and Tetrapod Zoology – part 2

Earlier we looked at the first part of the blog at Tetrapod Zoology by Darren Naish. Today we will consider part 2.

Not sure why this has descended to the world of Hieronymus Bosch. 

The Koseman/Conway Pterodactylus (left) and the Peters Pterodactylus

Figure1. The Koseman/Conway Pterodactylus (left) and the Peters Pterodactylus from (right). Is this funny? Sarcastic? Or Pointless?

The bizarre illustration (on left) of Pterodactylus, originally and falsely captioned as by my hand and now attributed to Kosemen & Conway 2008, is supposedly done, according to Darren’s notes, “as if Dave’s ideas were correct.” My actual current reconstruction from is on the right. Now, why would a scientist like Darren reach out into left field like this when what Darren is looking to criticize is right here (Fig. 1) in, the object of his disaffection? This form of distorted reality (on the left) reminds me of the disquieting figures one finds in 1920s illustrations depicting various races of humankind used to ridicule and disparage them. It has no place in a serious criticism. If Darren wishes to criticize, let him criticize the figure on the right which comes from that website, not the fanciful interloper from ANOTHER paleoartist on the left. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does this sort of attack make sense?

Just made a count of the all the images Darren used to criticize my reconstructions in Of his 49 (or so) images 5 were my books, not part of the website, 7 were assorted photos not part of the website, 4 were images done by me prior to 2004 not part of the website, and 18 were images done by other artists and not part of the website. That’s 34 of 49 images NOT from Of the remaining 15 images, 4 were images of the website itself that received praise and only 11 were of reconstructions (not counting the Google pages). Even if my math is bad, 11 is less than a quarter of the total. The rest were from my wastebasket of rejected images and images from other artists. Darren, if you’re going to criticize images from this “crime scene,” you can’t bring in other images from other “crime scenes” by other artists, including images not included in You included more than 50% more images of taxa from other artists than images from Add the four by and rejected by me not in and its 11 vs. 22. That’s unfair and it stacks the deck by bringing in shoddy merchandise under the same banner as you’ve attached to my studies.

Darren notes: has an enormous web presence. This presence is so pervasive that Dave’s heretical views are mis-educating naïve parties who encounter his material, and think that they’re seeing something worthy or accurate.” This is the whole point of Darren’s post. He goes on to say, “those of us interested in tetrapod evolution need to counteract Dave’s online work and proclaim as loudly and publicly as possible: does not represent a trustworthy source that people should consult or rely on.

On the other hand, and from the other side of the fence, the whole point of and the is to note oversights and mistakes in the paleontological literature, to make corrections where possible and to note great work whenever it is found. I point out details and offer alternatives. Darren reports on the Pterosaur-Heresies, “I don’t agree with any of the stuff he says there, either …” . ANY of the stuff? That’s 365 posts now. As anyone can see, Darren isn’t picking at my evidence with an airscribe here. He has decided it should ALL be chucked. All? Really?

Next Darren adds another subtle note, “Dave’s observations and ideas, as published online at, represent a highly idiosyncratic, almost certainly wholly erroneous, view of tetrapod anatomy and evolution.” Wholly erroneous? Dear Readers, are you as wary as I am of people who take such all or nothing, broad brush stands?

Darren follows this with side-by-side illustrations of my 2004 Longisquama and his rendition of the same reptile in color, roughly hewn. Why bring in another illustrator if the intention was to criticize my work? Why hearken back to an earlier sophomoric illustration from 2004 (with several errors, I must admit) when a more recent work is available here? Evidently, like a good hunter looking for easy prey, Darren chose to attack the weaker, younger, less experienced images, and to provide a more animated caricature of those to lampoon my more serious, more recent and more educated attempts at reconstruction, complete with photographic evidence, all in

The whole point of the real Longisquama, it should be noted, was to get noticed. No reptile before or since has ever sported such elaborate adornment, from the oversized dorsal plumes, to the oversized, flapping forelimbs. Like birds, pterosaur ancestors developed the ability to flap long before they could fly. Secondary sexual characteristics like these are being found regularly in dinosaurs. Not sure why that’s such a problem with pterosaurs and their kin. Wings were originally “extra added attractions” a point brought to light because Longisquama had so many “extra added attractions.”

Of course the whole point of is the large tree. Let naysayers take away the elements from the matrix they find objectionable and rerun the dataset.

More tomorrow or sooner.


8 thoughts on “ and Tetrapod Zoology – part 2

  1. I think it’s pretty clear that I was using your older illustrations to chart the background to your research – the ‘lead up’ to And stop referring to your older pictures as if the errors present therein are evidence of inexperience or naivity – sure, we all change our minds over time, but you were as confident in 2004 about being right about your 2004 reconstructions as you are in 2012 about your 2012 reconstructions. In fact, your 2012 Longisquama is less scientifically valuable than your 2004 reconstruction, not more so as you seem to be telling us!

    • Why chart my background when you are aimed at By definition earlier work will be of lesser quality, especially when we’re talking about such ephemeral and rarely studied creatures as the Fenestrasauria. Confidence has nothing to do with it. Light bulbs are better nowadays. So are my drawings. If your premise was to discredit, you have ample material to work with. Stop going through my wastebasket of rejected images and telling everyone that this represents what they will find on There is such a thing as guilt by association and you’ve associated my current work (a clear minority of what you presented and hardly criticized) with such crap that, as you put it, the naive reader will make the association.

      Okay, Darren, you threw it out there. What, “in fact” is more scientifically valuable about my 2004 reconstruction of Longisquama? And why would you make such a grand statement without also providing evidence?

  2. Sir,

    In my defense, the 2008 Pterodactylus image was produced before your current site (and reconstructions,) came online.

    Our 2008 presentation was about “extraordinary” views of pterosaurs, leading up to the current consensus. Alongside your image, we also illustrated views of Pterosaurs as mammals, swimming marine reptiles and scaly, cold-blooded reptiles. The point of that presentation was not to mock you or your views.

    I don’t agree with your cladogram or your dependence on the image-analysis technique, but I also look up to you as an artistic genius and a civil debater.


    • Hi CM. Your image was originally attributed to me and I’m trying to avoid more controversy, as you might imagine. It was a nightmarish creature. But it could also have been treated like a lithe fairy, a sample of which I provided to someone sometime in the past.

  3. I gotta agree with Darren. Trying to phrase this as non-insultingly as possible, from the perspective of basically all other scientists, your reconstructions have gotten more unbelievable over time. So someone seeing your old reconstruction will not look down upon it, as in their minds it is more trustworthy than your new reconstructions. Your worry that people will see your old reconstructions and thus have a bad opinion of your website is thus unfounded, as no one else thinks your new reconstructions are more plausible or based on more real evidence than your old ones.

  4. Mr. Peters,

    I would recommend a section on your site devoted to refuting your old reconstructions to make this clear. On my own site I have a gallery of outdated or misinterpreted life restorations, with brief explanations of why I drew them that way and why I now believe they are wrong. The points Darren brings up about the web presence of Reptile evolution could be equally applied to the presence of your old skeletals (or illustrations based on them). If you don’t want people to think your old, more extravagant restoration of Pterodactylus is your current opinion, you’d better state it somewhere in print, preferably explaining what part of the technique that revealed the long tasseled tail, etc. were wrong, and how you have since changed your methods to avoid such imaginary characters.

  5. Pingback: Over het ontstaan van kikkers, slangen, krokodillen | Tsjok's blog

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