Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Cast of the horizontal ramus of the left maxilla of BMRP 2002.4.1 in lateral view upon the bound manuscript. At the time this photo was uploaded, I had made a total of 58 pages of revisions out of 616; 558 pages to go!

December 22, 2014
10:49 am: Resuming revisions to the ms based on yesterday’s red ink.
~12.00 pm: Dammit, MW just crashed, and another paragraph lost. Luckily I saved it into another document so all I have to do is retype it.
~1:30: Break for shower and lunch.
2:33: Back to the revisions of the premaxilla. My inability to paste text without MW crashing means I have to rewrite entire paragraphs into the spots where I want to move them. That inevitability is an infuriating waste of time.
3:01: Overcome by a wave of tiredness; I’ll switch to red inking the ms.
3:26: Time for a break.
Parts of evening and night: red inking the manuscript through the maxilla to maxillary teeth.
December 23, 2014
11:27: I just spent the past 45 minutes to hour sorting the hundreds of additional photos of Jane’s bones into folders. It will be a while before I start making the new plates; I want to get the manuscript in shape first. Also, making the plates last will provide an accurate number and save a lot of headaches when the time comes to put in the citations in the text. For now, I will resume revising the description of the premaxilla following the red ink of the past couple of days.
12:48: Lunch.
1:31: Back from lunch.
3:02: I am fatigued by the revisions; it is time to switch gears to red inking the ms.
4:22: Reached maxillary tooth #5. Time to post the latest Jane diary entries.
Night thoughts of a vertebrate paleontologist
11:46 pm: there is no night in cities; restoring the sensory blight is futile, where light streams through the imbrications of venetian blades, and the continuous traffic rasps like a mammoth sidewinder pinned to slate.
December 24, 2014
11:15: An unfortunate late start to the day. I am picking up from where I left off in the premaxilla. By the way, the ms has crept up to 607 pages over the past few days.
11:32: Just finished the 22nd page of 601 pages of revisions – 579 pages to go!
12:26: On page 26; break.
3:30: After many delays – back to work.
5:11: Stop.
December 26, 2014
4:01 pm: Returning to revisions to the manuscript; I am plodding through the premaxillary teeth and I am on page 30. The manuscript has reached 609 pages.
5:56. Stop. Completed the section on the premaxillary teeth!
Night thoughts
The section on the nasals is in a sorry state and needs a lot of work to separate it from the gravel.
December 27, 2014
11:07 am: A late start, in part to post the 35th diary entry. I am starting today with a new section, the maxilla. Along the way I have to add a specimen, RSM 2347.1 that fills in the gap in the growth series (sensu Carr et Williamson, 2004) between LACM 28471 and CMNH 7541.
1:34 pm: Lunch.
~2:00: Back to the General Form section of the maxilla.
2:25: Stop; 611 pages reached.
References cited
Carr, T.D ., and Williamson, T. E. 2004. Diversity of Late Maastrichtian Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from western North America. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 142: 419-523.
December 28, 2014
11:12 am: Late start; resuming with the maxilla. I got past the General form section yesterday and started the Rostroventral complex – time to finish that.
~2:30 pm: Lunch.
2:58: Back to revisions!
3:50: Unwanted break.
4:13: Resume.
4:48. Break.
December 30, 2014
11:11 am: About to resume revisions; I spent yesterday in the vertebrate paleontology collections at the Royal Ontario Museum to shore up some data on ROM 1247, a subadult Albertosaurus libratus. I didn’t get all the way there, but I am closing in on the last stretch of data for the skull of that specimen.
1:00-1:15 pm: Shower.
~3:00: Lunch.
3:49: Back to revisions, made it to the maxillary fenestra!
4:33: The manuscript is 616 pages in length.
5:20: Time for a break; the maxillary fenestra has finished me.
December 31, 2014
10:56 am: Back to revisions on the maxillary fenestra.
11:41: Red ink the manuscript for ~20 minutes, then return to revisions.
1:41: I’ve reached the maxillary sinus system, which requires a lot of revision (loads of red ink); time to take a break.
2:26: Back to revisions!
4:24: Break.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


