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a dirty story of footprints



Dear listmembers,

I wish to inform you of some nasty developments of the dinosaur research in
Italy.

In the torrid July 2003 I was charged by a local public administration to
look for dinosaur evidences along the Mounts Lepini (Latium region, Italy)
in collaboration with the local geologists Daniele Raponi and Gaspare
Morgante. We investigated many quarries and outcrops, and discovered a
dinosaur footprint site in the bed of a limestone quarry near the town of
Sezze. It was the worst time of the year to look for footprints as everyone
working with footprints knows, also because the quarry was opened only from
9.30 am to 16 pm when the sun is high. Anyway, we were able to identify the
footprints, probably belonging to small sauropods and rarer medium-sized
theropods. Our task was to find and report the site, not to proceed with
the collection of data, thus we only cleaned a wide surface, described
preliminarly some ichnofossils and took pictures of them. Then we reported
the discovery to the local administration.
According to the geological map, the dating of the footprint-bearing beds
is most probably Cenomanian. It was the first report of dinosaur evidences
in the Latium region. That part of Italy during Cretaceous times belonged
to the Latium-Abruzzi-Campania Carbonate Platform (LAC) that occurred in
the Tethyan Ocean between Afroarabia and the southern margin of Europe
(i.e. in the so called European Archipelago). The only dinosaur found in
LAC before our discovery was the famous Skippy (_Scipionyx samniticus_),
which is slightly older. Thus, you can understand our satisfaction: we
discovered the first dinosaur footprints in the LAC, just where other teams
(Mounts Lepini are only 50 km from Rome) did find anything.
Our report was passed to the branch of the Ministery for the Cultural Goods
responsible for archeology, monuments and also fossils (named
Soprintendenza), because fossils are State property in Italy. Later one of
the two local geologists informed me that the Soprintendenza had charged
some researchers of the University of Rome "La Sapienza" to study the site
and they were going on with the works in the quarry. I think this is
unfair, because the discoverers, D. Raponi, G. Morgante and me, were not
asked to collaborate, and not even informed about the beginning of the
works. Some of you know that I have a certain experience in the study of
dinosaur footprints (I published 10 scientific papers on the subject), thus
I was qualified to participate to the study. Anyway, such  way of acting of
the Soprintendenza seems to be legal and I can do anything against its
decision.

The fact that pushes me to send this message is the recent publication of
an article in an Italian popular magazine where the discovery of the site
is reported as done "casually by amateurs" and our names are never
mentioned. It is not the first time that the results of my research or my
ideas are "taken" and spread all around the world by the press agencies as
the original product of someone else. I would like to avoid this becomes
another case.

Now you knows as things really are.

I apologize for this long message.

Cheers

Fabio M. Dalla Vecchia