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The Official Feathered Dinosaur Shitstorm Thread

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First, let's start with a trailer for a movie practically reveling in its poor child actors:



Wait! Don't go, there's a method to my madness! The comments section, I think, is an excellent microcosm of popular opinion on feathered dinosaurs. There are comments ranging from excitement over this (assuredly terrible) film just because it has a feathered T. rex to awesomebros taking their ball and going home because the big carnivores don't look like some sort of Godzilla alternative.

Now, the stage is set. Let's have a thread about motherfucking feathered dinosaurs.

 

tyrannosaurus-rex.jpeg

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Life doesn't care what looks goofy. Life is just a means by which DNA molecules make other similar DNA molecules. Life cares what works better than what came before (not to be confused with what actually works best, mind).

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I don't think there is proof that later tyrannosaurs were feathered, it is just their earlier cousins. While I think the feathers are possible, the scaly T Rex cannot be disregarded as it is possible that feathers were lost in the evolution of T Rex or that it lost feathers as it gained maturity. 

 

Now raptors, there is enough evidence to show that they had feathers. Deinonychus should only be known as a feathered animal, not a scaly one and can we please give it its proper name in movies?

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I don't think there is proof that later tyrannosaurs were feathered, it is just their earlier cousins. While I think the feathers are possible, the scaly T Rex cannot be disregarded as it is possible that feathers were lost in the evolution of T Rex or that it lost feathers as it gained maturity. 

 

Now raptors, there is enough evidence to show that they had feathers. Deinonychus should only be known as a feathered animal, not a scaly one and can we please give it its proper name in movies?

 

It's called "phylogenic bracketing."  The earliest ancestors of tyrannosaurs clearly had feathers, so for the more derived species to lack them they would have had to have had some mutation which caused them not to grow feathers.

 

The default assumption is that this would not happen.  Note that even naked mole rats, domestic swine, humans and other weird mammals with apparently naked skin actually have very fine skin hairs.  Hell, even cetaceans have hair.

 

We know that theropod dinosaurs had feathers left and right, and now there are... at least three I think fossils of ornithiscian dinosaurs with suspiciously feather-like hollow keratinous integument.  Unless theropods and ornithopods independently evolved hollow, keratinous insulative structures, the most parsimonious assumption is that the last common ancestor of both theropods and ornithiscians had feathers.

 

This would mean that basically all dinosaurs had feathers as the basal condition; bizarrely, feathers would be the basal condition for sauropods too.

 

You think feathered theropods look weird, try imagining feathered sauropods.  It's possible that sauropods secondarily lost feathers, but again, in the absence of other evidence that should not be the default assumption.

 

My hunch, and hopefully better fossils will come out to prove me wrong or right, is that the suspiciously proto-feather-looking hollow keratinous insulative structures on pterosaurs are homologous with dinosaur feathers.  That would mean that entire dinosaur/pterosaur clade (can't remember what it's called) would be feathered by default.

 

I could kinda buy that some larger tyrannosaurs were naked-skinned by analogy with elephants, rhinos and hippos; there are some skin impressions of larger taxa showing bare skin, but those are small patches and hardly vouch for the condition of the entire animal.  However, yutyrannus, which is allosaurus-sized had feathers, and mammoths had fur.

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Here is a quote by some dweeb paleontologist on the matter. "“There is no empirical evidence that tyrannosaurids had feathers, and artists have no business decking them out with plumage until the day comes when a tyrannosaurid is found with feathers.” He also argues that unpublished findings from imprints of tyrannosaur relatives(Albertosaurus?) indicate scaly skin. 

 

I do think the fuzzy tyrannosaur is the much more likely scenario, it is not definitive.  

 

​It is also needed to know when did feathers evolve and did they just evolve from a single common ancestor. If multiple species developed feathers at multiple points over the Mesozoic then a feathered ornithischian doesn't have to indicate that ceratopsians were feathered. Feathered sauropods would mean that feathers dated back to the Triassic were protosauropods evolved. 

 

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I don't think there is proof that later tyrannosaurs were feathered, it is just their earlier cousins. While I think the feathers are possible, the scaly T Rex cannot be disregarded as it is possible that feathers were lost in the evolution of T Rex or that it lost feathers as it gained maturity. 

 

Now raptors, there is enough evidence to show that they had feathers. Deinonychus should only be known as a feathered animal, not a scaly one and can we please give it its proper name in movies?

