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Back for a few days and I'm already drowning in emails: plus 
stupid ass windows allow me to delete days worth of messages 
without ever having read them. If I owe you an email and I haven't 
replied, send it again.

I see from an ad in the current _Earth_ (well done Jim K) that 
Chatterjee's book _The Rise of Birds_ (correct title?) is out. This 
must be the same volume I heard about from Larry Witmer - he said it 
was due out in '98 but I was under the impression that it is 
multi-author - - the ad in _Earth_ does not imply this to be the case 
for Chatterjee's book. Has anyone seen it?


The new ish of _Historical Biology_ is out, and several papers are 
worthy of report here: unfortunately I don't have the ish to hand and 
will have to rely on memory. Rieppel has a new paper with a cladistic 
analysis of placodonts - this is interesting but the phylogeny is 
nothing new, with cyamodontoids and placodontoids as sister-taxa. 

Pterosaurs - there are 2 great papers, neither of which I have yet 
read. Unwin and, err, a colleague, re-describe _Zhenjiangopterus_ as 
an azhdarchid, rather than a nyctosaurid as originally described. 
This is not news (as owners of the Dave Peters' cladograms and 
reconstructions will know), but is the first time the whole thing is 
put into technical literature, and is combined with an analysis of 
pterodactyloid phylogeny. Unwin advocates an Azhdarchoidea 
(Tapejaridae + Azhdarchidae) - as many of us now suspect, tapejarids 
are quite probably paraphyletic (_Tupuxuara_ seems closer to 
azhdarchids s.s. than _Tapejara_) - the sister-group to this (I 
think) is a Dsungaripteroidea, and a clade of filter feeders (they 
might be called ctenochasmatoids) are the sister group to 
Dsungaripteroidea + Azhdarchoidea. The Nyctosauridae + 
Ornithocheroidea clade is the sister-group to this complex. The 
Peters' scheme, where azhdarchoids are derived ctenochasmatids, has 
not yet been supported by other pterosaur workers.

This Unwin phylogeny was previously published in one of the Mesozoic 
Terrestrial Ecosystems Symposia. 

The second paper is by S.C. Bennett and is concerned with the 
evolution of pterosaur flight: pterosaur adaptations leads to an 
hypothesis of early pterosaurs being branch leapers. I like this as 
it parallels the work on proto-bats by Speakman (they are visualised 
as inter-branch leapers). However, arboreality in early pterosaurs or 
ancestral pterosaurs is a bit of a problem as pterosaurs lack the 
forward-facing eyes and big brains seen in other out-of-tree fliers. 
I guess I ought to read Bennett's paper some time. Bennett's theory 
goes hand-in -hand with his recent work on the position of pterosaurs 
in the archosauromorph family tree. In _Zool. Jour. Linn. Soc._ last 
year, he removed hindlimb characters from the analysis and found that 
pterosaurs are the sister-group to Proterosuchidae + Erythrosuchidae 
+ Archosauria (s.s.). So if , as 'European school' workers now think 
(and most of them always have), pterosaurs are not ornithodirans, 
they are still archosauromorphs. Happy?

A few other new pterosaur discoveries I'm aware of..
1) a giant dimorphodontid (as predicted in 2000 A.D.;))
2) very special pterosaur that Rupert Wild is working on (I'll not 
reveal any details)
3) Santana dsungaripterid

Incidentally there is a photo of the rather dashing Dr. Unwin in the 
current ish of _Uri Geller's Encounters_ - he is talking about 
'Jurassic Park' scenarios, and says that there is a load of secret 
data which will allow dinosaur regeneration round about 2000.
Some people will say anything to get media coverage. BTW, I was 
mentioned in the previous issue.. something about luminous frogs.

Still can't find the spellchecker.

"This ain't like dusting crops boy"