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Lull (RE: ABOUT THE REVERSED HALLUX AND..)
Ray and anyone else:
I think Lull was a great scientist, an incredible teacher by all accounts,
and I have the highest regard for most of his work. Alas, his 1953 (in
particular) ichnological publication is riddled with ERRORS. While this
could be figured out by anyone who actually trawls through the older
literature (1836-1865) - including the obscurer abstracts (the librarian
must hate me for all those ILL requests!) - and who also takes the
significant time to examine the collection in detail (no easy feat: trying
to find specimens alone is hard enough as no drawers are labeled; if you're
lucky the list showing which cabinet something is in is correct, then
there's only 10 VERY HEAVY drawers to go thru... and 150 years of no
record-keeping, missing specimens, etc) - most ichnologists since 1953 have
taken Lull's 1953 monograph as the IchnoBible. (See for example Haubold
This has led to numerous errors in taxonomy (ie violations of the ICZN).
Until such time as Lull53 is 'revised' and corrected (yeah yeah, in
progress), it is the most accessible work out there. Too bad it is mostly
unreliable. (Personally, I find the 1904 thesis to be the best and most
accurate of his 3 ichnotomes, followed by 1915).
On to specifics brought up by Ray:
Regarding composite drawings by Lull:
Sure, he says in 1904 they are composites based on multiple specimens. In
most cases, this caveat is not given in 1915 and 1953, in which he
reproduces most of the 1904 figs (and adds some more) - not to mention the
1953 filling-in-the-dotted-line technique (particularly problematic as in
many cases, the dotted lines are purely imaginary and in some cases not even
related to the footprint in question.) This was largely a technical error -
as I previously mentioned, the original art-work was lost, he was nearly
blind and had someone else redraw from the 1915 pub. (And being of poor
sight by then, I suppose he may not even have realized the problem. Not to
mention, content-wise, the footprint section is lifted almost entirely from
1915, so it is quite possible that he hadn't studied the prints themselves
> Having personally examined several examples (not replicas) of a number
> of the ichnospecies Lull illustrates, I found his drawings of those types
> are quite reliable, and I am an observant person. So, at least in those
> cases, the extremity of Rainforth's condemnation of Lull's work is
Out of curiousity, I am interested whether you studied the types sensu
Hitchcock, or the material referred to a taxon by Lull (and often
incorrectly identified as the type). Oftentimes, I have found, the material
Lull refers to a taxon is very different from the type material.
> If Lull were still living, I wonder if
> Rainforth's statements to this list would be so severe.
Yes. And I would invite him to defend himself.
Incidentally, I was not attacking the man; his science, yes, but (as
mentioned in my last post, although perhaps not explicitly enough) many of
the errors were largely beyond his control - inaccessibility of specimens
and literature, pleasing one's advisor to the detriment of accuracy (he even
admitted that in print in 1904), and by 1953, blindness. He was NOT
scientifically incompetent - just not as rigorous or careful as (hindsight)
shows he could have been.
> "...and incidentally did I mention they look NOTHING like th specimens? At
> Nothing at all like the specimens?! Give us a break! Yes, Lull was
> bit careless sometimes, but was he really so untrustworthy and incompetent
> Rainforth's words suggest? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
In some cases yes. See Olsen & Baird 1986, The ichnogenus Atreipus and its
significance for Triassic biostratigraphy, pp. 61-88 in K. Padian (ed.) The
Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, Cambridge UP; Appendix (discussiuon of
He made mistakes in 1904 that could have been avoided if he had had the time
to study the pertinent material (which was in storage until ~1902 I
believe); and had gone thru all the (Hitchcock) literature (including
teeny-weeny abstracts in odd places that invalidate much of Hitchcock's own
In 1915, he relied on the 1904 work, compounding the errors (i.e. he still
hadn't gone thru the lit.); ditto 1953.
Even the illustrious Olsen has screwed up as a result of not reading the
'insignificant' abstracts.... - as well as (early in his career) relying on
Lull's determination of type specimens.
Of course, as Lull hadn't read every word written by Hitchcock (including
the handwritten notebooks in the Amherst College archives), and hadn't
traced the fate of individual specimens (renumbered 3 times, with never a
tabulation or cross-reference!), he didn't REALISE he had made these
mistakes. Nor apparently has anyone else - at least not to the extent I am
alluding to (dissertation in progress guys!).
>Let us keep in mind that the
> line drawings presented in TRIASSIC LIFE OF THE CONNECTICUT VALLEY are not
> intended to be taken as detailed technical illustrations of the ichnites,
True. Unfortunately, many illustrious workers since have TAKEN Lull's
drawings to BE technically accurate. (And screwed up ichnology in the
process. You want me to name names?)
> but just to delineate the basic, non artifactual features and outlines.
> a few artifacts were misinterpreted as part of a footprint, occasionally,
> be it. The volume is still an easily available treasure trove on the basic
> pedal morphology of denizens of the Early Jurassic world.
