Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dinosaurs: Some Scientists Say They Still Exist

Scientists once thought that dinosaurs died off more than 60 million years ago. In recent years though, evidence has been uncovered that has paleontologists scratching their heads. Strange as it may seem, when it comes to dinosaurs some scientists say they still exist.

A newly discovered species of dinosaur that has been dubbed “the chicken from hell” seems add fire to a relatively modern theory that birds and dinosaurs sprang from a common ancestor. The dinosaur, scientifically named Anzu wyliei, lived 66 million years ago. Fossils discovered in North and South Dakota show it had hollow, bird-like bones and probably, say experts, was covered with feathers.

Authorities at the American Museum of Natural history agree that there is a definite relationship between birds and dinosaurs. In fact, one headline in the Museum’s website states boldly that “Birds are dinosaurs.” It goes on to list a number of characteristics common to both types of creatures, even though they lived millions of years apart.

Researchers believe the fleet-footed Velociraptor, featured in the movie Jurassic Park, also possessed feathers. They point to a fossil discovered in Mongolia that has evenly spaced quill knobs where they say secondary feathers were attached to the bone. They say the wing bones of the modern-day turkey vulture display the same feature.

More finds that support the dinosaur-bird relationship include the discovery of two birdlike eggs inside the fossil of a female dinosaur. Scientists point to the texture of the egg shell and the fact that the dinosaur had produced only two eggs. Reptiles generally lay a clutch of eggs, modern birds lay just one at a time. The suspicion is that birds produce only a few eggs at a time to remain light enough to fly.

More evidence of the link as seen in the knowledge that male dinosaurs of the meat-eating variety often guarded nests much the way the males of many bird species do today. The trait is especially true in large, flightless birds like ostriches and emus. The fact is, scientists say, the males of more than 90 percent of today’s bird species help take care of their young.

Some may scoff at the new-age thinking about the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. Still, when comes to dinosaurs, some scientists say they still exist today.

More proof has been discovered in the tissue of a Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone in Montana. The soft tissue was found to contain collagen proteins, which researchers decoded and compared with 21 modern-day organisms. The dinosaur proteins were found to match those of birds more than any other living creatures – including reptiles like alligators and caimans.

It’s difficult to image a Tyrannosaurus rex or Brontosaurus in flight, and scientists believe that small size is a major requirement for any flying creature. They say that members of the dinosaur species most closely related to birds were already shrinking in size. They point to a small dinosaur called Mahakala omnogovae as an example. Its two-foot long fossils, found in the Gobi Desert, suggest that diminished size was common among the lineages of the dinosaurs thought to be more closely aligned with modern day birds.

The new evidence on characteristics like bones, feathers and diminishing size is turning heads in the scientific world. Strange as it may sound, when it comes to today’s views on dinosaurs, some scientists say they still exist.

B. David Warner

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