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Fw: minotaurosaurus

And because there are still no line breaks, which probably means that some list members and maybe even the archives won't receive a readable message, I'll send this valuable perspective a third time:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Williams, Scott" <Scott.Williams@burpee.org>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 5:34 PM
Subject: re: minotaurosaurus

In my opinion, one of the big problems with the paper is its total lack of locality information. The stratigraphic information or complete lack thereof, is appalling. Quoting from the paper itself:

"The only stratigraphic information that we have is the matrix around the specimen. This indicates a location in the Gobi Desert of either Mongolia or China."

The paper attempts to construct a new genus of ankylosaur. It is more difficult to make this case when you cannot pinpoint its stratigraphic location. If it is found in a stratigraphic layer that is much younger or older than where you typically find other Mongolian ankylosaurs, the argument for a new taxon becomes stronger. As it stands we have no idea where this thing comes from (might as well be the moon). Is it not possible that it is an ontogenetic stage of or different variation of some other already described taxon? Again good stratigraphic data could help falsify something?!

Ok..onto the issue of it possibly/likely being a hot specimen and whether it should be published or not. I am an ex-cop and if this was a court of law and this specimen was attempted to be entered as evidence, the judge would throw it out before the jury could even see it. When evidence is entered in a court of law it has to have a proper chain of evidence. A police officer collects evidence at an arrest or crime scene. It is bagged, sealed, initialed, dated, etc then turned over to the evidence officer. The evidence officer repeats the process and places it in a secure locker that only he/she has a key to. Then the evidence officer removes the object and takes it to the State Crime lab. An officer at the crime lab takes the evidence, signs for it, dates it, etc and then tests it (fingerprints, drugs, DNA, or whatever). When the Crime lab officer is done, he/she rebags the evidence, initials it, dates it, seals it, etc then signs the report. The evidence officer picks up the
evidence, repeating the process then takes it to the States Attorney who is prosecuting the case, who in turn repeats the chain. Then the States Attorney enters it into evidence for the court with a proper chain of evidence, with the arresting officer, evidence officer, and crime lab officer all testifying to its integrity. There is no taint of illegality or doubt in this process.

In my mind this is analogous to the real scientific process that should go on for all peer reviewed articles. A legitimate, legal specimen with solid locality data with no taint whatsoever. Of course the scientific community should demand that all specimens are legally obtained, because the taint of illegal specimens raises doubt over the whole process. We call it fruits of the poison tree in cop-land. Hope this puts it in perspective.

Scott Williams
Burpee Museum