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Re: SVP 2004 (Saturday, and the PARTY)

  This is my last summary of SVP 2004, which as I finally have a day off
and don't feel like I'm going to fall asleep at the keyboard, I figured I
should get to now.

  As I mentioned before, SVP is more than just the talks (technical and
symposium sessions) and poster sessions, it's all the people. So there
were several additional groups and sessions that were available at SVP
that are held outside the normal course of meeting regalia.

  On Thursday, the Student Reprint Session was held in the deepest depths
of the Adam's Mark (and maybe no mean feat to find it ...), and included
roundtables on a variety of topics (some groups co-opted a table to make
their own "table talk") of which I attended the grad-school application
table with Julia Clarke [figuring it's the best way to get information on
getting into undergrad school, better late than never], and everyone had
nothing but good advice to give, so I felt less than embarassed because of

  On Friday, there was the famous SVP Auction, an official function like
the Student Reprint and Roundtable Session, in which hundreds of us
eager-eyed, hungry, and greedy folks milled around trying to find that
perfect item (or groups of items) from which to gloat over others for
having gotten anything. Yeah, I didn't get anything ;). So without further
ado, the presenters of the Auction decided to make due their promise to
show something different by showing up as ... superheroes! Brett
Breithaupt showed up as Batman, and Ralph Chapman as Hellboy, among
others, and they conducted the live auction amazingly well, with the help
of a number of "villainous" sidekicks (or undergrads, whatever term fits
best), including a fully-autographed volume of _the Dinosauria, Second
endition_ won by Texan Jeri Rodgers, who is working on the _os cardis_/_os
cardium_/_os cordis_, including tracking potential phylogenetic utility of
the morphological variation in this late-ontogenetic structure. I think
most people left the auction feeling better for it, as it was a very fun

  I feel obliged to also note that on Thursday, held opposite the Student
Reprint Session, was the Gay & Lesbian Paleontologist get-together, and I
should also note that given the constituency of SVP as mostly scientists
and scientifically-minded people, no one really cares if you're gay or
lesbian at SVP, and people of all groups tend to get along with one
another ... generally in the pursuit of science.

  On to the talks.

  Okay, so since my alarm clock didn't go off, I got up and missed the
whole morning session with the exception of the last two or so talks. But
I will recap what I feel was particularly interesting (I had marks
indicating which talks I was interested in attending):

  Steve Brusatte and Paul Sereno presented (actually, Steve did the
presenting) on a database system called taxonsearch, which should be
available early next year at www.taxonsearch.com, along with Paul's own
www.charactersearch.com, which I commented about before. These appear to
be excellent tools for searching and limiting overlap of taxonomy,
referencing nomenclature, characters, definitions of species, clade
definitions applied to names and by whom, and so forth, so it effectively
serves the function that is being attempted by the PhyloCode in a single
database, but works within the current taxonomic system.

  Mark Goodwin, Matt Colbert and Tim Rowe presented on ontogenetic
assesment of *Ornatotholus* and *Stegoceras* using CT-scanning and 3D
imaging, finding the former a synonym and juvenile of the latter.

  Jonathon Wagner presented, on VERY little sleep, the evolution,
ontogenetic development, and hard-tissue homologies involved in the
hadrosaurid cranial crests, a structural system that recapitulates the
work of older, if slightly ignored, workers in favor of novel anatomy
development every time a lambeosaurine grew up, as seems to have become
the "norm" today.

  Tobin Hieronymus and Larry Witmer presented on the homologies of horns
in mammals, to core-based or boss-based as in giraffes and rhinos, and how
the hard-tissue (bone) and the soft-tissue (keratin, skin) interact,
suggesting comparative methods for assessing the same reconstructions in
the horns and rugosities of non-avian dinosaurs (of interest in
reconstructing ceratopsian horns, ankylosaur armor, various theropod head
ornamentation/rugosities, etc.) as well as potential work on restoring the
beaks of ornithischians.

  Doug Wolfe, Steve Beekman, Dan McGuiness, Tom Robira, and Bob Denton
presented on the *Zuniceratops* bone bed taphonomy, including
*Nothronyychus* and several carbonized logs (it was a forest, as shown on
_Dinosaur Planet_), which showed possible current-based orientations in
the Moreno Hill Formation.

