Dinosaur Caught in the Act of Evolving

Falcarius utahensis is a newly discovered dinosaur that paleontologist believe was in transition from being a meat eater to a plant eater.

James I. Kirkland, a paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey, said the new species, named Falcarius utahensis, was uncovered two years ago at a remote dig near the town of Green River. The animal, about 13 feet long and 4 1/2 feet tall, was a primitive member of the therizinosaur group of feathered dinosaurs.

Under closer examination, Kirkland said, the Falcarius fossils showed “the beginnings of features we associate with plant-eating dinosaurs.” The teeth were not the sharp, bladelike serrated teeth of the typical predator, but smaller and adapted for shredding leaves. “I doubt that this animal could have cut a steak,” he said.

Therizinosaurids are, to me, a very cool group of dinosaurs. They often have these tremendously large claws. The current view is that the claws were useful in pulling vegetation down from trees. Although, David Tufte posted awhile ago on a therizinosaur (a Nothronychus to be exact) found near his home where the skeleton was 60 miles off where the Cretaceous coastline is known to have been. Nothronnychus has a very impressive set of claws about 3 feet long, and there was this interesting tidbit,

So, I suggested through a question, that perhaps this creature was digging up clams. Dr. Gillette said that he wondered the same thing. There’s no evidence to support this (but that isn’t unusual with new species of dinosaur). However, Dr. Gillette did mention that there is more than a passing similarity between the teeth of other Nothronychus (the skull of his is missing) and those of crabeater seals.

Local Creationists have responded by stating, “Yeah, but it didn’t turn into no monkey.”

FILED UNDER: Education, Science & Technology
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Maggie says:

    OMG, we all ARE supposed to be VEGANS!

  2. bryan says:

    Just out of curiosity, how do they know this dinosaur had feathers?

  3. John Burgess says:

    Something not made clear in any of the articles about this is how they determined which way the beast was evolving? Mightn’t it have been a vegan that decided meat was the way to go?

    “Link” is okay… it’s certainly intermediate. But which way was that arrow flying?

  4. I honestly think there is something to the whole vegitarian gig. I mean think about it, all of the animals I eat are vegitarians – ok, except for the bear and most of the fish – oh and the spotted owl. But that’s just an every other week thing.

  5. melvin toast says:

    I don’t understand the creationist angle. Let’s say
    there is evidence that proves that some dinosaurs evolved. So by induction that means all creatures evolved from the same primordial mud?

    That’s kind of like saying that since some bloggers are immoral all bloggers are immoral and wear pajamas.

  6. Steve says:

    I don’t understand the creationist angle. Let’s say
    there is evidence that proves that some dinosaurs evolved. So by induction that means all creatures evolved from the same primordial mud?

    That’s kind of like saying that since some bloggers are immoral all bloggers are immoral and wear pajamas.

    Good gravey no. The point is that all organisms evolve. One part of evolution is genetic mutations. This happens in every living thing. No need for induction from a single example.

  7. Steve says:

    Oh and as for feathery integument on Nothronychus, the evidence seems spotty at best. I’ve seen some say “Yes”, and some say “No”, and some say, “Maybe.”

  8. Scott Dillard says:

    See post above on Kansas. Really, if you want your kids to learn religion, then send them to religious schools, so the rest of us can go about educating scientists.

  9. Steve says:

    I disagree somewhat Scott. I think one can be both a scientist and religious: e.g. Kenneth Miller. Miller is a tireless opponent of creationism and intelligent design, yet from my understanding a devout Catholic.

    I think the thing to remember is that there is really no limits on God, and the neo-Creationists and IDists and ID in specific actually put constraints on God. God must act in a way that is detectable.

  10. melvin toast says:

    Steve says: “The point is that all organisms evolve. One part of evolution is genetic mutations. This happens in every living thing. No need for induction from a single example.”

    Strange. We have to look at dinosaurs to observe evolution. If all creatures evolve how come we haven’t seen it recently? For instance, how come liberals don’t evolve out of existence through abortion?

  11. Hal says:

    Yep, the brain trust is in the house.

    Lordy.

  12. Steve says:

    Strange. We have to look at dinosaurs to observe evolution.

    WTFAYTA? Where did I say we look to dinosaurs to see evidence of genetic mutation. For the love of God try googling or just visit TalkOrigins.org. Something…anything….please.

    If all creatures evolve how come we haven’t seen it recently?

    We have. We have seen genetic mutations. For example there was a child, 7 years old in Germany, who had something like twice the muscle mass for other children his age. Researchers, IIRC, determined it was due to a genetic mutation in the genes involving muscle growth and development. Here is the link. Right there evolution (i.e. change) at the genetic level in action.

    For instance, how come liberals don’t evolve out of existence through abortion?

    Oy.

  13. melvin toast says:

    Genetic mutations occur. That is a fact. The idea that genetic mutations lead to new species is a theory.

    That boy in Germany isn’t a new specie.

  14. Steve says:

    Of course, he isn’t a new species. Did I say he was a new species? No. But it is evidence of change–i.e. evolution. Is it speciation? Again no, but I wasn’t claiming it was.

    So what is your point? That speciation doesn’t occur? Fine, think whatever you want, but it speaks ill of your understanding of the scientific process and ability to weigh evidence.