July 24, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

News About Your Favorite Dinosaurs

T. Rex, Triceratops and other stars of the age of dinosaurs have made news lately.  Here are some recent dinosaur findings.

Predator or scavenger?  Debates about T. Rex’s eating habits have raged for years.  Was it a hunter, like the terror in Jurassic Park, or scavenger, picking the meat off dead prey?  Evidence of a bite in a hadrosaur backbone seems to indicate the prey was alive when the king’s tooth bit into it, says a video clip on Live Science.  But that’s just one data point, “the least you can have,” one skeptic cautions.

Tooth conveyor belt:  Some huge sauropods may have replaced their teeth every month.  Science Now said that analysis of “well-preserved fossils” of Camarasaurus and Diplodocus led scientists at Stony Brook University to estimate the beasts replaced their teeth every 62 days and 35 days, respectively.  The fossilized dentin shows rows of material ready to replace teeth worn down by their heavy diet of plant material.  Science Daily added some Darwin from a researcher: “At least twice during their evolution, sauropods evolved small, peg-like teeth that formed and replaced quickly,” said Dr. Michael D’Emic. “This characteristic may have led to the evolutionary success of sauropods.”  The BBC News refrained from the e-word, merely stating that analysis of teeth can reveal feeding habits.

Big new ceratopsian:  The name Nasutoceratops probably doesn’t roll out of a kid’s memory bank, but a large new horned dinosaur with that label has been found in Utah.  “It belonged to the family of herbivore ceratops dinos, of which the famous triple-horned triceratops was a member,” PhysOrg reported, claiming the location of the fossil “sheds light” on moving continents.  One mystery remains, however: how did two dozen large animals coexist on a landmass?  Africa, with four times the area of the assumed continent of Laramidia, has only five large mammals.  Also unknown is the purpose of the four-meter-long dinosaur’s oversize snout.

Battle of the boneheads:  More evidence that bone-headed dinosaurs like pachycephalosaur butted heads like rams was reported by Live Science.  Analysis of wounds in 100 skulls by researchers at the University of Wisconsin makes head-butting the most likely explanation.  It’s possible they used them for display, though, or perhaps for both functions.

Tale of a tall tail:  A huge well-preserved dinosaur tail of unknown species, probably a kind of hadrosaur or duck-billed dinosaur, is being excavated in Mexico, Live Science and PhysOrg reported.  Found by locals, it’s about 16 feet (5 meters) long.  The BBC News has a video report.  Excavators have also found part of the animal’s hip, and hope to find more as the work continues.  The tail would have been nearly half the length of the animal.

Warm or cold blooded?  The belief that dinosaurs were cold-blooded has been “put on ice” according to Live Science.  Researchers at University of Adelaide came to the conclusion that dinosaurs must have been warm-blooded.  They did this not directly, but by inferring the energy requirements for thrashing in living crocodiles and large mammals.  As usual, not every expert agrees.  Given the number of decades this aspect of dinosaurs has been debated, it’s hard to predict if a new finding will overturn the latest claim.

Big fish:  The largest bony fish that ever lived, some 16 meters long, was a contemporary of dinosaurs, PhysOrg says.  Surprisingly, Leedsichthys (Leeds fish) was most likely a plankton eater.  The gills, though “Extremely delicate and rarely-preserved,” were preserved well enough to show the mesh structure, resembling the honeycomb pattern in a beehive.  The article claims that the same meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs wiped the big fish out, too.  Maybe that reporter didn’t see the Live Science article that claims an “absence of any sign of a fish extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, when a mass extinction wiped out the dinosaurs.”  But when the same article puts seahorses in the same phylogeny with tuna but not with swordfish, who you gonna believe?

Someone had to askPhysOrg posed the question, “How did dinosaurs have sex?” (and no, the big bang theory does not apply here).  Someone needs to answer, “Very carefully.”  Alongside the headline is an artist’s rendition of a huge, bulky triceratops.  Comparing dinosaurs with tiny birds and giraffes does not seem to shed light on the question.  Speculator of the day John Long concluded, “I truly believe the day will surely come, probably when we least expect it, when a remarkable new dinosaur fossil pops up solving the age old mystery of how dinosaurs really did do the deed.”

Some day, when you least expect it, John, someone may pop up to you and say, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”

Does anybody remember the claims about dinosaurs from ten years ago, or even five?  Science news is often like short-term thrills that wear off until the next fix.  Debates about warm-bloodedness, extinction and feeding habits have raged on for decades – decades, and no resolution is ever forthcoming by scientific “experts” (people who used to be spurts, but are now ex-spurts).  The latest claim by Dr. Science gets good press, till another claim comes along later and dislodges it.

And where, anywhere, does anyone see the need for evolutionary theory?  Dinosaurs once lived and are now gone, but that’s not evolution.  Fossils of huge animals that flourished in a rich world of life show evidence of design with subsequent decline.  Our world, rich and diverse as it is, is impoverished compared to the world filled with large, healthy animals and plants that once lived on it.  It seems as if some catastrophe* happened.

*Implausible?  Science Now just reported that a megaflood appears to have carried house-sized boulders hundreds of miles, from China to India, as easily as modern rivers carry sand.

 

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