Rest in Peace Dr. John Ostrum
I learned that Dr. John Ostrom has passed away yesterday (thanks to Jeff at Caerdroia for the hat tip). Dr. Ostrom discovered Deinonychus antirrhopus in the early 1960’s. Dr. Ostrom was also one of the first to suggest the link between dinosaurs and birds. The research on the dinosaur-bird connection came about from Ostrom’s work on the Archaeoptryx fossil, which was initially misidentified as a Pteradactyl (which is not a dinosaur, but a flying reptile). Dr. Ostrom was 77.
Deinonychus antirrhopus is my favorite dinosaur. If you don’t know what it looked like, think of the Velociraptors in Jurrasic Park (the Velociraptor is actually related to Deinonychus). The name Deinonychus antirrhoppus means Counter-balancing Terrible Claws, and like the “raptors” in Jurrasic Park Deinonychus antirrhopus had the switch blade claw.
Dr. Ostrom was a great scientist. But, for the record, the fact that birds are part of the dinosaur branch has been known for well over one hundred years.
Furthermore, although pteradactyls are indeed flying reptiles, dinosaurs are reptiles too. And since birds are advanced surviving members of the dinosaur branch, birds are reptiles as well. At least in the phylogenetic sense of the word, though not in the popular use sense of the word. So Archaeopteryx is a flying reptile, a flying dinosaur, and a flying bird all at the same time. Those are just different levels of the hierarchy in which they existed.