Annual Meeting > Sessions

The cornerstone of the SVP meeting, oral and poster presentations will be given throughout the week in the following categories:

Regular Sessions
Education & Outreach Committee Poster Session
Edwin H. and Margaret M. Colbert Prize Poster Session
Romer Prize Session 
Preparators' Session



The SVP Program Committee chooses a selection of submitted proposals for topical symposia to be presented at the meeting.

Archaeopteryx - the iconic fossil in modern view
Co-Convenors: Daniela Schwarz-Wings, Martin Kundrat

Archaeopteryx is probably the most iconic vertebrate fossil. Ever since their discovery, the isolated feather and the now 11 body fossils of Archaeopteryx have been subject to intensive scientific research and quite often controversial conclusions. Over the past 150 years, our perception of the “Urvogel” has changed radically. The importance of this fossil as a pivotal evidence in the evolution of birds has never decreased, and until today, Archaeopteryx can be viewed as being phylogenetically in a position that heralds the rise of birds from feathered dinosaurs. Spectacular finds of feathered dinosaurs, “dinobirds”, and early true birds have been discovered recently, but none of them remained uncompared to Archaeopteryx, and there is barely a phylogenetic analysis on the theropod-bird transition that goes without including Archaeopteryx. Yet, until today, the Archaeopteryx fossils are viewed controversially, with some of the most critical points to be discussed being their phylogenetic position and their flight abilities.

The Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin holds one of the best preserved and most complete Archaeopteryx specimen, the “Berlin specimen”. The original fossil is on display in the permanent exhibition of the museum, and it will be visible to all interested during the Welcome Reception of the meeting. Additional to the main fossil
slab, a counterslab with beautiful feather impressions is present in the collections, as well as the isolated feather that was the initial holotype of Archaeopteryx and inspired its genus name. Several of the most recent research papers on Archaeopteryx, for example on its color pattern, biochemistry of the feather, and flight abilities, are based on the Archaeopteryx specimens of the Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin, and traditionally, researchers of this museum have a close scientific relationship to these Archaeopteryx specimens.

The importance of the Archaeopteryx fossils and their close connection to the Museum fuer Naturkunde in Berlin has inspired the idea of proposing a symposium on this particular animal, with the aim to bring together all scientists working on or being interested in a formulation of our most recent perception of Archaeopteryx. Our
symposium brings together specialists on varying research topics related to Archaeopteryx and applying various novel techniques on this fossil, so that we will be able to present the major novel interpretations of Archaeopteryx to the interest of a broad community of vertebrate paleontologists. The symposium thereby will provide a platform for all interested researchers in vertebrate paleontology to discuss critical and uncritical aspects of the “Urvogel”.

The lives of temnospondyls: investigations into their biology
Co-Convenors: Andrew Milner, Jean-S├ębastien Steyer, Florian Witzmann

With over 300 genera named, the temnospondyl amphibians are the largest group of early non-amniote tetrapods and played a major role in late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. They diversified during the Carboniferous mainly in the palaeo-equatorial belt. In the Permian they spread globally and remained a significant component of all continental ecosystems. After the P-T extinction, the few surviving lineages rediversified in a more restricted range of morphotypes. Most lineages vanished at the end of the Triassic with two persisting later in the Mesozoic. Many, but not all, workers consider the lissamphibians to be a clade of dwarf temnospondyls. As with most vertebrate groups, the temnospondyls have been subject to a
range of cladistic analyses over the last two decades, and although there is no overall consensus, parts of the phylogeny are widely agreed. Up to now, most of the cladistic analyses have treated the resulting patterns as an end in themselves. There has been little consideration on how they can be interpreted in evolutionary and biological terms, but work is now in progress that should rectify this.

Putting fossils in trees: new methods for combining morphology, time, and molecules to estimate phylogenetic position and divergence times of living and fossil taxa

Co-Convenors: Nicholas J. Matzke, April Wright, Graeme Lloyd, David W. Bapst

Fossil data are crucial to correct estimation of phylogeny and divergence times. However, most traditional methods artificially separate the analysis of fossil relationships and divergence time analysis. For example, it is common for paleontologists to estimate the topological position of fossils using cladistic or Bayesian methods, either in a morphologyonly or “total evidence” analysis. This tree, which is undated, may then be used by molecular biologists to supply calibration distributions for dating a moleculesonly tree of living taxa. Such trees form the starting point for various comparative methods which require dated phylogenies, e.g., modelbased
ancestral state analyses, diversification analyses, historical biogeography.

Such procedures “throw away” most of the fossil data, treating paleontology as merely a source of calibration points for molecular analyses, and separate the questions of estimating relationships and dating, when in fact they may be linked. However, increasing collaboration between paleontologists, biologists, statisticians and computer scientists has been fruitful in yielding new technologies and techniques that attempt to combine fossil and living morphology, fossil dates, and molecular data in joint analyses. This symposium will be devoted to reviewing, discussing, and critiquing new methods and models for estimating phylogenetic trees and for
incorporating fossils in the derivation of divergence times.

