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RE: The fate of Nyctosaurus specimen KJ2

  If you saw the specimen in the newspaper or in an advertisement, and it was 
then immediately sold and disappeared, what would you have been able to say 
about its crest at all? What value would the undescribed material brought you? 
Now, it is almost assured that, unless one of the money-strapped or incapable 
institutions can step up and bid the seller's price, the material will vanish 
as a mantle-piece. The description is useless almost save as a photographic 
record, and that's about as useful as an old quarry photo. It's a guide, but 
does not give us _data_ that a specimen we can access will.


  Jaime A. Headden
  The Bite Stuff (site v2)

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 

> Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2011 03:27:45 -0700
> From: mickey_mortimer111@msn.com
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: 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.