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SVPCA
Abstracts: Leicester 2004
 
 
If you copy the HTML page and paste it into a blank Word document it will retain the formattng.
SVPCA Conference
Platform presentation (20) mins
New light on the Devonian tetrapod Ventastega curonica
 
Only two of the 10 known Devonian tetrapod genera, Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, both from the Famennian of Greenland are represented by extensive articulated material. Most are very fragmentary, in several cases known only from lower jaws. Here we present an overview of the material of the late Famennian tetrapod Ventastega curonica, collected from the Ketleri Formation of Latvia since 1991. Ventastega is represented by virtually the whole skull and lower jaw, most of the shoulder girdle, part of the pelvis, and fragments of the axial skeleton (ribs and tail fin rays). This makes it the most complete Devonian tetrapod after Ichthyostega and Acanthostega.

Although contemporary with these genera, the lower jaw structure of Ventastega suggests that it is more primitive than either. However, its general morphology closely resembles Acanthostega. Shared characters include: paired median rostrals; a loosely attached dentary; an internasal fontanelle; the morphology of the otic capsule; a kite-shaped interclavicle; short, slender ribs; a slender ilium with a posterodorsally directed postiliac process and no iliac canal; and (probably) large caudal lepidotrichia. Overall, Ventastega appears to be a less crownward tetrapod than Acanthostega; their shared characters are probably attributes of a segment of the tetrapod stem lineage.

The varying lability of morphological traits: recognition, causes and consequences
 
*
Nicholas Arnold
Traits of organisms vary greatly in how readily they change through evolutionary time. Behaviour of traits on phylogenies may give some idea of relative lability but other indicators are also required. For instance, especially labile features often lack clearly disjunct character states, show high intraspecific variation, and are easily changed by selection. Examples include body size in many taxa and the shape and proportions of the limbs and digits in lizards. Such features often appear to be finely tuned to changing ecological parameters. At the other extreme traits that persist without change after their evolution are frequently associated with particular mechanisms that conserve them. Thus, the eyelids of lizards often fuse but never become openable again, apparently because accessory structures necessary for their function in this state disappear as soon as fusion takes place. In contrast, pigment around the viscera of basking lizards, which protects them from UV light, often fails to reappear after loss because an alternative method of protection in sunny situations is more easily evolved. Assessment of lability is important in inferring the unknown attributes of organisms. It also has a role in successfully applying the comparative method, and in choosing between conflicting suites of characters in phylogenetic analysis.
Why molecular biology is important for paleontologists, and vice-versa: examples from the "Insectivora"
 
*
Robert J Asher
Although there are a limited number of living placental mammals traditionally grouped in the "Insectivora," there are many more fossil insectivorans, including palaeoryctids, geolabidids, apternodontids, micropternodontids, and nyctitheres. With the recognition that modern insectivorans belong to at least two fundamentally different mammalian clades (Afrotheria and "Eu"-lipotyphla), the understanding of fossil insectivorans must change accordingly. In this talk I discuss new material of Centetodon and Apternodus, two insectivoran-grade taxa best known from the late Eocene of North America, and discuss the influence that molecular sequences from living taxa have on reconstructing their phylogeny. Several specific issues, including the early Tertiary evolution of shrews, the affinities of apternodontids and palaeoryctids, and relationships of the enigmatic, Caribbean Solenodon are better understood today than they were 10 years ago, in part due to the influence of a greatly improved database of sequence data for living taxa. Incorporating these data into paleontological studies is very important, not only because of the topological effects of combining data, but also because paleontological data enable a better understanding of crown vs. stem taxa, the timing of the first appearances of modern orders, and the mosaic evolution that has resulted in the diversification of modern placental mammals.
Tooth microwear as a tool for investigating the trophic ecology of fossil fishes: an experimental analysis of sticklebacks
 
Understanding the ecological controls on the origin of new species is central to understanding evolution. Much recent work has focused on competition for food resources as the cause of speciation through ecological character displacement. Tracking feeding patterns over time is central to this research, but this is difficult for living animals and almost impossible for fossils. Yet it is fossils that hold the key to looking at speciation over evolutionary timescales. Tooth microwear may provide some answers.

Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus species complex) are important model organisms in investigations of ecology and evolution and we report here the results of an experimental investigation of tooth microwear in stickleback populations raised under controlled laboratory conditions. Our research indicates that stickleback teeth develop clear patterns of microwear that reflect tooth use and feeding strategy. Quantitative analysis demonstrates that tooth microwear provides an accurate guide to trophic type. The method will be of great use for unravelling the diets of fossil fish but can also be used to determine the foraging niche of extant fish where information on diet is not available.

The `Extant Phylogenetic Bracket' (EPB): a panacea for palaeobiological reconstruction?
 
*
Paul M Barrett
The EPB is a method for inferring soft-tissue structure in extinct organisms. It is based on two precepts: i) use of the immediate sister-clades of the taxon under investigation to provide an evolutionary âbracketâ to constrain speculation regarding the presence/absence of a particular structure, and ii) identification of âosteological correlatesâ for soft-tissue structures in extant animals that can be identified in fossils. The EPB represents an extension of the comparative anatomical framework that palaeobiologists have used since Cuvier, and has been applied in many palaeobiological studies.

The EPB constrains palaeobiological speculation and provides insights into soft-tissue reconstructions: however, the method is limited in several respects and should not be applied uncritically. Particular problems arise when: a novel structure in an extinct animal has no obvious counterpart in extant fauna; where structures of interest within the âbracketâ are homoplastic; where extant âbracketâ members are highly specialised or distantly related to the extinct taxon; and where phylogenies are poorly supported. Each of these drawbacks will be illustrated with reference to amniote soft-tissue reconstructions. A compromise approach is advocated, where the phylogenetic context of an extinct organism is considered alongside other evidence (e.g., biomechanical data) to evaluate hypotheses of soft-tissue reconstruction and function.

