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.
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.
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?
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).
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)
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.
- Welcome to Tetrapod Zoology ver 3
- A day at London’s Grant Museum of Zoology
- Dead animals at the roadside
- Inside Nature’s Giants… series 3! Camel!!
- Vertebrate palaeontology at Lyme Regis: of ‘All Yesterdays’, the ‘Leathery Winged Revolution’, and Planet Dinosaur
- Dinosaurs at SVPCA – no Mesozoic non-avialan theropods, thank you very much – and what about those marine reptiles?
- Tet Zoo highlights 2006-2011, from a Tet Zoo superfan
- The Wealden Bible: English Wealden Fossils, 2011
- A Merry Tet Zoo Christmas
- Happy Birthday Tetrapod Zoology: SIX YEARS of blogging
- Happy 6th Birthday, Tetrapod Zoology (part II)
- Tet Zoo ver 3, (part of) the story so far
- Tet Zoo, the books
Lissamphibians (extant amphibians)
- In pursuit of Romanian frogs (part I: Bombina)
- In pursuit of Romanian frogs (part II: WESTERN PALAEARCTIC WATER FROGS!!)
- In pursuit of Romanian frogs (part III: brown frogs)
- The toads series comes to SciAm: because Africa has toads too
- 20-chromosome toads
- Dwarf mountain toads and the ones with the doughnut-headed tadpoles
- You have your giant fossil rabbit neck all wrong
- Why putting your hand in a peccary’s mouth is a really bad idea
- Those giant killer pigs from hell aren’t pigs
- Frankly, cattle are awesome
- Mystery mammal, badly photographed
- The Mulefoot and other syndactyles: not all pigs are cloven-hoofed
- The seemingly endless weirdosity of the Milu
- Artiodactyls and steep slopes, and a new banner for Tet Zoo
- The ‘Tree-Kangaroos Come First’ hypothesis
- Of koalas and marsupial lions: the vombatiform radiation, part I
- Marsupial tapirs, diprotodontids, wombats and others: the vombatiform radiation, part II
- The noble tradition of military goats
- All the whales of the world, ever (part I)
- All the whales of the world, ever (part II)
- Because giraffes are heartless creatures, and other musings
- “San Diego Demonoid”: you mean that dead opossum?
- Williams and Lang’s Australian Big Cats: do pumas, giant feral cats and mystery marsupials stalk the Australian outback?
- Identify the Baja California mystery whale carcass!
- Grampus griseus joins the globicephalines
- A peculiar whale skeleton is included fortuitously in the sci-fi movie Hunter Prey
- Eld’s deer: endangered, persisting in fragmented populations, and morphologically weird… but it wasn’t always so
- The Man-Eater of Mfuwe
- Marsupial ‘dogs’, ‘bears’, ‘sabre-tooths’ and ‘weasels’ of island South America: meet the borhyaenoids
- Obscure fossil mammals of island South America: Thomashuxleya and the other isotemnids
Squamates (snakes, lizards, amphisbaenians)
- The Crowing crested cobra
- The more you know about colubrid snakes, the better a person you are
- Love for Mastigodryas, Tomodon, Sordellina and all their buddies: you know it’s right
- Amphisbaenians and the origins of mammals
- Monstersauria vs Goannasauria
- Goanna-eating goannas: an evolutionary story of intraguild predation, dwarfism, gigantism, copious walking and reckless thermoregulation
Mesozoic marine reptiles
- Prediction confirmed: plesiosaurs were viviparous
- ‘Rigid Swimmer’ and the Cretaceous Ichthyosaur Revolution (part I)
- The gigantic, shark-toothed, small-flippered, long-bodied, sea-going predatory lizard that is Hainosaurus
- The carcass of a large, modern-day marine reptile!
Other Mesozoic reptiles
- In support of Scientific Triassicism: Sues and Fraser’s Triassic Life on Land: the Great Transition
- Coming next: ReptileEvolution.com and the Dave Peters thing
- Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com
- Dissecting a crocodile
- Earth: Crocodile Empire homeworld (crocodiles part I)
- The once far and wide Siamese crocodile
- The Saltwater crocodile, and all that it implies (crocodiles part III)
- Crocodiles of New Guinea, crocodiles of the Philippines (crocodiles part IV)
Mesozoic non-avialan dinosaurs
- Dryosaurids 101
- What they’re saying about The Great Dinosaur Discoveries
- The discovery and early interpretation of Spinosaurus
- Gerhard Maier’s African Dinosaurs Unearthed: the Tendaguru Expeditions
- Paul Brinkman’s The Second Jurassic Dinosaur Rush
- The Second International Workshop on the Biology of Sauropod Dinosaurs (part I)
- Did dinosaurs and pterosaurs practise mutual sexual selection?
- The Second International Workshop on the Biology of Sauropod Dinosaurs (part II)
- Greg Paul’s Dinosaurs: A Field Guide
- There are giant feathered tyrannosaurs now… right?
- Ryan et al.’s New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: a review
- Sunbathing birds
- Obscure Mesozoic birds you’ll only know about if you’re a Mesozoic bird nerd: Jibeinia luanhera
- Big birds in the Cretaceous of Central Asia: say hello to Samrukia
- Obscure, extravagant tropical crows
- Three remarkable hummingbird discoveries
- Hoatzins are no longer exclusively South American and once crossed an ocean
- STOP ‘feeding’ the ducks
- A symbiotic relationship between sunfish and… albatrosses? Say what?
- Because the world belongs to petrels (petrels part I)
- Living the pelagic life: of oil, enemies, giant eggs and telomeres (petrels part II)
- Petrels: some form-function ‘rules’, and pattern and pigmentation (petrels part III)
- Noel W. Cusa’s brilliant seabird drawings
- Alien viruses from outer space and the great Archaeopteryx forgery
- Chickens, 2012
- Raptor vs raptor
- Putting petrels in their place and the possibly weird evolution of albatrosses (petrels part IV)
- Thor Hanson’s Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
- A drowned nesting colony of Late Cretaceous birds
- Gadfly-petrels: rarities, a whole lot of variation and confusion, and skua mimicry (petrels part V)
- Eurylaimides, Tyrannida and Furnariida: the suboscine passerines
- Cryptozoology at the Zoological Society of London. Cryptozoology: time to come in from the cold? Or, Cryptozoology: avoid at all costs?
- Dear Telegraph: no, I did not say that about the Loch Ness monster
- A baby sea-serpent no more: reinterpreting Hagelund’s juvenile Cadborosaurus
- The Cadborosaurus Wars
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.
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….