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Feduccia Reviews Paul's DOTA, Comments



Dear DML members,

  At the very rear end of the latest issue of _the Auk_, I find that Alan
Feduccia has published the first review of Greg Paul's _Dinosaurs of the Air_ to
date. It would seem rude of me to comment on matters other than the facts at
hand, in this review, but to make things shorter, Feduccia takes an adversarial
approach to the review, and it does not come out favorably; this is perhaps to
be expected of Alan Feduccia. Mickey reviews this with me, so some of the
comments are his, though I claim blame for this in general.

  Feduccia, A. 2003. Book review, G.S. Paul, Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution
and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds. _The Auk_ 120(3):916-917.

  The main objections in this review are that Paul's art is stylized (often it
is not, Feduccia is likely refering to the skeletals) and interpretive, where
Paul often renders illustrations with "corrective" style but largely dead on.
One has just to examine his skull illustration of *Archaeopteryx* on pg. 85. He
cites Jones et al. (2000b) (in which Feduccia participated and thus has a
personal stake) in arguing that *Caudipteryx* is a secondarily flightless bird,
despite the prevalence of evidence to the contrary, the absence of exclusive
avian features that could not be dinosaurian in the paper he cites; more
amusingly,  he states Jones et al. was "conclusive evidence". ~~~~ It's all down
to the pennate feather. The idea that a feather _must_ belong to a bird has
_never_ been questioned leaves no red flags in this debate except among critics
of the critics ... boy, what am I saying?

  Feduccia amazingly argues _against_ the *Archaeopteryx* + dromaeosaur link he
alluded to in his reply to Brush this year ("Birds are considered dromaeosaur
derivatives, and Archaeopteryx is illustrated as a terrestrial creature,
hyperextending its second toes. Yet Archaeopteryx did not have a
dromaeosaur-like hypertrophied second sickle claw[;]" pg. 916). I gather that
Feduccia does not expect characters to evolve, and Paul does consider
dromaeosaurs (and in fact all maniraptoran dinosaurs) as descendants of
*Archaeopteryx,* where the sickle claw occurs in several descendants but needn't
occur in an ancestor.

  Alvarezsaurids are treated as ornithomimids; wholly on apparent unpublished
data apart from Sereno's analysis which identified the relationship on tentative
evidence, analyzed elsewhen on the list, and deriving from Larry Martin's work
where (as published in DinoFest perhaps?), several of the features that Sereno
found and some rather horrible and plastic features (much wider distribution
than given) gave us a really bad stab at cladistic analysis (which Feduccia is
adopting a result of despite indicating his distate for this subject, no mystery
there). Despite this, Feduccia provides this data as incontrivertible and worth
no further discussion. Sad. Feduccia discusses *Microraptor,* but comments on
discussions that included *Cryptovolans* (and treating dromaeosaurs as birds as
well) indicate the animals are wholly unlike dromaeosaurs ... despite being
referred to the group on the basis of the sickle claw and the "ramphorynchoid"
[his sic, not mine] tail, among other features. As if being found in pterosaur
tails makes this tail any less diagnostic as a unique feature of dromaeosaurids,
where _no other dinosaur_ possesses such a tail. Feduccia has accepted
*Microraptor* as a dinosaur, but it has feathers. So feathers can occur in
non-avians? So it doesn't come down to the feather?

Feduccia acknowledges Paul's critique of *Longisquama* as ignoring the _obvious_
feather-like morphology, ignoring "feather-like" does not equal "feather," and
the study by Reisz and Sues (2000) critiquing Jones et al. (2000a) in
identifying "feathers in a non-avian archosaur" (never referred to by the
"identifiers" as conclusive feathers except in the misleading title). Feduccia
says Paul "denies the presence of featherlike appendages", which is untrue; Paul
considered the features of *Longisquama* as "feather-like" and alluded to their
aerodynamic possibilities, as a convergent feature, as did Reisz and Sues.

