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Re: Hoping to re-direct another clade war



>The big problem with Feduccia's book is that it throws the baby out with the
>bath water. It overlooks the fact that despite its many flaws, cladistic
>analysis >does< work about 95% of the time (confidence level). Since it is
>quite reasonable functionally and biogeographically as well as anatomically
>to link birds and dinosaurs phyletically (although Feduccia would disagree),
>there is no reason to suspect misleading cladistic analysis as there is in
>the five cases I outlined in a previous post.

It strikes me that the biggest problem in this debate is that the most
polarizing arguments have nothing to do with the one bit of certain
evidence we have - namely, the characters in the fossils themselves.  Thus,
on the one hand, if you go by the recent article in Audubon, we have
Feduccia's arguments:

a. birds are arboreal and dinos aren't
b. most maniraptorians postdate Archaeopteryx
etc -
arguments of a type that are unprovable, untestable and not even
necessarily intellectually convincing.  Who says there were no arboreal
dinosaurs?  If a lyrebird can hop up into a tree, why not a small dinosaur?
 And since when is absence in the fossil record evidence of nonexistence?
There may have been scads of such things in, say, upland forest habitats.

On the other, we have the "archie can't be arboreal because there are not
trees in the solnhofen" argument - equally pointless because we don't know
where it evolved, only where it was found.  An example: the Puna Flicker
lives in treeless alpine habitat in the Andes.  If it were the only
surviving woodpecker, would we be forced to conclude that woodpeckers
evolved in such habitats despite their obvious structural modifications for
climbing?

In fact the whole argument about how, and where, flight arose should IMHO
be kept utterly distinct from the question of which creatures birds are
most similar to - because otherwise you allow speculative statements to
rule over genuine hard data.

Speaking of which - Alan Brush tells me he is off on Sunday to China, with
John Ostrom and Peter Wellnhofer, to look at the Sinosauropteryx material.
He will be back in early April - so hold on to your hats, folks!
--
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court                 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          Internet: ornstn@inforamp.net