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Re: Layperson

In a message dated 97-08-26 03:15:51 EDT, MBell16766@AOL.COM writes:

<< It was told to me that _Manospondylus_ of Cope (a cervical
 vertebra) was diagnostic and had priority over Tyrannosaurus. I was also
 that it was part of the Cope collection purchased by the American Museum
 after Cope's death and the specimen was "disappeared" the better part of a
 century ago. Talk about sinister. Anyone heard this bit of dinofolklore?
 Dinogeorge? >>

Let me offer another of my excerpts from my series of dinosaur articles for
Gakken's magazine _Dino-Frontline_ (_requiescat in pace_), this from issue

        Although Cope described the first-known tyrannosaurid skulls, it was 
who described the first tyrannosaurid species whose type specimen is skeletal
[i.e., not simply teeth]. In his 1890 paper introducing the strange new "bird
mimic" dinosaurs, Ornithomimidae, Marsh erected the species Ornithomimus
grandis for a 60-cm-long third metatarsal bone that resembled but was much
larger than the corresponding foot bone of the type species Ornithomimus
velox. It was discovered by John Bell Hatcher in 1888 along the east side of
Cow Creek in Fergus County, Montana, in the Eagle Sandstone, a formation
geologically earlier than the Judith River formation where Cope had made so
many discoveries. Here again, Marsh did not know it, but the Ornithomimus
grandis foot bone actually belonged to a tyrannosaurid. Like the third
metatarsal of ornithomimids, the third metatarsal of tyrannosaurids is
"pinched" at the top: squeezed together by the metatarsals on either side,
just below the ankle. (This is the birdlike part of the anatomy that Marsh
had in mind when he coined the term Ornithomimidae.) Marsh did not illustrate
it, and somehow when portions of Marsh's collection were transferred to the
Smithsonian Institution, the bone was lost. Later (in 1905), Hatcher, in
writing about the find, mentioned that there were "fragments representing a
considerable portion of a skeleton," but these have never been described.
        With all the prospecting that Hatcher did in the Lance Formation of 
it would indeed be remarkable had he not unearthed some tyrannosaurid
material. And he did, though Marsh in 1896 simply referred it all to
Ornithomimus grandis before sending it on to the Smithsonian. Specifically,
in 1890 Hatcher found a right fourth metatarsal along Lance Creek, catalogued
as USNM 2110, and in 1891 he found an incomplete right hind limb with a
104-cm femur along Alkali Creek, catalogued as USNM 6183. On October 16,
1891, Hatcher and his assistant A. E. Sullins discovered a right ilium (USNM
8064) near the hind limb but apparently too small to be part of the same
individual. All these specimens are presently referred to Tyrannosaurus
rex—historically the earliest Tyrannosaurus rex bones ever found, if the
referral is correct.
        Contesting Hatcher's finds for the honor of being the historically first
Tyrannosaurus rex bones to be discovered are a pair of abraded dorsal
vertebral centra Cope recovered from the Laramie Formation of South Dakota.
Discovered in 1892 or earlier, they became type specimens of the new genus
and species Manospondylus gigas (meaning "giant thin vertebrae"—"thin" in the
sense of "gaseous," as in the phrase "thin air") in a paper by Cope dated
September 1892 (but probably published later, perhaps even in 1893). More
than 20 cm in diameter, they were the largest Cretaceous dinosaur centra Cope
had ever seen, so he referred them to his family Agathaumidae (always
avoiding Marsh's name Ceratopsidae for the family), among whose members were
the then largest-known Laramie dinosaurs: ceratopians of the genus
Triceratops (which Cope always called Agathaumas). It was Hatcher who later
realized that they were the vertebrae of a large theropod and not ceratopian
at all.
        One of the pair has since been lost, but the other is presently in the 
Collection at the American Museum of Natural History, catalogued as AMNH 3982
(Figure 7). I held it in my hands when I visited the museum in February 1989;
it is the historically oldest tyrannosaurid skeletal type specimen that has
not been lost. Much of its surface is worn away, particularly at the edges,
revealing the very porous, spongy interior. It was this sponginess that
inspired Cope's name Manospondylus. All advanced theropods possessed
similarly pneumatic vertebrae (whereas ceratopians did not), so Manospondylus
certainly was some kind of large theropod. Paleontologists now consider the
vertebrae as having belonged to a Tyrannosaurus rex individual about 15%
larger than the famous AMNH 5027 skeleton mounted in New York. In order not
to endanger the splendid and very well established name Tyrannosaurus rex,
however, nobody (certainly not me) is willing to formally declare
Manospondylus gigas its senior synonym.