Welcome to article # 100. I’m somewhat interested in the fact that I’ve generated 100 articles here at SciAm since going live on July 5th 2011 – that is, about a year ago. I don’t want to do any sort of “let’s review the previous 100 articles”-style article, since that sort of thing gets reserved for blogiversaries, and nor do I have any big announcements to make or anything like that.

Nicely done homage to Tet Zoo, by ornitholestes1, used with permission. Identify the animals (and/or what they're doing).

Actually, I really want to write about my long bird chapter in The Complete Dinosaur (2nd edition) but haven’t yet had time to do it. Indeed, time is always the great problem I have. I’m in the middle of completing several different sets of articles – all of which need wrapping up before I can move on to other stuff – but find it frustrating that I can’t find enough time to finish any of them. Going on in the background are a whole bunch of really neat technical projects, all of which will be discussed here in due time, but it takes so long to finish them, and fit them around commitments, other projects and life in general, that time is the enemy here as well.

Anyway, articles on South American Cenozoic megafauna, crocodiles, diverse fossil crocodylomorphs, bird phylogeny, seabirds, Mesozoic marine reptiles and much else are all due to appear here soon. I’ve fallen behind on book reviews. Reviews of books on carnivorans, Cenozoic birds and much else need to be done at some stage. Oh, having mentioned fossil crocodylomorphs: here’s how that montage of fossil crocs is currently coming along. As I said last time, increasingly complex versions will appear from time to time - numerous representatives still need adding.

Work in progress: just some of crocodylomorph diversity. Top to bottom: stomatosuchid, metriorhynchid, gavialoid, susisuchid. Bottom row, l to r: sphenosuchian, atoposaurid, sebecosuchian, notosuchian. Image by Darren Naish.

The shape of the tet-themed blogosphere – where are we at?

I’ve noticed recently that quite a few blogs elsewhere in the blogosphere – ones that I pay attention to because they cover stuff that I’m interested in – seem to have died, or at least are on what looks like indefinite hiatus. As anyone who does it will know, ubernerd-style blogging – that is, producing lengthy articles that are fully referenced, involve a fair bit of reading-around and personal research and are (typically) illustrated – is not especially easy, and some articles can take substantial time and effort to put together. And not everyone is prepared or able to stay up until the small hours of the morning to write stuff that might not reap any sort of reward anyway. I suppose that some/many people who set out with the best intentions discover this for themselves, and end up giving up.

I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this issue. A few years ago, inspired by the appearance of such blogs as Andrea Cau’s Theropoda, Bobby Boessenecker’s The Coastal Paleontologist, Jorge Velez-Juarbe's Caribbean Paleobiology, Sly and Billerman’s Biological Ramblings and several others (SV-POW! too, of course), I was under the impression that we were about to see a boom of ubernerd zoology blogs, such that Tet Zoo was eventually going to be just one among many. And, as concerns about conservation and the fate of the natural world become more paramount, surely we're going to see lots of new online content devoted to animals that need more public awareness, right?

One of my favourite new blogs (it started in 2010) is Losos et al.'s Anole Annals - there's almost too much stuff to keep up with. Jonathan Losos's 2009 book Lizards In An Evolutionary Tree (University of California Press) is excellent as well.

Don’t get me wrong – some amazing, new, zoologically-themed blogs have appeared in the last couple of years (no shout-outs, for fear of unintentionally upsetting those I forget to list... oh, ok: Anole Annals, EDGE blog, Pick and Scapel, Pyenson Lab, What's In John's Freezer?) – but I get the impression that we’ve already reached a tipping point, where the people who are going to do it are already doing it, and where those who haven’t done it before aren’t going to do it in future. There’s certainly no financial motivation to be an ubernerd blogger, and let me assure you that there’s no guarantee of success or rewarding quantity of hits or readership either. In fact I suppose the main incentives are self-promotion – something you simply have to practise if (like me) you’ve worked (or hope to work in future) as a freelance author – and philanthropy. I absolutely agree with others that ‘knowledge philanthropy’ is a noble aim to strive for, and simply sharing knowledge online via blogging is an important component of this movement; it's downright essential if you're aiming for public awareness (as you should be if you're involved in modern animals... here again with the conservation angle).

Is anybody blogging about tropical bats? And, if not, why not? Many animal groups need better online coverage. This image (from now-defunct Tropical Bats site: sorry, I don’t know the photographer) shows the phyllostomid Chrotopterus (woolly false vampire) eating a smaller phyllostomid.

