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Tetrapod Zoology


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Tet Zoo ver 3, (part of) the story so far

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


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A tetrapod montage that you might have seen before, by Mehmet Kosemen.

Tet Zoo ver 3 – the Sci Am incarnation of this august and influential institution – has now been going for about 10 months, and a moderately respectable 78 articles have appeared on the blog so far (excluding this one). The vast majority have been lengthy, referenced, heavily illustrated articles – no brief, picture-of-the-day-style contributions or lame rehashings of press releases, thank you very much, and also comparatively little in the way of short contributions in general.

One of the major negative points of the Sci Am blog format is that navigating to older article is not at all easy. In fact it seems about impossible since there’s no date-arranged archive or useful list of categories in the sidebar or anything like that. I’ve suggested behind the scenes that a site-wide rehaul is needed, but no news yet. In fact, as many of you regular readers will know, there’s a lot not to like about the Sci Am blog platform, not only with regard to the site’s appearance and navigability, but also with respect to the commenting and login system. I don’t want to start whining though.

Terrifying tree-kangaroo rendition, from Augusto Vigna Taglianti's 1979 book The World of Mammals (Sampson Low).

If you haven’t been here from the start, what might you have missed? Well, quite a bit. Topics covered here since July 2011 include the neck posture of giant extinct Mediterranean rabbits, a (still incomplete) series of articles on east European frogs and toads, that notorious episode involving the Telegraph newspaper and the Loch Ness monster, sunbathing postures in birds, my write-up of the ZSL cryptozoology meeting (the filmed talks should be online some time soon, by the way), articles on peccary biting behaviour, entelodonts, roadkill, Neotropical jays, cattle, obscure domestic pig breeds, hummingbirds, the ‘tree-kangaroos come first’ hypothesis, vombatiform marsupials, and a fair bit about Mesozoic dinosaurs, pterosaurs and marine reptiles. The toads series is still chugging along slowly in the background (and, yeah yeah, petrels, temnospondyls etc. etc. too). Below please find a list of all articles that have been published here between July 2011 and the end of October 2011 (it takes so long to embed all the links that I ended up giving up on the idea of listing ALL the articles that have appeared here so far). If there’s something you ever wanted to say on those articles but never did, now might be a good idea to get it seen (yet another major negative point on the Sci Am blog platform – we have no ‘recent comments’ section, so any comment added anew to an old article is missed by anyone not reading that article).

Mehmet Kosemen's tongue-in-cheek suggestion that crown-Archosauria should be renamed Awesomes, as encapsulated on a (pre-Nesbitt) simplified cladogram. Share with your friends. Designed to offend those who don't work on crown-archosaurs.

Many of the topics covered below will be revisited when time allows. There’s a lot more to do on marsupials, for example… umm, oh yeah, and on just about everything else. A while back I happened to ask people on facebook what they wanted to see more of on Tet Zoo. Note to start with that this doesn’t matter in any case – as I always say, I blog for me, so you get what I’m interested in. Anyway, the suggestions were all over the place. Predictably, some people said “less dinosaurs, less pterosaurs (since they get written about a great deal already), let’s have more hoofed mammals, more rodents”. But a larger number of people said “more dinosaurs, more pterosaurs”. There were also requests for obscure Palaeozoic synapsids and such, and I can totally understand that. Anyway, I hope that the list below is useful for the purposes of navigation to some of the older stuff, if for nothing else. So, job done. Yikes, must get back to work.

UPDATE: courtesy of Marko ‘Lev’ Bossche, here are the others. So, this article now includes links to ALL Tet Zoo ver 3 articles. Excellent. Thanks loads, Marko (thanks to the other individuals who sent compiled lists as well, your kind help is much appreciated).

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! 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. Glendon Mellow 10:05 am 04/23/2012

    Great idea. I think we need to do a post like this on Symbiartic too.

