Why Alligators Swish Their Butts When Walking

If you've read my previous posts, you know that was invited to give a little talk at a career day in Yellowstone. It was fun, but expensive. Can't do that too often. Still, I got a sale or two, met some people, enjoyed myself, and shot tons of photos for use in my future endeavors, not to mention field research. 

My talk focused on the part of writing I feel a little more expert in than marketing or the actual writing--research. After all, those kids were in school. They had English and Literature teachers. But research is a special animal. Even though most teachers today try to make room for at least rudimentary skills training on things like internet searches and citing your sources, they just can't devote the time necessary to really equip the future author with the appreciation, and skills, necessary to do research for book writing. You may realize I'm a skeptic because it says so right at the top of this blog page. Well, skeptics do a lot of research. That is, if they're any good at it. But you may not realize that authors do a ton of research too, and it's actually fun sometimes. Anyway, I like it.

I pointed out to the students that there are generally three broad categories of book research:

  1. Experimental Research
  2. Biblio Research
  3. Experiential Research

I do all of them, from time to time. But I've never tried sharing my research as research. People seem my posts about strange science factoids, places I've visited, or my observations about people, but they rarely realize this is actually my book research. Most would never see where it fit into my writing. I wonder if most people just starting out in writing really get when and why they should do some kind of research. 

This little "experiment" in blogging is intended to sort of flesh out that very brief little talk I gave, and in the process, maybe it will entertain a few people. Here's the plan. Each week, I'll record a very, very brief little video on some interesting thing I've learned while doing research for the book. I'll explain why I needed to know it in terms of the story, why it's important to get that detail right, and anything else that comes to mind. I won't be able to share all of my research. Not only would that bore you to tears and give too many spoilers from the book, but it would take so long that I'd never get any writing done. 

So, click the box below to find out about why alligators swish their butts while walking, and why that contributes to our knowledge about dinosaurs!



Oh, and btw, I will include links to related sources, other videos, papers, blog posts, magazine articles, or archives that you can check out to find out what I found out, or to get more information. Like this:

The first place I saw reference to this muscle specifically was in a video on YouTube. It was recorded presentation by a paleontologist. The video is called Science on Saturday: The Evolution of Birds. You should definitely check it out if you're into long lectures about technical subjects. Very interesting. 

Here's some other stuff that I read:

What's in John's Freezer is a blog post by John R. Hutchinson which contains gruesome photos of the muscle in alligators and some kind of bird. He uses some heavy shop talk, so it won't be for everyone, but it is fascinating, even for us non-experts. He's a biologist and zoologist who works at the Royal Veterinary College in England.