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RE: Minotaurasaurus controversy



Hi Dan,

Something I was mentally eliding was that someone who knowingly publishes
stolen material, without settling the matter of restitution in advance,
loses all scientific credibility and becomes 'nobody', if they weren't
nobody already. I was presuming that this was not the case here, because the
paper looked competently done although I'm not deeply familiar with the
ankylosaur literature and prior reputation of the authors, and none of the
criticism seems to have been aimed at the competence of the description as
such (one exception, someone noted lack of comparison to _Pinacosaurus_).
Ankylosaur workers, from my point of view, are pretty much interchangeable,
so naturally I focus on the specimen itself.

But yeah, in the case of Riversleigh material I'd be talking about specifics
and individuals, instead of hypotheticals and analogies. But I hope I
wouldn't immediately jump to a conclusion and carry out the sentence; for
one thing, it's a little-known fact that the Riversleigh fossil field is not
entirely encompassed by the World Heritage Area (oops! - secret's out). 

John

-----------------------------------------------
Dr John D. Scanlon, FCD
Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Outback at Isa
riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au
http://tinyurl.com/f2rby
 
"Get this $%#@* python off me!", said Tom laocoonically.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Chure [mailto:danchure@easilink.com] 
Sent: 05 February, 2009 11:36 PM
To: riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au
Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Minotaurasaurus controversy


But what if you saw a specimen described in a journal that you strongly 
suspect was stolen from Riversleigh?  Alternatively, if you were asked 
to review a manuscript  and you strongly suspected the specimen was 
being described was stolen, would you recommend publication in spite of 
the theft?  Combining the two, what if you were asked to review a 
manuscript and the specimen was something you were pretty sure was 
stolen from Riversleigh? Would that not be an issue in recommending its 
publication?

Dan


John Scanlon wrote:
> I fully appreciate the need to discourage looting, but when an excellently
> preserved specimen of an apparently novel taxon becomes available, it
should
> definitely be described. The description and phylogenetic interpretation
of
> a biological entity depends only on its intrinsic properties: it should be
> possible to do that part of the science while the locality information is
> unknown to the describer (e.g. held by the museum or collector in a sealed
> envelope), or currently unknown to anyone. Dead Sea Scrolls and Agrosaurus
> are apposite examples. The 'chain of evidence' analogy from
law-enforcement
> is not so much, because nobody's signature or date-stamp (or their
absence)
> can overturn evidence from the fossil itself. The physical evidence
doesn't
> lie, and it can refute otherwise impeccable (in a court-of-law sense)
claims
> that a specimen comes from a certain locality - like Piltdown, or Gupta's
> 'Himalayan' material. 
> Those of us trying to construct phylogenies are often frustrated by the
lack
> of good fossils for certain groups, and one good skull can go a long way
in
> testing and refining hypotheses. If laws were broken or ownership is
> disputed, that needs to be settled, sure... but why should it prevent the
> science from being done?
>  ---
> I was reading the other day of a taxon described from a less-than-adequate
> specimen: _Ompax spatuloides_ Castelnau, 1879. This fish was served up for
> breakfast to Mr Carl Staiger, Director of the Brisbane Museum, in 1872 at
> Gayndah, Queensland (followed by _Neoceratodus_ for lunch). The
duck-billed
> oddity was said to live in a single waterhole where lungfish were also
> present. Castelnau's description was based entirely on a letter from
Staiger
> and enclosed sketch; no part of the specimen was kept (seems odd, for a
> Museum man, but these things can happen). Many years later in 1930, a
> pseudonymous contributor to the Sydney 'Bulletin' told a story of this
fish
> being a hoax (perpetrated on Staiger, not by him) composed of parts from
> eel, mullet and lungfish. This undocumented and anonymous claim (chain of
> evidence, what?) led to _Ompax_ being declared 'mythical' (Whitley 1933,
> American Naturalist 67: 563-567). Maybe so. (But what if another one turns
> up, illegally collected, swimming around in a privately owned aquarium.
> Still mythical, then?)
>
> -----------------------------------------------
> Dr John D. Scanlon, FCD
> Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Outback at Isa
> riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au
> http://tinyurl.com/f2rby
>  
> "Get this $%#@* python off me!", said Tom laocoonically.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dann Pigdon [mailto:dannj@alphalink.com.au] 
> Sent: 04 February, 2009 12:01 PM
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: RE: Minotaurasaurus controversy
>
> Quoting Allan Edels <edels@msn.com>:
>
>   
>> I think that Dann was trying to say (and forgive me, Dann, if I get it
>> wrong), is that museums have, in the past, accepted and used and
published
>> items that had lousy provenance, or were 'confiscated' [aka stolen] from
>>     
> the
>   
>> native populations. 
>>     
>
> Exactly. Also, anything found in a museum collection and subsequently
> described (like 
> Dyslocosaurus) may well have had a checkered past as far as anyone knows.
Do
> we only publish 
> something after an exhaustive inquiry that ensures that every aspect of
the
> item's past is above-
> board?
>
> As far as unknown provenance goes; the Agrosaurus debarkle shows what's
> possible if you're 
> determined enough to analyse the matrix around the fossil and match it
with
> known fossil beds. 
> Such a study has shown conclusively that Agrosaurus was not found in
> Australia, despite what it's 
> museum label declared. In fact, the material has probably never even been
> outside of Britain. A 
> similar study on the matrix surrounding the Minotaurasaurus material might
> also pinpoint the fossil 
> beds it was possibly 'stolen' from.
>
> Vickers-Rich, P., T.H.Rich, G.C.McNamara and A.Milner 1999 Agrosaurus:
> Australia's Oldest 
> Dinosaur? Records of the Western Australian Museum Suppliment No.57:
191-200
>
>
> See also http://home.alphalink.com.au/~dannj/agrosaur.htm
>
>   
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