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Re: fixing dinosaur question



Dr. Holtz:

If you will stop banging your head against the wall, I will remove my tongue 
from
its current position firmly planted in my cheek.  Do snipes and cuts only get
excused when followed by a little happy face?  : - )  or is it  ;- ) ?  Actually
we should all stop this before we get sent to time out.

I did not expect quite the asteroid hit that my paleo-pc remark would provoke.  
I
suppose that in today's excruciatingly bend-over-backwards-to-be-tolerant world,
that it is a hot button phrase.  To be honest, I do accept the placement of 
birds
among dinosaurs, and I do have more than a passing understanding of cladistics,
though certainly not at the level of many other posters here.  I have previously
read Jeff Poling's material on cladistics and parsimony, but I did appreciate 
his
referral.  I was not trying to be intentionally dense, but I was trying to make 
a
point.  I also appreciated having others point out that there may be more than a
few in Paleontology with extreme views.  I admit that much of what I read on 
this
subject is in the lay press, so I'm not sure how valid my list of sources would
be.  In many cases, it's probably the same few people repeating themselves in a
variety of venues and others rushing to quote them so they too will appear as
cutting-edge as humanly possible

Education in a museum?  Hmmm, so that is what the AMNH was trying to accomplish
with all those diagrams on the floor.  I thought they were just there to direct
hundreds of shrieking children to knock me over while trying to read the 
specimen
explanations, kind of like getting swarmed by a Compsagnathus pack.
[Incidentally, you mentioned it is 1999.  Did you know that some time in the 
past
they stopped calling those wall-mounted tyrannosaurids Gorgosaurus and switched
to Albertasaurus?  Harumph indeed ;- )]

Of course, what started this whole business was the response received by
MegaRaptor's inquiry regarding the smallest carnivorous dinosaur.  The answers 
he
received were not rude, but they were a bit snide.  Poor Mega kept trying to
refine his query to conform with the "correct" definition when it was obvious
what he was really trying to ask.  I know, I know; if it had been anyone else
asking, it may have been appropriate to request a more precise question.  Here,
it felt like teasing a kitten with a laser pointer.  So is it appropriate on the
Dinosaur Mailing List to answer his question with a small extant avian?  I'm not
a major fan of quotations to prove anything, but here is one that seems
appropriate:  "To call birds 'dinosaurs,' I think, obscures what we really want
to convey to the lay audience.    We have a pretty good understanding of what a
dinosaur is with regard to certain anatomical characteristics.  A bird has those
characteristics plus some of its own which automatically make it a bird.  Now if
you're going to subsume birds into dinosaurs, you're going to alienate every
ornithologist on earth.  Why obscure them?  Are you going to go out and
dinosaur-watch this morning?  We don't call ourselves reptiles, even though the
reptiles ultimately gave rise to some stock which gave rise to the most 
primitive
of mammals.  Why is it necessary to confuse the question by saying they're
dinosaurs.  A bird's a bird.  And it came from a dinosaur-type ancestor."  John
Ostrom, from Hunting Dinosaurs by Psihoyos and Knoebber, 1994.    Obviously 
there
have been a lot of incredibly exciting discoveries since he said that which
buttress the evolutionary linkage, but I still think his point is valid.  If you
disagree, that's fine, but do we have to go to war over it?  Crusades are for
curmudgeons and jihads are for jerks.

Finally, I am grateful for the time you spent answering my questions regarding
the cladistic levels at which bird characteristics appeared.  Modern birds did
not appear in one evolutionary leap.  I have spent plenty of time debating with
Creationists over that subject.  Any attempt to distinguish unequivocally 
between
avian and non-avian dinosaurs becomes really fuzzy  when looking at the 
creatures
we have recently been discussing.  I apologize if this has been dealt with
extensively in the past and I know how tiresome it can be to go over the same
ground repeatedly.  I am fairly new to this List and have not read through the
entire Archive.  Perhaps there should be a rule that before anyone posts
anything, the Archives must be reviewed.  It might be a bit cumbersome, but it
would certainly slow the flood of e-mail that hits us every day.  :-b....
Frank

"Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." wrote:

>
>
> [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