STL Science Center

STL Science Center

10 October 2012

Meeting People

Sometimes it is important to look at the people behind a discovery. This sort of look into the paleontologists has occurred here in the past for a variety of reasons, and there is no better reason than to redeem what many consider bad science by pointing out that these gentlemen are not bad scientists. If a claim was made falsely with someone's knowledge that is o course bad morals and the loss of ill prepared fossils is bad practice and poor shouldering of responsibility, but does that make any of those accountable bad people? Surely they are not bad people, let us look at the other things that have gone on in their careers, if the internet gods are appeased and help us search adequately.

Krishnan Ayyasami, for instance, is obviously not a terrible scientist. At the time of the discovery and description he was still working on his PhD and currently is the director of the paleontology division of the Geological Survey of India; someone trusts his science obviously. Very importantly, however, he does not mention Bruhathkayosaurus at all under his list of important discoveries in his CV. He does mention discovering a stegosaur in that list, though this stegosaur has since been reclassified as possessing the bones of a marine reptile and was then relegated to the plesiosauria as an incomplete skeleton of a potential new species.

P. Yadagiri, on the other hand, is somewhat of an enigma. That happens in paleontology all the time online though, so it is not a ready indication of one's worth in the paleontology community. Yadagiri has named several other species of dinosaur, including the "stegosaur" Ayyasami worked on with him, which are still valid today such as Kotasaurus, the oldest known sauropod.

Sankar Chatterjee had a limited role in the description of Bruhathkayosaurus and as such is not often associated with the questionable practices conducted at the site. However,  if the fossils were not prepared correctly we have to also lay that burden slightly on his shoulders. The reason for that is that he consulted on the find and took the role of identifying the remains as truly dinosaurian in nature, negating the idea that they were anything other (trees?) than large leg bones. Given that he was out there looking at the find he certainly could have taken some dynamic photos, sketched out some detailed drawings or even aided the other paleontologists in preserving and removing the fossils. However, it was not his find and was much earlier in his career, which has been fairly prestigious and includes a number of named species, and his role has been largely forgotten since then on account of his work before and after. Personally examining the fossils, unfortunately, makes him somewhat of an accomplice in the not so great work done there, but Dr. Chatterjee is definitely not an irresponsible scientist.

Perhaps none of these people are to blame for the disappearance of these fossils, but until they are found again or anew, they will sadly be remembered, in connection with Bruhathkayosaurus anyhow, as the group that lost potentially dubious fossils. In fairness to them, Bruhathkayosaurus in general seems to be a very weird spot in the history of paleontology in general, albeit a very little known weird spot.

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