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RE: Sinornithosaurus venom

I was surprised that Gong et al didn't mention the five extant species of 
poisonous birds, the Pitohuis, the Ifrita, and the Rufous Shrike - Thrush. 
Pitohui, apparently, takes up batrachotoxin by feeding on toxic beetles. The 
toxin is shed in the powder down, and it can apparently cause contact 
dermatitis just by handling the feathers.

At least these are examples of archosaurs that secrete poison.


--- On Wed, 12/23/09, Michael Mortimer <mickey_mortimer111@msn.com> wrote:

> From: Michael Mortimer <mickey_mortimer111@msn.com>
> Subject: RE: Sinornithosaurus venom
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Date: Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 10:32 PM
> Great summary, Mike.  The teeth are certainly
> disarticulated, and as Denver noted plenty of other
> theropods have the same kinds of "grooves" on their tooth
> roots.  For instance, just looking at Currie et al.
> (1990), Dromaeosaurus (figure 8.1 J, M), Saurornitholestes
> (figure 8.2 G), Troodon (figure 8.3 C, E), Richardoestesia
> (figure 8.4 G, J, K, Q, S) and two digested teeth (figure
> 8.5 F, I) have them.  The ironic thing is that these
> are probably replacement pits (as illustrated for an unnamed
> dromaeosaurid tooth by Currie and Zhao, 1993), which Martin
> (1991) earlier claimed were absent in theropod teeth, which
> was among his proofs birds were not dinosaurs. 
> Furthermore, you're correct that the pitting in their
> "subfenestral fossa" is no different than elsewhere in the
> antorbital fossa, and that there's no actual boundary
> between it and the rest of the fossa.  Nor is there the
> posteroventral canal illustrated (Xu and Wu, 2001).
> Michael Erickson says we're being biased, but I can't think
> of a single novel anatomical interpretation of Martin's or
> Burnham's that turned out to be correct in theropods. 
> There's basal birds' upright posture and hypopubic cup,
> Archaeopteryx's acromial-dorsal articulation, mediolaterally
> jointed fingers and lack of a postorbital, Caudipteryx's
> pygostyle, upside-down ischium and opisthopuby.
> Mickey Mortimer
> The Theropod Database- http://home.comcast.net/~eoraptor/Home.html
> _________________________________
> Join me
> http://im.live.com/Messenger/IM/Home/?source=EML_WLHM_GreaterGood
> ----------------------------------------
> > Date: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 10:25:33 -0800
> > From: markpauline@rocketmail.com
> > To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> > CC: jaseb@amnh.org
> > Subject: Sinornithosaurus venom
> >
> > The Gong et al. PNAS paper "The birdlike raptor
> Sinornithosaurus was venomous" is weakened by unsupported
> speculation. The authors could have strengthened the paper
> by quantifying their judgments, making more extensive
> comparisons with other taxa, and addressing obvious
> alternatives to their interpretations.
> >
> > 1) Type of venom
> > The authors' statement that "The poison of
> > Sinornithosaurus may have been similar in properties
> to rear-fanged
> > snakes and helodermid lizards in that it did not kill
> the envenomated
> > animal quickly but rather placed it into a rapid state
> of shock" seems
> > to be wholly unsubstantiated speculation.. The
> toxicity of the venom, if any, is completely unknown, and no
> lines of evidence are brought to bear here.
> >
> > 2) Tooth length
> > The authors write that "The anterior maxillary teeth
> are so long and fang-like that the animal appears to be
> saber-toothed." yet they make no effort to provide
> measurements of the teeth relative to tooth row length or
> any other metric, and they provide no comparison to other
> taxa. They provide only one measurement, the length of the
> largest maxillary tooth in IVPP V12811, which is provided as
> "12mm long". This does not seem out of the range of tooth
> proportions for tetrapods in general.
> >
> > Moreover, they note "Interestingly, much of the
> effective erupted length of the teeth is
> > composed of the tooth root." The type skull is also
> semi - disarticulated. These seem to strongly suggest that
> the teeth have fallen out of their sockets, yet this
> possibility is not addressed.
> >
> > 3) The inference of venomousness
> > The authors cite Folinsbee et al. (2007) in stating
> "Pocketing within the maxilla in conjunction with grooved
> fangs is considered well supported evidence for
> > venom delivery systems in fossil taxa" But, in fact,
> Folinsbee et al. suggest that the hypothesis of venomousness
> is only "fairly well supported", in two extinct species, one
> therocephalian with hollow, tubular, teeth, and a soricine
> with
> > strong similarities to Solenodon. They urge caution in
> assigning venomousness to extinct species. In particular
> they point out that grooved teeth are widely distributed in
> non - venomous species.
> >
> > 4) Maxillary pitting
> > The authors describe a new feature, a "subfenestral
> fossa", marked by a pitted area of the maxilla, ventral to
> the anterior antorbital fenestra. They do not mention that
> this pitting is much more extensive, and that there may be
> no distinction in the amount of pitting across the entire
> antorbital fossa. Xu&Wu (2001) describe "a number of
> pits and ridges on the anterolateral surface of the
> antorbital fossa" (see Fig. 4B), but they do not reconstruct
> any distinct subfenestral fossa. Moreover, some observers
> believe that this pitting is an artifact of preparation,
> where the extremely thin outermost layer of bone has been
> damaged in
> > several specimens (Mark Norell, personal
> communication).
> >
> > 5) Plucking specializations
> > The authors also suggest that the premaxillary teeth
> functioned in plucking the feathers off of Sinornithosaurus'
> prey, and that the maxillary teeth are exceptionally long in
> order to penetrate the feathers. In neither case do they
> offer examples of other animals that have specialized teeth
> for preying on birds or processing feathers. Indeed, one
> might speculate that the premaxillary teeth of
> Sinornithosaurus functioned to preen the animal's OWN
> feathers, rather than pluck off the feathers of its prey,
> and one would have made an equally strong inference, with
> exactly no support. This tendency of the authors to assign
> functions to characters without support seems particularly
> unscientific.
> >
> > Overall, the paper seems to be more an
> > attempt to paint a colorful functional scenario,
> rather than to make a rigorous scientific study of the
> material. It is weakened by overstatement and speculation.
> >
> >
> >
> >