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Re: Bambiraptor (middle ground approach?)

>      As a possible middle ground approach that might be workable and
>mutually beneficial to all concerned, would you consider the following.
>Instead of the outright rejection of the publication of privately-held
>specimens, could the professionals meet them part way, and allow publication
>if certain conditions are met:  such as professional documentation of the
>specimens by photography, measurements, and making of casts.  And also
>minimal requirements in determining where the fossils came from.

I'm sorry, but that simply isn't enough.  Photos, measurements, and casts
do not in any way replace the specimen itself.  This is something I've
learned from years of working with the fossils themselves.  In fact, I will
rarely code a fossil from the literature - if I haven't seen it with my own
eyes, it doesn't go in the matrix (in most cases).

Part of this is from the occasional mistake that gets into a publication,
but it also comes from the fact that no single author, photo, cast, or
measurement can contain all of the information in the fossil itself.  As an
example - the relationship between the quadrate and pterygoid on the
lateral braincase wall in crocs, behind the foramen ovale, is
systematically important.  Is it a straight line from the posterior
basisphenoid exposure to the foramen, or does it bear a prominent
ventralward warp, producing a ventral process of the quadrate onto the
pterygoid?  Turns out this is one of the features important for the whole
Gavialis-Tomistoma debate, as crocodylids have the former and most other
crocs have the latter.  I cannot think of a single croc description or cast
that actually shows this feature - I had to go look at the skulls myself to
look for it.

Does this limit the amount of information I can add to my work?  You bet -
and I am very willing to so limit myself.  This does mean, for example,
that I will be very dodgy in my discussions of Spinosaurus - Stromer was a
good anatomist, and the material was well figured, but it's gone.  Ditto
for the crocs he described (including Stomatosuchus - please let Josh and
Co. find another one!).

I am not the only person to have run up against this problem.  The basic
data is in the specimen, not the photos or reconstructions we publish.

If you want to find a middle ground, it will have to be one in which all
interested parties deposit the important (and published) material in a

>      It seems to me that making such accomodations for valuable specimens
>would be preferable to losing all the data completely.

Since specimens = data, losing the specimen = losing all of the data.  We
can maybe preserve a copy of some of it, but to me that is not enough.


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

phone 312-665-7633
fax 312-665-7641
electronic cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org