Scientists Report First Semiaquatic Dinosaur, Spinosaurus
Massive Predator Was More Than 9 Feet Longer Than Largest Tyrannosaurus rex
I’m sorry, but this is part of my problem with National Geographic these days. The headline blares, “MOVE OVER, T. REX! THE QUEST FOR THE BIGGEST, BADDEST PREDATOR ON EARTH.”
So, what’s wrong with this headline? I don’t have exact dimensions due to not having read the paper yet (Cursed paywalls!), but all that has been claimed so far (at least to my knowledge) is that Spinosaurus was “longer” (50 feet) and “bigger” than Tyrannosaurus rex was (by paleontologists Paul Sereno and Nizar Ibrahim, respectively).
So, NatGeo’s claim about it being the “biggest” is not without some backing. But the “baddest”? And here comes one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to paleontology: there is so much desire to know the baddest, the meanest, the most vicious dinosaur. Is this a popularity contest? I never watched the show Jurassic Fight Club, largely because it seemed to be exactly this kind of thing (even the title speaks volumes): who could beat who in a fight? To me, this is all nothing more than uneducated hype, no different than claiming a certain UFC fighter is tougher than all other UFC fighters. It’s a pointless debate even when we can get data (as in with living animals), and it’s almost impossible to judge when we’re dealing with fossils of animals long since extinct. There would be so many variables, many behavioral, such as would a bear really choose to fight a rhino, an animal quite likely doesn’t care or may not even have a concept of who the toughest kid on the block, and so on. Giving NatGeo the benefit of the doubt here (if we truly could estimate which dinosaur was “baddest”), why is the fish eater tougher than the Tyrannosaurus rex, an animal that had a jaw built specifically for crushing the bones of other animals? I would actually argue that this kind of sensationalism can actually be harmful to true science (for the above reasons as well as others, we could go on, but I think you get my point). Such claims feel like they are fueled by that ridiculous scene in Jurassic Park III and sound like they should be shouted by an announcer as the two dinosaurs, separated as they were by time and geography, climbed into a WWE ring to settle the debate (we need some folding chairs up in here, people!).
I will certainly be reading this article when it comes out. Let’s hope it’s contents are better than it’s cover. Unfortunately my hopes are not high: National Geographic, once a paragon publication, has really gone downhill, and the sad thing is, it’s nothing new.
This is exactly the type of hate I was talking about that I wouldn’t hesitate to shut down. Except, this time, it’s not directed towards Spinosaurus, but Tyrannosaurus and the like.
How dare you discriminate against a dinosaur for being different? How dare you discriminate a ‘normal’ dinosaur? How dare you label a dinosaur as normal, bad, or awesome? You don’t. This is pure JFC-headery.
I don’t want to see any more of labelling dinosaurs as this and that based on their appearance or way of life, Tyrannosaurus is every bit as f*cking awesome as Spinosaurus. Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus are completely different things, you can’t just go throwing them around and making arsehat comparisons, this is just fueling the public perception of ‘some dinosaurs are better than others’.
No, no dinosaur is better than any other, no dinosaur is worse than any other*, every dinosaur is worthy of appreciation in our society because each and every find contributes to palaeontology. The stuff inside is more or less about Ottersaur, which contradicts the cover, but my point is that science magazines like Nat Geo are moving towards sensationalizing dinosaurs like nothing else - this dinosaur is bigger, better, badder, all it comes down to JFC. So yes, I am very disappointed.
Oh yeah, if you want, I can give you a rundown of the paper, sciencetoastudent.
*Except when it comes to bad science.
CAN I JUST ASK WHY MAJOR PUBLICATIONS ARE REFERRING TO SPINOSAURUS AS “NEW?” AS IF WE DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW ABOUT SPINOSAURUS?