STL Science Center

STL Science Center

09 February 2016

Fluffy Kerfuffle

Anyone that reads this blog with a background in any of the "hard" sciences is probably aware of the fact that in the general news of the field lately there has been a lot of discussion of the peer review process. There has also been a lot of back and forth concerning open access journals and the way that these journals are published. This overlaps the peer review discussion in many important ways and both discussions are igniting derisive comments about the world of blogs and the internet in general. In regard to what we discuss here, we are generally on the periphery of the argument as this blog does little more than attempt to distill the peer reviewed literature as concisely as possible and present the pertinent facts and learning tools needed to understand and learn more about dinosaurs when the reader has not heard of a certain dinosaur. I personally think peer review is important and that the opinions of blog writers, while valid as their own opinions, should always be taken with a grain (or truckload, at times) of salt as writings such as this are not vetted by anyone. In part, that is why I like to go back over very old topics and write about them all over some times. More news and more knowledge on my part make the entries better, but the information imparted here is still not vetted by my peers. I welcome their comments and corrections because the purpose of this, as I noted, is to convey easily accessible and concise information about dinosaurs to people that love dinosaurs, but do not necessarily want to become paleontologists (career paleontologists are welcome here of course though).

In the vein of making the literature more accessible to all, there are a few papers that need to be discussed concerning Dakotaraptor. The initial description of Dakotaraptor was published little more than a year ago and may hold the distinction of not only describing the first large dromaeosaur from the Hell Creek formation but it may also be the final publication which Larry Martin contributed to prior to his passing. The systematic description of the fossil is kept to a minimum in the published material but is extremely detailed despite being concise (for a description of individual elements). These descriptions are augmented with detailed figures showing positions of bones and comparison among other taxa; both are quality uses of the fossil material in showing how it is unique. The paper is a long paper, though shorter than many descriptions because much of the description is concise, so be prepared for a long read. Comparison to Utahraptor, another large North American dromaeosaur, is kept to a minimum, but the ecological role of Dakotaraptor is contemplated in the discussion and there are a number of dietary and behavioral inferences detailed here that we have mentioned already this week.

There is an article about the furcula of Dakotaraptor that analyzes their association with the holotype skeleton. The furcula is an important characteristic of the avian skeleton as it acts as a spring in many ways to conserve energy during flight. The presence of the furcula in Dakotaraptor lends itself to comparisons with birds and discussions about the evolution of the avian skeleton. This article compares the furcula to a fossil turtle plastron which appears to be morphologically similar to the (as Arbour, et. al state) "purported" furcula. In the end, the article argues that the furculae belong to a turtle, and not the dromaeosaur. I leave reading the middle information to the readers so that they may form their own opinion.

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