Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Monday, December 5, 2016
Time for another Mesozoic Miscellany, gathering cool news, blogging, art, and more from around the web over the last month.
One brief note about LITC first. If you're viewing us on the browser, you'll notice that we've added some ads in our sidebar via Project Wonderful, in addition to continuing our tip jar. All proceeds from this will go to moving us over to WordPress and covering related hosting fees. Project Wonderful is a platform particularly popular in the webcomic world. It works by auctioning off ad space and the value of our boxes depend on traffic here as well as click throughs, so don't be bashful about clicking ads that strike your fancy! I'm trying to keep anything too obnoxious off the site. I was pretty happy to find Ashfire Moon through ads, which features some innovative comics, including a "Lost World" inspired tale called "The Heart of the Hollow World."
With that out of the way, on to the dinosaurs!
In the News
A new paper described two new late Triassic dinosauromorphs from Brazil, the lagerpetid Ixalerpeton polesinensis and early, carnivorous sauropodomorph Buriolestes schultzi. Read more from Jacquelyn Ronson for the Inverse and Joe Bauwens at Sciency Thoughts. Nice paleoart from Maurílio Oliveira, as well!
Around the Dinoblogosphere
At the Canadian science communication blog Science Borealis, Liz Martin-Silverstone and Raymond Nakamura write a nice article on the practice of paleoart, speaking with Mark Witton and Danielle Dufault.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History recently hosted Dinofest, and Ashley Hall covered the event at her tumblr, Lady Naturalist.
The nostril openings - or nares - of ceratopsids are rather remarkable. Darren Naish writes about their possible explanations at TetZoo, inspiring a rash of paleoart (unfortunately not organized by any hashtag, so you kind of just have to search it out). Also, don't miss Darren's post on his new book with Paul Barrett, Dinosaurs: How they Lived and Evolved.
At Pseudoplocephalus, Victoria Arbour summed up her experience at SVP 2016 with lots of great photos from the museum, auction, and more.
Sarah Gibson has been writing about the Top 10 Open Access dinosaur descriptions of 2016 at the PLoS Paleo Community Blog, With recent posts on Spiclypeus shipporum and the delightfully named marsupial "lion" Microleo attenboroughi.
Head over to Beyond Bones to read about really, really, really old poop.
The Tetanurae Guy writes about recent travels, including photos from Dinosaur Ridge and its accompanying museum near Denver.
At the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Digging the Fossil Record blog, Antoine Bercovici writes about his time out in the field as part of a team mapping sites associated with the K-T Boundary in southwestern North Dakota and southeastern Montana.
At the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog, Anthony Maltese writes about how the lab acquired a fairly complete specimen of the rare Cretaceous turtle Chelospargis and cast a reproduction of the skeleton.
Michael Barton of the Dispersal of Darwin blog writes about Gregory S. Paul's new second edition of the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs.
I've written about the Virtual Museum of Natural History in the past, and figured it would be good to do an update. Their crowdfunding model was changed to a flexible goal, so the fundraising is ongoing. Dave Marshall sent out an email update on the current progress, and it sounds like a lot of fun. He writes:
The technology behind the V-NHM is now complete and we’ve even been able to take a tour around! The user interface is so intuitive to use and loads of fun to just run around with your friends; in fact, one of our trial runs ended up as a 30-minute-long game of chase! It just goes to show that the V-NHM is inherently fun, even before we’ve placed any content in the cabinets. With the website complete, the focus over the coming months will be on curating content, filling cabinets and weaving a narrative between exhibitions. We hope to be able to launch the museum early in 2017.
To contribute to the campaign, head over to Crowd.Science.
For the second year in a row, Raul Ramos pumped out an amazing volume of beautiful paleoart during #DrawDinovember. Hard to pick just one to feature, but I particularly love this backlit Protoceratops.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Do the words "giant Antarctic mosasaur" get your attention? Sure they do. Why wouldn't they? Meet Kaikaifilu hervei. Everything Dinosaur has the story, or read Rodrigo Otero et al's original paper for the princely sum of $37.95 at ScienceDirect.
Unfortunately, the figure in the paper is yet another case of art theft in the scientific literature. And this time, LITC's own Asher Elbein is the victim. Compare the images below.
This is plainly an incidence of art theft. It seems that at some point, someone posted Asher's original to Dinopedia, changing the license to a creative commons license (hopefully by the time you're reading this, the site has responded to Asher's DMCA takedown notice by removing it). Then Otero or someone working on the paper found it one one of those two sites and traced it (looks like it is a slightly modified Illustrator auto-trace) without credit or compensation.
Scientists, you cannot just take art for your papers. Asher deserves to be compensated and credited in this paper. How do you people expect artists to produce the work you clearly depend on to illustrate your research if you're not willing to do the bare minimum to credit and compensate?
Some folks haven't liked it when I've said it in the past, but I'll say it again: there is no paleontology outreach without paleoart. Own up to it.
Update: 3pm EST, December 4, 2016
Well, this post certainly inspired conversation. In fact, it is by a long stretch the most commented upon post in LITC history. I appreciate all of the comments, critical and supportive.
There are some takeaways.
First of all, it's clear that the authors of this paper did not willfully infringe Asher's copyright. No one was trying to rip him off. In fact, Rodrigo Otero left a lengthy comment which explained how this happened, but it has since been deleted (more on this below).
So, the most charitable explanation is that the author(s) were unaware of what a Creative Commons license entails - at the very least, it would require attribution, therefore a misattribution would imply an understanding of the license. Since there was no attribution, there's a clear misunderstanding of ethical image use.
This is a misunderstanding many people share. It is not limited to the authors of this one paper. So, in an effort to add to the conversation in a productive way, I'll be putting together at the very least an "Introduction to Creative Commons" post, and perhaps a broader "Image Use Best Practices" post as well, with the goal of dispelling misunderstanding about exactly what a CC license is, and what responsibilities it entails. I have no illusions that this would fix the problem, but it may help. Note that I can be charitable and also call this stuff out. There's really no excuse for not understanding image use guidelines.
I allow that the image was used in a graphical abstract, if not the paper itself, though I had no way to peer over the pay wall to know that. Whether in a graphical abstract or a paper, the point remains. I understand that not everyone enjoys reading angry words from artists. This anger is rooted in a pervasive culture of devaluing artists' work, a problem that even occurs in the vaunted world of science. This anger is warranted, even if you feel blindsided by it. I've had my mind opened to societal problems by the anger of victims, so I'll maintain that muted civility is not the only tool we have to change an unsatisfactory status quo.
Regarding the deleted comment: I'd like to repeat here that I did not delete a single comment on this post. If I delete a comment, I will always provide an explanation. Any removed comments were either deleted by their original poster on purpose or by mistake, or by a Blogger glitch. If you had a comment removed by accident or glitch, I can easily email it to you. Just let me know! All comments are delivered to me by email, so there is record of them in their original form. Then you can repost it. If this seems to be a glitch that's happened repeatedly, I will report to Blogger (though I'm not optimistic that it will be fixed, thus my intention to move to WordPress).
Whoa, that update was longer then the original post! Anyhow, thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation in the comments.
Update: 4:10pm EST, December 4, 2016
Rodrigo Otero has written another comment below, please be sure to read it. Seems we have a good resolution here. Thanks for the comment, Rodrigo!
And yes, as Matt Martyniuk suggests in a comment below, Blogger's comment platform is garbage. I swear I'm intending a WordPress migration as soon as it's feasible.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
It's that time of year again, and once more your trusty paleo-bloggers of LITC are here to offer some very cool dinosaur gifts sure to satisfy the enthusiasts of Mesozoic megafauna in your life. As in years past, we will focus on products that look cool, reflect the modern state of paleoart, and come from independent artists and creators.