  Martin Sander, Thomas Laven, Octavio Mateus, and Niels Knötschke
presented on the beautiful little Kimmeridgian dwarf brachiosaurid from
Oker (it's really small), which compares well ontogenetically with
material from the Morrison and Tendaguru brachiosaurs.

  Xu Xing, Zhou Zhonghe, Zhang Fucheng, Wang Xiaolin and Kwang Xuewen
presented on defining the posture and modus of hindwings since Xu et al.'s
paper on *Microraptor gui,* allowing limited femoral eversion laterally,
as well as limited lateral splay. I did not get to talk to him about this
since when I did talk to Xu Saturday, it was largely about other things
than limb orientation in microraptorians, but from what I understand, he
did not cover all his bases, and it will prove interesting fodder when he
and his coworkers publish on it.

  Matt Lamanna, Ruben Martinez, Marcelo Luna, Gabriel Casal, Lucio Ibiricu
and Edmundo Ivany presented on new material of *Megaraptor,* from the
Cenomanian-Turonian of Chubut Province, Argentina, from the lower Bajo
Barreal Fm., which recapitulates what was presented by Matt in his thesis:
some arm material, manual phalanges and claws, portions of the vertebral
column, and lower limb elements including several specimens of imperfect
but relatively complete tibiae. This material does not significantly
overlap with Novas' new material, nor does it overlap much with the
holotype, allowing new information to be gleaned that adds to it's
usefulness systematically.

  Ryan Carney and Alan Gishlick presented on means of determining missing
cartilage in the forelimb of *Deinonychus,* by assessing the association
of range of motion, bony anatomy, and cartilaginous anatomy with one
another from alligator and pigeon arms, and mapping this digitally, then
comparing to *Deinonychus.* So yes, articular cartilage is important to
use to constrain range of motion, since purely bony anatomy
over-accentuates range of motion than cartilage permits.

  Phil Senter presented on something I should have done a long time ago:
the humerus of *Mononykus* orients laterally somewhat, having an everted
position, that effectively orients the manus volarly ventrally, but at
least he quantified his model better than I did, using relative glenoid
orientation and such to value this model that I did strictly from the
photos available. The arm range of motion at the elbow is small: despite
condylar anatomy of the distal humerus, the ulna restricts the range it
can move, and the locked radius does this further, also limiting any
pronation of the wrist; what the olecranon does, for instance in moles, is
to articulate muscles and tendons to the main trunk and shoulder that are
used to pull the arm back, and the entepicondyle of the medial distal
humerus likely employed a strong tendon that articulated with the ventral
manus as it does in other specialized burrowing mammals. Essentially, as
stated a few years back by Nick Longrich, the arms of mononykes were those
of moles, adapted for tearing open holes into the earth (the next mononyke
named should bear an allusion to either Set or aardvarks, it would just
fit so well), but their position and the neck and legs prevented the
animal from being a burrower, per se. This is one of the talks I really
wanted to attend....

  Tom Holtz presented on guild structure in theropods: you have what has
been described as a taxonomic reduction in the Late Cretaceous of
theropods in some size ranges, but this seems to have actually been
adapted by ontogenetic variability in large theropods, filling in the
middle-sized theropod range, and thus potentially taking advantage of prey
of all size-ranges available. There was nothing too small or too big that
a *Tyrannosaurus rex* could not process, essentially, dependant only on
it's phase of life. Segregation of earlier theropods into large and medium
and small sizes were replaced by an absence of medium-sized taxa, replaced
by the subadult tyrannosaurs apparently. Another aspect I know Tom is
working on and I think may have mentioned is that there are ways and means
to this guild structure, is that different theropods take prey
differently, and this has been mentioned at some length by others, in that
tyrannosaurs were basically running skulls, while allosaurs had grappler's
arms with slicing jaws, so that during the Cenomanian and therabouts,
allosaurs were slicing up and grappling prey, along with spinosaurs' giant
arms, while tyrannosaurs would later emphasize the head-first guild,
leaving the grappling of prey guild absent. Is it possible segnosaurs may
have filled this vacuum at some point in Asia, but to leave it empty in

  It was at this point I woke up, during David Baier's talk on alligator
arm kinematics and their archosaurian application, when I got to the
meeting, Ken Dial had finished his WAIR presentation, and Steve Gatesy Ken
Dial, and Farrish Jenkins were wrapping up their discussion of the _in
vivo_ skeletal flight mechanics of birds. Needless to say, I decided to
skip the Kappelman/Maga/Ryan talk on bipedalism in birds and the
Balanoff/Rowe talk on *Aepyornis* cranial ontogeny. I had to check out of
my hotel and find a place for my stuff, then get lunch.

