Here's a place where I can post my thoughts on new papers, provide updates on my projects, and post info that will eventually be on my website The Theropod Database - http://theropoddatabase.com/ . It will center on theropods, but may delve into other topics as well such as phylogenetics.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Haplocheirus the Jurassic alvarezsaur is coming
While I prepare an official blog post on Haplocheirus (skeletal above from Choiniere et al., 2010), the new basal alvarezsaur, there are a couple comments I want to make. The abstract states it "confirms that this group is a basal member of Maniraptora, the clade containing birds and their closest theropod relatives," but their matrix finds alvarezsaurs sister to ornithomimosaurs with the addition of ONE extra step. One measley step finds Sereno's hypothesis to be supported. That's not confirmation of anything. That's basically ambiguous. In fact, excluding Haplocheirus from the analysis actually results in trees where alvarezsaurs are not placed as basally as they are in some of the trees from the full analysis, so it makes the clade more basally placed if anything. But wait, in the supplementary info they REDEFINE Maniraptora. Now all of a sudden, Maniraptora is "Ornitholestes, Archaeopteryx, their most common recent ancestor and all of its descendants." I know Phylocode isn't official yet, but why change a definition after over a decade of stability and consistancy? Everyone agrees alvarezsaurs are maniraptorans under that definition (just check out Sereno's trees and my website's phylogeny). Hell, ornithomimosaurs are (otherwise impossibly) maniraptorans under that definition in my tree. In any case, I'm adding Haplocheirus to my coelurosaur supermatrix along with all of the supposed arctometatarsalian and bird characters of alvarezsaurids and we'll see what that says today or Friday. Maybe they'll be unambiguously maniraptoran, but it won't be because I change the definition of the latter clade.
Choiniere, Xu, Clark, Forster, Guo and Han, 2010. A basal alvarezsauroid theropod from the Early Late Jurassic of Xinjiang,China. Science. 327, 571-574. DOI: 10.1126/science.1182143