Dinosaur zodiac! This adorable collection by comic artist Les Valiant on Redbubble is available as individual pieces in various formats, or as a poster of the entire set.
Miami-based artist Gabriel Ungueto has been creating some lovely posters recently, for sale through Redbubble. Choose between Tyrannosauroidea and Dromaeosauridae, Ornithomimosaurs and Alvarezsaurs, or buy 'em all!
The Alaskan creative duo of Scott Elyard and Raven Amos of Cubelight Graphics have some great new stuff this year. Check out Scott's fantastic dino skull calligraphics, including the tyrannosaur above.
I also love Raven's Aurora Ornatus, available as a sweet tee at NeatoShop. Who says southerners make the best sweet tees? Hardy har har.
Studio 252mya is a new paleoart studio featuring an international team of artists. It's been built by the team who also created the sites Earth Archives and Pteros. There's a treasure trove of wonderful art to pick from. I love Franz Anthony's T. rex illustration above, and it sure makes a handsome iPhone case! Also available as a framed print, mug, and more. Be sure to browse their entire shop.
Artist Natasha Alterici runs a shop on Society 6, featuring her distinctive dinosaur art. I love her hellish Allosaurus v. The Extinction. Plus, all of her proceeds are being donated to the ACLU presently!
Mark Witton published Recreating an Age of Reptiles this year. Signed copies are available in his online shop (along with prints of his work). It costs just a bit more than the unsigned edition. "Rec-A-Rep" a must-have for anyone who cares about paleoart, and a wonderful demonstration of how art and science are inseparable in paleontology. To be further convinced, read our very own Marc Vincent's review from July.
One of my favorite illustrations of new-look Spinosaurus comes from Francesco Delrio, which manages to make the oddly proportioned beast look graceful. Available as a variety of print formats.
Darren Naish and Paul Barrett's Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved. Marc reviewed the tome in October, and had high praise: "So, should you get it? Yeah, you should get it. It's essentially the perfect summation of 'where we're up to' with dinosaur science, allowing for differences in opinion and areas where More Research is Needed."
If you're looking for a stunning piece to stop people in their tracks, Brian Engh's beautful panorama of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite should do the trick nicely. Additionally, you can support his work via Patreon, and get early access to an assortment of new originals he's auctioning off. The Patreon-specific auction lasts until December 11, at which point it will be opened to the general public, concluding on December 17.
Finally, if you're new to LITC, you may not be aware of my children's book, Mammoth is Mopey, created with my wife Jennie and published in 2015. This year, we've got a big holiday sale on. Limited edition hardcover copies are only $10 through the end of the year, and as always each one comes with a complimentary ebook, which features an educational appendix that isn't in the print version.
That's a wrap for this year's guide! These are always fun to put together - I always find a new artist or two as I look for items to feature. Of course, many of the products featured in our previous gift guides would still make delightful gifts. So please do browse our 2015 and 2014 (parts one, two, and three) posts as well. Let's support independent creators, the people who bring the current paleontological golden age to vivid life!
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I'm happy to bring Tommy Leung aboard today for this guest post! He'll be reviewing the comic My Girlfriend is a T-Rex. A bit about today's guest contributor:
Tommy Leung is a parasitologist / zoologist who writes a blog called Parasite of the Day where he writes about newly published research from the field of parasitology. He has also written about dinosaur parasites and parasites in the fossil record. Additionally he is an illustrator and you can see some of his work here. You can find him on Twitter @The_Episiarch.
Take it away, Tommy!
My Girlfriend is a T-Rex* is a comic / graphic novel series by artist Sanzo (さんぞう). It was originally published as an online webcomic under the title "T-REXな彼女 / T-Rex na Kanojo" and was later licensed for an English release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At its core, it is a tale of boy meets girl, but girl is a large carnivorous theropod dinosaur (sort of). While such a story would usually end rather quickly (and bloodily), in the case of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, it turns into a tale of blossoming interspecific romance and funny dinosaurian hijinks.
