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RE: Sinosauropteryx

Take a walk down memory lane with me to 1997, a decade ago, those halcyon
days when a break in a _Sinosauropteryx_ fossil slab treated with
preparator's glue proved that theropod dinosaurs featured a "partitioned"
croc-style respiratory system, complete with mobile pubes.  

Just as importantly, it was during this period that so-called
"protofeathers" were exposed (by some of these very same scientists who had
not yet had the pleasure of viewing the Chinese specimens for themselves) as
internal collagen, due to the striking similarity between _Sinosauropteryx_'
array of fossilized hair-like structures and the rope-like band of extant
sea snake frill collagen manually shredded and teased for the camera so as
to prove the point.  (See a photo of the remarkable sea snake makeover at
m ).

Never mind that _Sinosauropteryx_' skeleton showed no swimming adaptations
that would explain the putative "sea snake frill" feature.  Why did the
holotype and its counterslab have a midline frill that was off center (as
the head was not preserved in profile, yet sported a mane where the slab and
counterslab split into two)?  Why was there collagen frill material
preserved behind the jaw and between the ribs?  Why was the frill
interrupted periodically along the tail of the holotype?  

And how do we explain away all of the other putative feathered (non-avian)
theropod dinosaurs from China?   Oh, yes, the ones with "real" feathers were
birds, but not dinosaurs (sic).

Are we to assume that the fur-like structures attributed to Chinese mammal
fossils were collagen remnants of midline frills?  Why have we not yet found
the "hairy" frog fossil Larry Martin predicted?  

Forgive me if I hold my applause when in May of 2007 I read the "Daily
Telegraph" headline,   
"Paleontologists shoot down dinosaur bird theory."  See
?from=public_rss .  

It is as if Rip Van Winkle has come forth at this very moment in time to
apprise us of the latest news just seconds after arising from a decade of

Dino Guy Ralph
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
Dinosaur and Fossil Education
Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology