Helsinki. The white, wintry city of unwelcoming service and terraces that close tooearly. I have started my plunge towards the seedy underbelly of paleonthology early thismorning. Waking up at 8:30, I downed two fish oil pills, a thousand milligrams of calcium and twenty micrograms of vitamin D. Now, after a pint of mild, dark beer and way too much vanilla-fudge flavored coffee, I feel ready to do what my fancy booted, skin tight jeaned son-of-a-gun of an Editor expects me to: write an article for Better Than Sliced Bread. This time, its all about science.
My recent research indicates that the world of paleonthology, the study of thunder lizards, – or to use a more accurate academic term: dinosaurs – is going through a proverbial uproar, started by recent developments in the study of two most beloved members of the dinosaur clan.
First of all, the Triceratops in not a distinct dinosaur species. The mere thought makes me shudder and it still is difficult for me to grasp the full extent of this fact. There’s no escaping the truth, ladies, gentlemen and those-in-between. Scientists, namely John Scannella and Jack Horner from Montana State University, have discovered that those dinosaurs that have been considered to belong to the Triceratops species are actually juvenile Torosaurus.
On what grounds, you ask? According to 4.9/5 rated news story (available at http://www.physorg.com/news198306111.html), “Scannella and Horner measured the length, width and thickness of the skulls [of the dinosaurs]. They examined the microstructure, surface textures and shape changes of the frills. Microscope studies revealed that the tissues of Torosaurus specimens are more heavily remodeled than those of even the largest Triceratops, strongly suggesting that Torosaurus specimens are in fact adult Triceratops, Scannella said. Even in Triceratops that were previously considered to be adults, the skull was still undergoing dramatic changes.” Seems awfully convincing doesn’t it?
Luckily, there is a silver lining to this cloud of utmost, unnamable blackness. As the first discovered Triceratops fossil specimen predates that of the Torosaurus, the name of the species will henceforth be Triceratops. Still, over a hundred years of scientific understanding is overruled by pesky scientists that even tried to falsify their own
findings for three years, before accepting their dramatic conclusions.
In other dinosaur news, and approaching the sinister and macabre, another breakthrough in paleonthology reveals that Tyrannosaurus were hell bent on cannibalism! Again, the culprits to bring us this Promethean discovery are no other than Dr. Horner et al. You can read all about it on http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0013419, but I’ll chew through the juicy bits here.
What Horner and his fellow scientists found was that four specimen of Tyrannosaurus from museum collections around the US bore bite marks that could only have been made by a large carnivorous dinosaur of the Late Maastrichtian era. Imagine them spitting out coffee and donut crumbs when they realized that Tyrannosaurus rex was the only carnivorous dinosaur large enough at that time to have made bite marks so large.
Yes, I can hear some of you (my girlfriend included) exclaiming that that’s not solid proof of cannibalism at all. What if the marks were made by carrion insects or T. Rexes during combat for supremacy for the Late Maastrichtian ‘hood?
Well, no, this does not seem to have been the case. No species of insects, lizards or mammals have been found that could have effected the toothmarks on the four Tyrannosaurus corpses. Further, teeth gnawing all the way to the bone are highly unlikely to occur during a mere turf war between two Tyrannosaurus – head wounds would be more likely in such a situation and those were not found by the avant gardists of stuffy fossils.
The evidence suggests that small Tyrannosaurus Rexes did feed on the their larger cousins, scavenging their toes, feet and arms ruthlessly. However, as Horner et al., oh so poetically, write: “It does seem improbable that Tyrannosaurus routinely hunted full-grown members of its own species; however, it is possible that intraspecific combat led to casualties, with the dead becoming a convenient source of food for the victors. “
I rest my case and remain assured of your utter dumbfoundedness.
Esko Suoranta, close to midnight, out.