There will be time for revisions.
December 21, 2014
10:37 am: Back to revisions to the ms. I’ll start with the red ink from yesterday. I am highlighting the fig. references as I proceed so they will be easier to spot later; also, I am starting a master list of the reference citations.
11:33: Dammit, Microsoft Word just crashed again, upon another attempt to paste in some text; this is an absolute nightmare that will plague me throughout this entire 600+ page manuscript. On top of that, I lost the entire paragraph that I wanted to reposition.
I had lunch somewhere in here for 30 minutes.
2:59: By this time I’ve started a list of figures to add, and I have found some measurements that I missed in both Jane and the Cleveland skull. I must resign myself to such ommissions – I’ll just have to take care of those for the big T. rex ontogeny paper. I’ve reached the internal antorbital fenestra, but I need to do something else. I will backtrack and make sure I haven’t missed any references in my list.
3:08: O.K., that’s done, now back to red inking the ms. The day before last I toyed with the idea of auctioning off the marked-up manuscript - for donation a university or museum library as a part of the deal - to raise travel funds for my paleo track students. This would happen after publication, of course.
4:16 pm stop.
Evening: resumed red-inking the ms; made it through the premaxilla, premaxillary teeth, and the start of the maxilla.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The Jane manuscript. In ascending order: bounded 601 page manuscript (301 actual pages since there's two pages printed per sheet), bounded 212 page set of tables (106 actual pages to save paper), and 44 pages of photographic plates. The manuscript and tables are double spaced, which will knock down the page length of the published monograph significantly. I expect the number of photographic plates to, at least, double by the end of this phase of the project. Tyrannosaurid artwork on screen by Dale McInnes.

December 20, 2014
1:31 pm: Setting up to start the final, but crucial editorial phase of the manuscript that has several secondary objectives:
(1) Finish adding the relevant literature (e.g., Larson, 2013, and possibly Gilmore 1946 and Bakker et al. 1988, and some other works).
(2) Make sure that each section is coherent and well organized.
(3) Complete the description of the axis, the only undescribed bone, but for which I have a complete set of notes and measurements.
(4) Add photographic plates for the skull, subnarial foramen, teeth, cervical and dorsal ribs, hemal arches, and gastralia.
(5) Add the in-text citations for the tables and figures.
(6) Make sure the references cited section is complete.
(7) Collate the distribution of plesiomorphic and derived characters in Jane and write that up for the discussion section in the context of recapitulation.
(8) Assess the hypothesis of tyrannosaurid ontogeny of Carr (1999) based on the pattern seen in T. rex that Jane illuminates.
There’s a lot to do. I’m going to start this in a systematic fashion, by reading the (presently) 601-page manuscript from start to finish. I will not move ahead to a section. However, before that there’s some quantitative data that is a priority for me to collate.
1:50: Stop.
?: resumed in the evening; started on collating the plesiomorphic and derived character state in Jane and found that I have to add the states for adult T. rex. I also started going through the ms with a red pen, and reached the maxillary process of the premaxilla. I also collated and charted data on tooth count and length of the tooth row.
References cited
Bakker, R. T., M. Williams, and P. J. Currie. 1988. Nanotyrannus, a new genus of pygmy                       tyrannosaur, from the latest Cretaceous of Montana. Hunteria 1:1-30.
Carr, T. D.  1999.  Craniofacial ontogeny in Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19: 497-520.
Gilmore, C. W. 1946. A new carnivorous dinosaur from the Lance Formation of Montana. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 106:1-19.
Larson, P. 2013. The case for Nanotyrannus; pp. 14-53 in J. Michael Parrish, Ralph E. Molnar, Philip J. Currie, and Eva B. Koppelhus (Eds.) Tyrannosaurid Paleobiology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.


December 18, 2014
This afternoon I printed off a copy of the manuscript (601 pages) and the tables of measurements (212 pages), formatted for a layout of two pages printed on each sheet. I'll have them bound separately for ease of working between the two. I will read through the manuscript with a red pen and casts in hand to make sure that the descriptions are accurate. I’ll also continue incorporating the relevant literature, one bone at a time.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Pausing for a photo op with the cast skull of Jane, moments before leaving the collections. Stepping out the door after the final time given on a specimen is an existential moment that never fails to elicit a deep twinge in my psyche - if a descriptive detail or a measurement is found missing, there is no going back. Over the winter solstice I will be nowhere close to the Burpee Museum, and I plan to have the manuscript submitted for publication before I leave on an extended research trip to the Museum of the Rockies in January. Ahead of me are several intensive weeks of editing the manuscript and adding to it new photographic plates, so by far this will not be the last diary entry. Photograph taken by Josh Matthews.

