Many thanks indeed to those who’ve said nice things about Tet Zoo and its 12th birthday (previous article HERE), and thanks more to those who’ve stuck around and are now reading this second birthday article. And thanks even more to those who’ve so kindly provided gifts in view of this auspicious event. My plan here has been to put all the ‘2017 in review’ stuff into just two articles, but… well, it turns out that I wanted to say too much stuff for two articles, meaning that there will be another one after this one, sorry about that. I guess this says something about how much TetZooniverse-relevant stuff happens in any one year now – I don’t know if this part of my life represents Peak Tet Zoo; maybe it does. Anyway…

The tree in the churchyard at sunrise, an allegory of sorts. Credit: Darren Naish

In the previous article, I covered the Tet Zoo year from January to June-July, ending with the Birmingham opening of Dinosaurs in the Wild (DITW from hereon: BOOK TICKETS HERE). Here, we look at the rest of the year. As per usual, look away now if deep introspection seems like a dull prospect.

A whole load of bunnies - I missed one, there are actually 24 in the photo (not 23) - photographed in the grounds of the University of Kent in Canterbury in June 2017. Credit: Darren Naish

Recall that – as stated in the previous article – work on The Big Book (aka TetZooBigBook or The Vertebrate Fossil Record) continued throughout the year, as it does as of the time of writing. Caecilians and frogs were all the rage during the summer of 2017 but I also did a ton of promotional TV and radio work for DITW (and a magazine interview: Naish 2017a), enjoyed a family holiday in exotic Cornwall, and read and reviewed Olivier Rieppel’s Turtles as Hopeful Monsters (Naish 2017b).

While searching the wilds of Dartmoor in 2017, I discovered the Dunn cow. What is the Dunn cow? Well, you’ll just have to find out. Credit: Darren Naish

Paper # 2: on the Neovenator face. Our technical paper on the internal facial anatomy of the Cretaceous allosauroid dinosaur Neovenator from the English Wealden – led by Chris Barker and involving the University of Southampton’s µVIS X-ray Imaging Centre (‘µVIS’ = “Mu-Vis”) – saw print in the June of 2017 (Barker et al. 2017), my second technical publication of the year. Chris, myself and others are aiming to move ahead on several related, theropod-themed projects; I also have various other works on Wealden theropods that need to see print, but I absolutely must get a list of other things out of the way first. I’m sure I’ve said many times before, but publishing papers when you have tons of paying work in the way is just about impossible.

A portrait of Neovenator, with some of the facial bones - and their internal structures - shown in position. Credit: Darren Naish

Anyway, the Neovenator research was discussed here on Tet Zoo. Some of our observations are relevant to the ever-popular issue of dinosaurian facial appearance. Neovenator is not a proxy for all non-bird dinosaurs but what we think it shows is that extensive extra-oral tissues were present in life. At the time of writing, theropod facial covering is topical in the palaeoblogosphere (…. what’s left of it) since Mark Witton has just written about the condition in tyrannosaurids.

New kid’s books I helped with in 2017, all by Dorling Kindersley. Credit: Darren Naish

The Great Hiatus and The Naish Fish. Moving on, elephant seals, microsaurs and ceratopsian skulls were covered at Tet Zoo and – at the end of June – I attended the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium at the University of Kent in Canterbury, an excellent event covered here at Tet Zoo. Episode 60 of the world-famous Tet Zoo podcats (not a typo) was released in early July… which is significant, because it was the last episode before The Great Hiatus. It’s now around seven months later and The Great Hiatus is soon to come to an end. There was a reason, and all will be explained.

2017 was the year of the Naish Fish. Credit: Cawley & Kriwet 2017

But… shadowing everything else in the year was the momentous publication of a new vertebrate taxon named after your favourite tetrapod-themed zoology blogger. Yes, 2017 was the year in which I was finally – justly, some might say inevitably – awarded august academic immortality via the publication of my own patronym, and this time it isn’t a fictional animal from one of the spec-verses. Yes, it’s Scalacurvichthys naishi Cawley & Kriwet, 2017. A pycnodont. A fish. Well, I’m flattered, and the paper is excellent (Cawley & Kriwet 2017). But… a fish. When Jo Cawley first contacted me about this new paper (via twitter), I assumed it was some sort of complex prank. But no.

I have illustrated an awful lot of fishes, and here’s a montage showing some (but not all) of the pycnodonts I’ve done... though Scalacurvichthys is not included (and there’s one deliberate anatomical error). Credit: Darren Naish

In seriousness, I think that what this shows is that at least some fish-workers are appreciating the massive, fair amount of coverage I’ve given fishes in The Big Book (though I suppose this is only obvious to those who’ve seen the in-prep manuscript, are reviewing the text, or have seen how things are going at patreon). And, I assure you, this will be obvious once the book is published. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages on fishes.

