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So, this morning, I woke up to some excellent news. PeerJ had accepted our* new manuscript to their journal, & it was formally published this morning.

*Whaddya mean "our"? Well, this manuscript was not just my own doing. This is a project started all the way back in late 2010/11 as an SVP abstract/presentation, and a few years back I re-visited it with :iconbricksmashtv:
Gunnar Bivens.

We've worked very hard though, since December, to get this pushed out finally this year. That means... technically we're published scientists now!

This paper is on the enigmatic Ruyangosaurus, a poorly known lognkosaurian (yes, that hypothesis is correct) from the mid-Cretaceous of China. And yes, it likely is China's biggest dinosaur, given that it would outmass "Mamenchisaurus" sinocanadorum substantially, and that the latter is apparently known only from "a couple of cervicals" since GSP's confession. The dataset we assembled references the data matrices from a number of recent papers including Gonzalez-Riga et. al., 2016 (the Notocolossus paper), and so far the characters for Ruyangosaurus put it firmly in lognkosauria. The previous assignations of this giant to "Andesauridae" or "non-titanosaur somphospondyli" were based on a very limited number of basal characters common to most titanosaurs and/or most titanosauriforms, but there was very little mention of the derived characters of Ruyangosaurus.

Here's a taste of the goodness: the second dorsal in glorious high-resolution-
Ruyangosaurus D2.jpg
Fig. 1.

The full citation, as well as the link, is below:
Sassani N, Bivens GT. (2017The Chinese colossus: an evaluation of the phylogeny of Ruyangosaurus giganteus and its implications for titanosaur evolutionPeerJ Preprints5:e2988v1 doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprint…

We've already received comments, & any more are always welcome to help out!

**So why did I say technically? Well, this was published as a preprint, which means it's not formally peer reviewed yet. It is, however, a valid piece of the scientific literature and contains a literal mountain of data, & therefore valuable nonetheless.
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:iconron14:
Ron14 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2018
Nice!
Question I also asked somewhere else on your deviant site: does this study also include the exceptionally large (posterior?) dorsal with a centrum of over 60 cm (68 cm?)?
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Edited Jan 8, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
No, but the new revised skeletal does: Ruyangosaurus giganteus Mk-II by Paleo-King
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:iconyty2000:
yty2000 Featured By Owner May 31, 2017
Did you get to examine the fossil in person?
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:iconanonymousllama428:
AnonymousLlama428 Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice!
Damn, you must know a lot about this stuff. Like, yeah.
So, do you use software to form phylogenetic trees?
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
Yes we use softwares. Mainly programs like TNT and Mesquite. PAUP is also pretty good, if you have the $$$ for it, or your university has it available.

Our data matrix is around 400 phylogenic characters which is pretty damn huge, in fact there are only one or two sauropod papers out that have more characters. We plan to add more characters and species based on the input of the top experts in the field.
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:iconanonymousllama428:
AnonymousLlama428 Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
So you didn't work with any professional organisation? How'd you get the fossils? Did you go to China?
Did you use multiple programs to obtain concordant results or did you only use one? What are "characters" and how are they determined?
How did you distinguish homology from homoplasy?

Sorry, I want to learn more about phylogenetics, particularly methods.
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
Characters are diagnostic features in the bones. Most of ours came from Gonzalez-Riga, et. al. 2016 (the Notocolossus paper). We just added more species.

This is a complex subject, you may want to read a blog by some PhDs who regularly do these analyses to get all of the details - like the SV-POW blog.
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:iconanonymousllama428:
AnonymousLlama428 Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, I see. So are characters gathered as quantitative or qualitative data?
Yeah, I really feel the need to learn more, but school and mother aspects of real life are kinda getting in the way. Plus being a closeted "evolutionist" in a creationist household.....
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 27, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
That must be tough. Interesting thing about SV-POW is that Dr. Mike Taylor is both a Christian and an "evolutionist" and actually has a pretty nuanced view of these things. Again, I highly recommend that blog for anything sauropod related. Even though I don't always agree with Mike, Matt and Darren on everything, they do solid science and make for solid respectable debate every time I do disagree with them.

Characters are 100% quantitative. Most are scored as "0" or "1" depending on whether the character state is "absent" or "present" in that species for that character.

There is nothing qualitative about characters, no character is ever "weighted" more significantly than another. Whether it's considered a basal or derived character depends on how widely it is shared with other dinosaurs and how it stacks up in the overall matrix, i.e. the most basal traits are the ones that everybody has, the most derived ones are the rarest and furthest up the family tree.
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:iconanonymousllama428:
AnonymousLlama428 Featured By Owner May 28, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm well aware of Mike Taylor's Christianity - we're both users on Quora, in fact, he's the guy who introduced me to sci-hub. Yeah, my knowledge is quite hazy and run-of-the-mill in regards to anything that isn't part of my extremely niche area of Eurasian Pleistocene "expertise".

