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A trip to Bambiraptor's thicket
To start with, the Florida Symposium on Dinosaur Bird Evolution - Raptors,
Rexes, Fuzz, & Feathers was fun. The organizers went all out to make sure
that the participants had a good time and that the event ran smoothly. There
glitches, but overall I think that most of the attendees had a very enjoyable
more days in Fort Lauderdale, seeing and hearing and talking about dinosaurs.
I arrived too late to go on the Alligator Safari, but those I talked to said
was a lively trip. The only negative that I heard was that one of the events
of the day was a man wrestling alligators. That did not go over well with the
group of naturalists and scientists.
The dino list was represented by quite a few people, including Ralph Chapman,
Ralph Miller, Luis Rey, Steve Gatesy, Larry Witmer, Art Andersen, Greg Paul,
Jennifer Kane, Tracy Ford, Dick Peirce, Alan Coulson and Alan Brush. A
couple of other list members have also posted that they attended, although
I unfortunately did not get to meet them.
The talks were 20 minutes long and computered timed, which generally
sped things up with an insistent beeping. Another nice touch was classroom
style seating in the lecture room, and that was much more comfortable than
the usual auditorium seating. Martin Shugar, Director of the Florida
Institute of Paleontology, opened the program with welcoming remarks on
and the future of the museum. He introduced John Ostrom, who gave a synopsis
of how he got into paleontology (he had been a pre-med student). Larry
Witmer followed with thoughts on the placement of the nares in dinosaurs, and
traditional placement in restorations may not be correct. His slides
featured illustrations by Michael Skrepnick.
Some new information from Gerald Grellet-Tinner on dinosaur egg shells
included the finding of shells which have been identified as belonging to
Deinonychus. Alan Coulson gave Dale Russell's speech, as Dale had to
attend the opening of his new museum in Raleigh the same weekend.
I was sitting next to Luis Rey during the talk, and Dale had used several
of Luis' paintings to illustrate his points. There couldn't have been higher
praise than that for Luis' work.
Peter Wellnhofer showed pictures of the Munich specimen of Archaeopteryx
and mentioned the finding of the skull of a new theropod, which may be the
direct ancestor of Compsognathus.
Brian Cooley commented in his speech about the conception and making
of the Bambiraptor model that people were always asking him if it was
"cute," and he always said no. He doesn't envision Bambiraptor as
having been very cuddly at all, and his model shows a rather mangy
and short-feathered dino-bird. Brian's wife Mary Ann Wilson and their
two really lovely daughters were also at the conference.
Steve Gatesy ended the talks for Friday with an enthralling overlaid
x-ray/animation/computer model/bird-in-a-wind-tunnel illustrating the
shoulder motion during a bird's flight stroke.
Friday evening was the dinner/auction for attendees and paying guests.
The alligator from Thursday made another appearance in the waiting area
outside of the ballroom. Poor thing had its jaws duct-taped shut, and the
gentleman who had been alligator wrestling the day before was keeping
him and the crowd safe. Everyone stood at a respectful distance, but I
went up and asked if I could pet the alligator. I did, but was also able to
whisper to him, "Shhh, Al, we're going over the wall at midnight."
The dinner and auction were pleasant, with speeches and awards being
given out and music playing for dancing, although the jungle drums at the
beginning were _way_ too loud. Day 1 ended with visions of feathers and
dinosaurs and how they may have looked millions of years ago, as best we
can scientifically imagine today.