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Re: Mesozoic Field Guide

Rescued from truncation:

My copy of Martyniuk’s ‘Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds’ arrived just 72
hours after the announcement appeared on Dinolist. While it was
anticipated, with great expectations, I admit that I was disappointed.
Despite his valid endeavor to illustrate all know birds and feathered
dinosaurs, I find it lacking.
There are a number of problems. First, there is no index, which stifles
rapid access to any taxa. The index is a critical aid to navigation.
Second, major illustrations (e.g., pp.23, 47) are extremely difficult to
interpret due to lack of contrast or missing color layers. This may be
due, in part, to poor color registration. This seems to occur throughout
the book such as the tree diagrams (p 81) and even the specimens (e.g. p
143). Most of these may be production problems, but leaves the reader
wondering if what appear to be silhouettes are intended or not (p 83).
Also, the figure of feather anatomy with the text (p 12) locates on p. 39
is actually on p 37. Third, the Reference section contains misspellings,
typo, and incomplete citations. Further there are numerous citations in
the text that do not appear in the References. These are basically
production problems and could be rectified by better proofing and more
accurate printing.
Unfortunately, there are as well, errors of fact. In regards to
carotenoid pigments (p 47 ff), the transformation of a yellow carotenoid
(e.g. B-carotene) to a red molecule (canthaxathin) is confused with de
novo synthesis. Further (p 48), the author states that “…carotenoid
granules look the same as melanin granules…”, which is incorrect.
Carotenoids do not exist as granules. The presence/absence of carotenoids
in fossil plumages is unsettled. By a similar token the mechanisms that
controls carotenoid pigment deposition in feathers to construct plumage
patterns or differences in sequential molts in extant birds is still
unresolved. Nevertheless, Martynuik’s choice of color palette for
recreating the fossil plumages is carefully reasoned and believable. How
the myriad patterns evolved, there is a unique one for each species, is
still unknown.
Some of the points in the section “Defining Birds” which relies heavily
on feathers escape me. The fact that feathers exist in a variety of
morphologies on modern birds, ontogenetically, and in fossils, should be
embraced. All of these structures are feathers; produced in a follicle,
made of a specialized B-keratin, hollow, branched, etc. They all play a
role at some point in the avian life cycle, are molted, and differ in the
complexity of their morphology. It escapes me why (p 12) if an animal has
feathers other than contour feathers (e.g., down, simple filaments,
bristles, eyelashes, etc) it isn’t feathery enough to be included!
Finally, Martyniuk attempt at restoration of these remarkable beasts is
laudable. He is to be complemented for the introduction of the use of
Phylogenetic nomenclature in a field guide.

Alan H Brush