 

Here is a quote by some dweeb paleontologist on the matter. "“There is no empirical evidence that tyrannosaurids had feathers, and artists have no business decking them out with plumage until the day comes when a tyrannosaurid is found with feathers.” He also argues that unpublished findings from imprints of tyrannosaur relatives(Albertosaurus?) indicate scaly skin. 

 

I do think the fuzzy tyrannosaur is the much more likely scenario, it is not definitive.  

 

​It is also needed to know when did feathers evolve and did they just evolve from a single common ancestor. If multiple species developed feathers at multiple points over the Mesozoic then a feathered ornithischian doesn't have to indicate that ceratopsians were feathered. Feathered sauropods would mean that feathers dated back to the Triassic were protosauropods evolved. 

 

 

If T. rex were a tank or a rifle or an airplane, this would be the correct stance. Just because many designs by one designer have a certain feature does not mean another design does. Until you have direct evidence that it did have said feature, you cannot make that assumption.

Evolution does not work this way. Traits are heritable from one type to the next. Strange as it sounds, the absence of a feature in one type that was present in its ancestors does not represent a "default" condition, it represents an active mutation.

T. rex's ancestors had feathers. T. rex had feathers, until we can prove they did not.

One does not reconstruct multituberculate mammals without fur. They are mammals; it is obvious that they had fur, unless there's reason to believe they didn't.

Cladistically speaking, birds are dinosaurs, dinosaurs are not birds. But human brains are weird and there's a lot of sludge we've accumulated over time from repeated exposure to Godzilla-esque pop culture "Terrible Lizards", and to help clean all this out, you should chant this mantra over and over until you are seeing feathered dinosaurs in your sleep:

Birds aren't dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are birds.

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OK, having read the relevant passage... I don't think that guy knows what he's talking about from an ontological standpoint.

 

Birds still have scales; look at their feet.  This isn't some weird evolutionary reversal; feathers are just highly modified scales, and birds still have the genes to make scales.

 

So, those tyrannosaur skin patches showing naked scales could just happen to come from the parts of the tyrannosaur that were covered in scales.

 

The one thing that is unlikely, based on what I've read and don't completely understand about the ontology, is that you can't really have feathers on top of scales.  There's some sort of genetic switch, and you can't really overlay feathers on top of scales in birds (presumably this worked the same way in dinosaurs).

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Evolution works by random mutations of DNA getting borked by transcription errors, ionizing radiation and teratogenic chemicals in such a manner that the borked DNA actually does something useful.

 

The odds of feathers evolving twice are astronomical.

Over the course of ~150 million years the chances are not too small. Also feathers would have to be evident in some of the first Triassic dinosaurs like herrerasaurus. 

 

If T. rex were a tank or a rifle or an airplane, this would be the correct stance. Just because many designs by one designer have a certain feature does not mean another design does. Until you have direct evidence that it did have said feature, you cannot make that assumption.

Evolution does not work this way. Traits are heritable from one type to the next. Strange as it sounds, the absence of a feature in one type that was present in its ancestors does not represent a "default" condition, it represents an active mutation.

T. rex's ancestors had feathers. T. rex had feathers, until we can prove they did not.

One does not reconstruct multituberculate mammals without fur. They are mammals; it is obvious that they had fur, unless there's reason to believe they didn't.

Cladistically speaking, birds are dinosaurs, dinosaurs are not birds. But human brains are weird and there's a lot of sludge we've accumulated over time from repeated exposure to Godzilla-esque pop culture "Terrible Lizards", and to help clean all this out, you should chant this mantra over and over until you are seeing feathered dinosaurs in your sleep:

Birds aren't dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are birds.

That does make sense. 

 

I'll disagree that dinosaurs are birds since the line is still blurry and dinosaurs came from archosaurs which are undoubtedly reptiles. For example, sauropods seemed to evolved before the common ancestor of theropods and ornithischians and therefore before the evolution of the feather if there was a singled feathered ancestor. 

 

OK, having read the relevant passage... I don't think that guy knows what he's talking about from an ontological standpoint.

 

Birds still have scales; look at their feet.  This isn't some weird evolutionary reversal; feathers are just highly modified scales, and birds still have the genes to make scales.

 

So, those tyrannosaur skin patches showing naked scales could just happen to come from the parts of the tyrannosaur that were covered in scales.

 

The one thing that is unlikely, based on what I've read and don't completely understand about the ontology, is that you can't really have feathers on top of scales.  There's some sort of genetic switch, and you can't really overlay feathers on top of scales in birds (presumably this worked the same way in dinosaurs).

