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Re: Pterosaur = "giraffe with wings" and other media paleo-cliches

"Now a new cliche appears to be emerging that links 
pterosaurs and giraffes, in the wake of recent papers 
about the habits of giant azhdarchids."

I hear it's all based on some amazing artwork.

I have used the giraffe/azhdarchid comparison many times myself,
particularly on radio (seriously, how _do_ you describe an azhdarchid to
people with no idea what one may look like without pictures?), but I
agree that the analogy can only be taken so far. Other pterosaurs really
are nothing like winged giraffes, and azhdarchids only manage a passing
resemblance because of their wing and neck proportions. I suppose they
perpetuate because media types want bitesize, catchall descriptions of
fossil animals that fit into the existing knowledge of their audiences.
This means that these cliches crop up in reports even if the press
workers and scientists deliberately avoid mentioning them in their press
releases. Still, for all our moaning about the popular press, the
reporting of science has improved markedly in the last few years with
the explosion of the blogosphere, much of which is maintained by science
savvy, knowledgeable authors who avoid or even shout out against
inappropriate cliches. At least there's that, then.



Dr. Mark Witton

Palaeobiology Research Group
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Portsmouth
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road

Tel: (44)2392 842418
E-mail: Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk

If pterosaurs are your thing, be sure to check out:

- Pterosaur.Net: www.pterosaur.net
- The Pterosaur.Net blog: http://pterosaur-net.blogspot.com/
- My pterosaur artwork: www.flickr.com/photos/markwitton 

>>> <bh480@scn.org> 14/01/2011 13:47 >>>
From: Ben Creisler

Mike Taylor's distress at the seeing Science magazine 
immediately evoke Tyrannosaurus as soon as the 
word "theropod" is used is but one of many media paleo-

Ignoring the nearly universal misuse of "dinosaur" for 
virtually any ancient crawling, walking, swimming, or 
flying reptilian, there is the exasperating need to 
mention the Loch Ness monster whenever the topic of 
plesiosaurs comes up. 

Now a new cliche appears to be emerging that links 
pterosaurs and giraffes, in the wake of recent papers 
about the habits of giant azhdarchids. Of course, it may 
be the scientist who is being compared to a winged 
giraffe in the following headline to an article about 

Like a giraffe with wings: Canadian scientist identifies 
extinct flying reptile