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All Yesterdays… today!

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


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Today see the launch of All Yesterdays, and lately I’ve mostly been busy with preparation for this event. If you’re London-based and thinking of attending, you need to book here. More news about how it all went, and about the book itself, in a few days. Until then, below find a few slides from my presentation to see where I’m coming from (clearly, a substantial chunk of my talk concerns the history of palaeoart). And check out the glowing articles about All Yesterdays published online at io9Mail Online and npr. Other reviews are online too; I’ll point to them later. Oh, and you can BUY THE BOOK ITSELF here at lulu.

Some previous All Yesterdays thoughts here.

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





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  1. 1. JoseD 11:16 am 12/7/2012

    @Darren Naish

    Out of curiosity, what books are the croc & T.rex pics from? I’ve never seen them b-4. Also, who said the quote under the Deinonychus pic? It sounds familiar. Many thanks in advance.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Heteromeles 1:17 pm 12/7/2012

    Cool! While I’m not sure I buy that a dinosaur could shed its tail (per the picture above) and not leave evidence for that on the skeleton, I do wonder if maybe that’s what those awkward long feathers on the tail and arms were for originally: ablative material to protect the body from theropod teeth. Among other uses, of course.

    Link to this
  3. 3. David Marjanović 1:28 pm 12/7/2012

    I just love the Protoceratops smashing the unidentifiable theropod’s head into the Protoceratops‘s own eggs. X-D Clearly, such stupidity is why they’re extinct!!!1!

    While I’m not sure I buy that a dinosaur could shed its tail (per the picture above) and not leave evidence for that on the skeleton

    1) It’s a REPTILE.
    2) All reptiles are lizards.

    Evidence? Hah. Evidence is for the weak.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Heteromeles 5:13 pm 12/7/2012

    You forgot 3) All lizards shed their tails.

    I just want to see that particular (neoconservative?) researcher harassing a komodo dragon, to see if it sheds its tail under sufficient stress. Or perhaps they could try getting a mamba to shed its tail, since it’s a lizard by that logic as well.

    Link to this
  5. 5. JoseD 6:04 pm 12/7/2012

    @David Marjanović & Heteromeles

    “I just love the Protoceratops smashing the unidentifiable theropod’s head into the Protoceratops‘s own eggs.”

    The theropod is Oviraptor & the pic is from “The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs”. I’ve always enjoyed the Protoceratops vs. Oviraptor paleoart meme & said book had a lot of examples.

    “Or perhaps they could try getting a mamba to shed its tail, since it’s a lizard by that logic as well.”

    Technically, snakes ARE lizards, but I get what you’re saying.

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  6. 6. Jerzy v. 3.0. 11:38 am 12/8/2012

    BTW dinosaurs in early-mid 20. century were indeed imagined as incredibly stupid – on the evidence of small brain/body ratio.

    Another fascinating meme was that if sauropods were long and cold-blooded, then the nerve impulses from tail-tip reached brain only after several seconds. I remember a cartoon where a group of cavemen saws off Brontosaurus tail and runs away, and the beast only then realizes what happened.

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  7. 7. Heteromeles 2:35 pm 12/8/2012

    @Jerzy: Some science fiction stories had a lot of fun with the slow responses of sauropods too, back in the day.

    Link to this
  8. 8. David Marjanović 10:19 pm 12/10/2012

    You forgot 3) All lizards shed their tails.

    True enough. To be fair, most snakes have very short tails, so shedding them wouldn’t even make sense, but I’m sure the people who thought the way I’ve sketched it didn’t know that.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Margaret Pye 6:47 pm 12/11/2012

    What kind of anatomical features show up in lizards that can autuotmise their tails? Would it be possible to tell, from a skeleton, whether the lizard was capable of autotomy?

    Link to this
  10. 10. Margaret Pye 6:54 pm 12/11/2012

    And is that stegosaur attempting interspecies copulation (and if so, what’s the other critter? Doesn’t look familiar), or is the picture showing sexual dimorphism?

    Link to this
  11. 11. Hai~Ren 9:20 pm 12/11/2012

    Margaret Pye: If I’m not wrong, lizards that display autotomy have fracture planes in their tail vertebrae. From here:

    Each of its caudal vertebrae from the sixth onward contains a weak horizontal ‘break’ or fracture plane, which is made of cartilage instead of bone and will snap easily if held. Also, within each vertebra’s fracture plane the blood vessels and nerves are constricted, so that if the tail does snap off, blood loss will be minimal.

    As for the randy male stegosaur, it’s attempting to mate with a rather surprised-looking juvenile Camarasaurus.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Jman12351 8:48 pm 12/12/2012

    Read the damn article! It specifically states that the book suggests that our current paleoart may be considered as outdated in the near future as those eyesores people called “paintings” are now.

    Link to this
  13. 13. David Marjanović 9:26 pm 12/12/2012

    Each of its caudal vertebrae from the sixth onward contains a weak horizontal ‘break’ or fracture plane, which is made of cartilage instead of bone and will snap easily if held.

    Horizontal? Not vertical (dorsoventral)?

    There are salamanders that autotomise between the vertebrae.

    Link to this
  14. 14. naishd 4:45 am 12/13/2012

    In case there is still any confusion, the illustration above showing the crocodyliform biting the tail off an (unfeathered) ostrich dinosaur is from a 1986 book on prehistoric animals, written by Mario Faustinelli and Egidio F. Bregami and part of the famous AMZ/Produzioni Editoriali D’Ami series of children’s books. It’s nothing to do with All Yesterdays but is included as an example of ‘vintage’ dinosaur art. As already noted elsewhere in the comments, the ability to autotomise (‘shed’) the tail requires the presence of special fracture zones on, or between, caudal vertebrae. These tend not to be present in animals that use their tails to anchor large caudofemoral muscles and are definitely not present in dinosaurs (nor in Tanystropheus, by the way: Wild’s interpretation was made in error).

    Darren

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  15. 15. David Marjanović 11:49 pm 12/13/2012

    is from a 1986 book on prehistoric animals

    Are you sure? I thought it’s much older. In 1986, I was 4 years old, my youngest uncle was about 19, and my grandparents had bought the entire series of books about “animals” (you know, vertebrates), of course in German translation. Being older than 1986 would also explain the complete lack of dinosaur renaissance.

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  16. 16. naishd 5:06 am 12/14/2012

    David, you might be right – it includes work by Burian (who died in 1981) so was likely first published during the 1970s. However, the only details I have on the citation are for an edition published in 1986. I don’t own the book myself, still trying to get hold of a copy. The image above comes from a copy I photographed (yes, photographed) while in a museum in Libya!

    Darren

    Link to this

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