I'm not sure of his point that tyrannosaurs were completely featherless, but rather the amount of feathers on the animal. To draw up a Tyrannosaur with a fuzzy underbelly would be different from a Tyrannosaur looking like a bird-of-paradise. 

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No.

"Reptile" is not a cladistically meaningful term. Sauropods are saurischians, so are theropods. They diverge after saurischians diverge from ornithischians. This would have been after the earliest evolution of protofeathers, which are most likely homologous to the structures found on pterosaurs.

What, tyrannosaurs aren't allowed to be colorful? Says who? That you think it would look aesthetically wrong doesn't matter.

 

 adult-at-etty-bay-c-tony-kennedy.jpg

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Got the cladogram wrong in my head. FORGIVE ME!

 

I'm not arguing that a vibrantly colored Tyrannosaur is wrong, it just implies much about the way it likely would have behaved. A olive-drab colored creature is going to behave differently than a creature that looks like its from Mardi Gras. The way it hunts, mates, and interacts with other animals is very dependent on the appearance of the animal. 

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Got the cladogram wrong in my head. FORGIVE ME!

 

I'm not arguing that a vibrantly colored Tyrannosaur is wrong, it just implies much about the way it likely would have behaved. A olive-drab colored creature is going to behave differently than a creature that looks like its from Mardi Gras. The way it hunts, mates, and interacts with other animals is very dependent on the appearance of the animal. 

 

That's very different than saying there's no proof that it had feathers. There's no direct evidence that it had feathers. There's a lot of compelling indirect evidence that it did have feathers, however.

And tigers are orange.

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Over the course of ~150 million years the chances are not too small. Also feathers would have to be evident in some of the first Triassic dinosaurs like herrerasaurus. 

 

 

 

Err, no, it's impossible.
 
Convergent evolution doesn't give you genetically identical solutions to the same problem, it gives you structurally similar ones that are only similar because of identical selective pressures.
 
For example, powered flight in birds requires huge flight muscles to power the lift stroke.  To anchor those flight muscles large keels have evolved on the sternum of at least two bird groups, living birds and the fossil enanthiornithines.  However, close inspection of the skeletal ontology of those keels show that they're subtly different, and their growth was driven by different genes.  Also, the configuration of the shoulder bones in modern birds and enantiornithines was completely different.
 
That's what you would expect to see in convergent evolution; similar, but nonetheless identifiable distinct structures.  You wouldn't see the exact same set of mutations that selectively modifies scales into hollow structures evolve twice.  Mammalian hair is also a modified scale, but it's quite recognizably different from a feather or a proto-feather.
 
It is possible that ornithiscian fuzz, feathers and ptero-fuzz are analogous and not homologous; the existing fossils don't preserve enough detail to say with certainty.  However, my suspicion is that they're all the same thing.
 
 
 

 

I'll disagree that dinosaurs are birds since the line is still blurry and dinosaurs came from archosaurs which are undoubtedly reptiles. For example, sauropods seemed to evolved before the common ancestor of theropods and ornithischians and therefore before the evolution of the feather if there was a singled feathered ancestor. 

 

 

 

The term "reptile" doesn't mean anything, in evolutionary terms.  Specifically, the term "reptile" is paraphyletic; it doesn't include all the groups descended from the common ancestor of all the members of the group.  The last common ancestor of crocodiles and birds lived more recently than the last common ancestor of crocodiles and and lizards.  If you expand past crown reptiles, the ancestors of mammals are referred to as reptiles, but mammals are not.

And unless dinosaur phylogeny has completely been turned on its head since I last checked, sauropods and theropods are both saurischians, and thus more closely related to each other than to ornithiscians.

 

 

I'm not sure of his point that tyrannosaurs were completely featherless, but rather the amount of feathers on the animal. To draw up a Tyrannosaur with a fuzzy underbelly would be different from a Tyrannosaur looking like a bird-of-paradise. 

 

Bird-of-paradise tyrannosaurus isn't parsimonious; tyrannosaurus is inside the clade of animals that has feathers, but outside the clade that has fancy flight feathers with asymmetrical, locking barbules and all that.

 

There was some attempt to analyze fossilized microstructures and figure out the colors therefrom, but I don't know if the methodology was considered solid.

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Err, no, it's impossible.
 
Convergent evolution doesn't give you genetically identical solutions to the same problem, it gives you structurally similar ones that are only similar because of identical selective pressures.
 
