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Re: Paleogaffe in NATURAL HISTORY Magazine



John McLoughlin wrote:

>I just posted the following to the American Museum of Natural History's
>NATURAL HISTORY magazine, but wanted to share the gaffe with all you good
>people:
>_________________________________________
>
>On page 51 in Niles Eldridge's article "Life in the Balance" (June 1998),
>there is a paleontologic gaffe deserving of observation.  In the "Birds" box
>on that page, Eldridge says:
>
>    "From ostriches to sparrows, birds find their
>    closest relatives among the extinct sauropod dinosaurs,
>    which included the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex and the
>    huge brontosaurians."
>
>Not so.  Not only was T. rex neither a sauropod nor a "brontosaurian,"
>whatever that is, but the birds are most closely related to _theropod_
>dinosaurs, among which, yes, the T. rex also belongs.
>
This may have been the work of a "fact checker," an underpaid peon assigned
to check every quote and the spelling of every odd word in an article, but
who may know nothing about the subject. I suspect the dictionary at hand
did not list the proper cladistic term Eldridge used, the fact checker
decided "sauropod" was what he meant to say, changed it, and Eldridge
either didn't see the mistake or didn't get to check the edited version.

Editors sometimes do the same thing in popular magazines. As Sam Bowring
and others recalibrate the geologic time scale, I have had to explain to a
number of editors that what the standard reference books say can be
flat-out wrong.

- Jeff Hecht