Most Armored Dinosaurs Found Upside Down
Why are 81% of ankylosaur fossils found belly up? With clever storytelling, you can accommodate this to evolution’s long ages.
Paleontologists since the 1930s have wondered why ankylosaurs (heavily-armored dinosaurs) are usually found buried in an upside-down position. It’s been a common anecdote among fossil hunters, so the Canadian Museum of Nature decided to investigate. A paleontologist with the museum, Dr Jordan Mallon, counted 26 of 32 known ankylosaurs—over 80%—that were reported found fossilized on their backs. He considered possible reasons:
A scientist with the Canadian Museum of Nature has answered a long-standing mystery about why fossils of ankylosaurs—the “armoured tanks” of the dinosaur world—are mainly found belly-side up. In doing so, he has ruled out three other competing theories involving clumsiness, predation, and the effects of bloating as seen with armadillo roadkills.
What else could account for the odd statistic? Mallon settled on the “bloat and float” hypothesis:
Palaeontologist Dr. Jordan Mallon says the evidence points to a phenomenon called “bloat-and-float”, whereby the bloating carcasses of ankylosaurs would end up in a river, flip belly-side up due to the weight of their heavy armour, and then float downstream. The remains would wash ashore, where decomposition and then fossilization would seal the dinosaur remains in their upside-down death pose.
The press release congratulates itself on a scientific job well done:
Ultimately, this is a classic case study of the scientific method: examining alternative hypotheses, finding ways to test them, and ruling them out one-by-one. What you are left with at the end is the most likely explanation.”
One flaw in this ‘scientific method’ is the possibility of ignoring one or more alternatives. Some could be equally plausible, or even more so. Philosophers of science can prove logically that there are almost an infinite number of alternative hypotheses to explain a scientific observation as simple as ice freezing at 32°F – and that’s for phenomena that are readily testable by experiment. How much more difficult is it to prove something that happened in the past?
True, scientists can invoke “inference to the best explanation” to rule out many hypotheses and hone in on the “most likely explanation,” as claimed in the above quote. The explanation Mallon settled on, though, is not necessarily the best. Evolutionists believe that ankylosaurs thrived from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous. They have been found on every continent except Africa. Assuming 32 fossils represents a reasonable sample, did 80% of them die in this way over a period of 32 million Darwin Years? How about ones that lived far from a river? What kind of energy would it take to sweep a four-ton tank-like animal into a river to begin with? Even the ones that managed to “end up in a river” before decaying on dry ground might have ended up in a shallow river, not one big enough to float downstream in. And if “washed ashore” as Mallon suggests, would it fossilize? Most animals washed ashore decay without becoming entombed in rock.
Did Mallon also answer the question of why this body position is peculiar to ankylosaurs? Other dead animals with the approximate shape of armored dinosaurs should follow a similar pattern. Brian Switek’s entry in the Scientific American Blog accepts the ‘bloat-and-float’ theory, but starts with his own questions. The first questions cast doubt on the presence of ankylosaurs near rivers:
Ankylosaurs were terrible swimmers. It’s hard to see how they wouldn’t be. Nothing about their anatomy says or even whispers “aquatic,” least of all the rows of bony ornaments that would have made them about as buoyant as a brick. So why, then, do their remains keep turning up in rock that used to be ancient seabed?
Another question to ask would be how long a bloated dinosaur would float, and whether it would sink intact. Most animals swept out to sea do not fossilize. Their bodies decay and are picked apart by scavengers. Even the great whales do not end up as fossils on the sea bottom. These and other problems make Mallon’s claim to having reached the “most likely explanation” seem premature.
May we offer a suggestion to consider? How about a global flood? The energy of moving water can quickly topple a 4- to 8-ton animal, then bury it quickly so that it does fossilize. Strong currents would also likely tumble a top-heavy animal into an upside-down position. A global flood would also explain why so many other kinds of dinosaurs are found in the classic “dinosaur death pose” with neck arched backward, as if drowning (23 November 2011). If that model were not ruled out from the starting gate by evolutionists’ pathological hatred of flood geology, it would seem worth tossing into the mix at least. Mallon’s just-so story will probably last for years as “the” explanation, until another evolutionist finds problems with it. It’s a shame that gullible media will readily accept any evolutionist’s “best explanation” without asking hard questions.