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I would also like to reinforce what Tom H., John H., and others have said regarding the use of web-based references.


A couple of years ago, I got a call from a woman about her daughter's homework assignment. Her daughter (2nd grade, if I recall correctly) was in a class in which the teacher assigned each student a different extinct animal and then asked for presentations of a given length (I no longer remember how long). Her daughter's assigned animal was Deinosuchus.

(Interestingly, she did not call for me specifically - she simply called the Field Museum and asked for a paleontologist. No one at the Museum's switchboard knew I had ever looked at any crocodyliform, much less Deinosuchus. This was simply a stroke of luck for her.)

Anyway, she was having difficulty finding published information on Deinosuchus. I was not surprised (and said so), as there is very little we can actually say about Deinosuchus - it was big, it is typically found in estuarine or coastal deposits, it's known only from the Campanian (maybe lower Maastrichtian) of North America, and so on. I honestly didn't think it was an appropriate choice for a second-grader, and eventually advised her to ask her daughter's teacher for a different animal for her daughter.

What horrified me was the "information" she had pulled off the web for her daughter.

Her: "I mean, we DO know, from the web, that Deinosuchus' jaws were unfused in the middle so they could stretch their mouths like snakes..."

Me:  "WHAT?!?!"

Her:  "You mean they can't?"

Me: "Absolutely not. Most croc jaws are unfused at the middle [the symphysis]. but there isn't any mediolateral movement there."

Her: "Oh." (short pause) "But it IS true, isn't it, that they only ate dinosaurs?"

Me: "We've never found gut contents (at least none that I would accept), so for all we know, they independently evolved chloroplasts and photosynthesized."

and so on.


Moral of the story - the web can be a valuable tool, but unless you know who is providing the information, it shouldn't be used instead of a well-stocked library.