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Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology


Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct
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Welcome to Tetrapod Zoology ver 3

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Hmm, how on earth do I start this article? How about… hello and welcome, new readers, to Tetrapod Zoology, a blog devoted to the diversity, biology, evolution and ecology of the tetrapods, the neatest animals of them all. To all you ‘old’ readers, welcome to Tet Zoo in its new home here at Scientific American. This is Tet Zoo ver 3. So, when I said over on Tet Zoo ver 2 that Tet Zoo was coming to an end, I was of course referring to Tet Zoo ver 2. Ver 2 – the ScienceBlogs-hosted version – had a good run (2007-2011), but it had to end. Onwards and upwards. [The adjacent image shows a sort of montage of some of the subjects that've been covered so far on Tet Zoo. A novel feature for me - it wasn't present over at ScienceBlogs - it that images here can be embiggened by clicking. So, no more being constrained to tiny, tiny images. Embiggen as required].

Me and what I do

So, my name’s Darren Naish. By day I currently work as a popular writer, consultant and technical editor (my experience, qualifications and expertise are very much centred around, err, tetrapods), but in ‘spare time’ I’m a researching palaeozoologist who publishes technical work on such fossil tetrapods as dinosaurs, pterosaurs and Mesozoic marine reptiles. I’ve co-named various new dinosaurs (Eotyrannus lengi, Mirischia asymmetrica and Xenoposeidon proneneukos), and I’ve participated in fieldwork at home and abroad [the adjacent image - of me - was taken during recent fieldwork in Romania]. For examples of my work available free, online, to anyone and everyone, please see Naish et al. (2004) on the giant Isle of Wight brachiosaur, Witton & Naish (2008) on the palaeobiology of azhdarchid pterosaurs,  Taylor et al. (2009) on sauropod neck posture, and Taylor et al. (2011) on the ‘necks for sex’ debate.

I’ve written several books on dinosaurs and other fossil animals. The best of these is perhaps The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (Naish 2009), published by University of California Press [ver 2 blog article here]. Note that one of my books – Tetrapod Zoology Book One (Naish 2010a) [ver 2 blog article here] – is a compilation of articles from Tet Zoo ver 1. Over the years, I’ve worked on and off as a TV consultant and researcher: I get used fairly regularly as one of those ‘talking head’ experts, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil. I’m married and have kids, a mortgage and all that those things entail.

I also have vested academic interests in quite a few other areas of research (all related to the world of tetrapod zoology), including the phylogeny of modern birds, swimming behaviour in giraffes (no, really: see Henderson & Naish (2010) and Naish (2010b)), amphibian decline and conservation, plastic pollution, ecosystem degradation, re-wilding and academic cryptozoology. Since 2006, I’ve been writing about the world of tetrapod zoology, first at my old blogspot site (Tet Zoo ver 1), then at ScienceBlogs (Tet Zoo ver 2). I started blogging for no particular reason other than that it looked fun. So – what is Tet Zoo all about?

Tetrapod Zoology: it’s all about the tetrapod zoology

Tet Zoo – the blog you’re reading right now – is all about zoology, but specifically the branch of zoology dedicated to tetrapods. Hence… Tetrapod Zoology.

What are tetrapods? Tetrapods are the limbed vertebrates: the backboned animals that possess four limbs with digits, or those backboned animals that descend from ancestors that possessed four limbs with digits (snakes and dolphins are thus still tetrapods). So, it’s the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals [a highly simplified cladogram showing the affinities between tetrapods and other osteichthyan clades is shown here]. All of them, living and extinct. My aim at Tet Zoo has very much been to discuss and disseminate information on (sometimes obscure) tetrapod groups, and to increase awareness of them where appropriate.

Actually, there are two different meanings of the term ‘tetrapod’. The traditional one applies to all limbed vertebrates, right from the very first lobe-finned fish that had what could be regarded as limbs and digits (e.g., Ruta et al. 2003): this is a ‘total-group’ or ‘branch-based’ definition. A newer use of the term restricts it to the limbed vertebrate crown-group: that is, the clade that includes all living tetrapods and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor, but not limbed vertebrates as a whole (Laurin 1998, 2002, Laurin et al. 2000, Laurin & Anderson 2004). The authors who promote this latter use of the term suggest that we should use the term Stegocephalia or Stegocephali for the limbed vertebrate total-group. ‘Early tetrapods’ like the famous Ichthyostega [shown here; image by Nobu Tamura, from wikipedia] are non-tetrapod stegocephalians or stem-tetrapods under this definition, not tetrapods proper. My opinion on this debate is that the name Tetrapoda is best applied to the more inclusive clade traditionally associated with this name (‘proto-tetrapods’ like Tiktaalik have been regarded as outside of Tetrapoda, but part of a more inclusive clade termed Tetrapodomorpha (Daeschler et al. 2006). Within Tetrapodomorpha, the informal term ‘limbed tetrapodomorphs’ has been used for the Tiktaalik + Tetrapoda clade (Downs et al. 2008)). But we don’t have to worry much about this matter anyway, at least not at the moment.

I suppose there’s a third meaning for ‘tetrapod’, too: ‘any animal with four legs’. Some butterflies and maybe a few other creatures might be ‘tetrapods’ in this sense, but they’re not tetrapods proper.

Unsurprisingly, and (I hope) forgivably, I’ve been distracted on numerous occasions by big, sexy tetrapods like tyrant dinosaurs, sauropods [adjacent sauropod diagram from Taylor et al. (2011)], giant pterosaurs and giraffes and also by such things as the sex lives of ducks, but I’ve also made real efforts to cover obscure frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents, bats and other such animals. In fact, a regular theme at Tet Zoo has been the attempted review of whole groups of massively speciose, globally important yet little-discussed, rarely-synthesised groups such as vesper bats, gekkotan lizards and the toads of the world. It can take literally years to get through projects like that, and one of my greatest frustrations is that I haven’t been able to make more progress than I have. As I always say, there is still so much to do.

So, over the past year or so, I’ve been discussing such things as wrist- and wing-weapons borne by birds, bat diversity, stegosaurs, the biology and anatomy of the pygmy right whale, and the presence of peculiar pockets, pouches and sacs in the heads and necks of mammals. This is against a background of sea monster carcasses, giant salamanders, fossil African cattle, matamata turtles and a ton of other stuff [adjacent image shows a variety of matamata images.. no real reason, just because I can]. So – what’s to come, at least in the short term?

Actually, I increasingly try not to make promises like this any more, since I’m bad at keeping them for reasons stated above. But topics that should get coverage here soon include fossil rabbits, European frogs, frogmouths, bats of various sorts, Mesozoic birds, seabirds, fossil crocodilians, plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. And there are always plans to publish more on lizards, snakes, obscure dinosaurs and so on [adjacent image shows giant model of the Eurasian lacertid lizard Lacerta agilis, with the real thing below]. Non-mammalian synapsids also really need some coverage on Tet Zoo. Basically, if you’re interested in animals or natural history in general, or in tetrapods specifically, you should definitely hang around.

Tet Zoo has a facebook page where I post links and also add a little of what you might consider ‘supplementary material’: stand-alone bits of art and such that are relevant to the published articles. I’m also on Twitter where I tweet as TetZoo.

Seeing as this is the first article here at ver 3, I need to state a few basics. Tet Zoo ver 2 became well known not only for the content of its articles, but also for its talkative community of regular commenters. Hopefully, that will continue here – I encourage you all to comment regularly and not to be shy about making observations nor posing questions. Pseudonyms and anonymity are permitted to a degree. Personal attacks on other commenters are not permitted of course, nor is abusive or obnoxious behaviour. Bar spammers, I’ve only ever felt the need to ban one two commenters from Tet Zoo, and if you’re aware of these individuals you’ll know why I did so. I reserve the right to edit and quarantine comments as appropriate, though this only ever happens in exceptional circumstances. Tet Zoo is image-heavy and I’m always looking for more pictures, especially of obscure species: if you ever think you can help, do email me (needless to say, I aim to credit all sources and seek permission for image-use when required). I’m at eotyrannus at gmail dot com. On the subject of emails, I honestly try to respond to all the requests, questions and such I receive, but these days I just get too many emails to keep up with. Anyway, welcome to Tet Zoo ver 3. I hope you enjoy what I do and that you get into the habit of visiting on a regular basis.

Refs – -

Daeschler, E. B., Shubin, N. H. & Jenkins, F. A. 2006. A Devonian tetrapod-like fish and the evolution of the tetrapod body plan. Nature 440, 757-763.

Downs, J. P., Daeschler, E. B., Jenkins, F. A. & Shubin, N. H. 2008. The cranial endoskeleton of Tiktaalik roseae. Nature 455, 925-929.

Henderson, D. M . & Naish, D. 2010. Predicting the buoyancy, equilibrium and potential swimming ability of giraffes by computational analysis. Journal of Theoretical Biology 265, 151-159.

