Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

Aside from the rule of thumb that dinosaur posts attract more hits than non-dinosaur posts, I can't say that I can really predict what people will end up reading. I threw together "When ammonites got bored" at the last minute, knowing I was going on a trip, and it did surprisingly well. "An unfortunate snake" came together in about an hour, unpremeditated (inspired by a conversation with the other Science Museum prep lab volunteers the Tuesday before). I figured readership would be very light due to the holidays, but if I buy the in-house Blogger stats, it's the most-viewed new post since March, and perhaps earlier (for several months in late 2016 and early 2017, there was this weird thing going on where Blogger was counting 30 spurious hits every three hours). Meanwhile, I put a lot of time into "The News in Hadrosaur Dietary Paleobiology" and "Borealopelta", and the reactions were unspectacular compared to other dinosaur posts. Go figure.

Since the annual Compact Thescelosaurus post, nine species have been added and three more have been reinstated. 37 species have been added this year, although a few are technically 2018 names available online early. (It all comes out in the wash, because a few names added in 2016 are technically 2017 names.) Next year's addition is planned to be some subset of Sauropterygia. I've got most of Plesiosauria ready to go behind the scenes but I haven't decided about adding the various more basal groups.

Now, the important part: how did I do on my predictions?

Basal dinosaurs and dinosaur cousins: no points there. The big news of the year in this part of the tree was the resurrection of Ornithoscelida as a viable hypothesis. Other points of contention have been the placements of Chilesaurus and Pisanosaurus. Side note: given the puny early record of ornithischians and the recent attribution of the Upper Triassic ichnogenus Atreipus to silesaurids, what are the odds of Anomoepus being tracks of heretofore-unrecognized Lower Jurassic silesaurids?

Non-coelurosaurian theropods: Chenanisaurus barbaricus is a large abelisaurid, not a moderately sized abelisaurid, but close enough. As far as Allosaurus paleobiology, here's one on the caudofemoralis longus muscle. I did reasonably well.

Coelurosaurians: Yixian dromaeosaurid? Zhongjianosaurus yangi. A new YANO? Corythoraptor jacobsi. Some new kind of dromie/trudy/archie thing, perhaps from the Tiaojishan Formation? Serikornis sungei. A new North American tyrannosaur? Daspletosaurus horneri. A new therizinosaur from outside of Asia and North America, for bonus points? Nope, that was just a bit too much. Still, 4-for-4 on the main set is outstanding.

"Prosauropoda": We do get "one new taxon" in Xingxiulong chengi. Nothing much on the Massospondylus/Plateosaurus paleobiology fronts, though. Half credit.

Sauropoda: For titanosaurs, we picked up Choconosaurus baileywillisi, Patagotitan mayorum, Shingopana sungwensis, Tengrisaurus starkovi, Triunfosaurus leonardii (later moved down to Somphospondyli), and Zhuchengtitan zangjiazhuangensis. Numbers-wise, I cleared the "three or four" bar, but I didn't quite score on the aside about being based on a few vertebrae from South America. Predicting a few titanosaurs is a pretty cheap prediction, so half credit.

Thyreophora: A new Asian ankylosaurid? Nope. The only new ankylosaurid this year was Zuul from North America. A new North American nodosaurid? Nailed this one (thanks, Borealopelta). Half credit.

Marginocephalia: A new ceratopsid that caused dissension in the ranks? Yehuecauhceratops mudei. I'm glad this one fit the prediction so well, because I struck out on the other two. There were no pachycephalosaurian hijinks, and surprisingly no basal ceratopsians either. A third of a point.

Ornithopoda: Just like the basal ceratopsians, I got skunked on the "iguanodonts between Camptosaurus and Hadrosauridae". I somehow picked them both the year they decided to take a holiday. I should have picked on troodontids. No credit.

Bolder predictions:
1) A new giant sauropod: Nailed that one with Patagotitan
2) A new track site discovery of unusual significance: Although there were a number of track site papers this year, I don't know if there was the one "grabber" that would work for this prediction. If I'd said ichnofossils in general, the crustaceans-in-herbivore-coprolites could have fit.
3) The addition of a new nation to the list of countries that have produced named non-avian dinosaurs: Nope
4) Something unexpected out of a heavily studied formation: I think Halszkaraptor counts for this one, no? No bonus points, though. (side note: maybe it's because I spend a lot of time with invertebrates, but I didn't find Halszkaraptor all that unusual. A small theropod that can operate in water seems like a perfectly reasonable thing.)
5) Something from "Coming Attractions": We got Borealopelta for the "Suncor ankylosaur", Daspletosaurus horneri, and Vouivria damparisensis for "French Bothrispondylus madagascariensis", but not the "Saints and Sinners theropod" or the Cedar Mountain iguanodont, so just partial credit.

I score the total as 6 and a third out of 13 (8 group predictions and 5 bolder predictions), so not quite 50%

Is that Diplodocus smirking at me?

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