My name is John D’Angelo, and I’m aspiring to be a paleontologist.

My online moniker refers to Ornithopsis, one of the first-discovered dinosaur genera, and one of the most amusing in terms of its taxonomic history. Today, we know that it is a dubious genus of macronarian sauropod, but when it was first discovered, back in the days that people thought Cetiosaurus was an oceanic crocodile, it was more of an enigma. As Henry G. Seeley said in his announcement of the genus:

I anticipate that it will form the type of a new order of animals which will bridge over something of the interval between birds and Pterodactyles, and probably manifest some affinity with the dinosaurs.

Seeley proved to be right, although probably not in the way he expected. Pterosaurs are close relatives of birds, and Ornithopsis, as a non-avian dinosaur, is within the interval between the two groups. It’s one of my favorite stories about the history of humankind’s understanding of dinosaurs.

My main areas of interest in paleontology are phylogeny and reconstructing the appearance of extinct life. I consider these two subjects to be closely related: to accurately reconstruct the life appearance of long-dead animals known from only fragments of the original skeleton requires a lot of guesswork, and that guesswork is best informed by a good understanding of what that animal’s close relatives were like.

I am interested in a wide variety of animal life, both living and extinct, but I am most focused on titanosaurs, a woefully under-appreciated group of sauropod dinosaurs.


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