November 17, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Dinosaur Fossils Flaunt Physics

Recent announcements about dinosaurs show that even the large ones exhibited physics fitness.  Their size did not inhibit their mobility.

  1. T. rex racer:  Maybe Jurassic Park got it right after all.  According to Science Daily, “Tyrannosaurus rex was far from a plodding Cretaceous era scavenger whose long tail only served to counterbalance the up-front weight of its freakishly big head.”  A grad student at the University of Alberta studied the muscle attachments in the rib cage and tail and compared them to Komodo dragons and crocodiles.  He concluded that the monster could outrun any other animal in its hunting grounds.
  2. Flying giraffe:  Only a children’s storybook author would claim a giraffe could launch itself into the sky, but apparently some pterosaurs as large as giraffes did just Live Science reported, “Giraffe-sized pterosaurs may have pole-vaulted with their arms to launch themselves, just as vampire bats do, scientists now suggest.”  Contrary to previous ideas that they would have had to get a running start or jump from cliffs, the new study at University of Portsmouth suggests they could have “pole-vaulted” themselves from a standing position, using their front limbs, to get high enough to flap their enormous wings and fly – pretty good for an animal weighing 500 pounds or more.  A researcher, who was amazed at the tremendous size and power of these creatures, said, “Pterosaurs had incredibly strong skeletons – for their weight, they’re probably amongst the strongest ever evolved.
        New Scientist includes a video clip of the proposed launching mechanism.  The BBC News also reported on this story, and included a short audio interview with one of the scientists.
  3. Free-range dinosaurs:  The turkey you prepare for Thanksgiving may be a model animal for how some dinosaurs ran, according to Live Science.  Nobody knows if dinosaur meat tasted like turkey, but another article posted on PhysOrg reported the discovery of juvenile dinosaur footprints in Colorado near Denver.  According to the discoverers, “Speedy the Sauropod” was running like a scalded turkey when it made the tracks.

France’s biggest dinosaur cache was announced by Science Daily.  Found this January, the quarry, covering several hundred square meters, includes large sauropods, five predators, and aquatic reptiles like turtles and crocodiles.  Some 400 bones have been uncovered since excavations began at the end of summer.  “The find is all the more exceptional as the bones are not only present in large numbers, but are also remarkably well preserved, having been buried rapidly” under alluvial sediments of a Quaternary river in Lower Cretaceous strata.  Similar dinosaur graveyards have been found in Britain and Spain, the article said.

Were dinosaurs primitive animals on the way to becoming smart, like humans?  No; they were incredibly well designed, powerful and successful.  And they all died suddenly, often buried in mass graves.  If it weren’t for the evolutionary scenario imposed on the data, a very different picture of their origins and extinctions might be proposed.  What was Speedy running from?  Why are so many mashed together in water-borne sediments?  Why must we be told Darwin takes credit for explaining them?  “They’re probably amongst the strongest ever evolved” – good grief.

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Fossils, Physics

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