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re: fixing dinosaur question



At 07:39 AM 5/27/99 PDT, Sherry Michael wrote:
>
>I will discontinue the term "dinosaur" as soon as all the leading scientists
>stop using it, too. I guess it's okay for paleontologists to create books
>titled _The DINOSAUR Encyclopedia_. For some reason, it's not okay for
>non-professionals to use the term dinosaur in what should be a laid back
>setting.

[Banging his head against the wall, because people can't seem to grasp this
incredibly simple concept...]

There is nothing wrong with the word "dinosaur".  There is nothing wrong
with the word "bird".  There is nothing wrong with the taxonomic terms
"Dinosauria" and "Aves".

The latter is simply part of the former, the same way Ceratopsia is part of
Dinosauria, and Tyrannosauridae is part of Dinosauria, and _Plateosaurus_ is
part of Dinosauria.

Should we discontinue the use of the words "Mammalia" or "mammal" simply
because artiodactyls are part of Mammalia?  No, that would be ridiculous.

Do we not use the term "turtle" because Testudines are vertebrates?  I think
not.

How is it that intelligent people are not understanding that this is the
same sort of situation?

>Did anyone have a problem understanding the subject of the book
>when it was published? Did you think it was about blue jays and robins?

Well, the chapters Aves, Avialae, and Bird Origins are about as long or
longer than the other systematic chapters (Ankylosauria, Sauropoda, etc.) in
the book.  Sure, it doesn't discuss how to tell a blue jay from a robin, but
it doesn't tell how to tell _Allosaurus fragilis_ from _Sinraptor dongi_,
either.

Similarly, if I was interested in a book on the differences between two
equid genera, _The Big Ol' Book of Mammals_ (only 400 pages or so) is
probably not going to be a good source.  It will almost certainly discuss
the place of equids within perissodactyls, and probably discuss a few major
events in equid evolution, but won't have the level of detail that a book
with more precise focus on equids would have.

By the same token, The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs DOES discuss birds, it DOES
discuss their placement in the dinosaur family tree, and it DOES discuss
some of the main events in their evolution.  The Aves chapter doesn't,
however, elaborate on the details of within-neornithine phylogeny, but does
give a reference for a discussion of Cenozoic bird diversity.

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