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Re: Hesperornis sp. nov.

Stephan Pickering wrote:
>It should be noted all of these bone scraps are nomina dubia. Phylogenetic
systematics is not served when, in a rush to have one's name in the
literature, nondiagnostic s/crap is wrapped in paper. More rigorous
standards are, it goes without saying, to be introduced.<
Its fine to say that, yes, undiagnostic scrap is undiagnostic. However, it
is rather presumptuous to say that anything based on less than a perfectly
preserved skeleton (I know that's a little over the top, but none the less)
should be rendered invalid. Have you personally looked at this material in
question? Are you 100% sure it undiagnostic. Sure, the remains may be
wanting a little more, but such is the nature of the fossil record.
Perhaps it just grates on my nerves because most times a new specimen is
announced, it seems to be disregarded as "s/crap"...seems somewhat
unscientific, in my opinion. Single elements can be, and are, diagnostic in
many cases. Look at a data matrix for a cladogram. Its broken down: the
characters are usually parts of bones, not "The animal is big, round, and
has a flat head." That's not a character. If the character is "Tibia wider
than it is long", and its a synapomorphy for a group, then you can be pretty
sure its a member of that group. And if it possesses characters on that
tibia that no other animal in that group does...then it seems to indicate
its something new...how is that undiagnostic? If later its shown that two
animals have that character, so be it, but it should not be dismissed
out-of-hand due to personal considerations on what constitutes a good
specimen, as opposed to what is actually preserved in a specimen.

Student of Geology
400 E. McConnell Drive #11
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, Az. 86001
AIM: TarryAGoat

----- Original Message -----
From: <StephanPickering@cs.com>
To: <dbensen@bowdoin.edu>
Cc: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002 4:02 AM
Subject: Re: Hesperornis sp. nov.