Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good, Semi-good, and Bad Dino Sources 1

This post was inspired by Holtz's "A Dinosaur Lover's Bookshelf" ( ). It's nothing formal, just a list of what I (as a non-expert dino fan) think are especially notable dino sources (for better or worse) & why. Even still, I hope that at least some of you will get something out of it. 2 more things of note: 1) Just in case you were wondering, the sources aren't listed in any particular order; 2) If you don't know what I mean by "casual readers"/"the enthusiast"/"the specialist", see Miller's "Paleo Reading List" ( ).


Holtz's "Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages" ( ) & Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" ( ) are the best encyclopedic & non-encyclopedic dino books, respectively, for casual readers. Taylor's review of the former ( ) & Amazon's synopsis of the latter ( ) sum up most of the reasons why, but not the most important reason: Holtz & the NHM keeps updates on "Supplementary Information for Holtz's Dinosaurs" ( ) & "The Dino Directory" ( ), respectively, when parts of said books become outdated.

Hone ("David Hone": ) reminds me of a young Holtz in both research ( ) & outreach ( ). I hope he writes dino books like Holtz too, someday. Until then, see his technical papers (for free) under "Academic" & his blogs ("Lost Worlds"/"Archosaur Musings" for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively) under "Outreach".

You could say Conway et al. ("All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals": ) are the A-Team of paleoart: Naish does the paleontology ("Darren Naish | palaeozoological researcher, consultant, author, lecturer": );* Conway does the art ("John Conway's Art": ); Kosemen drives the van ("C. M. Kosemen": ). ;)

*Naish's popular dino books (excluding "All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals", which is for the enthusiast)/blogs are for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively.


Cau ("AndreaCau": ) is a consistently good source of phylogenetic info for the enthusiast (See "5. Blog, articoli/recensioni giornalistiche e pagine web dedicate alle mie ricerche")/the specialist (See "3. Pubblicazioni / Publications"). However, he's also a consistently hit-&-miss source of other biological info for the enthusiast/the specialist.*

Celeskey's "Coelophysis - New Mexico's State Fossil" ( ) is basically Colbert's "The Little Dinosaurs of Ghost Ranch" ( ) in website form, the former being for casual readers & the latter for the enthusiast. I have mixed feelings about single species accounts. Martin's "Book Reviews" ( ) sums up why. In any case, it's the ultimate source of Coelophysis info.

GSPaul ("The Official Website of Gregory S. Paul - Paleoartist, Author and Scientist": ) is a mixed bag. Naish's "Greg Paul’s Dinosaurs: A Field Guide" ( ) sums up what I mean. In any case, see his technical papers (for free) & books under "CURRICULUM VITAE" for interesting yet controversial dino art/science.**

*E.g. According to Cau (See "First, we start with": ), "no Mesozoic dinosaur...has offspring inept" (See "Opposed hypotheses" under "Testing ideas and community analysis" for why that's wrong: ). Also according to Cau (See "Just the fact that": ), "the fact that the children had early leads us to think that the animal did not need particular parental care and that was autonomous in search of food" (See "Precocial" & "Semi-precocial" for why that's misleading: ).

**"Predatory Dinosaurs of the World: A Complete Illustrated Guide" ( )/"The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs" ( )/"Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds" ( )/"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" ( ) are for the enthusiast/casual readers/the specialist/the enthusiast, respectively.


Hunter ("Cladistic Existentialism") is a BANDit (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs) & his website is basically a list of anti-cladistic writings (1 of which I reviewed: ). His website's header ( ) sums up said writings in 2 major ways: 1) The depiction of non-bird dinos as "silly grossly inaccurate Jurassic Park dinosaur knock-offs" (which is probably part of the reason why BANDits are compared to creationists: ); 2) The statement about "determining the number of birds' fingers" (which, as indicated by the Naish quote, is blatantly hypocritical & misleading).

Peters ("Reptile Evolution") is a GSPaul wannabe & his website is basically a list of reasons why (according to him) he's great & everyone else is an idiot. Naish's "Reptile Evolution" review ( ) sums up what I mean.

