Tuesday, October 29, 2019

TetZooCon 2019

As much as I enjoyed Australia, I couldn't stay for long, and one of the reasons I couldn't was that TetZooCon was being held the following weekend. Despite my reluctance to leave behind a land of rich biodiversity and unique Southern Hemisphere clades, TetZooCon is always a good time and I had no intention of missing it. Building on its successful run last year, this year's TetZooCon also spanned two days, boasting events such as panel discussions (on archosaur paleontology and natural history filmmaking), parallel sessions, and more. With this year, we came ever closer to assembling the former crew of TetZoo Time in one place, seeing as comic inker Rebecca Groom, comic colorist Gareth Monger, and myself were all in attendance.

I've never seen a bad presentation at TetZooCon, but if I had to pick favorites from this year, my personal highlights would include Mike Dickison's talk on what makes a "native" New Zealand bird, Dave Hone's talk on the importance of defining terms in dinosaur paleontology, Lauren McGough's talk on her experiences hunting with golden and crowned eagles, and Tim Haines's talk on popularizing paleontology using digital media (e.g.: Walking with Dinosaurs).

One of the new features this year was the art show, showcasing work by a range of accomplished paleoartists. I was especially thrilled to see several of Luis Rey's original paintings on display. I remember seeing many of them in early 2000s paleontology books and they left a strong impression on me at the time, introducing me to then-new and exciting finds being unveiled in dinosaur paleontology.

One of Rey's iconic depictions of the Jehol Biota, featuring a trio of Beipiaosaurus as the centerpiece.
This Quetzalcoatlus looked familiar, but I don't remember having seen it carrying anything in its beak!

I chose to attend the paleoart workshop this year (in part as a show of support for paleoartist friends who were speaking), though this meant missing out on the nature documentary panel. Joschua Knüppe, Rebecca Groom, Agata Stachowiak, and Jed Taylor gave brief talks on their respective artistic endeavors, and throughout the session we were encouraged to exercise our creativity using provided art supplies. Joschua was granted the honor of selecting a theme for the workshop, and he suggested depicting prehistoric life in art styles reflective of the nations in which they were found.

Not being particularly familiar with different art styles, let alone enough to attempt replicating them at short notice, I mainly defaulted to my standard drawing style. In my defense, I did try to venture a little outside of my comfort zone by having a go at restoring some fossil birds that I hadn't before, such as the stem-mousebird Celericolius and the stem-flamingo Palaelodus. Being on a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic kick with the recent conclusion of the series, I also couldn't resist drawing a My Little Maniraptor. Besides, I rationalized, it counted as non-standard paleoart and would be encouraged. In spite of my unadventurous efforts, it had been so long since I'd seriously drawn with pencil and paper that I ran into some unexpected challenges, like not being able to revert mistakes with the "undo" button or not being able to put items on different "layers".

In my recent forays into drawing My Little Maniraptor, I've found that I quite enjoy drawing my maniraptor design for Fluttershy, which is ironic because I used to consider her one of the hardest to draw. Also shown are my attempts at restoring Celericolius, Longipteryx, and Palaelodus (only the head of which is visible here).

Well, I certainly wasn't winning any prizes with that, especially considering some of the impressive work produced by other workshop attendees. As usual, I performed better on the TetZooCon quiz. Although I didn't come in first place like I did last year, I did tie for second with Kelvin Britton (who has also won first place in previous years, in his case several times)!

The day after the conclusion of the main event, Darren led an informal field trip to the London Zoo, which I gladly joined. We saw the vast majority of the zoo, including some of the more rarely-seen species. To paraphrase Ville Sinkkonen, only in a crowd like this could one find so many people excited about seeing a caecilian's cloaca. My favorite sighting though was probably the baby narrow-striped boky (though it was too active and the lighting was too dark for me to photograph)! As ever, TetZooCon did not disappoint, and I look forward to seeing how it develops next year.

A blue tree monitor.
A black-naped fruit dove.
A southern tamandua scaling a wall.


  1. a bit of a random question
    So there is this show called Dinosaur Train, and the underlying plot goes so:

    A mother pteranodon has realized that her eggs had finally reached hatching. Whilst three of the four eggs hatch normally as pteranodons, the fourth egg hatches into a T. rex. Regardless of species, Mother Pteranodon decides to raise the T. rex as her own offspring.
    What do you think would actually happen in this scenario?

    1. Oh yes, I'm familiar with the premise of Dinosaur Train.

      Leaving aside the fact that Pteranodon and Tyrannosaurus didn't live at the exact same time (and thus this scenario couldn't have happened in real life), there's no way to really know exactly what would happen given that we naturally know very little about the behavior of these extinct taxa.

      That being said, we do have some basis for speculation. This is still debated, but current evidence appears to suggest that pterosaurs might not have offered much parental care once the young had hatched, considering that the babies were likely capable of flying and feeding shortly after hatching. So it may be that Buddy wouldn't have received much parental attention from Mother Pteranodon.

      Fortunately, all may not have been lost for Buddy, because from what we know the babies of non-avian theropods also appear to have been relatively self-sufficient, at least capable of walking shortly after hatching (even if they received some amount of post-hatching parental care). I suspect that Buddy may have ended up in a similar situation to a black-headed duck, benefiting from Mother Pteranodon's nest guarding (if pterosaurs guarded their nests) but not having much interaction with his foster family once he hatched. (Unlike the duck though, Buddy could have conceivably seen his foster siblings as a meal if they couldn't get away fast enough.) His odds of surviving without any parental protection is an open question, however.

      All that is assuming that Buddy would have hatched around the same time as his foster siblings. If their incubation periods didn’t align, perhaps he wouldn’t have met his foster family at all!

    2. Another Dinosaur Train related question!
      In the span of 4 episodes (Eps. S2 109-112) The dinos gather the 26 dinosaurs mentioned in the song "Dinosaurs A-Z" for a large picnic at Troodon town. I won't bother putting all 26 dinosaur species, so I'll put a link with all 26 here.
      Ignoring that this show breaks the laws of dino-time and hence dinosaurs from all three periods could board the train at once, what would happen if all 26 were in one place simultaneously?

    3. Seeing as we know little or nothing about the behavior of most of these dinosaurs, it unfortunately isn't possible for us to know exactly what would happen if they were all brought in contact with one another. I suspect most of them wouldn't be happy about being in close proximity to several large predators like Tyrannosaurus and Yangchuanosaurus though.