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Re: Notes from the under-matrix.

On Wednesday, David Peters wrote under the subject "Notes from the

> Yesterday Chris Bennett attempted to refute my observations of dorsal
> frills by noting that on all  Niobrara specimens the chalk surface is
> worked off so no trace of soft tissue can possibly be seen.
> That is a great "Old School" answer.

The post of mine that David refered as an attempt to refute his
observations, was in my opinion nothing of the kind.  It was merely an
observation, that in my opinion based on my experience with the Niobrara
Chalk it was remarkable that David had seen the things he claimed to see.
Had I wished to refute David's observations I would have first attempted to
replicate his observations and second compared my findings with his.  I did
just that when I attempted to refute his methodology some months ago--note
that my critique of David's methodology is still available at
http://www.bridgeport.edu/~cbennett/Critique.html if anyone is interested.

I would make a second observation regarding David's claims of seeing
multiple babies preserved adjacent to specimens of Pterodactylus.  Based on
my observations of the Solnhofen pterodactyloid fauna, all specimens in the
species P. antiquus, P. kochi, P. elegans, and P. micronyx (sensu
Wellnhofer, 1970) are immature based on size independent indicators of
skeletal maturity.  This has been discussed in my paper: Bennett, S. C.
1996b. Year-classes of pterosaurs from the Solnhofen Limestone of Germany:
taxonomic and systematic implications.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology,
16:432-444.   See also my more recent comments in Bennett, S. C. 2002. Soft
tissue preservation of the cranial crest of the pterosaur Germanodactylus
from Solnhofen.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22:43-48.  Given that
the AMNH (#1942) specimen that David refered to is a juvenile and probably
only one year old whereas skeletal maturity was probably not attained until
at least three years, it is amazing that David has found eight babies
scattered around the specimen.

In a later post, David Peters wrote: "The problem is this: professionals
like Chris and David are ceding interesting discoveries to goofballs like
me, who never had a geology course and last dissected a frog in junior high.
That's wrong and it should be stopped."  I don't think the problem is that
pterosaur workers like Dave Unwin, Alex Kellner, Fabio Dalla Vecchai and the
rest are ignoring David's discoveries, I think the problem is that we all
have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to pterosaur research and
we are all expending that time and energy in the way that we think is likely
to be most productive.  As for me, I have my hands full with a lot of boring
old school description of osteology of new specimens of Anurognathus,
Ctenochasma, Scaphognathus, and Pterodactylus, plus the taxonomic and
systematic fallout of my new findings and reinterpretations.  David needs to
convince pterosaur workers that there is something to his methodology and
his findings, but I don't think that will happen.  Although I am not so set
in my viewpoint that I could not be convinced of valid findings, I am
convinced that his methodology is nonsense, and that his findings are purely
imaginary.  David is now his own worst enemy--over the past year or so he
has gone from finding the occasional "overlooked" bone, to every missing
bone on every specimen, to soft tissues on every specimen, and now babies on
every specimen.  What can possibly be next?  I was angry at David when he
dismissed my SVP talk on the new Anurognathus, but now I am just sad.


S. Christopher Bennett, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Basic Sciences
College of Chiropractic
University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT 06601-2449