Paleonet: Paleontology and sensations

David Campbell pleuronaia at gmail.com
Mon Apr 16 16:19:58 GMT 2007


> I did a little survey of "Science" and "nature", counting the content of
> Paleo papers. What I found was little surprising: The search of
> "Paleontology" in "original research" without "comments" in "Science"
> 2000–2006 produced 94 hits, the largest part are reports about exceptional
> occurrences of fossils (41 articles), 17 of them about dinosaurs. "nature"
> was even more skewed: from 27 "Letters to Nature" and "Articles" 2005–2006
> with paleontological focus eight were on dinosaurs and eight on early man.
> Is this reflecting our field?
>
> It would be interesting to know if this focus, expressed in "nature" and
> "Science" coincides with highest impact Paleo-papers of that years. I would
> guess not. My assumption is that paleontology in  journals like "nature" and
> "Science", which are the prime interface between media and science, serves
> the demand for sensations that these journal need.

There's definitely some problems here.  The Science article just out
on proteins in T. rex bone was accompanied by a summary claiming that
"Soft tissues have been thought to be rarely if ever preserved in the
fossil record, aside from some samples entombed in amber or for a few
million years in ice"; news reports go further and claim preservation
of organic material is unheard of.  Have they never heard of
petroleum, Burgess-type preservation, durable organic skeletons, etc.?
 They probably haven't heard about bivalve ligaments, which would be
rather similar to collagen in being a durable, mineral-associated
protein, and which are known at least from the Ordovician as actual
traces of organic material.

-- 
Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"




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