Ecosystem remodelling among vertebrates at the Permo-Triassic boundary in Russia
 
*
Michael J Benton
 
Mikhail V Surkov
 
Valentin P Tverdokhlebov
 
A new coastal reptilian fauna from the Kimmeridgian of northwestern Switzerland
 
*
Jean-Paul Billon-Bruyat
 
Daniel Marty
Since 2000, a Swiss paleontological team carries out systematic excavations along the future course of the "Transjurane" highway (Canton Jura, northwestern Switzerland). Numerous fossiliferous beds are excavated and studied at several localities, all in the vicinity of the town of Porrentruy. These beds are precisely dated by ammonites to the Kimmeridgian. They correspond to coastal deposits of a shallow carbonate platform, at the threshold between the boreal and the tethyan realms. So far, the excavations have yielded a rich and diverse fauna of invertebrates and vertebrates (fish and reptiles).

We report here the first synthetic overview of the coastal reptilian fauna, including biomarkers of emersions. Until now, skeletal remains of chelonians, crocodilians, of a pterosaur, and numerous trackways of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs have been discovered. The composition of the reptilian fauna appears globally consistent with that of Late Jurassic Lagerstätten of Western Europe deposited in similar palaeoenvironments. The ichnites show that dinosaurs could habitually enter in the coastal marine area and suggest that an unexpected terrestrial palaeoenvironment could provide them suitable habitats, contrary to available palaeogeographic reconstructions.

A new coastal reptilian fauna from the Kimmeridgian of northwestern Switzerland
 
Since 2000, a Swiss paleontological team carries out systematic excavations along the future course of the "Transjurane" highway (Canton Jura, northwestern Switzerland). Numerous fossiliferous beds are excavated and studied at several localities, all in the vicinity of the town of Porrentruy. These beds are precisely dated by ammonites to the Kimmeridgian. They correspond to coastal deposits of a shallow carbonate platform, at the threshold between the boreal and the tethyan realms. So far, the excavations have yielded a rich and diverse fauna of invertebrates and vertebrates (fish and reptiles).

We report here the first synthetic overview of the coastal reptilian fauna, including biomarkers of emersions. Until now, skeletal remains of chelonians, crocodilians, of a pterosaur, and numerous trackways of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs have been discovered. The composition of the reptilian fauna appears globally consistent with that of Late Jurassic Lagerstätten of Western Europe deposited in similar palaeoenvironments. The ichnites show that dinosaurs could habitually enter in the coastal marine area and suggest that an unexpected terrestrial palaeoenvironment could provide them suitable habitats, contrary to available palaeogeographic reconstructions.

Asian spinosaur confirmed
 
*
Eric Buffetaut
 
Varavudh Suteethorn
 
Haiyan Tong
In 1986, isolated teeth from the Early Cretaceous Sao Khua Formation of northeastern Thailand were described by Buffetaut and Ingavat (Rev.Paléobiol.,1986, 5: 217-220) as Siamosaurus suteethorni and tentatively referred to the family Spinosauridae, because of their unusual morphology (limited lateral compression, lack of serrations, ribbed enamel). Siamosaurus teeth turned out to be frequent in the Sao Khua Formation, as well as in the slightly later (Aptian/Albian) Khok Kruat Formation, and a similar tooth was described from the Early Cretaceous of Japan, but until recently no skeletal remains had been found, and the systematic position of this animal remained uncertain.

Recently, a partial skeleton of a large theropod dinosaur (including several cervical and dorsal vertebrae, ribs and a metapodial) was excavated from the Khok Kruat Formation at a new locality near the city of Khon Kaen. The cervical vertebrae resemble those of Baryonyx walkeri in many respects (elongation of centrum, articular faces of centrum not offset, large epipophyses, prominent ligament scars). The dorsal vertebrae are similar to those of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, with neural spines which are much taller than in Baryonyx (although not as tall as in S. aegyptiacus). A tooth found with the bones belongs to Siamosaurus, but whether it is from the same individual or is evidence of scavenging remains uncertain.

This find demonstrates that spinosaurid theropods were present in Asia in the Early Cretaceous, and supports the identification of Siamosaurus as a spinosaurid. The family clearly had a wider geographical distribution than was previously assumed, including not only Africa, Europe and South America, but also eastern Asia

Long-term sea temperature variations control Cretaceous fish diversity
 
*
Lionel Cavin
 
Peter L Forey
 
Reconstruction of the neck posture in sauropods
 
The neck posture is a crucial feature in the mechanics, the ecology and the physiology of a sauropod. The range of possible neck postures can be limited by analysing the articulation of adjacent cervical vertebrae. Yet, the vertebrae can be arranged in different, apparently reasonable ways, resulting in considerable differences in neck posture. A robust and reliable mechanical method for the reconstruction of the habitual posture of a long neck in a terrestrial vertebrate is based on the comparison of the distribution of compressive forces along the neck with the distribution of the cross-sectional areas of the intervertebral discs. In habitual postures compressive forces tend to be proportional to the cross-sectional areas of the intervertebral joints resulting in approximately constant stress in the joint cartilage along the neck. This method has been successfully tested among recent vertebrates with long necks, like camels (Camelus sp.) and giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis). Applied to sauropods, it reveals a considerable variation in neck posture among different species. The neck was kept nearly vertically in Brachiosaurus but much more horizontally in Diplodocus. The contrast in neck posture of different sauropods is reflected in the overall body design, especially in tail and limb length.
A new tetrapod taxon from the Devonian of East Greenland
 
A new genus and species of Devonian tetrapod has been identified from material collected in 1947 from the southern slope of Celsius Bjerg, Ymer Ã, East Greenland. The specimen preserves both lower jaws, partial palate, premaxillae and maxillae, with a natural mould of parts of the shoulder girdle. The new taxon shows many differences from both Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, though shows a closer resemblance to the latter. The dentition of Ichthyostega has also been reassessed in the light of fresh studies. Differences from Ichthyostega are most clearly seen in the dentition: tooth shape, number and proportions differ from that genus on all tooth-bearing bones. It also differs from Ichthyostega in skull ornamentation and lateral line expression. A cladistic analysis using characters of the palate, marginal bones, lower jaws and dentition will explore its phylogenetic signficance within a range of tetrapodomorphs, stem and higher tetrapod taxa. This discovery increases the known diversity of tetrapods from the Devonian of East Greenland to five valid taxa
A Famennian vertebrate assemblage from Belgium: How different from the East Greenland?
 
