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Olive Branch (was Re: fixing dinosaur question)



At 07:06 PM 5/27/99 -0700, Frank Galef wrote:
>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.

Fair enough.  Olive branch extended.

>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.

Actually, the phrase "politically correct" has a much, much darker past,
which I guess a lot of people are not aware of.  A past associated both the
swastikas and the hammer-and-sickle.

>[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 ;- )]

Indeed! Although, to be fair, Norell (of the AMNH) DID use the proper name
_Gorgosaurus_ in his cladograms presented on the Ostrom Symposium.  (What's
worse, of course, is that the tyrannosaurids are placed as carnosaurs in the
AMNH, despite the fact that almost nobody working in theropod systematics
supports such an assignment!  Ah, well, sic semper tyrannosaurus and all
that... :-).

>Here,
>it felt like teasing a kitten with a laser pointer.

Hey, that's not teasing; it's play time! :-)

[Early part of Ostrom quote snipped].
>"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.

And, well, I don't.  John and I have had that talk before, as you might imagine.

I would, instead, ask people to please check out Dingus & Rowe's "The
Mistaken Extinction" for a cladistically oriented discussion of bird origins
aimed at the general public.

>Any attempt to distinguish unequivocally between
>avian and non-avian dinosaurs becomes really fuzzy  when looking at the
creatures
>we have recently been discussing.

Exactly.  In fact, birds (more so than any of the other advanced coelurosaur
clades) do not appear "fully formed" in the fossil record: we have many
different stages in their acquisition of characters through time.  Thus,
despite what Ostrom (and others) have said, a bird is not clearly a bird and
a (non-avian) dinosaur is not clearly a (non-avian) dinosaur.

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