Monday, July 30, 2007

International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology 2007

Wonder of wonders! It seems that Dr. Eric Snively was NOT sacrificed to the elder gods of paleontology, or if he was he reappeared in Paris in time for this year's ICVP. Eric sent along this report on some of the highlights for VP and some great photos from the museum.

The International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, meeting every three years, is an exciting conclave of researchers with primarily neontologists but an enormous vert. palaeo. contingent showcasing some of our best work. This year ICVM8 was held at the Universite Pierre & Marie Curie, near the multiple buildings of the Museum nationale d'Historie naturelle.

Several important themes emerged for palaeotology. A critical mass is now building in finite element analyses ( as 3D methods become more automated, evinced by innovative research from Sandra Jasinoski on dicynodont skulls and Daniela Schwarz on sauropod vertebrae. The software program Amira is proliferating for CT imaging (although Ryan Ridgely of Ohio University is still several steps ahead). Among great palaeo examples was a micro-CT model of the cainothere otic region by Jessica Theodor.

Geometric morphometrics continues to help us answer questions of evolution and variation, including in lineages of saber-toothed feliformes (Blaire Van Valkenburgh), adapiform primates (Jess White), and crocodylians (Matt Bonnnan). In the next decade or so, morphometric techniques emerging in extant embryology may let us compare entire geometries rather than just a few landmarks. For now we'll let Benedikt Hallgrimsson's lab sort out the technical hurdles.

In other morphologicalcurrents,the web-based initiative Morphobank will soon become phylogenetic resource for morphology that Genbank is for molecular systematics. And Paul Gignac (Florida State University) will soon shock the world with estimates of Deinonychus bite force. Easy, people; wait for the publication!

Unlike it says in the Lonely Planet guidebook, when in Paris do not "Skip the musty museums of anatomy, paleontology..." at the natural history museum, if you have inclinations towards these fields or the history of science. The original-style arrays of extant specimens present comparative skeletal anatomy in its rawest form, and iconic fossil mounts are right there in front of you.

Whales at Les Galeries de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie comparée, Paris.

Non-whales at Les Galeries de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie comparée, Paris.

Extant non-avian reptiles in the same gallery.

Mammals and birds at the gallery of vertebrate palaeontology (Les Galeries de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie comparée), Paris.


Reptiles and friends, with the Carnegie Diplodocus in the foreground.

Iguanodon's hand.


Beautiful spinosaur material.

Taquet's Sarcosuchus!

Guess who: Cuvier's original extinct animal.