There are 3 main reasons why Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney ("Pterosaurs to Modern Birds") & Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa ("Gwawinapterus") are bad sources of dino (or any other) info: 1) They're non-experts who act like they're experts; 2) They're infamous for trolling ( ) &/or cyberbullying ( ) people who don't think like them; 3) They're terrible at sourcing their work, never doing so unless it proves their point (They'll ignore any source that contradicts them).
Quoting Naish (See "All the fuss over those weird little hands": ): "As you'll surely know, embryologists have often (though not always) argued that birds exhibit BDR, such that their tridactyl hands represent digits II, III and IV rather than the I, II and III thought universal among coelurosaurian theropods. Those who contend that birds cannot be theropods have latched on to this as an integral bit of their case: Alan Feduccia in particular has repeatedly said that bird hands and theropod hands are fundamentally different, and that this degree of difference bars theropods from avian ancestry (Burke & Feduccia 1997, Feduccia 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, Feduccia & Nowicki 2002) [developing ostrich hands from Feduccia & Nowicki (2002) shown below]. Yeah, as if one feature - no matter how profound or major - can somehow outweigh tens of others: what excellent science. The hypothesis (note: hypothesis) that bird hands represent digits II-IV rests mostly on the fact that the primary axis of condensation (the first digit precursor to appear in the embryonic hand) corresponds to digit IV: because bird embryos grow two fingers medial to this axis, these two must be digits III and II (incidentally, this is contested by some embryologists and is not universally accepted. To keep things as simple as possible, we'll ignore that for now).Despite what Feduccia and his `birds are not dinosaurs' colleagues state, the morphological evidence showing that birds really are theropod dinosaurs is overwhelmingly good, so if birds and other theropods really do have different digit patterns in the hand, something unusual must have occurred during evolution. One idea is that a frame shift occurred: that is, that the condensation axes that originally produced topographical digits II-IV became modified during later development, such that the digits that grew in these places came to resemble topographical digits I-III instead of II-IV (Wagner & Gauthier 1999). If the frame shift hypothesis is valid, then - somewhere in theropod evolution - the `true' digit I was lost, and `true' digit II became digit I. However, evidence from Hox genes indicates that the condensation axis for embryonic digit I receives a Hox signal normally associated with.... topographical digit I, thereby showing that the bird `thumb' really IS the thumb (Vargas & Fallon 2005, Vargas et al. 2008)."


Mike Keesey said...

The Theropod Database moved:

I don't agree with your ranking -- it's by far the best thing on the web for what it actually sets out to do. If your criticism is that it doesn't do other stuff as well, that seems rather unfair.

Elijah Shandseight said...

I agree with Mike Keesey's comment. I don't think that "they're also both hit-&-miss sources of other biological info". Since when? I always noted that they're very meticulous in their work and they do a lot of researches before saying something. Their view on biological infos is instead very accurate and precise.

Also, aside from that, I want to defend Gwawinapterus. To say that his blog is a bad reference just because is a "cyber-bully" as you said isn't fair. Sure, he's not a professionist and he can be sometimes rude, but he follows accurately and reports what other experts say. I've learnt a lot on pterosaur nature by reading his posts, I must confess it.

Also, it surprises me that you've not linked to Laelaps (link:, surely one of the most reliable paleo-sources on the web.

All of the stuff I wrote is not an attack to this post, but just my point of view. I'm sorry if I sounded rude, that was absolutely not my intention ;)

Hadiaz said...

@Mike Keesey

1stly, many thanks for the database update. I'll update this post accordingly.

2ndly, I get what you're saying, but keep in mind that I was referring to ALL forms of media by Cau/Mortimer, not just their websites (which I included as starting points). Otherwise, I would've listed Mortimer under "Good".

@Elijah Shandseight

"Since when?"