Laurin, M. 1998. The importance of global parsimony and historical bias in understanding tetrapod evolution. Part I. Systematics, middle ear evolution and jaw suspsension. Annales des Sciences Naturelles 1, 1-42.

- . 2002. Tetrapod phylogeny, amphibian origins, and the definition of the name Tetrapoda. Systematic Biology 51, 364-369.

- . & Anderson, J. S. 2004. Meaning of the name Tetrapoda in the scientific literature: an exchange. Systematic Biology 53, 68-80.

- ., Girondot, M. & de Ricqlès, A. 2000. Early tetrapod evolution. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 15, 118-123.

Naish, D. 2009. The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. A & C Black, London.

- . 2010a. Tetrapod Zoology Book One. CFZ Press, Bideford.

- . 2010b. Will it float? Scientific American 304 (1), 22.

- ., Martill, D. M., Cooper, D. & Stevens, K. A. 2004. Europe’s largest dinosaur? A giant brachiosaurid cervical vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Cretaceous Research 25, 787-795.

Ruta, M., Coates, M. I. & Quicke, D. L. J. 2003. Early tetrapod relationships revisited. Biological Reviews 78, 251-345.

Taylor, M. P., Hone, D. W. E., Wedel, M. J., & Naish, D. 2011. The long necks of sauropods did not evolve primarily through sexual selection Journal of Zoology : 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2011.00824.x

- ., Wedel, M. J. & Naish, D. 2009. Head and neck posture in sauropod dinosaurs inferred from extant animals. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54, 213-220.

Witton, M. P. & Naish, D. 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE 3 (5): e2271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com!

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Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. roy in nipomo 1:54 pm 07/5/2011

    Good for you.

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  2. 2. roy in nipomo 2:02 pm 07/5/2011

    And here I am again. Something is wrong with this page. Everywhere else I’m DMA12, but here it says I’m roy in nipomo. I’m not sure if this comment will be posted under that name.

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  3. 3. roy in nipomo 10:27 am 07/5/2011

    The comment box says: “You are currently signed in as roy in nipomo”. What the heck? I have never even HEARD of Roy in Nipomo.
    — Mike Taylor.

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  4. 4. Heteromeles 10:56 am 07/5/2011

    Gee, I can’t log in on Firefox? That’s…no I better not say that. Antediluvean is probably more polite. It looks like I can only see this site on Internet Explorer. Good old *VULNERABLE* Internet Explorer.

    Hopefully this is a hiccup. Thing is, I don’t like Internet Explorer, so if I have to open a separate program only to read this blog, I probably won’t be here very often.

    Sorry Darren.

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  5. 5. MMartyniuk 11:55 am 07/5/2011

    Congrats on the move Darren! Had me worried there with the “last” post at version 2 ;)

    @Heteromeles For the what it’s worth, I logged in using Firefox with no issues.

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  6. 6. tai haku 12:07 pm 07/5/2011

    I just registered so I could continue to comment on TetZoo. Welcome to your shiny new home. Like MMartyniuk I was a little worried by the title of the final post at v.2.0

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  7. 7. BilBy 12:19 pm 07/5/2011

    Ah, you had me worried there as well – here’s to TetZoo ver3!

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  8. 8. Andreas Johansson 12:54 pm 07/5/2011

    Also posting from Firefox here, no problems except that the registration was ridiculously slow.

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  9. 9. Heteromeles 1:06 pm 07/5/2011

    Actually, here’s the weird part. I tried logging in three times with Firefox, got nowhere (as in blank window).

    Then I logged in with Internet Explorer, with few problems. Made my whiny comment at that point.

    Now, for some reason, I’m already logged in on Firefox when I reopened it.

    I don’t get this, but I’ll retract my earlier complaint.

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  10. 10. THoltz 1:35 pm 07/5/2011

    Congratulations on the new locale.

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  11. 11. pmurphy98 1:39 pm 07/5/2011

    Congratulations Darren! Here’s to more four more years of obscure frogs, Mesozoic dinosaurs, and the odd mystery carcass or speculative zoology post!

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  12. 12. DMA12 2:13 pm 07/5/2011

    Okay, they got my name right. Any idea what you’re going to be posting next. Why did you move to Scientific America.

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  13. 13. tai haku 2:28 pm 07/5/2011

    Hmm my earlier congratulatory comment seems to have either disappeared or failed to post. More importantly, and this may be me showing my technical ignorance, but how do I get a tetzoo only RSS feed?

