October 6, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Dino Clawprints in the Sandstones of Time

Some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever found have been uncovered in France.  The BBC News has a picture of tracks nearly 5 feet across made by sauropods that weighed 30 tonnes.  Tracks of ornithischian dinosaurs in South Africa are being analyzed for clues to dinosaur behavior, reported Science Daily.  The team believes that tracks are sometimes more useful than skeletons.  They can provide information about locomotion, stance, behavior and direction.
    Speaking of skeletons, a “bizarre” tyrannosaurid was discovered in Mongolia.  Science Daily reported that the meat-eater had similarities to its giant relative but was more gracile and long-snouted.  “A new wrench has been thrown into the family tree of the tyrannosaurs,” the article said, because this species “shared the same environment with larger, predatory relatives.”  It also means that “there is a lot more anatomical and ecological variety in tyrannosaurs than we previously thought.”  Some news reports like New Scientist call it a “ballerina” of the dinosaur family.  The animal, named Alioramus, had pneumatized bones like other tyrannosaurs.  Mark Norell said, “This fossil reveals an entirely new body type among tyrannosaurs, a group we thought we understood pretty well.
    The South Africa footprint article and the Alioramus articles mention bird evolution.  New Scientist stated matter-of-factly, “Alioramus had air sacs running through the vertebrae in its neck and spine which it used for ultra-efficient breathingModern birds – descendants of the order of dinosaurs to which tyrannosaurs belong – are similarly designed.”  That article failed to say that the order of dinosaurs was the saurischian (lizard-hipped) group, not the ornithischian (bird-hipped) group.  It also neglected to mention a recent article that said the moving hips of dinosaurs would have been incompatible with the one-way breathing of birds (see 06/09/2009).  The trackway article hinted at the theory that dinosaurs learned flight by holding out their arms running up slopes (see 12/22/2003) – a cursorial hypothesis that runs counter to the latest feathered-dinosaur stories (see 10/01/2009).  The reporter also speculated, “But because their lineage is believed to have given rise to birds, the possibility that their gripping claws played a key role is interesting to consider,” because it would be necessary to grip the ground of an incline while running.
Update 10/09/2009: National Geographic News raised the possibility that “a third of dinosaur species never existed.”  Members of a species may undergo dramatic morphological changes during maturation.  These could be misinterpreted by paleontologists as separate species.

The bones and tracks are real, but the stories are fake.  Round up the storytellers and help them learn science.  The scientific method does not include making up stories of chance miracles and playing games of connect the dots.  If they want to do real science, they should run up slopes in crampons with their arms outstretched and see if flight evolves.

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Categories: Birds, Dinosaurs, Fossils

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