For example, powered flight in birds requires huge flight muscles to power the lift stroke.  To anchor those flight muscles large keels have evolved on the sternum of at least two bird groups, living birds and the fossil enanthiornithines.  However, close inspection of the skeletal ontology of those keels show that they're subtly different, and their growth was driven by different genes.  Also, the configuration of the shoulder bones in modern birds and enantiornithines was completely different.
 
That's what you would expect to see in convergent evolution; similar, but nonetheless identifiable distinct structures.  You wouldn't see the exact same set of mutations that selectively modifies scales into hollow structures evolve twice.  Mammalian hair is also a modified scale, but it's quite recognizably different from a feather or a proto-feather.
 
It is possible that ornithiscian fuzz, feathers and ptero-fuzz are analogous and not homologous; the existing fossils don't preserve enough detail to say with certainty.  However, my suspicion is that they're all the same thing.
 
 
 
 

 

 

The term "reptile" doesn't mean anything, in evolutionary terms.  Specifically, the term "reptile" is paraphyletic; it doesn't include all the groups descended from the common ancestor of all the members of the group.  The last common ancestor of crocodiles and birds lived more recently than the last common ancestor of crocodiles and and lizards.  If you expand past crown reptiles, the ancestors of mammals are referred to as reptiles, but mammals are not.

And unless dinosaur phylogeny has completely been turned on its head since I last checked, sauropods and theropods are both saurischians, and thus more closely related to each other than to ornithiscians.

 

 

Bird-of-paradise tyrannosaurus isn't parsimonious; tyrannosaurus is inside the clade of animals that has feathers, but outside the clade that has fancy flight feathers with asymmetrical, locking barbules and all that.

 

There was some attempt to analyze fossilized microstructures and figure out the colors therefrom, but I don't know if the methodology was considered solid.

 

I have realized by understanding of the origins of the avemetatarsalia isn't as good as I thought it was. I am conceding that feathers were likely on all dinos. 

 

I've never had a conversation with people who could explain the paraphyletic status of repitles, I knew that even though I've never heard the term before. It does clear up my understanding. 

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I'm glad you've seen the light. We may have been too hard on you; whenever this subject comes up there's someone who objects (note the thread title) and an argument always ensues. Needless to say, we get a lot of practice at this.

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I dunno; if people want cool movie monsters, there are all sorts of those.

The way dinosaurs actually were, on the other hand, is not a matter of our preference.

Even when I try to sympathize to this sentiment on the level of "yeah, but scary, scaly dinosaurs that ROAR were cool because they were supposed to be real", I can't help but think... Sure, but eagles are cool, so are hornbills, lammergeiers, kestrels, falcons, moas, hell, even ducks have giant hellish screw-shaped rape-tentacle penises.

All of those are dinosaurs that live right now! Isn't that inspiring, just like the idea that one day in the past packs of scaly, hunched-over man-sized demons stalked the earth? Besides the fact that nature doesn't serve our taste of what's awesome or not, isn't there even more now that dinosaurs are birds and birds are dinosaurs to see as "awesome" and inspiring?

Sure, Spielberg's T. rex was cool, but isn't Conway's elephant-sized hell-gorilla up there also fucking cool? Isn't that also inspiring? Isn't this fucking inspiring?



And that's not just an eagle, it's a dinosaur.

For that matter, Pluto's not a planet anymore, sure, but Pluto's not a planet not because scientists wanted to be mean and make the universe more boring, but because they discovered that the Solar System was full of other things like Pluto. Not hundreds, but thousands of them. Isn't this Solar System:

 

asteroidbelt_map.gif

with its thousand, million separate worlds, each waiting for magnificent discovery by man, perhaps in your lifetime(!) more compelling and enriching than this one?

pluto.jpg

If one can't get inspired, if one can't be so moved as to hold back tears and whisper awesome under his breath at the thought of all that, then their soul is a dead stone that weighs them down, rather than lifts them up.

I feel this way, and that's why I don't think that video is funny.

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Oh come on now. Animation Domination has some funny - juvenile albeit - videos. And it's mostly making fun of creationists and American culture.

A lot of this is just arbitrary arguing over taxonomy and lexicon that has been leftover from the days when scientists thought Latin and Greek were pure languages and finding the "Missing Link" was going to change everything.

Whether Pluto is classified as a planet, planetoid object, dwarf planet or the Roman god of the Underworld doesn't change the fact that there is a largish chunk of rock with an irregular orbit around the sun in the Keiper belt that has a moon and hasn't gravitationally cleared its orbit of interstellar debris.