In the world of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, half-human-looking dinosaurs (imagine Centaurs or Mermaids, but with dinosaur bits in place of the horse or fish parts) live in our society, kind of like an urbanite monster girls / boys version of Dinotopia. The explanation for why the dinosaurs look the way that they do was that they had evolved to look more attractive to humans in order to survive in the modern world (a case of evolutionary mimicry?). It is an extremely silly premise, but this series makes no pretence at being anything more than a (largely) slapstick comedy featuring dinosaur monster girls / boys, and it often pokes fun at its own absurdity.
The two main characters of this series are (seemingly) ordinary college student Yuuma Asahikawa who, while taking out the trash late one night, encountered Churio, a female Tyrannosaurus rex who was riffling through the garbage. Despite the best effort of Churio to try and convince him that she is a big scary dinosaur, Yuuma looked past her sharp claws and scaly skin, and fell for her tyrannosaurian charm. Since this fateful encounter, Churio gradually made a switch from scavenging on the streets and sleeping in an abandoned factory, to becoming a somewhat more functional member of society.
The design of the dinosaurian characters in this series places it firmly within the “monster girl / people” subgenre along the likes of A Centaur’s Life, Merman in my Tub, and the very popular Everyday Life With Monster Girls / Monster Musume in featuring half-monster half-human characters in the main cast. Given My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seems like just another comic amidst many released in recent years that features the monster people gimmick, does it have what it takes to distinguish itself from the rest of the monster mash?
There are two main reasons that My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may appeal to a slightly different audience than the usual crowd who would be interested in such monster girl titles. First of all, whereas most other monster girl / people series have mainly featured mythological beings such as centaurs, merfolks, and lamia, My Girlfriend is a T-Rex is unique (as far as I am aware) in having dinosaur-based monster girls in such a slice-of-life setting (if you don’t count Bird Cafe! I guess…) - this alone may pique the interest of Palaeontology / Dinosaur Fans, which I’m guessing includes many readers of this blog. Secondly, it seems largely free of the kind of sexually suggestive (“ecchi”) content found throughout some monster girl titles such as Monster Musume, so My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may be more accessible to readers who find the more risqué aspects of Monster Musume to be off-putting.
Being the titular dinosaur of the series, most of the humour in this comic derives from Churio's antics as she attempts to adapt to modern society and all its trappings. A fair share of the jokes revolve around Churio not fully understanding her own strength as a tyrannosaur, or her instinctive responses to the situations that she finds herself in - which often comes across as being like a mix between a stray puppy and Godzilla. It is worth pointing out that unlike Churio, most of the other dinosaur / pterosaur characters in My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seem to have fully integrated with human society; they have jobs, pay bills, and live generally normal lives, and the human characters in this world seem to take that as a given. So Churio seems to be just a feral outlier.
Aside from Churio’s shenanigans, some of jokes in this series are references or parodies of dinosaurs (at least as they are perceived by the general public) and various dinosaur-based media. For example, those with a keen eye will spot a very obvious reference to Jurassic Park during a conversation between Churio and her friend, Torika, who is some sort of Velociraptor. Also the personalities of the dinosaur characters usually reflect the common popular perception of the dinosaur species that they are based upon. With that said, there are some moments where the character interactions move beyond “Archetype X based upon dinosaur species X” which give those characters a bit more depth.
While the main focus is on Churio and her interactions with Yuuma, there is also a cast of both human and dinosaur / pterosaur supporting characters who get their share of story. One noteworthy side character is Kram - a socially awkward ankylosaur who has difficulty communicating with people and conveying her emotions. Also, her best intentions are often thwarted by her own heavily armoured body. Kram’s more introverted and introspective personality acts a nice contrast to Churio’s blunt and impulsive temperament, and I hope we will see more of her in the next volume since she has appeared only in one chapter so far.