AFAIK, since they've been writing about other biological info. & I'm not talking about little things like stating an opinion on a controversial topic that can go either way, but big things like contradicting well-supported/generally agreed-upon hypotheses about extinct animals or even known facts about living ones. As you can see, I included examples under the 1st asterisk & there's a lot more where those came from.

"I want to defend Gwawinapterus"

1stly, I didn't say that he's a bad source "just because" he's a cyber-bully (In fact, I specifically said, "There are many reasons why Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney...& Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa ...are bad sources of"), just that it's 1 of the more important reasons. However, to be fair, I'll update this post so that all the main reasons are clear.

2ndly, "not a professionist and...sometimes rude" is putting it WAY to lightly. Dinos4Ever put it best when he said, "John Faa is...terrible at sourcing his work. In fact, he never does unless it proves his point (he will ignore any source that contradicts him), and any legitimate source you do manage to strangle out of him will come with attitude. He's been permanently banned from DA twice, he's been perma-banned here twice (as Kepodactylus and Chaoayanga, the latter after having created 3 other backup accounts), I think he might be banned on the Primal Carnage Forums, haven't seen his username (Pteranotropi) pop up in a while, and I haven't see him go on Hell Creek in a while (user Diogenornis). He's also very fond of passing internet rumors around as if they're scientific facts" ( ).

Point is, while it's not necessarily bad to be an opinionated non-expert, it IS bad to be a jerk to everyone who questions/disagrees with your opinion & not even back it up, source-wise.

"it surprises me that you've not linked to Laelaps"

Don't worry, there will be sequels. I wouldn't have been able to fit every good, semi-good, & bad dino source in just 1 post.

"I'm sorry if I sounded rude,"

Don't worry, you didn't sound rude at all. Besides, I figured at least 1 person would disagree with my rankings, given how popular some of these sources are.

Mike Keesey said...

Mortimer's blog is almost as meticulously researched as the site itself, and certainly a lot more than most blogs. You found one possible error (which he himself hedged), and now it's "hit-or-miss"? His posts critiquing cladistic analysis are better than most actual published papers on the subject!

Mike Keesey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Keesey said...

(Whoops, should say "cladistic analyses", as in specific analyses, not "cladistic analysis" as a whole.)

Hadiaz said...

@Mike Keesey

Like I said in my previous comment, "there's a lot more where those came from" (I obviously can't list EVERY example in a post that isn't about that). However, in retrospect, you do have a point in that Mortimer doesn't cover other biological info NEARLY as much as Cau, & so it isn't completely fair to lump them together. I've since modified this post accordingly & will include Mortimer in Part 2.

Craig Dylke said...

The problem I have with this review (and part of what these other people are reacting too I suspect) is you haven't really made your criteria very clear for some your ratings of these sites.

I personally don't find the Theropod Database particularly useful myself, because as an artist it doesn't provide me with any visual information I need.

However if I were to state this in a review on ART Evolved (I'm one of the admins here in case people don't know who I am) I'd be very clear about that.

So on that front I can follow why you'd rank it lower than other sources... That said it is very much a singular perspective, and the Database is very clearly a excellent and well researched resource for those in need of cladistic information. You need to frame so those people understand why you'd say this great resource isn't great for you personal. Then they'll understand.

I too disagree completely with your assessment of Mr. Andrea Cau's website. I find his posts incredibly thought provoking, and he and myself have generated some great stuff on palaeo-memes back and forthing between his site and this one.

I would suggest a much more fleshed out approach to reviews like this... ESPECIALLY if you are going to be critical of other people's work!

ART Evolved is about creating community, not dividing it. I certainly welcome constructive criticism, but we should be sure to make sure it is framed that way.

That said I don't mind reacting hostily to problems to the community, such as David Peter's Reptile Evolution (or in the history of this blog the Gregory Paul attack/rants of a couple years ago). Reptile Evolution is fair game, but it is still important to be civil (we've had David Peter's visit this site before!)

So in the future I'd suggest explaining your reasoning in more than a sentence or two (and don't throw them into bullet points either). That way we all understand you're exact reasoning.

