Sunday, October 20, 2013

Game of Bones: Erratum

Upon sharing yesterday's post to Facebook, Dr. Thomas Holtz mentioned something important which I completely didn't realize. Triceratops and Torosaurus were not just "floating heads." This is, of course, obviously true, but represents a side of the debate unexamined in Longrich & Field (2013). In order to truly determine whether the two warrant their own respective genera can only be determined once the postcranial elements of both are examined.

Tyrannosaurus asks Torosaurus if he is, after all, a valid genus. By the great Luis V. Rey.

This is tricky because, well, we don't really have too many postcranial Torosaurus fossils. That's why the study focused entirely on the skull. If more Torosaurus bodies were known, the debate would probably never have arisen; indeed, the fact that such few bodies are recovered is part of the mystery of the animal in the first place. But, as any paleontologist can tell you, fossilization relies on very precise conditions, and even though we know a huge amount about the world of the past, there is much that we will never know.

Let's hope one that one day the debate can really come to an end. As of right now, although it seems likely that Torosaurus is not Triceratops, and while the evidence is present, the case is not closed just yet.

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