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Re: Princeton Field Guide



I want to say a couple of things in my defense, since GSP referred to some of 
my 
comments.

First of all, my criticisms were not just laymen gibberish. I have the 
description describing Huabeisaurus and I have read it, and it lists that only 
4 
cervicals are known (only 2 of which are figured and described), it also lists 
that 5 dorsals are known but only 1 is figured. I never claimed that the 
shoulder girdle of pelvic elements were missing (as they are described and 
figured in the paper). To me, GSP's skeletal looks like it was drawn based off 
of photos of the mounted skeleton (photos of which I have seen), and it is 
pretty clear to me that most of the anterior cervicals are not genuine casts of 
real fossils, but rather are sculpted to fill in missing pieces, and it is also 
clear that many of the mid- and posterior-cervicals are duplications of one or 
two elements. If you didn't get this information from the mounted skeleton, 
then 
where were these extra cervical elements figured? In Glut's suppl, Greg? 
Somehow, I doubt it; they certainly weren't in the description.

As for your assertion that "Huabeisaurus is the best  basal titanosaur yet 
published", this is complete hubris. First of all, as far as I am aware, only 
one peer-reviewed publication has been done on Huabeisaurus. On the other hand, 
*four* peer-reviewed papers have been published on Phuwiangosaurus, describing 
(and figuring) 8 cervicals, at least 5 dorsals (and 12 dorsals are given listed 
measurements) as well as descriptions and figures of all the appendicualr 
elements including the shoulder girdle and pelvis, as well as the entire sacrum 
and various caudal vertebrae both figured and described. This has been done for 
*multiple specimens* to boot, ranging from tiny juveniles less than 8 meters 
long to adults nearly 16 meters long. I have pdfs of the papers to prove it, so 
don't give me this hogwash about Huabeisaurus being the most complete basal 
titanosaur. Phuwiangosaurus matches or exceeds Huabiesaurus in terms of 
described and figured material (and is probably equally basal), so your 
assertion quoted at the outset of this paragraph is baseless. 


Furthermore, Malawisaurus has at least three peer-reviewed papers describing 
its 
material that I am aware of. It is known from 11 cervicals, of which 9 are 
fully 
described and figured. It is known from a complete or nearly complete dorsal 
vertebrae series consisting of at least 10 dorsals, fully figured and described 
as well as a mostly complete sacrum. Numerous caudals are also figured and 
decribed. Most of the appendicular elements are known for Malawisaurus with the 
exception of the scapula, the pelvis and the pubis. Besides, you still restored 
a skeletal for Futalognkosaurus even though its missing its shoulder girdle. 
Certainly, the lack of the pelvis should not prevent a skeletal restoration of 
an animal known from otherwise very complete and well-described material.

I do realize that skeletals take a long time, Greg. They usually take me around 
30-40 hours over several weeks to complete for each one, and this is with 
digital help to scale the elements! I do respect the amount of time and effort 
you put into your work. In fact, my interest in dinosaurs and science in 
general 
is largely due to your illustrations and work, and I thank you for that. That 
being said, I had higher expectations for this than were borne out. My problem 
is  when in a *popular* field guide some animals are restored with known 
material where others reconstruct unknown material. To me, this is deceptive to 
the public, or at least a note should have been given stating that a given 
skeleton combines restored material with known material. 


Furthermore, having inaccurate size estimates can be disappointing. Imagine if 
a 
field guide to cetaceans listed the Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) as the 
same in mass and linear dimention (or larger) as the Blue whale (Balaenoptera 
musculus). Cetacean specialists would cry foul, as would the knowledgeable 
public! The same thing could be said for a bird field guide. Imaging if David 
Sibley listed the wrong sizes for some bird species, so that some taxa that 
were 
actually smaller than other taxa were listed as larger. Birders and 
ornithologists would cry foul! I am not being unreasonable here. You have 
considered yourself, as have others (including myself) as a superior artist and 
a stickler for anatomical correctness when it comes to dinosaurs. Therefore, it 
should not be surprising that we hold you to a higher standard. It is clear 
from 
the published material to date, that Futalognkosaurus was significantly smaller 
than Argentinosaurus, so to list them both as +50 tonnes and in the same size 
class is at best misleading. It would be like claiming that because some 
specimens of the Fin whale and Blue Whale are the same size means that they 
average the same size, which is not true. On average, the Blue whale is larger. 
Similarly, with our known fossil specimens, we can confidently state that 
Argentinosaurus was a good deal larger than Futalognkosaurus in linear 
dimensions and probably a good deal more massive. (I have read the relevant 
papers and descriptions, so don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about.)

