Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pickering's taxa 5: Elaphrosaurus philtippettensis

I took a break from "Liassaurus" to get this quickie out of the way.

Tanycolageus Carpenter, Miles and Cloward, 2005
T. topwilsoni Carpenter, Miles and Cloward, 2005
= Elaphrosaurus "philtippettensis" Pickering, 1995b
= Elaphrosaurus "philtippettorum" Pickering, 1995a
Late Kimmeridgian, Late Jurassic
Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation, Colorado, US
Paratype- ?(USNM 5737; intended holotype of Elaphrosaurus "philtippettensis" and "philtippettorum") distal pubes (Gilmore, 1920)
Comments- The distal pubes USNM 5737 were discovered in 1884 and provisionally referred to Coelurus agilis by Gilmore in 1920 based on their size. Pickering (1995a) listed the name Elaphrosaurus philtippettorum in an unpublished bibliographic manuscript. In that same year, Pickering printed a packet with a description of the taxon as ?Elaphrosaurus philtippettensis, indicating USNM 5737 is the intended type. Both variants on the name are nomina nuda however, as he didn't follow ICZN Article 8.1.3- it must have been produced in an edition containing simultaneously obtainable copies by a method that assures numerous identical and durable copies. Pickering also referred USNM 8414 (two metatarsals) and 8415 (a humerus) without justification. However, there are no characters in the diagnosis except that it shares a straight humerus with Elaphrosaurus and abelisaurids (which does not involve the intended type), and the only characters listed in the description are those which distinguish USNM 8415 from Dryosaurus (identical to those listed by Galton in 1982). It is therefore also a nomen nudum in that it lacks "a description or definition that states in words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon." Oddly, the intended type is not illustrated, with the only illustration being a humeral figure from Galton's paper.  Pickering will also describe the species in his in progress work Mutanda Dinosaurologica. Carpenter et al. (2005) referred USNM 5737 to their new taxon Tanycolagreus because of its straight ventral edge and dorsally placed interpubic fenestra, unlike Coelurus. Additionally, Ornitholestes lacks an interpubic fenestra altogether. Why Pickering referred USNM 5737 to Elaphrosaurus is unknown, as he does not discuss the specimen (except to note it is "elongate, ... lacking a crest on its craniodorsal surface. In lateral view, the distal foot is ventrally convex.") and E. bambergi does not preserve the distal pubis. Furthermore, other ceratosaurs like Ceratosaurus, Kryptops and Carnotaurus have a very distally placed interpubic fenestra, so USNM 5737 is probably not a ceratosaur. Carpenter et al.'s assignment is here retained, though it should be noted Stokesosaurus also has a distally flat pubic boot and proximally placed interpubic fenestra.
unnamed Ceratosauria (Galton, 1982)
Late Kimmeridgian, Late Jurassic
Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation, Colorado, US
Material- ?(USNM 8414) metatarsal III, metatarsal IV (Pickering, 1995)
(USNM 8415) humerus (201 mm) (Galton, 1982)

Comments- The humerus USNM 8415 was discovered in 1883 and initially referred to Dryosaurus, though Galton (1982) described it and referred it to Elaphrosaurus sp. based on the straight shaft and low deltopectoral crest. Pickering (1995b) referred it to his new taxon ?Elaphrosaurus "philtippettensis" without justification. Neither listed any characters to differentiate it from E. bambergi. Carrano and Sampson (2008) thought the specimen was ceratosaurian, but could find no characters shared specifically with Elaphrosaurus. Indeed, the straight shaft is present in all ceratosaurs, while the low deltopectoral crest is present in Limusaurus and abelisaurians as well. The proximal articular surface is wider than Limusaurus, but less so than abelisaurians. The flattened distal condyles are also more derived than Limusaurus, while Spinostropheus is intermediate. The internal tuberosity is well developed as in Ceratosaurus and abelisaurids, but unlike Limusaurus, Elaphrosaurus, Spinostropheus and Masiakasaurus. The deltopectoral crest apex is placed more distally (42%) than Elaphrosaurus, Limusaurus and especially Ceratosaurus and Masiakasaurus, but is more proximal than abelisaurids. Based on these comparisons, I agree the humerus cannot be assigned to Elaphrosaurus.

Ceratosaur humerus USNM 8415 in anterior (A), medial (B), posterior (C), lateral (D), proximal (E) and distal (F) views (after Galton, 1982).  Scale = 50 mm.

USNM 8414 was discovered in 1883 and is assigned to Elaphrosaurus sp. on the USNM collections website, though it has not been mentioned in the literature to my knowledge. Pickering (1995b) referred it to his species Elaphrosaurus "philtippettensis" without comment. Until these are illustrated or described, their affinities remain unknown.

