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RE: Club Homo



Pheret wrote  " most people can't tell the difference between a pebble
and 
        a fossil, but the people who do REALLY do, correct?  or am i
just giving 
        paleontologists more credit than they deserve?  ;) "

Yes, Pheret, some of the people who can tell the difference REALLY,
REALLY do KNOW the difference.

I'm not a professional either, although I have been involved with
dinosaurs and other fossils for 40+ years.  I have taught people at
museums, and I have picked the brains of professional paleontologists
for over 20 years.  (Computer Consultant is my profession).  A friend of
mine showed a few of us some pale grey rocks that had dark, curved edges
in them.  I was the only one (outside of him) in the group who knew that
the dark curved edges were pieces of eggshell, and knowing him, I knew
they were dinosaur eggshells from Montana.  I also found dinosaur skin
impressions when we were working on a fossil that had been collected and
jacketed in the 1930's.  And I am not that good at it, either.

The truth is that if you have enough training in what the bones ought to
look like, then you will be better able to identify them when you do sse
them.  If you have enough experience in finding and/or digging-up
fossils, you will recognize them when you see them. Just as you know a
lot about computers without (I assume) formal training, there are people
who are very good at identifying fossils, without the formal training.
The formal training/schooling is important when you need to talk to
anyone else about what you may have found, and any ideas that you may
have.  You need to know what has gone before you, and you need to know
the lingo.

Of course, there is the factor of luck.  I know a few PhD's who cannot
find fossils when they are taken to a possible fossil site. And I know a
few people with Bachelor degrees (and less) who are constantly tripping
over fossils whenever they go looking.  (I'm not really exagerating.
One guy I know, who does not have a PhD, who has literally sat down on 2
specimens in 2 different states (different years as well).  He also has
the ability to recognize what he had done).

There some people who have the blessing of a good education, and a good
understanding of fossils.  Dr. Joseph Leidy, who named _Hadrosaurus
foulkii_ in 1858, was one of those gifted people.  He also named the
first 4 dinosaurs in the USA - based on teeth.  (The teeth had been sent
to him by a fortunate scientist, who collected them in Indian Territory
- the Indians avoided him).  Leidy's abilities lay in being able to
discern an entire animal from very few pieces. 

There are many more examples I could cite, but it's getting late.  [Or
as Seatrain once sang: "It's tired, and I'm getting late"].

Later,

Allan Edels
 

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