Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dinosaurs Not Extinct!



Sinornithosaurus millenii - long lost cousin to the T-Rex?

Sounds like a National Enquirer headline doesn't it?  Well, it is actually true - Dinosaurs aren't really extinct when you consider that modern day birds are the surviving relatives of creatures as massive as the infamous T-Rex. This tidbit was one of many we learned when we took in the Royal BC Museum's special Dinosaur exhibit.



Notice the feathers on Sinornithosaurus millenii
130 million years old - Yixian formation Liaoning China


Microraptor lived 130 million years ago
Yixian formation Liaoning China

The interpretive thrust of the exhibit was the role technology and new site discoveries play in aiding researchers in their never ending quest to learn more about the creatures that awe us no matter what our age.  

For instance, new technology in computer modeling can help researchers determine not only size and speed of movement from a footprint, but give insights as to how particular dinosaurs traveled and why. Did they move in packs or were they solitary? Did the young stay close to their mothers as in modern day herds?  Did Dinosaurs migrate?  New dinosaur bed discoveries in Liaoning, China, were particularly suitable to preserving remains and are providing scientists access to entire skeletons of some Dinosaurs for the very first time. These new fossils pose far more questions than they answer and are generating many new theories. Previously, scientist's believed that the bony plates of the Stegosaurus and the horns of the Triceratops must have been used for protection. Now, with access to more fossilized samples, they know that the plates and horns were thin and not very strong. The new theory? That there most likely use was for display in mating and identification rather than defense - just like many of our modern day animals!


Size comparison of young and mature Triceratops skulls
70 million years old from the Western U.S.


With a face only a mother could love, Stegasaurus stenops may have had
 to rely on its very colorful plates to attract a mate!
150 million years old from the Western U.S.

65 million years ago
inland seas covered South Dakota
Have any of the new discoveries changed scientist's theories as to the cause of the dinosaurs extinction 65 million years ago? Yes and no. While it is still believed that a six mile wide comet or asteroid hit the earth, it is now theorized that that changing sea levels, huge volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis played a role in wiping out half of all species on planet earth.

It seems ironic that the further in time and history we move away from the period when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the more we develop the means to understand their world. 


Only about 30 T-Rex have been discovered leading researches to theorize that
as a top predator on the food chain there just weren't that many compared to other types of dinosaurs



We may never think of birds the same way again...





Only one T-Rex print has ever been discovered!




While nowhere near as old as the dinosaurs, the Museum's full size Woolly Mammoth
was just too cool not to share.  They roamed BC 25,000 - 12,000 years ago.