A recent reply by the brilliant scientist Darren Naish to one of my posts concluded by saying, “But the fact is you aren’t right: you know full well that the reason we reject your proposals, your hypotheses, your trees, and the observations that all of those things are based on is that you’re using a wholly unreliable technique that cannot be accepted as proper science. You need to stop thinking that everyone is against you because you are heretical. No, it’s because you’re mostly wrong.”
This is pretty harsh criticism, but note that it is lacking in any evidence. Unfortunately, this is typical of what I hear from other paleontologists and frankly, that’s not how scientists should interact. That’s not how I present my hypotheses. I show my work and others should too. And it better be good evidence. Unassailable. If the “unreliable” technique I’m using is using photographs, well, that’s how scientists share their work — and everyone does that.
The fact is, no one has attempted to duplicate my taxon list, even in their own way or even to a minor extent. All I ask is for someone to add a few lizards, especially those I found to nest close to pterosaurs in the large reptile tree (Huehuecuetzpalli, Sharovipteryx, Cosesaurus, etc), to any of the recent studies that nest pterosaurs close to Scleromochlus and phytosaurs. They can use their own observations, their own character traits, etc. Excluding other candidates a priori is not good science, especially when they appear to be the correct candidates and the alternatives all have major problems (as detailed in the last 300 or so blogs) and recognized by many.
I’m not trying to be right. I’m reporting results. If anyone can produce a valid study that produces different results, I’ll be more than happy to report on them. Shying away from such a test is not good for science. I’m happy to get your comments, especially those that indicate where I and others have made mistakes. That’s how we all correct the errors of the past and come to more valid conclusions.
I am constantly finding errors in my work as new data comes in. Yes, that has always been true. But the corrections of those errors have only served to clarify relationships and anatomy.
I haven’t met a phytosaur yet that even vaguely could ever claim to be a pterosaur uncle. Yet that’s the current paradigm that no one wants to talk about. So, let’s put the shoe on the other foot and imagine that everyone knows that pterosaurs are lizards derived from Cosesaurus and kin. Now imagine the furor that would erupt if I were to propose that phytosaurs were the closest cousins of pterosaurs.
The current situation just doesn’t make any sense.
This is the power of the current paradigm. Charles Darwin had to fight his then current paradigm. So did others. It’s time to see pterosaurs and reptiles in a new light, based on rigorous evidence and large taxonomic studies that leave little room for doubt.
Please, someone, anyone, just give it a try.
My best to you all.
Addendum in Response to Darren Naish’s note from Saturday, May 12.
“I’m only going to say one more thing here… so long as you keep saying that people “link phytosaurs with pterosaurs”, it’s obvious that you do not understand how to interpret phylogenetic trees. And I agree with David M about your use of characters and codings.”
How else can we interpret this tree? There is an unknown sister taxon between phytosaurs and erythrosuchids that is the closest sister to pterosaurs, according to this tree. This is the image posted by Darren Naish in his blog Scientific American – Tetrapod Zoology. This tree reflects trees recovered by Nesbitt (2011) and Brusatte et al. (2010) in which no other closer basal sister taxa are provided for pterosaurs.
Brusatte SL , Benton MJ , Desojo JB and Langer MC 2010. The higher-level phylogeny of Archosauria (Tetrapoda: Diapsida), Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 8:1, 3-47.
Nesbitt SJ 2011. The early evolution of archosaurs: relationships and the origin of major clades. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 352: 292 pp.