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11th DINOSAUR CONVENTION: REPORT
In between bouts of examining pinniped bones (fellow theropod workers
please forgive me), I spent Sunday at the 11th Dinosaur Convention at
Red Lion Square, London. The day was good fun and quite a success.
Because it is organised by the Dinosaur Collectors Club, model and
toy dinosaurs abound. I got my first look at Safari's new
_Carnotaurus_ and _Saltasaurus_. Neither are bad, but they're not
Luis Rey bought along a customised model of _Carnotaurus sastrei_,
the coolest of all theropods, and with the hands done (probably)
correctly for a change. He also showed photos of the lifesize
_Velociraptor_ he is working on with Charlie McKrady (hope I spelt
that name right). It looks awesome.. feathered in black and white. I
believe Luis is devoting a page on his website to this model.
Jon Noad spoke about the sedimentology of the Oldman and Dinosaur
Park members of Dinosaur Park, Alberta. It was therefore
predominantly about river channel deposition and overbank deposits
etc. but with discussion on microvertebrate screening techniques.
There were a few mentions of the the odd hadrosaur tail or jaw Jon
saw during his fieldwork. Jon also showed some Karroo stuff,
including trackways made by gorgonopsians and _Diictodon_ burrows
with the poor little _Diictodon_ curled up at the bottom.
Darren Naish's talk was unambiguously titled 'Birds Are Theropods'.
My main point was.. OK, the evidence for the 'birds are theropods'
theory is not 100% perfect BUT there is NO ALTERNATIVE
THEORY. If you adopt a very basic scientific viewpoint, the theory
that birds are theropods has to be the one we accept because there
really is no other theory that provides a better body of evidence. By
applying Occam's Razor and highlighting problematic interpretations
to situations like digit homology, the theropodan origin of birds is
Mike Howgate, who is Feduccia-like in his insistence that birds are
not theropods, argued against much of what I had to say. Although I
had shown in my talk that, even if we *ignore* the avian ulnae of
_Rahonavis_ it is still avian in the rest of its postcrania (e.g.
caudodorsal projection on the ischium, elongate ilial alae, avian
synsacrum), Mike argued that Forster et al's reconstruction of it as
a 'feathered dromaeosaur', with raised digit II and everything, was
just speculation. However, (1) animals generally do not exist as
jumbled unassociated heaps of bones when alive, but do tend to form
skeletons with them, (2) the sickle-clawed digit II of _Rahonavis_ is
actually *preserved* in a _Deinonychus_-style raised position, and
(3) this is irrelevant, because the raised claw of dromaeosaurs is
also a reconstruction based on deductive logic (but actually, it is
now proven correct by the new dromaeosaur Pete Makovicky and Mark
Norell recently described in _Novitates_).
Mike also says that the teeth of _Archaeopteryx_ most resemble those
of _Eoraptor_! This is plainly untrue but I suppose I have to prove
it. He also bought up the old stratigraphy chesnut.. i.e. why are all
bird-like theropods Cretaceous, and not pre-_Archaeopteryx_? This
last one is bothersome.. why couldn't those pesky birds evolve at a
more convinient time with a better fossil record?
However, while dissentors continue to point to problems in the theory
that birds are theropods, their total lack of an alternative theory
means they have no ground whatsoever. I have this theory, for
example, that humans are not primates. Humans have pronounced
hemispherical gluteus maximus muscles, which no primate does,
allowing them to sit with their legs crossed, plus they can speak and
have superb control of airflow via small, specialised nerves in the
spinal column. No primate is like this! Also, the human intermembral
index is totally unlike that seen in all other primates. And what
about the fossil record. The supposed sister-group to humans, apes
like chimps and gorillas, do not appear _before_ humans, as they
should, but _after_, in the Recent!! They should be down in the
mid-Pliocene if they are truly closest to human ancestors. Humans,
therefore, are clearly not primates but something quite different.
Obviously I am not being serious (just in case any of you thought I
was), and you will see what I am getting at.
"I'm here to rescue you"