I also note that some people are, apparently, positively discouraged from blogging. I can’t pretend to understand what the deal is here, though think it might be due to criticism. Look: there will always be haters, trolls and cranks – indeed, some people have nothing better to do than spend their time online being hateful and negative – and there will always be people who dislike what you do and say (choice quote from one of my haters: “I regret you”). It’s always obvious to me that, when it comes to people that matter, these individuals are in a huge minority and are vastly outnumbered by the rational ones who appreciate what you do.

So – thoughts please. Where are we with respect to the state of the ubernerd, zoologically-themed blogosphere, and am I right that a turnover of sorts has occurred? On mentioning the ‘state of the blogosphere’, I am of course reminded of the several technical projects that have now looked at the contribution that scientific blogging makes to knowledge and online discussion in general. On a personal note, while some of my friends and colleagues sometimes say that Tet Zoo is “powerful”, it evidently isn’t, since it pretty much never gets even a passing mention in such studies.

How representative is Tet Zoo? (in terms of phylogenetic coverage)

Representation as it was at Tet Zoo ver 1, January 2007. Years later, and are things that different?

If you’re a long-time Tet Zoo reader, you’ll know that one thing I strive for is balance – that is, I really do try my best to give equal coverage to amphibians (used in the grand, vernacular sense), extant non-avian reptiles, mammals, birds, and also to the fossil Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic relatives of these animals. But I consistently fail, partly because Charismatic Megafauna will always hog the limelight, and partly because – like anyone – I can’t help but be interested and inspired most frequently by weird and obscure animals more than the others. So, no matter how hard I try to write about frogs, passerines, rodents and small brown lizards and snakes, I will probably never do them justice.

But, whatever, how have I done over those 99 ver 3 articles? In the list below, I’ve arranged my articles into subjects. This is a good chance to count how many articles have been published on different tetrapod groups and subject areas, but it’s also another good opportunity to provide links to what’s already here – as I said last time I did this, one problem with the SciAm blog style is that there are no handy sidebars, and hence no easy way of finding old articles in the archives.

Miscellaneous musings

Lissamphibians (extant amphibians)

Mammals

Squamates (snakes, lizards, amphisbaenians)

Turtles

Mesozoic marine reptiles

Other Mesozoic reptiles

Croc-branch archosaurs

Mesozoic non-avialan dinosaurs

Birds

Cryptozoology

List of 'Most Active' blog articles in the ScienceBlogs network, as of one point in June 2009. Proof that - if you do it right - even obscure Palaeozoic 'amphibians' (= anamniotes) can bring in the crowds.

13 articles cover miscellaneous stuff – meeting reports that meander across diverse topics, discussions of general subjects (like roadkilled animals), trips to interesting places (like London’s Grant Museum), or discussions of new books, Tet Zoo’s birthday and such. Six articles cover modern amphibians, all of them on anurans (frogs and toads). That’s not too bad, but there should be more – especially when we see that mammals have been extensively covered, with a whole 25 articles. Birds are also comparatively well covered, with 20 articles. Non-birdy dinosaurs get just 11 articles, some of them discussing meetings I attended or research I published myself – as I’ve said before, I tend to avoid covering new dinosaur research because it gets such extensive review elsewhere in the blogosphere. Of course, if we count birds in with the other dinosaurs, we see that 31 articles are devoted to Dinosauria as a whole, making it the most-covered group of tetrapods at Tet Zoo. Croc-group archosaurs have five articles (this count will be much higher in another year’s time), Mesozoic marine reptiles have four articles too (ditto, hopefully), and other fossil reptiles get three. Squamates are not represented too badly, with seven articles, but I’d like to do better. Two articles are on turtles. If we tot up all the reptiles – excluding birds – we get 32 articles, meaning that I’ve written more about ‘reptiles’ than about mammals... that makes me feel a little better, given that I work more on the former than the latter.

What to learn from this? Charismatic Megafauna are still dominating, but things don’t seem too bad in terms of balance. As usual, more rodents, more frogs, more lizards, more snakes, more turtles, more obscure Palaeozoics are needed. Don’t worry, I’m working on it.

Painted rhino, done for Go! Rhinos project: Marwell Wildlife will be placing them around Southampton in Summer 2013. Sponsors needed.

So there we have it: the 100th article at Tet Zoo ver 3. And, if you’re wondering, there will be no winding down or hiatus here. I wish I could find more time to write about the huge amount of ground left to cover. To the next 100….