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Oviraptors in Paul's Dinosaurs of the Air
I just got this today. First, gotta hand it to Greg: awesome,
mindblowing even. Detail of work is incredible, as always, and the
presentation surpasses his 1988 Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. Leave it
Let it be known that as I described some things I find worthy of
criticism, I do not find myself disappointed by the book: it is everything
I had hoped it would be, and Paul expresses himself with the familiarity
of his work as always.
But on to my premise, which is the restoration of various
First, the given skulls of *Caudipteryx*. Just like *Avimimus*, aside
from the type and paratype, all other described skull material does not
relate, and are relatively longer, with deeper snouts and reduced
dentition (their shorter premax teeth). I will try to describe this when
my site comes back online. There are at least two species of *Caudipteryx*
or caudipterid in the Yixian levels, and the second is not *C. dongi*,
which postcranially is nearly identical to *C. zoui.* Paul uses the new
specimens (BMP 0001 and the IVPP specimen) to revise his restorations of
*Caudipteryx*, and I heartily disagree.
Second, ZPAL MgD-I/95 is a partial juvenile skull with open braincase
sutures, illustrated in both PDW and pg. 180 (fig. 10.2m) of DA, and it is
not *Ingenia*, as that taxon is known from only a partial braincase plus
postcranial skeleton. Paul describes the quadrate of oviraptorids as being
fused to the braincase (DA, pg. 40), but this is not true in any
oviraptorid, from personal observation, despite the unique, autapomorphic
"stradling" of the quadrate caput by the squamosal both laterally and
rostrally (forming a fifth ramus for the purpose, hence the oviraptorid
squamosal is quinqueramal). On pg. 175 (fig. 10.1p) a skeleton of the
referred specimen of *Khaan* is given with the skull of ZPAL MgD-I/95, and
the pelvis appears to be restored after GI 100/30 (*Ingenia*).
Third, a complete skeleton of *Oviraptor* is offered, of the type (AMNH
6517) but has the skull of GI 100/42, and this is clearly not of the same
morphology as the type, and only furthers the assumption that this is what
*Oviraptor* looked like. This book was past the review galleys before
descriptions of *Citipati* and *Khaan*, so their comparisons are not
available to revise this, but also the cervical anatomy is much too
shallow for the specimen reconstructed after. The manus is certainly
unique, however, and I think I like it.
K, enough with that.
Paul offers many new restorations and skeletal reconstructions. Among
these is a new pelvic restoration of *Confuciusornis*, including an
expansion on the distal pubis that may be described as a pubic "boot." He
also offers that the ischium did not lie in a nearly horizontal level, as
Ji et al. (2002) offer in their review of the Confuciusornithidae. Paul's
new reconstruction for the skull of *Deinonychus*, which he refers to as
*Deinonychus*, is new, and removes the curve to the snout that
*Velociraptor* has, but he also changes the position of the coracoid, so
that it is nearly flat craniocaudally and vertical in lateral view.
*Ornitholestes* now has the nasal horn, and is missing the hands in the
Paul makes extensive comparisons of pelvic, hip, tarsal, and pedal
anatomy; skull; thoracic; shoulder, and manus. Two parts compare the
second and third toes of various theropods (including birds). I have not
read that section thouroughly, but recent work by Simons and others on
primates and including work on birds and mammals (I have a few refs in
this, can present data later) indicate that either the penultimate or
antepenultimate phalanges on all digits for arboreal animals are bowed
dorsally/extensorly, and this morphology noted in Paul's figures of
*Corvus*, *Sinornis* (but not *Confuciusornis*), *Protarchaeopteryx*,
*Columba* (noted as scansorial); surprisingly, *Microraptor*,
*Archaeopteryx*, and dromaeosaurids proper, as well as *Sinornithosaurus*,
lack this curvature and were not likely branch graspers. As a comparison,
squirrels but not prairie dogs, and many other terrestrial sciuromorphs,
*Eomaia*, and many primates including *Babakotia* have such curvature.
There is a wonderful page of largest fliers and birds (pg. 146, fig.
8.2), including *Quetzalcoatlus northropi* and the much smaller *Q.* sp.,
and the largest flightless birds on pg. 150 (fig. 8.4) (which includes
*Andagalornis* with a manus reconstruction from *Titanis* including the
hypothetical fingers. But what a bird!
Anyways, off the pulpit,
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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