Thursday, October 4, 2007

I Freakin' Love Sauropods!

I got to work this morning, checked my email and, as always, eagerly opened up StatCounter to see just how many millions have read my blog. Yesterday was a record-breaker with a total of .000022 million visits! Pitiful as that is, I'm pretty excited. That's almost twice as much as the day before.

After opening my email and checking StatCounter, I went through my list of favorite blogs and visited each one in order. At this point, I have to say that there's a really amazing community of paleobloggers out there. I look forward to reading their blogs every morning...I always learn something new and their enthusiasm keeps me excited.

Anyway, I arrived at Darren's Tetrapod Zoology blog and a sauropod image caught my eye. I freakin' love sauropods. I love their long necks...their complicated phylogeny. I love their names, the arguments over their posture, their size. Why did anything on Earth ever get so big? They're beautiful and they're relatively understudied. And there are so many unanswered questions.

When I first decided to go back to school, I knew it would be years before I got to do any new dino research, but I wanted to get involved in one way or another, even if it meant nothing to anyone else. I started compiling a list of all known Sauropodomorphs on an Excel spreadsheet. I did my best to categorize them by their phylogeny, estimated length, locality (formation in one column, country in another), and age (period in one column, epoch in another). Nomen Nudum were highlighted in blue. Nomen Dubium were highlighted in pink. I used the DML as a reference at first, and then turned to Wilson and Sereno (1998), Wilson (2002) and Upchurch et al. (2004). Using Excel, I could organize the spreadsheet by category. I could view all of the sauropods found in Argentina, all of the sauropods from the Kimmeridgian, all of the Titanosaurs. Unfortunately, my list was so big that breaking the sauropods into categories didn't help me to understand them more...there was just too much information. And I kept having to add sauropods every day, given the serious increase in sauropod discoveries!

What I did learn is that sauropod phylogeny is all over the place. I kept finding new clade names and dinos that didn't seem to fit anywhere. I am just as confused about the whole thing today than I was when I started. I'm going to have to study phylogenetics and anatomy before I really get the whole sauropod classification thing down...

Since I've strayed so far from my original point, with no hope of finding a clever way to make the transition, I'll just say it: SV-POW! Matt at Ask Dr. Vector, Darren at Tetrapod Zoology and Mike Taylor have teamed up to bring us all the Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week blog! It's new, it's completely nerdy and it's all about sauropods vertebrae! I suggest you go behold the wonder and beauty of it all.


Darren Naish said...

Well done: a most worthy and excellent blog entry :) Seriously, glad you like!

Amanda said...

Thanks! This whole blogging business can be tough on the ol' self esteem :) It's nice to know some more established bloggers are reading it!

Zach Miller said...

Aw, sauropod phylogeny isn't that bad! You've got your poorly-known primitive forms, Shunnosaurus, the "megalosaur" sauropods leading up to the Eusauropoda, and then it's cake! Macronaria on one end, Diplodoicia on the other. Now, interrelationships within each clade are subject to some discussion, but otherall, I think it's pretty neat 'n' tidy!

*rolls eyes*

I love sauropods too. Especially titanosaurs and rebbechiosaurs, because they're so wierd.

Mike Taylor said...

Zach: "cake?" What would you say if I told you that I saw a poster at SVP in Austin where Camarasaurus was recovered as a diplodocoid? True. I'm not at all convinced that sauropod phylogeny is as cut and dried as we're all assuming.