Field of Science

The dinosaur in the church: bad journalism, media ingenuousness or paleontological publicity?

The presumed discovery of a skull in the limestone (presumably Broccatello-Formation or Rosso ammonitico, lower Jurassic) used in the construction of an Italian church has caused a lot interest and response in both international media and the blogosphere.
The news was reported on October 25. on the online version of the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica", claiming that it is in fact a dinosaur skull, and soon adopted by international sites like Discovery News (28. October). In both news releases the affinity of the fossil to dinosaurs is accented.
In the Italian version the discoverer, Italian Palaeontologist Andrea Tintori, is highly convinced that the fossil is the skull of an ichthyosaur or, much probable, from a dinosaur. In the English article he and the American palaeontologist Paul Sereno are much more cautious about the identification, nevertheless preferring a dinosaur.

However soon after the announcement the first doubts about the nature of the fossil arouse, the section according to the personal opinion of various experts and geobloggers remembers much more the section of a large ammonite shell, common fossils in this kind of rock.

It must be said that in case of doubt the defendant has to be considered innocent, however it seems to emerge that the presumed discovery was announced too easily, and the news report soon got out of control by the discoverer.
In the ongoing discussion about the veracity of the discovery now also unconfirmed rumours are emerging that the claim of a dinosaur skull was intended also as (sincerer) bait for the mass media, to lure their attention on the neglected palaeontology in Italy, and the nearby fossil site of Monte San Giorgo.

The discussion is ongoing, and the claims of both sides are based only on the superficial investigation of the rock slab or photos, however the dynamics that this story developed in the age of internet shows how careful such claims must be handled. It shows also that the general picture of palaeontology in the public is apparently limited on the association to "dinosaurs", and it is enough to put them in a news report to sell it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS