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RE: The fate of Nyctosaurus specimen KJ2

So it would have been better to remain ignorant about Nyctosaurus' crest 
morphology than to have it published on and later (probably?) lost to science?  
I know the standard reply is that the descriptions now have no scientific value 
because they can't be independantly verified, but no one ever applies this to 
fossils which are lost in other ways.  JVP has published papers discussing the 
Spinosaurus holotype for instance, and unlike KJ2, that doesn't even have a 
possibility of being recovered for science.  It's also published papers 
discussing Quetzalcoatlus northropi, which has been virtually hidden from 
researchers for decades.  How are we supposed to verify Langston's descriptions 
under these conditions?  And what happens a century or two from now when 
specimens like Dryptosaurus break down from handling and pyrite disease despite 
being housed in museums?  Will Dryptosaurus then fade from paleontological 
reality because no one can verify the published descriptions and photographs, 
even though the majority of experts use them for their information now?

If you want to try to discourage fossil sales by not publishing on sold 
fossils, that's a political position people could discuss (though I doubt the 
policy has much effect on fossil sales).  But it also denies the world 
scientific knowledge, even if that knowledge is based on temporary examination, 
which is the same of all paleontological knowledge in the long run.  As for me, 
I'd rather learn everything we can, even when conditions aren't ideal.  There 
are a finite number of fossils out there, we can't afford to be choosy if we 
want to know about them all.

Mickey Mortimer

> Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2011 10:14:43 +0100
> From: mike@indexdata.com
> To: Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk
> CC: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: The fate of Nyctosaurus specimen KJ2
> On 22 September 2011 09:44, Mark Witton <Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk> wrote:
> > Hi folks,
> >
> > I recall reading a discussion a while back about the unknown
> > whereabouts of the fancy antlered Nyctosaurus specimens described by
> > Chris Bennet in 2003. I'd heard they were up for sale online and, lo,
> > one of them has recently been reposted at everyone's favourite online
> > auction.
> >
> > [URL redacted]
> >
> > Note that the skull has been reconstructed and, apparently, the matrix
> > smoothed over with plaster. With no casts of the original available in
> > any museums (that I know of, anyway), this is something of a loss to
> > pterosaur science. I'm wondering what state the original material is
> > actually in now and, should this specimen ever make its way into a
> > public collection, how long it would take to undo all the
> > 'improvements'.
> *sigh*
> Folks, this is exactly why the SVP has a zero-tolerance attitude to
> privately owned specimens. From Bennet's (2003) paper:
> "Recently, two new specimens were collected that demonstrate that
> Nyctosaurus had a large cranial crest. The specimens were collected
> by Mr. Kenneth JENKINS of Ellis, KS, and were purchased by a private
> collector in Austin, Texas, who intends to retail them permanently. I
> acklowledge that scientifically informative specimens should normally
> be conserved in an appropriate museum, but have opted to describe
> these specimens now"
> Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
> -- Mike.