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Exploring the Mists of Time

After the success of PLoS ONE’s first collection (Stress-Induced Depression and Comorbidities: From Bench to Bedside), published in January, we decided it was high time for a second. This time, we were lucky enough to have already published 26 great articles from a range of fields within the discipline of paleontology (the study of fossils and of life forms that existed in past geological periods). These papers have now been compiled together to form the PLoS ONE Paleontology Collection and each peer-reviewed article can be read online now—in full and for free.

Over the past 18 months, PLoS ONE has published a number of papers that have added to our understanding of various species of dinosaur and terrible lizard (including Nigersaurus, Triceratops, and Pterosaur); however, paleontology is a broad discipline, overlapping with other fields, such as biology and geography and as a result, the PLoS ONE Paleontology Collection encompasses research as varied as the paleogeography of the Panama Canal, the evolution of the cat skull and the finding of jellyfish fossils from the Cambrian. As the Open Source Paleontologist put it, “So far, 2009 has been a banner year for vertebrate paleontology in the open access journal PLoS ONE.”

The collection’s featured image is by Mark Witton and also forms part of Witton’s published PLoS ONE article (and so can be reused under the terms of our Creative Commons Attribution License). More of Witton’s Pterosaur illustrations can be found on Flickr and this figure (from which the featured image has been cropped) is entitled, “Life restoration of a group of giant azhdarchids, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, foraging on a Cretaceous fern prairie.”

One of the key features shared by many of the papers included in the collection has been the impact they have made in the international media and blogosphere. The following studies resulted in some of the most impressive news and blog coverage, although this list is far from comprehensive: the Nigersaurus, the discovery of a pregnant procetid whale fossil, Triceratops combat, dinosaur trackways in Yemen and flight and aerial gigantism in Pterosaurs.

The blogosphere has also responded with enthusiasm to many of the paleontology papers published in PLoS ONE, which can, of course, be read freely online, on their publication, and often include illustrations and photographs that can be reused (with an appropriate attribution) in blog posts. Greg Laden, writing on the Maiacetus paper, described it as, “a major article, published by an internationally recognized dream team of palaeoanthropologists. Since this is published in the Open Access journal PLoS ONE, this publication is a significant marker in the history of Open Access publishing. This is roughly like having a very famous food critic pick your restaurant to eat in because she likes it.”

As we compiled the papers to include in the Paleontology Collection, we noticed that many of our readers had been using the rating and discussion features, which can be employed to comment on any paper published in PLoS ONE. Why not join the discussion on these papers? Karl Bates’s article which used a laser to estimate dinosaur mass, Daniel Meulemans’ study on the evolution of vertebrate cartilage and Thomas Kaye’s paper, which suggests that previously reported findings of dinosaurian soft tissue may actually be bacterial biofilm are all good examples of lively discussion threads.

Finally, if you are a paleontological researcher, we encourage you to submit your work to PLoS ONE. The Paleontology Collection is dynamic and relevant papers will be added as they are published, so if your paleontology paper is accepted for publication by one of our academic editors, it will be included within the collection. The news coverage and post-publication discussion on these papers show that the paleontology community—and the world—are following these PLoS ONE articles very closely, so if you like what you see and would like your paleontology research to appear in PLoS ONE, submit your manuscript today!

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