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Re: Dino-Venom!



Michael,

I am sorry you were "disturbed" by my comment.

That part of the quote was taken out of its full context. I had
written to Ed that if the presence of venom glands had been
demonstrated in birds, crocs, and/or other dinosaurs previously the
authors might have been able to get by with the level of detail they
provided. If we had pretty solid evidence that other dinosaurs (or
even archosaurs) were venomous from other studies then at least we
would have something for comparison and could say "Ok, when these
traits are seen in archosaurs we can be fairly confident that this
creature was venomous."

Such as it is, though, we don't have evidence of venomous archosaurs
(unless I'm horribly misinformed) so the discovery of one is a pretty
major thing. I would expect such an assertion to be backed up by some
solid evidence, especially comparisons with other theropod dinosaurs,
but the authors did not do this. Extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence, and I was pretty unimpressed with the case the
authors made. I am not saying that their hypothesis is wrong, I don't
know that, but I don't think they supplied sufficient evidence to
support their hypothesis yet.

On top of that there was some classic "birds are not dinosaurs" junk
in there (i.e. referring to Sinornithosaurus as an "avian
dromaeosaur"). Maybe they thought that disassociating Sinornithosaurus
from dinosaurs would bolster their case by making comparisons with
reptiles that are known to be venomous easier.

But the bottom line is that I would hope that someone asserting to
have found evidence of venomous dinosaurs (or, in the parlance of the
authors, "avian dromaeosaurs") would provide some solid evidence and
made some move to falsify other potential hypotheses. The authors did
not do that. As Ed concluded in his post, the question is still open.

Brian
--
Written in Stone - Coming Fall 2010
http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/
http://dinosaur.smithsonianmag.com/