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Re: The pterosaur in the egg: a new report (joke)

From: "Jaime A. Headden" <qilongia@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The pterosaur in the egg: a new report (joke)
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 00:13:44 -0700 (PDT)

  I bear no antipathy to Peters, nor should anyone, as he has been the
model of proper conduct even when words were said in public denouncing not
only his work, but the person who drove them. This is an admirable trait.
Eventually, should evidence prove him out, he would have the last laugh;
but also, one would feel that if demonstration in person of the
defects/inclusions in the slab do NOT represent actual preservation of
past life forms and Peters sees this, he would acquiesce. So far, the only
major critique done on his work has been the Photoshop-tracing procedure
itself, rather than to denounce the findings with actual data. Using

Having seen the relevant website, I believe that Peters' claims *are* countered with adequate data. If you are referring to Chris Bennett's website, Chris *has* seen the specimen. Better yet, he saw the specimen before having any bias for or against Peters' claim.

Having done a tiny bit of museum-based research on a few specimens, I can say for certain that what you see in the photo and what you see in the museum drawer can be two different things. Reconstruction, plastering, crushing, etc., may not be obvious in a photo, but can be hideously apparent in person.

Photoshop, I myself, along with Mickey Mortimer, took a high quality photo
of the skull of *Protarchaeopteryx* and attempted to find the diamonds in
the rough of the matrix, and came to largely similar conclusions on what
we saw. I have enjoined others to take the same material that Peters has
and attempt to "find" structures. Indeed, inclusions or defects in the
slab have proven, to me, to bear a striking resemblance to such organisms
(or their traces) and these bear scrutiny. It has already been shown that
plant matter, invertebrates, microvertebrates, and such will preserve in
the same slabs as larger vertebrates in lagerstätten, so these
inclusions/defects DO need investigation.

I might be more convinced given a few double-blind trials. A big problem with the Photoshop method, as employed at present, is that it can be very bound to *expectations* of what should be found. I've been in a similar situation myself, when dealing with photos of ceratopsian skulls. In one case, I had a nice, up-close photo of the cheek region of skull that appeared to show a unique sutural configuration between the jugal/squamosal. This was pretty exciting to me, as it would be another character I could use to define the genus I was working on. I trusted this photo pretty well, until I went and saw the specimen in person. This "suture" was a combination of bad preservation, plaster, and lighting. On the photo it looked for all the world like genuine morphology. My original interpretation (that there was a suture present) had been colored by my expectations (that there should be a suture there, and that the taxon I was dealing with was something unique).

In this, Peters' work may
pioneer graphic methods of observation that, as yet, have not been shown
to be failures at.

I agree that the method may be useful in some cases. . .*if* and only if one can compare the results with the original specimen. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I've seen the former. . .the latter I have not.

Andrew A. Farke
Graduate Student
Department of Anatomical Sciences
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY