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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Engaging my Disacknowledgement

Tupandactylus imperator, a rat, and the Disacknowledgement. Not in that order. From Witton (2013).
Weirdest thing happened today: I finished two planned bits of work ahead of time (I know. I'm scared too!). That doesn't mean I'm off the hook work-wise. I was away last week (hence the lack of a fresh post) and catching up is making for a very hectic few days, but the fact that two bits of work were finished bang on time for an afternoon tea break means I've got time to slip in a quick bit of blogging without the usual guilt trip. We'll have to keep it brief, though, and discuss the rather straightforward image shown above.

Rather obviously, this image is a play on those most standard of palaeontological artworks, the extinct-creature-human-scale diagram, in this case showing the flamboyantly crested tapejarid pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator and a fully-fleshed Homo sapiens instead of a silhouette. Those who've read my book, Pterosaurs, may recognise this image from page 221. Note that the Tupandactylus soft-tissue crest is convex along its posterior margin instead of concave, as it's often been depicted. New fossils, such as those mentioned in Pinheiro et al. (2011), suggest that this 'fuller' crest is more likely than the concave crest indicated by the T. imperator holotype (Campos and Kellner 1997). The mandible shape also follows the specimen described by Pinheiro et al. (2011) rather than, as in most depictions of this animal, a generalised tapejarid mandible based on closely related species. Believe it or don't, virtually all that's known for certain of T. imperator is skulls, with only two specimens preserving mandible remains. Tapejarid skeletons without skulls are known from the Tupandactylus-bearing Crato Formation, and some of them likely represent bits of T. imperator itself, but we can't be certain of this until skeletons with associated cranial remains are recovered. Until then, we'll have to be satisfied with the revelation that T. imperator has chin big enough to scare even Kurt Russell, and wait for further discoveries. Be sure to check out this image of Tupandactylus navigans, another Crato pterosaur with a penchant for elaborate headgear, for more information on this genus.

But enough about that
What makes this picture more unusual than many like it is that it depicts an actual, real-life person who I happen to know very well, and anyone who's read Pterosaurs will also be familiar with. Here's where she's mentioned at length, from the 'Acknowledgements' page. She got her own section and everything.
Finally, although customary in book acknowledgements to honor those who help steer projects to completion, it seems unfair to not mention the tremendous negative impact on this project made by Georgia Maclean-Henry. As the single most destructive force against this work, she took my attention from this project so frequently that we ended up moving in with each other halfway through the writing process and have ended up making some sort of home together. She continues to distract me from all kinds of work to this very day and, frankly, I could not be happier about it.
So yes, here she is. The Disacknowledgement herself. The 'single most destructive force against this work', and many others. I chose this picture to post now because today is the 2nd anniversary of the aforementioned moving in with my Disacknowledgement. I'm not normally one for noting or making a big deal of such things (as the Disacknowledgement knows all too well), this ties in with a more important recent event: the Disacknowledgement agreed to marry me when I asked her last week, which is all very exciting and I'm rather over the Moon about (before anyone asks, there were no knees involved, but there was a breccia, not to mention a kick-ass grey seal sighting moments before. He was huge!). Seeing as this image puts me in a good (and probably fairly unique) position to broadcast this happy fact while clinging to some sort of palaeontological relevancy, there seemed no better way to spend this brief teabreak. Speaking of which, said break ended quite a few minutes ago: best get on with other things, including hoping that the Disacknowledgement doesn't mind being referred to as 'the Disacknowledgement' all the time. Sorry dear. 

  • Campos, D. A. and Kellner, A. W. A. 1997. Short note on the first occurrence of Tapejaridae in the Crato Member (Aptian), Santana Formation, Araripe Basin, Northeast Brazil. Anais-Academia Brasileira de Ciencias, 69, 83-88.
  • Pinheiro, F. L., Fortier, D. C., Schultz, C. L., De Andrade, J. A. F. and Bantim, R. A. 2011. New information on the pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator, with comments on the relationships of Tapejaridae. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 56, 567-580.
  • Witton, M. P. 2013. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy. Princeton University Press.


  1. Mike from Ottawa30 July 2013 at 08:55

    Your engagement has a happy paleontological element in that marrying someone who's also a paleo person reduces the chances you'll be treated to a chorus of 'When are you going to forget those stupid old bones and get a real job like my cousin Nigel has in The City?' and be driven to abandon the wonderful world of pterosaurs.


  2. Profoundest congratulations to you both! Being a married man myself (much to my surprise, my dear wife manages to tolerate my follies under the condition that I tolerate hers as well), I can only wish you the best and brightest of futures together. I hope your random conversations about extinct wildlife are as interesting as mine and my wife's. :-D

  3. Congratulations to you, Mr. and future Mrs. Witton!

  4. I wish you and the Disacknowledgement all the best!

    Also, that's one of my favorite images in Pterosaurs-- so charmingly surreal, and a great demonstration of tetrapod diversity.

  5. Congrats, Mark! Have you 2 picked a date yet?

    In reference to the image, weren't tapejarids frugivorous or am I thinking of a different pterosaur group? Many thanks in advance.

  6. Thanks for the comments, folks, really kind of you all.

    Hadiaz: Tapejarids have indeed been linked to frugivory in the past. It certainly seems possible, although I do wonder if they were more broadly omnivorous. There's nothing about their fairly generalised beak structure to indicate an exclusively frugivorous diet, and I'll bet that swallowing little animals whole wasn't any hassle for them.

    1. Oh, and we're thinking about next year for the Big Day.