  Feduccia builds on this with "He denies the presence of featherlike appendages
in the late Triassic Longisquama (now certain), and readily accepts evidence for
a furlike pelage on pterosaurs, generally not accepted by paleontologists." He
seems to have completely ignored the most recent histological studies, where at
recently as Unwin and Bakhurina (1994) and Lü (2001) have both regarded the
existence of pterosaurian "fur" to be _real_. Feduccia does not back up his
generalization with a citation -- as is prevalent in this review -- as in
commenting on Paul's comparisons of the skull of *Diatryma* as being similar to
both *Balaeniceps* and dromornithids, and decrying this as "totally and
dramatically dissimilar, and second, does this mean that the shoebill
(Balaeniceps) is extinct?" and I am almost flabbergasted that such a conclusion
could be made on this, unless one stops and thinks that Feduccia has not
considered the, admittedly brief, written comparisons involved in the subject in
question (pg. 307, figure 15.3) where Paul writes, speaking of dromornithids:
"[T]hese big birds' big, broad, massively constructed heads with deep but
small-hooked beaks ... were like those of diatrymids has led researchers to
suggest that dromornithids and diatrymids had similar, possibly flesh-oriented,
food preferences." Paul goes on to cite herbivorous adaptations and studies
leading to herbivory in mihirungs, coming down on omnivory, also suggested for
*Diatryma,* and known in *Balaeniceps* to also crush and swallow small animals.
Feduccia seems to have ignored this, as it seems almost preposteruous that he
did not read the book before reviewing it. Now on that matter, I can admit to
being a visual thinker: I tend to look at the pretty pictures before I read, but
I do read the thing in the end. And why wouldl would Feduccia think the shoebill
extinct based on cranial similarities to something? (Mickey comments: Most non-s
equiturish argument I've ever heard....) I must agree.

There's more. Feduccia write: "For example, in Predatory Dinosaurs of the World
he illustrated the giant sauropod Mamenchisaurus reared up on its hindlimbs, a
feat almost inconceivable for that creature given its size and lack of complex
epiphyses on its long bones." Yet work from various authors more knowledgeable
and closer to the situation than he, such as Brian Curtice, have argued that
yes, they can rear up. And it has nothing to do with long-bone epiphyses, as
recent work appears to show that this is true of rearing elephants and can be
shown to be exemplitive of the weight-bearing adaptations involved in the limbs
(this years SVP abstracts).

"Yet Archaeopteryx did not have a dromaeosaur-like hypertrophied second sickle
claw." We are all glad that *Archaeopteryx* is not a dromaeosaur and its claw
was not like theirs. Paul certainly didn't think it was.

"Paul finds no evidence for avian cranial kinesis or birdlike feathers in the
skull of Archaeopteryx[.]" And why should Paul? Feduccia seems to be following
the "BANDit" path of assuming because it was a bird, *Archaeopteryx* must have
had a fully functional avian-style kinetic skull, when some _birds_ don't or
exhibit dissimilar skulls.

"On page 119, there is a restoration of a lemur-like Ornitholestes" Apparently
confused it with *Sinornithosaurus*, as the *Ornitholestes* is in no way
lemur-like, and the posture of *Sinornithosaurus* below this on the page _is_ in
a lemur-like posture.

"[R]ecent analyses provide evidence that Caudipteryx and oviraptosaurids may
well be birds (Jones et al. 2000, Maryanska et al. 2002)." Passing over the
small detail birds are dinosaurs in Maryanska et al. (2002).

"Too, S. Czerkas (2002) has theorized that all the Dromaeosauridae may be a
lineage of secondarily fl ightless birds, but derived from a predinosaur, a
basal archosaur, not part of the theropod assemblage." Actually, Czerkas et al.
descended birds and dromaeosaurs from saurischians, not "pre-dinosaurs," and by
definition, dinosaurs.

  Feduccia ends the review with the following peculiar words: "We must keep an
open mind to bizarre possibilities, and certainly Paul's book will encourage all
interested in this topic to begin thinking out of the box." And that's fine, but
maybe Feduccia should, as well, as he seems so certain the pre-1980s orthodoxy
of birds as non-dinosaurs as being "true" and that *Caudipteryx* _is_ a bird
that need no elucidation, nor that comparative studies need discussion.

  Refs:

  Jones, T. D., J. O. Farlow, J. A. Ruben, D. M. Henderson, and W. J.
    Hillenius. 2000a. Cursoriality in bipedal archosaurs. _Nature_ 406:716-718.
  Jones, T. D., J. A. Ruben, L. D. Martin, E. N. Kurochkin, A. Feduccia, P. F.
A.
    Maderson, W. J. Hillenius, N. R. Geist, V. Alifanov. 2000b. Non-avian
feathers
    in a Late Triassic archosaur. _Science_ 288:2202-2205.
  Lü J.-c. 2002. Soft tissue in an Early Cretaceous pterosaur from Liaoning
    Province, China. _Memoir of the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum_ 1:19-28.
  Paul, G. S. 2002. _Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in
    Dinosaurs and Birds._ (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and
London.)
  Reisz, R. R. and H.-D. Sues. 2000. The 'feathers' of *Longisquama.* _Nature_
    408:427-428.
  Unwin, D. M. and N. N. Bakhurina. 1994. *Sordes pilosus* and the nature of the
    pterosaur flight apparatus. _Nature_ 371:62-64.

  Cheers,

  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.

  "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

  Cheers,

  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.

  "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)