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Scipionyx meeting in Telese, 24-27 March



Title: Scipionyx meeting in Telese, 24-27 March
Hi all,

Just returned from the Scipionyx samniticus meeting in Telese, Italy (between Napoli and Pietraroja). Very worthwile experience, for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, for various reasons Phil Currie and Martin Kundrat couldn't be present. Most participants were from the region or from the University of Naples, and therefore the emphasis was not so much on paleontology, but much more on general geology and legal matters concerning the rather peculiar Italian legislation covering fossil findings. Although the conference was supposed to have been in English, Francisco Ortega (from Las Hoyas fame) and I turned out to be the only two non-Italians and were subsequently condemned to the translation service.
Christiano dal Sasso spoke about the osteology of Scipionyx samniticus and its implications for the animal's phylogenetic placement. Dal Sasso proposed a position somewhere near the base of the Maniraptoriformes. Of course, there are many uncertainties because of the creature's unique features and most of all because of it being a hatchling.
Marco Signore gave a very informative presentation about the importance of Scipionyx for determining the functional morphology of theropods. Especially his treatment of the hepatic piston was very worthwile. Yours truly rambled on the current state of the bird origins debate from a historical perspective, before giving the floor to Francisco Ortega, who showed slides of some of the astonishing finds from  Las Hoyas, of which Concornis is  probably the best-known.
There was a very worthwile presentation by Fabio dalla Vecchio, who filled in for Martin Kundrat 'a l'improviste' but did so with great skill. He discussed several sauropod remains found in the lower cretaceous limestones of Southwest Istria..
Although the conference hit some problems from the organisational point of view (the food was excellent, by the way), it was a great pleasure speaking with people like Signore, Dal Sasso, Ortega and Dalla Vecchio, who, by the way, also showed himself to be a table tennis player of some virtuosity.
The last day was filled by a field excursion to the Pietraroja site which, I'm sad to say, wasn't in such great shape, with horses and accompanying droppings being omnipresent. As I understood it, the site is presently the subject of some obscure power struggle between local authorities, and therefore nothing happens in terms of organised excavation, conservation or preparation of the material.

As far as I know, there are plans to publish the proceedings of the conference, but I haven't got a clue when. I'll keep you posted, though.

Regards,

Ilja Nieuwland
Groningen, NL