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Dinosaurs are tearing paleontology apart?

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Charles R. Knight illustration c. 1900
Charles R. Knight, 1900/publc domain

Should we call on 9-11, the Humane Society, or the vegans… or on soft dino tissue, to restore order? From Matthew Reynolds at Wired:

The [March 2017] paper overturned one of the most fundamental things that we thought we knew about dinosaurs – that they split neatly into two groups. This is dinosaur 101. The first group, the Ornithischia, which means ‘bird-hipped’ and includes the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Iguanodon. The second group is called the Saurischia, meaning ‘lizard-hipped’, and includes predatory dinosaurs (therapods) such as the Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor as well as gigantic herbivorous dinosaurs (sauropodomorphs) including the Diplodocus and Argentinosaurus.

It’s hard to overstate how big a deal this is in the dinosaur world, says Paul Barrett, one of the paper’s co-authors. “It would be like looking at the evolutionary tree of mammals now and saying that we think dogs and cats aren’t that closely related, and dogs are more closely related to monkeys,” he says. “It effectively ripped in half one of the major groups that had been accepted for a long time and regrouped those.”

The paper redrew the family history going back to the common ancestor 247mya. While many contest the specific claims of that paper, even critic admit that the schoolbook story is questionable.

The problem is that a lot of this is ultimately subjective. First, paleontologists need to agree what features are important for categorising dinosaurs and then they need to rate them. Often, this means that a dataset is actually the product of a few paleontologists’ subjective take on fossils. “To get everyone to sit down and agree everything feature by feature would take decades,” says Brusatte. More.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were soft dino tissue to study? That might, at times, cut the rate at which subjective judgments under pressure become dogma. Oh, wait…

See also: Fatty tissues found in fossil bird from 48 million years ago

Food for thought from that paywalled soft dino tissue article in Science

Is Mark Armitage’s soft dinosaur tissue work a replication of Mary Schweitzer? If so…?

Is there some reason that paleontologists do NOT want soft dinosaur tissue?

Dinosaur found with preserved skin

and

Dinosaur found with preserved tail feathers, skin

4 Replies to “Dinosaurs are tearing paleontology apart?

  1. 1
    Bob O'H says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there were soft dino tissue to study? That might, at times, cut the rate at which subjective judgments under pressure become dogma. Oh, wait…

    How would that help? Wouldn’t it just mean that we would have subjective judgments about soft tissue, not just hard tissue?

  2. 2
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 1, the more information we have, about which we can make subjective judgments, the more likely we are to come to correct conclusions. That’s how modern medicine/health care greatly increased human longevity over the last century.

    For one thing, the area in which we can be wrong is reduced even if the number of subjects within the area is increased. For example, no one now thinks that sterile environments are not important. In the 19th century, it was considered doubtful. Thus the venue for invasive procedures shrunk to sterile/very clean environments…

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    Wouldn’t it just mean that we would have subjective judgments about soft tissue, not just hard tissue?

    What’s “hard tissue”?

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    Bob O’H at 1, the more information we have, about which we can make subjective judgments, the more likely we are to come to correct conclusions.

    Even subjective judgments under pressure?

    I’d be interested to know how knowing more about soft tissues can help palaeontology and systematics – are soft tissues taxonomically informative? And are we likely to get enough for them to be informative?

    ET – I was using “hard tissue” as a contrast to soft tissue. So, bones and teeth.

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