References- Gilmore, 1920. Osteology of the carnivorous Dinosauria in the United States National Museum, with special reference to the genera Antrodemus (Allosaurus) and Ceratosaurus. Bulletin of the United States National Museum. 110, 1-154.

Galton, 1982. Elaphrosaurus, an ornithomimid dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic of North America and Africa. Paläontologische Zeitschrift. 56, 265-275.

Pickering, 1995a. Jurassic Park: Unauthorized Jewish Fractals in Philopatry. A Fractal Scaling in Dinosaurology Project, 2nd revised printing. Capitola, California. 478 pp.

Pickering, 1995b. An extract from: Archosauromorpha: Cladistics and osteologies. A Fractal Scaling in Dinosaurology Project. 2 pp.

Carpenter, Miles and Cloward, 2005. New small theropod from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming. In Carpenter (ed.). The Carnivorous Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press. 23-48.

Carrano and Sampson, 2008. The phylogeny of Ceratosauria (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 6, 183-236.


  1. Hey, Mickey. This belongs on the previous article really, but I don't know if you (and others) keep reading new comments on old articles, so here it is:

    Now that you've read that famous but hard-to-find publication, do you understand what distinguishes a Jewish fractals from a gentile one, and in what way the ones in philopatry were/are not authorized?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  2. Alas, no. The symbolization of that particular dinosaurological appellation continues to circumvent my mental capabilities.

  3. Is there a pubis known for Stokesaurus??

  4. Stokesosaurus langhami, yes. Of course, there are several other Morrison coelurosaurs too, and the absence of illustration or detailed description makes the assignment to Tanycolagreus even more tentative.

  5. Stephan Pickering / Chofetz Chayim ben-AvrahamApril 29, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    I shall ignore the baiting remarks of Mike Taylor. I do not have to explain the matrix of my belief systems to Mike Taylor, and the tone and direction of his words are salacious.

    Regardless of your reservations about the taxon -- you are, again, quite mistaken, legally AND ethically, Mickey -- in hoisting the banner of ICZN, and taking it upon yourself to judge what is valid and what is not. You have copies of my publications. They are physical objects. You cite ICZN 8.1.3, once again. I am going to say it again, as well: I printed a press run of 50 copies on paper, and distributed them, which (setting aside the polysemous nature of 'paper') are durable and identical. The fact that you have copies, and others do not, does NOT eradicate the fact the publications exist. The taxon, regardless of your reservations (which I share years later), is NOT a nomen nudum, although synonymous with Tanycolageus.

    I would appreciate, Mickey, if you were more careful with your rush-to-judgements. We are not engaged here in a protectionist strategy, so that ICZN is, somehow, the arbiter of scientific realities. Thus far, you have rejected my work, shared with you in good intentions because of my respect for your scholarship and honesty. That, of course, is your choice. And yet. I cannot help but sense, in some of the comments in these pages, your efforts to be a nomenclatural judge. Thus far, you have been mistaken in your ICZN interpretations (even ICZN will tell you the same thing). These publications were printed in permanent, durable copies, distributed. You have, after the fact, permanent, durable copies from my files (my last duplicates). So, you are contradicting yourself, and violating ICZN itself by stating falsehoods, Mickey.

    This will be, for the time being, my last contribution to this forum. The dialogue is losing its coherence. I find your osteological comparisons of interest, Mickey; it is the personal attacks which I find surprising.

    L'Shana Tova. Stephan
    STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham
    The Dinosaur Fractals Project

  6. Thought experiment:

    I print a document assigning a host of scrap to new taxa -- including an illustration of the type fossil remains, describing them, locating their provenance geographically and geologically, and providing a full diagnosis -- and print out 20 durable copies. I send these 20 copies to 20 people, who promptly deposit them into safes, bank boxes, etc., for "safe-keeping."

    1. Is my work "published" according to Federal guidelines (i.e., if I were to say anything in it disparaging or disambiguating an individual or institution, it could be considered libel)?

    2. Is my work substantive in that it passes the ICZN's requirements for published works for taxonomic purposes?

    Note under 2 that the guidelines differ slightly from 1, and different countries validate 1 differently. We can assume we are in the US for the purposes of this excercise, however. 2 also depends largely on 1 having occured (i.e., the work is validly "published"). You may even use the broadest guidelines such that an "advertisement" constitutes valid publication.

  7. "I shall ignore the baiting remarks of Mike Taylor. I do not have to explain the matrix of my belief systems to Mike Taylor."


    Every author has to explain his ideas. That's what being an author is. If you can't or won't explain what even your title means -- and I don't believe I am alone in my perplexity -- then the likelihood of your work being widely used and cited is diminished.

    So let me ask clearly, without the tone and direction of my words being "salacious" this time:

    What does "unauthorized Jewish fractals in philopatry" mean?