Ecometrics: quantitative trait-based approaches to biotic change
Co-Convenors: Jussi T. Eronen, P. David Polly, A. Michelle Lawing

Ecometrics is the quantitative study of responses of organisms to ecological change based on the traits
with which they interact with their environment. Traits are key features in locomotion, diet, thermoregulation, and species interactions, all of which influence where species can live and under what
conditions. As environments, climates, and ecosystems change, the response of organisms is mediated
through traits. Furthermore, traits whose functional relationship with the environment depends on general
physical or physiological principles are key for taxon-free comparisons across time and space.
Vertebrate paleontologists are natural leaders in trait-based research because many key functional traits
are found in the skeleton and teeth, are commonly preserved in the fossil record, and have functional and
phylogenetic contexts are familiar to paleontologists. This symposium will feature key ecometric
research vertebrate paleontologists to raise awareness of the questions and techniques in our own
research community, and it will bring in a selected group of non-paleontological trait-based researchers to
promote cross-disciplinary interactions

The influence of R. McNeill Alexander on paleobiological inferences

Co-Convenors: John R. Hutchinson, Eric Snively, Andreas Christian

Professor R. McNeill Alexander is a world-renowned pioneer in biomechanics, especially in theoretical
models and quantitative analyses of form and function (e.g. scaling of musculoskeletal mechanics). From the
1970s into the 1990s, he applied his new ideas about biomechanics and physiology to extinct animals,
starting with a heavily-cited 1976 paper in Nature on estimating dinosaur speeds from fossil trackways, and
then (for example) turning to consider the body masses, centres of mass and bony “strength indicators” of
fossil vertebrates. Alexander lucidly communicated his approaches in “The Dynamics of Dinosaurs and
Other Extinct Giants”, a 1989 popular book which, almost uniquely, is still cited alongside the primary cited
literature. That book, in particular amongst his work, is remarkably accessible in its communication of
complex quantitative methods and data, which arguably has enhanced its impact on palaeontologists.
Alexander’s other influences on palaeobiology include highly regarded reviews of jaw/feeding mechanics in
fossil vertebrates (influencing the future application of finite element analysis to palaeontology),
considerations of digestion and other aspects of metabolism, analysis of vertebral joint mechanics, and much
more. Additionally, he conducted pioneering analyses of allometric scaling patterns in extant (and extinct;
e.g. the moa) animals that continue to be cited today as valuable datasets with influential conclusions, by a
wide array of studies including paleontology—arguably, he helped compel palaeontologists to contribute
more new data on extant animals via studies like these.


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Regular Sessions

Abstracts are accepted for oral and poster presentations in the following categories:

  • Amphibians
  • Amniotes
  • Birds
  • Fishes
  • Mammals
  • Reptiles
  • Synapsids
  • Tetrapods
  • Vertebrates

  • N/A

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Education & Outreach Committee Poster Session

Here is an opportunity for SVP members to learn from each other’s educational outreach successes during a poster session held in conjunction with the Educators’ Workshop.  E&O posters will be displayed throughout the Annual SVP Meeting in the registration area.


Participants will primarily consist of current SVP members engaged in both educational outreach and scientific scholarship.  However, we also welcome and anticipate the participation of both current and new members who are primarily involved in educational endeavors including museum educators, teachers and exhibit developers.


Topics discussed will span exhibit development, informal and formal broader impact activities and novel techniques used to bring “hot off the press” science to the public.  With similar goals of communicating the broader impacts of our research to the broader public, this poster session will facilitate the development of innovative educational outreach ideas and help prevent us from perpetually reinventing the wheel when it comes to educational outreach activities.

Education & Outreach Committee Poster Session Co-Chairs:

Jason Head


University of Nebraska – Lincoln




Stuart Sumida


California State University San Bernardino  

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Edwin H. and Margaret M. Colbert Prize Poster Session

Selected and presented on site at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's Annual Meeting, the Edwin H. and Margaret M. Colbert Prize recognizes an outstanding poster presentation by an SVP student member. The award was named in honor of the Colberts' contributions to vertebrate paleontology. Colbert Prize posters are on display for the entire meeting, offering a great opportunity for new work to be seen.

The Alfred Sherwood Romer Session (and Prize)

The prize awarded as a result of this session recognizes an outstanding scientific contribution in vertebrate paleontology by a predoctoral student. Selection for participation in the Romer Prize Session at the SVP Annual Meeting is based on the scientific value and quality of an abstract summarizing an original research project, and the Romer Prize is awarded on the basis of the scientific value and quality the oral presentation of that research during the Romer Prize Session at the SVP Annual Meeting.

Preparators' Session

A forum for presentations on current issues in paleontological preparation, ranging from field and lab techniques to specimen curation and exhibition design.

Use of trade names necessary to accurately identify products, materials, or equipment is permitted. Trade names shall not be used for the purpose of advertising products or services.  Abstracts judged to be commercial promotions will be rejected.  

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