Saturday, October 19, 2013

Disneyland for Dinosaur Nerds

Stegoceras validum by John Conway
Why didn't you tell me you had respiratory turbinates!?
My loyal readers, I must first start off by apologizing for not writing a post last month. Getting back into the swing of things at school, as well as my docent job at the LA Museum of Natural History and writing a new Magazine article, has made it hard for me to find the time to post here. It also doesn't help that during the short time that I do get on the net, I find myself getting caught up in long discussions with people on Forums or YouTube comment sections, or reading long posts by numerous people in the Paleontology Blogging community. (I'm looking at you, Naish...)

It's been incredibly busy with my Museum job, with our team hosting various events coming up like RAAD (Reptile and Amphibian Appreciation Day) and the Haunted Museum. Moreover, with holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas right around the corner, I fear my posts will be sporadic on here for a while. But don't fret, when I post it will be because I have something worthwhile to say. In fact, today I have some great news for you all.

The museum I just so happen to volunteer for is hosting the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) meeting from October 30th to November 2nd in Los Angeles. I will be attending one day of the conference with a friend and will be able to see first-hand what numerous paleontologists have been working on, before it has even been put in print yet. I'm extremely excited and have already read much of the info concerning the event on the Program and Abstracts, which you can read here.

I plan to be there on the day there will be some interesting discussions on Dinosaur Ontogeny and Ornithischian studies, at the cost of missing the discussions on Theropods and Polar Animals. Still, what I am going to be seeing is a lot of cool stuff that I'll definitely try to write about here as I'm able.

There is going to be information on the peak performance and mortality in Maiasaura, Triceratops growth (including the "Toroceratops" debate), baby Troodons, and *shock horror* Allosaurus eggs and embryonic remains from the Morrison! And that's just the morning! There's also all kinds of info on ankylosaur, ceratopsian, and pachycephalosaur anatomy and evolution in the afternoon, including a major announcement concerning nasal turbinates!!!

Nasal turbinates are a major discovery (well, at least in my opinion) because they are often seen as an indicator of endothermy in animals which have them (although if I'm remembering correctly, ratites and a few other birds lack them). They've so far been said to be absent in dinosaurs, and thus some scientists will often say that this is an indicator that dinosaurs were ectothermic like lizards (however, as they are very fragile and decompose almost as fast as cartilage and other soft tissues, this lack of them in the fossil record may not be a surprise). If there truly are turbinates in Pachycephalosaurs, it would be a major discovery and would suggest that dinosaurs as a whole (or at the very least Pachycephalosaurs) were endothermic, and it would also have implications for the breathing and olfactory abilities in these animals.

So yeah, I'm extremely excited about all this, and do note that this is just the day that I'm visiting. Looking through the whole list, there's a whole lot more presentations on all types of other animals that I'll sadly be missing, but look exciting and interesting nonetheless, and I can't wait to read about them all when they come out in print. The most notable of sessions I'll be missing is the announcement of what seems to be a new species of polar Ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with *shock horror* preserved  integument showing feathers! We're coming closer and closer to that fuzzy Ankylosaur by the day. :P

Anyway, that's all for now. When I get back from SVP I'll make a follow-up post of everyone and everything I saw. Until then, stay sharp! :)