Monday, 3 October 2016

Tetrapod Zoology Convention 2016

I have long been an admirer of Darren Naish, and his wonderful animal-related blog, Tetrapod Zoology, which covers topics such as paleontology, cryptozoology, speculative evolution, and general biology. He posts informative and funny pieces on . . . well, pretty much everything zoology-related. Therefore I was excited to hear about the convention that was to be coming up this year . . .
In the last few years, Darren and others such as John Conway (a paleoartist who is renowned in the paleontological community) have arranged this convention at the WWT London Wetland Center. Stalls selling books, art prints, and cuddly (but scientifically accurate!) prehistoric creatures are set up, and talks on zoology are done throughout the day. I had previously only heard in passing about these events, but this year, a few days before the Tetrapod Zoology Convention (or TetZooCon for short), we heard about the event, and I did some more research. We decided, at the last minute, to buy 2 tickets for the convention - one for my mum, and one for me. We originally planned to stop over in London and make a weekend of it, but unfortunately our budget didn't allow that in the end - however, it was certainly worth getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning, enduring the rowdy group of singing, drunken teens on the train, and paying a fairly big chunk of money, to get to the event and be with like-minded people.

When we first arrived, I was a bit shy, because I was the youngest person there (the majority of people there were adults), but I quickly got into the flow of things. We had a quick look at the stalls, then watched the first talk, which was by Darren Naish, and was on the subject of sexual displays in dinosaurs, such as crests, long necks, etc. Then we moved onto a very different topic in a talk by Charles Paxton, who gave us the statistics of the Loch Ness Monster. His talk, while mostly graphs and numbers, was a very amusing and interesting piece.
Next up was a talk by Jim Labisko, on the obscure frogs known as sooglossids, a native of the Seychelles. He talked about the different species of sooglossids, their mating habits, and his research into them. Afterwards, 2 preserved sooglossid specimens were passed around for us to look at.
We then had a life-sized, accurately coloured Psittacosaurus model, and a talk on how it was made. Afterwards, we each got some plasticine and some bristles (for the integument on the dinosaur's tail), and sculpted our own models. My effort was pretty bad, but I decided to have fun with it, so I just made a head with a speculative wattle and bristly integument.

During a break in the talks, I had my books signed - Recreating An Age of Reptiles was signed by Mark Witton, and all Yesterdays was signed by John Conway and Darren Naish, who drew me a feathered oviraptorid and a sauropod with an inflatable neck pouch, respectively.
During the lunch break, my mum and I went for a walk around the Wetland Center, as we had never been there before. I very much enjoyed seeing the variety of exotic wildfowl (including one of my favourites, the southern screamer), but the Asian short-clawed otters eluded us.

During the afternoon, we had even more great talks, on a variety of subjects, including bears, kneecaps, pterosaurs, and native reptiles and amphibians. The talk on kneecaps by John Hutchinson was very interesting indeed, and it had many pictures of the weird and wonderful variety of kneecaps, particularly in birds.
Next came the talk on pterosaur reproduction by David Unwin, which was amusing and informative in equal measures. I found this talk particularly interesting, because I find it fascinating to imagine tiny pterosaurs emerging from their eggs and in relatively little time, being able to fly.
Hannah O’Regan then gave a great talk on the history of bears in Britain, discussing our somewhat strange relationship with these animals, which varies from teddy bears to bear-baiting.
 Next up was a talk by Angie Julian, who discussed the different species of native reptiles and amphibians, then moved onto talk about the dangers they face, and what we can do to help.

Then last but not least, we had Katrina van Grouw, who gave a brief presentation on her upcoming book, Unnatural Selection, which I'm very excited about.
Then came the finale: the quiz. There were around 30 questions, and I got 18 of those right, but I could have got higher, if only I could have remembered that kune-kunes are types of pig! I was pleasantly surprised to get a prize for being the youngest to attend, and now the little model Stegosaurus baby that I got has pride-of-place on my desk.

As we had a train to catch, we didn't join everybody else in the pub afterwards, but I was extremely pleased that I went. As another TetZooCon is planned for 2017, I will most certainly try and get there, if I can!

Finally, I want to thank Darren Naish and John Conway for arranging the Tetropod Zoology Convention.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!