I don’t get very many comments from readers.
Rarely do any of my blogposts get any feedback. The few rare comments I do get usually arrive whenever I make a mistake among the bird-like theropod dinosaurs, who have their own large fan base. Oddly, many of those readers also become further angered whenever I correct those mistakes, something I thought they were encouraging me to do! In the world of the Internet, and scientific discovery, such feedback is par for the course and must be expected. People in general, and scientists in particular, like their paradigms and don’t want outsiders tampering with them.
As a matter of practice,
I try to be very specific and show images in my comments on the work of others, keeping anger and other negative emotions out of it.
Even more rarely
do I get replies that include specific instructions and data on how to correct my tracing errors. That has probably happened less than ten times in 1350 blog posts. Nevertheless, all of those rare comments are gratefully appreciated and acted upon. As my readers know, I’m only trying to get everything right, hoping only to provide new ideas to colleagues, whether they like those ideas or not. In Science, testing is supposed to be an okay thing to do. And if the tests are not valid, they can be done again and again until they are valid.
After 4+ years of reptileevolution.com
and pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com, I still haven’t seen any other paleontologist attempt to provide large gamut reptile cladograms based on specimens and species, now hovering around 560 taxa (exclusive of the pterosaur cladogram). The bird, dinosaur, croc and lizard paleontologists have done similar large gamut work, so I’m trying to avoid those well-studied clades, concentrating only on their origins. Let’s face it, a large gamut study of the basal reptiles needs to be published. The problem is, no PhD is interested or capable (time and travel constraints) of doing so, so far. Perhaps one is in progress.
The ‘hate mail’ I get reminds me of the 1961 Yankees
and specifically of the plight of Roger Maris, who, in 1961 approached and ultimately exceeded Babe Ruth’s hallowed 60 home runs in a season record. Teammate Mickey Mantle (Fig. 1) was also in that race that year that also featured an extended season. No one liked the fact that Maris, an outsider, was doing something so important.
Wikipedia reports, “In 1956, the New York press had been protective of Ruth when Mantle challenged Ruth’s record for most of the season. When Mantle fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. The New York press had not been kind to Mantle in his early years with the team; he struck out frequently, was injury prone, was a true “hick” from Oklahoma, and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field, Joe DiMaggio. Mantle, however, over the course of time (with a little help from his friend and teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York’s Borough of Queens), had gotten better at “schmoozing” with the New York media, and consequently gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken Upper Midwesterner, never attempted to cultivate. Maris was perceived as surly during his time on the Yankees.
“More and more, the Yankees became “Mickey Mantle’s team” and Maris was ostracized as an “outsider” and “not a true Yankee.” The press at that time seemed to be rooting for Mantle and belittling Maris. Mantle, however, was felled by a hip infection causing hospitalization late in the season, leaving Maris as the single remaining player with the opportunity to break Ruth’s home run record.”
Much of the same sort of human psychology is at play here.
In this case, yours truly, an outsider, not a true paleontologist, and not a PhD, has created a large gamut set of cladograms for reptiles and pterosaurs. The expanded data recovers a different topology than smaller studies, often handicapping themselves by using suprageneric taxa. And not all of those smaller studies match one another. The new topologies featured here and here were due in large part to taxon inclusion that was not attempted in the smaller studies. No one should see this as a threat.
That same outsider (yours truly) also broke a cardinal rule among paleontologists, “You have to see the fossil.” Due to the large number of specimens involved, I have not seen every fossil, nor will anyone else in my lifetime. Referencing the literature is also common practice. That’s what it is there for!
Instead, after concentrated study,
I have reconstructed every included fossil and compared one with another graphically. That is something most paleontologists don’t do or do only rarely. As you should expect of such a large cladogram, all sister taxa actually look like they could be related, something that is too often lacking at certain nodes in certain other traditional cladograms.
In my attempt at making sure all the data was verifiable,
I have traced photos of in situ specimens and reconstructed them. That, evidently, is a sin, but one that is getting to be increasingly popular. And like most paleontologists, I have made a few mistakes along the way. These seem to happen most often when working with images of low resolution. When alerted to those mistakes, and provided better data, I have made corrections. That’s should be considered, “a good thing,” just as it is with the new data on Pluto (note the earlier fuzzy images that still have/had scientific value). Unfortunately, like Roger Maris’s situation in 1961, the jeers keep coming, but the large gamut reptile studies have not arrived yet.
I encourage more reader feedback,
but please, make replies constructive and include data if you have it. I don’t want anybody to be embarrassed by brash comments as future data and cladograms confirm current findings. And if you find two taxa that should not nest together, please let me know where the errant one should nest. If there are any mistakes in my presentation, I want to fix them.