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RE: Abstracts & Illustrations



>From Jerry Harris:

>>I know of many cases where seeing a specimen in person
>>is neccessary to evaluate it properly.  Too often, 
>>remains are illustrated in only one view, or not 
>>illustrated at all.

>   Yes, this is true fairly frequently, and, as noted, 
>an unfortunate casualty of space restrictions in journals 
>like _Nature_ or _Science_.  However, the "poorness" of 
>some diagrams is _not_ due to dearth or insufficiency, 
>but because the illustrations were originally published to
>emphasize the points of the original author.  


I agree with everything Jerry said, above and in the rest of his posting. 

There are even more issues here, which I can't take the time to comment on
at length.  But I would like to point out that illustrations were never
intended to take the place of first-hand observation.  This is not just true
in paleontology.  As a physical stratigrapher, I can get background
information about rock formations from publications, including the text with
its descriptive sections, as well as illustrations--perhaps including
graphic sections, outcrop photographs, and thin section photos (called
"micrographs").  But you cannot even begin to depict the totality of the
subject matter with that text and the illustrations, because some other
outcrop looks different, and in fact probably has differences in various
aspects of the lithology.  A thin section micrograph probably displays about
one square centimeter, and thus does not provide a satisfactory depiction of
the whole formation, either vertically or laterally.  But it probably does
document what the author has claimed.  Everyone knows that is all that was
intended, and so nobody criticizes the stratigrapher for showing that
particular micrograph, or for not publishing even more.  

You have to go out and see things for yourself before you can say that you
know about that particular rock formation.  And you ought to make a few thin
sections of your own, while you're at it.  Once you've done that, then you
can forge into new territory with your own research, building on what has
been done previously.  Dinosaur paleontology is not unique in that respect.
Yes, you have to go see the specimens, just like you have to go see the
outcrops and examine a bunch of thin sections.