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The Fossils of China



Fresh back from Beijing and thoroughly exhausted, but I couldn't pass this
one up.  I snagged a copy of the large new book _The Fossils of China_
whilst in town -- it's a 500 page tome chock full of gorgeous pictures of
various specimens ranging from stromatolites to hominids -- a sampling of
China's fossil record based (probably) on some of its more photogenic taxa.
Almost everything in the book that's in Chinese also has an English
translation, and there's even a web site for the book
(http://www.fossil001.com/).  There are also summaries of many of the prime
Chinese paleo museums and institutions (who knew that there is a National
Museum of Plant History of China?!?), as well as some noteworthy
paleontologists.  I snagged it largely for the photos, myself.

     However, that's where I'm physically able to stop saying nice things
about the book.  For starters, I don't even know who wrote it (or which
parts of it) -- He Zhang is listed as the book's editor, and there's a
preface by one Jia Lanpo, and, at the end, a page entitled "Account in my
own words" but without an English name, and I'm not quite able to make out
the signature in Chinese.  Liang Baotuan, Ye Duan, Wang Dongkai, and Chun
Lung Tak are all also listed as "vice editors-in-chief."  There's no index
whatsoever, and the table of contents is so general as to be of restricted
use.  I can't vouch for what the Chinese text says, but the majority of the
English is laughably bad (truly Engrish, as in http://www.engrish.com/),
which is lamentable because otherwise, this could be a very valuable book in
many ways!  The English is also riddled with typos, which are particularly
noteworthy in taxon names (e.g., _Microraptory_, _Sinorinthosaurus_,
_Gasosauras_, _Tsintaosauius_, and many, many others).  Baby
_Psittacosaurus_ are referred to as "larvas."  For the love of all things
dead, would it have killed them to get an English speaker to review the
text?!?  I'd've done it -- I'm not terribly expensive!!

     But perhaps the most egregious is that it erects several nomina nuda --
taxon names, and pictures, but no proper text, and thus no specimen numbers,
etymologies, etc.  Interestingly, with the exception of two turtles
(_Manchurochelys peipiaoensis_ and _Cryptodira liaoxiensis_ -- yes, the name
has all KINDS of problems...see below), all these taxa are theropods,
including birds.  I mention them here for those keeping lists of these
things, and put some awareness out there in case the names and taxa crop up
somewhere else in the future.  They are:

_Sinornithosaurus zhaoi_ (sp. nov.)
_Luckyraptor eastensis_ (it doesn't say anything about gen. or sp. nov., but
I ain't heard of it anywhere else and assume it's new here!)
_Jinzhouornis delicates_ (sp. nov.)
_Smallornis liaoningica_ (sp. nov.) (it is also a gen. nov. as far as I
know)

I'd type the "descriptions" here (that is, the English versions of the
Chinese text accompanying these -- each is 3-5 sentences long), but some are
so hilarious that you'd risk spewing your coffee all over your keyboard, and
I don't wanna be responsible for that.  I, and others on the trip, found it
very interesting that some "turnabout is fair play" going on with these
names -- e.g., there's been a plethora of just using Chinese words to make
taxon names lately (e.g., _Mei_, _Guanlong_, _Dilong_, etc.), and to a
Chinese ear, these might sound bizarre as taxon names since they're just
words.  But here, plain English has been used in the names, so they sound
kind of bizarre to at least my ear.  But it's not illegal as far as I
know...I wonder if this will catch on?  ;-D  But recall that these are
nomina nuda anyway, so they shouldn't persist.

On top of all this, the book does a few other things.  For one, it reports
_Ankylosaurus_ from Ningxia -- I'm not certain whether or not this was some
sort of attempt to state that there was some kind of ankylosaurID from this
area, or whether this is supposed to truly represent this North American
taxon occurring in Asia...  Perhaps most hilariously, it "renames"
_Xianglong_ (the gliding lizard from Liaoning) -- it calls it _Glidosaur
zhaoi_.  We had endless laughs about that one.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jerry D. Harris
Director of Paleontology
Dixie State College
Science Building
225 South 700 East
St. George, UT  84770   USA
Phone: (435) 652-7758
Fax: (435) 656-4022
E-mail: jharris@dixie.edu
 and     dinogami@gmail.com
http://cactus.dixie.edu/jharris/

"There's a saying that goes 'people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw
stones'... OK. How about...NOBODY should throw stones. That's crappy
behavior! My policy is 'no stone-throwing regardless of housing situation.'
There's an exception, though. If you're TRAPPED in a glass house...and you
have a stone, then throw it! What are you, an idiot? It's really 'ONLY
people in glass houses should throw stones'... provided they're trapped, in
a house... with a stone. It's a little longer, but you know..."
                                 --- Demetri Martin