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P.S.:Oldest Neoceratopsian...

    P.S.:  That apology out of the way, now that I have been thoroughly
awakened, and without wishing to in any way denigrate Mike's beautiful
illustration, it is hard not to notice that in the animal's pes (back foot),
we see only three digits on the ground.  I find that a bit hard to accept,
since, so far as I know, later neoceratopsians had four pes digits on the
ground. (Only skull material is reported in the Nature article, according to
Tim Williams.  I have not accessed the article.) Does it seem likely that
another toe would descend to the ground in evolutionary descendants of a
three-toed neoceratopsian (or however one wishes to place it)?

    Locally, H.P. Tom Lipka has found (and published) one or more teeth
attributable to a neoceratopsian that lived about 115 to 120 million years
ago in what is now Maryland and, thus, younger than the new find under
discussion by 10 to 15 million years, perhaps.  Locally also, I have found
one pes impression and several manus impressions, possibly (I stress: ONLY
POSSIBLY) attributable to the same kind of animal from which Tom's tooth
(teeth?) find came.  The single, good quality pes imprint clearly shows four
digits on the ground.  No one who has seen the pes imprint has even tried to
suggest a more parsimonious attribution than the neoceratopsid one, but I
suppose we could be overlooking something.

    But let's hear from anyone out there who knows more about the
evolutionary possibilities than do I.  What say you, which seems more
reasonable:  three pes digits on the ground, or four?

    Ray Stanford

"You know my method.  It is founded upon the observance of trifles." --
Sherlock Holmes in The Boscombe Valley Mystery