Monday, January 23, 2006

"Which Came First?"

In the age old question of which came first, "the chicken or the egg", the answer could very well be: the dinosaur.

It is remarkable how much differently paleontologists consider now the way dinosaurs actually were to say, 40 years ago. Just as far back as the 1960's, dinosaurs were still considered to be all rather awkward, slow-moving, cold-blooded reptiles with the sole concern of obtaining their next meals.

Today many scientists believe quite differently. That some of these creatures were actually warm-blooded. That they moved in family units and raised their young. That they carefully nurtured warmth and protection for their eggs. That many were fleet of foot: up to and surpassing possibly 30 MPH. And, the most remarkable of these new revelations is that those with bird-like skeletons eventually evolved into the birds themselves.

New theories involving the most revered of the gigantic beasts, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is that he may have been covered in a brightly-colored plummage. Not as far-fetched if you consider that birds attract their mates in many cases with such.

The problem with exact knowledge of dinosaurs is because of time, itself. We don't have a preserved specimen of any of them; just bones. Trying to reconstruct an animal from just their skeletons is not an easy task. In fact, when the first fossilized remains of dinosaurs were discovered well over a hundred years ago, scientists reconstructed the beasts into creatures that could only have existed in tales of fantasy. Claws were mistaken as horns, etc.

For scores of years the wrong skull sat on the incorrect body of another famous dinosaur: the brontosaurus. It had been found near a full skeleton that was missing it's skull. Finally in just recent years the correct skull was located in the museum's basement in storage and corrected, and now the brontosaurus didn't even exist. Instead, it's now called: the adaptosaurus.

Like many mysteries of nature, science must fight the millions of years that have sought to disguise the truth.


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