It Was the 12th Year of Tet Zoo

It Was the 12th Year of Tet Zoo

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Way, way back in January I published two articles on Tet Zoo’s 12th birthday (they are here and here). Running this blog for 12 years is a pretty big deal to me, and for that reason I find it necessary to spend at least some time reviewing the year that’s passed and evaluating Tet Zoo’s performance. And so here – better later than never – we find the third and last of the 12th birthday articles. As per usual, these articles aren’t much fun if you dislike autocratic pontification or anything that might be interpreted as overt self-congratulation. Last warning.

In which I gratuitously use Matt Baron (on the right) in the promotion of Naish & Barrett’s Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved. Have I ever mentioned my idea on how male Caucasian humans all look exactly alike when they grow facial hair? Credit: Darren Naish

So, to business once more. The previous article finished off with me discussing October’s TetZooCon 2017. With TetZooCon out of the way, it was back to work. I made the ‘finishing’ touches to the Eotyrannus monograph, continued apace on the bird section of The Big Book, and spoke about Hunting Monsters (my cryptozoology book) for the Cambridge University Biological Society. I recognised a figure in the audience. It turned out to be none other than Matt ‘Ornithoscelida’ Baron. In person, he’s basically ok (I kid, I kid). White rhinos and tigers were covered at Tet Zoo at about this time.

I’ve been drawing a whole lot of Paleogene birds for The Big Book. And the other birds as well. Credit: Darren Naish

November 2017 marked ten years since the publication of the seminal, ground-breaking, game-changing new sauropod dinosaur Xenoposeidon proneneukos (Taylor & Naish 2007). As summarised in the resultant Tet Zoo article, Xenoposeidon has not been ignored since its 2007 publication. And 2017 was an important year for this taxon given that a new paper on its phylogenetic position was proposed (Taylor 2017). My newest book – Evolution in Minutes (Naish 2017b) – appeared in November. It’s been well received and I’m really happy with it.

It’s Evolution in Minutes, a book of bite-sized summaries of just about everything we understand about evolution. Credit: Darren Naish

On to December… and, right at the start of the month, it was time to attend (and speak at) another meeting: the Joint Scientific Meeting of the ARS and British Herpetological Society (BHS). My thoughts on the meeting were published here at Tet Zoo. I like zoology-themed conferences of all sorts, but I think herpetological ones might be best. My talk combined various ideas and bits of research on the British herpetofauna: are various of the supposedly introduced amphibians and reptiles we have in the country overlooked natives? Mostly they’re not, but the stories are interesting nonetheless.

A few days later, and it was back to London for the second Popularising Palaeontology workshop, organised by Chris Manias and featuring a mix of talks from scientists, science historians and people in the museum world. My talk was on review volumes devoted to vertebrate palaeontology and on whether they’ve done a ‘fair’ job of covering the different vertebrate groups (spoiler: they totally haven’t). The talk is now online here (it’s about 20 minutes long). I will be publishing a full-length article about the talk – or, rather, its subject – here within the next few weeks. The talk is a sort of tie-in to The Big Book.

Preparing to present a fish-themed talk at PopPalaeo. Photo kindly provided by Jed Taylor…. whose work you absolutely have to check out if you’re interested in artistic depictions of dinosaurs (and other animals). Credit: Jed Taylor

An article on Plica lizards (I sure do love the iguanians) appeared at Tet Zoo, Marilyn Munro (yup – honest) delivered the first seven volumes of Handbook to the Birds of the World to Tet Zoo Towers (only another ten volumes to go…), and Gabriel Ugueto and I worked together on a poster that still (as of late May 2018) hasn’t seen the light of day. I spent New Year (and the weeks around it) in the Tatras Mountains of far southern Poland. I went to places where there were bears, nutcrackers and assorted other neat animals… but didn’t see them (well, the bears would be hibernating, so that wasn’t a surprise).

Holy crap the High Tetras mountains are incredible. Credit: Darren Naish

And that basically takes us up to January, which is where we bring things to a close (seeing as the actual blog birthday is January 21st). Work on a new book kicked off that month, and – with Tim Haines – I did my bit training the next batch of chrononauts for Dinosaurs in the Wild. Have I mentioned Dinosaurs in the Wild? I think I have.

A sign that will greet you as you leave North Greenwich underground station, London. I’ll write, at length, about Dinosaurs in the Wild sometime soon…. Credit: Darren Naish

The megafaunal bias, 2017. So… standard annual procedure here is to then compile a list of the year’s articles, and to then see how things fared as goes taxonomic representation. The ultimate aim: to achieve fair balance of the different tetrapod groups. The reality: shameful bias towards charismatic megafauna. Let’s see how things turn out. Hold your breath…

Oh, I’ve used the same categories as per previous years but have combined ‘lissamphibians’ with ‘non-lissamphibian anamniotes’ given that keeping them separate now seems futile (cf Pardo et al. 2017).

Miscellaneous musings

Amphibians

Mammals

Turtles

Mesozoic marine reptiles

Pterosaurs

Non-avialan dinosaurs

Birds

Lepidosaurs

Cryptozoology

A graph…

Credit: Darren Naish

And, there we have it…. surprise surprise, mammals and non-bird dinosaurs are about in the lead, and the ‘obscure’ groups I always aim to cover more (like stem-mammals and croc-line archosaurs) received no coverage at all. Cryptozoological issues were covered a bit during 2017, in part because of things connected to Hunting Monsters. I’m surprised that SpecBio received no coverage across 2017, but there we have it. Also interesting is that miscellaneous musings did pretty well, but then I find it easier these days to write ‘general’ articles where the thoughts meander across various subjects.

I will keep drawing drawing drawing all the vertebrates until there is nothing left. Credit: Darren Naish

One final point: while I always blame myself for producing the sort of megafaunal biases you see here, the fact remains that – given the constraints of time that are now such a concern – it really is easier and quicker to generate articles on megafauna where available images are plentiful and to hand. In contrast, articles on weird, obscure animals are hard to do because getting useable images is that much harder. Would I do better, and produce more content for Tet Zoo, including on those weird, obscure animals, if only I could? Yes, I would. And should I be leaving Sci Am given that I’m now acutely aware of what a poor fit I am?

And this is where we end. For previous Tet Zoo birthday articles, see…

Refs – –

Naish, D. 2017a. Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths. Arcturus, London.

Naish, D. 2017b. Evolution in Minutes. Quercus Books, London.

Pardo, J. D., Small, B. J. & Huttenlocker, A. K. 2017. Stem caecilian from the Triassic of Colorado sheds light on the origins of Lissamphibia. Proceeding of the National Academic of Sciences, USA 114, E5389-E5395.

Taylor, M. P. 2017. Xenoposeidon is the earliest known rebbachisaurid sauropod dinosaur. PeerJ PrePrints 5: e3415.

Taylor, M. P. & Naish, D. 2007. An unusual new neosauropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Hastings Beds Group of East Sussex, England. Palaeontology 50, 1547-1564.



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