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RE: Illustrations as research tools (was Re: Archaeoraptor et al.)

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu]On Behalf Of
Andrew A. Farke
Sent: Saturday, September 07, 2002 2:08 PM
To: stefanpickering2002@yahoo.com; dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Illustrations as research tools (was Re: Archaeoraptor et al.)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephan Pickering" <stefanpickering2002@yahoo.com>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 07, 2002 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: Archaeoraptor et al.

> Mickey Mortimer's 22 April 2001 post re: this taxon,
> then un-named, is what I would point to as an
> excellent, phylogentically rigorous analysis which I
> shall use when the Czerkas compendium arrives.

Please be careful in doing this--Mickey himself admitted that this
description was not based on an actual examination of the specimen, but on
viewing a published drawing (and presumably the original National Geographic
photos). This can be extremely, extremely risky. I am not doubting the
observations that he made off of the illustrations--merely saying that there
is frequently (and almost always) at least some difference between an
illustration (even photos) and the original specimen. Many factors come into
play--lighting, restoration which may not be identified as such in a figure,
camera angle, etc. A case in point is the type for Triceratops flabellatus.
A comparison of Marsh's absolutely beautiful lithographs with the original
specimen shows many points of difference.<<

In an early article I did for Prehistoric Times I bring up this specimen.
Marsh's old incorrect drawing is duplicated over and over again in papers;
Wellnhofer, Ostrom, etc. Lull (1934) figured and discussed this problem.

Lull, R. S., 1934, Skull of Triceratops flabellatus recently mounted at
Yale: The American Journal of Science, 5th series, v. 28, p. 439-442.

I've seen the type specimen and I'm not sure how much of the horns are real.

>>I had a wonderfully insightful discussion with Tom Carr several weeks ago,
about the utility of drawings in paleo publications. He made the statement
that inked illustrations depict specimens that do not exist in reality.
Excellent examples are the gorgeous renderings of the skulls of Einiosaurus
and Achelousaurus in Scott Sampson's description of them (Journal of
Vertebrate Paleontology, 1995, 15(4): 743-760). They are based on the best
information possible, and are no doubt pretty accurate. However, there is
not a single specimen that looks anything like that rendering. They are
idealized interpretations of what a whole skull would look like. Sereno and
Novas's Herrerasaurus skull paper is another excellent example (Paul C.
Sereno and Fernando E. Novas, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1993,

I do my best to accurately depict skulls and skeletons (and that is hard at
times and just plain guess work others). Sometimes looking at the drawings
or photographs will stir something and we can go from there. That's how I've
started on my new Interpretation of Tanystropheus and how the front teeth
and naris has been misinterpreted. A lot of paleontologist will illustrate
skulls conservatively and this will be continued in other papers. I try and
correct this in my drawings. But it doesn't always work.

Just food for thought. . .

And good food  it is...


Tracy L. Ford
P. O. Box 1171
Poway Ca  92074