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Re: worrying decline
Rob Gay observed:
"...Nothing beats doing the research yourself, but having descriptive
literature is good, especialy if the specimen is not somewhere accesible."
Let me mention a new mode of truly accurate description that is opening
up, already: The work of our own list member Ralph Chapman (Applied
Morphometrics Laboratory,NMNH, Smithsonian Institution) and his colleagues
in pioneering the laser scanning of bones for very precise measurement and
three-dimensional reconstruction promises, IMHO, to ultimately (within a
decade or two, hopefully) revolutionize morphometrics and provide vertebrate
paleontoloists world-wide access to complete, accurately sized and shaped
virtual 3-D specimens (including motion modelling) at the click of a mouse.
Realistically, scanning hardware is available only with difficulty, and
good financing, at least until it becomes off-the-shelf and less expensive
(or until paleontological institutions can purchase or gain donations of
systems, maybe even some being retired by industry or other institutions).
While a generalized use of such equipment and competent software may
seem to some as a mirage oasis on a far-off horizon, it may be that we are
glimpsing a light at the end of a financially dark paleontological 'tunnel'
that could in the long run provide world-class research opportunities to
even some poorly financed institutions and individuals.
So, thanks to Ralph Chapman (whom I recently heard give a talk on his
work, at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland) and company. May
their most-accurate-ever virtual Triceratops (skeleton) become the icon of a
new and wonderful mode of paleontological description.
Ultimately, such scanning and analysis could settle a lot of
paleontological disputes and even cut down the length of certain threads on
our own dinosaur mailing list. :?)