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Showing posts from September, 2009

SVP 2009 Bristol, and the Romer Prize Session

Despite the complaints that I've heard about the hills and distances from one session to another (come on, it was only a few minutes by foot!), SVP this year was pretty good, in my opinion anyway. I noticed some really good talks with some impressive analytical methods, some really interesting posters, and I also chatted with some intelligent and enthusiastic people. Of particular interest for me was the Romer Prize Session - not only because I was presenting, but more because Romer Session talks were almost always of high quality research, self-contained and conclusive (unlike some "on-going research", a new locality, or some more scrappy fossils...). Romer talks tend to be more analytically/numerically oriented so there are some stats and numbers to support certain ideas and claims. There were two talks in particular that I liked, one by my very good friend Tai Kubo (Evolution of limb posture in terrestrial tetrapods inferred from Permian and Triassic trackways), and

Updates ... and SVP Romer Prize

I've just noticed that it's been about four months since I posted my last blog entry...It is rather scary how time seems to fly even when you are not necessarily having fun... Anyway, I thought I might as well advertise this. In the upcoming SVP at Bristol, I shall be giving a talk in the Romer Session: Myology and functional morphology of biting in avian and non-avian dinosaurs. It's mostly about non-avian theropods now but I have a couple of birds in there for comparison; I don't know now why I emphasised birds in the title, I could have just said dinosaurs... Perhaps it's because I made much of my myological observations in birds (but also a few crocs). I shan't write too much about it here, but the work is basically a suped-up version of my Masters thesis from way back, almost six years now... I had to come up with a way to rescue the concept if not the work, after I'd realised I had some fatal flaws in the basic assumptions of the calculations in my Ma

Phylogenetic constraint

My coauthors and myself recently submitted a manuscript in which we deal a little with phylogenetic constraint. In the process, I came across something interesting and I thought it would be worthwhile to share it here. Phylogenetic constraint is a concept of evolutionary biology that has had quite a lot of discussion. Mary McKitrick (1993) has a great way of introducing the concept of phylogenetic constraint: "in some sense, all evolutionary studies implicate phylogenetic constraint, and reviewing the topic is like trying to catch a greased pig." How eloquently put. It means everyone loves talking about phylogenetic constraint but it just goes all over the place and there is no real consensus on what phylogenetic constraint is. So despite all this widely held discussion, phylogenetic constraint remains one of the most difficult and least understood subjects, and possibly one that is actually ill defined as well. The problem is, when we talk about phylogenetic constraint, w