  8. "I print a document assigning a host of scrap to new taxa -- including an illustration of the type fossil remains, describing them, locating their provenance geographically and geologically, and providing a full diagnosis -- and print out 20 durable copies. I send these 20 copies to 20 people, who promptly deposit them into safes, bank boxes, etc., for "safe-keeping."

    But what value does this publication have? If only 20 people have them in the whole world, your work will be widely unread, and is unlikely to be cited or considered in future publications either.

  9. That was what the thought experiment was meaning to ask, Anonymous 1:

    You limit the exposure by limiting the people whom wish to read the document, and moreover you limit the ability of others to review and disseminate the information by limiting the readership. In a way, some past authors did this (Cope, I could name) but they managed to avoid the fallacy of self-publishing pamphlets by distributing the works into libraries and to their enemies (e.g., Cope gave copies of his work to Marsh, whereas Marsh attempted to prevent Cope from having access to the Harvard library and publication system).

  10. Now I can just spew any rubbish I like onto a page, photocopy it, and send it to a couple dozen of my friends and have it count as a "publication"? Sweet! Now, if you'll just excuse me, I have a CV to pad...

  11. While we all can agree Pickering's works are problematic, I brought up the point on Christopher Taylor's blog that some other works everyone accepts as valid aren't that different. Take George Olshevsky's self-published Mesozoic Meanderings series which named Valdoraptor and Becklespinax, for instance. The only real difference there is that Olshevsky was better at advertising and distributing it.

    And when it comes to distribution and safe-keeping, think of something that has never been pdfed like Zhao's 1986 Jurassic Systems of China that mentioned "Ngexisaurus" and all those fun nomina nuda of his. How many of us have actually seen it? I haven't and last I asked, Tracy had misplaced his copy. And if we did have a copy, it might as well be in a bank box because it's in Chinese and the current translation software is insufficient for the job. In that sense, Pickering's work has more "value" to us English speakers at least.

    Oh sure I could order a copy of Zhao's paper (I have yet to justify spending $38 on a book I can't read, but may eventually) and scan it to increase its distribution, but any of us could order copies of Pickering's papers too. If not from Pickering himself, then from Tracy Ford who has always been willing to send me any paper he has for the price of photocopying and such. And if someone scans Pickering's papers and pdf'izes them, they'll have the ultimate in useful distribution.

    That in turn invokes the Shiny Digital Future (TM SV-POW), in which being in circulation on the Internet means SO much more than being deposited in five libraries, regardless of what the ICZN says. How many people will really read a paper copy of PLOS One?

    This is all not intended as a defense of Pickering, but merely to point out situations are complex.

  12. Even so, note that Pickering has not specifically objected to your calling of these 'label names' as nomen nuda on the grounds that they lacking sufficient diagnosis, illustration & description.

    Seriously, and based on mickey's reviews of these 'packets', where is the scientific methodology in any of these works?

    I'm curious to know if the ICZN accepts non-science as an adequate field for the proper formation of taxic names.

  13. Not to piss on anyone's parade, but the scientific methodology in these "packets" (as Jay calls them) appears to be Welles', not Pickerings. I had a look-see over there at the Dinosaur Mailing List archives, and it looks like to me that Pickering seems to be more into this "scholarship" thing than into "scientific methodology."

    There is a saying about standing on someone else's shoulders.

  14. [I'm a different Anonymous from the one above]

    I'm coming in to this discussion as a lurker from another field [archaeology] and trying to get some context on a recent discussion on DML about Pickering's work.

    We have no direct equivalent to ICZN but it seems to be that these form the rule of the game. I am sure you are at liberty to ignore them, but then anyone playing within the rules is also at liberty to ignore you as non-compliant. My impression of Pickering's defence is that he is very keen to be legitimised by those parts of ICZN that he has conformed to, but is less willing to accept those aspects that don't suit him. He certainly does not seem to conform to the recommendations in Section 8 [yes I know they are not mandatory] which clearly enunciate the expectation of what constitutes reasonable publication and actual wide dissemination of information that benefits the scientific process.

    Appealing to a different paradigm is one tactic used by pseudo-archaeologist charlatans all the time. It sets up a false scenario that vested interests are denying the little guy / maverick scholar / Joe Everybody his say. In the great majority of cases its not, its just that the little guy etc as actually got it badly wrong. Time tends to be much harder on these mavericks than it is on the orthodoxy, simply because science for all its faults does involve itself seriously in self-correction, particularly through peer review [more than review by the original author], dissemination of interpretation widely [not just letter drops to acquaintances and friends, even if they are Michael Crichton] and acceptance / rejection of these through a process of fitting them against reality. I see a bit of the third [testing against reality and new data] in Pickering's comments but not any sense of the first two.

    Gee, that was a long spray. I'll shut up now.

    A Nony Mouse

    PS Thanks Mickey for a really excellent and thoughtful blog.