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Re: bauplan convergence



At 05:51 PM 19/06/2000 -0700, dbensen wrote:
>>Speculating on
the whys and wherefores of the evolution and the possible behavior of fossil
animals is simply a giant waste of time. Either the answers are entirely
obvious or the answers are simply impossible to confirm.<<

But after you remove speculation as to behavior and evolution, what is left of
paleontology?

I rather suspect - subject to being corrected - that what George meant to say was "the evolution OF possible behaviour". Of course all biology is informed by the concept of evoution, so I guess it depends how restrictive you want to be.


But I would say there is a great deal left: detailed descriptions, taphonomy, functional analyses etc (after all, plant palaeontologists find something to do, and it certainly isn't speculating about behaviour or its evolution!

Anyway, you can - to a very limited degree - study behaviour of fossil organisms without speculating. We have, for example, direct evidence from trackways that dinosaurs didn't generally drag their tails on the ground. I have suggested here that the presence of barbed feathers in Caudipteryx et al requires them to have had some sort of grooming behaviour like preening. We know that dromaeosaurs got into fights with Protoceratops, and that Oviraptor brooded its eggs (at least under som circumstances). We know what some fossil creatures ate. We know that Thrinaxodon hid in hollow trees.

What strikes me as pointless (though entertaining) is speculating about the detailed behaviour of creatures with no living analogues for which no such direct evidence exists (such as trying to figure out what Mononykus did with its forearms). This is fun, and great to discuss on lists like these, but there are times when it gets beyond the bounds of what I would call science of any kind, much less palaeontology, and into the realm of speculative fiction.

--
Ronald I. Orenstein Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
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