Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Palaeontology in the post

Several times per year I receive the journal Palaeontology and there is often a paper which jumps out as worth talking about, yet for some reason I never blog about them. Sadly I have an exam tomorrow so I can only talk very briefly about the articles which jumped out at me today.

New Devonian Tetrapod

Ichthyostega, a well known close relative of Ymeria.

Although not a brand new discovery, it has just been named Ymeria denticulata and is yet another tetrapod in the transition from water to land. What came to mind upon reading this (not the full article, I've not read it yet) is the creationist claim that "evolutionists" will tout any fossil as transitional and spread that propaganda all over the news. I'm betting that the news of Ymeria gets no further than the palaeontological community, maybe just into a couple of public press releases. This particular statement in the article jumped out at me (I've edited out the references just to make it clearer):

Since the mid-1980s, the number of named Devonian tetrapod genera has increased from three (Ichthyostega, Acanthostega, Tulerpeton) or four (confirmation of Metaxygnathus), to eleven, with the addition of Elginerpeton, Obruchevichthys, Ventastega, Hynerpeton, Densignathus, Sinostega and Jakubsonia, while an un-named Ichthyostega-like tetrapod has recently been described from Belgium. 

I don't know about you, but there were some names there I had never come across before. So, far from shoving these things down the throats of the public, it seems most are kept relatively quiet, as finding transitional forms is nothing unusual, so you have to hit on some pretty special ones like Tiktaalik if you want the limelight. Old Tiktaalik pops up on the phylogenetic analyses and we see the sort of thing we would expect from evolution. If you want to see the paper for yourself, go here

Stegosaur Plates and Spines

Just before Christmas I had to do an essay on a palaeobiological aspect of Dinosauria. I chose to do the stegosaurs as I rather like them and focussed on a really well researched area of stegosaur palaeobiology: the functions of their osteoderms (Stegosaurus itself is the most well studied in this regard as it is rather atypical). When the marks came back I was a tad surprised; I'd gotten a decent mark (a 2:1) and my image choice seems to have let me down, but the first comment in the feedback described it as brief but well researched. My surprise was because I was actually 60 words or so over the word limit, which was a short 1,500, not enough to go into any real amount of detail. Ah well.

Why did I mention this? Well, this issue of Palaeontology has an article titled "Ontogenetic histology of Stegosaurus plates and spikes". I had a feeling that there would be an article which I could have used in one of my essays (my other was on the Borhyaenoidea and certainly could be labelled brief as I ran out of time to write it). Thankfully both essays had a decent amount of references anyway. I do intend to post them both at some point, along with many other essays and articles I have written. If you would like to read the article in Palaeontology, go here

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