Sunday 24 August 2014

200th Synapsida

Yes, this is the 200th post on Synapsida, and with it, time for my biennial piece of navel-gazing. If the number of hits is any measure, the blog has certainly increased in popularity over the last two years, typically getting over 200 per day now. I originally picked the title to be distinctive, and, assuming you know to look for it, that's not doing too badly - I'm on the first page of Google and Yahoo searches for the term. Although, obviously, one does need to know it's there, and not be looking for the taxonomic definition of things like pelycosaurs!

Over the last 100 posts, I have added a further 16 living families (plus some fossil ones) to the list of those I've covered, from the reasonably well known, such as armadillos, shrews, and porpoises, to the possibly slightly more obscure, such as tuco-tucos and beaked whales. That, even after four years of the blog, leaves an awful lot of families that I still haven't touched. Many of them are, unsurprisingly, small or obscure families, some of them with just a single living species (the aardvark, say, or the Asiatic linsang). But there's still some obvious gaps. I said in my 100th post that I hadn't covered pigs, for instance, and I still haven't, apart from some fossil species.

There's been a change in which articles were the most popular since post #100, but not a dramatic one, and it's mostly the older ones that top the list - presumably just because they've had more time to accumulate visitors. Rabbits and rodents top the list, with nearly 10,000 hits,  and cow stomachs on about half that, with pine martens bubbling under. (Impossible, of course, to know how many real people that represents, or how many hits might be due to spam engines or the like). The most popular post that's under two years old is, in fact, the one on the evolution of weasels, with Q&A 2012 not far behind, apparently because it mentions anal sex. That's the internet for you.

Speaking of which, I don't think there'll be a Q&A for this year, although I don't know what (if anything) special I'm going to do at the end of this year to replace it. We'll see how that goes.

Going instead by things like the number of Google+ shares, some of the other popular posts of the last two years have been the ones on Ice Age Africa, on takins and musk oxen (not literally the "largest goats", of course - those are probably markhor), and on the depth of prairie dog burrows. Oh, and, just recently, giant wombats, because who doesn't like the thought of giant wombats?

It's not all about how many different kinds of animal I can manage to list and describe. (We'd be here forever if I tried to do all of them, and most of the posts would be filled with nothing but subtly different kinds of mice). There have, for instance, been posts on how to measure animal intelligence, on the songs of both gibbons and sperm whales, and on the breakdown of primate society. I rather like the one on monkey divorces, too, partly because you can tell from the picture just how viciously violent and mean those monkeys are. (Um... you can, right?)

But I also managed to cover an entirely new species of monkey and a new... uh... furry tree-dwelling raccoon-like animal. Plus a post on how at least one species originally came into existence, and what the heck a platypus is. There was even a post on histology. a subject that gets perilously close to what I actually do for a living.

I finished the series on the weasel family not long after post #100. Since I wanted to move away from carnivores, I considered following it up with one on the cattle family - but, on reflection, realised that that had far too many species to cover in a reasonable period of time, and so restricted myself to the goat sub-family within it. Musk oxen aside, it's not really as popular as weasels, but if I stuck to carnivores, I'd run out rather quickly.

After that, I turned to the marmoset family, which aren't as varied as weasels, but are certainly pretty colourful, and among my favourite primates. There are still a further three or four posts to go in that series, with things like cotton-top tamarins yet to be covered. After that, I think I will turn back to the carnivores, and take a look at the dog family, with everything from the familiar wolves and coyotes, through African wild dogs and Arctic foxes, to... well, some of the less well-known species.

The other "series" I've been doing has, of course, been the one on the Pleistocene. My original plan was just to do a post or two, but it just grew and grew. That's why, I confess, the earlier posts don't quite fit the later ones in style; I was aiming at something rather different at the time. It's also been a long, long, haul, since I didn't want to fill the blog with material on extinct animals, and yet I nonetheless wanted to do some posts on fossils that didn't belong within the "series". Still, I did get to the end.

But, if you enjoyed it, never fear, because I will be back in a couple of months with a look at the epoch immediately before the Ice Ages, to look at what sort of mammals populated the Earth during the Pliocene. And, if you didn't enjoy it, and would rather read about modern world animals having a cuddle, or whatever, there'll be plenty of that, too.

So here's to the next 100 posts...

[Picture by "Leptictidium" on Wikimedia Commons, from original photos by (clockwise from top left) David Iliff, Gerald Carter, NASA, and Ester Inbar.]

1 comment:

  1. I feel a bit sorry that no one has commented so far. I don't really know what else to say than 'Good job, keep it up please!'