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Various stuffq

Hey gang - I'm back after replacing a dead heat pump (yuk).

A few comments:

1) A while back someone mentioned just how great it would have been if
the USPS had talked with someone in the Smithsonian before the Brontosaurus
fiasco. Well, they didn't talk with me but did know it should have been
Apatosaurus because the artist, John Gurche, told them. They apparently
didn't want to confuse the general public with accuracy. I seem to remember
they did talk with Hotton or somebody and got the same input, but I
do not know that first-hand.

2) I also find it interesting that most paleontologists I know are a
lot less concerned about the various inaccuracies in Jurassic Park
than most "arm-chair" paleontologists. Was it perfect? No, but there
was a lot of great stuff in there. They also have some basic outs if
they want to use them - related to using non-dinosaurian DNA - that
can explain away much people harp on (although it's a bit of a cop out -
oops my age is showing). A lot of the complaints I've heard are the
result of not watching the movie closely (I'm talking in total, not
necessarily on this list) or not understanding the biological possibilities
presented by dinosaurs, or are flat wrong. One example is the constant
harping I heard on the size of the raptors. Who cares if they are bigger
than the known specimens of Velociraptor? Reptiles show huge size variation
and a bigger raptor within a genus is perfectly reasonable. It seems odd
to constrain fiction to only known species. I'd have fun seeing what
writers could come up with as not found dinos. The biggest concern among
professionals was with the 50's anti-science message - mess around with
nature and you'll pay for it - that can be interpreted from it. Certainly,
much of what the mathematician says is total nonsense regarding this
area. I certainly don;t know what the big deal was about things getting
loose. Man hasn't had problems finding and exterminating animals in the
past and would certainly have no problem cleaning up if some dinos got
loose. Most professionals I know enjoyed the movie. Perfect? No, but
neither am I. (I know Tom and Ken are shocked to hear me say this last

3) Testability - as most scientists practice it these days, it is a
dialog (the dialectic) where evidence is presented, refuted, modified
and re=presented until some consensus is achieved (or goes on a long
time in many cases). It keeps us in work.

4) Now, as promised, I actually read the Thulborn paper! Got a copy and
was happy to see he really did a lot of homework in it. ken was very right
to tell em to publish it. I'm not convinced yet, but Tony has really put
a lot of thought into it. The major points are summarozed herein:
   a) Anky tails were only effective as defensive weapons within a limited
excursion range, so the attacker must be within that limited range.
   b) A large percentage of carnivorous animals go for the neck - which
the identify visually as the most obvious constriction in the body form.
This explains the lack of such in the neck of ankys and the look of their
tails. Ankys are built to take attention away from their heads and put it
on the other end.
   c) He talks about testing and possibilty of doing so here, although
I think he can progress much further than he has so far, but this is a good
start. Problems included the relative rarity of dino tooth marks and telling
them from scavenging marks, so he has no info on distribution of tooth
marks in anky body parts.
   d) He really sees the mimicry to be a lure of the theropods into the
tail excursion range (limited to proximal movements and not distal
excursion) and bapping (there it is!) in the head as they lunge. Certainly
ankys were not speedsters, so they had to deal with anything that saw
   e) He figures they went into mimic posture only after being seen, to draw
the attacker to the bapping organ (thagomizer - I have the original of that
Gary Larson cartoon, by the way). As such the tail is multifunctional as
weapon and mimic.
   f) In his e-mail to me, he mentions that he did all sorts of flash cards
of images of profiles of mimic ankys and ornithopods and documented lots
of confusion.

Well, that's it. I think it's a fun and good paper and a start on developing
some serious testable hypotheses. I recommend it as a good read.

Gotta scat - Ralph Chapman, NMNH