Tag Archives | taxonomy

Why are Birds Dinosaurs?

nationalgeographic.com

Month after month, one of the most popular posts on the Paleocave blog is the How to Read a Cladogram post I did some time ago. I always intended to follow it up with more cladistic fun. So, hold onto your butts, we’re going to let the dinosaurs loose.

Birds are dinosaurs. We’ve all heard this. But does that phrase make any sense? Not really. Dinosaurs, for the most part, are things that were really big, were mostly scaly, had fantastic teeth, and are extinct. Birds, on the other hand, don’t have teeth, are generally small, and are covered in feathers (I know that you know that lots of old school dinosaurs had feathers too, but whatever). So, why do we say that birds are dinosaurs? The answer involves evolution and the meaning of taxonomic names in biology.

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Triceratops is Safe and Sound

Numerous popular press outlets reported last week that Triceratops was going the way of the dinosaur (haha) and that Triceratops was no longer a valid genus name because it was potentially just an example of a juvenile stage of a dinosaur with another name, Torosaurus. Here are some examples. At Science… sort of you would think that we would not be swayed by the popular press, we would go straight to the primary literature, read the study ourselves and then report on what the actual scientists said, maybe even interview them. Wrong; we made the same blunder that many popular press outlets did in our podcast episode 48 – No Frills. When it came down to it, we were rushed to put a show together and had already read too many pop press accounts of the Triceratops article that many a member of the Paleoposse had sent us. As a result, we gave the primary literature only a quick once over before we (or at least I) thought we understood the crux of the argument.

Oh, did we miss the boat. Continue Reading →

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