Prize-winning Charolais cattle at the New Forest Show, July 2017. Credit: Darren Naish

During July I met up with historian, author and illustrator Brian Regal at London’s Natural History Museum, visited Katrina van Grouw for reasons relating to her next book (more on that in a couple of months) and attended the New Forest Show. Another of those TV shows I helped with – Real, Fake or Unknown – was screened on the UK’s Channel 4 early in early July. I featured (alongside John Hutchinson) in segments about bears on Japan and that notorious short scene where a CG eagle ‘grabs’ a child (I thought the eagle was CG the very first time I ever saw the footage: the feathering and flight movements never looked right).

Rieppel’s book, at left, and a collection of turtle literature-filled box files in the Tet Zoo library. Credit: Darren Naish

Anamniotes were finished for The Big Book by this time (well, ‘finished’ pending those changes required post-review), meaning that I was now hard at work on reptiles, and specifically turtles. Man, there are a lot of fossil turtles. It is not coincidental that Araripemys the Cretaceous pleurodire and Letters From the World of Turtle Evolution were covered at Tet Zoo during late July and August.

At the edges of the Atlantic, shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis on the rocks of Land’s End. Credit: Darren Naish

Shin Godzilla, TV stardom and other musings. We obtained new guinea-pigs, I prepared a conference poster on my Big Book project, I went to Cornwall again (gannets, shags and the seals and sea lions of the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek), and I got to see Shin Godzilla at the cinema (where it was playing, UK-wide, for one day only). Shin Godzilla is a really interesting film. I initially (as in, long before seeing the film) really disliked the new take on Godzilla: it’s weird, grotesque and does stuff that seems utterly alien relative to previous incarnations of the Big G. But having seen the movie and had time to mull over it somewhat I do kinda like it. I’m thinking that a 2016/7 Godzilla should be as horrific, as moving, as disturbing and as shocking as the original was for audiences of 1954, and in this I think it succeeds.

June and July 2017: a hand-written letter from our terrible prime minister, and a t-shirt purchased in Texas. Credit: Darren Naish

I contributed to another TV thing during August when I worked with Wag TV for a series in which ‘mysterious’ bits of footage were evaluated by experts, though I use some of these words loosely. I reviewed footage showing – ahem – a Brazilian werewolf (transparently a guy wearing a mask) and a Texan chupacabra (a coyote or coyote hybrid suffering from mange) (neither bit of footage was new to me: both are old classics). In the end, I think my sections were either not included, or were shown mid-way through the relevant segments, the cherished last words being given to those implying or stating that Brazilian werewolves and chupacabras are real. Great.

Matt, hard at work, editing. Extra Tet Zoo dollars to those who recognise the toy dinosaurs. Credit: Darren Naish

Also in August, I assisted Matt Everett with the filming of his documentary on British big cats. As I’ve said before, there is at least some good data (tracks, hairs and tooth pits left on bones) indicating that non-native large cats are – or have been – abroad in the British countryside on occasion. I remain sufficiently interested in this topic that I plan to write about it extensively at some point… like, 15 years from now. Even if it is only a social phenomenon it’s been a fun ride (he says, with some experience of things inside the community).

Also on media-themed stuff, I did another podcast interview on cryptozoology: it’s for Jake’s Mysterious Planet podcast and can be heard here. We covered the PSP (or Prehistoric Survivor Paradigm), the ‘Julia’ sound and other alleged mystery noises from the deep, the Patterson footage, the Jersey Devil and more.

Flame the central bearded dragon checks out a paper bag when she is rudely interrupted. Credit: Darren Naish

The Muscutt plesiosaur paper, Dinosaur Art II, and Wollaton Hall’s dinosaurs. Tet Zoo articles of August covered mountain beavers, Britains toy animals…. and plesiosaur locomotion, for August saw the publication of another of the technical studies I contributed to, this time Luke Muscutt et al.’s work on flipper function, vortices and thrust production in plesiosaurs (Muscutt et al. 2017). This work has been so discussed at conferences and even on TV and in the popular media that, frankly, its publication didn’t create the surprise it might have done (err, well done Luke…) – a phenomenon we term the Baron or Ornithoscelida Effect – but it’s all good, and follow-up research is underway at the time of writing.

