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RE: Little video blurb on the new Zuni theropods



> From: Jordan Mallon [mailto:j_mallon@hotmail.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 3:35 PM
> To: tholtz@geol.umd.edu; dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: Little video blurb on the new Zuni theropods
>
>
> >From: "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." <tholtz@geol.umd.edu>
>
> >For the Canadian members of the list, I just shot a short video
> >interview
> >about "Nothronychus" and the unnamed coelurosaur for the Canadian
> > >Discovery
> >Channel.  It will be on the show "@Discovery.Ca" at 7 pm Eastern
> and 11 >pm
> >Eastern.
>
> Yeah, I just saw that segment earlier this morning,

Actually, you couldn't have seen that particular segment this morning, since
I shot it between 1:45 and 2:30 pm Eastern today!!

Also,

> although I found it
> somewhat misleading in that the reporters really seemed to push the idea
> that these animals were in fact found with feathers.

Actually, that may have been part of the impetus for this interview: to
clarify the situation.  As might be expected, these dinos were not found in
very fine grained sediments so that no integument is preserved.

However, it is no more disingenuous to call these "feathered dinosaurs" than
it is to call _Hyracotherium_ or _Hyaenodon_ "furry mammals": no one has
ever recovered the integument of early horses or creodonts, but based on
their phylogenetic positions among known furry taxa, it is perverse (without
additional positive evidence to the contrary) to consider those cretaures to
be non-furry.

And, not to put to fine a point on it, we are now at the stage in the game
where it is non-scientific to consider any maniraptoran to lack feathers.
The support for the feathered nature of therizinosaurs, oviraptorosaurs,
dromaeosaurids, and basal birds (duh) is considerably better than many
cherished aspects of dinolore, such as:
        *pack hunting in various theropods
        *predation in most theropods
        *herd behavior in sauropods
        *long-term post-nesting parental care in non-avian dinosaurs
        *sexual display in stegosaurs
and so forth.  (The support for feathered nature outside of Maniraptora
hinges on the position of _Sinosauropteryx_.  I keep on finding it very
basal in Coelurosauria in all my post-Gaia analyses, but it is not
inconcievable it could pop back up to being a basal maniraptoran).

So, yes: Jurassic Park III is unscientific in having scaly _Velociraptor_,
for example.  The days of scale-skinned dromaeosaurs and other maniraptorans
is over, or at least requires the positive discovery of an unquestionable
member of a maniraptoran group found with actual scale impressions over the
parts of the body known to be feathered in other forms.  That is not to say
that such a reversal did NOT happen (after all, there are hairless mammals):
however, it has now reached the stage in our knowledge where painting or
animating a featherless maniraptoran is precisely analagous to painting or
animating a hairless equid or creodont or macropodid, etc.

All that being said, I think that it has been the shock of seeing feathered
non-avian dinosaurs animated for the first time which has caught the
attention of the reporters to a greater degree than the stuff that Kirkland
and Wolfe (and I) were trying to hype at the press conference: a whole new
fauna, from a period of peak sea level, etc., etc.

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/tholtz.htm
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796