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On Friday, July 12, 2002, at 03:29 PM, Emma Rainforth wrote:

So, if you don't KNOW which are okay (and I mean 'okay' in the
sense of 'acceptable' rather than 'superb'), it is best, as a general rule
of pollex, to not trust any - at least until such time as you have examined
the specimens in person.
Actually, I would also say that (examining specimens) of ANY published line
drawings of footprints (as they are 2D representations of a 3D object).
Photos convey some sense of the 3D nature of an ichnite; stereo-pairs &
Moire figs are better.

This is also very good advice for anyone looking at bones... or shells, or muscles, or outcrops, or whatever. The best thing is almost invariably handling and personally examining the actual specimen.
The various other methods of studying the stuff have their advantages and disadvantages. In some cases, photographs are superior. A photograph can allow features to be examined which are beyond the human eye's resolution, or visible in different wavelengths, and digital manipulation can emphasize particular features. Vague, blurry feathers on the Liaoning dinos, subjected to manipulation with the contrast and value settings in Adobe Photoshop, become... well, slightly less vague and blurry. Of course you're limited to the lighting and perspective chosen by the photographer.
The weakness of the human illustration- interpretation- is also its strength since you can deemphasize noise and emphasize information, such that a good illustration can be superior to a photograph and one of the most effective means of conveying information about a photograph. Of course, you might be wrong about what is signal and what is noise... that suture might actually be a fracture, and vice versa. Some illustrations are better than others, of course.
And of course you can ask other paleontologists. Personally I have learned enough about the fallibility of my own memory that I tend to be hesitant about trusting other people's observations too much.