Dinosaur Variety was Extreme
Here are news stories about amazing dinosaurs, from dwarfs to giants, that lived in all kinds of habitats.
(Note: This entry includes news about other extinct reptiles, not just dinosaurs.)
Bigger than T. rex: “Finding Spinosaurus: a dinosaur larger than T. rex” is the subject of an article posted by Live Science. It’s a saga of intrigue and luck spanning a century, but once a more complete specimen was found in the Sahara, new mysteries popped up. Current thinking is that the giant with a strange sail on its back did not compete with other land predators, but hunted fish.
Weird armed dino: A 50-year mystery about big arms has been “solved” with the discovery of the rest of the animal in Mongolia, the BBC News reports, but now, “researchers say that the creature is even more bizarre than they had thought.” That’s clear from the artist’s reconstruction: “it was huge, with a beak, a humped back and giant, hoofed feet.” Named Deinocheirus mirificus, the ornithomimosaur (bird-mimic lizard) had arms 8 feet long and looks like it was designed by a committee (see larger image on Science Magazine).
Dumb warrior: Evidence of an allosaur knocked silly by a stegosaur’s tail suggests the tiny-brained stegosaurs were not to be trifled with. Science Daily calls the warrior that left its mark on the bone of an allosaur (and probably shortened its life) a “kung fu stegosaur” that was a lethal fighter when necessary. “On the other hand, he points out stegosaurs had among the smallest brains for its body size of any large animal, ever.”
Cool-brained bonehead: The pachycephalosaur-type dinosaurs, despite their bony skulls, had intricate passageways for air and a good sense of smell, Science Daily reports. A diagram of Stegoceras (unrelated to Stegosaurus) shows that the passages “enhanced smelling” while cooling the brain. High-powered computer models revealed their secret of keeping a cool head. The article did not mention evolution; it’s not clear how many lucky mutations it would have taken to get that right.
Update 11/08/14: Another type of dinosaur cooled its brain with intricate airways, PhysOrg just reported. “A/C came standard on armored dinosaur models” — ankylosaurs “had the capacity to modify the temperature of the air they breathed in an exceptional way: by using their long, winding nasal passages as heat transfer devices.” Live Science says that computer models of the “krazy straw” passageways show that exhaled air was cooled, taking heat from the small brains that could otherwise overheat deep in the heavy skulls. The similar loopy passageways in duckbill dinosaurs might have served a dual purpose: heat exchange and the amplification of sounds.
Acres of diamonds: What do a raccoon, a crocodile, and a dinosaur have in common? They left their tracks in a diamond mine in Angola, according to Live Science (see photo story posted separately). “It’s likely that a shallow freshwater lake in the area served as the watering hole for a raccoon-size mammal — an extraordinary large mammal for that time — a crocodile and a dinosaur, according to the track marks.” (Sorry for the misleading riddle; it wasn’t really a raccoon, just an unknown “raccoon-size” mammal.)
Amphibian fish-lizard: Was it evolving? Is it a transitional form? Live Science describes a creature from China said to be 248 million years old that its discoverers speculate was amphibious and evolving into an ichthyosaur. Sid Perkins on Science Magazine posed his headline in just-so story form: “How the Ichthyosaur Got Its Fins.” The puzzle echoes the later “great transformation” that evolutionists believe caused a land animal to evolve into a whale. The creature had large flippers that the paleontologists say may have given it locomotion like that of a modern seal. “The fossil is quite complete and well-preserved,” its discoverer said. National Geographic claims it “fills an evolutionary gap.” Science Daily found a way to mix global warming into the tale.
The creature was apparently well-adapted for an aquatic habitat, but without the tail, they can’t be sure if it was a good swimmer or not. Creationist David Bump opined in the comments that “walking catfish” exist today that are not considered ancestral to fish; he thinks this could be a reptilian analogue of an ichthyosaur adapted for shallow water. One paleontologist cautioned that we won’t find more transitional forms, because “ichthyosaurs and their kin emerged from a group that was already strongly aquatic,” supporting the notion that this creature was adapted to shallow water, not leaving the land for the sea.
Food fights: PhysOrg puzzles how so many large dinosaurs living in the same habitat divided their food at mealtime, especially the 80-ton herbivorous sauropods that needed vast amounts of food. The Morrison Formation, for instance, contains 10 species of these giants. Research on this question at the U of Bristol “helps to shed light on the evolution of sauropod feeding mechanisms and how these gigantic creatures managed to eat enough food to sustain their tremendous bulk.”
Survivor dino: Sid Perkins in Science Magazine thinks that a new little meat-eating dinosaur from Venezuela named Tachiraptor (fast carnivore), said to be 201 million years old, survived a mass extinction at the end of the Triassic, when theropods began to evolve. “Only millions of years later did many species within these groups evolve great size and distinct appearances” like Allosaurus and T. rex, evolutionists believe. These dinos were only about 1.5 meters long, scientists estimate, based on only two bones found. Despite its small size, Live Science speculates that it “snacked on little dinosaurs.”
Ducks for the chase: Duck-billed dinosaurs were not “sitting ducks,” PhysOrg puns, but gave a good run for any T. rex hunter. Phil Currie thinks so, because they thrived alongside the big predators—partly because the hadrosaurs lived in herds, but probably, too, because they were fast runners. In the Dino Derby, he says, the hadrosaur had the endurance and speed to cross the finish line before the predator.
Grounded pterodactyls: Could pterodactyls grow so large they couldn’t take off? An article on PhysOrg says so. Computer models at Bristol University “suggest that a pterodactyl with a wingspan of 12m or more would simply not be able to get off the ground.” Artwork shows one 400-kg “behemoth” as tall as a giraffe. Maybe the animals had methods we don’t yet understand, or were able to get airborne by jumping off cliffs. Either way, landings would have been no problem, given their large, flexible wing membranes.
Dino feathers disputed: In a letter to Science Magazine, a scientist from South Africa questions a paper in published earlier claiming “A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia” had “both feathers and scales.” He responds: “The parsimonious explanation is that the filaments are support fibers in association with badly degraded scales and that they do not represent early feather stages.” The authors, naturally, make comeback arguments to support their original claim, but Theagarten Lingham-Soliar presented some convincing reasons why the filaments are not feathers. “The proposals are further weakened by a disregard for taphonomic tribulations of a more than 150-million-year-old fossil and the complexities of tissue histology,” he concludes.
Reptiles don’t exist: Dustin Welbourne makes a startling claim on The Conversation: “There’s no such thing as reptiles any more“. So do all the above creatures vanish from reality? No; it’s a question of classification. Taxonomy, the science of classification, is a tricky business for human convenience. It doesn’t necessarily carve nature at its joints. Since there is no single common ancestor for all the creatures commonly called reptiles (dinosaurs, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, and lizards), he makes the case that “reptile” is a false category. Welbourne takes his argument back to the work of Carl Linnaeus and forward, through the discoveries that altered his conception of natural categories for these animals. In the BBC News, Mark Kinver asks “What’s in a scientific name?” Also referring to the great taxonomist Linnaeus, Kinver describes how the tradition of Latin binomial nomenclature has been useful, if not engraved in stone. It’s a convention that gives some scientists the honor of naming what they find.
We report these creatures for others to investigate in more detail and interpret. Have fun! (You don’t expect us to do all the work, do you?) It’s easy; just sweep clear the evolutionary fogma, look for systems that defy evolution or long ages, and ask the questions the evolutionists never ask.