    Link to this
  2. 2. BilBy 10:31 am 04/23/2012

    ” Predictably, some people said “less dinosaurs, less pterosaurs (since they get written about a great deal already), let’s have more hoofed mammals, more rodents”. But a larger number of people said “more dinosaurs, more pterosaurs”. There were also requests for obscure Palaeozoic synapsids and such, and I can totally understand that.”
    Just more of EVERYTHING please. Seriously, I don’t think I have ever skipped a Tet Zoo article. The dinosaur and pterosaur articles are great for me as I know so little about them. If you go for ‘obscure’ taxa then reptiles will always be gratefully received.
    I don’t know how difficult it is for Sci Am to makes changes but really – a ‘recent comments’ button is needed; it keeps things going on older threads.

    Link to this
  3. 3. naishd 10:45 am 04/23/2012

    Bilby: thanks for kind words. And I totally agree with you. The Sci Am blogs need a lot of things changed in order to bring them toward the functionality that’s otherwise normal on wordpress and other blogging platforms… alas, no changes yet.

    Darren

    Link to this
  4. 4. MikeTaylor 11:23 am 04/23/2012

    Since Archosauria is (birds+crocs) and both specifier groups have extant representatives, doesn’t it follow that all archosaurs are crown archosaurs?

    Anyway … it occurs to me that putting together a complete the-story-so-far index of Tet Zoo v3 articles is something that any TZ fan could do — it doesn’t need you to be working on it, when you could be working on a new article instead. Why not ask for a volunteer?

    P.S. Another thing to hate about SciAm’s contemptible excuse for a blogging platform: no “subscribe to comments on this post” feature. Honestly. It’s as thought they’re active trying to prevent a conversation from breaking out.

    Link to this
  5. 5. naishd 11:31 am 04/23/2012

    Mike: on your first paragraph… Archosauria as used traditionally includes several lineages outside of the crown (proterosuchids, proterochampsids and erythrosuchids). Gauthier (and colleagues) proposed restriction of Archosauria to the croc + bird clade, and use of Archosauriformes for Archosauria sensu lato. The Gauthieresque version is used a lot these days, but there are still some recent papers (viz, from the last 15 years) where Archosauria sensu lato is retained. I’m sure you can guess which authors might be involved (smiley). Anyway, as usual this all means that there are two versions of ‘Archosauria’. By referring to ‘crown-archosaurs’ I’m being unambiguous.

    Good idea on getting someone else to compile an index.. yeah, any takers? (another smiley).

    As for your last point… I don’t know what to say. The many complaints do seem to have fallen on deaf ears (though Bora and others have done what they can).

    Darren

    Link to this
  6. 6. Panimerus 11:33 am 04/23/2012

    When will you release Tetrapod Zoology book 2?

    Link to this
  7. 7. naishd 11:35 am 04/23/2012

    Panimerus: when I can find the time and justify it financially. I haven’t yet succeeded in getting interest from a mainstream publisher (book one has not exactly been a financial success story…).

    Darren

    Link to this
  8. 8. llewelly 11:55 am 04/23/2012

    If you’re asking for requests, I request another article on marine elapids.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Marko Bosscher 3:12 pm 04/23/2012

    MikeTaylor is right, making such an index should be pretty straightforward: all that is needed is a format so you can copy-paste it directly to the blog, and 2 seconds to create a Google Docs account so multiple people can work on it. The rest is just donkey work.

    I guess I just volunteered, any other takers?

    Link to this
  10. 10. Valerio Peverelli 3:53 pm 04/23/2012

    More ROPEN!

    (or “duwas”, “kundua”, “seklobali” and “wawanar”).

    Link to this
  11. 11. kattatogaru 5:14 pm 04/23/2012

    In the tetrapod montage, what’s the beastie with the enormous head? Pakicetus or something similar? Third from top ahead of the pack…

    Link to this
  12. 12. Christopher Taylor 7:21 pm 04/23/2012

    I second (or, as it probably is by now, fifty-seventh) the complaints about the absence of a new comments notice/comments subscription system (if we can’t have both, Scientific American, can we at least have one?) It’s also a bit annoying that there’s no facility for hyperlinking through one’s name. It’s not just a matter of garnering links: if you want to get an idea of who one of the Tet Zoo commenters is (and what background they’re coming from), you can’t just look over their website or profile.

