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CHATTERJEE'S BIRD BOOK
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"