*
Henning Blom
 
Gaël Clment
A revision of the Devonian vertebrate collections of Liège and Brussels, and studies of new specimens from recent fieldwork have revised the composition of the Famennian vertebrate fauna from Belgium.

These fluviatile to estuarine sediments have yielded remains of Placodermi (Bothriolepis, Phyllolepis, Groenlandaspis), Acanthodii, Actinopterygii, Dipnoi (Dipteridae and Rhynchodipteridae), Holoptychiidae (Holoptychius), Rhizodontida, Megalichthyidae, Tristichopteridae (Eusthenodon) and Tetrapoda (Ichthyostega-like).

The finding of an Ichthyostega-like tetrapod in Belgium, previously only known in the continental sediments of Greenland, extends the geographical distribution for this taxon. Most of the major groups of Famennian vertebrates are present in both Belgium and Greenland. However Remigolepis and Chondrichthyes are present in the Famennian of Greenland but seem to be absent in Belgium. On the other hand, Rhizodontida and Megalichthyidae, both of Gondwanan origin, are present in the Famennian of Belgium but not in Greenland. This comparison between the Famennian faunal assemblages of Belgium and Greenland allows some interesting paleoenvironmental and paleobiogeographical hypothesis which may be helpful for the understanding of the fish-tetrapod transition

Tritylodontid remains from Olgahain, southern Germany, and worldwide relationships of the genus Oligokyphus
 
*
Ian Corfe
 
Thomas Martin
 
Wolf-Ernst Reif
Remains of the tritylodontid Oligokyphus were described from the Rhaetic bonebeds of Baden-Württemberg, southern Germany, by Hennig (1922). A water-worn upper molar from either the Olgahain or Schlösslesmühle bone-bed is the type of O. triserialis. A second molar from Olgahain was named O. biserialis but later recognised as a lower molar of O. triserialis. Many genera and species have been described from Baden-Württemberg Rhaetic bonebed tritylodontid dental remains, but much of this material is lost or synonymous with O. triserialis.

Here we describe eleven partial or complete tritylodontid molar/cheek teeth collected in 1948 by O.H. Schindewolf at the Olgahain locality. The presence of eleven cusps on complete upper molars are an apomorphy of Oligokyphus. Apomorphies of O. triserialis that may help resolve the relationships of Oligokyphus worldwide are identified, and the material is compared with O. major, Oligokyphus sp. from Arizona and O. lufengensis using morphological and quantitative morphometric techniques. The resolution of these relationships is vital for dating numerous Early Jurassic vertebrate faunas globally (i.e. from St Brides Island fissure fills, Wales; Kayenta Formation, USA; Lufeng Formation, China). A hypothesised sister group relationship between Oligokyphus sp. from Arizona and O. lufengensis throws doubt on current datings.

A new dicynodont from the Upper Permian (Tartarian) of northern Scotland
 
A recently discovered natural mold of a complete, almost undistorted, skull and lower jaw of a dicynodont (c.234 mm overall length), in a block of Upper Permian desert sandstone from Clashach Quarry, Hopeman, Morayshire, is described using novel techniques, including CAT-scanning, MRI and rapid-prototype modelling. It is assigned to the species Dicynodon traquairi (Newton, 1893). When compared with Dicynodon lacerticeps Owen, 1840 it is distinguished principally by having the pineal opening sunk deeply between the diverging parietals, and parallel pterygoid rami, narrowly separated, and only a small contact between the palatines and the premaxillae. The southern African fauna lived on river flats in a higher (southern) palaeolatitude than the desert-dwelling Scottish species. The Hopeman Sandstone Formation is noted for its abundant tetrapod trackways of which there are recorded four ichnospecies, contained in the ichnogenus Chelichnus. Variations in morphology are related to differences in gait and substrate properties; these differing ichnospecies can be assigned to several genera of mammal-like-reptiles and paraeiasaurs. The Hopeman Sandstone Formation is of the same age as the better-known Cutties Hillock Sandstone Formation, whose fauna is reviewed, and which is shown to contain at least three species of dicynodont and one paraeiasaur.
The ctenocystoids viewed as stem-group hemichordates
 
The ctenocystoids are small tailless âcarpoidsâ. Their skeletal plates are of monocrystalline calcite and so, since their original description in 1969, they have always been placed in the echinoderms. This is no longer logical, however, since the accepted cladogram is now ((hemichordates + echinoderms) chordates) and calcite occurs in primitive fossil chordates as well as in echinoderms. Originally, therefore, a skeleton of monocrystalline calcite plates is a deuterostome, not exclusively an echinoderm, feature.

Indeed, ctenocystoids are more likely to be hemichordates than echinoderms. This is based on the bilateral symmetry and posterior anus of all ctenocystoids (in common with extant enteropneust hemichordates). Also, there is a still undescribed Ordovician ctenocystoid with a âpeltâ of fine recurved spines of a shape implying fossoriality and a mouth anatomy implying mud-feeding. In both these presumed habits it resembled an extant enteropneust hemichordate. It did not belong to the enteropneust clade, however, because it retains primitive features (calcite skeleton, absence of a muscular protosome) that place it in the hemichordate stem group, not in any part of the hemichordate crown group.