Hadiaz said...

@Craig Dylke

Don't worry, after by back-&-forth w/Mike, I decided to take Mortimer out of Part 1 & re-rank him in Part 2. I also decided to elaborate on Cau under the 1st asterisk: Using 1 bio-related Theropoda post as an example, you can see that ~1/2 of his bio-related claims are good while ~1/2 of them are misleading or wrong (In other words, said claims are "hit-&-miss" overall); The same goes for said posts in general.

As for Peters, I originally thought my critique sounded a bit harsh, but it was honestly the best analogy I could think of for him & his website based on what I've read & how they came off to me. Besides, I made sure it wasn't TOO harsh beforehand by posting it in the JPLegacy & Carnivora forums (which have strict rules about critiquing ppl's ideas rather than the ppl themselves).

& just to make sure we're all clear, I greatly appreciate everyone for sharing their concerns w/me so that I can improve this post & make future posts even better.

Andrea Cau said...

I have nothing against people disagreeing with me in some topics, but find bizarre to be considered one 'hitting & missing' since in my blog I've discussed many disparate topics of dinosaurs biology, from physiology, growth rates, reproduction, biomechanics, soft tissues, ethology, functional morphology, allometry, ecology and so on...

" Using 1 bio-related Theropoda post as an example, you can see that ~1/2 of his bio-related claims are good while ~1/2 of them are misleading or wrong (In other words, said claims are "hit-&-miss" overall); The same goes for said posts in general."

It seems to me that you based this opinion merely on the fact that you disagree on the hypothesis - that I follow - that all known Mesozoic dinosaurs were precocial. I based my interpretation on several lines of evidence, discussed in other posts (for example:;, and do not consider the single example you provided as a stronger argument for hadrosaurid altriciality than those supporting a precocial condition in all Mesozoic dinosaurs.
I may be wrong (and with me, most paleontologists) in the idea that Mesozoic dinosaurs were precocial and showed few parental cares (intermediate, in complexity, between modern reptiles and basal neornithines), but this cannot be used to argue that I 'miss-&-hit' overall.

Note that you mentioned just one single example among my posts, and challenged it with just one example based on one study arguing that some dinosaurs (hadrosaurids) showed some level of altriciality, ignoring the fact that other authors support the precocial interpretation and few/no parental care among the Mesozoic dinosaurs (e.g., Sander et al., 2008; Myers & Fiorillo, 2009).
Who is 'hitting-&-missing'?
Your claim that I 'hit-&-miss' seems a 'hit-&-miss' itself.

Myers, T. S. & Fiorillo, A. R. (2009). Evidence for gregarious behavior and age segregation in sauropod dinosaurs. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 274, 96–104.
Sander, P.M., Peitz, C., Jackson, F. D. & Chiappe, L. M. (2008). Upper Cretaceous titanosaur nesting sites and their implications for sauropod dinosaur reproductive biology. Palaeontographica A 284, 69–107.

Craig Dylke said...

I completely agree with Andrea here Hadiaz.

I again highly suggest you (at least in the future) provide a lot more in depth explanation of criticism of anyone or anything in the future.

People don't mind praise in short form, but I get rather annoyed when I get criticism without much explanation.

Frankly here you haven't provided much in this post.

By this same logic ART Evolved should be on the bad list, as we have many posts with factual and topical errors (as again many of us artist folk aren't necessarily the most scientifically up to date of sorts).

I like to think we bring something of use to the table though, with our very pretty pictures of palaeontological topics, but completely correct science is not one of the things we do best (not that we are dead wrong all the time... but we've made more than one mistake in the past. Compared to the singular you have cited for Andrea's site).

Sadly when I read critiques like this (especially filled with negative reviews of people I know are smarter than me), I tend to question to credentials of the one posting... Now I won't officially do that here. However I'm just letting you know a honest reaction I have to these sorts of posts.

So I'd suggest, once more, really building your case when essentially bad mouthing other people's work, or just stick to the good reviews. Again no one ever got mad at nice things said about them or their work.

