Book Update 1: Salamanders are weird, guys!

What does almost two days of continuous writing due to someone? It makes them salamander-crazy. I’ve been working on the chapter discussing lissamphibians and I think I might go nuts! I must have read the description paper for Parrisia neocesariensis 16 times, if not more! Lissamphibians are a lot cooler then many give them credit for. At the Ellisdale site, a Marshalltown Formation storm deposit in New Jersey, so many incomplete fossil specimens of salamanders and frogs have been collected that it’s hard to keep track of them. We’re talking weird-looking salamanders extremely adapted for an aquatic lifestyle (these guys have serpentine bodies!!) that could grow up to a foot long and probably had an extremely wide gape. Then there are the frogs, and the indeterminate stuff, and so on, and so on. If you haven’t researched Mesozoic lissamphibians (which, I should mention, are rare in the fossil record), you should do so sometime as some of them are really interesting animals.

I am going to highlight Parrisia neocesariensis, which I believe to be one of the most fascinating animals known from the Cretaceous of New Jersey. The animal is classified as a batrachosauroidid salamander known from partial remains collected at Ellisdale (Denton Jr. & O’Neill, 1998). Batrachosauroidid salamanders are thought to be large, streamlined marine amphibians (the Florida Museum of Natural History’s website suggest a length of three feet or more for Batrachosauroides dissimulans, a species of batrachosauroidid). Long stalks on the occipital condyles indicate these salamanders had wide gapes. So we have a long, marine salamander that could open its mouth real wide present in the Late Cretaceous of New Jersey. Wow!

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2 thoughts on “Book Update 1: Salamanders are weird, guys!

  1. Believe me, I know EXACTLY what you’re going through with constant researching and writing – especially if you’re under demanding pressure from your publisher to finish the whole thing before a deadline.

    I don’t know a whole lot about Mesozoic amphibians. Interesting stuff.

    I certainly hope that you’ll be writing this book in ordinary common language that anybody can understand, and not in overly complex scientific jargon that only PhDs can understand. You probably already know this, but scientific papers can be tedious and boring as hell. Then again, paleontologists don’t care at all about syntax, style, literary flair, and keeping the audience interested – they only care about listing information, and they don’t give a @#$% if their material is as boring as, well you know. After reading these sort of documents for one of my own writings, I felt like I wanted to shoot myself. I want to give a word of caution – I’ve noticed through my own experience that when I read a large number of documents that are written in a certain style over a prolonged period of time, I have a tendancy to slowly but inevitably copy that style. I try not to let this happen, and you shouldn’t let it happen to you. The absolute last thing that you want is for people to accuse your book of being boring.

    I’m happy that you’re writing this all on your own. Many paleontology books that have been published in recent years are really nothing more than bound collections of scientific articles arranged around a common theme. In my opinion, these are not “real” paleontology books. From what you’ve written so far, your book sounds more like a general examination of Appalachia broken down into chapters dealing with specific subjects. This is much more appealing to me both as a paleo-buff and as a writer. Keep up the great work.

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    1. Thank you for being so supportive.
      Individual Chapters will have short stories at their beginning which flow into scientific analysis. Although I want to make the book fun for the public, it is also important that I place a good amount of scientific fact in the book so that if need be, someone can reference the book confidently.

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