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Storrs Olson and Archaeoraptor



Okay, charged subject so I will make this short.

  In early 2000 (April), Storrs Olson (Curator of Birds in the department
of Vertebrate Zoology at the NMNH, Smithsonian Institution, and yes, an
accredited and earned doctor) published an article in the NMNH Newsletter,
_Backbone_ (vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 1-3) in which he decried the behavior of
National Geographic Magazine art editor Chris Sloan, private museum
director and sculptor Stephen Czerkas, and in general the apparent false
take on himself of his position of the issue of the origin of birds. Then
proceeds to create a taxonomic knot. Note that this issue predates the
publication of the paper in which Xu et al. describe *Microraptor* (on
December 7, 2000).

  First, a question, though muted, has been the validity of the
publication in which Olson published on *Archaeoraptor*. _Backbone_ is a
newsletter published by the NMNH for the use of the Department of
Vertebrate Zoology, but more importantly, is a charge-free publication
that, as is clear from the website of the NMNH (htpp://www.nmnh.si.edu/)
can be subscribed to by _anyone_. It is a mass-produced and well available
publication, and no one should in their right mind question the source
(the Smithsonian Institute). It thus conforms to the provisions of Art. 8,
and passes the test of Art. 9 (what does _not_ constiture publication);
problematically, Art. 8c states:  "Purpose may be disclaimed.- A work that
contains a statement to the effect that it is not issued for permanent
public scientific record, or that names or acts in it are not for
nomenclatural purposes, is not published within the meaning of the Code." 
I do not know in which manner this newsletter states it cannot be used for
nomenclatural purposes, and am currently awaiting a return email from Joy
Gold, who manages this issue at SI (joy.gold@nmnh.si.edu), and will be
able to discern the extent of this purpose therein. Presently, nothing yet
indicates that the document is an invalid publication.

  (Just to reiterate another point, dissertations, abstracts, posters,
etc. are not available. Previous iteration of the name "Bilbeyhallorum" --
now *Cedarpelta* -- thus does not qualify as a valid taxonomic occurence.
You are welcome to describe an entire taxonomy in your next abstract or
poster, and nothing will happen as a result of it, nothing _can_ except
confusion. The exceptions similarly do not prohibit Walker's
*Enantiornis,* ridiculously published in a caption to a figure (but not in
the figure itself). This does not, however, detract from George's pursuit
of an historical and published record of dinosaur names, whether valid or
not. Dissertations are a matter of what constitutes publication, not which
constitutes nomenclaturally published, but having the name on record, if
permitted by the author, seems an interesting idea.)

 In this publication [_Backbone_], Storrs Olson publishes for the first
time the specimen number to which Xu had discovered the counterpart of
(IVPP V12330), and links this with a photograph (as published by National
Geographic Magazine), and indicates that the several slabs on which only
the tail was preserved represented the lectotype of a previously
unassociated taxon, *Archaeoraptor liaoningensis*. First off, no matter
that Sloan published the name *Archaeoraptor liaoningensis,* that this
name was from Czerkas [= Sloan vide Czerkas]; Olson now has his name
associated with the name as author as the first to designate a type
specimen (a lectotype, in this case, at least from his perspective) (Art.
72b). No other type had been indicated, as is clear in the ICZN that when
no type specimen is provided upon publication of the name, a lectotype may
then be designated (Art. 74). Problematically, as in designating a
holotype, the designation _must_ include a description of the specimen and
a diagnosis, so that it may be distinguished from other taxa (Art. 74a,
ii, 3-4). Thus, the designation, though the authorship has shifted,
appears to be invalid. The name *Archaeoraptor* is just not valid under
the present rules of the ICZN, and these were established the first day of
1999, well before Olson's publication.

  If you note any flaws in this logic, or articles of the present edition
of the ICZN, please reply. However, my current reading appears to show
that Olson's little bit of wizardry falls shorter than Saruman's
foresight, and that *Archaeoraptor* can be relegated to the nomenclatural
oddities of history.

---

  By the by, Olson makes comments on his consideration in the press (by
Dalton in _Science_ (288: 238-239), Monastersky in _Science News_(159, 6:
253), Gibbons in _Nature_ (April 13, pg. 696), Padian in _Palaeontologica
Electronica_ (3, 2), to name a few, as well as a harsher press in _USA
Today_, an article I do not have access to yet, without getting to my
library). His claim that he has been misrepresented belies that his stance
has been known for years by colleagues, work with Feduccia and others in
corroborating statements on the origin of birds, and ultimately his
support of them. I find the statement to be less than professional in
aspect, and respective of his antic in sweeping his cloak to suddenly
unmake the paleontological affront to ornithology by designating such a
"loaded" name and history as "Archaeoraptor" as dinosaurian, rather than
avian. Dare them boneheads put this name on a _bird_, hallowed be their
nature....

  Cheers,

=====
Jaime A. Headden

  Little steps are often the hardest to take.  We are too used to making leaps 
in the face of adversity, that a simple skip is so hard to do.  We should all 
learn to walk soft, walk small, see the world around us rather than zoom by it.

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