Published on October 31st, 2013 | by David Marshall


The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting

Welcome to our coverage of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference here in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles. The SVP were formed in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators and others interested in vertebrate paleontology. It is organised exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.

At this event, we’re aiming to continue our daily reports, following on from our coverage of GSA, and I hope you’ve been enjoying them so far. SVP has a narrower focus than GSA and so it’s a lot easier to find researchers to interview and people you know, so fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) I managed to team up with Jon for this event.

As always, we’d love to see your comments and views on each episode and hopefully we’ll get plenty of material for you vertebrate lovers out there!

Day one

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This year the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is having its 73rd meeting in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles, USA.

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The hotel is impressively large, with the conference being held across three floors, and boasts grandiose water features, its own shops and food outlets and security guards who tell you to stop taking pictures inside the hotel.

You may recognise the hotel from True Lies, where Arnie rides a horse through the fountain and into the lift.

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Outside of the hotel, we grabbed some fantastic burritos* which were enjoyed out in the glorious sunshine.

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Similar to GSA, SVP has poster sessions and private exhibitors. Of all of these stalls and boards, the Bone Clones exhibit understandably catches attentions with their Megalodon jaws dwarfing those of a great white shark.

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The short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, replica is also a formidable presence. It is so large that it wouldn’t even fit in the room with its skull attached.

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Bone Clones produce a wide variety of replicas, including scale models and a range of hominid skulls. Find them here.

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The welcome reception was held in the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History amongst the displays. There was even a performer in a frighteningly realistic tyrannosaur costume who proved a massive hit with the delegates and who’s tail provided a massive hit to my camera.

*information correct at time of eating


Day two

Wedl tunnels

Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan from the University of Cape Town, South Africa has been looking at fungal attacks on bone. Pictured is a 30 micron thick section of a 260 million year old mammal-like reptile bone showing the tiny, crystalline structures (Wedl tunnels formed by fungi) emanating from the dark/opaque areas.

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I have never experienced a Halloween in the USA and so was pleasantly surprised to see so much effort on behalf of the general public. Here Michael Pitman of Honk Kong University and Aki Watanabe of the AMNH say ‘eh-oh’ to the locals.

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Hey you Pikachu! Fortunately, the fun didn’t stop at the door as the costumes made it in to the conference as well.

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Additionally it turns out that the Phantom of the Opera was not only a psychotic musical genius of 19th Century France, but has since been conducting a fair amount of research into Alligator mississippiensis.

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Satan dressed formally.

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Here, Adam Hartstone-Rose shows off his extraordinary penises. Note his crooked penis, which is just visible above his belt line.


Day three

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Collaborators David Gillette and Oscar Carranza displaying their research into Glyptotherium.


Dr Rui Castanhinha (pictured), along with Dr. Ricardo Araújo and Dr. Costa Júnior of the Museu da Lourinhã, have begun a project working on the vertebrates of Mozambique.

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In Mozambique many fossils such as Synapsids (Dicynodonts) and Temnospondyls can be found. Many local collaborators are being involved in the project, from work in the field to preparing specimens in the lab.


Eventually their project aims to provide Mozambique, not only with the knowledge of field and preparation techniques, but also a new Palaeontological institute from where future research can be conducted autonomously.

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In the evening, the SVP hosted both silent and live auctions where delegates could bid for books, documents, replicas, memorabilia etc.

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There were many lots to bid upon, all of which had been donated by various researchers and exhibitors.

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During the afternoon I was even able to get in a quick trip to the Page museum at the La Brea tar pits.

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The La Brea trip would have been the highlight of the day had Jon not turned up at the conference having been unable to wash off his Halloween face paint from his chin and neck.


Day four

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The conference ended with the Awards Ceremony in which all the delegates were treated to a meal before the SVP President honoured those who have contributed to the field of Vertebrate Palaeontology in many different ways.

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Included on this list was Steven Spielberg. Justifying this award, many young and of old professional palaeontologists credited Jurassic Park as providing them with the inspiration to follow palaeontology as a career path.


The A.S. Romer – G.G. Simpson medal, the society’s highest award, is awarded for sustained and outstanding scholarly excellence in the discipline of Vertebrate Paleontology was awarded to Professor Jack Horner. Image Paolo Sacchi CC-BY-SA 2.0.

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After the awards ceremony came the after party, where the delegates could all unwind and show their full range of biomechanics on the dance floor.

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Some of the multi-talented attendees put on a palaeo-themed DJ set which proved very popular. (see videos)

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As did the alcohol. (See videos)

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Although some considered the hotel charges for drinks to be too high and so came up with some ingenious and subtle ways to sneak it in unnoticed.

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Some of the fancy dress carried on from Halloween and into the after party.

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Although it wasn’t always for the best, as our Jon Tennant showed with his lederhosen.

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At the end of the night it’s tradition to exchange name badges with others. President elect John Long (pictured) eventually managed to exchange his badge with Martin Brazeau.

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After the after party, various after after parties popped up around town. Wherever you went you could always tell who the palaeontologists were, even if you couldn’t always trust the name badges.

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It’s been a great conference and so thanks to all these people for talking to us and the organisers of the conference, we’ll see you all in Berlin for next year’s SVP!

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