Farewell Australia!
Valessan
ozraptor4
Well, its time.

PhD is done (thesis accepted on the 6th of this month), forms signed, boxes ticked. I'm leaving our shores... For the next two years I will be knee-deep in Silurian fish and feathered dinosaurs at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing. Still don't speak a word of Mandarin. However, my work is immediately opposite the Beijing zoo so I should be able to get to work by dumbly shouting "PAN-DA!!!" at the taxi drivers.

Dunno how often I will be available online since such Western amenities like Youtube and Facebook are blocked in that part of the world and I certainly would not admit to using proxies on a public forum such as this. See you in a couple of years then!

Brian

Tortoises away!
Valessan
ozraptor4


Last Saturday (31st July) saw the release of 15 captive-bred Western Swamp Tortoises (WSTs) into swampland within the Moore River Nature Reserve. Pseudemydura umbrina is Australia's most endangered reptile - in 1985 there were just two populations north of Perth totalling 30-50 animals. Today there are 700+ thanks to captive breeding at Perth Zoo. They are habitat specialists requiring shallow, well-vegetated ephemeral swamps on claypan soil - most of which has been irrevocably altered by human activity.

The Reserve lies outside the historic WST range but is suitable habitat, thus the DEC with help from the Friends of the WST are trying to establish a new wild population here. They are devastatingly cute and completely odourless (unlike the long-necked oblong tortoises). The young female I was charged with seemed to enjoy being handled (and posing for snapshots!) but dashed into the water without hesitation when I placed her on the lakeshore. Hope both she and her species have a long, prosperous future.

For more info go to: http://www.westernswamptortoise.com/

Hard to get weirder than this...
Valessan
ozraptor4


My vote for the weirdest extant lifeform goes to the Blanket octopuses (Tremoctopus sp.), 4 species of pelagic cephalopod from tropical/subtropical oceans. Females are up to 2 m long and have the characteristic "blankets". Males are tiny (1-2cm long) and have a specially modified right tentacle for sperm storage. During mating, the arm tears itself off and independently wriggles its way inside female, ejecting its load of sperm (hentai tentacle-sex at its finest). Finally, the males and juvenile females rip the stinging tentacles off Portuguese men-of-war for use as hand-held weaponry.

http://tolweb.org/Tremoctopus/20202
http://tolweb.org/notes/?note_id=3124
http://tolweb.org/accessory/Tremoctopus_Eggs,_etc.?acc_id=2416

The Lost Thing
Valessan
ozraptor4
Yesterday Shaun Tan was kind enough to give me an impromptu (and unauthorized) full screening of the The Lost Thing, which had only premiered in France the day before and has yet to be released in Australia. I was stunned... there was none of the antiseptic feeling one often finds in short CG movies. The film not only captures the essense of the book, but fleshes out a lot of small stories happening in the background. The depiction of "Utopia" where the narrator and the Lost Thing part ways ranks among the most wondrous sequences I've seen in a long time.

My only complaint? The Hallucigenia-cat from the book was missing!

The film will be doing the rounds at local film festivals and will be on DVD (by Madman) in (probably) October.

Owensia chooi
Valessan
ozraptor4
Hey hey! Its not everyday you get immortalised by getting a zoological nomen named after you! For me, its a 380 million year old, Middle Devonian lobe-finned fish from Victoria.

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a916428817~db=all~jumptype=rss

Back in Perth!
Valessan
ozraptor4
Woohoo!

My stint at Museum Victoria, Melbourne has come to a close after four glorious years! In that time I've described/helped to describe a half-dozen or so new fossil fish and had more fun than I can remember. But all good things must come to an end so I'm currently recuperating back in Perth, in limbo as I await for the removalists to deliver all my material possessions from over east. Will tell you more when I kickstart my brain!

I'm the "Top Creator Pick" Feature on Spore!
Valessan
ozraptor4
I'm this weeks "Top Creator" on Spore.

http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/17851.page

Damn this game is addictive...although definately not the scientific marvel they were originally advertising it as.

If any of you are on Spore, stop by and say hi!
Valessan
ozraptor4

Thesis reeled, gaffed and bagged
Valessan
ozraptor4
My thesis entitled "Revision and description of the Actinopterygian fishes of Devonian Eastern Gondwana" is in the bag. Came out as a gargantuan 8 chapters, 320+ pages, 12 colour plates, c.70,000 words plus c20,000 word appendices. Took 48 hours to print 6 volumes - ran out of toner and found it was cheaper to throw away the old printer and buy a new one instead of buying a replacement cartridge? Wheres the logic in that!?

Anyhow - the last 3.5 years of work has paid off. 3 Papers in print, 1 in press and 2 in revision. 6 new species/2 new genera described. Before Gondwana was a ray-finned backwater of the Devonian with just 3 species - now it has at least 8, comparable with northern hemisphere diversity at the time.

This salmon has completed its spawning run. I can feel my body coming apart...(after typing non-stop since time immemorial). Now the waters will gently deposit my tattered carcass onto the shore.

Need sleeeeep.

Back to Gogo!
Valessan
ozraptor4
Well...

Its off to WA for 2 weeks of fossil fun in the Gogo Formation. Given what a motherlode of dead fish greeted us in 2005, we have high hopes of squeezing a few more Nature papers out of the site! Be back on the 9th.

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