Paring Down the Data
- Any ratios must be calculated for individual specimens, not from Frankensteinian averages of elements from different specimens. It is OK to average ratios across specimens, just not the raw measurements.
- Extremely young juveniles should be excluded, as they may differ in body proportions from adults of the same or closely related species.
With this in mind, I’ve started to go through the data set to flag obviously small juveniles. I would propose that we use body size rather than sexual maturity or LAGs as an indicator. Recent studies (e.g., this one on pachycephalosaurs by Horner and Goodwin) have shown that some near-adult size dinosaurs are probably not fully mature. I suggest that we assume that the limb proportions approximate those of adults sufficiently in these individuals (even if the skull morphology doesn’t). This will allow us to keep a few interesting taxa in. For instance, Fruitadens is not fully adult, but probably pretty close to it (according to histology; see the original paper). It’d be a shame to ignore the world’s smallest known ornithischian!
This is pretty straightforward for taxa known from only single specimens of obviously young juveniles (e.g., Avaceratops, Nipponosaurus, etc.). These taxa can be pretty safely removed.
What about animals like Stegosaurus armatus, where we have many specimens of various sizes, from tiny to gigantic? Here, I suggest cutting the specimens that are smaller than 2/3 the size of the largest specimen in one or more measurements (modifying a suggestion from William Miller). This 2/3 is a completely arbitrary cut-off, but I feel that it removes the smallest individuals while recognizing that indeterminate growth means adults can have a range of sizes.
As an example, the longest Stegosaurus femur, from YPM 1853, is 1,334 mm in length. Two-thirds of this is 889 mm, so any specimen with a femur smaller than this would be cut. This includes YPM 1856 (883 mm), DNM 2438 (308 mm), and many more. Of course, we can use our judgment for specimens close to the line. Because some specimens lack a femur, we would look at other elements (e.g., the humerus) to narrow the sample down more.
This elimination method will give us a rarefied data set, with the most egregious juveniles out of the picture. I suggest that we then use the average of the ratios from the trimmed sample for further analysis. In cases where we need actual bone lengths, I suggest using the largest specimen with sufficiently complete data necessary for the analysis.
For Everyone to Check
Following these criteria, I have posted a new Google spreadsheet here. It has two worksheets. The first, titled “To Analyze” (you can find the tabs along the bottom of the screen), has specimens that should be considered for removal marked with a greenish color. Do you agree? Disagree? See another specimen that should be removed? Let me know in the comments.
The second worksheet, titled “Deletion Candidates,” has specimens and taxa that I think should be excluded from the final analysis. The reasoning is given in the final column. Examples include, “can’t match with actual specimen” (for cases where it looks like derivative data given without citation that couldn’t be tied to a particular specimen), “non-diagnostic taxon of uncertain affinity” (should be obvious), etc. Once again, please check it over. Do you agree? Disagree? Say something in the comments here.