Hadiaz said...

@Andrea Cau

1stly, many thanks for responding.

2ndly, I'm not arguing against the claim that MOST Mesozoic dinos had precocial young, just the claim that ALL Mesozoic dinos had precocial young (which is what you originally claimed). & I'm not arguing against it just b/c I disagree w/it (Like I said at the beginning of my post, I'm just "a non-expert dino fan"), but b/c based on what I've read (E.g. Holtz's "GEOL 104 Dinosaurs: A Natural History", Fastovsky/Weishampel's "Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History", Hone's "Ask A Biologist", etc), it's generally agreed-upon that at least SOME Mesozoic dinos had altricial young. The only paleontologists I've seen seriously argue against ANY altriciality in Mesozoic dinos are BANDits (E.g. Geist & Jones). In my post, I specifically referred to hadrosaurids b/c they're probably the best-supported/-known example, but there's also possibly Oryctodromeus & prosauropods (See the quotes in the following comment). So at least in this case, no, my "hit-&-miss" claims are not "hit-&-miss".

3rdly, I hope you understand that I'm not claiming to be at all smarter than you or anyone else mentioned in my post (Again, I'm just "a non-expert dino fan") or that ppl shouldn't view you as a good dino source. All I'm trying to do is tell ppl what I think of you as a dino source from my experience, which is that you're a great source of phylogenetic info, but that based on what I've read, some (but not all) of your other biological info contradicts well-supported/generally agreed-upon hypotheses about extinct animals &/or known facts about living ones w/out accounting for the contradictions.

@Craig Dylke

In my defense, I clearly stated at the beginning of my post that "It's nothing formal, just a list of what I (as a non-expert dino fan) think are especially notable dino sources (for better or worse) & why." Like I told Cau, I hope you understand that I'm not claiming to be at all smarter than anyone mentioned in my post or that ppl shouldn't view them as a good dino sources (Well, maybe the "Bad" ones for obvious reasons). All I'm trying to do is tell ppl what I think of them as dino sources from my experience. While I think I made my case for Cau's ranking clear both in my post (albeit after the update) & in my comments, I do get what you're saying &, in my sequel posts, will try to do so for the "Semi-good" & "Bad" rankings from the start (as opposed to doing so after ppl comment). Maybe I'll run them by you b-4 posting them just to be safe.

Hadiaz said...

Quoting Fastovsky & Weishampel (See "Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History"): "A new take on ornithopod child-rearing was provided by the hypsilophodont Oryctodromeus, a dinosaur that evidently raised atricial young in a burrow (see Figure 1.8). Only one specimen of the animal is known, but this reveals a burrow with an end chamber, in which were found the remains of an adult and two juveniles. Oryctodromeus appears to have some digging specializations in its skull and thoracic region, suggesting a fossorial, or burrowing, lifestyle."

Quoting Brüssow (See "The Quest for Food: A Natural History of Eating"): "The analysis of the embryo from a 5-m-large herbivore Massospondylus dinosaur suggests an altricial behavior for the young. The eggs contained only one 8-cm-large embryo that looks unfit for self-feeding (Reisz et al. 2005). It has, for example, only a poorly developed dentition. The head is too great and the pelvis is too small, which probably prevented this young animal from looking feeding-wise for itself. We have indirect evidence here for parental care by a dinosaur after brooding, a remarkable find for a 200-Ma-old animal."

Quoting Upchurch (See "Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs"): "At least some prosauropods were oviparous. A possible nest of Massospondylus EGGS was reported by Grine and Kitching (1987). The nest contained six eggs, each approximately 65 mm long and 55 mm in diameter. Bonaparte and Vince (1979) described the discovery of a prosauropod nest from the Upper Triassic of Argentina. This nest, which was assigned to the new genus Mussaurus, consisted of numerous eggshell fragments and the remains of five hatchlings. Moratalla and Powell (1994) suggest that Mussaurus young may have been altricial, i.e., the young remained in the nest after hatching and were looked after by one or both parents."