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RE: What group has the most work that needs to be done?

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu] On Behalf Of
> Robert J. Schenck
> Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 3:04 PM
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: What group has the most work that needs to be done?
> What group of dinosaurs has the most work that
> needs to be done on them, and how much of that
> need is based on lack of workers versus lack of
> specimins?

I favor an approach very different from that of most other responses--not a
phylogenetic one, but a functional one! In this respect, there is a whole
ton of work to be done on theropods. . .once one gets away from
phylogenetics, the playing field is wide open! For instance, how do you
build a theropods tooth? Yeah, they all look the same, but what do you need
to do to take a tooth from something the size of Compsognathus and fit it in
the head of a T. rex? Do you just "blow up" all of the processes? Or are
there some more interesting structural things going on?

My personal favorite questions are those which have a firm grounding in
comparative or experimental work on modern critters. In fact, I fear a lack
of this sort of background is where many attempts at dinosaur functional
morphology don't work so well. For instance, I really, really want to do FEM
on a Triceratops skull. But. . .we can barely do FEM on most *extant*
critters (check out Metzger et al. in the latest issue of Anatomical Record
to see what I mean)!!!! So, I'm retooling some of my efforts in this area.
Another example concerns limb function--the field has come a long way, but I
still see Wolff's Law being invoked, even though the experimental data are
pretty ambiguous (if not even totally contrary in some cases!). (I really
hate that Wolff's Law isn't as firm as it used to be. . .it made
interpretations of bones so much easier!)

So, I would say that the functional morphology of *all* dinosaurs (and their
living relatives) is a wide-open playing field. I don't mean to say that I
don't consider cladistics important--it absolutely is, because these sorts
of questions need to be placed in a firm evolutionary framework. But, it's a
lot more fun to think of animals as moving pieces, than as one's and zero's.