Dinosaur Lite: 1/3 less species

A new theory asserts that a third of described dinosaur species never actually existed:

That’s because young dinosaurs didn’t look like Mini-Me versions of their parents, according to new analyses by paleontologists Mark Goodwin, University of California, Berkeley, and Jack Horner, of Montana State University.

Instead, like birds and some other living animals, the juveniles went through dramatic physical changes during adulthood.

This means many fossils of young dinosaurs, including T. rex relatives, have been misidentified as unique species, the researchers argue.

Horner is the guy on which the character played by Sam Neill in the Jurassic Park movies is based.  He’s not a lightweight in the field.

Is it worth asking how this affects our understanding of the evolution of species?  As Vox Day points out,

If paleontologists can’t even be relied upon to correctly distinguish between mature and immature examples of the exact same species, this will obviously cast serious doubts on the credibility of the fossil transition sequences between species that they have constructed.

Horner was also involved in the discovery of soft tissue, blood vessels, and blood cells inside the leg bone of a T. rex.  The bone, discovered by paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, was found in porous sandstone and almost certainly exposed to groundwater.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a process by which relatively fragile organic material could resist decomposition for so long.  But instead of challenging the assumptions of the age of the fossil, Schweitzer said, “Finding these tissues in dinosaurs changes the way we think about fossilization, because our theories of how fossils are preserved don’t allow for this.”

In other words, since we know the bones are 68 million years old, we have to invent a process to explain why the collagen didn’t rot.

At the end of the day, however, the questions raised will make not a dent in the prevailing theory:  billions of years ago, like the mythical golem, dead, inorganic muck willed itself to live — and here we are.

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