The fossils therefore indicate that, among hemichordates. the straight enteropneust gut existed in the stem group and is therefore more primitive than the pterobranch U-shaped gut. This contradicts what we thought before and agrees with some, though not all, of the molecular evidence.

Late Cretaceous fossil birds from Hornby Island, British Columbia
 
The discovery of the remains of birds from Campanian rocks on Hornby Island (Strait of Georgia), British Columbia, adds to the known distributions of two groups of fossil avians during the latter stages of the Mesozoic. New specimens referred to the clades Enantiornithes and Ornithurae demonstrate the presence of a diverse marine avifauna in Canadian Pacific marine sediments prior to the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. These records, from the Campanian Northumberland Formation of Hornby Island are the first known fossil birds from the Mesozoic of British Columbia, including the youngest fully marine representative of the diverse clade Enantiornithes yet described. Fossil birds from coastal rocks on the west coast of British Columbia lend further support to suggestions that ocean-going birds were important constituents of marine ecosystems in the terminal stages of the Mesozoic.
Turtle taphonomy and tuna fish sandwiches
 
Late Jurassic turtles in Europe are known from the Kimmeridge Clay, England, Solnhofen Limestone, Germany, and Solothurn Limestone, Switzerland. The number of these turtles that are in public and private collections exceeds 500, ranging from isolated bones to complete, articulated specimens. To date, only the Solnhofen turtles have received even a cursory taphonomic analysis.

Taphonomic processes may obscure distributional contexts, and related elements may lose their spatial association (Hill 1979). In this regard, turtles, with their unique development of the vertebrate skeleton, encased in a hard, bony shell with pectoral girdles inside the ribcage, present a unique set of taphonomic challenges. There is very little published literature on experimental turtle taphonomy (Blob 1995), and whether or not postmortem processes affect turtle carcasses and skeletal tissues differently to more conventional vertebrate skeletons. In order to study the taphonomy of Late Jurassic European turtles, it is necessary to first determine the disarticulation rates and quantify the soft tissue disintegration of recent turtle carcasses.

Using a number of turtle carcasses donated by the London Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, experimental taphonomic work was undertaken. The initial data from these experiments is presented

3D models of an Ancient Environment - the Eocene Geiseltal as a case study
 
*
Daniel Ackermann
 
Hagen Aedtner
 
Jrg Erfurt
 
Gordon Prei
 
Jan Viehweger
 
Chometokadmon and the early Cretaceous lizard assemblage of Pietraroia, Italy
 
The Early Cretaceous locality of Pietraroia, Italy, has yielded a diverse assemblage of lepidosaurian reptiles. One genus, Chometokadmon, was originally described as a lizard, but later referred to the Rhynchocephalia when new specimens were added. This confusion persisted until 1988, when re-examination confirmed that the holotype was a lizard. Chometokadmon is well preserved and fully articulated, with normal body proportions and elongate hind feet. The skull shows several interesting features, including a covering of small irregular osteoderms. These remain free of the skull bones and appear to be concentrated on the lateral surfaces, encircling the eyes and investing the temporal region. Cladistic analysis places Chometokadmon firmly within Scleroglossa and suggests a relationship with the Middle Jurassic-basal Cretaceous Parviraptor, a putative stem-varanoid. This would be consistent with the generally archaic nature of the Pietraroia assemblage. Pietraroia provides one of the last records of Laurasian rhynchocephalians, while the squamates include taxa close to those from the Upper Jurassic of Germany. At the time of deposition, the land around Pietraroia formed a small island on the southern edge of the European archipelago. This may explain the apparently relictual character of its fauna.
Ontogeny issues among sauropodomorph dinosaurs and new specimens from the earliest Jurassic
 
Sauropodomorph dinosaurs include the largest animals to ever walk on land, and the biological basis for their size remains of great interest. Adult Titanosaurs were over 150 times larger than their post-hatching size, representing an extreme change in size during ontogeny. It is important to identify and characterize ontogenetic variability among fossil groups in order to avoid taxonomic bias and to develop reliable hypotheses of morphological evolution attributable to heterochrony. Analysis of data from the published literature demonstrates ontogenetic variability and allometric growth among sauropodomorph dinosaurs requires additional study.

Recent discoveries of new basal sauropodomorph dinosaurs from the earliest Jurassic McCoy Brook Formation sandstones in Nova Scotia include several adult, sub adult and yearling specimens. Previously these dinosaur specimens were referred to Ammosaurus c.f., however recently prepared specimens demonstrate that the Nova Scotia material should not be referred to the sauropodomorph taxa from the Connecticut Valley, and rather likely represents a new taxon. Preliminary results of recent fieldwork, palaeohistological analysis and morphology descriptions of the new specimens will be considered.

Reinforced hoses and Rhomaleosaurs
 
There is a striking diversity of plesiosaurs in the early Jurassic. An important family within this early fauna is the Rhomaleosauridae, represented by a number of species. Although well known from a number of spectacular specimens, little research has been done on the taxon.

A specimen of Rhomaleosaurus in New Walk Museum currently being prepared has revealed details of the post-cranial anatomy which have not previously been described, in particular in the structure of the cervical vertebrae. These show adaptations for resisting torsional force â hardly unexpected in an animal with a skull adapted to withstand torsion. Helical structures in the cervical vertebrae are analogous to the reinforcement in hoses and other tubular structures. The performance of such reinforcing elements is severely impaired if they do not lie at 45 degrees to the axis of the tube, which sets limits on the degree to which the centra can be shortened without loosing torsional strength. Rhomaleosaurs had 28 cervical vertebrae and a limited ability to vary this count. Such restrictions in variation in vertebral count are known also in mammals.

