You might remember (probably not) a while ago that I had a bit of a … well, a rant about dinosaur coverage in the media. Well I’m back. But this time its not a rant. Well, its 50% rant, 50% awesome.
We’ll do the happy dance first … which is all based around this guy:
In a nutshell, dinosaurs are primarily one of three large families – theropods (home to Sexy Rexy, “raptors” and the bird-lineage), sauropodomorphs (Diplodocus and the like), or ornithischians (horned beasties, armoured/spiked beasties, “duck-billed” beasties). Ornithischia (literally: bird-hipped, due to the bird-like structure of the pubis – despite birds themselves coming from a different lineage altogether) also included families of mostly bipedal dinosaurs that were remarkable in being pretty … well, unremarkable. By that I mean that they were generally small, unspecialised beaked dinosaurs.
Two ornitischians have been found with … “integumentary traces”. One is a Psittacosaurus (a type of basal ceratopsian from the early Cretaceous – which is actually pretty cool for various reasons already) with bristle-like forms on its tail. The other is Tianyulong (a tusked heterodontosaurid from the late Jurassic with filamentous structures on its back, tail and neck), but the dino-fuzz found on Kulindadromeus has a few implications that may be a bit cool.
In brief, this little munchkin sits further back in time (mid to late Jurassic) and a part of the dinosaur family tree that could show that dinosaurs weren’t just the scaly giant lizards that chunks of the populace still believe. There’s more I could say here, like how pterosaurs have a kind of ‘fuzz’ and how alligators have dormant genes for feather production so this could point to a much earlier presence of integument but as Brian puts it:
… while the headline that “all dinosaurs had feathers” stretches the evidence too far, [they] are correct that dinosaurs probably sported a variety of filamentous body coverings in addition to scales.
Now, the other part of this post has been the reporting of a study that the dinosaur extinction at the end of the Cretaceous was just plain bad luck. I’m going to link you back to Brian’s write-up for a good take on it. The gist is that if the asteroid had hit a few million years earlier or later then the dinosaurs would’ve survived – maybe not intact, but there you go. Turns out that their environment and food chains were at a particularly delicate place
Of course, dinosaurs did survive the impact and they’re all around us today. And plenty of other types of animal didn’t survive – certain types of bird, mammal, lizards, plants, mollusks, sharks, marine lizards, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, insects and planktons – so perhaps its a bit of an over-simplification.
Obviously, but its very nature, getting hit by an asteroid is extremely bad luck – but 75% of all life was extinguished, not simply the part that was inhabited by non-avian dinosaurs. I also object to the term “luck” – but its in a way that I can’t really quantify or explain properly. On the one hand, everything happens by pure dumb luck. On the other hand its neither good luck nor bad luck it just … is. Its just life. Its just living.
Does that make any kind of sense? I’m not sure I can articulate it any better than that. Which makes this slightly less of a rant and more of an incoherent murmuring that drifts off into awkward silence …