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RE: Isle of Wight "Oviraptor"

Stephan Pickering wrote:

>     Once again, the ghost of von Huene stalks...along with the spectral
> reincarnations of "Antrodemus", that isolated vertebra which, for
> considerable amount of time (like "Trachodon" et al.), cluttered the
> landscape...an isolated vertebra may/may not have plesiomorphic
> resemblances to a snow-flake...this does not make it an oviraptor. When
> an articulated skull is found, with associated skeleton, this will
> clearly demonstrate the presence of the clade on what is now the Isle of
> Wight, and, following a cladistic analysis to illustrate its
> synapomorphies, one can discuss a valid taxon...not a wish.

I think two separate issues are being conflated here.  (1) Baron von Huene
named _Thecocoelurus_ back in 1923, and this name is irrevocably attached to
the type vertebra; and (2) Darren Naish and others have redescribed the
_Thecocoelurus_ vertebra as belonging to an oviraptorosaur (not a coelurid
as avered by Huene).  This does not mean that Naish et al. necessatily
recognize _Thecocoelurus_ as a valid taxon; they assigned the type vertebra
named _Thecocoelurus_ to the Oviraptorosauria, nothing more.  In my
experience, Darren has studiously avoided the the practice of attaching new
names to isolated or fragmentary material, and thereby swelling the legions
of _nomina dubia_ that haunt paleontology.

I also am not certain what you mean by it is only when "an articulated skull
is found, with associated skeleton" that a taxon can be recognized as valid.
This would decimate the list of valid dinosaurian taxa - including those
that you yourself intend to erect ("Metriacanthosaurus reynoldsi" etc) based
on disarticulated material from Britain.  I must have misinterpreted your

By the way, von Huene often gets a bad rap these days, on account of his
taxonomic meanderings.  True, he did display an alarming tendency to name
taxa based on extremely fragmentary material (especially the stuff that
hailed from distant outposts of the British Empire); and modern
paleontologists are still trying to sort out the mess he made of titanosaur
taxonomy.  However, Huene, in his time, made a huge contribution to dinosaur
paleontology - and is often overlooked as the guy who supported coelurosaur
affinities for the tyrannosaurids long before it became fashionable.



Timothy J. Williams 

USDA-ARS Researcher 
Agronomy Hall 
Iowa State University 
Ames IA 50014 

Phone: 515 294 9233 
Fax:   515 294 3163