Why Is It Cool To Hate On Dinosaur Discoveries?
When I first heard the news that paleontologists had discovered a giant, fuzzy tyrannosaur, I was giddy with excitement. The dinosaur, dubbed Yutyrannus, was a confirmation of an idea that researchers and artists had been cautiously exploring for years. While most of the feathered dinosaurs discovered so far have been very small and often quite bird-like animals, Yutyrannus was a roughly 30-foot-long bruiser which showed that even huge predators might have sported fluffy plumage. And if an imposing predator like Yutyrannus sported a fuzzy coat, the same might be true for the theropod’s notorious cousin,Tyrannosaurus rex. The tyrant king may not have been the wholly scaly monstrosity I grew up knowing, but an apex predator decorated by patches of simple protofeathers.
Not everyone shared my enthusiasm. “Tyrannosaurs were supposed to be scaly,” came the cantankerous cry from die-hard fans of more reptilian dinosaurs. Why are paleontologists so committed to destroying the fantastic imagery Jurassic Park embedded in our cultural landscape? Across the web, tyrannosaur traditionalists registered their displeasure. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!” mourned one WIRED commenter, and elsewhere, Yutyrannus was presented as a “fuzzball” and “chicken from hell.” And while the outrage was not as great as when people mistakenly believed that paleontologists were trying to kill Triceratops, at least some dinosaur fans lamented the increasingly avian aspect of tyrannosaurs.
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It’s a great article to read, everyone, but I wanted to add some commentary myself to this growing trend. I’ve seen it a lot on the web and in real life towards our new discoveries. Ever since the days we first found our ancient friends, we’ve seen them as these big scaly creatures who just mucked about at a slow pace, but then the Dinosaur Renaissance came into play during John Ostrom’s time. Just like nature, our perspective and continuous study of dinosaurs is forever evolving into more accurate depictions.
I think many are displeased with newer discoveries because it does radically change the view many of us grew up with. Yes, during the Jurassic Park age of books and films, we had established these were not like what we see at the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, but at the same time as well we were still discovering new things and beginning to work our way into knowing these creatures better. There is so much that’s been discovered since the Jurassic Park films, but again, I feel some are reluctant to believe in fuzzy dinosaurs because they rather see these big, monstrous reptiles. Jurassic Park as well really captured the imagination of children and adults alike. They were so believable when the films came out (and are to this day!), which I feel hits home harder for most to see some of them a bit more… fuzzy these days.
Let’s face it though. Whether or not Tyrannosaurus rex was covered in protofeathers, I’m pretty sure you’d be screaming your lungs out if it was chasing you. Have you seen those teeth?! I have a replica of SUE’s tooth, and it is HUGE. Yes, two thirds of it was in her jaw (measures out to be 11 inches in total length), but that’s a massive root connected to a massive jaw on a massive theropod! Maybe some look at these new discoveries and think they aren’t as scary now, but I sure do not.
Personally, I love our new discoveries. I love that we’re finding out more about this extinct era and all that inhabited it. When it comes to feathers, this makes you begin to ponder what colours they were, how they lay on the animal, etc. We’ve been able to confirm feather hues for other Mesozoic animals, so how amazing is it that we may find more discoveries and evidence in the future to what these dinosaurs truly looked like?
I feel most detest towards these new discoveries and examinations is mainly just a breach of comfort zones. Jurassic Park’s Velociraptor? Nope, not like the real thing. Many people still have trouble looking at a true Velociraptor and accepting its size, and the same goes for many discoveries towards protofeathers as well or even the cancellation of what we thought were valid species. In many ways, it’s as if all Polar Bears changed colours one day to - let’s say - black. Everyone would go, “But they’re supposed to be white!” A sudden change to what you grew up understanding can be quite a shock, but that’s science and discovery for you. It’s always evolving as we better ourselves in understanding the universe we live in.
Overall for me, bring on the new information, protofeathers, studies, dinosaurs, and everything else related to it! I can’t wait to see what we unearth next or crack the code to!