It is suggested that this combination of genetic and biomechanical restrictions limited the ability of the Rhomaleosaurs to exploit adaptive niches and led to the marginalisation of the family as more adaptable forms such as the pliosaurids appeared in the middle Jurassic.

Morphological integration in the lipotyphlan cranium
 
The evolution of lipotyphlan cranial morphological features is presumably driven by one or more causal factors, examples being selection for a function, or genetic drift. These factors will manifest themselves and be constrained by morphological integration, in which the evolution of one structure is correlated with others, either by development, genetics or function.

Geometric morphometrics were used to examine how the form of the skull varies in extinct and extant lipotyphlans. We looked for correlations of four different types: 1) within the same functional complex; 2) within different but related functional complexes; 3) within different, unrelated and adjacent functional complexes; and 4) within different, unrelated and non-adjacent functional complexes. The analysis was repeated three times, first using only extant lipotyphlans, then using only shrews, and finally only using one genus (Crocidura).

At least one example from each of the four of categories was found. For instance, in the case of category 3, the area of the glenoid decreased whilst the auditory region lengthened. It is probable that these examples of co-variation have more than one kind of evolutionary cause. Furthermore, patterns of co-variation were broadly similar in each of the four analyses, suggesting that they are conserved across the evolution of these taxa.

The taxonomic and phylogenetic position of the plesiosauroidea from the Posidonian shale of southwest Germany
 
The lower Jurassic Posidonian shale of southwest Germany is famous for its high content of finely preserved invertebrate and vertebrate fossils. It is also the only german locality were complete plesiosaur skeletons can be found. Unfortunately only five of the 10 known plesiosauroids have been described until now, and most of these works date back to the late 19th or middle 20th century. Previously undescribed material added information to the hitherto incompletely known cranial anatomy of Plesiosaurus guilelmiimperatoris. This led to a revision of the known material, and on this basis, the taxonomy of the two german plesiosauroid species P. guilelmiimperatoris and P. brachypterygius from the Posidonian shale was reviewed. A phylogenetic analysis was made, which includes lower Jurassic plesiosauroid genera from Britain, to clarify the phylogenetic position of the two german taxa within the basal plesiosauroids.
Geometric morphometric analysis of taxonomy and phylogeny in recent and fossil snakes: examples from the Hampshire basin
 
Taxonomic identification and phylogeny reconstruction of fossil snakes based on qualitative differences in vertebral morphology is hampered by multiple sources of variation in shape. Quantitative methods may be better suited for taxonomic and phylogenetic analyses. This study looks at the factors influencing snake vertebral shape by applying geometric morphometric techniques to extant boid snakes and the fossil snake faunas of the late Eocene Hampshire Basin, Isle of Wight.

Principal components analysis is used to assess the relative contributions of intracolumnar position, phylogeny, and alpha taxonomic identity to vertebral shape among extant and fossil taxa. The phylogenetic significance of shape is estimated by incorporating shape variables in a maximum-likelihood phylogenetic analysis and comparing results to phylogenies based on more traditional data.

Results from analysis of extant boids indicate that taxonomic shape differences exceed intracolumnar variation for most taxa, and higher-order phylogeny is partially reflected in vertebral shape. However, known lower-order interrelationships are not recovered, and vertebral shape likely preserves an ecomorphological signal. Analysis of fossils indicates that previous taxonomic assignments are inaccurate, and estimates of species richness are inflated. Finally, hypotheses of similarity between North America and European Paleogene snake faunas are not corroborated by morphometric methods.

Elasmosaurs of Aotearoa
 
Until recently, elasmosaurid plesiosaur remains deemed to be identifiable, from Late Cretaceous deposits in New Zealand were assigned to Mauisaurus haasti Hector, 1874 or Tuarangisaurus keyesi Wiffen & Moisley, 1986. The former is represented by the lectotype (a part pelvis and right hind paddle) and a number of incomplete skeletons. The latter is represented by the holotype (skull and nine anterior cervical vertebrae). Preparation of a substantially complete skeleton assignable to M. haasti has permitted a redescription and fuller diagnosis of this taxon, allowing its relationships to be better explored. Two further specimens are shown to differ from M. haasti but cannot be compared to T. keyesi. These are interpreted as new taxa, raising to four the number of elasmosaurs present in New Zealand during the Late Cretaceous.

Geographically, the nearest elasmosaurs to those of New Zealand are found in Australia. However, they are mostly Early Cretaceous and indeterminate. Taxonomically, the closest elasmosaurs to the New Zealand forms are those in South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Recently described Late Cretaceous specimens from Patagonia have been tentatively placed in Mauisaurus and Tuarangisaurus but some of the material appears juvenile and the rest is not diagnostic. A femur from Seymour Island does bear resemblance to that of Mauisaurus and may well be assignable to the genus.

A new primate from the English Early Eocene: implications for intercontinental dispersal
 
A new genus of omomyid primate from the Early Eocene Blackheath Beds of Abbey Wood, London, shares unique derived characters with the European subfamily Microchoerinae and is its most primitive member. It is nevertheless more derived than the stem omomyid Teilhardina belgica from the beginning of the European Eocene. As a microchoerine it is distinct from North American omomyids (subfamilies Omomyinae and Anaptomorphinae). The Mammalian Dispersal Event (MDE), which marks the beginning of the Eocene (55.5Ma), saw the arrival of primates, perissodactyls and artiodactyls in the Northern Hemisphere. At this time similar species of Teilhardina lived in Europe, Asia and North America. The Abbey Wood microchoerine lived about 1 million years later. It co-occurs with species identical or very similar to ones that lived in North America. These were all ground-dwellers, whereas the microchoerine was a tree-dweller. Land-bridges connected North America and Europe via Greenland at the beginning of the Eocene, but 2 million years later these had been severed by rifting. North American species at Abbey Wood indicate a land connection still at 54.5Ma. However, the forest belt that must have been continuous during the MDE to allow tree-dwellers to disperse between the continents, is likely now to have been disrupted, perhaps by volcanic eruption.
Modelling dinosaur locomotor biomechanics: where I think we should be headed
 
