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Reconstructions [re: pygostyle]

John R. Hutchinson wrote:
>This pygostyle thing is a great example of how reconstructions in papers become
>cited as fact.  IMO, stick with the specimens if you want data.
        Of course, reconstructions can be of some help. *ALL* illustrations
involve some degree of interpretation, EVEN photographs. Heck, even when you
are looking at the specimen, your observations are interpretations. So try
to take all illustrations with a grain of salt, but do not discount
something just because it is a reconstruction. Use your judgement.
        Case in point: I recently completed a reconstruction of a famous
hadrosaur skull from a photograph, because I don't have the several hundred
dollars and a week to go to another country to see it for myself. The
photograph is very high quality, and, thanks to a more-than-passing
familiarity with the taxon in question, I was able to determine that this
skull has been repeatedly misreconstructed and misrepresented over nearly
100 years, mostly, it seems, because people did not want to interpret the
material. Now, the results of this work, when published, will not be
earthshattering. Indeed, they will probably be dismissed because I "didn't
even see the original material." The best thing to do, of course, is judge
for yourself, and, as John says, look at the original material. And maybe
I'm wrong, but at least I'll have made someone look. 

        The best case scenario for publication is something like what Sereno
did in his _Lesothosaurus_ monograph: include a photo of the specimen, a
shaded drawing of the photo, a labelled line drawing of the photo, a
reconstruction, and a labelled line drawing of the reconstruction. It still
is no substitute for looking at the original material, but then again none
of us has several hundred thousand dollars to throw around on a whim.

        End of ramble. Nice seeing everyone at SVP. I'm still not caught up
on sleep. I love Smarties(R)!


     Jonathan R. Wagner, Dept. of Geosciences, TTU, Lubbock, TX 79409-1053
  "Why do I sense we've picked up another pathetic lifeform?" - Obi-Wan Kenobi