  After all this, of course, it was full tilt into the final session of
SVP. I was going to switch back and forth between the Martin/O'Keefe
moderated tech session, mostly on general diapsids, and the
mosasaur/pterosaur/dinosaur session held a few hundred feet away
(moderated by Sato & Wheeler), but ended up getting caught up in the
latter due to the time constraint in beginning and ending of talks.

  I did catch Thomas Martin and Alexander "Sasha" Averianov's presentation
of Kyrgyzstan mid-Jurassic vertebrates, but forgot the details for the
most part since I was flustered over the wake-up and everything. Sorry.

  I got to the other session at the beginning of Anne Schulp's talk on
*Carinodens* and how he modelled the jaw action and force requirements
with a lever system and casts of the jaw fragments, then "fed" it various
sealife to see how effective the rear jaws were, and lets just say that
some foods were better handled than others, and mollusks were not among
the handled part. *Globidens* is next.

  Sato Tomaki, Dave Eberth, Elizabeth Nicholls, and Mahito Manabe were
next, and it was in this presentation that special rememberance to Betty
Nicholls was made as this work involved her own study. (Sato was also her
student.) Sato presented what is essentially work on "guild-separation" in
plesiosaurs in the Dinosaur Park Formation (riverine, lacustrine, and
paralic sediments are the only available habitats for plesiosaurs) and the
overlying Bearpaw Shale (marine), in which plesiosaurs dominate the lower
(rather than the upper) sediments, in seeming contradiction of finding
more marine forms of plesiosaurs given the volume of water. Competitive
separation, possibily?

  People may recall the discussion on Frank Sanders, Ken Carpenter, Brian
& Julia Reed's study of modes and processes in plesiosaur swimming styles,
so let me add in one some stuff that has not been mentioned: range of
motion by direct manipulation and logical inference shows some arm
positions were NOT possible, and that range of motion was emphasized
dorsoventrally or essentially vertical, in a tight ovate kinematic space.
It is possible to model this singularly and in concert with paired
elements, and this was done in water tanks in which specimens (call them
that, at least) modelled and reported effective strain, ease, and
rotational issues with regards to various "oar movement styles," including
the paddling, sculling, "flying" and the final vertical sculling styles,
with favoritism to the latter. The final paper on this is in prep, but I
would like to emphasize from witnessing the various data presented, I am
fairly confident the authors thought of most of the paradigms that might
influence the results.

  S. Christopher Bennett presented on a third specimen of *Scaphognathus*
that allows identification of various conflicted topics of cranial and
shoulder anatomy, so this will be nice when presented. If you're wondering
why I'm not discussing this in more detail, it's because there is a lot
there that 1) may serve better if Chris mentions it instead or 2) I am not
sure how proprietary the discussed material is held to be, so will not
risk the wrath of Bennett and step on his toes.

  I skipped a bunch of talks for food and catching up with Anne Schulp on
his topics and relationship of the study to *Globidens,* and to get some
food (being hypoglyceimic with a fast metabolism SUCKS).

  At the same time as these talks, "prolacertiforms" were being discussed
in the Martin/O'Keefe session, and I figured I'd not intrude there for the
sake of already having missed the most of them. They included
Ottman-Quesada on *Protorosaurus*'s systematic position: it was at the
base of a paraphyletic Prolacertiformes. Fraser, Nosotti and Rieppel
assessed two species of *Tanystropheus,* and Casey, Kowalewski and Fraser
discussed the taphonomy of *Tanytrachelos.* Modesto talked about the skull
of *Mesosaurus* and it's phylogenetic informativeness (basal
"Parareptilia" including millerettids, pariesaurs, procolophonids, etc.),
along with suggesting the long teeth were not for filter-feeting, but for
prey capture in larger forms, and this has implications for aspect of
tooth-anatomy in *Geosaurus,* as well as the ctenochasmatid pterosaurs
(though *Pterodaustro* still appears to be a filter-feeder). Then I got
back to the other session....