On a side note, the translation assumes that the reader has some familiarity with Japanese honorifics such as kōhai (underclassman / junior) and oniichan (“big / older brother”). While such words are familiar enough to regular manga readers or anime viewers, it might take a bit of getting used to for those who have not been exposed to such material. But, it should not be too difficult to work out what their English equivalents might be given their context.
My final verdict? My Girlfriend is a T-Rex might be one of the more accessible monster girl titles available as it avoids some of the tropes of that subgenre which people may find off-putting. While the humour in this series isn’t all that sophisticated, it works and I found it to be a really fun read. You should definitely check it out if you like the idea of a light-hearted, fish-out-of-water (or tyrannosaur out of Cretaceous?) slice-of-life comedy with a dinosaurian twist. Or if you are curious about the monster girl subgenre, but find Monster Musume too lewd or A Centaur’s Life a bit too weird, you might want to give this one a go instead, and spend an afternoon with some cute dinosaurian monster girls.
Overall score: 75/100
*Yes, I know the proper way to abbreviate Tyrannosaurus rex is T. rex - but that is the series’ official title.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Monday, November 7, 2016
Autumn is a huge time in paleontology happenings and October 2016 was no exception, with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting, TetZooCon, and the Dinosaur Society conference and Dinosaur Days festival all occurring within the month. So let's take a look at some of the news coverage and blogging that has resulted from this celestial alignment in the paleo-cosmos.
In the News
Tree-down? Ground-up? Michael Habib presented new research into this long-standing debate on how the first feathered dinosaurs took to the air, finding that as long as they weren't too heavy, early birds and bird-like critters could manage just fine with a leap from terra firma. Read more at ScienceNews.
Lee Hall of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History presented a poster at SVP about Dunkleosteus intra-specific combat. Read more at Earth Touch News.
One of the big splashes coming out of SVP over social media was a presentation on a new fossilized Iguanodon brain. Read more at Fernanda Castano's blog, from Michael Greshko at NatGeo, and from Sarah Kaplan for the Washington Post.
Tetrapodophis is back in the news. Last year, it was announced to the public as being a crucial early member of the snake family tree - a "snake with legs." New research, which analyzed the counterpart slab to the original fossil, has come to a different conclusion - it's a marine reptile, a dolichosaur. While such disagreements are hardly rare in paleontology, this controversy is complicated by the fact that the original Tetrapodophis fossil was merely on loan to Solnhofen's Bürgermeister-Müller Museum, and now is back in private hands and may not be accessible for further research - especially research that may knock it down a few pegs. Read more from Carolyn Gramling for Science and Michael Greshko for NatGeo.
Around the Dinoblogosphere
LITC's newest contributor, Victoria Arbour, has written an important post about the gender disparity of talks at the SVP meeting, and the reasons behind it. It's got a great comment thread going, as well!
At the SVP blog, Andy Farke provides reflects on this year's SVP meeting.
Luis Rey was nonplussed by Howgate's BANDit talk at Dinosaur Days, who used Rey's artwork in support of pseudoscience.
Mentioned last time around, but should be included in this roundup: Darren Naish provides a summary of the events at TetZooCon, including his own presentation, the wonderfully titled "Dinosaur Sex Wars."
The crew of A Dinosaur A Day shared the results of their readership survey, seeking to parse out the demographics of the paleo community on Tumblr. They presented it as a poster at SVP, too.
Albertonykus made his second trip to SVP this year, and has his own breakdown up at Raptormaniacs, including presenting his own poster. And he also made his way across the Atlantic to attend TetZooCon.
Tristan Stock wrote extensive notes on all of the SVP talks he was able to attend, and you can check them out at Notions of a Most Peculiar Dinosaur Nerd.
Arguably, no paleoartist harnesses the power of the web better than Mark Witton, and in his latest post he's created a fascinating inner dialogue exploring the arguments for and against putting filamentous integument on sauropodomorphs. Also, a look at the terrific cover slide for his talk at Dinosaur Days!