December 17, 2014
9:02 am: Back in collections for another busy day!
10:31: I’ve started with documenting the distribution of immature bone grain on the skull bones as well as lesions. There’s still a lot to do in addition to this! I’ve only just reached the jugal.
12:16: I am done with the immature bone grain of the skull and lesions! Time for lunch.
12:18: IL will be ready for lunch in 10 minutes; I’ll measure pedal digits in the meantime.
~12.30: Leave for lunch.
1:30: Return from lunch. Time to photograph the ribs, gastralia, and the cast of Jane’s skull.
2:36: The camera batteries are running dangerously low, so I’ll keep them in the recharger for half and hour; in the meantime I’ll take any missing metatarsal and phalanx measurements.
3:05: I returned to photographing the last of the gastralia, and then the cast of the articulated skull in multiple views.
3:45: Stopped; 601 pages reached.


December 16, 2014
10:10: Late arrival today owing to a three-day migraine headache and staying in bed for an extra hour on account of it. My focus today is taking care of the descriptive loose threads (i.e., gaps) in the ms; I’m saving the photos of the dorsal ribs and gastralia for later when I need a change of pace.
12:04: I’m hungry; it’s time for lunch.
12:51: Back from lunch (Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, and coffee). Resuming with the loose threads of the lacrimal.
3:17: Dammit, MW just crashed upon another attempt to paste in a short paragraph of text. I dread when the time comes for me to reorganize parts of the manuscript.
3:25-3:45: Discussing with IL Dinosaur 13, which I haven’t watched. He said that there are plenty of good, current stories on dinosaur research that could be the subject of a good documentary instead of that old news.
Yeah. That’s a real slap to the face.
4:25: I just returned from the mounted skeleton in the gallery, where I had a look at the contact between the ilia and the sacral spinous processes. WI held the ladder steady!
5:03: More back and forth between the gallery and collections for pelvic characters and measurements.
5:47: A later than usual day since I am staying overnight in Rockford, but I am wrapping up now. After a day of taking care of loose threads, the manuscript has reached 590 pages.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


December 11, 2014
9:40: Arrived at the Burpee Museum.
9:55: I am now set up to complete the descriptions of the gastralia, following the lead of Claessens (2004).
11:56: About halfway through in writing up the muscle scars of the medial gastralia; time for lunch.
12:56: Back from lunch.
3:10: Finished with the gastralia description a while ago, and I just took the primary measurements of the dorsal ribs. Now I will complete the photographs of the hemal arches and move on to the dorsal ribs and gastralia if there is time left.
4:19: Done with photographing hemal arches; next is the premaxillomaxillary articulation of both sides.
4:32: Premaxillomaxillary suture photographed on both sides.
4:48: IL stopped by to get caught up.
4:54: Packing up. 584 pages reached.
References cited
Claessens, L. P. A. M. 2004. Dinosaur gastralia; origin, morphology, and function. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24:89-106.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Mug shot of one of Jane's premaxillary teeth. Imagine that it takes at least an hour to write up the tooth, measure it, count its denticles (if present), and then photograph it from all sides. And after that, the same routine for the other seven premaxillaries, and then for about thirty maxillary teeth, and then thirty more dentary teeth...written in complementary pairs, of course.
 December 9, 2014
9:54: Back at my desk in collections! I see that dorsal and caudal vertebrae not here – they’ve been put back on the mount in the gallery. Today’s tasks: (1) measurements of the hemal arches, (2) measurements of the ribs, (3) description of the gastralia, (4) photographs of arches, ribs, and gastralia, time permitting.
~12:40-1:40 pm: Lunch.
1:40: Finishing up the hemal arch measurements.
2:32: Finished with measuring the hemal arches! I will move on to item (3) of the list, since time is running short. I am following Claessens (2004) as a template for the description.
4:50: After a general description of the medial segments, I reached the lateral segment a short while ago; stop. 575 pages reached.
References cited
Claessens, L. P. A. M. 2004. Dinosaur gastralia; origin, morphology, and function. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24:89-106.

Appendix. A note for nonscientists.

In recent weeks nonscientists have barbed me regarding the amount time that I have taken with writing this work, showing they do not realize the amount of labor the process requires, nor the bloody-minded determination that is needed to see it through to the end. This note is for them, and for students who want to get a sense of the scope of commitment it takes to finish a description of detail.

Writing up a skeleton – especially one as complete, well preserved, and disarticulated as Jane - is a truly huge undertaking that amounts to the conversion of the continuous form of dozens of bones into the discontinuous structure of words under the theoretical rubrics of Darwinian Natural Selection and Hennigian Phylogenetic Systematics.