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  14. 14. mrund 2:43 pm 07/5/2011

    Congrats Darren!

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  15. 15. llewelly 4:17 pm 07/5/2011

    hm. Testing to see if commenting works using firefox 3.6.17 .

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  16. 16. llewelly 4:19 pm 07/5/2011

    tai haku 2:28 pm 07/5/2011:
    “how do I get a tetzoo only RSS feed?”

    Michael P. Taylor gave this as the RSS url:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/feed/

    and it works for me.

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  17. 17. Dinorider 5:37 pm 07/5/2011

    great to see back here! I follow you since your blogspot days! :D

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  18. 18. Mythusmage 6:01 pm 07/5/2011

    Welcome to Scientific American, Darren. I’m a second generation reader, having picked up the habit from my mom way back in the early 1960s. When you get the time be sure to remind people of your long abiding interest in cryptozology. We’ll let the newbies learn about one commenters interest in gorgonopsians on their own time.

    BTW, I once had a blog with SA, but I didn’t do all that much with it. With any luck it got purged from the system. :)

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  19. 19. LeeB 1 8:35 pm 07/5/2011

    Welcome to your new location.

    You had me worried for a minute when I thought you might have given up on tet zoo, my essential daily reading.

    I like the enlargeable pictures.
    Interestingly though my sign in name has to have at least five characters here, however so be it.

    LeeB

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  20. 20. Kelly Clowers 10:44 pm 07/5/2011

    Login works fine for me in early SeaMonkey builds (same platform as the Firefox 6 alphas/betas). Still hoping for OpenID login at some point, though.

    I worry though, since problems logging in and ending up logged in as someone else are signs of pretty elementary coding errors… Slashdot or somewhere was just discussing that the other day.

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  21. 21. Kelly Clowers 10:49 pm 07/5/2011

    Oh, and people should move away from Firefox 3.6 and the like ASAP, even Firefox 4 is no longer getting security updates. Most people have found FF5 to be one of the best versions in a while, so you should be fine.

    Also, looks like the “RSS” feed is actually one of the Atom/RSS hybrids, just like Feedburner (SciBlogs used them) produces. Eh, it’s better than pure RSS anyway, if not as good as pure Atom.

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  22. 22. MA-writer 11:11 pm 07/5/2011

    Hello! You’re not in the list of Sci.Am. blogs yet.

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  23. 23. welsh peregrine 3:25 am 07/6/2011

    Congratulations on keeping Tet Zoo going; looks like commenting isn’t going to be as difficult as I feared.

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  24. 24. Therizinosaurus 3:26 am 07/6/2011

    Registration complete. Now I can comment on Laelaps again too. I’d be interested to hear about those four-limbed butterflies, btw. And in case the comments here just pop up under the user name, this is Mickey Mortimer.

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  25. 25. Pristichampsus 6:47 am 07/6/2011

    Congratulations Darren, you are truly an inspiring individual, and a good person to know.

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  26. 26. DMA12 7:00 am 07/6/2011

    Darren, it says that you’ve done 860 blog entries. Does that include Tet Zoo Version 1.

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  27. 27. John Harshman 11:26 am 07/6/2011

    Gave me quite a turn, you did. I thought you were announcing that you had cancer or some such. Please stop saving the punch line until the end.

    Oh, and registration, feh. Still, I endure it for the sake of Tet Zoo.

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  28. 28. naishd 11:50 am 07/6/2011

    Hi everyone – thanks so much for leaving comments, I’m pleased that so many of you made the trek over from ver 2, and have taken the time and effort to register. Believe it or don’t, I’ve had to register too and found it an extremely difficult process – the system wouldn’t accept any of my existing logins as it said that I already had one, yet it wouldn’t accept any of my existing usernames/passwords… I got round it eventually. We’ve been having a lot of discussion behind the scenes about scrapping registering/logging in for comments – I don’t know if SciAm will come round, but most of my fellow bloggers seem to be with me that it needs to go. I cannot see any advantage whatsoever to registering/logging in for would-be commenters – it prevents a massive chunk of the readership from commenting. Anyway…

    Hopefully some of the teething problems have now been ironed out. High traffic yesterday caused some of the problems.

    And: DMA12 – yes, including the ‘goodbye’ article, Tet Zoo ver 2 featured 861 separate entries.