  Andrew Milner, Martin Lockley, Jim Kirkland, Paul Bybee, and Debra
Mickelson presented on taphonomy and track associations in the St. George
Tracksite megatracksite, taking a moment to thank those of us that send in
petitions to save this sie from destruction from urban expansion (and
won).  Sitting tracks, walking, swiming tracks showing only sculling claw
prints, and skin impressions, show remarkable and extremely valuable
variation that serves to make this site as valuable as the developers
didn't think it was worth waiting for study off. Cast impressions were
made of virtually the entire surface.

  Frederico Agnolin, Sebastian Apestegúia, and Pablio Chiarelli were set
to present on identifying the "pedal" ungual of *Noasaurus* as a manual
claw (as also noted by Matt Caranno a few days back), but the talk was
cancelled. Previously, Sebastian was set to present on *Bonitasaura,*
which Pete Makovicky ended up subbing for.

  Bob Denton, Sterling Nesbitt, Doug Wolfe, and Tom Holtz presented on the
Zuni coelurosaur, demonstrating some interesting details of the original
specimen and another one discovered by Sterling that have a lot to say for
its phylogenetic informativeness, but I will hold off on noting these for

  Minjin Bolortsegtseg, Guillermo Rougier, Chuluun Minjin, and Jonathon
Geisler presented on a gobiconodont mammal jaw that is essentially the
best and most complete specimen from Oshih, the same locality that yielded
*Sinornithoides youngi,* and likely is a species of *Gobiconodon* itself.

  This was the last talk I attended, that day, and chose to spend the next
hour or so talking to various folk while the SVP banquet and awards dinner
was prepared for us.

  I covered the excellent banquet elsewhere, but afterwards ... it really
was a party, with dancing drunk people, conversation with all sorts of
people. It seems at some point in the recent past a tradition had begun to
switch name badges around as the function ended, and I recall in '99's
SVP, this seemed to be less extreme than in '04, since I only recall
friends and occassionally couples switching names: Jim Clark and Cathy
Forster wore each others' badges, for example, as husband and wife. In the
end, I came out with both Thomas Martin's name tag (by proxy) and Mike
Skrepnick's, which I had the honor of getting from him directly. I decided
this was one name tag I would NOT trade :)

  I did end up talking with Kris Kripchak and his lovely wife at the
after-hours party, and for those concerned, no we did not fight. That,
however, is something I admit to worrying about, with reception of our
public "discussions," I simply do not know people in person through online
personae, and there is a big difference.

  With people rushing to actually finally get some sleep after all the
partying and not, well, sleeping of the previous week, the after-hours was
THE end of events for most. Since I did not have a hotel room to stay in,
I stayed up that night. I did manage to cajole a late dinner/early
breakfast around 3-4pm with Jim Kirkland, Matt Lamanna, and the twins
Marina and Celina Suarez, the latter two working on the geology of the
Crystal Geyser Quarry, and that proved both fruitful and interesting,
since these and about 20 others were having a party, and we were all
hungry without afterhours food to eat and no desire to go to bed yet :).

  Thus, as I stayed up to write and watch notables leave for home the next
morning, my SVP experience came to a close. I thank everyone who was
gracious to me, and most especially Mike Habib, John Conway, Chris Glen,
the accomodating professionalism of Chris Bennett and the lovely drinking
companions in Steve Wroe (Aussies love "water" (aka, beer)) and Hall Train
(visit www.halltrainstudios.com, would ya?), Tom Carr (who has an
excellent handshake!), Eric Snively, a variety of the University of
Austin/Texas Memorial Museum folks along with Jon Wagner and Jeri Rodgers
herself, Steve Brusatte, Pete Buchholz, Mike Keesey, conversationally
humerous Jim Kirkland, helpful Ken Carpenter,  Matt Lamanna, Mike
Skrepnick, Laura Vietti and Scott Hartman, and any others I may have
forgotten you may shoot me next SVP :)


Jaime A. Headden

  Little steps are often the hardest to take.  We are too used to making leaps 
in the face of adversity, that a simple skip is so hard to do.  We should all 
learn to walk soft, walk small, see the world around us rather than zoom by it.

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

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