Oh, so individual idiosyncrasies in morphology?
OK. So, you would determine these characters by examining corresponding bones, and determining whether one character is present in one or more species? You would also class convergent traits separately, yes?
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 28, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
Characters are hardly "individual idiosyncrasies". They are basic morphological features in a species that are not due to individual variation.

This may seem tricky when you have only one specimen for a particular species, but characters like the size and position of the 4th trochanter or the presence of specific laminae on the dorsals, is not due to individual idiosyncrasy. These features are common across a species.

Also in sauropods there isn't a lot of individual variation, aside from ontogenic variation (and obviously not counting crushing). So all characters are treated equally. Including things that turn out to be convergent.

You don't class convergent traits any differently in a data matrix. In fact you don't even assume anything is convergent or not, you just compile the data and run it through the computer. If you have a large enough data matrix of characters and species (ideally you want at least 50 species and 300 characters to really get accurate results) then convergences will reveal themselves naturally. You can guess about convergence, but you only prove convergence for certain through a big sample of characters and specimens.

For example there are some "derived" features that appear in both mamenchisaurs and euhelopodids, such as bifurcated neural spines in the lower neck, and similar femur shapes... these initially led paleontologists to lump the two families together. However, more recent analyses that did a more detailed inventory of their basal and intermediate traits, showed that mamenchisaurs and euhelopodids were NOT closely related, but actually evolved these things convergently. They have more differences than similarities when all of the basal and intermediate characters are compared. Euhelopodids are titanosauriforms that have several derived features like camellae, high replacement tooth bud counts, pneumatic ribs, titanosauriform patterns of vertebral laminae, titanosauriform patterns of sacral count and sacral rib positioning, etc..... that just happen to superficially resemble mamenchisaurs due to some similar re-evolved derived features.

But the bulk of their characters (the ones shared with their closest kin) are different. They are "two different pyramids" with different bases so to speak. Mamenchisaur basal traits overlap closest with "cetiosaurs" whereas  the basal traits of euhelopodids overlap closest with brachiosaurs, titanosaurs, chubutisaurs, etc. but it turns out that these two very different lineages evolved a similar general body plan with things like bifid neural spines, REALLY long necks with high vertebra counts, etc... but take a closer look and many of the smaller-scale or less noticeable features of these bones (laminae, pleurocoels, pneumatization, tooth socket structure, metacarpal profiles, etc.) are actually very different. And their sacrum structures are radically different. So you need to compile as many diagnostic characters as possible, not just the obvious ones. A lot of times the more basic "building block" characters that show the family roots of a species, aren't instantly obvious.
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(1 Reply)
:iconkirkseven:
kirkseven Featured By Owner May 24, 2017
Nice work.
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:iconelsqiubbonator:
ElSqiubbonator Featured By Owner May 24, 2017
If Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum is only known from a couple of cervicals, then what is the skeletal mount in Japan made out of?
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 24, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
GSP says it's only a couple cervicals. I suspect there is more material but that it's not holotypic (it's a meaningless distinction because it may be from the same individual).

The Tokyo mount does appear to incorporate casts of additional material. However the dorsals do appear to be pure sculpts, not casts of bones. So the size may be exaggerated. It may even be a composite of various specimens not yet described. The only certain fact for now is that GSP has backed off his original emphasis of this species and his original skeletal. We can't really say anything about its size for certain at this point.
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:iconelsqiubbonator:
ElSqiubbonator Featured By Owner May 24, 2017
Argentinosaurus syndrome strikes again.
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner May 24, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
Or possibly Bruhathkayosaurus syndrome...
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:iconrizkiusmaulanae:
RizkiusMaulanae Featured By Owner May 26, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
Nothing beats Amphicoelias fragillimus syndrome
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:iconspinoinwonderland:
SpinoInWonderland Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2017
That syndrome is beaten hard by Bruhathkayosaurus syndrome by so much that it's like comparing the mass of a tennis ball to that of R136a1.
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:icondinolove453:
dinolove453 Featured By Owner May 24, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Listen, I get you're just an economist, so you never really learned all this, and that's okay, it's not your fault, but here's a little tidbit from an actual PhD student in biology:

See, publication really only matters because of this little process called "peer review." I see you're already familiar with it, but I don't think you really understand why it's so important. See, peer review ensures that you're not talking out of your ass. Other scientists - typically a diverse group including people who definitely aren't biased towards you - read over your work, check your methodology, that sort of thing. Then, they tell the publication what you have to correct! It's really great, see, because that's how we can check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. And then, usually, the authors have to do a bunch of corrections, and then send it back, and it goes back and forth until it's finally ready for publication!

And even then, you know, you're not necessarily an "important" factor in science, because you see, it's not actually THAAAT hard to get published in certain journals. I mean, we aaaall know of cases of people getting published by working the system. There are plenty of disreputable journals who will just take your money and let you say whatever crap you want. I mean you work with titanosaurs, right? Surely you're aware of this guy named Malkani who really likes to just vomit out taxa based off of interestingly shaped rocks.

