January 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Who Laid a Fossil Egg?

51; The news media are all excited that a pterosaur fossil has been found with an egg – a very rare association.  To the media, like the BBC News, this can only mean one thing: the pterosaur was a female, and now they can differentiate female and male pterosaur fossils.  They affectionately named the fossil, a member of the genus Darwinopterus, “Mrs. T.”  See also the reports and pictures at National Geographic, PhysOrg, and Live Science, which speculated further, saying: “Now scientists have discovered a female pterosaur preserved together with one of her eggs, shedding light on what the reproductive strategies of these reptiles might have been like.  These new findings reveal that pterosaur eggs and nests may not have been birdlike after all.”

Actually, it was Daddy Darwinopterus taking his turn sitting on the egg.  Back then, you see, pterosaurs shared parenting responsibilities.  How do we know?  We don’t, and neither do the reporters.  The scientists are probably right in their assessment, but one cannot know such things for sure without having been there.
    Far be it from the media to exercise restraint or critical thinking.  Beware the hubris of scientists, especially when they name their fossils after Darwin – the Grand Wizard of Storytelling (12/22/2003).

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