The Incredible Shrinking Dinosaur

Good to see that evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs is coming together. The Conversation has a story about the latest Australian study, which traced the evolution of theropod dinosaurs over 50 million years, from 163 kg land animals to birds weighing less than a kilo. The Guardian also has this article, with a comments section that houses at least two real, live creationists, a species as much to be marveled at as the dinosaurs themselves. They were happily pecking away at the evidence with complete confidence that Biblical truth trumps the facts every time. Drab plumage, though, unlike the dinosaurs’ brilliant livery.

I’ve always felt a weird sense of loss at the disappearance of dinosaurs after a meteor strike 65 million years ago, as if something amazing had been lost for ever. Judging by the success of Jurassic Park (1993), millions of other people felt the same fascination.

I remember, as a boy, watching a documentary about dinosaurs. I woke up screaming in the middle of the the night, having heard a cow mooing in the field opposite. And there was an April Fool’s Day news broadcast about a suspicious research establishment that bought huge amounts of meat from the local butchers. Roars and bellows were heard coming from the place. I was completely taken in, elated at the thought that dinosaurs were back.

Then there’s the possibility of cloning extinct animals. We should be trying to preserve the ones we’ve still got, but the thought of woolly mammoths roaming our safari parks, or even domestic dodos peering shyly from the shrubbery of suburban gardens, sets my heart a-flutter.

But at least we have the birds, and a few dinosaurs may even survive in Scotland.