A quick catch up on a couple of 2016 papers

I’ve been struggling to find the time to get blog posts out recently.  Luckily, I have a morning to do just that!

Sauropod tracks

First up, we have ‘Digit-only sauropod pes trackways from China – evidence of swimming or a preservational phenomenon?’ by Lida Xing and a number of colleagues including myself, published in Nature Scientific Reports.  This was a neat little study in which some sauropod tracks from China were described, which display some interesting features related to their formation.  It’s common in the literature to link digit-only tracks with a swimming trackmaker – buoyed up such that only the tips of the toes scrape the sediment surface.

However, we took a look at these tracks, and decided the best explanation was that the high pressure under the toes at kick off was shunting sediment backwards and destroying the posterior part of the print.  We demonstrated this effect with a human footprint in beach sand:

Figure 6
Figure 6 from Xing et al 2016 – top: the Sauropod print in question, bottom: a human footprint in sand (many thanks to Karl Bates for the images that generated that model).

The paper is fully open access on Scientific Reports website here.

Excitingly, this also marks the first move of my publishing 3D tracks to Sketchfab:

And very soon, I’ll be moving all of my previously uploaded models to the service, so you can view them on this page, or download them from sketchfab.  Models will still be going up to Figshare/Zenodo too, so will get a DOI and long term security.

Sauropod Body Plan Evolution

Paper number 2 came out a few weeks ago, titled ‘Temporal and phylogenetic evolution of the sauropod dinosaur body plan.’ This work was led by Karl Bates, and also had a number of great co-authors, published in Royal Society Open Science.

In this paper we used volumetric reconstructions of a number of sauropod taxa to look at the evolution of centre of mass (CoM) position in the clade through time. Neck length and CoM didn’t seem to be correlated strongly with hypothesized feeding habits, but instead seem to be more related to locomotion and environmental distributions.  Having said that, it’s obviously a very complex interplay of variables, and I’m sure future research will shed more light on what’s going on in this interesting group of animals.

I made a video for the paper to illustrate how mass and CoM varies as we explore the bounds of maximum and minimum size at the front and back of the animal:

As with the other paper, this is open access, and available from the Royal Society Open Science site.

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