The Paleo meetings here in England are getting more sophisticated and better attended these days. As a novelty this year the legendary Flugsaurier (Pterosaur) meeting happened in Portsmouth. It always brings me great memories from Munich years ago when we did a tribute to Peter Wellnhofer . The novelty this time is that it was synchronised with the bigger and wider SVPCA at Southampton. The twin port city events were sequenced together non-stop (including field trips) during two successive weeks, mostly thanks to Portsmouth University Dr. David Martill‘s keen eye for event opportunity. Needless to say, I had to jump to the occasion of meeting old friends and have contact with new ones.
Unfortunately I could only attend one day at Flugsaurier, but the organising team there was so helpful that they themselves expertly mounted my exhibit stall. I had enough time to meet among others Pteroart personality and new Paladin of Paleoart of the year Mark Witton,
…. and Bob Loveridge, one of the luckiest persons in the world! He massaged to find this Pterosaur marvel after his first clean hammer blow to his first rock in Solnhofen… here he is with fellow Zeppelin and Paleoart fan Steven Vidovic admiring the piece.
The other side of the pond was well represented: old friends like Brooks Britt, Don Henderson and the legendary Brent Breithaup (last two in the picture) were there. Regrettably no auction action for Brent this time!
But the “glue” to both meetings -and the emerging star of both shows- was David Martill. David is a Palaeontologist that manages to preserve my faith in Science overcoming Bureaucracy when it becomes a real hindrance. And he is -as we were going to be able to see- the man than exposed the Snake (with capital “S”) to the world!
Next was SVPCA at Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre . We managed to stay for the whole duration. More delegates than ever (close to two hundred), a great organisation by Gareth Dyke and his team of undergraduates (first time we could be attending the talks while we were at the exhibitor’s hall!) and some interesting surprises, both at the Paleoart level and at the “Scientific Paper ” level .
Here are some fine examples of the casting and modelling abilities of Andrew Cocks…
And of course, Richard Forrest and his mobiles, one pterosaurs and another marine reptiles) that were made especially for his grandson..,. but at the end auctioned for the benefit of many more!. Here admired here also by Dave Hone ... a gathering of the two great UK ptero-marine reptiles star heroes!
Not much to say about the dinosaur talks this year (except perhaps some mind-blowing ideas about fighting Brontosaurus from Mike Taylor and a basal neotheropod from the early Jurassic by Martill) . However I found this little extra in the entertaining mini Dinosaur Encounter at Sea City Museum Southampton… the Past and Present of Paleoart…glad to see that I’m still considered part of the museum of “the present”! The Holtz/Rey Random House “Dinosaurs, The Most Complete Encyclopaedia…” lives on !(and so Steve White’s compilation book Dinosaur Art).
Rebecca Groom was everywhere… so the exhibition would not have been complete without her other work too!
My exhibit stall is always an excuse for an increasing number of snapshots of viewers of “Dinosaurs In Your Face” for my collection… here Bob Loveridge, David Unwin and the illustrious Godzilín Spanish entourage (recommended!)… thanks to Iván Narváez for the picture!… of course David Martill and I shared a joke or two about snakes… mostly!
And speaking of stars, well, the moment that everybody (some openly, some secretly) awaited finally arrived. Nick Longrich was there to do a full presentation of Martill’s famous and controversial missing-link, Early Cretaceous snake Tetrapodophis amplectus. The controversy surrounding this famous fossil from Brazil, that years later appeared “accidentally” or “mysteriously” in Germany, is not a scientific one, but a bureaucratic one. I will stand for anything that counters stagnation in science (and art), and bureaucracy is a kind of snake that in this case (as in so many) the only thing it does is precisely that: paralyse and hide. They will try to poison everything when you less expect it.. !
Nick Longrich presentations are always guaranteed to set your teeth on edge. I have known Nick for many years and he is as thorough in his approach as annoying to people that can’t bear his obsessive zeal for detail and sharp observations… all in the name of the science… and that I respect most! He showed us how clearly the specimen is precisely “Evolution caught in the act”… a snake, which used its long body as a boa constrictor but had four, fully functional tiny members that helped to grapple the prey… a true paleontological event!
We owe David Martill to have saved that specimen out for private hands, scientifically disclosing and describing it with Nick Longrich and above all, releasing everything to us. We deserve that! I can just see the face of smug bureaucrats and, of course, the creationists, who may be feeling the most frustrated dummies in the world by now.
SVPCA was specially fruitful for me in a number of things. I don’t have the space to name everyone that I felt indebted to in this meeting and Flugsaurier, but, apart from the already mentioned, my partner Carmen Naranjo, Richard Hing, Niels Bonde, Eric Buffetaut, Georgia Witton Maclean, JJ Hill, Jeff Liston, Craig Fraser, Roh Nicholls, John Conway, Sandra Chapman, Rebecca Gelernter and a good bunch deserve special mention for their support, appreciation, stimulating chat and company.
I can say that some others will be also responsible for a new T. rex/Triceratops restoration I’m planning and I’m looking forward to do something about Stu Pond’s and Sarah-Jane Strachan’s new weird, exotic and wonderful Polacanthus-relative.
And speaking of snakes… well, here’s my emblematic surreal Mexican version of an old battle that the Snake lost…pity it’s missing the front legs, but that will be solved very soon!