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The Taphonomy of Sinosauropteryx

Sinosauropteryx holds a special place in evolutionary studies, partly because of exquisite preservation and partly because it displays integumental structures (described as proto-feathers by many). Alternative hypotheses about these structures were considered in a previous blog, showing that there is compelling evidence contrary to the protofeather hypothesis. However, it remains to be established what the integumental structures of Sinosauropteryx actually are and how they became fossilised. This is the theme of this blog. The relevant research is again that of Professor Lingham-Soliar from South Africa. He has presented new data allowing two alternative hypotheses to be tested.

“A sound understanding of the externally preserved fossilized tissue of Sinosauropteryx is crucial to resolving the differences in interpretation. If the tissue represents protofeathers, then it should comprise independent, freestanding filaments. Alternatively, if it represents structural fibres (excluding spines and bristles), then it should form part of a more inclusive structure, such as the dermis or a crest or frill.” (p.700)

For more, go here.

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3 Responses to The Taphonomy of Sinosauropteryx

  1. A sound understanding … is crucial to resolving the differences in interpretation

    You know, if that were possible in any sphere of inquiry then it is certain that we would not have political factions. Or any need for Democracy as we’d all be agreed on the obvious solutions already. Including the obvious solution that those problems that don’t have obvious solutions obviously cannot be solved obviously.

    Stating that it is ‘crucial to resolve differences in interpretation’ is simply an attempt at respectable clothing for enforced ideological purity.

  2. I am surprised to read the response of Maus. The paper being discussed is a contribution to science, and that is the context for understanding Lingham-Soliar’s quoted words. To develop a robust conceptual model that does justice to the observed data, we need to do our homework – we need to understand the processes associated with the data we are collecting.
    The discussion of entrenched political views does not negate the principle advanced by Lingham-Soliar, nor does it imply that it is an “attempt at respectable clothing for enforced ideological purity”. Rather, in science, we should keep the focus on testing alternative hypotheses – that should provide some checks against the quicksands of post-modernist analysis.

  3. David, I think you likely misunderstand me. I agree that the proper course is to have an eye to testing alternative hypotheses, specifically when they are contrary to one another. This is just a nod to efficiency as we can gain two birds with one stone. One must fall as erroneous, and we perform and experiment regardless. But theories are only particularly relevant in choosing what experiments to perform. Regardless of any given ‘why’ or ‘what if’ that led us to that choice, the experiment itself is always valid as an experiment.

    But if there are ‘differences in interpretation’ then we are either constructing different theories based on what we have at hand, or are speaking in conclusion beyond what we have at hand. The former is dandy while the latter is not. But in either case ‘resolving’ such differences is no more nor less than a plea for ‘consensus’. Which is little more from me than to agree with your lament at the arn.org post about the problems of ‘consensus science’.

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