Sunday, October 4, 2015

When stegosaurs had smarts

This week, I'm posting scans of a recently acquired postcard.

The postcard dates from around the 1960's, but it features an 1895 poem which regales the hypothesis that an enlarged space in the pelvises of many dinosaurs meant that they might have possessed a second brain. Paleontologists are still interested in the possible function of the swollen spinal canal, but it is no longer considered to have housed a hindbrain.

Anyway, I thought the poem was quite clever, so here it is:

Front of postcard

Reverse of postcard

Another poem, this time from 1885, similarly reflects the Victorian fascination with paleontology. I sometimes wonder what was different about this time in the recent past, when scientific discoveries were so ingrained in the public consciousness that leading newspapers and magazines treated them not only as interesting facts, but as cultural objects of inspiration and humour. The modern media seem concerned only with the frivolous lives of shrill celebrity dimwits, or the opinions of boorish career politicians.

Anyway, I digress. This second (somewhat overlong) poem concerns the enormous eyes of the extinct marine reptile, Ichthyosaurus. I liked it. You should too.

From Punch magazine (1885);

Inspired by these kinds of things, since about 2011 once per field season my paleontology field crew have held a poetry evening, where we attempt to recount our experiences in pithy prose. Maybe if I can find some of the poems I will repost them here... or at least some of those that are repeatable in polite society...

Okay, back to work...

--- edit 6th October ---
I just noticed the implicitly racist "Aryan brain" line in the Ichthyosaurus poem. Apologies if anyone was offended; obviously this is a representation of the kind of discriminatory language and attitudes that were widespread in Victorian society.

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