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RE: Another new italian dinosaur
Dear friends and colleagues,
I cannot resist the invitation of Silvio and I will explain as things are
going on here.
In November 1998 I was charged by the Italian Ministery of Cultural and
Environmental Goods to superintend the field work at the site of the
Villaggio del Pescatore where a supposed complete dinosaur had to be
excavated. My task was also to superintend the preparation of the specimen
and do the preliminary study of all the specimens excavated up to 1999. The
task of the field work and preparation was given by the Ministry to an
internationally well-known Italian company of fossil dealers. The works
lasted months but the complete dinosaur (now known as "Antonio")was removed
on March 23rd 1999, when I was attending an International Symposium and
despite that the field work had to be arrested in my absence. Then I was
not permitted to superintend the preparation: practically the fossil
dealers did not inform me when they where working on the specimen. Simply
to avoid slowing the process. As you surely know (manly Chris Brochu)the
preparation of a fossil under the point of view of a fossil dealer is not
the same as for a scientist. The scientist cares about structures and
particulars, knowing perfectly what is important and which are the skeletal
features of the animal. The commercial preparator cares about aesthetics
and "waste" of time. I protested for this.
Conclusion: my charge was not renewed by the Ministry. I did the
preliminary description of the isolated bones from several individuals and
the forelimbs, hindlimbs, pelvis and proximal part of the tail of
"Antonio", and I gave the study to the local office of the Ministry.
Some of you know that my research program (as well as my postdoc; 1995-97)
concerns the dinosaurs of the Adriatic Region (Italy, Slovenia and
Croatia); I published many papers about the subject and I am very
interested on the Santonian hadrosaurids of the Italian site. I asked for a
permission to complete the study once the preparation is finished but I
received no answers but "Wait!".
Last thursday the complete skeleton was exposed to the public and I was not
invited. The skeleton was presented by the fossil dealer who said that it
belongs to a female because, like Sue, the chevrons are not preserved in
the anterior caudals, that it is 6 years old(?), that the study will show
which kind of sound the animal emitted (but it is a non-lambeosaurine
hadrosaurid!)and that they will look for its DNA (in bones preserved into
bituminous limestone and impregnated by organic matter of microbial or
other origin?)and so on.
Reporters and pressmen, common people, children, everybody took photos of
the specimen, and I did too. When I remained alone in the room, a
functionary of the Ministry told me that I am not permitted to keep the
photos I took. He told me that the press and normal people can, but a
scientist not. I had to give him the spools of film, asking the Ministry
the permission to have them back.
Probably the Ministry decided that the dinosaur will be described by a
retired old glory of Italian paleontology(the same if the Federal
Government takes away Sue from the care of Chris Brochu to give it to John
Ostrom, with the difference that Ostrom actually did great work on dinosaurs).
By my part, I can tell you that "Antonio" is a small Santonian (Late
Cretaceous but not very "late")not immature hadrosaurid (sensu Weishampel
et al., 1993) with some clear primitive features, but also with some
curious apomorphies, mainly in the postrcranial skeleton, which I suppose
are related to its insular habitat.
I cannot say more: I could be arrested. Anyway, everybody can recognize the
apomorphies and the primitive characters: the specimen is exposed to the
public for a week!
I apologize for my primitive English. I hope you could understand enough.
Fabio M. Dalla Vecchia