Dinosaur (and other extinct vertebrate) biomechanics is behind the times. In particular, the field of engineering has made major methodological and conceptual advances in the study of locomotor mechanics that have barely filtered down into biology, let alone palaeontology. Indeed, itâs my opinion that weâve barely moved forward from what R. McNeill Alexander did in 1985, and sometimes I wonder if weâve even gotten that far. We need to move forward and innovate, not just rehash what others have done for other species, rely on extant functional analogues, or stick to simple scaling studies. This may seem like an overly cynical or negative view, but Iâll do my best to stay positive. Iâll use the recent work Iâve done on quantifying dinosaur locomotor mechanics as an example of how we can move forward, and where we must tread the most cautiously. But Iâll be honest that even those are preliminary, simple steps compared to what should be done to bring the field up to speed. Most importantly, we need âfresh bloodâ from outside of palaeontology: more collaboration with engineers, computer scientists, biologists, etc., and more students from outside biology/geology.
A new look at Baryonyx walkeri (Charig and Milner, 1986) based upon a recent fossil find from the Wealden
 
The discovery of a remarkable vertebra from the south-west coast of the Isle of Wight allows comparison with a highly specialized taxon of theropod dinosaurs: the Spinosauroidea. We have examined the holotype skeleton of Baryonyx walkeri (Charig and Milner, 1986) and conclude that the new find is closely related to Baryonyx from the United Kingdom and to Suchomimus tenerensis (Sereno et al.1998) from North Africa. We present evidence for a reconfiguration of part of the spinal column of Baryonyx. We also suggest that Suchomimus should be regarded as Baryonyx tenerensis, based partly on the information derived from this important new fossil from the Isle of Wight.
The shape of a species: morphometric analysis of the conodont skeleton
 
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Phylogeny of therapsids: learning from the molecules, or can morphology ever get it right?
 
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Lured By The Rings: Growing Pains of a Big Dead Fish
 
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Strategy and Tactics in Tetrapod Skin Evolution
 
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An in-depth look at dinosaur tracks
 
Fossil tracks have the potential to reveal information on the size, gait and speed of dinosaurs and locomotor evolution, as well as providing clues to their behavior and the identity of track maker. Furthermore, tracks, together with the surrounding sedimentary rocks can support the analysis of global Mesozoic terrestrial environments and ecosystems. The underlying assumption of many interpretations is that what is preserved is a surface track. Therefore, data (track length & width, digit length, number of digits, interdigital angles, etc.) on which these interpretations are based are recorded as 2D features.

Pilot experiments have recovered subsurface track layers yielding, for the first time, detailed information on complex 3D subsurface track morphology that can be correlated with "true" surface trace features. It is clear from this study that many tracks have been misinterpreted as surface when in fact they are transmitted features that are markedly different in size and morphology to the surface traces. These simple observations have profound implications for the interpretation of dinosaur tracks, and the broader interpretations that are derived from the analysis of all fossil vertebrate tracks.

A new assemblage of dichobunid artiodactyls from Shanghuang (middle Eocene, Eastern China): implications in the emergence of the selenodont grade in Asia
 
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K Christopher Beard
 
Guo Jianwei
 
Gregoire Metais
 
So... what is Yaverlandia?
 
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Darren Naish
 
The rle of the plesiosaurian neck: an integrated approach
 
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Leslie F Noé
 
Does Meckel rest easily in his groove?
 
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Robert Presley
 
The problem of stem group vertebrates and the evolution of the vertebrate body plan
 
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Mark A Purnell
 
Phylogenetic information and homoplasy in non-avian theropod braincases
 
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Oliver W Rauhut
 
The Tendaguru sauropod "Barosaurus" africanus and the palaeobiogeography of diplodocid sauropods
 
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Kristian Remes
 
The Braincase and Middle Ear Region of Dendrerpeton acadianum
 
Dendrerpeton acadianum from the Westphalian A of Joggins, Nova Scotia, is one of the earliest and phylogenetically most basal temnospondyls. Its external cranial anatomy has been used previously to suggest the presence of a tympanic membrane and an impedance matching ear. However supporting evidence for this from stapedial and braincase morphology has so far been wanting. The braincase and middle ear region have remained almost wholly unknown. CT scanning and 3D computer reconstruction of BMNH R.436 has been used to shed light on these important areas in Dendrerpeton acadianum. Both stapes prove to be present in the specimen; the right stapes is distorted, but the left stapes lies inside the cranial cavity and is perfectly preserved. The morphology and orientation of the stapes provide strong evidence for the presence of an impedance matching ear with similarities to the extant anuran condition. The reconstructed braincase shows a high degree of similarity to that of other basal temnospondyls. This gives supporting evidence that Dendrerpeton acadianum is correctly placed in the temnospondyl phylogeny and thus demonstrates one of the earliest impedance matching hearing systems that can be homologised with the extant anuran condition
Postcranial development and the marsupial-placental dichotomy
 
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Marcelo R Sanchez Villagra
 
Computed tomography and 3D reconstruction of the braincase of the first European spotted hyaena
 
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Jose M Carretero
 
Patricio Dominguez-Alonso
 
Nuria Garc¡a
 
Juan Luis Arsuaga
 
Elena Santos
 
Reconstructions of air-sac systems and musculature in the neck of Diplodocus (Sauropodomorpha)
 
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Daniella Schwarz
The cervical vertebrae of Diplodocus are hollowed out by a complex system of pneumatic cavities. Reconstructions of the distribution of internal cavities within the cervical vertebrae of Diplodocus with the help of computertomographic images serve as the basis for reconstructing air-sac systems in the neck of Diplodocus.

