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Ostrom symposium

Hey gang - now for some of my experiences and thoughts on the meeting.

It was great to see John totally overwhelmed by the reception and standing 
ovation on Saturday. I noticed that Larry Martin was the first to stand up for 
it which was nice.

I thought all the combatants gave their best talks in some while. Hans' was the 
funniest because he essentially said that non-dinosaur candidates for an 
possible origin are sort of like Oakland, California - there is no there there. 
(Forget who said this first about Oakland and I apologize to Oakland). Which is 
the most massive of the many flaws in the non-dino origin types - there is no 
alternative worth mentioning and they mostly just try and poke holes in the 
dino origin - which is worthwhile and necessary in science - but they have no 
alternative right now.

Mark Norell actually talked about variation and suggested we go from the 
specimen level and not the taxon level. Great to hear that. I found his talk to 
be the best one of his I've heard. Cracraft also gave a nice and sane talk on 
bird relations which I enjoyed.

Tom gave his usual solid talk and he didn't get his flu from me. I'll let him 

Larry gave a very direct and folksy talk on his views. It was good theater 
although suffered from the same short comings of all his talks on the subject - 
what I see as a distinct lack of rigor and a great selectivity of his visual 
examples. He is flirting with phylogenetic analysis, though, and can provide a 
significant contribution by making the analyses go further down the line of the 
dinosaurs and other archosaurs.

Regarding the phone-book cladistic analyses with lots of characters - I really 
think it is time to do and show detailed character analyses and come up with 
better characters than I see being used. Sereno was throwing out ratio data 
left and right as part of his 300+ characters and, frankly, each of those must 
be dealt with in detail, including allometric contexts, etc. It just isn't 
being done and is the weak link on these studies as far as I'm concerned. Yes, 
lots of characters is good, but we really must start analyzing and discussing 
the characters more. I don't see how carefully, for example, Sereno could have 
evaluated all 300+ of his characters for all the things you must do to do this 
right. For all the complaining on arctomet. from Paul, a huge number of his 
characters are just as prone or more so to convergence than that condition. 
This will take time, but will result in better answers. Also, we must include 
groups deeper down the line to allow better alternatives. I !
wished Paul spent more time going over his own work and the characters and less 
trashing other people's cladograms.

Chiappe gave a great talk where, oh my god!, he reanalyzed his data and changed 
his mind on some things. It was great to see someone trying to find an answer 
without  being tied to any party lines. It was great to hear Luis now has a job 
at the LACM as well. I like Tom's stuff for similar reasons - a willingness to 
go with the data rather than just protect a theory at all costs. the shift in 
consensus on Caudipteryx and alvar. positions were nice to see.

Ruben's talk was well presented and organized, as usual. However, I have 
amazing differences with his data and conclusions, which I find, at times, to 
be beyond the fringe. He was talking about Archie and the old pubic foot on the 
one specimen (I can never keep the archies straight). He showed another 
specimen (can't remember which - the room was very warm and I was going into a 
trance) which he interpreted as having a hyperpubic cup which just looked 
broken off to me rather than a cup. He then suggested the first specimen also 
had it but that the wings of the pubis were folded over taphonomically forming 
a false foot. All this on a beautifully preserved specimen. Please, this really 
stretched any common sense to think the bone would act so plastically in that 
one area selectively. It reminded me of old issue of Mad Magazine which did a 
spoof on magic tricks and showed how to take a quarter, place it in a hanky, 
and show it like you then had 2 quarters. All you had to do was b!
end the coin over. I was hoping for stronger arguments from these guys and just 
didn't hear them. A Shame. At least they left the decaying cartilage argument 
home for this meeting, which I and everyone else I talk with thinks is just 
totally weak and already over-exposed by orders of magnitude for its merits. 

Their arguments about Sinosauropteryx innards still are unconvincing as well. 
The Skippy innards is a stronger part but they suffer from the same problem as 
many of the other aspects of this problem, the transition was made sometime to 
the bird condition from something approximating their suggestion of the dino 
condition, so why is it less acceptible if theropods were the precursors? they 
always seem to gloss over the condition of the ancestral forms.

There was lots of trashing of Rahonavis and its interpretation. However, I saw 
no more evidence supporting the alternative views on many of the morphological 
points on that form than most of the original description. Always funny to hear 
people push the chimaera bit on it who, in the  past, seem to have pushed 
Protoavis big. Very hypocritical in my opinion. Speaking of Protoavis, almost  
never came up. Nuff said. Missed Sankar though, he's a very nice guy and I 
always enjoy our conversations.

Some neat bird talks but over my head regarding the living bird groups. Lots of 
volatility in the cladograms based on molecular data, though. At least one 
suggestion was made to try and greatly increase morphological data (characters) 
to help sort out. Yeah.

Day two started with Alan Brush with some theoretical models on feather 
formation. Good basics. Mary Schweitzer gave a nice talk on her analyses of 
Shuv. feathers and the morphology  of some chinese stuff. Look like feathers to 
me. Zhou gave a good summary on Confuciusornis with lots of specimens. It went 
beyond my bird anatomy a good bit. Hopson gave a very nice morphometric talk on 
phalanges proportions which I am looking forward to the paper on. Nice work.

Next we had lots of lungs and the typical Greg Paul and Ruben talks 
diametrically opposed. I missed one while politicing

In the afternoon we had function with a great talk on aerodynamics by Rayner 
supporting a dino origin off the ground. Nice, but you would expect that from 
Rayner who has done amazing allometric work. I can't remember the name of the 
graduate student from Yale who filled in on Deinonychus hand function but it 
was a very nice talk, although mostly stuff I knew intuitively. It was a nice 
wrap up, however, with actual data and modeling, so very useful. Gatesy gave a 
nice talk, typically Gatesy, on bird butts and feathers and how important they 
are during flight. I left after that but enjoyed it all.

That's enough from my end.

Ralph Chapman, NMNH