I understand there are cost concerns and time concerns to doing a larger book. 
However, Thomas Holtz's encyclopedia is 100 pages longer and marginally larger 
in dimensions--and includes far more color illustrations. I think it has sold 
pretty well, and was pretty much the same price ($34.99 says the inside cover 
of 
my copy compared to $35.00 for yours). It is also puzzling why you excluded 
some 
skeletals that I have seen published before (such as the post cranial skeleton 
for Monolophosaurus which was included in the Scientific American Book of 
Dinosaurs, or the skeletal of Brachiosaurus altiithorax which was included in 
several of your papers, including the one on terramegathermy as well as the one 
on dinosaur models, etc.). If you ask me, it would have been better to have all 
of the color illustrations in the center on glossy paper like many other field 
guides do, and have the main text and line drawings (including skeletals) on 
regular printing paper. This would have cut down on ink costs and probably 
saved 
paper and space. But don't ask me, I'm *just* a laymen (who are probably the 
vast majority of the people buying your book, by the way). As for the 
additional 
time needed, most high-quality, rigorous field guides take 5 years or more to 
complete (if I remember correctly, the Sibley Guide to Birds took 12 years of 
work and the final draft and artwork took over 6 years for David Sibley to 
complete). Yet you apparently did the final draft of the writing and artwork in 
less than 3 years, since Ian Paulsen complained about the lack of a good field 
guide in 2007, and it is now 2010 . I think if your publisher or you or whoever 
decides those things would have waited even another year for preparation and 
completion of additional work and research, the PFGD would have been, oh, so 
much better and the additional wait would have been way worth it in my opinion.

Regards,

Zach



----- Original Message ----
From: "GSP1954@aol.com" <GSP1954@aol.com>
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Sent: Tue, October 19, 2010 5:01:57 PM
Subject: Re: Princeton Field Guide

Some additional comments on the too often unrealistic discussion of the 
field guide. 

It is of course not possible to provide an extensive description for each 
dinosaur species. In field guides for extant organisms the descriptions are 
entirely superficial descriptions of visually filed spottable identification 
markings and shapes (detailed technical morphology is not discussed), and 
these are consistently available for each species so the descriptions are 
similar in length for every species. The amount of information for dinosaurs 
ranges from almost as good as for living animals in those few cases in which 
feathers and their color patterns have been preserved and documented, to 
virtually nothing for many poorly known species, so the amount of information 
that can accompany the species ranges from extensive to zero. There is of 
course no need to include with each theropod species that it was bipedal, that 
was noted in the description for the entire group. Same for most of them being 
tridatcyl. Each species description includes only those features limited to 
that species that can be used to distinguish it from other species. In some 
cases there is no special features available so they are either "standard 
for the group" or "insufficient information." For example, what nontechnical 
feature/s suitable for a popular field guide distingush/es Argentinosaurus  
it from other giant titanosaurs? Suggestions, anyone?    

One person challanged me to define genus as though that point has critical 
meaning. It is not possible to define species either, but species are real. 
It is not possible to define life, but it is real. There is no way to 
precisely define battleship versus battlecruiser (HMS HOOD for example) versus 
heavy cruiser (Alaska class for example). Many terms are approximations, it 
does not mean that they cannot be used to describe and distinguish basic, 
comparable types. 

Canis poses an interesting problem for the current use in dinosaurology of 
genus as just a few species that form a monophyletic grade. Canis is a large 
genus with many fossil and extant species that vary considerably in size, 
anatomy and lifestyles. The living species can all interbreed easily and 
produce reproductlively viable hybirds (as per the new eastern coyote, which 
has 

considerable wolf in it so it is bigger, more social and can take down 
deer), so it is unlikely that the genus will be split up. So lets consider the 
consequences if a clade of fossil canids was found that was way too 
anatomically different to be in the genus Canis, or to have interbred with 
Canis 

species. Also that the different genus has clearly evolved from derived Canis 
species in a way that rendered Canis paraphyletic. Would it then be required 
to split living Canis into multiple genera despite their ability to 
interbreed?  

The chasmosaurine cladogram in the new PLos One Sampson et al paper 
illustrates the potential problem in a dinosaur group. The chart is 
suspiciously 

progressive, with a series of chasmosaur taxa eventually leading over time to 
Anchiceratops, Arrhinoceratops and then the ultimate Triceratops clade. 
Because the chasmosaurs from Chasmosaurus to Vegaceratops appear to be 
paraphyletic they have to be split into a bevy of genera despite varying only 
in 

cranial adornments. This may well be an artifact of the cladogram based on the 
characters that happen to be analyzed, it is quite likely that the 
Chasmosaurus to Vegaceratops chasmosaurs are their own clade with minor 
variations in 

display organs that constitute a typical, multispecies genus. Assume that in 
the future some but not all cladograms find that Chasmosaurus belli and 
russeli are paraphyletic relative to a more derived and very distinctive 
chasmosaurine, while other chasmosaurs are monophyletic? How would that be 
handled 

at the genus level? 

I am also unpleased that the fragmentary Mexican chasmosaurine was given a 
genus name, Coahuilaceratops would have been better left incertae sedis. 
When I was in Spain I came across a bunch of iguanodonts that are clearly new 
taxa but they are too incomplete to name. 

At the SVP meeting it was interesting that some of the new work is 
emphasizing the importance of stratigraphy in determining taxa, a conclusion I 
came 

to while doing the book. The stratigraphic factor threatens to sink a number 
of genera in oversplit dinosaur groups. Phylogeny alone is not sufficient.  

Some of Z Armstrong comments are particularly inept in a naive, armchair 
critic manner so they need rebuttal. He claims that Huabeisaurus is very 
incomplete when most of the skeleton, including the vital shoulder girdles are 
figured by Glut in his suppl 2. His spurious speculation that I used photos of 
a grossly incomplete mounted skeleton is based on ignorance, and is the 
sort of idle misinformation that uninformed persons with keyboards and internet 
access have no apparent qualm distributing despite their lack of knowledge 
and because of their laziness (he didn't ask me). Huabeisaurus is the best 
basal titanosaur yet published, too bad we don't know what kind of skull it 
had. Malawisaurus and Phuwiangosaurus are less well known and in some cases 
lacking major shoulder and pelvic elements so I did not find them worth the 
production time available (I was particularly reluctant to do new skeletons 
when the pelvis is not known). The information I have is that the super 
mamenchisaur skeleton is much more complete than the very incomplete 
Argentinosaurus. Hopefully the size of Futalognkosaurus will be pinned down 
soon, 

information I have seen indicates it is in the 50-60 tonne class (its relative 
proportions also helps show that none of the S Amer supertitanosaurs approached 
100 tonnes as was commonly thought). 

As anyone who actually does lots of skeletal restorations knows, it is not 
always possible to tell what bones are and are not preserved in a specimen 
or species, so it is not practical to do every skeleton or species composite 
showing only the elements preserved, and one ends up doing a complete 
skeleton. Ergo, it is not viable to do a book in which there is consistency in 
showing only bones that are preserved. In the case of the field guide I used a 
combination of new work, and restorations already done in the past to keep 
the work and time load in reasonable limits, some of the latter were complete 
restorations although some elements are missing.  

It should be understood that it is possible to put only so much time and 
labor into writing and illustrating a given book. The advance was far larger 
than for any other type of adult market dinosaur book in order to make the 
hundreds of drawings possible, but it placed limits on what was doable form a 
business perspective. Producing dinosaur skeletal restorations plus side 
views is much more time and labor intensive than generating semi-standardized, 
surface only illustrations of birds or sharks. As it was I put as much 
effort into the book as was feasible. There are also marketing constraints, and 
a 

longer book would have been more expensive. 

There are the annoying errors in the book, am particularly vexed that I 
sent on old version of the Apatosaurus rearing and feeding in a tree full 
scene. And missed a few new taxa that had been described before the cut off 
date, 

which is hard to avoid with so much stuff coming out. 

GSPaul

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