ReptileEvolution.com and Tetrapod Zoology – part 2

Earlier we looked at the first part of the anti-ReptileEvolution.com 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 ReptileEvolution.com (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 ReptileEvolution.com 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 ReptileEvolution.com, 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 ReptileEvolution.com, 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 ReptileEvolution.com. 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 ReptileEvolution.com. Of the remaining 15 images, 4 were images of the website itself that received praise and only 11 were of reptileevolution.com 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 reptileevolution.com. You included more than 50% more images of taxa from other artists than images from reptileevolution.com. Add the four by and rejected by me not in reptileevolution.com 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: ReptileEvolution.com 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: ReptileEvolution.com 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 ReptileEvolution.com and the PterosaurHeresies.com 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 ReptileEvolution.com, 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 ReptileEvolution.com.

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 ReptileEvolution.com is the large tree. Let naysayers take away the elements from the matrix they find objectionable and rerun the dataset.

More tomorrow or sooner.

ReptileEvolution.com and Tetrapod Zoology – part 1

I’m always interested in criticisms of my work. That’s why I read with great interest a recent Tetrapod Zoology blog by Scientific American writer, Darren Naish. It’s a tour de force slam on ReptileEvolution.com, which provides most of the data for the PterosaurHeresies.

Let’s Get Down To It
I’ve always said that the sister taxa in my 300+ study look like their nested sisters, which demonstrates the gradual change we should all expect in evolution. To counter that, Darren started off his report with an illustration that dismantled those spectral changes by illustrating a tree with just 14 disparate taxa. His tree is true, as far as the tree goes, but it doesn’t do the large reptile tree justice. A tree full of leaves in late Spring is a good model for the tree of life created by evolution. A tree hacked down to just 14 bare branches, each with a single leaf, gives a far different impression.

Something Old…and Sophomoric.
Darren kindly gave my dino books some free publicity. Then he illustrated one of many illustrations of several pterosaurs he dredged up from the 1990s. Darren, why go back to early uneducated illustrations when all of the latest, more mature materials are freely available on ReptileEvolution.com? Of course this makes me look bad! Those illustrations are sophomoric. There was growth between then and now! Several days ago I urged you to use the latest illustrations. That you chose not to demonstrates something I’ll leave for readers to judge. I don’t use those crappy illustrations anymore. In fact, I pulled them from circulation. There’s motive here.

Digitigrade Pterosaurs
Yes, those sophomoric pterosaur feet were digitigrade, likely because they were drawn prior to the 1995 flurry of new data on pterosaur tracks. As I described in Peters (2000) many pterosaurs had flat feet. Others, as demonstrated in Peters (2000, 2011), remained digitigrade. It’s 2012 Darren. Let’s go with the latest data and observations, please.

Breaking up the Ornithodira
Darren mentioned my early manuscript breaking up the Ornithodira and remarked, “* The title is inaccurate since, by definition, Ornithodira is the clade that includes Dinosauria and Pterosauria. Pterosaurs will always be ornithodirans, no matter where they end up in the tree of life.” Actually that’s not true. According to the large reptile tree, the most recent common ancestor of pterosaurs and dinosaurs is the basalmost reptile, Cephalerpeton. That means all descendants of a basal sister to Cephalerpeton (literally all reptiles, past and present) are also ornithodires, which was not the original intention of the author of that term. The term ‘Reptilia’ is older and thus has precedence over ‘Ornithodira.’ All this can be tested, by the way, by anyone who wishes to simply add the basal lizard Huehuecuetzpalli to any archosaur/pterosaur matrix. Not sure, considering the recent hubbub, why no one has done this yet… Seems rather easy to do…

More tomorrow and for several days hence, I presume. Hang in there, we’ll get through this  together. Read Darren’s blog. See if you think it represents a fair criticism of the latest work seen in ReptileEvolution.com.

As always, I encourage readers to see specimens, make observations and come to your own conclusions. Test. Test. And test again.

Evidence and support in the form of nexus, pdf and jpeg files will be sent to all who request additional data.

References
Peters D 2000a. Description and Interpretation of Interphalangeal Lines in Tetrapods. Ichnos 7:11-41.
Peters D 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification. Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605

Tetrapod Zoology