If you're looking for some nifty new prehistorically-themed attire, check out the Permia Kickstarter, which was launched in conjunction with SVP, where they had a booth in the exhibition hall. This new fashion and art brand has been working with graphic artist Diana Hlevnjak, who is working from skeletal diagrams by Scott Hartman. Perks include tees as well as art prints.
Man of Principle Brian Engh could not pass up the chance to paint a prehistoric shark tearing into the carcass of a giant monster fish. So watch his process video, in which he takes us from beginning to end on his new Xiphactinus illustration, commissioned by Rebecca Hunt-Foster to accompany her new research on a specimen of the implacable ichthyodectid. She presented a poster on her research at SVP this year.
Also of note, congrats to Danielle Dufault for her Lanzendorf Award in the scientific illustration category!
The other winners this year were Tim Quady of Blue Rhino Studio in the 3D category and Franco Tempesta for his Dakotaraptor vs. Tyrannosaurus in the 2D category. April Neander won the National Geographic Digital Modeling and Animation award. Congrats to all of the winners!
Friday, November 4, 2016
Thursday, November 3, 2016
It's been a while! For various personal and professional reasons, the last few months have been a roller coaster. I've been working on this roundup for a while and decided it was time to put a bow on it. I hope to have another one put together soon to cover the blogging and news coming out of the recent SVP conference and the Dinosaur Society's Dinosaur Days. Let's get to it!
In the News
Sometimes, research is splashy enough on its own to attract mainstream coverage. "The Biggest Whatzit!" "The First Whatchamacallit!" Unfortunately, the majority of discoveries don't have an obvious hook - no matter how excited those of us who follow paleontology may be. Luckily, there's paleoart to save the day! Case in point: a stunning reconstruction of Psittacosaurus by Bob Nicholls, demonstrating the counter-shading apparent in a beautiful fossil specimen. Read more from Bristol University, Pop Sci, and Nat Geo.
Around the Dinoblogosphere
Alton Dooley shares his views on how to effectively work those popular "sandbox" approximations of dig sites into museum exhibits.
At Extinct Monsters, Ben wrote about the new natural history arm of the Google Cultural Learning Institute, providing helpful criticism for a project that doesn't hit a home run every time, but seems to be a good start in making important natural history collections and exhibits available online.
Paleoaerie devoted a week to prehistoric sharks in August. Start here!.
The big Hell Creek hadrosaur in Saurian has stirred up some taxonomic controversy, and Matt Martyniuk is here to sort it out.
Mark Witton pays tribute to the wonderfully big-headed erythrosuchids.
Speaking of heads, Zach at Waxing Paleontological takes on the heads of titanosaurs.
Listen to Cara Santa Maria interview Mike Habib on the Talk Nerdy podcast!
TetZooCon 2016 has come and gone, and Darren has a write-up at the TetZoo blog, as does Albertonykus. Marc and Niroot attended, and I'm hoping that one day when I'm not bound by the school year, I'll be able to pop over the pond to attend. The event looks like so much fun.
Over the years, paleontology enthusiasts have been hearing about an incredible discovery in Utah: a collection of well-preserved Utahraptor specimens that had been trapped in quicksand. Well, it's finally being prepped, but it's a huge job: the block of sandstone trapping the fossils weighs 9 tons, and there's an awful lot of work needed to free the dinosaurs within. That's where we come in. A funding campaign has been launched to help bring these charismatic raptors to light once more. Utah State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland has all the details.
Francisco Riolobos Bianco AKA Franxurio has paid tribute to the dinosaurs of his homeland with a series of anachronistic scenes depicting various species of Mesozoic dinosaur in Seville. The series is called Paleopureza, and it is delightful.
The Little Corner of Weirdness
Tim "the Toolman" Taylor, fighting dinosaurs. It was a thing that happened.