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Headscratchers / Walking with Dinosaurs

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  • Why is Mononykus feathered when Velociraptor gets to run around naked? If they were going to go through the trouble of giving one creature feathers…
    • I guess they wanted to keep them "consistent" with the scaly raptors from the main show. Or felt that feathers should be reserved for Mononykus as its "specialty".
    • Maybe they thought scaly raptors are cooler?
      • That would be possible… if it weren't for the fact that they portrayed the Velociraptor accurately as a small troodont-like predator and not a large dromaeosaurid (such as the Jurassic Park version of Deinonychus or the show's already existing versions of the Utahraptor or Dromaeosaurus, seen in the latter half of the main series).
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    • They even gave Ornitholestes some speculative (though extremely sparse) plumage in the original Walking with Dinosaurs, but they still left dromaeosaurids naked. Go figure.
    • In the companion book they say there is no firm evidence for feathers on Velociraptor yet. Ironically Science Marches On and it has been 100% confirmed that it did have feathers from direct evidence, while Mononykus still has no direct evidence (it's still pretty certain Mononykus had feathers though).
    • Does anyone know if alvarezsaurs were still generally supported as avialans in 2002? That would explain it.
  • One aspect of the special The Ballad of Big Al that has caused some angry bitching on a forum I visit (and this lead to a whole lot of BBC hating) is the depiction of Allosaurus nesting habits. There seems to be plenty of fossil evidence that suggests the youngsters stayed in their nest until they were strong enough to find food for themselves, up to which point the mother brought them food. I have also heard that they may have nested in groups, but I haven't found any solid info about this on the net yet. However this had all supposedly been known before the special was made. So what gives? Does the way the episode shows allosaurs nesting have any evidence to back it up?
    • I do not know of any evidence that supports any of those claims. They sound like speculation to me. Indeed, known hatchlings of non-avian theropods (troodonts and oviraptorosaurs) show that they were precocial, not nest bound. Caveat: I'm not familiar with carnosaurs, and there could potentially be evidence that I'm not aware of.
      • Original Headscratcher-er here: A quick Googling session (including clicking through the "Look Inside" feature of a couple of dino books) resulted in the following revelations: allosaur nests have been found to contain a huge number of teeth, from adults and juveniles alike, as well as fragmentary remains of sauropods, occasionally with tiny allosaur teeth still being stuck into them. Bob Bakker, who found the site, claims that this is evidence that parents brought food for their chicks for at least a short while, and there even was a TV documentary about the uncovering of the nesting site, but it's so old, it apparently sank into oblivion. What's interesting is that the second part of the Big Al special also discusses allosaur nests, but it doesn't mention group-nesting, and the babies are shown leaving the nest right after they hatch.
      • Nowadays, most dinosaur experts agree that dinosaurs were like modern crocodyllians and palaeognath birds, being precocial or superprecocial. The idea that allosaurs brought food to their young is not implausible per se - crocodiles do that sometimes - but it is more likely that the so-called group nest was a collection of scavengers, a la Komodo dragon or vulture groups. It doesnt help that the group of people that defend intense parental care in Allosaurus generally know jack shit about Mesozoic birds.
      • More on Bakker's "lair sites;" what was significant about them is that all the shed teeth were from Allosaurus while the Morrison has several large predators (Ceratosaurus, Torvosaurus, crocodiles). The sites fell into two groups in his study; those with a mix of teeth from several different predators and those with just Allosaurus teeth. Using Komodo dragons for comparison doesn't quite work, as there are no other large predators native to the Komodo dragon's range that could give a "non-nest site" signal.
  • Let's try to sort this out — is the BBC website (and a load of other sources) doing right by retro-classifying the polar allosaur as an Australovenator, or should we still refrain from attempting to figure out what dinosaur it actually was?
    • Could be Rapator or Walgettosuchus (if they're not synonymous).
      • But do we take the linked site's words as that of God and consider Australovenator to be the official "identity" of the polar allosaur from now on, or should we ignore it?
      • I don't know how good the "polar allosaurid" material is, but chances are it's Australovenator (or some other neovenatorid).
      • From Carrano et al. (2012): "Perhaps the best known tetanuran specimen from Australia is an astragalus recovered from the Wonthaggi Formation at Eagle’s Nest, Victoria (NMV P150070) that was originally referred to Allosaurus sp. (Molnar et al. 1981). Since its description, its taxonomic identity has been much debated (Welles 1983; Molnar et al. 1985; Rich 1996; Chure 1998) and it was most recently assigned to Australovenator sp. (Hocknull et al. 2009) and Abelisauroidea (Agnolin et al. 2010). Despite the arguments of Agnolin et al. (2010), we agree that this specimen pertains to a megaraptoran allosauroid, but given its temporal and geographical distance from the type material of Australovenator, and its resemblance to the astragalus of Fukuiraptor, we cannot exclude that it belongs to a distinct member of this clade (Benson et al. 2010)."
      • I think we also have to chalk this up to the fact that the BBC website is just a general reference point for people who've seen the show and want to quickly check up some of the details, and calling it an Australovenator is just a bit simpler for the purposes of general identification than calling it "an unknown dinosaur that some palaeontologists call an Australovenator but about which there is debate, although it's most likely an allosaur of some kind". They're still a media production company, after all, not a peer-reviewed journal, so they do still have a bit of non-expert license to fudge some of the details in the name of general simplicity.
  • The dinosaurs in the new 3D movie seem a bit too glum looking and none have feathers. Science Marches On so what's the deal? Haven't recent scientists considered the dinosaurs to be brightly toned?
    • But... some of them are in fact very colorful and the ones that should be feathered are feathered (with the exception of Gorgosaurus, which had been designed before large fuzzy tyrannosaurs were discovered). Colors are for the most part guesswork anyway, so there wasn't anything really forcing the designers to make them too "out there".
  • In Sea Monsters, I wonder why we didn't get to see the Liopleurodon attacking something, in addition to (or instead of) eating the corpse? (It was definitely a cool scene, but it did seem odd after watching a few times that we didn't get to see the pliosaurs attempt to attack something like the other predators did.) (Also, completely unrelated, but I my spell checker suggests "Eurodollar" for Liopleurodon for some reason).
    • Probably simply because they had the corpse to satisfy their hunger. Would you abandon your main course at a restaurant to eat a dirty piece of candy on the floor?
      • Sure, that's the watsonian explanation, but the matter is why, doylistly speaking, the crew opted to show the liopleurodons scavenging instead of catching something living, which would have been more fearsome.
      • The doylist explanation is that Sea Monsters is a complement to the original Walking with Dinosaurs, rather than a proper sequel, and that show had plenty of scenes with Liopleurodon attacking things. Besides, the new species included were Leedsichthys, which was too large to be killed even by their oversized Liopleurodon, and Metriorhynchus, which was too small.

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