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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Since Ajancingenia was published in such a completely unethical way, I'll avoid to mention it in my publications. Period.

  3. 'but 100 years from now Easter (2013) will be seen as a pretty good paper finally renaming "Ingenia"'

    If we're still using binomial nomenclature 100 years from now I'm going to shoot myself. (Assuming I live to be 137 years old.)

    Seriously, though, this is low.

  4. Mike Taylor noted this back in 2004

    Not Mike, but Christopher ;-). I've got quite a list of preoccupied taxa that I've come across, as it happens: I could make myself into the Özdikmen of the Antipodes. Also, note that the Fossil Forum post has been edited to say "after attempting to consult with Rinchen Barsbold".

    Ethical issues aside, the continued use of 'Ingeniinae' in a paper renaming Ingenia is just face-palmworthy.

    1. Oops, sorry. Corrected that.

      The fact Easter edited the post without any obvious evidence the Barsbold section was changed doesn't reflect well on his innocence. Nick and I have screenshots and web archives of the two versions, which are important now that the post has been removed.



  5. Perhaps you and Barsbold should submit a petition to the ICZN to formally suppress "Ajancingenia"?

  6. A few points:

    (1) Barsbold had ages to publish a replacement name for the preoccupied Ingenia. All he needed to do was publish a brief note, as was done with Diceratops. This kind of claim-jumping by Easter was a disaster waiting to happen.

    (2) Mickey, you should have been offered co-authorship. As Mike says, this is a low act.

    (3) Does the subfamily really automatically become Ajancingeniinae (in place of Ingeniinae)? Someone could erect (for example) Conchoraptorinae or Heyuanninae for this clade.

    1. 1) Yes, Barsbold made this easier by not acting faster.

      2) And I would have refused based on the ethics of renaming Barsbold's genus without his consent. Also, the name's terrible and I would have insisted on a better figure and the right subfamily name. The half of the text not based on my data does seem decent though. I haven't checked its accuracy, but it is detailed and up to date.

  7. Publication of Ajancingenia doesn't automatically create Ajancingeniinae. 'Ingeniinae' remains without a valid name, unless there is a junior synonym based on some other genus that comes forward to replace it.

    1. If Barsbold and his ilk take note of the fact that Ingenia has been renamed Ajancingenia, then they may erect Ajancingeniinae as a replacement name for Ingeniinae when they publish a new paper about a new genus of ingeniine from the Bayan Shireh Formation. A similar situation happened when the family group name Ctenosauridae Kuhn 1961 was changed to Ctenosauriscidae Kuhn, 1964 because Ctenosaurus had been renamed Ctenosauriscus.

  8. One other thing emerges from this mess:

    It is flat-out moronic for a journal to strike out a citation to a blog post. It's loss of information. We're scientists, and information is our currency. The idea that it's OK to cite a pers. comm. (which can NEVER be looked up) but not a blog post (which may one day become lost) is so wrong-headed I hardly know where to start.

    So I won't be publishing at Zootaxa till they fix that policy.

    1. I have seen websites cited in other Zootaxa articles, so I don't think that it's a blanket policy. However, Zootaxa has a large number of editors, so if it was an editorial decision to remove the reference, it may have been due to the individual editor that handled this manuscript.

    2. Indeed, this very article contains a website in its references (the Paleobiology Database). While Mike Taylor specified removing "a citation to a blog post", note it was to the systematics portion of website, not this blog portion.

      Also note I was unclear in my post because I was basing the wording in that paragraph on what Easter said commenting at Jaime's blog. Easter said "the editor", but the editor himself has specified to me the recommendation to remove references to The Theropod Database was made by "the referees". Whether it was one of the referees or both of them, I don't know. Similarly, I don't know how aware the editor was of this recommendation prior to my email. Unfortunately he doesn't share Mike Taylor's ideals on transparency in review, so I've found it impossible to learn many details.

  9. Well Mickey, at least already knew and the news spread. And there would be another good idea that removing this name will be created and ethical issues do not interfere with the taxonomic?

    At least I hope I do not make mistakes so outrageous fan (this was a plagiarism), as people try to advise or counsel me occasionally see my work before publishing anything.