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Historical Paleontology & Reception of _PDW_



John Hutchinson actually beat me to the punch on some of the more important
points I was going to make: namely, that none of the most critical reviews
of Greg Paul's _Predatory Dinosaurs of the World_ were from some dinosaur
cladist establishment.  (For example, Steve Gatsey, co-author of the review
in _Scientific American_, is primarily a functional morphologist, and to my
knowledge has never published his own phylogenetic analysis of any taxon).

Indeed, time to get in the Way Back Machine (tm) and travel to that distant
era of 1988.  Excatly whom in dinosaur paleontology could be called part of
the dinosaur cladistic establishment?  The first big set of dinosaur
phylogenies had only been presented four years earlier, at the 3rd
Terrestrial Mesozoic Ecosystems meeting at Tubingen.  The presentations were
from Norman, Sereno, and Greg Paul.

In 1988 Jacques Gauthier and Paul Sereno were both just out of grad school,
and their two classic phylogenetic analyses were only published in 1986, two
years before _PDW_.  Mark Norell was still working on crocodilians (okay, he
may have JUST moved to the AMNH by then, but he hadn't gotten around to
publishing dinosaurian material yet).  Tim Rowe's Ceratosauria analysis
didn't get published until 1989.  The Dinosaur Systematics meeting at Tyrell
had been held in 1986, but the proceedings volume (and _The Dinosauria_)
weren't published until 1990.  Witmer (who'd probably admit he's more allied
with functional and descriptive anatomy than with phylogenetic analysis per
se), Forster, Novas & I were all still in grad school at that point, and I'm
almost afraid to figure out where Scott Sampson or Jerry Harris were in
their academic careers when _PDW_ came out.

So, exactly whom would represent a dinosaur cladistic establishment seeking
to surpress the ideas in the book?  Kevin Padian?  (Potential motive:
seeking to promote his new star recent graduate, famous French explorer
Jacques Gauthier?).  Phil Currie or Hans Sues?  (How many cladograms had
Hans or Phil published by 1988?).  Dave Weishampel or Dave Norman?  (Okay,
among the first dinosaur paleontologists to "take" to cladistics, but
neither of them concentrated on the sauischian side of Dinosauria).  Mike
Benton (again, an early dino cladist, but also an EARLY dino cladist, who
hasn't exactly published a lot on bird origins).  Peter Dodson or Ken
Carpenter?  (I don't seem to recall either of these guys being that keen on
some aspects of cladistics back then: memories of the phrase "devil's
pitchfork-like diagrams" and "not seeing the forest for the trees",
respectively, seem to come back to my memory).  Jack Horner?  (Not exactly
the best friend of cladistics until recent years).  Peter Galton? Jose
Bonaparte? Jack McIntosh? John Ostrom? Ned Colbert?  (Don't make me laugh).

So, I hope the idea of a dinosaur cladist conspiracy against _PDW_ is put
into a better historical light.

On the other hand, some of the criticisms that were raised of the book (both
in published reviews and at meetings, like SVP) include:
I) Concern about major taxonomic revisions (including new species, novel
generic-specific combinations, and a major reorganization of Theropoda as a
whole) being done in a non-peer reviewed, non-techincal format;
II) Resistance to the idea of feathered non-avians (against which Greg Paul
could rightly strut his stuff, now that the Yixian specimens have verified
the existance of at least some of these);
III) Resistance to the idea of dinosaurian endothermy (which can hardly be
called a resolved issue at present...);
and
IV) Objection to the idea that secondary flightlessness among Cretaceous
coelurosaurs as the *only* or the *best* explanation for their anatomy
(again, as has been belabored on the list, the objection is not to the idea
itself, only to the idea that it is the sole explanation or the best
explanation).

Greg can add other criticisms that were raised, since he'd remember them
better than anyone.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661