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RE: Species & Giraffe necks

Derkits, Gustav E, JR wrote:
> Noting first the determinations of species based on phenotypes
> is not easy even for species having living representatives to
> analyze and is often made on the basis of additional information
> such as geographical distribution or behavior, Paleontology is 
> severely crippled by the fact that most of the phenotype is
> gone by the time you get it. This would imply that some amount
> of doubt must enter even the most secure determination of 
> species (even genus) in paleontology.
> I have read, but do not know it to be true, that even specialists
> cannot tell a lion from a tiger on the basis of the skeleton alone.
> Can anyone comment on this?
        It is 100% true.  I know of a particular ceratopsian specialist 
that once informed me that he couldn't tell any given species apart if 
given a random postcranial element.  Indeed the entire impetus for the 
work I am doing on theropod teeth came out of the frustration of not 
being able to correlate isolated bone bed elements with taxonomically 
well-supported genera.

Josh Smith
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Earth and Environmental Science
471 Hayden Hall
240 South 33rd Street
Philadelphia, PA  19104-6316
(215) 898-5630 (Office)
(215) 898-0964 (FAX)