    On the non-whinging side, something that I didn’t say before: in the comment thread for an earlier post, I referred to problems with the idea of basing conservation on lists of protected species, and was challenged with the question of whether there were better alternatives. By the time I found the reply, the thread had died down so I didn’t respond. So…

    New Zealand and Australia both have alternative systems in place whereby, at least for some organisms (terrestrial vertebrates in New Zealand, restricted-range taxa in Australia), the default state is that they’re legally protected. This is particularly important in Australia, where the great majority of species remain undescribed (and so wouldn’t be able to be included in species lists).

    Link to this
  13. 13. Dave@reptileevolution.com 8:01 pm 04/23/2012

    Darren,
    I appreciate your blog too. Always informative and your style is very entertaining. You find things that others overlook.

    Noticing your reptile tree has pterosaurs arising from phytosaur sisters, which -is- the paradigm nowadays. Many recent trees find the same nesting. I shudder to think what would happen if -I- had proposed such a misbegotten relationship… Gadzooks! Just shows what a topsy-turvy world we live in. And pterosaurs as sisters to silesaurids? Isn’t anybody checking for potential problems here? There is such a thing as a ‘by default’ nesting. Pull the covers off THIS problem and shed some light on it, please.
    Dave

    Link to this
  14. 14. Christopher Taylor 9:11 pm 04/23/2012

    Noticing your reptile tree has pterosaurs arising from phytosaur sisters, which -is- the paradigm nowadays… And pterosaurs as sisters to silesaurids?

    Or, in other words: Dave still can’t read a cladogram.

    Link to this
  15. 15. naishd 5:11 am 04/24/2012

    Thanks for comments. Assorted responses…

    – Marko (comment 9): yes, easy enough for anyone to compile that list of links. For it to be useful here at Tet Zoo, I would need it written with html tags, since hyperlinks don’t embed when imported into the blog fields.

    – kattatogaru (comment 11): the big-headed animal in Mehmet’s picture is Ambulocetus natans, stem-whale.

    – Chris (comment 12): yes, all of these ideas have been passed on, long ago. I’m sorry that nothing has changed yet. At this stage, I don’t know that it ever will.

    – David (comment 13): thanks for kind words. As for archosaur phylogeny – yes, the consensus (and well supported) view is that pterosaurs are crown-archosaurs, close to dinosauromorphs. They are not “arising from phytosaur sisters” or “sisters to silesaurids” in the simplified cladogram shown above – they are obviously shown as the sister-group to a silesaurid + dinosaur clade, and that would be Dinosauriformes. The inclusion of Pterosauria within crown-archosaurs is not an obviously error-prone hypothesis, but some alternatives to it certainly are.

    Darren

    Link to this
  16. 16. Andreas Johansson 7:23 am 04/24/2012

    Regarding obscure Palaeozoic types, yes please! Stem-synapsids, of course, but also Palaeozoic sauropsids, who are even more thoroughly ignored in popular works, and non-amniotes too. The Permo-Carboniferous has this deplorable tendency to be reduced to Dimetrodon, which, while awesome, isn’t quite enough to fill 100 million years and change.

    Link to this
  17. 17. David Marjanović 9:09 am 04/24/2012

    Temnospondyls? Working on their phylogeny right now. As in, PAUP* is turning right now.

    Mehmet Kosemen’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that crown-Archosauria should be renamed Awesomes, as encapsulated on a (pre-Nesbitt) simplified cladogram. Share with your friends. Designed to offend those who don’t work on crown-archosaurs.

    I just love that.

    Just more of EVERYTHING please. Seriously, I don’t think I have ever skipped a Tet Zoo article.

    Seconded!!!

    but there are still some recent papers (viz, from the last 15 years) where Archosauria sensu lato is retained. I’m sure you can guess which authors might be involved (smiley).

    ~:-| I can’t guess, and I’ve never seen any such paper. Hints, please?

    New Zealand and Australia both have alternative systems in place whereby, at least for some organisms (terrestrial vertebrates in New Zealand, restricted-range taxa in Australia), the default state is that they’re legally protected. This is particularly important in Australia, where the great majority of species remain undescribed (and so wouldn’t be able to be included in species lists).

    Awesome awesome awesome!!!

    And pterosaurs as sisters to silesaurids?

    *howl*

    A cladogram is a mobile. You can treat any internode as a rotation axis; if you rotate a branch, or the rest of the tree, around that internode, the meaning does not change.