    Darren

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  29. 29. Biology in Motion 12:04 pm 07/6/2011

    Excellent new locality for Tetrapod Zoology! I look forward to more excellent discussions. Congrats Darren!
    –Mike Habib

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  30. 30. eldri 4:47 pm 07/6/2011

    OK New site!

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  31. 31. Mu... 5:43 pm 07/6/2011

    A new bookmark every 4 years ain’t too bad, but don’t make it a habit. Good luck with the new place.

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  32. 32. Mythusmage 5:52 pm 07/6/2011

    Signing In

    Unfortunately for me I can’t use anything newer than FF3.6, and I can’t sign in using FF3.6. Safari 4.1.3 is the browser I have to use, and I much prefer FF. So I’m hoping things get straightened out here.

    Darren, here’s hoping your stint at Scientific American is a good, long one, and that the conversation is fruitful. And if you need ideas of postcing topics here’s one for you. “Why the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) is ultimately disappointing as a scientific endeavour.

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  33. 33. accipiter 8:05 pm 07/6/2011

    although i’ve been following TETzoo with enormous interest since i found out about it 2 years ago, i never really put any comments on it before ver2′s last week, not really sure why (*though,see at the end)…
    but as this site migration comes at about the same time, let me take the opportunity to take it all out here and now:

    thanks a loth for everything you did with this blog and for all the good times i had reading it!
    tet-zoo have been very important for me both as someone who is passionate about all aspects of animal life and its history, but also as a biology student (just completed my first year 2 weeks ago), who is becoming increasingly aware of the scientific research world and the way it works, for the best or sometimes for the worst.
    i love your dedication to your work, and the level of technicity and effort put in all of your posts, yet how accesible and pleasant to read are all your articles. your love and admiration to animals, science and life in general really transpires in your writing, the humour is great too!
    i only rarely, find in any media, a source of scientific knowledge that is simultaneously this informative and this entertaining. as a result your blog is also always amongst the first sources of informations i recommand to any of my acquaintances who are even slightly interested about nature in general , and who can read english (i’m french).

    i just wanted to let you know that even if i was a little to shy to comment on tet-zoo for a while (as many commenters where scientific researchers,seemed to personnaly know you, and had a conversation aleready ongoing on the thread…) , i was always there following the blog with ever-growing interest, and i’d like to join myself with all the other readers that does not necessarily comment for whatever reason, to thank you now for everything.

    sorry for the long and pompous post, but it was for a special occasion, i promise i won’t ever do something so terrible again.
    bottomline, you rock. long live the tetrapods, long live TET-ZOO: 400MY of history, and still the best is yet to come!

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  34. 34. Bayes.n.confused 7:26 am 07/7/2011

    As a devoted lurker, glad to see your posts continue.

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  35. 35. John Scanlon FCD 10:15 am 07/7/2011

    (Logged in using Firefox, no problems)
    The Blog is dead; Long live the Blog!
    Looking forward to four more years of Tetrapoddy goodness (and the rest)!

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  36. 36. welsh peregrine 11:17 am 07/7/2011

    Re four-legged butterflies – Nymphalids such as tortoiseshells and emperors have lost the first legs, while (if I remember correctly) Metalmarks have 4 legged males and 6 legged females. However, I do not recall seeing any explanations, genetic, phylogenetic or functional to explain this. Anyone able to enlighten?

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  37. 37. naishd 11:38 am 07/7/2011

    I’m really appreciating all these comments, and hope that this is a good omen of things to come. Things are still under discussion behind the scenes. Thanks for compliments, kind words etc.

    Four-legged nymphalids: I did ask about these at a recent talk I attended on butterflies. I was told that the first leg pair had become modified as specialised sensory structures (they are especially hairy, and are held folded up on the underside of the thorax). I didn’t mean to imply, by the way, that the butteflies have lost these legs; rather, it’s that they only have four walking legs. There’s a paper on the reduced first limb pair here.

    Darren

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  38. 38. bob_r 3:29 pm 07/7/2011

    Hmm. No problems registering here in FF 5.0. It didn’t seem any more complicated than other blogs sites.

    But on to the reason for the comment. Do you know if ver2 will still be available to read through(as long as scienceblogs.com exists)? I have literally spent half a day reading and following links through the old site and would hate to think I won’t be able to read through all the rest.

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  39. 39. doug l 10:00 am 07/8/2011

    huzzah! Nice match and promising future. Cheers.

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  40. 40. Mythusmage 2:13 am 07/9/2011

    Browser Reminder

    It’s FF 3.6 that’s having trouble. Just thought I’d remind people of that. (Posted this via Safari 4.1.3.)

