We Need A New Word To Describe The Discovery Of "New" Extinct Species


Whenever you deal with topics as complex as those that science encompasses, there is always going to be a division between what the trained experts know and what the public understands. In the case of paleontology, one of the biggest misconceptions involves bone beds. Fossils are often found in bone beds, areas where a lot of bones from a variety of species are all found in the same area. Occasionally, this can be indicative of the animal's behaviour, but far more likely is that the area was one of gradual accumulation. Animals died, and their bodies ended up moved to a centralized location, usually through flooding or other natural phenomena. Pat of the paleontologist's job is to study how and where the bones were found, in order to determine if the site was a mass grave, or an accidental smorgasbord for mammalian science folk.

Take, for instance, a monster of a find by Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He has published an article describing a bone bed containing 47 distinct fossils of a newly discovered pterosaur, dubbed Caiuajara dobruskii. The team currently believes that this grouping represents a colony of these animals, whose wingspan reached up to 7.5 feet and featured a distinct crest on their upper beak. The area, in modern day southern Brazil, would have been a desert lake in the late Cretaceous period, an odd location to find pterosaurs at all, but especially ones so large, who tended to keep to ocean shores, where they could ride the currents generated by the seas. Several of the fossils were of young, suggesting perhaps an inland breeding ground or other migratory behaviour. What the researchers now have to attempt to determine is if all of these creatures died together, and if so, what might have killed so many so quickly. Or, if like other bone beds, the 47 animals died gradually, and were latter collected centrally by time and tide.

I feel like it is also important to note that C. dobruskii was a pterosaur, a flying lizard, and not a dinosaur in any way. They were contemporaries, and generously distant cousins, but pterosaurs were as closely related to dinosaurs as a human is to... I don't know, a dog. There are similarities, and common ancestors way way back, but since then we've taken different paths.

Via National Geographic.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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