Having mentioned Mesozoic marine reptiles, it seems right to share the special Manchester-themed Dinosaurs in the Wild poster we had designed for DITW’s late 2017 Manchester run. The fantastic art is by the brilliant Joschua Knüppe. Credit: Darren Naish

Dinosaur Art II (White 2017) saw print in August. I was scientific consultant for this work and had a hand in at least some of the text; a biographical section I penned on Mark Witton was axed in the end (I guess they didn’t like it... ha ha, I kid, I kid) but will be recycled here at Tet Zoo in the very near future.

Dr Adam Stuart Smith of Wollaton Hall. Credit: Darren Naish

In September I attended the SVPCA (Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy) at the University of Birmingham where my conference poster was devoted to my Big Book project –- err, I mean -- I mean it was devoted to the history of reviews pertaining to vertebrate palaeontology. For the post-conference fieldtrip we visited the amazing Wollaton Hall, mostly for its outstandingly good exhibition on Chinese dinosaurs (featuring the actual fossils of such taxa as Microraptor, Caudipteryx and Sinosauropteryx). Even without the Chinese dinosaurs, Wollaton Hall – Wayne Manor in at least one movie – is home to tons of really impressive stuff, including taxiderm displays, wonderful dioramas and a good number of skeletons and other specimens. Thanks to the good graces of Adam Smith, myself, Bob Nicholls, Mike Taylor and Matt Wedel got to see a ton of stuff behind the scenes. It’s amazing what they have there.

Red deer Cervus elaphus stag in the grounds of Wollaton Hall. Don’t worry, I was sensible and did not approach this animal as stupidly close as might appear. Credit: Darren Naish
Siouxsie, the Dinosaurs in the Wild Dakotaraptor, on stage at Manchester’s Trafford Centre. Credit: Darren Naish

Darin Croft’s Horned Armadillos and Rafting Monkeys was reviewed at Tet Zoo, a book I heartily endorse. Turtles were mostly finished for The Big Book and I’d now moved on to birds; I would be occupied with the bird section of the book right up to the close of the year. Across late September and early October I worked on stage at Manchester’s Trafford Centre with famous DJ Mike Toolan – this was all promotion for Dinosaurs in the Wild. It was great fun, and the Trafford Centre is an insane venue: basically, Las Vegas, but in Manchester. I used my time in Manchester to visit the SeaLife Centre there. Hm, you might recognise a theme going on in the background here.

The summertime 2017 view of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, home to Dinosaurs in the Wild. Credit: Darren Naish
Reptile-keeper Glen (left) and Telu the dragon, at Colchester Zoo in October 2017. Credit: Darren Naish

Rodent week happened in early October, and jerboas were covered at Tet Zoo. Other topics covered at Tet Zoo at this time include the resurrection of the ichthyosaurid ichthyosaur Protoichthyosaurus. I did some filming at Colchester Zoo (Essex, UK) for a BBC documentary on the science of temperature – it meant spending a lot of time with the big Komodo dragon they have, which was cool. Colchester Zoo is home to a lot of good stuff (I hadn’t visited it before, which is weird given that it’s not all that far away). My day there inspired the Tet Zoo review that was published here in late October.

TetZooCon 2017 - judging from the banner, the amphibian years! Credit: Darren Naish

TetZooCon 2017. October’s biggest event was – of course – TetZooCon. The Tet Zoo report can be found here: write-ups of the meeting can also be found at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, Raptormaniacs and at The Pixie Zoologist. As I’ve surely said before, we succeeded in filling up our brand-new venue (… The Venue), meaning that the 2018 meeting will have to be held at a new, even larger one (given that more people are surely due to attend than they did in 2017). While nothing is in place yet, the plan is for the 2018 meeting to be a two-dayer. More news on this in a few months (and follow the TetZooCon facebook page if interested).

My daughter Emma on a local patch. Spending time with children is good for you. In moderation. Credit: Darren Naish

And that is where we must stop – until next time!

For previous Tet Zoo birthday articles, see...

Refs - -

Barker, C. T., Naish, D., Newham, E., Katsamenis, O. L. & Dyke, G. 2017. Complex neuroanatomy in the rostrum of the Isle of Wight theropod Neovenator salerii. Scientific Reports 7, 3749.

Cawley, J. J. & Kriwet, J. 2017. A new pycnodont fish, Scalacurvichthys naishi gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Cretaceous of Israel. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology doi: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1330772

Muscutt, L. E., Dyke, G., Weymouth, G. D., Naish, D., Palmer, C. & Ganapathisubramani, B. 2017. The four-flipper swimming method of plesiosaurs enabled efficient and effective locomotion. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284, 20170951.

Naish, D. 2017a. Q&A: Darren Naish. BBC Focus June 2017, 92.

Naish, D. 2017b. Review: Turtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 20, Issue 2; 1R: 3p.

White, S. 2017. Dinosaur Art II. Titan Books, London.