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MAASTRICHT CONFERENCE PT. 2
Some of you may be wondering exactly what palaleontology is. Well,
it's new science that I've just invented. No, in actual fact it was a
spelling mistake and the conference was actually called the THIRD
EUROPEAN WORKSHOP ON VERTEBRATE PALAEONTOLOGY.
Here are more of the edited highlights..
M. Casonovas-Cladellas and colleagues were supposed to be talking
about hadrosaurid diversity in southwestern Europe. Their abstract
mentions _Rhabdodon_, _Pararhabdodon_, _Orthomerus_ and
_Telmatosaurus_ (which was not present on the Iberian Peninsula).
Unfortunately this talk doesn't seem to have happened. Shame because
they refer to new skull material of _Pararhabdodon_ which proves that
it is a hadrosaurid, and not a basal iguanodontian as originally
described. And it's a lambeosaurine!!
Perhaps the best talk was Mark Goodwin's on UCMP 15442, a baby
_Triceratops_ skull discovered by Garbani in the Hell Creek Fm,
Montana. It's the smallest ceratopid skull yet found, and has huge
orbits and a frill about the same length as the face. Parietal and
squamosal borders are strongly scalloped and Mark had a lot to say
about the ontogeny of 'epocippitals': a complex story that I can't do
justice here. He bought along a cast of the skull (much of the face
There were three pterosaur talks. Andre Veldmeijer spoke about the
Leiden specimen of _Coloborhynchus_ and argued that _Tropeognathus_
and _Criorhynchus_ can be sunk into this genus. I do not agree (it's
more complicated than that), but I can see that the taxonomic
situation with _Anhanguera_, _Tropeognathus_,
Criorhynchus_,_Coloborhynchus_ and perhaps _Arthurdactylus_ really is
a mess. Lorna Steel reviewed pterosaur head crests and the
functions that have been proposed for them. Basically they
are so varied that she concluded (1) pterosaur head crests vary a
great deal and (2) they probably had different functions.
David Martill gave a talk on a smallish pterosaur from the Santana,
represented only by a wing. It has some azhdarchid characters (e.g.
T-shaped cross section of wing phalanges) and thus might be one - if
so it is the earliest (Santana Fm is probably Aptian) and also the
first from the Southern Hemisphere. So.. did azhdarchids originate in
the Southern Hemisphere?
You can't go to Maastricht and not see mosasaur fossils. Their museum
has some fantastic ones, including a replica of the original
_Mosasaurus hoffmanni_ jaws and a full-size 3-D swimming skeleton of
the whole thing.
In the talks, Eric Mulder showed that _M. hoffmanni_ Mantell 1829
probably is the same as _M. maximus_ Cope 1869. Lingham-Soliar's
arguments to the contrary were shown to be erroneous. Eric also
talked about thoracosaurine crocs and turtles common to both the
Maastrichtian of New Jersey (USA) and Europe.
Natalie Bardet was talking about the history of _M. hoffmanni_ -
unfortunately I missed this as I had to leave early. I also missed
Ella Hoch's talk on whale evolution: shame as this is one of my
favourite subjects. Stephane Hua presented a poster about
dyrosaurids, a group of crocs that survived from the Cretaceous into
the Eocene. I do not agree with her that the evolution of
archaeocetes in the Eocene resulted in dyrosaurid extinction.
Don't worry, I'll keep it brief. Pascal Godefroit spoke about teeny
tiny dwarf traversodonts known from the Late Triassic of Lorraine and
Luxembourg. Basically, traversodonts started out small and some got
big. Some became huge (he showed a slide of a S. American one with a
skull about 30 cm long), other stayed tiny - then, bang, mass
extinction and only the tiny ones are left. These compete with
mammals and are not lucky enough to get a break.
Jan van der Made talked about the evolution of suoids, and then again
on big-antlered cervids like _Eucladoceros_. Hooray for Mauricio
Anton paintings! Suoids originated in Asia, but when they got into
Africa (during the 'Proboscidea Event') things get really complicated
because thereafter they speciate massively and hop back and forth all
the time. Jan used the name Dicotylidae for peccaries - we usually
see Tayassuidae in most texts but, as I suspected, he said
Dicotylidae has priority.
Briefly (because my train is due in 10 minutes), Igor Novikov
reported new Mesozoic Russian fossil sites. Peski, a Bathonian site
near Moscow, yielded a dromaeosaurid tooth. Shestakovo in South
Siberia, possibly Berriasian, yielded psittacosaurs, troodontids and
titanosaurids and two protosuchians - _Sichuanosuchus_ and a new
genus. This assemblage is apparently the 'most ancient amongst
_Psittacosaurus_ faunas known to date'.
Eric Buffetaut presented new stuff from the Khorat Plateau,
northeastern Thailand. The Sao Khua Fm, previously argued to be
latest Jurassic, is now thought to be Early Cretaceous. This would
mean no Jurassic dinosaurs from Thailand, but they have now got the
Phu Kradung Fm, which they do think is Jurassic. Yields indeterminate
theropods, possible euhelopodids (spoon-shaped teeth), a STEGOSAUR
and a little ornithopod maybe like _Yandusaurus_. For some reason
Buffetaut et al. are saying that _Phuwiangosaurus_ is a 'probable
nemegtosaurid'. By this time in the conference I felt I'd asked
enough questions and didn't query this. Dr. Buffetaut also showed a
slide of some bizarre unidentified ?archosaur snout which had
slightly spatulate teeth with carinae, no serrations, and marked wear
facets. Looked like nothing else ever seen: heterodontosaurid and
aberrant theropod were suggested as identities.
And finally, Dan Grigorescu spoke about new work he and colleagues
have done on the microvertebrate fauna in the late Maastrichtian
sites of the Hateg Basin. Discoglossid frogs turn out to be quite
abundant, and there are also albanerpetontids, little lizards,
MTBs, crocs and various fishy things like sturgeons and characids.
Dinosaurs are represented by teeth of various indeterminate
theropods, titanosaurids, iguanodontids (?? in the late
Maastrichtian??) and hypsilophodonts, plus lots of eggshell bits at
some of the localities. These indicate hadrosaurid nesting colonies.
Right, tha--tha-tha-that's all folks! I missed my train.
"An uninformed opinion is a dangerous thing"