December 21, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Divining Dino Dining

Some of those big, fierce-looking dinosaurs—cousins to T. rex—could have been vegetarians.  That’s a paradigm-shaking announcement being made by PhysOrg, Science Daily, and Live Science: “Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Not So Carnivorous After All.”  The revision is based on information from the Field Museum of Chicago.
    A similar article on PhysOrg laments that one of Australia’s prized meat-eaters is being “forced to take a walk” – it’s apparently a vegan, too.  Rather than abandon the evolutionary story, the authors are revising parts of it.  Lindsay Zanno put it this way: “Most theropods are clearly adapted to a predatory lifestyle, but somewhere on the line to birds, predatory dinosaurs went soft.”  But later, she admitted, “Its [sic] time to start seeing these animals in a new evolutionary context.”  No other possible context was mentioned.
    Various evolutionary subplots went on from there; the evolution of toothless beaks, etc. – e.g., “Besides losing teeth and evolving beaks, the researchers found that as several lineages of coelurosaur turned to plant eating, they also evolved longer necks, which may have helped the animals to expand their browsing range.”  “The ability to eat plant materials may have played a pivotal role in allowing coelurosaurian dinosaurs to achieve such remarkable species diversity,” Zanno claimed, “but more study is needed to understand what role dietary shifts may play in evolutionary processes.
    Another dinosaur diviner, Patrick O’Conner [Ohio University College], was interviewed by Live Science: “Paleontologist Investigates Ancestors of Crocs and Birds.”  O’Conner divulged a lot about his taste in music and movies, and his travels and sources of inspiration, but little about the evidence that dinosaurs evolved from an ancestor.  When asked what are the most important characteristics for a researcher, he said, “A considerable amount of creativity combined with healthy dose of passion.  An effective researcher is always thinking on his or her toes, whether it is at the lab bench or in the field setting, and it goes without saying that researchers must absolutely love whatever it is they are investigating!”  Those are undoubtedly prime qualities for a traveling, movie-watching musician.

You, too, can have a satisfying career making up stories, looking at divining bones, and watching movies and playing music.  Not only that, everyone will like you and treat everything you say like an oracle from the gods.  Whenever necessary, you can change the story a little to keep your adoring followers (the science reporters) on the edge of their seats with each new twist of the plot.  Why have everybody hate you?  Don’t associate with those despised ID people who insist on evidence.  That’s no fun.  Follow the crowd through the gate that is wide and the way that is broad.

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