    This

    (((((Birds + other theropods) + sauropodomorphs) + ornithischians) + silesaurids) + pterosaurs)

    and this

    (pterosaurs + (silesaurids + (ornithischians + (sauropodomorphs + (theropods other than birds + birds)))))

    and this

    (pterosaurs + ((((sauropodomorphs + (birds + other theropods)) + ornithischians) + silesaurids)

    are all exactly identical. They all mean exactly the same thing. They all mean, among other things, that the pterosaurs are the sister-group of Dinosauromorpha/Dinosauriformes (not distinguishable in the absence of lagerpetontids).

    How is it possible that you’ve been talking about phylogenetics for over a decade now, but have never noticed you don’t understand phylogenetic trees!?!

    Link to this
  18. 18. llewelly 11:16 am 04/24/2012

    One other item … if you must traverse more than one node to get from clade A to clade B, A and B are not sisters.

    Link to this
  19. 19. sfwendie 11:01 pm 04/24/2012

    Don’t give up hope on your list. FIREFOX has this neat add on called ZOTERO, which is a researcher’s dream. I’m not sure if it’s ported to other platforms, but it’s flexible, powerful, and customizable.

    Link to this
  20. 20. naishd 7:14 am 04/25/2012

    Relevant to comments upstream… yup, aiming to go ballistic on stem-synapsids later this year, just a lot of other stuff to get out of the way first (and getting usable images is half the battle).

    Relevant to David Peters’s comments above – there needs to be some sort of strong online response to David’s ‘Reptile Evolution’ site, since naive parties are finding it via google and thinking that it represents a reliable or consensus opinion. Sorry, Dave, but it has to be done.

    Darren

    Link to this
  21. 21. Jerzy Again 7:52 am 04/25/2012

    Less birds, more dinosaurs please! Simply because on bird forums it is quite clear consensus what is main view and fringe theory, but in dinosaur papers it is much less clear.

    And some land cryptids would be cool. But ones with higher belief factor. Not mothman, but veo, for example, sounds really worth a second thought.

    Link to this
  22. 22. naishd 8:10 am 04/25/2012

    Jerzy – thanks for these thoughts. I’m not sure I quite agree with what you say about birds – - one comment I hear all the time from people interested in birds is that most of the stuff out there already (online, in magazines, popular books etc.) does not reflect recent discoveries in phylogeny and evolutionary history. I think this is because most people who write about living birds (I mean, ‘popular’ writing) don’t think of birds in evolutionary/deep-time terms, but only in ecological and behavioural ones.

    Anyway… as for the veo – well, I try and avoid covering the same ground as Karl Shuker (smiley).

    Darren

    Link to this
  23. 23. Michał 8:43 am 04/25/2012

    I noticed that even palaeos.com uses some information from ‘Reptile Evolution’ site (at least on their page about gephyrostegids). I can’t tell how accurate it is (other than the fact that both ‘Reptile Evolution’ and Palaeos at the time of this writing use a reconstruction of Gephyrostegus from Broughs’ 1967 paper based on two specimens that, if memory serves, were later discovered to be members of Eureptilia).

    Link to this
  24. 24. naishd 9:34 am 04/25/2012

    Hmm, I am inspired to write about gephyrostegids… I see that the Palaeos page has indeed been heavily inspired by Dave Peters’s stuff.

    Darren

    Link to this
  25. 25. David Marjanović 10:28 am 04/25/2012

    I noticed that even palaeos.com uses some information from ‘Reptile Evolution’ site (at least on their page about gephyrostegids). I can’t tell how accurate it is

    *headdesk*

    It’s horrible.

    Fortunately, Jozef Klembara presented a redescription of Gephyrostegus as a poster at last year’s SVP meeting, so it should come out sometime or other. I think it’s safe to say that Gephyrostegus does not have palatines that touch each other in the midline (which would be an absolutely unique configuration AFAIK – but that reconstruction is one of the two by Carroll 1970, it’s not to blame on David Peters).