It’s a task of transliteration and, as my PhD advisor Chris McGowan once said, it is the bread and butter of our profession - it doesn’t matter whether we want to do it or not, we must for the integrity of our Science. As individual scientists, close study of actual specimens – a lot of them – keeps us intellectually at the top of our game and enriches our publications for the benefit of all.

A descriptive project of this sort takes real time to complete. I have not yet tallied up the exact hours of this Fall’s collections visits, but for the past four months I have put in at least one 6-hour day with Jane's bones each week. Adding several multiple weekly visits gives a minimum of 21 days or 126 hours.

Rolled together, it has taken me a month to summarize neurocentral suture closure in the vertebral column, measure all of the vertebrae on the mounted skeleton, and describe, photograph, and measure cervical vertebrae stored in collections, all of the cervical and dorsal ribs, hemal arches, gastralia, tibiotarsus, and fibula. In addition to the writing and taking hundreds of measurements and photographs, I have read the relevant literature along the way – with bones in hand - to ensure completeness and depth.

All of that is excluding the hours I put in at home over the weekends, when I incorporate the relevant tyrannosaurid literature into the manuscript. I have not yet counted up the average number of pages written during each visit.

Keep in mind that I am not counting the time spent on writing the monograph before this Fall, which included the skull, dentition, and the bulk of the axial and appendicular skeletons.  In the end, all of the time and effort made is necessary to produce a maximally useful contribution for Science.

Also, my time taken on the monograph is in addition to teaching two sections of Senior Seminar and a lab section of introductory biology, grading, participating in the College senate and one of its subcommittees, cataloging with my preparator the fossils we collected from Montana last summer, and overseeing the activities in the paleontology lab.

Aside from three nights in a local hotel and several lunches, which I greatly appreciated, this project has been entirely self-funded. Each day I go to the museum, my primary expense is the gasoline for the four-hour return drive on a tollway.

The bottom line, nonscientist friends, is that (1) Science takes care and it won’t be rushed, and (2) I want to see it done as badly as you do.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


December 8, 2014
3:23 pm: Starting on Larson (2013).
 “In part due to the absence of additional specimens, the validity of Nanotyrannus came under question by various researchers, culminating in 1999 when Carr assigned the specimen to Tyrannosaurus rex. Carr presented a compelling argument…”
[Clarification: What I did was show that all of the differences between the Cleveland skull and adult T. rex are identical to the differences that are seen between juvenile and adult Albertosaurus libratus, and that it shares similarities with adult T. rex that are best explained by the small skull belonging to the same species, namely T. rex - the only tyrannosaurid in strata of the Late Maastrichtian of the American West.]
“Carr’s 1999 paper kindled a debate that has grown hotter by the year.”
[The scientific literature, as penned by actual scientists, does not show a debate beyond the dissenting view in Currie (2003). Carr et Williamson (2004) did not engage that article since it was submitted for publication - and possibly in press - by the time the 2003 article was published.]
3:40 pm: Stop.
References cited
Carr, T.D ., and Williamson, T. E. 2004. Diversity of Late Maastrichtian Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from western North America. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 142: 419-523.
Currie, P. J. 2003. Cranial anatomy of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48(2): 191-226.
Larson, P. 2013. The case for Nanotyrannus; pp. 14-53 in J. Michael Parrish, Ralph E. Molnar, Philip J. Currie, and Eva B. Koppelhus (Eds.) Tyrannosaurid Paleobiology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.


December 7, 2014
[Dear reader,  A short distance into the future I will have censored this entry. My intent with these accounts was to give an unsparing account of the progress of this sort of work, but some thoughts - despite their veracity - amount to self-inflicted wounds when uttered publicly and so they are best sent to the distal coasts of biography. Ergo, the amplitude of these lines only yield to ripple.]
10:28 am: Back to Larson (2008).
10:36: I’ve reached where he makes mention of Jane, identifying it as Nanotyrannus; here’s his table of characters for various tyrannosaurid taxa...
11:32: Second page of the table.
12:45 pm: Time to take a break from this.
~5:35 pm: Resuming.
5:48: Stopping.
6:20: Making a table of comparative measurements.
6:34: Done with the characters in the table; I’ll save the excitement of the section on sexual dimorphism for later. 570 pages reached today.
References cited
Larson, P. 2008. Variation and sexual dimorphism in Tyrannosaurus rex; pp. 102-128 in
P. Larson, and K. Carpenter (eds.) Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant King. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


