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The study is far from conclusive.

Other scientists have commented on the study. It will take time for other papers to be published. In the meantime, the listserves on dinosaur paleontology have been quite critical of the study. Here are a few points from one post on the work of Feduccia's, Lingham-Soliar's, and Hinchliffe's from:

"1) Despite David Marjanovic's assertation that Lingham-Soliar is an authority on collagen, little of that expertise is evident in this paper. To begin with, they never actually provide a method (e.g. morphology, chemistry, etc) to distinguish fossil collagenous tissue from other fiberous tissues in vertebrate bodies (e.g. muscle and elastic tissues)."

A consistent methodology would be nice. If you read the paper, you get lots of pictures and lots of statements saying, "this looks like collagen fibers to me". No analysis or testing was done on this basis.

"2) Establishing that the structures are either dermal or epidermal (or less superficial altogether), and either muscular, elastic, or collagenous is problematic on all the fibers preserved in IVPP V12415...To claim that these fibers (which look different from the type specimen) are homologous with the structures seen in other specimens without the type of detailed comparison that the authors' themselves decry in other studies(!) is beyond careless: it's special pleading."

So the authors say it kind of looks like something I have seen before but don't actually go through the process of comparing the Sinosauropteryx with this other something. No analysis is done. We just take there word for it, I guess.

"3) Taphonomy... speaking of special pleading... The paper attacks previous authors for ignoring the roll of taphonomy, and then...completely ignores the taphonomy of their specimens! For example, they repeatedly refer to the possible roll of wind and water "erosion" to play a roll in breaking down connective tissue into the appearance of insulatory structures, but don't even make a passing mention of the actual depositional environment of these specimens. Since current consensus is they are from low-energy fine-grained shallow lakebed sediments there is no evidence of significant water currents (it would take a lot to break down collagen) and wind seems unlikely underwater, to say the least."

If it is indeed explained as collagenous, it is going to take some explaining as to why it would break down as they claim. The environment that it was fossilized in does not seem to fit their scenario, and they don't even bother to try to explain it.

"4) They also show a photograph (Fig 4) of the tail of NIGP 127587. Despite claims in the paper, the photograph shows a dorsally located layer (apparently) consisting of dino-fuzz style insulatory structures, and a ventral layer of rigorously parallel non-epidermal fibers that are clearly not dino-fuzz (the taphonomy does not distinguish between collagen/elastin/muscle fiber hypotheses in this specimen like it does in IVPP P12415). Unless it is a trick of the lighting, the photograph seems to indicate the epidermal/insulatory layer is preserved on a more superficial layer of rock than the collagen/muscles fibers are. Worse yet, the proto-fuzz type fibers clearly extend down most of the way past the tail, indicating it is not a midline stucture."

The photos in the paper seem to show dino-fuzz and the authors simply ignore it. The original paper mentioned these structures occurring in several locations besides the midline. The paper does not address this which would seem to be a very significant hole in their case.

"5) Finally, the tone of the paper is inexcusible (to me). Even ignoring the hypocrasy[sic] of chastizing previous studies for failure to consider taphonomy and do proper comparative work...while ignoring taphonomy (if not outright contradicting it) and failing to do detailed compartive work, the intro and conclusion is rife with phrases urging us to avoid "recourse to arbitrary conjectures on feather origins" (discussion section) that "strengthened the resolve of many palaeontologists that
birds are direct descendents of theropod dinosaurs." (introduction) This type of pejorative wording is distasteful enough on cable news shows; it has no place in scientific publications (well, perhaps in an editorial).

In summary, the paper spends a lot of time accusing other studies of the same flaws it commits. The paper fails to make a good case that the fibers of IVPP V12415 are collagenous (especially the cervical tissues) or epidermal in nature. It fails to link the fibers in IVPP V12415 to the proposed proto-feathers of the type specimen, and in fact presents a photograph that appears to contradict the idea. They fail to provide a plausible mechanism that would decompose collagenous tissue into the appearance of insulatory strucutres, and the mechanisms they do postulate directly contradict the actual taphonomy of the specimens.

Hopefully this paper will be the stimulus for further research into the nature of the fibers preserved in Sinosauropteryx, feathered dinosaurs, mammals, etc. from Liaoning. In the meantime, let's all strive to write more papers taht are more responsible than this one, regardless of conclusions.

Scott Hartman
Science Director
Wyoming Dinosaur Center"

The paper you cite has plenty of flaws. It is far from the final word on Sinosauropteryx and its interesting structures. The authors clearly feel their case has been made and have been quite forceful (nasty) in the manner they have expressed this belief. Yet, they seem to commit the sins of which they accuse others - in spades.

Excuse me if I question their motives, methods and conclusions. The burden was theirs (and yours), and they failed to meet it.

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