What we call it is the least interesting thing to me about Pluto. I think it's a planet but my friend who test rocket engines that have been used on all the NASA missions you've seen in the news assures me it's not. Either way it doesn't matter when you really think about. It's like defining an "assault weapon".

The taxonomy of living creatures falls under the same category and most folks are walking around with the outdated kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species terminology derived from the good old days when it was a demonstrable fact that White Anglo Saxon Protestants were superior to Catholics who were superior to Chinamen, Eskimos and Bushmen.

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Oh come on now. Animation Domination has some funny - juvenile albeit - videos. And it's mostly making fun of creationists and American culture.

A lot of this is just arbitrary arguing over taxonomy and lexicon that has been leftover from the days when scientists thought Latin and Greek were pure languages and finding the "Missing Link" was going to change everything.

Whether Pluto is classified as a planet, planetoid object, dwarf planet or the Roman god of the Underworld doesn't change the fact that there is a largish chunk of rock with an irregular orbit around the sun in the Keiper belt that has a moon and hasn't gravitationally cleared its orbit of interstellar debris.

What we call it is the least interesting thing to me about Pluto. I think it's a planet but my friend who test rocket engines that have been used on all the NASA missions you've seen in the news assures me it's not. Either way it doesn't matter when you really think about. It's like defining an "assault weapon".

The taxonomy of living creatures falls under the same category and most folks are walking around with the outdated kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species terminology derived from the good old days when it was a demonstrable fact that White Anglo Saxon Protestants were superior to Catholics who were superior to Chinamen, Eskimos and Bushmen.

 

I do not watch TV, so I don't know what "Animation Domination" is, but that video in particular wasn't funny to me. I understand why it's supposed to be funny, but it isn't. My explanation as to why is above.

Pluto's not a planet, because classifications like that exist for the purposes of convenience for our brains. If Pluto's a planet, a shitload of other objects in the Solar System are also planets, and that's... Really not convenient.

Most folks are wrong. Real scientists are working with cladograms which, while they simplify considerably what actually happens in evolution, aim to emulate lineages properly. It's not perfect, and a whole lot is still uncertain and contested, but they're making a real effort to represent reality properly.

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Like I said. I was informed quite succinctly by my friend who has tested the rockets used by NASA to drop bits of equipment on comets and planets that the major reason Pluto is not a "planet" is its irregular orbit and the fact that its gravitational pull hasn't cleared out the interstellar objects from its orbit.

I'm taking his word for it. Sorry.

Ultimately it really boils down to a world's tallest midget contest and it really doesn't matter in the great scheme of things if we call it a small planet, dwarf planet or planetary object. It's still there.

It's much like the nonsense surrounding the brontosaurus vs apatosaurus debate. Someone screwed up in the past the creature everyone knew as a brontosaurus is suddenly supposed to be called an apatosaurus. Another great win for the pedantic among us.

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Like I said. I was informed quite succinctly by my friend who has tested the rockets used by NASA to drop bits of equipment on comets and planets that the major reason Pluto is not a "planet" is its irregular orbit and the fact that its gravitational pull hasn't cleared out the interstellar objects from its orbit.

I'm taking his word for it. Sorry.

 

I totally agree with that... Not sure why it seems like we're disagreeing.

 

Ultimately it really boils down to a world's tallest midget contest and it really doesn't matter in the great scheme of things if we call it a small planet, dwarf planet or planetary object. It's still there.

It's much like the nonsense surrounding the brontosaurus vs apatosaurus debate. Someone screwed up in the past the creature everyone knew as a brontosaurus is suddenly supposed to be called an apatosaurus. Another great win for the pedantic among us.

 

Well, it matters in our scheme of things; how we understand the universe is important, and classification is a major tool for accomplishing that.

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Well, it matters in our scheme of things; how we understand the universe is important, and classification is a major tool for accomplishing that.

Agreed, classification makes information easier to learn and be built upon other knowledge already in those fields. Some arguing about minutia might seem pointless, but it is for the greater good. 

 

I think it would be interesting to see if another intelligent culture(i.e. ALIENS!) would classify things in a similar manner that we do today. I think you'd have to assume so on major classifications of things, but the differences in minutia would be fascinating. The problem with that though is the slim possibility that ALIENS! would give a hoot about us. 

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Cue the lumpers v splitters debate...

On a more serious note, I want to thank all the people participating for not making me want to burn the thread down.

Know that, when it comes to threads on phylogeny or dinosaurs, this is about the highest praise I can give.

Beer and a medal for all of you.

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