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  41. 41. paalexan 5:38 am 07/9/2011

    Initial impression: Ugh! Impression after killing a few things with AdBlock: Well, OK, not bad.

    Good god I hate those floating header things. Even after you collapse it, that little arrow icon sits up there trying to catch your eye; hoping, desperately, to be expanded. Bugs the hell out of me for some reason. Well, it’s gone now.

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  42. 42. John Scanlon FCD 9:10 am 07/9/2011

    Mythusmage: Firefox 3.6.3 seems to be working fine for me. I’ve no idea what this page looks like without adblock.

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  43. 43. Mythusmage 8:28 pm 07/9/2011

    @42

    You’ve got a newer browser! :)

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  44. 44. Stevebodio 9:15 pm 07/13/2011

    Tet Zoo is dead; long live Tet Zoo!

    But I hope it is easier to log in in the future.

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  45. 45. TortoiseRewilder 6:36 am 07/16/2011

    Hi Darren,
    Congratulations on your new TetZoo home – looking much forward to your future posts! (more chelonians! Island tetrapods! Meiolania! :-) ).
    Cheers,
    Dennis

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  46. 46. swheads 1:04 am 07/17/2011

    Hi Darren,
    Congratulations on the move to SciAm. Despite my entomological leanings, Tet Zoo remains one of my favourite blogs of all time and I thoroughly enjoy reading it. Here’s wishing you the very best of luck for ver. 3.
    Cheers,
    Sam

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  47. 47. DunkTheBiscuit 2:40 pm 07/24/2011

    I take a three week sabbatical from the internet and look what happens! It’s great to find you’re still blogging on – I had a miniature panic attack when I saw the title of your last post over on sciblogs. Actually, it wasn’t such a miniature one. Here’s hoping you have the time and energy to keep on for another four years. Minimum. :P

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  48. 48. senahj 4:51 am 07/27/2011

    testing commenting from Firefox with noscript

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  49. 49. Steve Latham 6:36 pm 10/10/2011

    Hi Darren, I’m looking for an explanation of why whales undulate dorsoventrally rather than laterally. I first guessed it was due to (i) evolutionary legacy of origin from an animal with erect leg/girdle posture (versus sprawling) (ii) ease of incorporating breathing at surface with swimming movement. So I’m wondering a few things:

    Did reptiles with erect leg/girdle posture leave swimming aquatic descendants? If so, did they use side-to-side swimming motion? If not, why not?

    Did ancestors of whales start out swimming dorsoventrally or is this a derived condition? What will determine the evolutionary trajectory for swimming mode of current marine mammals? Are there many reptilian analogs worth examining in this question?

    Is mode of walking/running (alternating hind legs versus synchronous hind legs — I’m sure there’s a complex nomenclature for gaits, but I’m ignorant of all of it) more important than the things I listed? I don’t know enough even to know where to start and learn about this question. Thanks.

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  50. 50. Galleytrotter 11:25 am 10/23/2011

    Darren, I recently (a week or two ago) found out about your blog. Considering how big it is and how perfectly it fits my field of interest, I’m sort of amazed I didn’t realize it existed sooner… I don’t know, I don’t think it ever struck me there would be such a thing as palaeontology/biology blogs… It was a sort of revelation to realize as much recently! Either way, I’ve spent every day since reading old posts in TetZoo, mainly V2, since, and I just wanted to let you know you really do an amazing job here – it’s really impressive that schmoos like myself have access to this goldmine of information.

    This is sounding like quite the butt kissing post already, so I’ll stop here and hopefully be able to post more meaningful comments in the future – Keep up the fantastic work! :)

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  51. 51. markh22 5:32 pm 03/14/2013

    Darren – surprised not to see the first volume (Carnivores!)of the ongoing Lynx series `Mammals of the World’ in your book stack…..I’m no way qualified to comment on any possible inaccuracies in these volumes but I think they’re compiling into a seriously valuable reference work – which is obviously the intent behind their publication. But admittedly they’re not cheap…..and have to be read on a desk! Handbooks or Field Guides they ain’t. Any thoughts on this series – don’t think you’ve ever reviewed one? I stand to be corrected…

    PS – they’re also covering marine mammals in a separate volume..

    Link to this
  52. 52. markh22 3:08 pm 03/16/2013

    Ooops – Number 51 was intended as a comment for the review of Hunter and Barrett’s A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World, blogged by Darren on March 7th 2013….not sure how it ended up on this page.

    Link to this

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