December 6, 2014
10:17 am: I am back to adding characters from Carr (1999); it feels like ages since I last worked on the manuscript, but it’s only been since Tuesday. When I work on a manuscript I keep music off and all other distractions away.
I’ve reached the section in Carr (1999) where I set out the evidence that the Cleveland skull conforms to the morphotype of a small Stage 1 Albertosaurus libratus; i.e., it is a juvenile and not a small adult. This is the sort of use that I had hoped that tyrannosaurid workers make of this work, for distinguishing phylogenetically informative variation from the strong overprint of ontogenetic pattern. Since that time the scientific literature has shown that it has been largely cited for other purposes.
Today my task is to identify features in Jane that are transitional between the Cleveland skull and adult T. rex, which serves as a test of the hypothesis of ontogenetic transition that I proposed for A. libratus in particular and Tyrannosauridae in general.
11:33: I’m making good strides through the article, I started at the premaxilla and now I’m at the postorbital!
12:17: I am done with Carr (1999)! Next up are two articles of Larson (2008, 2013); these amateur works can't be avoided since they're in an edited volume of scientific articles and they are squarely critical of my published work. Time for lunch; 566 pages reached.
5:04: Starting in on Larson (2008), with the goal of putting his purported “Nanotyrannus” characters into the comparative context of the ontogenetic changes that are seen in A. libratus, and between the Cleveland skull and adult T. rex (Carr, 1999).
5:23: Good grief - his assessment of my first article (“thoughtful and compelling”) and breezy dismissal of my subsequent works on T. rex ontogeny (“...the growth series argument of Carr…is in question”) makes my head swim (Larson, 2008:110). He does not bring evidence against the growth stages I proposed for tyrannosaurids; instead, he just ignores the hypothesis because someone else says it’s O.K. to do so (Larson, 2008:110). It makes me wonder at the editorial standards that were at work here; oh, right – Larson was one of the editors.
It’s time to put this down and return to it tomorrow. I don’t want to lose patience and become dismissive; that would be unprofessional.
References cited
Carr, T. D.  1999.  Craniofacial ontogeny in Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19: 497-520.

Larson, P. 2008. Variation and sexual dimorphism in Tyrannosaurus rex; pp. 102-128 in
P. Larson, and K. Carpenter (eds.) Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant King. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Larson, P. 2013. The case for Nanotyrannus; pp. 14-53 in J. Michael Parrish Ralph E. Molnar, Philip Currie, and Eva B. Koppelhus (eds.) Tyrannosaurid Paleobiology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Today I finally completed the description of the axial skeleton associated with the vertebrae; next in line are the gastralia. The arches are labeled from A to Q with bits of Post-it notes.
 December 2, 2014
10:05: I just arrived at the Burpee Museum and I’m set up at my desk to finish writing up Hemal arch N!
I saw IL on the way in and he said that he wants to put the caudals back on the mount, and needs assistance putting the cervicals in the correct sequence. Today will be a short day for me – I have to leave at 2 pm to attend an honors thesis defense in Biology back at the College.
I don’t know if this will have much value in the future, but each month I save the Jane ms under a different title so that there is a record of the month-to-month progress of manuscript; today a new draft was born.
11:05: Done with Hemal arch N! Now, on to Hemal arch O!
11:51: Done with Hemal arch O; now, on to arch P!
12:00: Hunger has won me over.
12:57: Back to work! It was a long wait for lunch (eggs benedict with American fries) and I was held up by a couple of red lights on the way back to the museum. Back to Hemal arch P!
1:15: Done with arch P; now, on to arch Q (the last arch)!
1:44: Done with arch Q!!! I have to pack up in a few minutes. During the next visit I will take a bunch of comparative measurements from all of the arches and photograph the rest of them; then I’ll be able to move on to the gastralia.
1:50: Packing up. 562 pages reached.


Is Jane transitional between these morphological extremes? Is the variation hierarchical or disjunct? I'm in the process of finding out! Image is modified from Carr (1999).
November 29, 2014
1:37: Back to adding characters from Carr (1999), picking up from the Taxonomic Differences section with the surangular bone.
2:10: Done with the surangular and angular; the prearticular is next.
2:22: Dammit – MW just crashed again and this time I did lose a few lines of text…maddening.
2:46: Rule of thumb: include characters from Carr (1999) that have not been reported in BMR P2002.4.1.
3:04: Done with the Taxonomic Variation section; now at the Tyrannosaurid Taxonomy section. Next up is the list of juvenile characters that I listed for the Cleveland skull; the following step is to see if Jane is intermediate in condition between it and adult T. rex.
3:11: I need to take a brief break.

References cited
Carr, T. D.  1999.  Craniofacial ontogeny in Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19: 497-520.