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Don’t get in a flap about dinosaurs

September 4, 2013

Whether you think they’re annoying with their hype and massive bodies, or you think they’re great, unless you belong to an obscure sect, there’s no denying that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. Ranging in size from chicken to double decker bus, and ranging in appearance from bipedal scamperer to gargantuan four-legged plodder, from armoured plates to long necks, you can’t ignore the fact that they were pretty cool – and I don’t just mean their blood!

But what if everything we learned about them, all our received wisdom was inaccurate? What if they weren’t lizards at all. Would you seek recompense from every author of every book you’ve ever read about dinosaurs? Would you need therapy? Or would you, in a mature and controlled manner come to terms with the revelation.

So, we’ll start with our long held understanding of the facts- dinosaurs are fab, every child was into them in a big way, most people, (especially boys) had a plastic one kicking around their bedroom for at least part of their life. And, they are lizards. Well, this is mostly true, but not totally. You see, if you want to see a dinosaur you don’t have to go to a museum or glance at a crocodile, you need only look out of your window, because Dinosaurs were birds, not lizards.

I don’t mean dinosaurs evolved into feathered, flying birds, because this is a given – the Archaeopteryx was the first true bird. I mean dinosaurs were genetically averian rather than lizard or reptile.

In Montana. a breathtakingly preserved tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton was found. By some magical quirk of soil condition the bone still contained organic properties – namely cells and collagen. After intelligent and exhaustive work, it was discovered that the unique proteins were akin to that of a modern bird, specifically a “pregnant” one. So, not only was material found, but specific material that gave rise to the notion that dinosaurs were featherless, slightly odd looking birds.

So why did we think they were lizards? Well, mostly because the Victorian gentlemen fossil collectors looked at the best preserved parts – the teeth. The teeth of most dinosaurs resemble modern lizards, iguanas to be precise. So, it wasn’t a massive leap of faith to assert that dinosaurs were lizards – they laid eggs and they had the same teeth after all.

It has taken us all this time to find proper organic material to examine, material that fairly conclusively reveals that dinosaurs were birds. But there is one more piece of evidence that tips the balance away from the sceptics – the furcula. The furcula, or wish bone is a “Y” shaped bone that is found in birds, and not in lizards or reptiles. So, unless dinosaurs were a completely separate phylum of beast, they can only really have been birds.

So what does this mean? A great deal. Firstly it changes the way in which we perceive them. Instead of rambling beasts moving in herds, if they model bird behaviour they moved in very precise, guided flocks, moving as one unit across vast distances in their migrations. It also means that their hollow bones makes them relatively light compared to their size, thereby allowing the smaller carnivores to move fast. Imagine a vulture or an eagle with scales instead of feathers who is taller than a man and wants to hunt you – you wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

It’s all in a name…

So, surely now we have to rename them. Tyrannosaurus Rex would become Tyranneravec Rex, Brontosaurus would be Brontoavus… basically the “Saur” would have to become “avec” or “aver” or something bird-like and Latin.

Unfortunately for the hard work of the palaeontologists, most mainstream scientists have sought to discredit the bird theory, sighting contaminated samples. Surely a desperate and rather futile attempt to scupper what seems to be rather sound research. Whatever the eventual conclusion though, whether dinosaurs are reclassified or left alone, the fact remains that preserved collagen and cellular material has miraculously survived the fossilisation process. Surely this is more interesting, magical, and miraculous than giant canaries!

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2 Comments
  1. As a mother who frequently steps on little plastic dinosaur toys and has read aloud the A to Z dinosaur dictionary something like 9,000 times, I am at this point completely unwilling to change the names of the giant beasts. “Tyranneravec Rex” just doesn’t sound as scary, although the image of a flock of giant canaries is truly terrifying. Still I have thought that the argument that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds made a lot of sense ever since Michael Crichton popularized the theory in Jurassic Park. And all we have to do is look to the history of scientific study to recognize that what mainstream science insists is true, often isn’t. Not that it matters of course. Whether they are birds or reptiles, the important thing is that they are no longer dinosaurs. I much prefer stepping on little plastic toys to being eaten by a giant canary.

    • Love it! I used to love plastic dinosaurs. Thanks for taking the time to write. BJ

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