Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crazyass pterosaurs and massive, shameless self-promotion

It's been a good while since I've posted anything here at Pterosaur.Net, and with good reason: a fair number of little projects, writing a book, moving house and the continued search for employment have kept me pretty busy for the last few months. One little project that I thought would be of interest to Pterosaur.Net readers, however, is my own website, the ego-trip/interactive CV/desperate bid for work that is

I've never designed a website before, resulting in a pretty simple design but, happily, I reckon it's fairly easy to read and navigate. I'll wager that Pterosaur.Net readers will find the full details of my upcoming Princeton University Press book, simply called (for the time being, anyway), Pterosaurs of most interest: you can find a full contents listing, sample imagery and an entire sample chapter, that dedicated to the recently-discovered weirdo pterosaurs from China, the boreopterids. Long term denizens of this blog may remember that Dave Hone mentioned Zhenyuanopterus, a recently discovered boreopterid, on these pages in March of 2010, and you can see a couple of the same critters lazily decorating the top of this post. They're crazy looking animals, bearing tiny, piggy-little eyes and buttloads of needle-like teeth that look useless for anything but straining pasta. But what sort of pterosaurs are they? How many boreopterids are there? Where and how did they live? Point your browser here to find out. (Snazzy logo shown below)

Other pages of note include new illustrations, technical drawings and details of the 2010 London Royal Society/University of Portsmouth pterosaur exhibition and other sculptures. Oh, and a full list of my technical publications, including links and downloadable pdfs, can be found here. Please take a look and, by all means, drop me a line if you have any comments (especially if you have any functionality issues: I'm sure there's some kinks to work out. The same goes for typos I may have missed, for that matter).

No promises to post anything here anytime soon, I'm afraid: I'm moving house in the coming weeks and am quite desperate to get this book of mine finished, so I simply won't have the time. I genuinely don't know how regular bloggers manage to keep up their output: they must never sleep. Or eat. Or get distracted for long periods in the shower by their toes. In any case, I hope to get back to regular posting at some point in the future, but can't quite say when. Until then, thanks in advance for taking a peep at my site, and I hope you enjoy what you find.


  1. Nice looking site (not surprised), and I cannot wait for the book. I wonder if you are the first author to use "diddly squat" in a Princeton University Press publication?

    On boreopterids, since this seems as good a place to pose the question as any, how about Platanista as a functional/dietary analogue? The dentition Zhenyuanopterus certainly reminds me of Platanista, and the tiny eye thing also applies to both - though I suppose comparison of an aquatic mammal with a volant archosaur might only get you so far.

    But maybe tactile prey location and a diet of slippery bottom-dwelling fish is something to consider...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I Did The Exactly The Same Drawing (Although Worse) In August 2010. Two Zhenyuanopterus In A River, The Left One Probing For Food, The Right One Showing His Strange Head And Long Picnofibers Around His Head. Strange.

    Excuse Me For The Discographic-Style Writing.

  4. "They're crazy looking animals, bearing buttloads of needle-like teeth that look useless for anything but straining pasta and tiny, piggy-little eyes."

    Why would boreopterids nned to strain tiny, piggly-little eyes? Where would they even get them?

  5. Neil: Thanks for the comment: hope the book meets your expectations when it finally comes out.

    Regarding a Platanista comparison for boreopterids, I can see where you're coming from and think you're right about the limited use of vision in hunting. With this in mind, there seems no reason to rule out boreopterids using tactile clues when foraging. To cover my back, though, I should stress that boreopterids probably had perfectly efficient vision despite their small eyes: their sclerotic ring diameters are tiny compared to those of other pterosaurs that appear adapted for hunting larger prey, but there's no reason to think that they had impaired vision. Their visual acuity was probably 'normal', in other words, not exceptional.

    The teeth of Platanista are still much more robust than those of boreopterids, however, suggesting they can deal with larger prey. Same deal with other long-snouted, long-toothed modern animals like gharials. My knowlegde of modern animal diversity isn't amazing, but I really cannot think of any living species that has a set of jaws and teeth like those of boreopterids.

    Marco: That's just creepy. Evidently, boreopterids exude a quality that makes people paint them as muppet-lookalikes bobbing about in water. It'd be great to see how similar our pictures are: feel free to send a copy over. And don't worry about your English, it seems to be much better than mine. Which brings me too:

    Mike: Er... from the tiny, piggy-little eye shop? Not buying that? All right: I'll tweak the text a bit.

  6. Great site, can't wait for the book! Though Dave Unwin did mention in some TetZoo comment or other that he reckons he can demonstrate that all the "boreopterids" are a growth series...

  7. Sounds interesting, I've admired your artwork at places like Tetrapod Zoology. Click on link.

    One large blank Flash block. (My browser is not Flash enabled, on purpose.)


  8. Matt: Thanks for the nice words. I would agree with Unwin on this (indeed, I say words to that effect in the boreopterid chapter of my book): all the differences between Boreopterus and Zhenyuanopterus can be explained through ontogeny and they are almost certainly the same thing. Pending a detailed analysis, though, I've discussed them seperately. This is a continual problem in my book, actually: there's so many different ideas about pterosaur taxonomy (and many of them are unpublished and untested) that it's impossible to write neatly about different groups. Every chapter I've written about specific clades has reams of taxonomic caveats suggesting different phylogentic interpretations of each group.

    Hugh: Apologies that you can't see the site. I figured most people would be Flash-enabled nowadays, seeing as so much web content is Flash-derived. Hey ho.

  9. Mark, using Flash cuts out every single iPhone and iPad on the planet. If you're just starting up your web presence now, it's a bad choice.

  10. "If you're just starting up your web presence now, it's a bad choice."

    Agreed. It's not as though you're doing anything that NEEDS Flash.

  11. Hugh and Mike: I hear what you're saying, but I'm not too worried about the iPhone/iPad effect just yet: while I understand that these devices are becoming more popular, they've not wholly replaced Flash-happy laptops and notebooks just yet. For the time being, a Flash site will do me fine and, being a bit of a (time-strapped) novice at this sort of thing, enabled me to set up a functional website in a couple of days. In a years time I may make the jump to another format but, for the time being, I'm happy with what I've got. It's better than not having any portfolio online at all, after all.

  12. Mark,

    I just finished reading the excerpts from the book. I like the style. Very breezy but not dumbed down at all. It's like you're walking someone through the lab or a museum and showing them stuff.

    Mike from Ottawa

  13. Mark: Sadly, I don't have a scanner, but as soon as I get one I'll show the drawing somewhere.

    However... What tablet do you use?

  14. It's an AIPTEK 600U Premium II. It's nice and big but also dead thin, so it slips easily into a backpack or laptop bag.

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