When paleontologists disagree

Two recent papers
refuted the work of previous paleontologists. All had examined specimens firsthand.

From Dalla Vecchia and Cau 2014: Two small bones from the Upper Triassic of Cromhall Quarry (Gloucestershire, England), which are referred in the literature to pterosaurian wing metacarpals (Fraser and Unwn 1990), are compared with wing metacarpals of unequivocal pterosaur specimens from the Upper Triassic of Italy and Greenland as well as those of the Liassic Dimorphodon macronyx from England. The two are morphologically distinct from the unequivocal wing metacarpals. Comparison with the phalanges of drepanosauromorphs suggests that they are probably penultimate phalanges of those bizarre diapsids. Drepanosauromorphs are now known from Cromhall Quarry, but they were not in 1990 when the two presumed wing metacarpals were described. There is no definitive evidence of the presence of pterosaurs in the Triassic of the UK.

From Dyke et al. (twenty authors, two combined papers) 2014.  No abstract published, but the title says it all: Thalassodromeus sebesensis – a new name for an old turtle. Comment on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Imagery and more data here.

And then
Grellet-Tinner and Codrea (2014) replied, : No abstract published.

The lessons we can learn from this are:
1) sometimes mistakes are made by pros; 2) firsthand observation is no guarantee of validity; 3) just a few bones or parts of bones can be misleading; 4) photos and valid comparisons are good evidence; 4) it’s okay to raise your hand (or a red flag) if you see a problem, in fact, it’s your duty; 5) the scientific process works!

References
Codrea VA & Grellet-Tinner G 2014. Reply to Comment by Dyke et al. on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur” by Grellet-Tinner and Codrea (July 2014), Historical Biology online here.
Dalla Vecchia and Cau 2014.
Re-examination of the purported pterosaur wing metacarpals from the Upper Triassic of England. Historical Biology. online here.
Dyke G. et al. 2014.  Thalassodromeus sebesensis – a new name for an old turtle. Comment on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Gondwana Research. online here.
Fraser NC and Unwin DM 1990. Pterosaur remains from the Upper Triassic of Britain. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläeontologie, Monatschefte 1990:172-282.

4 thoughts on “When paleontologists disagree

    • Glad to hear it Dave! That has been one of my biggest comments and critiques over the past several years so I am glad to hear that you have things moving forward “beyond the blogosphere” so to speak.

  1. Thanks Rob, I’m sure aware I’ve had about 6-7 papers published and about 3x that many rejected (and yes, it’s easy to see who the anonymous refs are because they each raise their favorite banners.) Which is why I went to the blog to get some of this stuff out there.

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