FAQ: Richard.

To give people an idea of who we actually are before we start dinosauring at you, we thought we’d introduce ourselves via a series of ‘FAQs’.  Here’s mine!


First and foremost, what’s your favourite dinosaur?

At the age of 6 I’d immediately have answered Deinonychus, but the naked kind (eg. picture below) without any feathers.  I would then have proceeded to bore you with my standard soliloquy on how the raptors in Jurassic Park were actually more like Deinonychus, thus justifying my obscure dinosaur choice.

bakker deino

The awkward, naked sprint from shower to bedroom was a problem even in the Cretaceous.

Since then my dinosaur tastes have progressed a bit, but I think I’ll still pick Deinonychus.  As well as being nicely symbolic of the paradigm shift towards viewing dinosaurs as active animals, it has also become feathered fairly recently, representing another change in dino-views.  It also had HUGE CLAWS.

Secondly, what’s your favourite (preferably extinct) animal?

While lots of things are awesome I think I probably ought to choose the Devonian placoderm, Dunkleosteus.  While (obviously) all Palaeozoic fish are exciting, a 10m long one with shearing jaw bones is particularly so.  Also comes highly recommended as a fancy dress costume.

What’s your area of ‘expertise’?

I think ‘expertise’, as opposed to actual expertise, is definitely the right word to use.  I enjoy systematics and evolution-based themes, in pretty much any group.  My project this year is on a group of armoured, jawless fish called heterostracans, so I’m looking forward to learning about them as the year progresses.   My undergrad degree is in Zoology, so I like to flatter myself that I bring a critical zoological eye to palaeobiology.  This is probably not actually the case.

How did you get into palaeontology?

Playground conversations about Jurassic Park and the fact that Walking With Dinosaurs came out when I was small and impressionable both contributed to a love of palaeontology from a young age.  My grandfather is a zoologist who has done work on dinosaurs, and so he fanned the flames by doing things like introducing me to a robotic Iguanodon (see picture).  I then wanted to be a military historian for a bit, before doing a degree in natural sciences, which eventually became zoology as I tried to get as far away from cellular biology as possible.  This zoology degree heavily featured palaeo, which reignited my love of it and led me to this master’s degree.

iguano robot2

The model T-8Ig Terminator was swiftly scrapped by Skynet, after proving to be even less successful at blending into human society than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What do you do in your spare time?

Mainly musical things.  I play the ukulele and the clarinet, and dabble in a number of other instruments.  I also enjoy singing; previously this has been in Chapel Choirs and things, but has more recently been barbershop.  I also enjoy reading and baking bread.

Favourite palaeontological paper?

I really like this paper describing paired anal fins (weird!) in the jawless fish Euphanerops because the fossil is quite pretty and it has a really nicely structured, clear diagram portraying the evolution of paired fins in vertebrates.  It also provides a tantalising glimpse into the evolution of key characters in gnathostomes (jawed fish), which (as with so much in evolution) seems to form an evolutionary mosaic rather than a straightforward progression from one character state to another.


Bask in the clarity of this figure! Green is for dorsal fins, red is for paired fins and blue is for anal fins. Adapted from Sansom et al, 2013

You’re a palaeontologist, so you’re like Ross from ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’?

Ross never actually seemed like a very good palaeontologist, so I hope not.  I’ve also only been married twice.

Any tips for any budding palaeontologists out there?

I suspect that I still count as a ‘budding palaeontologist’, but disregarding that my tips would probably centre around a general theme of ‘get keen’.  There’s an enormous number of blogs and things on palaeobiology on the internet, and through the medium of Twitter you can get information on opportunities and palaeo news directly from palaeontological luminaries (or at least those luminaries who have Twitter).


Introducing TDS: A new way to R&R!

Hello world. The first thing this blog will do is apologise for two ridiculous abbreviations:

  1. TDS: The Dino Sirs
  2. R&R: Ryan & Richard (also rest & recuperation, pun)

This is indeed a joint blog run by two palaeontologists (in training currently, see more here): me (Ryan) and Richard (not me). We understand that trying to get a grasp of palaeontology through the primary literature can be frightful, attempting to wade through literature  full of ridiculous abbreviations (example). It’s also full of needlessly long names (example) and superfluous grammatical rules. So, we’d like to give the ‘bloggosphere’ (you) a relaxed summary of all the new and exciting palaeontological goodness that’s going on. We’d also like to give you an insight into what palaeontologists get up to (Hint: procrastination), and how to (if you’re super keen like us two) get into it. Finally, we love a lot of palaeo-blogs (Tet Zoo, SPVOW, WIJF, Pterosaur.net, Theropoda, DHAM to name a few), so we thought we’d give it a good go.

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got lots more (potentially) in the pipeline, including:

  • Guest bloggers!
  • Vertebrate of the Week!
  • FAQ’s!
  • Weekly news!
  • Palaeontology for Dummies!
  • And much more!

We can’t promise (unlike the name suggests, that was just a tasty morsel to catch your attention, apologies) they’ll be dinosaurs all the time. But we can promise (sort of) that we’ll keep you up to date with the latest palaeontological news as and when it happens. Oh, and silly, vaguely related things Richard and I get up to.

Until then, sit back, R (follow us on Twitter) &R.

(And then groan, as that abominable pun-reiteration was awful. To compensate here’s some dinosaurs:)