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Re: A Clutter of Duckbills
I have a general question related to dinosaur nomenclature:
Why are so many paleontologists so keen to apply a name to a new fossil when,
in many cases, the specimen is, shall we say, somewhat lacking in
completeness (e.g., missing a skull)?
It seems to this somewhat-ignorant observer that the main problem with
dinosaur systematics (which dinos are members of which groups) is the naming
and subsequent classification of incomplete and less-than-diagnostic
material. It seems to me that it would make more sense to refer to such
critters by their museum specimen number (assuming they have one), rather
than a formal genus-species name, and that classification should only be
attempted when more complete remains are found. The obvious problem with
this, of course, is how does one tell if new finds are similar to the
incomplete material, or if the new stuff is, in fact, new? I don't
know....maybe it would make more sense to simply not allow "incomplete"
material to be used as a holotype. As an example, as Dinogeorge said in a
previous post, many hadrosaurs are virtually indistinguishable
post-cranially. Isn't it kind of asking for trouble, then, to let a specimen
for which only post-crania are known be assigned a proper name?
As a slight aside, relating to the process of nomenclature, if a type
specimen is supposed to be a representative member of a species, and that
type specimen is lacking, say, a skull, then by definition doesn't that imply
that all members of this species are those headless animals which look most
similar to this one? I realize that the type specimen is a name bearer, but
isn't it also the yardstick against which all potential members of a species
are measured? And isn't it asking for trouble if your yardstick is a couple
feet (or even a head) short? Again, shouldn't type specimens be as complete
as possible before being given the title Holotype?
Any clarification on this issue would be much appreciated!