Sunday, 28 August 2016

300th Synapsida

Here, have a marsupial. Or four.
This is, by my count, the 300th post to appear at Synapsida. Which means that, once again, it's time to look back over the last 100 posts to see what has, and has not, been covered, and where I might be going next. Which, considering that I pick the topic for over half my posts on the same day on which I write them, is likely to be a bit vague, but there you go.

The blog has been running for almost six years now, and has settled into a typical audience of between 200-300 hits per day (whatever the heck that means in terms of actual readers). The most frequently used tags over that period have been behaviour and evolution, although this may just reflect how I tag things. Biogeography, for instance, may well have cropped up in all sorts of posts that I didn't specifically note as such.

Looking back over the last 100 posts, carnivorans have probably been the most common animals covered, although there are also plenty of rodents, not to mention cetaceans, bats, primates, and all the rest. As I mentioned last time, my coverage of the main mammal families has been, if not entirely comprehensive, at least pretty broad. Since then, and ignoring posts on fossil beasts, I think I've added four more families to the list of those with a headline mention, all of them either small or obscure (or both): hyenas, degus, cheirogaleid lemurs, and echidnas.

But still no pigs.

Unsurprisingly, older posts tend to dominate in terms of number of total hits, although there has been a recent rise in popularity of my post on grazing and browsing, and of those about pine martens and wolverines. Looking just at the last 100 posts, the survey of the dog family proved popular, but other particularly popular posts seem to be my introduction to the Pliocene, and some of its follow-ups, along with my discussions of what makes an animal a primate, where cows come from, and a particularly large fossil weasel. If we look instead at the number of G+ "likes" a post has had, the one on ultrasonic hamster squeaks comes out way ahead, with, perhaps surprisingly, one on pantolestid fossils in second place.

But, of course, there have been many other posts, on a whole range of different topics. Over the last couple of years, I have discussed subjects as disparate as the songs of blue whales, what the heck the common ancestor of sloths, anteaters, and armadillos might have looked like, why humans have such a rubbish sense of smell, and how moles first learned to dig. On the more behavioural front, I've discussed new findings about tree-climbing voles, and why your grandmother could be really important.

I've also added two new features to the blog, albeit with each only showing up once per year. At the end of the year, I've added a survey of some of the new discoveries in mammal species over the previous twelve months; it's worth noting here just how many species there still are to be identified! While most of them tend to be either bats or rodents, I was nonetheless able to get some new primates in in both the 2014 and the 2015 posts. You'll have to tune in in December to find out whether or not I can make that three years in a row...

The other new annual feature is that, in the post released closest to April Fool's day, I do something non-mammalian. As it happens, on both occasions so far, I've done fossil birds - and flightless ones at that. 2017 might continue in that tradition, because giant flightless birds are kind of cool, but you never know. (Although I probably won't do, say, non-avian dinosaurs, because they're popular enough already).

Although it wasn't part of my original plan, these days I try to do all my "survey the species in a given group of animals" posts within a single year. In 2015, I covered the dogs, which, as noted above, proved especially popular. Mostly this was because of the wolves and African wild dogs, although Asian foxes also stood out for some reason. It took a bit of re-organisation to squeeze them all into one year, but I did wrap it up and followed it in 2016 with posts on the cow subfamily. I've already finished the truly cow-like ones, from the familiar bison and yak to the perhaps slightly less familiar banteng and gaur. This has allowed me to start on the "bovine" antelopes... I've done antelopes in other posts before, of course, but it strikes me that I haven't done as much with them as I might, and this is at least a start on fixing that.

The first post in my series on the Pliocene, the epoch immediately before the Ice Ages, was #205, so that's something else that's only started since my last 100-post update. I'm beginning to approach the end of this series, having covered the wildlife of Pliocene Eurasia, North America, and Africa, and being about half-way through South America. There is still, of course, Australia to do after that, along with a few odds and ends, but I'd be surprised if it stretches to more than another three or four posts. The plan is to move to the Miocene after that (see a pattern here?) - a much, much, longer epoch, but one about which we know rather less, it being further back in the past. But we'll see about that when we get to it - presumably in mid 2017.

As for the group of animals that I'm going to survey in 2017, that's something I haven't decided yet. There are a number of options, but it'll be something that doesn't have hooves. Seals possibly, or some kind of primate... we'll just have to see.

Either way, roll on the next 100 posts!

[Montage by Aushulz, original photos by Quartl, Pfinge, and Sakurai Midori; from Wikimedia Commons.]

No comments:

Post a Comment