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Re: Disarticulating Zygapophyses, Batman!
Mike Taylor wrote:
> But then when you look up the reference, it just says:
> 20. J. M. Parrish and K. Stevens, unpublished data.
I have written on this before, but I will repeat my concerns. Parrish and
Steven's work stands as a great dichotomy. On the one hand, it is one of the
first techniques that (should) allow repeatable quantification of biomechanical
analyses. On the other hand, none of their basic assumptions has been properly
tested (at least they haven't been published), and their methodology is not
currently open to peer review.
For example: What is the actual relationship in extant animals between
zygomatic articulation and possible range of cervical movement? Now-infamous
pictures of resting camels suggest this relationship is more complex than
Parrish and Steven's "unpublished data" suggests.
What is the relationship between the "neutral" position of zygomatic
articulation and how often an animal adopts this pose (vs. whether it is merely
near the middle of the range of possible movement)? This question would be
extremely relevent to their published paper in Science. Where is the data,
especially before making extreme (and biologically unlikely) claims about
habitual sauropod neck posture (e.g. Diplodocus carrying its head a meter off
Finally, why hasn't dinomorph been made available to researchers with disperate
views on, for example, sauropod neck posture? The value in repeatable and
quantifiable techniques (like cladistics) isn't that everyone comes up with the
same answer, but that we can pinpoint the differences in their assumptions that
lead them to different conclusions. We are denied this with dinomorph because
it is only in the hands of a select few, with the answers coming down to us
like the Oracle of Delphi (and the release of a watered-down commercial version
is unlikely to improve the situation).
So as I see it, Parrish and Steven's work with dinomorph is: a)one of the most
promising additions to biomechanical research in extinct animals, yet: b) At
the moment bordering on pseudoscience. As long as grandiose claims are made in
the popular media while the supporting data is unpublished, and as long as
researchers with differing viewpoints are denied access to the same tools,
their work amounts to nothing more than a cool videogame.
I truly hope that dinomorph becomes the PAUP of biomechanics. But at the
moment it is voodoo science mascerading as paleontology.
Zoology & Physiology
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82070