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RE: Princeton Field Guide



Since I was one of those who originally commented on the book 
(http://dml.cmnh.org/2010May/msg00285.html and 
http://theropoddatabase.blogspot.com/2010/08/gsps-new-taxon-combinations-from-his.html),
 I suppose I'll reply to the relevent responses.

Gregory Paul wrote-

> The book is a POPULAR work entirely in the style of a field guide for birds
> or mammals. So it does not include specimen numbers, diagnoses or the like
> and I don’t want to hear about it. It was enough to get the project done as
> it is what with all the illustrations. The anatomical descriptions are of
> the informal nature seen in field guides. A technical book with specimen
> numbers, diagnoses and the like would be a very different, more massive and 
> bar
> ely sellable work, and require far too much work. Even a version of PDW
> expanded to all dinosaurs would be massive and unsellable in the trade 
> market. (As
> it was Don Glut’s encyclopedias made doing the book vastly easier than it
> otherwise would have been.)

I take the point regarding specimen numbers and a lack of technical 
description, but my main point stands.  Field guides' primary purpose is to 
allow readers to identify taxa, and so actually consist mostly of diagnoses.  
You open up an Audubon guide to birds and you see pictures with diagnostic 
features highlighted, and a long list of distinguishing characters for each 
species.  As I said before-

As it is, it's like opening a Peterson Field Guide 
to American birds and seeing the American Robin described only as having a 
ruddy breast, while the wood thrush, varied thrush and veery are merely said to 
be "standard for songbirds."  As for Bicknell's thrush?  Insufficient 
information.

> While doing the skeletal restorations I found that in order to avoid doing
> chimeras I had to separate overlumped taxa which contributed to more
> revision of species and genera than I expected. 
> >snip<
> It cannot be overemphasized how the nested classification system is
> virtually useless for a popular field guide, it providing no graded structure 
> that
> the public can latch onto. Monophyletic clade only classification is a slap
> at the public already skeptical about scientists whom they see as elitists
> who don’t care all that much with communicating with ordinary folks. 

I would agree that dinosaur taxonomy is in a sad state, particularly alpha 
taxonomy, the trend to only base diagnoses on 'key areas' (e.g. parietal for 
ceratopsids, skull for tyrannosaurids) and all the nomina dubia issues that 
I've brought up lately on the DML.  I don't particularly care how lumped genera 
are, since 'genus' is a subjective term anyway.  The problem with your approach 
to lump species into para/polyphyletic genera is that your field guide then 
doesn't actually represent the scientific consensus, and in most of these cases 
doesn't represent any published technical work.  The public can be as skeptical 
as it wants, nearly all professional dinosaur paleontologists limit themselves 
to monophyletic taxa.  I think it's more elitist to think that "ordinary folks" 
can't understand the concept of monophyly and require a simplified system that 
scientists stopped using decades ago.

Mickey Mortimer