Among one of many interesting and perplexing Mesozoic fossil assemblages is that known from Cornet, Romania. I've been really interested in this collection of archosaur remains - currently housed at the Tarii Crisurilor Museum, Oradea - ever since I first heard about it in the 1990s, and recently I've been lucky enough to work with Gareth Dyke, Michael Benton and Erika Posmosanu in re-evaluating the more controversial of the Cornet fossils: namely, those claimed to represent a bizarre and motley assortment of Mesozoic birds and pterosaurs. Our paper on these fossils has just been published in Palaeontology (Dyke et al. 2010). What do we say, and which animals are really present at Cornet? [for the full story on the cartoony image used below, you have to wait a few days. Drawing by Naish, colouring by Tim Morris]. Discovered by chance after a mine explosion in 1978, the Cornet site (a former bauxite mine in Oradea, north-west Romania) has yielded hundreds of bones excavated over a … [Read more...] about The Cretaceous birds and pterosaurs of Cornet: part I, the birds
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So, I recently returned from a brief sojourn in Libya. The trip was led by Richard Moody, best known for his work on Cretaceous sea turtles; I was also accompanied by palaeornithologist Gareth Dyke and by a group of people interested in the country's geology. Libya - officially, the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya - is huge: it covers nearly 2 million square kilometres and is the fourth largest African county. However, 90% of the country is desert, and the population is only about 5.7 million (of which nearly 2 million live in Tripoli, the capital). It's a land of spectacular sweeping landscapes, enormous vistas, rocky hillsides, wadis and deserts. The landscape isn't all that different from the wilds of Morocco - the only other north African country I've visited - but the towns have a totally different feel, as Libya lacks the long tourist tradition of that country. Visitors thus get none of the constant hassling they get in places like Morocco. While the country runs … [Read more...] about The Tet Zoo tour of Libya (part I)
There's something they don't tell you about freelance writing. It's about all the fails: the many, many projects that get pitched, worked on and made into proper presentations that then get sent to book fairs, interested companies and so on, but ultimately explode on the launch pad, or die a slow, lingering death. I don't know if it's that I'm especially unlucky, or if it's that I've pitched an unusually high number of books, or if it's that I've genuinely worked on a high number of projects that were never destined to succeed but, whatever, I've now worked on loads of failed book projects. It's not all bad, by the way - you still get paid for the time and work you've put in. Anyway, the reason we're here is that one of those (so far) unsuccessful book projects is a big one on the evolutionary history and diversity of birds. To give you some idea how far down the line this project went, check out the various screen captures. I can't mention company names or whatever, but things on … [Read more...] about When books die. And owls. I don’t mean “when owls die”… I just mean: owls. As in: this article is mostly about owls.
As you'll know if you have your fingers on the throbbing pulse of dinosaur-related publications, the massive, incredibly pricey volume published by the Geological Society of London, and resulting from the 2008 meeting History of Dinosaurs and Other Fossil Saurians, now exists in dead-tree form. It's titled Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective and (in my totally unbiased opinion) is a definite must-see* for anyone interested in the historical side of Mesozoic reptile research. Here are thoughts and comments on some of the contents. * I initially wrote 'must have', but then remembered the price. The 394-page book features 21 technical papers: most are on dinosaur research but three are devoted to pterosaurs, several include data on Mesozoic marine reptiles, and one discusses changing interpretations of Middle Triassic environments (Bowden et al. 2010). Some are on general aspects of Mesozoic vertebrate study: Mark Evans's paper is a detailed look at how museum … [Read more...] about Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, the book
I forget how it started now, but lately I've been very, very interested in toads (yes, toads), so much so that I've felt compelled to write about them. The problem is that toads - properly called bufonids - are not a small group. On the contrary, this is a huge clade, distributed worldwide and containing about 540 species in about 38 genera (as of October 2009). So, there are a lot of species to write about, and covering all or most of them is quite the challenge. But it's the sort of challenge I like... As is so often the case with amphibian and reptile groups, accessible literature that reviews and discusses these animals is thin on the ground, by which I mean all but unavailable. Indeed, this is a complaint I've made several times on Tet Zoo before: there are numerous excellent books that review, on a species by species (or, at least, genus by genus) basis, the mammals and birds of the world, but amphibians and reptiles consistently get short shrift. When will publishers start … [Read more...] about Toadtastic