Field of Science

Let's Have Less of Les

Tom Holtz of the University of Maryland has confirmed via the Dinosaur Mailing List that the fossil animal introduced in the last post as Les is a snafu. The authors of Les intended for their manuscript to be submitted online to Nature, and its arrival on Nature Precedings was a mistake. There is every possibility that the name given to Les in the manuscript will change before publication (pity, I rather liked the name they'd given), and the reviewers may actually recommend that the authors do just that. It is not uncommon practice for reviewers to recommend that authors not use names that are leaked to the public in some way before publication - I suppose to distance the finished product from the rumour mill, though personally I think it probably confuses things even more.

Still, the very fact that such slips can happen so easily just reinforces everything I said in the last post about the need to discuss how the internet affects our concepts of publication, and whether or not we need to adjust our concepts of how to determine priority accordingly.


  1. People seem to be thinking that the version that appeared at Nature Precedings was pre-review. Nope, post-review. The final version should appear soon. Unfortunately, no-one will act surprised when it does.

  2. So if it's post-review, can I assume that the majority of the information contained within will not change?

  3. Hopefully not too much, but better not to assume anything until the final version appears. As my ex-partner used to say, "Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups".

  4. Well, I ask because I'm trying to draw the critter, and it's proving difficult. The text isn't that descriptive as to where stuff is. Some kind of membranous structure? With feathers sticking out of it? I don't get it. Is it like a pterosaur-dinosaur?...with feathers?

  5. I think from memory that the feathers are meant to be membranous, though I'm not entirely sure what that means - are the babs fused to each other proximal to the rachis? The original manuscript appears to have been withdrawn from Nature Precedings, and I didn't save a copy.

    You might want to check the DML archives. This fossil has been being discussed under the thread title "weird jurassic dinobird with very weird feathers", and some of the things people have written there might help. Also, some people on that thread have suggested that a couple of the bones in the photo were misidentified or mislabelled.

  6. Interestingly enough, the National Geographic story from a week or so ago on this fossil seems to have also been pulled from its site.

    Once bitten, twice bitten? ;-)

  7. Jaime A. Headden5 October 2008 at 10:31

    Zach and Chris,

    The authors are likely referring to the theory, proposed by Theagarten-Soliar, Feduccia and so forth, which argues that the filamentous structures are collagenous in nature and were embedded in a structure resembling a frill. Being found in sediments formed under water are supposed to support this, for some bizarre reason. There are too many problems with Theagarten-Soliar's argument, which even Darren made allusions to when considering his work on ichthyosaur skin, that lend this theory highly dubious based solely on the "agitated collagen" argument they and Jones et al. are trying to use to contradict feathers in dinosaurs.


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