Now, PeerJ isn't like that, so if your paper is accepted, great! But it isn't yet, so it isn't part of the literature, and it's still a hypothesis that is neither proven nor disproven (and, well, you know, in science, a hypothesis can never truly be proven. There's this little thing in science that we never REALLY know anything, but if we gain a LOT of knowledge for something, then we call it a theory! But you're still a few steps behind that yet). But you know, I wouldn't count your chickens until they hatch. As far as I can see, you have a loooot of sauropod paleontologists out there doubting your work, and I mean, that's good, you can learn from this, and become a better scientist. But you should definitely listen to what they have to say, that's part of the learning process you know :)
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:iconalgoroth:
Algoroth Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2017  Professional General Artist
Are you a condescentionist? Nima knows his stuff. I sincerely doubt you're raising even one point of science protocol he hasn't thought of a thousand times.
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Edited May 24, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
You're making a lot of assumptions about things that we haven't even done. We are well aware of peer-review, the difference between preprints and peer-review, etc. ... "you never really learned all this" really? where do you get that from? Did you and I go to school together? And how many "economists" do you know, to judge that any economist is ignorant of "all of this"?

"And even then, you know, you're not necessarily an "important" factor in science, because you see, it's not actually THAAAT hard to get published in certain journals. I mean, we aaaall know of cases of people getting published by working the system. There are plenty of disreputable journals who will just take your money and let you say whatever crap you want."

Again, you're preaching to the choir. When did I use the words "important factor"? We know all about nepotism, and we know about disreputable/predatory journals as well - which is why we didn't go that route.

"See, peer review ensures that you're not talking out of your ass. Other scientists - typically a diverse group including people who definitely aren't biased towards you - read over your work, check your methodology, that sort of thing. Then, they tell the publication what you have to correct! It's really great, see, because that's how we can check ourselves before we wreck ourselves."

My my, a bit personal and heated for a PhD student, aren't we? I know they aren't necessarily biased against me either. I get along just fine with most scientists, and a taxonomic revision of one species is hardly comparable to a denial of all peer-reviewed science. You're not talking to David Peters or Brian J. Ford. That said, peer-reviewed science is far from monolithic as regards titanosaur taxonomy. Most papers contain 3 or 4 alternate phylogenies.

"Surely you're aware of this guy named Malkani who really likes to just vomit out taxa based off of interestingly shaped rocks. "

Of course sweetie. I was the first person to talk about his errors on the web back in 2010, when hardly anyone in the field was saying a word about him because they hadn't seen the photos. A bit odd that you know of Malkani, but you don't know who it was that first exposed Malkani, isn't it? In any case our paper is based 100% on real species that have already been published in peer review, with all references cited, and we did not use any non-diagnostic material or "interestingly shaped rocks". Read the paper and look up the specimen numbers. They are all valid taxa. Malkani's work has nothing in common with ours.

"and, well, you know, in science, a hypothesis can never truly be proven. There's this little thing in science that we never REALLY know anything, but if we gain a LOT of knowledge for something, then we call it a theory! But you're still a few steps behind that yet"

Yes, we all know how the scientific method works. No need to lecture us. At the same time, this isn't merely a bare hypothesis, We have a 400+ character dataset primarily based on the MASSIVE Notocolossus matrix (Gonzalez-Riga et. al., 2016) and Wilson's 2002 matrix. Both of which are peer-reviewed. It's not like we fudged all their data for them or something. We didn't cherry-pick, we analyzed the evidence as it stood. Read the paper.

"As far as I can see, you have a loooot of sauropod paleontologists out there doubting your work, and I mean, that's good, you can learn from this, and become a better scientist. But you should definitely listen to what they have to say, that's part of the learning process you know"

Yes, I know what a learning process is. It's nothing new. And we were never planning to ignore what they have to say. Nobody is trying to pass off a preprint as anything other than a preprint. Actually we only have a few paleontologists commenting on our work at present, and we have responded to their concerns - not sure where your "loooot" comes from. Most sauropod paleontologists aren't even dealing with titanosaurs, I've heard nothing from Tschopp, Carpenter, Mateus, Benson, Curtice, or most of the well-known sauropod researchers. Very few paleontologists have expressed a strong opinion on Ruyangosaurus either way, it's rather obscure in the literature. And yes, we always take paleontologists' input into consideration, those few who have commented on our paper have been very professional. Try reading the paper instead of making strawmen or personal attacks. ;)
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:iconsaurornithoides:
Saurornithoides Featured By Owner May 24, 2017
Screenshot by Saurornithoides  
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:iconlevibernardo13:
LeviBernardo13 Featured By Owner May 24, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
Congrats Nima!
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:iconevodolka:
Evodolka Featured By Owner May 24, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
awesome :clap:
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:iconmajestic-colossus:
Majestic-Colossus Featured By Owner May 24, 2017
It makes me really excited for a possible reconstruction of Ruyangosaurus!
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