    Casineria is apparently indistinguishable from Caerorhachis; it’s probably the same thing, and probably the sister-group to all other temnospondyls. Westlothiana is the sister-group to all other amphibians (“lepospondyls”). Thuringothyris is the sister-group to all other captorhinids (in the widest sense). Utegenia is a completely obvious discosauriscid seymouriamorph, the sister-group of Ariekanerpeton most likely. Cephalerpeton is almost a diapsid. Silvanerpeton is far out; it might be an anthracosaur, but it’s likely one node farther away from the tetrapod crown-group (to which the anthracosaurs do not belong).

    I’m surprised Bruktererpeton isn’t mentioned. It may be the sister-group of Gephyrostegus or one internode closer to us – I hope the redescription of G. will take care of that. I also hope it will treat Diplovertebron.

    Gephyrostegus has an intertemporal. I don’t buy for a second that it’s got yet another extra skull bone which David Peters terms “intermedium”.

    Yesterday’s analysis, based on an almost publishable matrix, found G. one node closer to us than the temnospondyls are. But moving it farther out wouldn’t cost much.

    I’m not sure how terrestrial the beast was. It’s got those long limbs and ossified tarsus, but the humerus isn’t twisted (it looks like an anthracosaur’s), the carpus is unossified, the shoulder blade is only half ossified, and the vertebral column is very poorly ossified, too…

    BTW, the life reconstruction on the Palaeos site shows an ear. That’s thoroughly outdated. G. was not a crown-group diapsid.

    Link to this
  26. 26. naishd 10:34 am 04/25/2012

    David M – if you want to share any of that stuff before, during, or after you get it written up for publication, you know where to come. Err, not as if I’m >looking< for extra things to write about, you understand. The 'Why the World Needs to Ignore Reptileevolution.com' article is moving up the scale of priority, I feel.

    Darren

    Link to this
  27. 27. Andreas Johansson 10:46 am 04/25/2012

    Darren wrote:
    aiming to go ballistic on stem-synapsids later this year

    *dance*of*joy*

    Link to this
  28. 28. David Marjanović 7:44 am 04/26/2012

    David M – if you want to share any of that stuff before, during, or after you get it written up for publication, you know where to come.

    I’ll send you 3 strict consensus trees tonight. (I forgot to have majority-rule ones made.) Writing about that stuff could be difficult, however, because the whole thing is not ready for submission yet; the work on the matrix should be done fairly soon, but then I have to finish writing the manuscript, send it all to my coauthors, have them scrutinize it, and then we’ll decide on which analyses to do… waffle, waffle, waffle…

    Overlap with reptileevolution.com is limited. There were only 3 amniotes in the matrix of Ruta & Coates (2007), all of them total-group diapsids; I’ve added two synapsids to test whether the diadectomorphs are amniotes (unsurprisingly they’re not), but that’s it. Maybe I should add Coelostegus to improve resolution, if I can find it in the library (according to Google Scholar, a pdf of Carroll & Baird 1972 does not exist). And/or maybe Thuringothyris to make Captorhinus behave. Naturally, the character sample is not designed to resolve amniote intrarelationships, and I won’t add any characters before publication. The idea is to see what the matrix by R & C 2007 supports if just the mistakes are corrected; I naturally had to add Gerobatrachus, so I took the opportunity to add more taxa, but not any characters yet. That’ll come later in my Humboldt project.

    I should mention that the first to notice the lack of differences between Caerorhachis and Casineria was Kat Pawley in an unpublished chapter of her PhD thesis (2006). Publication was delayed by illness and other stuff; I’ll have to write to her about a few things. Anyway, in her analysis, she kept them separate, but they appeared in the same place, as the sister-group to all other temnospondyls; and I haven’t tried to find out if there are differences that are simply not covered by the R & C matrix, nor have I seen the specimens. Pawley stresses that they come from different localities of not quite the same age.

    Link to this
  29. 29. Michał 7:58 am 04/26/2012

    “(according to Google Scholar, a pdf of Carroll & Baird 1972 does not exist)”

    You mean this one?:

    http://biostor.org/reference/696

    BTW, I should have been more specific; I meant that I couldn’t tell how accurate Mr Peters’s information about anatomy of Gephyrostegus is, not his claims about tetrapod relationships. But you covered some of that anyway, so thank you!

    Link to this
  30. 30. David Marjanović 11:58 am 04/27/2012

    You mean this one?:

    …Oh wow! Yes! :-) :-) :-)

    Link to this

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