Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy first birthday Tetrapod Zoology (part II)

As discussed in the previous post, today (January 21 2007) is Tetrapod Zoology’s first birthday. Hooray: more champagne, please. You’ll need to read part I to make sense of the following. Anyway, here we go.

Tetrapod Zoology: horribly biased

As mentioned in the previous post, given that I do not blog ‘to a plan’, I want to know what the spread of subjects I’ve blogged about might tell me. Might they reflect my ‘real’ interests, or might they perhaps indicate which areas within tetrapod zoology are currently the most happening, interesting or sexy? I don’t know, but I find the results pretty surprising. In terms of broad coverage of subject areas, we see from the adjacent graph [click for larger version, of course] that I’ve written more about reptiles (including birds) than I have about other tetrapod groups. It’s also notable that the number of miscellaneous posts – those that cover various assorted crap and aren’t really focused on any one group of animals – is reasonably high.

The prevalence of reptiles is not so surprising, given that I specialize on dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles, but what does surprise me is how the reptiles break down when we look at them by group. Turtles, crurotarsans (the clade that includes crocodilians and their extinct relatives) and pterosaurs are equally represented, but with only a few posts each. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that I have just been working on them for seven years, non-avian theropods haven’t featured heavily. I must rectify this. Squamates (lizards, snakes and kin) do a bit better, and would have featured even more on the blog if I’d gotten round to finishing the articles I’ve started on sea snakes, island-endemic lizards and anguids. The two most surprising groups are sauropods (represented by 10 posts), and birds (represented by 24 posts). Yikes, does this mean that I’m more ‘interested’ in sauropods and birds – and even squamates – than in non-avian theropods? It’s something for me to think about. The prevalence of birds is just downright scary: more on it in a moment.

A similarly surprising thing happens when we break down all the mammal posts. Of the groups covered (and keep in mind that a vast number of areas haven’t been covered at all), hoofed mammals are out in front, and rodents and primates are reasonably well represented. This surprises me because I’d always imagined that these were the least interesting mammals: way outclassed by marsupials, monotremes, pangolins, bats and xenarthrans. Yet I’ve hardly blogged at all on any of these topics. Yikes, do I really find deer and voles more interesting than sloths, thylacines and echidnas? Again, it’s something I’ll have to think about, and perhaps aim to rectify in future.

Looking at subject areas broken down more specifically (this time across all material covered), the overall picture is, again, somewhat surprising. Lissamphibians feature poorly and Palaeozoic and Mesozoic amphibian groups like lepospondyls and temnospondyls don’t feature at all. This is bad as I actually spent a lot of time doing research on these groups in 2006. Rodents, primates and turtles are reasonably represented overall (which, again, surprises me as I just never imagined that I’d end up writing much about these groups). The red bars show those subject areas that were particularly well represented: miscellaneous stuff, hoofed mammals, sauropods and birds! There is no way this is what I would have predicted. The big score that birds get is worrying. Granted, I haven’t broken Aves down into constituent clades, so the results aren’t exactly balanced, but – again – I’m asking myself: does this really reflect my personal interests? Am I really more interested in birds than in other tetrapods? Or is it just that birds were particularly newsworthy in 2006? I think that the latter point is significant here, as the posts on eagle owls, phorusrhacids, the Madagascar pochard, and the 10 bird meme were not spin-offs of my own ideas, but were instead initiated by the writings of others.

For those who say nice things about my blog, the good news is that this is still just the beginning, and there is a vast amount of material I have yet to complete and post, or even write. Ironically, I still haven’t managed to complete many articles that I have started writing way back at the start of 2006, including those on temnospondyls, rhinogradentians, Haast’s eagle, Piltdown and amphisbaenians. To those looking forward to the posts on these subjects, all I can say it: please bear with me, they will be completed and posted eventually! As I’ve said before, if I could devote more time to blog writing I would. At the moment life gets in the way.

So, happy first birthday Tetrapod Zoology. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. Many thanks to all those who have helped and supported me over the past year, to those who assist in obtaining literature, to those who advise and point out errors, to those who post comments, and to all who read and/or visit the blog [UPDATE: to see what happened next go here].


Blogger Dr. Vector said...

Re: your numerous posts on sauropods and birds.

Nothing wrong with publishing frequently on Nature's most noble creatures, the saurischian dinosaurs.

Must ask, though, if only to rib you: do you have any posts that are primarily on ornithischians?

If you do blog on, say, ornithopods, fire up your tracking software right after and watch your number of hits dive like a hungry peregrine. :-)

Seriously, congratulations again on a great year. Your adoring public is hanging on your every word.

Keep 'em coming!


2:42 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

Happy Blog Birthday, Tetrapod Zoology!

6:48 AM  
Blogger Webs said...

Watch out for sampling pitfalls. You may post many bird articles on your blog because the blog is your only outlet for them. Subjects of your research for peer-reviewed publication would score more highly in a survey of paper literature.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Darren! I'm sure you will be pleased or scared to know that I check every day for updates and enjoy it immensly.

If you fancy doing some more on theropods, why not look at cranial ornamentation? I'm sure there's lots you could do about that....... ;-)

Well done mate, keep up the good work, and may you have many year of happy blogging. And a job.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work! Go, sauropsids!

(...Actually, I'm looking forward to the temnospondyls. So diverse, and so neglected.)

11:32 AM  
Blogger Darren Naish said...

Many thanks to all for their kind comments, much appreciated. Webs: excellent point, you could well be on to something. Matt: the lack of ornithischians is, I'm afraid, a quirk. And stop pretending. We all know you secretly long to work on iguanodontians. Dave H: thanks for your words. As for cranial ornamentation, yeah, sorry about the delay, it's very near the top of the to-do list (to everyone else, Dave and I are referring to an in-progress project we have going on). And David: yes, more temnospondyls that you'll know what to do with coming soon.. ish.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Steve Bodio said...

Happy birthday!

Birds/ dinos are a feature not a bug.

Eagerly awaiting vampires & more!

1:33 AM  
Blogger Mike Taylor said...

I assumed that the "Dinosaurs misc." category was where the ornithischians had been somewhat snidely relegated :-)

And, Darren, surely you should have included another pie-chart breaking down your sauropod coverage by clade :-)

2:20 PM  
Blogger Michael said...


Keep up the good work. I'd love to see more posts on birds, but I'd like to see some non-avian theropods, too.

By the way, how's the money-raising campaign going?


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Vector wrote:

"Nothing wrong with publishing frequently on Nature's most noble creatures, the saurischian dinosaurs."

You may have meant mother nature with a big "N", but its slightly ironic given that the journal Nature seems to have a bad bias towards saurischians as well.


3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, Happy Birthday! – and many more to come I hope: yours is one of the best damn science blogs anywhere.

Second, I really don’t care what you write about, it’s all been interesting. Any group of plants, animals, microorganisms, fossils, etc., is fascinating once one knows a little about them. Put a few hundred million years of history and development into something –like every last living thing on this planet- and it becomes inherently interesting.

Third, by way of a birthday present, a site I ran across today that features paleomaps:

9:24 AM  

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