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Dinosaurs

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eggshaped
31790.  Wed Nov 16, 2005 4:00 pm Reply with quote

This poor forum seems so bare, and I imagine Dinosaurs will be a fairly fruitful topic, so I'll start with something I read this evening.

Question: What was the first dinosaur to be named?

Forfeit: Would be a bit harsh, but possible forfeit for a dinosaur whose name is no longer used, like Brontosaurus.

Clue: It came after the discovery of this bone:


Answer: Scrotum Humanum.

Robert Plot, Professor of ‘Chymistry’ at Oxford University first collected the above specimen and recognised it as a bone. He hypothesised that it may have come from an elephant brought to Britain by the Romans or by a giant human. In 1763 Richard Brookes described the bone again, with similar erroneous guesses to its origins, but this time gave it a name. He chose “Scrotum humanum” for obvious reasons.

Unfortunately the bone has now been lost, but it is generally thought that this was the first fossil of the Megalosaurus ever desribed. The rules of nomenclature say that the first naming of an organism should be the one taken when it is found that two species have been named differently, however most palaeontologists do not generally take “Scrotum Humanum” as a serious attempt at a naming, so Megalosaurus it is.


http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Essays/dinohist.html
geology search
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalosaurus
Walking With Dinosaurs, The Facts. Mike Benton.

 
JumpingJack
31866.  Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:45 pm Reply with quote

Great stuff, eggshaped.

Oh, I think we should go heavy on the Forfeits, y'know.

Let's see how many dinosaurs Mr Davies can name...

 
brackett
33976.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 3:23 am Reply with quote

Eggshaped, I LOVE that fact and that picture.

And I agree with Jack, the forfeits could be very funny.

 
Flash
33985.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 4:30 am Reply with quote

In my experience, when you have a question based on a particular image the picture researchers always tell you on the day of the recording that they haven't been able to clear it.

 
JumpingJack
34040.  Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:42 am Reply with quote

Good point Flash.

We should start a thread so that they're all in the same place and we can point them to it as soon as we start preproduction.

James – will you do the honours?

 
eggshaped
49367.  Sat Feb 04, 2006 12:04 pm Reply with quote

One of the main factoids that everyone knows about dinos is that a giant asteroid wiped them out.

While this is still the accepted scientific viewpoint, there is an increasingly vocal group of paleantologists who are not so sure. I think it is the duty of QI to challenge the traditional viewpoint and at least put both sides of the argument forward.

Question: What killed the dinosaurs

Forfeit: A big asteroid.
*Probably a massively unfair forfeit, as there is still major scientific opinion in favour of the asteroid theory - no doubt if this question was included we may have a number of Green-Room-forum visitors chastising us. :o)

Answer:
In 1980, father and son team Luis and Walter Alvarez produced the famous hypothesis that the dinosaurs were wiped out by an enormous asteroid hitting the earth. (Luis had previously won the Nobel Prize for physics for his work on high energy particles and flew as a scientific observer during the Hiroshima bombing). They observed a layer of clay deposited at the end of the Cretaceous period which had large deposts of iridium (an element rare on earth, but commonly found on asteroids).

The Alvarez' theory seemed vindicated ten years later when the Chicxulub crater was found on the Yukaton peninsula in Mexico. Finally it seemed, we knew what had happened to annihilate our prehistoric cousins.

However Gerta Keller professor of geosciences at Princeton disagrees, in fact one of her recent studies of ancient worm burrows has purportedly shown that the Chicxulub asteroid hit the earth some 300,000 years before the mass extinction, so could surely not be directly responsible for the extinction.
(this interpretation is disputed by some scientists)

So if the asteroid didn't end the dinosaurs' era, what did? Well Keller believes that it was climatic changes were to blame, maybe originally caused by a number of asteroids including Chicxulub or maybe by a long sequence of "massive volcanic eruptions".

Either way, the conventional asteroid theory is cetainly not cut and dry at the moment, and “The only thing that everyone can agree on is that the dinosaurs became extinct.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Alvarez
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/02/wdino02.xml
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0309_040309_chicxulubdinos.html
http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/03/0922/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dino_prog_summary.shtml

 
Gray
49374.  Sat Feb 04, 2006 12:41 pm Reply with quote

Yes, extinction theory is certainly murky. From what I've read, it seems that a lot of things happened in concert, but their common cause was meteoritic.

When something that big (according to the iridium measurements) hits the Earth, tectonic activity goes nuts - causing huge earthquakes and volcanic activity, both of which disrupt the atmosphere and climate a great deal, killing off a lot of life - sun-hungry plants first, then herbivores then carnivores. Herbivores that large need a LOT of... herbs.

Possibly a bit mean to give a forfeit for meteroite, as it's still very much in contention. I like Gary Larson's answer:

 
eggshaped
49445.  Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:09 am Reply with quote

Agreed on the forfeit - would be completely unfair, and most likely incorrect, to do so.

 
eggshaped
67777.  Sat Apr 29, 2006 9:12 am Reply with quote

According to this 2004 study of honeybees, the asteroid/nuclear-winter theory doesn't stack up.

Apparently the tropical honeybee was one of the survivors of whatever killed the dinosaurs, but firstly they need a constant supply of blooming flowers to exist and secondly they rely heavily on constant temperatures. The study proposes that the temperature change could not have been any more than 7degrees for the tropical environment to be maintained.

 
Gray
68039.  Mon May 01, 2006 6:16 am Reply with quote

Studies like that one rest on the huge assumption that behaviour seen now in honey bees was the same 65 million years ago, which is almost certainly not going to have been the case. I mean, look what happened to all the other organisms during that time, us included...

No one can know what alternatives there may have been for pollen (or flowers) from which the proto-bees could have made a living. I mean it's not like you could have predicted ants 'farming' aphids for their sugary secretions. Sap is a common source of sugars, and the bees could have lived on that.

This is the problem that natural history suffers from - it's not really 'properly' scientific, in that it's very difficult (or impossible) to test anything this detailed. It's more like history - down to interpretation within some very restricted, but some very open parameters.

There is so much academic standing tied up in revisionist theories now (both in history and the 'soft' sciences) that new theories that turn everything upside down appear all over the place. They know that the media will do most of the work for them.

Meteroic impact still seems by far the simplest explanation for the chain of events that occurred: vulcanism, drought, sunlight deficiency, disease, etc...

 
fishfool
371690.  Tue Jul 01, 2008 4:56 am Reply with quote

I have to admit, I am severely entertained by the picture and its label. I also want to say that as far as we learned in religious school, the dinosaurs were wiped out in the great flood. I believe there IS actually scientific proof of that, but I have not the desire to google it--Fishfool

 
Flash
371824.  Tue Jul 01, 2008 7:37 am Reply with quote

Welcome to these parts, fishfool. Can we assume that you're joking?

 

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