versions of a description of Anomalocaris is Whittington and Briggs, 1985. The authors describe not only the genus Anomalocaris in great detail, but also the general stratigraphic surroundings of all known (at the time) specimens of Anomalocaris and each species in greater detail including the holotypes and any referred material then known. As a comprehensive description for understanding the species this paper is a must read. However, it is a highly detailed scientific paper, and it can therefore be a difficult read as well. One of the first portions of the 40 page article is a terminology section which should help non-scientist readers, arguably. If reading through an article of this length is not for you today, though, popular science articles like Briggs 1994 (includes discussion of a robotic model used to analyze swimming in Anomalocaris), Patterson, et al., 2011 (previously mentioned discussing compound eyes), and Nedin 1999 (for more discussion about the mouth and feeding in Anomalocaris).

15 January 2018

Anomalocaris on Tape

The way of the on-tape documentary has gone, so saying that Anomalocaris is more well known from its appearance on a taped documentary is not entirely correct, though it is certainly where most know the name and general shape of the Cambrian animal Anomalocaris. Despite existing entirely as a 3D digital model in underwater scenes of the first episode of the Walking with Series in which it appears, Anomalocaris has made a lasting impression in the minds of paleontologists, people afraid of creepy sea creatures, and most likely some impressionable youngsters that just like documentaries about odd creatures. Anomalocaris has appeared in other documentaries as well, but its general model is the same. Regardless of which documentary we watch, Anomalocaris is depicted as a very active predatory arthropod. Anomalocaris was capable of breaking into the hardened shells protecting the bodies of its prey items, such as the trilobites shown in this documentary clip. A general overview of Anomalocaris is also available, in a separate and previously unknown, to me, documentary that lasts approximately 11 minutes. This is the direct link shared below:

14 January 2018

Largest Facts of the Burgess Shale

The largest known animal of the Burgess Shale is Anomalocaris and this undisputed fact is often the first fact mentioned on any site that discusses the facts we know about this (as the Smithsonian calls it) proto-arthropod. The scale shared yesterday considers the largest known specimens of the genus; however, related and possible members of the genus recovered from China approach 1.8 m (6 ft) long. The scale on Prehistoric Wildlife's page detailing Anomalocaris does show what a nearly 6 foot animal would look like compared to an average human. The page also has a rather extensive list of suggested reading; this constitutes a good source of papers for getting ahead of those papers that will be shared on Tuesday. The page also contains a rather extensive description of the history of the animal's discovery and description of Anomalocaris.

The best image of Anomalocaris on a fact page is probably the illustration on DKfindout's encyclopedia page, though the page itself does not share as much detailed information as either the Smithsonian or Prehistoric Wildlife pages. This illustration makes the eyes of Anomalocaris very obvious, though the page does not directly address the interesting optic organs. Luckily, though, scientists have noticed that this Cambrian predator (or potential filter feeder) has well developed eyes. Discover Magazine's Ed Yong authored an article just over 6 years ago wrote a scientific journalism article detailing the first detailed discovery and description of Anomalocaris eyes by John Paterson of the University of New England (in Australia, not the northeastern United States). Doctor Paterson discovered, in a massive number of Anomalocaris fossils from southern Australia's Emu Bay Shale deposits, a pair of sophisticated compound eyes containing an estimated 16,700 lenses on the best preserved surface; estimations of total eye coverage may be discussed later this week providing I can find such information.

13 January 2018

Welcome Back to Crazy Animals

©Dinoguy2 CC BY-SA 3.0
Coming back from a short hiatus and a very long Twitter feed at a scientific conference, this blog is ready to talk fossils and extinct animals again. We are going to go back pretty far into the fossil record for this first week back too. As I stated in the name change post, we are expanding our view beyond dinosaurs alone and even further than we ever have in the past (such as mammals and amphibians). To start looking at how massive the fossil record truly is, we will relaunch this week looking at one of the earliest known large sea creatures, an arthropod genus known as the "Abnormal Shrimp"; Anomalocaris. Some may recognize the name from the documentary series Walking with Prehistoric Monsters, the final series in the Walking with series of documentaries. Known largely from deposits of the Burgess Shale and other shales such as the Ogygopsis Shale (a subseries of the Burgess Shale), Anomalocaris consists of two accepted species and a third more contentious species. The original fossils, dating from 1892, consisted of a deceptively separated "arm", now known to be an individual portion of the feeding appendages encased in Middle Cambrian (508 MA) shales. The fragmentary nature of many specimens of Anomalocaris have, in the past, led to this single type of animal being labeled as many different animals and different types of animals. The body consists of many lobes and, as with all arthropods, these lobes are covered in a mineralized shell. The frightening look of this multi-lobed, shelled animal may be more a remnant of its alien (to us) body plan than it was an actually frightening carnivorous animal. One of the three species appears to have possessed robust feeding appendages capable of piercing the shells of other animals of the Cambrian sea; however, the other two species do not possess these and the diet of these other two species has been hypothesized to have been filter feeding rather than carnivory. Multiple dietary preferences in this genus point to a much more diverse group than has been portrayed in common accounts and means that the animal we are going to discuss this week is much more complex than originally thought as well.

06 January 2018

SICB Twitter Feed

Dear readers, I apologize for not having written earlier, but I've been far busier than I assumed I would be. Below find the Twitter feed of SICB material I promised. I may need to edit the code later, but that's easier on a laptop, and I am on my phone right now!

02 January 2018

Small Change of Name

I promised a small change of name around the time of the new year, but I have to admit that coming up with a new name was not all that easy. We wanted something that was all encompassing, still short, but did not look like we were specifically going to discuss only dinosaurs all the time. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of different kinds of fossils out there still and only talking about dinosaurs limits the scope of the entries here and the whole of life's difficult history on Earth. We are going to continue discussing all extinct animals but with this small change of name there will no longer be any question about whether or not we are going to talk about birds or mice or dinosaurs or even human ancestors. Additionally, we will continue to discuss life from all eras, including extinct animals that went extinct due to human caused circumstances.

This week, however, we are not going to have an individual taxon to discuss. Instead I will be posting some short daily recaps of free-to-release information from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in San Francisco (so long as my flights stop getting cancelled). Whenever I can manage and am allowed, I will post interesting pictures and snippets of the conference as well on Twitter (here) and Facebook (here).