Yep. And then look at how much taxonomy has gone on since, new taxa erected
b/c they don't quite look like Lull's drawings (whereas if you look at the
Hitchcock and 'new' specimens they are absoflippinlutely IDENTICAL).....
herein lie the perils of relying on LINE DRAWINGS of THREE-DIMENSIONAL
artifacts and not looking at the (correct) type specimens before naming new
taxa and drawing wonderful conclusions about (Mesozoic) ecosystems.....
(you want more names here?).
> Why should we judge the accuracy of Lull's illustrations by evaluating
> low-resolution photo in the book, when the Steropoides illustrations are
> based on much
Indeed. Illustrations based on multiple specimens from different localities,
and REFERRED to the taxon in question.
>I'd have to see the actual ichnites to judge for myself the
> of the illustrations Lull provides
If only EVERY ichnologist had this attitude! (Who wants the Amherst
>(All illustrations seem properly
> attributed as to source, in the volume.)
mostly, but it'd be nice if he included year as well as author (given than
his own drawings, as well as Hitchcock's, evolved.....)
> but at this point I cannot accept
> the total unreliability Rainforth attributes to Lull's volume.
Okay. Let me know when you're done reading EVERY scrap of literature, and
have examined literally EVERY specimen in the Amherst and Yale Collections.
Then we can compare notes.
>In fact, I
> do not personally know any other paleoichnologist with whom I have
> this matter, who feels the extreme way she does.
Do you know any other paleoichnolopgist who can quote (almost by heart)
everything the Hitchcock's, their contemporaries, and Lull, ever wrote, and
who has spent as long as I have in the pertinent collections? No, didn't
think so (Ed Hitchcock doesn't count, he's dead).
>I suspect Paul Olsen
> be an exception, since he and she have shared a lot of viewpoints
> but I have not discussed it with him.
Go ahead and ask him: polsen@LDEO.columbia.edu
> ... In most Steropoides ichnospecies, the rather
> long hallux is illustrated as very much reversed, and it clearly attaches
> to the rest of the foot, and cannot be a claw impression from above.
> Personally, I don't think that preservation state
> could change the angle of reversal much....
No, but, depending on what layer you are looking at (and Steropoides is
generally a leptodactylous track: ie foot sinks thru up to 10" of mud, there
is no 'track-bearing layer' in the usually-considered sense), you get a very
different picture. Different specimens (and species) are views of a flat
surface, which is a cross-section thru the 'track' - and the track is a 3-D
representation of the foot. The top of a foot is a different shape to the
bottom, and the hallux is in a different relative position, right?
> I appreciate Rainforth sharing with us her insights and feelings about
> these matters. Experience has its value, and we are fortunate to have her
> on this mailing list, but when accusations of total unreliability and, de
> facto, scientific
> incompetence, are piled upon an honored man so severely, I, upon a few
> of reflection,
> begin to question at least the degree of accuracy of those accusations,
> themselves. I'm not saying there's nothing to some of Rainforth's
> but they are surely overkill.
I'm going to hazard a guess, that even though I might be considered a young
whipper-snapper, I have spent more time studying the lit. and specimens of
Conn. Valley tracks than anyone. And folks who HAVE spent a lot of time in
the Amherst collection can attestify that Lull 1953 is a disaster area.
Period. (I can give you names if you wish to independently verify this: even
persons who were former students of the great man himself acknowledge that
while his monograph is a monumental effort, it is grossly misleading.)
> In fact, I have enough confidence in Lull and the contents of TRIASSIC
> LIFE IN THE CONNECTICUT VALLEY that I just ordered two more copies (one to
> highlight and mark up, one for a friend to whom I recommended it).
I have multiple copies myself. It is also the only easily-accessible work on
the entire Conn Valley fauna (short of Hitchcock - but then you need 1841
($300), 1848 ($200), 1858 ($400) and 1865 ($400); not to mention all the
piddly shorter works (and Lull - and most people - use Hitchcock 1858+1865,
BUT he brings in gazillions of new names for things that were previously
nemaed (by him) and described in these 'piddly' works - so even 1858/1865
are incorrect. Hitchcock would decide a name was unsuitable in the light of
new data, so he would rename at whim. Homonyms and synonyms galore. Lull
didn't look at some of these piddly ones and screwed up mightily as a
result. Take Ornithichnites minimus (Hitchcock - herinafter EH - 1836) - the
smallest of the 'bird-like tracks). When he found a smaller one still, he
named THAT Ornithoidichnites minimus (EH 1841 - in which ORnithcichnites
(stony bird tracks) is replaced with Ornithoidichnites (stony bird-LIKE
tracks), and O. minimus sens 1836 is renamed Ornithoidichnites isodactylus
(EH 1841). Lull, in discussing these, assumes the 1841 names are the valid
ones. Oops. Oh, and there are 3 different Grallator parallelus (all authored
by EH. Or is it 4.....?)
IS it any WONDER ichnotaxonomy is a mess?
Okay, back to you, Ray.....
Emma C. Rainforth
Curator, Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and
Natural Science Instructor
Mesalands Community College
911 South Tenth St.
Tucumcari, NM 88401