In contrast to the complexely hollowed out cervical vertebrae of the adult specimens, vertebrae of juveniles of Diplodocus are perforated by simpler and fewer cavities. Differences between the vertebrae of juvenile and adult specimens of Diplodocus relate also to external pneumatic features and the amount of bifurcated processus spinosi of the cervical vertebrae. In contrast to these differences, every examined specimen possessed a neural canal closely connected to internal and external pneumatic structures. From a comparison between the cervical vertebrae of juvenile and adult specimens an increase of the size, complexity and frequency of the pneumatic structures is reconstructable. The development of bifurcated processus spinosi in the neck leads also to a change in the configuration of the dorsal cervical musculature and ligaments.

These reconstructions are part of a project in the Natural History Museum Basel (SNF No. 200021-101494/1), focussing on a constructional morphological analysis of the axial skeleton of sauropod dinosaurs.

The description of a new steneosaur specimen, and the diversity and ecology of Steneosaurus from the Yorkshire Lias
 
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Rebecca Smith
 
Faunal diversity in a British Early Cretaceous (Barremian) ecosystem
 
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Steven C Sweetman
 
A survey of dinosaur diversity by clade, age, country and year of description
 
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Michael P Taylor
 
The principal attributes of pterosaur reproductive biology: oviparity, hyperprecociality and slow growth
 
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David M Unwin
 
Darwin versus The Matrix: does artificial intelligence have a place in vertebrate palaeontology?
 
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Norman MacLeod
 
Mark O'Neill
 
Stig. A Walsh
 
Inferring the Phylogenetic Relationships of Parrots (Aves, Psittaciformes) Using Osteological Characters and Including Fossils
 
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Gareth J Dyke
 
David M Waterhouse
 
Carpal anatomy of diprotodontian marsupials: systematic and functional aspects
 
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Marcelo R Sanchez Villagra
 
Vera Weisbecker
 
Ontogeny of cranial sexual dimorphism in Homo sapiens: implications for hypotheses of sexual selection
 
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Pietro Liò
 
Eleanor M Weston
 
The distribution of gastroliths in dinosaurs, including birds, and the implications for gastrolith function
 
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Oliver Wings
 
Poster
Soft tissue preservation in a Cretaceous lizard from Southern Italy
 
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Carmela Barbera
 
Enrico Bucci
 
Raffaella Lamagna
 
Marco Signore
We describe here soft tissue in a lizard from the Pietraroja Plattenkalk (Benevento, Southern Italy).

The articulated fossil consists of the posterior half of the body of a lizard. Even though the most important taxonomic characters appear to be lost, some squamata groups could be excluded.

The fossil shows remains of a tube-like structure contacting the gastralia and ending near to the pelvic girdle. This structure shows no remarkable features under magnification and is encrusted by concretions of iron oxides. We interpreted this structure as the possible remains of the intestines.

The foot shows an interesting feature, consisting in horny sheaths covering the terminal part of the toes and similar to that observed in the possibly unrelated Pietraroja lacertilian Chometokadmon fitzingerii, suggesting a functional adaptation.

Finally, some taphonomic considerations of relevance to the Pietraroja paleoenvironment could be inferred by the presence and distribution of a limonite crust around the fossil. This crust could be related to bacterial mat around and over the body of the lizard, which would in turn indicate not completely anoxic conditions of the Pietraroja basin, consistently with other biogeochemical evidences.

Taphonomic and environmental signals in growth rings of Leedsichthys
 
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Tom Challands
 
Jeff J Liston
 
Immortal Clay: The Legacy of Alfred Nicholson Leeds
 
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Sandra D Chapman
 
Jeff J Liston
 
Mammalian orbital mosaics
 
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Philip G Cox
The orbital region of mammalian skulls is a complex area comprising between seven and nine different bones. The contribution that each of these bones makes to the orbit varies greatly between different groups of mammals. However, despite this plasticity, the orbit has received little attention in recent research. The aim of this study is examine the different patterns of orbital mosaics found amongst eutherian mammals and to link them to underlying functional factors. Qualitative characters have been taken from 111 eutherian taxa, encompassing members of most placental families. The data set was subjected to a cladistic analysis, as a whole and in smaller sections. The results show some deviations from current views of mammalian phylogeny, which suggests that the variation in orbital pattern does not simply follow phylogeny: the results suggest that it is the forces produced by the jaw-closing muscles that are influencing the make-up of the orbit. Finally, several skulls were subjected to split-line technique to try to infer the direction of collagen fibres, and hence the distribution of forces through the orbit. The results of these experiments are also presented here
A reconstruction of the humeral myology of the basal sauropodomorph Saturnalia tupiniquim
 
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Max C Langer
 
Stefan Niklas Gabriel
The basal sauropodomorph Saturnalia tupiniquim, from the Carnian of southern Brazil, is one of the earliest dinosaurs known. Consequently the myology of the pectoral girdle and forelimb of Saturnalia was probably near to the plesiomorphic condition for both Saurischia in general and Sauropodomorpha in particular.

The Extant Phylogenetic Bracket Method was used to reconstruct the muscles of the pectoral girdle and forelimb. For the humerus this allowed the attachment sites of the coracobrachialis, deltoides, pectoralis, scapulohumeralis, subscapularis, supracoracoideus, extensor and flexor muscles, to be determined. Additionally the method suggests that certain other muscles (the brachialis, for example), which are found in all extant reptile groups, were also probably present in Saturnalia. As their insertions and origins vary in extant taxa, their locations in Saturnalia are equivocal and they have not been reconstructed.

