This morning I worked on the glyptosaur paper (yes, more), and then Kathryn and I went to the Summit to see William Eubank's Underwater (2020), a surprisingly effective claustrophobic gut-bunch of a monster movie. It's really a shame it is being ignored at the box office. It harks back to that late 1980s phenomenon of the underwater alien/monster thriller, which included such varied fare as The Abyss (1989), Deepstar Six (1989), and Leviathan (1989) – ALL THREE hailing from 1989. Underwater owes an especial debt to Deepstar Six (a far better film than a lot of people seem to think), borrowing the basic premise of an underwater drilling rig rousing monsters from submarine caverns. In the case of Underwater, the monsters are pretty much Cthulhu and a host of Deep Ones, and there's no point denying it, Mr. Eubanks. Embrace the madness. It works for you. Anyway, yeah, Kristin Stewart does a excellent job, and it was a lot of fun.
A few days ago I learned that my one-time mentor Dr. Dale A. Russell died back on December 21st. In 1967, Dr. Russell published Systematics and Morphology of American Mosasuars, which is still, fifty-three years later, a sort of bible for anyone working on these marine lizards. Russell erected such mosasaur taxa as the genus Ectenosaurus and the species Globidens dakotensis before moving on in the 1970s to spend the rest of his life working with dinosaurs. In 1971, he was one of the first paleontologists to seriously propose an extraterrestrial cause for the K-Pg extinction event, and, in 1982, when he conducted a thought experiment asking what might happen if a maniraptoran theropod dinosaur like Stenonychosaurus got as brainy as a human being and the infamous "Dinosauroid" was born. He also named several new dinosaur taxa, including Daspletosaurus (1970), Alxasasurus (1994), and Sinornithoides (1993).
In the early 1980s, Dr. Russell took me under his wing and showed me great kindness and trust and encouragement. In 1986, he got on a National Science Foundation grant (to the late Dr. Richard Estes) while I was still only an undergraduate. With Sam Shannon, I coauthored the paper describing the plioplatecarpine Selmasaurus russelli in his honor, and it was published in 1988. To this day, one of my greatest treasures is my tattered, dog-eared copy of his monograph on American mosasaurs, on the title page of which he implored me to "Carry the torch!" I last spoke with him in person at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at Philadelphia in October 1986.
It's hard not to feel like everyone I most admired in my youth is slipping from the world.