Stalking vs. Wading: Azhdarchids Round 2

Tetrapod Zoology by Darren Naish is defending stalking vs. wading azhdarchids here. In a reply to their PlosOne paper here, I brought up some issues regarding modern analogs, recounted here.

The issue today is Naish’s inappropriate use of disrespectful adjectives, even in his own blog. I’m not annoyed by such adjectives. But I am concerned for Naish’s reputation and respect, which can take a turn for the worse on his own accord if current patterns persist. It’s always better to take the high road, Darren.

Footnotes follow yellow numbers below.

Quoting Darren Naish:
“The terrestrial stalking model: challenged!
However,[1] if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about human nature, it’s that people will refuse to give up on poorly supported and even nonsense ideas, even when there’s strong or overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So there are still people supporting the idea of water-trawling azhdarchids and wading azhdarchids and so on. In recent months, two challenges to the terrestrial stalking hypothesis have appeared.

The first (I want to spend as little time as possible on this one) comes from the [2] indefatigable David Peters. Peters challenged our hypothesis by posting a comment at PLoS (that’s right, a 2013 comment on an article published in 2008. [3] Weird): he pointed to his own [4] highly suspect phylogenetic results to support the idea that azhdarchids descended from “petite” “micro-azhdarchids” that, [5] in his view, were most likely waders, and he also challenged the idea that azhdarchids look at all like ground hornbills. Mark and I responded (and then responded again, when he responded to our response): you can read the entire chain of correspondence here.”

[1] First Naish bathes what follows with this degrading preamble.

[2] “indefatigable,” as if this pest just won’t go away.

[3] Why paint this as “weird”?

[4] “Highly suspect” is one way of pointing the finger when you have no evidence to the contrary.

[5] Naish’s attempt at isolation makes it seem that I am an outlier, yet the innumerable Crayssac ptero beach wading walking (what’s the difference when there is surf?) tracks were made by similar size and type pterosaurs.

I encourage you to read Naish’s comments and rejoinders with an eye toward his tone of disrespect and ridicule. If we’re just talking about facts and hypotheses, then there is no need to cast the other author in such a light. If a tenured professor had offered the same comments, I can’t see how Naish would adopt the same tone.

Let’s just get down to the animal and its behavior with due respect. After all, we’re talking about a pterosaur behavior that could go either way, or both! whether ankle deep in water or mud or on dust and vegetation.

Even so, it’s still important to bring up salient points when dealing with Science. That’s how we progress.

By trying to make the other person look bad, popular opinion can sometimes swing the other way. And Darren is too valuable a scientist to let that happen.

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