Morphological interpretation of an exceptionally preserved specimen of Confuciusornis sanctus
 
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Helen Hughes
 
Exploring skull evolution in the Rhynchocephalia (Diapsida: Lepidosauria)
 
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Marc E H Jones
 
A re-description of the holotype of the sauropterygian genus Peloneustes
 
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Kilary Ketchum
Peloneustes is the most common pliosaur found in the British Oxford Clay formation, represented by over 40 specimens. The majority of specimens are from a restricted temporal and geographic range: the Peterborough Member of central England (Callovian, Middle Jurassic); material from outside of the UK is fragmentary and may be non-diagnostic. The morphology and taxonomy of Callovian pliosaurs Liopleurodon, Simolestes and Pachycostasaurus have been the focus of recent work1, and a review of the genus Pliosaurus is also under-way. However, the most recent taxonomic review of Peloneustes was over 40 years ago2 and diagnosis of the genus was based on just five characters; only two of which stand up to scrutiny.

Despite good preservation, the holotype of Peloneustes (CAMSM J.46913) has never been described adequately. Recent preparation of this has confirmed the presence of six functional alveoli in the premaxilla, a post-symphysial vacuity in the lower jaw (first noticed in a new species of Colombian pliosaur, M. Gomez & L. Noè, pers. comm., 2004), a pre-articular in the lower jaw, and 13 pairs of teeth adjacent to the mandibular symphysis. Future work will allow the postcranial skeleton to be fully described before comparative and systematic analyses are undertaken.

Institutional abbreviation: CAMSM: Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge

Remains of fossil leatherback turtle (Testudinata: Dermochelyidae) from the Late Miocene Gram Formation of Denmark
 
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Bent E Lindow
 
A hyperossified megafrog from the Upper Cretaceous of Madagascar: a new size record for the Mesozoic
 
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Susan E Evans
 
Marc E H Jones
 
Aubrey G W Smith
 
How small mammal fossils accumulate: an example from the Late Eocene of the Isle of Wight
 
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Margaret E Collinson
 
Jerry J Hooker
 
Katerina Vasileiadou
 
The PalArch Foundation; new ways of publishing in palaeontology
 
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Marco Signore
 
Sigrid M van Roode
 
Andre J Veldmeijer
 
Two Pteranodontid humeri from the Cambridge Greensands; a reinterpretation
 
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Hanneke J M Meijer
 
Marco Signore
 
Andre J Veldmeijer
 
Evolution and development of autopodials in chelid turtles
 
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Marcelo R Sanchez Villagra
 
Jasmin D Winkler
 
Linda Wurst
 
SPPC/GCG Conference
Poster
The History and Preparation of the Enigmatic Dinosaur Hylaeosaurus armatus BMNH R 3375
 
Dr Gideon Mantell discovered Hylaeosaurus in 1832 while visiting a quarry in the Tilgate Forest in Sussex, southern England. The anterior part of the animal was preserved in several blocks blasted by the quarry-men. Mantell cemented the blocks together and removed the hard calcareous grit surrounding the bones to display the skeleton in the single block that we see in the literature. The anterior part of the skeleton, with perhaps a fragment of the skull, also includes a series of angular plates and dermal scales. Mantell published his description in 1833 and named the 'dinosaur' Hylaeosaurus armatus.

Hylaeosaurus together with Iguanodon and Megalosaurus formed Richard Owen's new Order Dinosauria published in 1842. This specimen came to the British Museum as part of the Mantell Collection purchased in 1838. Of the three first named dinosaurs Hylaeosaurus has yet to be fully described although clearly an armoured dinosaur it's family relationships cannot be truly resolved until this the type specimen has been prepared.

The fossilised remains have been carefully exposed using a variety of highly skilled preparation techniques and tools. A combination of chemical (acid) and mechanical (dental mallet, air-abrasive, etc.) methods were employed on the rock where appropriate.

The block thought to contain a skull fragment was removed first and the associated cervical vertebrae were also removed in order to reveal any attached armour hidden on the under surface of the block. The preparation of this specimen will continue until all the bones have been removed together with the invertebrates and plants contained in the original slab.

Mineralisation of highly degraded pyrite fossil collection
 
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Susan Martin
 
Platform presentation (20) mins
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Palaeontology
 
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Adrian M Doyle
 
Improving consolidant effectiveness: A capillarity based method for evaluating and monitoring consolidant concentration
 
The use of consolidants to stabilize and strengthen fragile fossil material plays an important role in the preparation and conservation of palaeontological specimens. Polymers such as polyvinyl acetate, dissolved in acetone or ethanol solvents, are widely used in consolidants because of their versatility and long-term stability. The concentration of dissolved polymer can be high (35% by weight), producing a thick solution useful as archival glue, or low ; <5%, providing a thin solution that can penetrate dense cortical bone. Additionally, there is often an optimal concentration that provides maximum penetration of consolidant into the object being conserved. The optimal concentration can be within a narrow range and vary from specimen to specimen, therefore determining and maintaining the effective concentration for a specimen is important. A method is presented that uses the capillary action of fluids to quantify and monitor the polymer concentrations of consolidant working solutions. The procedure is quick, inexpensive, and requires no specialized equipment. Regular assessment of working solution concentrations can increase quality and consistency of artefact conservation.

Funding was generously provided from The Jurassic Foundation, the Nova Scotia Museum Research Grant and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

The split - V, assessing a new tool for palaeontological preparation
 
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James Fletcher
 
The History and Preparation of the Enigmatic Dinosaur ,Hylaeosaurus armatus. BMNH R 3375
 
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Sandra D Chapman
 
David Gray
 
Mineralisation of highly degraded pyrite fossil collection
 
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Susan Martin
 
Curation history and mineralisation of highly degraded pyrite fossil collection
 
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Emily Hodgkinson
 
Mike P A Howe
 
Susan Martin
 
The dismantling and cleaning of the Sedgwick Museum's Iguanodon
 
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Sarah Finney
 
Leslie F Noé