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New paper: media response

I was originally going to post more on the science in my new paper on theropods, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to present my observations on the media response to my paper (or whatever media coverage there was).

The Proceedings of the Royal Society releases their own press materials before the official online release, the abstract for which, I actually wrote myself (200 words) when I submitted the final corrected version of the manuscript. Following the said press release (but before the online release) I got contacted by two journalists, one for Discovery News and another for Australia's ABC News. I was quite impressed by both journalists' questions; they were very good questions. So I did my best to answer as much as I can in the limited time I had (I was in London visiting the Natural History Museum).

The resulting articles that came out on the day of the online release of the paper were quite good. I was pleasantly surprised. If you haven't already, you should have a look at both articles (Discovery News and ABC News). They are quite accurate in the science reporting.

However, having said that, there were a couple of things that amused me; like the phrase 'ripping the heads off of prey'. But annoyingly (though very mildly), I am misquoted in one to have claimed Velociraptor is an ostrich dinosaur. I was actually listing theropod groups and Velociraptor just followed ostrich dinosaurs, separated by a comma. And I don't particularly understand the relevance of mentioning the bite force of Carcharodon megalodon.

All other news stories following these two were just basically copy-paste jobs, with a few minor changes; like me apparently being a British palaeontologist...

There were a few nice blog pieces on this too (here, here and here). So thanks to those bloggers that picked up and commented on my study.

I must say, I was a bit disappointed in the somewhat pervasive phrasing 'unsurprisingly' or 'confirms what palaeontologists have already suspected'; this makes it look like my study was a waste of funding (BTW if you do think this, then you are so wrong about funding...or pretty much a lack thereof). But more importantly, just because everyone thought so, doesn't mean you shouldn't test it. In fact, this type of analysis has never been done before; that's why Proc B thought it was worth their page space. Furthermore, Allosaurus has previously been considered to have weak muscle driven bites, so unique biting strategies have been suggested (Bakker, 1998; Rayfield et al., 2001; Anton et al., 2003), but my results would indicate that Allosaurus and other allosaurs actually had very efficient biting. Of course, the sizes of the jaw adductors are ignored in my study but the it remains that allosaurs are not inefficient biters. One of the other surprises I had was the tendency in allosaurs (especially in the carcharodontosaurs) to have extremely high-efficiency biting at the back of the toothrow. Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus have always been compared to Tyrannosaurus and people commonly said, 'well Giganotosaurus may have been bigger but T. rex would have ripped its head off!'. Now my study confirms that Tyrannosaurus is a high-efficiency biter but it also shows that carcharodontosaurs had higher efficiency at the back of the tooth row than Tyrannosaurus. That's kind of contrary to what a lot of people have suggested in the past; for instance, Carcharodontosaurus doesn't have strong enough dentition for powerful biting (don't ask me for the source because I don't know; it's one of those 'what palaeontologists have long suspected' type statements that I really don't know where it originated). So personally, I think we should be putting more focus on carcharodontosaur functional morphology.

Anyway, enough of the rant, and thanks to the journalists at Discovery News and ABC News for their quality reporting and also to all that blogged about it!!!

Anton., M., Sanchez, I.M., Salesa, M.J., & Turner, A. 2003. The muscle-powered bite of Allosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda): an interpretation of cranio-dental morphology. Estudios Geologicos 59: 313-323.
Bakker, R.T. 1998. Brontosaur killers: Late Jurassic allosaurids as sabre-tooth cat analogues. Gaia 15: 145-158.
Rayfield, E.J., Norman, D.B., et al. 2001. Cranial design and function in a large theropod dinosaur. Nature 409: 1033-1037.


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