Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Theropod Database information on "Ingenia" published! ... by someone else

If there's one thing that can interrupt the Lori analysis to get me back to the blog, it's this.  So, "Ingenia" has been renamed.  Finally.  Mike Christopher Taylor noted this back in 2004 (ironically, I was the first person to comment on it), and we know Barsbold had been informed his genus was preoccupied.  So a decade later we get a paper renaming it Ajancingenia by someone named Jesse Easter.  Who?  Is this going to be another Megapnosaurus situation?  Barsbold's involvement or consent isn't noted anywhere.  In any case, on to the paper.  The holotype and paratype material list looks familiar, perhaps because I wrote them.  That's right, Easter just copied my materials list and deleted the measurements as Cau handily illustrates on his blog.  At least the Database is getting used.  That's not SO bad.  But then I start reading the content.

"A number of specimens have been referred to Ajancingenia over the years."  Yes that's true.  I detailed that on the Database and... this is just my entry padded with some morphological comparisons.  The next paragraph is even worse.  I wrote-

"As with Conchoraptor, no evidence has ever been published defending the placement of paratypes or referred material in "Ingenia". Indeed, the sternum of IGM 100/33 differs from the holotype in lacking fusion between sternal plates (Barsbold, 1983), IGM 100/31 is said to lack fibulocalcanear contact (Lu, 2004) unlike the holotype, IGM 100/33 has ventrally keeled sacrals while the holotype has ventrally grooved sacrals, and varying amounts of sacral vertebrae have been described (7 by Barsbold, 1983; 8 in IGM 100/31 by Lu, 2004). Multiple taxa may be represented, or these may simply be ontogenetic/individual variation and/or illustration or descriptive error. The measurement table in Fanti et al. will prove useful to refer specimens based on ratios once it is examined."

Easter wrote-

"The assignment of the paratypes to Ajancingenia has been questioned partially due to reported variation in the number of sacral vertebrae. MPC-D100/30 has seven ventrally grooved sacrals, while MPC-D100/33 has eight ventrally keeled sacrals. MPC-D100/33 also lacks fusion between the sternal plates (Barsbold 1983). MPC-D100/31 has eight sacral vertebrae, and reportedly lacks fibulocalcanear contact (Lü 2004). These variations may indicate that more than one taxon is represented. However, they may also be caused by ontogenesis, intraspecific variation, or descriptive error, and hence I retain these specimens as Ajancingenia yanshini."

Well that's just all my data rewritten.  After I spent time compiling this data back in 2007, why aren't I a coauthor?  So I wrote the editorial staff of Zootaxa, and between that and Easter's recent post on Jaime's blog, we have the following information.

Easter originally did cite me in his publication, but reference to my website was deemed inappropriate by the editors, so this was removed from the final draft.  The editor has assured me he didn't realize the significance of my website to the paper and would have changed it to a pers. comm. if he knew.  This leads to a few issues.  Why was reference to the Paleobiology Database (Fara, 2001) retained in the References while The Theropod Database was not?  Why didn't Easter counter that I was the source of significant portions of his data when the editors did this?  Honestly, a citation isn't even the proper attribution for using someone elses' compiled data.  Easter should have first asked me, then listed me in the Acknowledgements as responsible for that information.

But Easter is completely new to publication, so perhaps he was just naive.  Then again, he posted on The Fossil Forum " Additionally, a number of specimens have been labeled "Ingenia" over the years, several of which have since been transferred to new genera.  Hence, I reassessed the identification of a number of these specimens."  Sure, YOU reassessed their identification....

As for Barsbold's involvement, Easter himself admits on Jaime's blog "Prior to undertaking this project I made every effort to contact Barsbold with full intention of co-authoring this paper with him."  So no, Barsbold was not consulted.  I've emailed Barsbold before, about "Tonouchisaurus" and such, so he's not impossible to contact.  Indeed this does seem to be a Megapnosaurus situation.  As Brad McFeeters said on Facebook, "So this is basically a paper that any one of us could have written, but didn't."  Hey, I did write it.  Sort of.  Who out there wants to rename "Ischyrosaurus"? "Coelosaurus"?  Supplies are limited, act now!  The editors knew this but let it pass.  Which is ethically questionable, I'd say.  And that Fossil Forum post by Easter says "I undertook this project back in the spring after consulting with Rinchen Barsbold".  So either you consulted with Barsbold, or you made every effort to consult with him.  One of those is a lie.

So, Easter copies data, makes no effort to retain the attribution and performs classic taxonomic claim jumping.  What else is there?

His only figure- credited to Jennifer Haruta, but is clearly precisely redrawn from Sabath's illustration in Barsbold et al.'s (1990) Oviraptorosauria chapter in "The Dinosauria".  But flipped!  Amusingly, this makes the caption of it being right elements in anterior/dorsal view nonsensical, since they would be left elements if the figure were accurate.  So you rename someone's genus, then use a figure from their work, but feel the need to redraw and flip it?  Sounds legit.  It's not like this is an obscure picture.  EVERYONE owns a copy of "The Dinosauria", and anyone qualified to review an oviraptorid paper would recognize it.

You know which subfamily Easter refers Ajancingenia to?  Ingeniinae.  But... that has to include the nematode Ingenia.  The oviraptorid subfamily needs to be renamed Ajancingeniinae.  But no reviewer noticed.  Seems basic for anyone reviewing a paper on nomenclature.  I don't expect random reviewers to be familiar with my website and aware of the plagiarism, but these along with the Barsbold thing are obvious, major issues.  But at least they cut references to my website.  That was the important thing.  You'll forgive me if I'm cynical.

So what now?  The editorial staff at Zootaxa have certainly been friendly and punctual, but apparently the only recourse is to issue an erratum explaining this.  Which is better than nothing, but less than ideal.  Sure this generation will be aware of the issue thanks to blog posts and Facebook, but 100 years from now Easter (2013) will be seen as a pretty good paper finally renaming "Ingenia".  How many people then will have the erratum downloaded?  The repercussion for rewriting others' data as your own seems to be a note is published saying you did this.  I'm less than pleased.

So any budding taxonomists should check out my entry on "Coelosaurus" here.  As I say, "the theropod genus Coelosaurus was preoccupied by Coelosaurus (Owen, 1854), an indeterminate centrum with a broken but fused neural arch and subcircular amphicoelous ends" and "while the tibia does differ from other ornithomimids', it cannot be placed in a known genus or species."  Just rewrite what I say and have at it.  You can be responsible for Unpronounciblecoelosaurus antiquus, and Leidy's long dead, so there's not even that worry.  Get someone to redraw Leidy's figure and flip it and you're all set.  Did I mention I'm cynical?

References- Barsbold, Maryanska and Osmolska, 1990. Oviraptorosauria. in Weishampel, Dodson and Osmolska (eds). The Dinosauria. University of California Press, Berkeley. pp. 249-258.

Fara, 2001. Khermeen-Tsav locality (SMPE) (Cretaceous of Mongolia). Available from: http://paleodb.org/?a=basicCollectionSearch&collection_no=11582 (Accessed 5 August 2013).

Easter, 2013. A new name for the oviraptorid dinosaur "Ingenia" yanshini (Barsbold, 1981; preoccupied by Gerlach, 1957).  Zootaxa. 3737(2), 184-190.