The Passing of Larry Martin, curator, U of Kansas

Larry Martin, paleontologist and curator at the University of Kansas, died recently. Famously, he was a staunch opponent of the birds are dinosaurs hypothesis and was equally famous for saying, “Show me one character that unites birds with dinosaurs!” Larry could always tell you that whatever trait you could think of was also present in another non-dinosaur taxon. In his mind that dissolved your argument. He never seemed to understand it takes a suite of traits, the famous “most parsimonious” placement, that phylogenetic analysis works on, not “one character.” Convergence is so rampant in the Reptilia that a single trait can often be found elsewhere for any taxon.

Even so, Larry was a friendly and outgoing man who always had time to talk in conventions. He appeared on several dinosaur-related TV shows, including the “Four-winged dinosaur” Nova program on Microraptor.

Martin signed Chris Bennett’s PhD dissertation and he had dozens of other students and KU colleagues over the years.

Martin’s reconstruction of Longisquama can be seen here and a model can be seen below. Caption and photo from the Lawrence Journal-World. The model of Longisquama, unfortunately, is totally inaccurate. It’s okay to be a contrarian, like Larry Martin, but you better have great evidence.

Kansas University graduate student Robert Elder holds a model of a longisquama, a feathered reptile that may predate dinosaurs. David Burnham, left, and Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology, look on. The model is part of a future display about the birth of flight.

Kansas University graduate student Robert Elder holds a model of a longisquama, a feathered reptile that may predate dinosaurs. David Burnham, left, and Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology, look on. The model is part of a future display about the birth of flight.

I’m glad I met Larry Martin. He will be missed.

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