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Re: How is withholding access to published specimens ethical?
This reminds me of the case of *Doleserpeton*, a little Permian
temnospondyl very important for the origin of the modern amphibians.
John Bolt, a big name in that field, published it in a Science paper ( =
extended abstract) in 1969, after having described it in more detail in
his 1964 thesis that apparently not many people have seen. Then he
basically sat on it -- disarticulated 3D bones that represent pretty
much the entire skeleton of several growth stages -- for 40 years,
reportedly not even letting people look at it, let alone take photos. He
only let out information drip by drip, in a paper about the teeth of a
few temnospondyls and lissamphibians in 1977, another on the general and
dental ontogeny of temnospondyls and lissamphibians in 1979, another on
the supposed middle ear of tetrapods sensu lato in 1985, and a book
chapter on the origin of Lissamphibia that finally contained a photo of
a lower jaw in 1991. Only then did he get a PhD student, Trond
Sigurdsen, who got the information out there: ear region in 2008, elbow
in 2009, full description in JVP in 2010. The 2010 paper (or the talk
about it at the SVP meeting of 2009) contains the first ever skeletal
reconstruction of the beastie, and the first ever skull reconstruction
in lateral view.
Adasaurus was described in 1983(!) by Barsbold. The holotype is
mounted in a museum where the public can view it, if you can afford
to travel. Some people have done just that and photographed it,
*Doleserpeton*, in contrast, was in Bolt's safe (or so I hear).
but the IGM and/or Barsbold refuses permission to disseminate the
I can't imagine Barsbold himself can restrict the distribution of photos
of an exhibited museum specimen. The museum itself can, though -- The
Natural History Museum routinely does that.
Pelecanimimus was described in 1994 by Perez-Moreno. He's no longer
doing paleontology and no longer even corresponds with
paleontologists, so his thesis describing it in detail will never be
published or distributed.
If that's true, and if there are no medical reasons that prevent him
from talking to people in general (I have no idea), it's _evil_ and
makes me all hulky and smashy.
Why does the community let this continue? Paleontologists are quick
to jump on the tail of owners of privately held specimens because
they have no guarantee of being accessable, but I've yet to hear any
outcry regarding Adasaurus or Pelecanimimus. Shouldn't we denounce
this practice and those who engage in it? What possible excuse
could justify it? Even if it's going to be redescribed (as Kubota
may be doing for Adasaurus), surely Barsbold lost all claim to keep
Adasaurus to himself when he decided to publish it in his 1983
monograph, and even more surely when he let almost thirty years go
by without describing it in detail.
Judging from *Doleserpeton*, let's wait for Kubota's thesis or whatever
is going on. If it turns out that nothing is going on, start prodding