Ornithischian Limb-Bone Project Of The Decade

September 8, 2009

Matt and I, working with Andy Farke (the Open Source Paleontologist) are delighted to announce a new project that we’re all very excited about.  Normally we wouldn’t talk about work that’s only just starting — we prefer to wait until a paper is out, or at least in review, before talking about it — but this one is different, because we want YOU to help write it.

How can this be?

Get yourself over to The Open Dinosaur Project and find out!


In a nutshell, we want to crowdsource the process of gathering a big database of limb measurements from ornithischian dinosaurs.  Using the gathered data, we will use statistical techniques to see what can be discovered about the multiple transitions from bipedality to quadrupedality, and write up the results for the open-access journal PLoS ONE.  Everyone who contributes to the data-gathering will be an author on the paper, and we’ll make the database freely available to anyone else who wants to use it for other studies.

Can it work?  Are we crazy?  Who can tell?  We’ll find out over the next year.  See the project web-site for much more detail!


The Open Dinosaur Project is also being discussed by:

… We’ll add more as they turn up.

10 Responses to “Ornithischian Limb-Bone Project Of The Decade”

  1. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    in before the crowd….

    and WFT is this perversion? stinkin’ ornithischians???????????

    expect some Dryosaurus (Dysalotosaurus) data

  2. Tor Bertin Says:

    I’m thinking of a certain project involving sauropods and theropods that would benefit from something similar… ;-)

    Seriously though, this rocks. I’m gonna talk to some friends in Colorado with a partial (50%?) complete Pachycephalosaurus skeleton that might help shed some light on the genus (given that published postcranial info on the specimen is essentially absent).

  3. […] Andy Farke, Matt Wedel and Mike Taylor want to do just that: We want to put together a paper on the multiple independent transitions from […]

  4. 220mya Says:


    Remember that all measurements need to come from a recognized repository – ethical guidelines that the project leaders adhere to as members of SVP mean they cannot publish on specimens in private collections.

  5. Tor Bertin Says:

    Does that have to be strictly based within a university, or can private institutes with a fully public display be used?


  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Accredited museums only — if in doubt about a particular institution, ask the SVP about it — whether JVP would publish descriptions of specimens held there. If yes, the the ODP wants limb-bone measurements from it. If not, then measurements are not testable and reproducible, so we can’t use them.

  7. Tor Bertin Says:

    Okay, cool. These guys are something akin to the Black Hills Institute, so I know some of the SVP has some bad blood with them; so it may be best to just let it lie.

    Unfortunate given the rarity of the material, though.

  8. 220mya Says:

    To clarify, these don’t have to be fully public institutions. There are plenty of well-known privately funded museums. The key here is the long-term care and ownership of the specimen, and collections accessibility to qualified researchers. The number one thing is – who owns the specimens? Do the specimens belong to the museum institution in perpetuity, or are they still owned by a for-profit company or private individual, and risk being sold, etc. Does the museum have a plan to properly curate the specimens in another institution if, for example, the current repository has to close its doors?

  9. Tor Bertin Says:

    Understandable. I’m not 100% certain about the exact logistics, but I believe they currently hold the original bone material and sell casts to other museums. I didn’t ask them about a chain of command in the off chance they close down, but I’m relatively certain that they’re quite open to curious researchers.

    I’ll send one of their workers an e-mail to find out for sure, though.

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