Monday, August 2, 2010

Triceratops and a Theory of Dragons

There's been a fair bit of buzz this last weekend-and-a-bit about how Triceratops fossils are actually juvenile Torosaurus fossils, or could be, maybe, because dinosaur skulls could change shape with age. In other words, Torosaurus should really be Triceratops, and we might have to re-examine other sets of closely related dinosaurs for the same juvenile/adult relationships. (I think we're already starting to do that, but can't remember which dinosaurs have been reclassified already, so can't look them up to link to articles. I know there was one of the duck-bills…)

Anyway, this apparent plasticity of dinosaur bodies has gotten me thinking: Can anything else be reclassified the same way? Specifically, do we now have the tools we need to reclassify (Western) dragons as dinosaurs?

  1. Dinosaur bones were one of the foundations for the idea of dragons in the first place.
  2. We know of flying reptiles that weren't dinosaurs, and dinosaurs that evolved into birds. Reptiles with wings are not an unsubstantiated concept. 
  3. There were carnivorous dinosaurs. There were also intelligent dinosaurs. These were not mutually exclusive categories.
  4. Co-incidentally, Dromaeosauridae is a family we know had feathers.
  5. There is evidence that dinosaurs and similarly-dated aquatic reptiles have survived well into the modern era.  
  6. A number of bird species hoard shiny objects. Birds are almost definitely descended from dinosaurs.
  7. Evolution can do remarkable things, given time. 
  8. Some dinosaurs were very big. So are some dragons.
  9. Since we now have evidence that dinosaurs changed shape as they aged, it is not impossible that a species or two could have gained the ability to sprout wings out of their backs upon reaching maturity. We simply don't have any fully mature specimens to examine.
  10. Most cultures have some kind of "imaginary" reptilian creature, frequently one that eats people. Dinosaur fossils are found all over the planet.
  11. Dinosaurs are extinct. So, we believe, are dragons.
Three obvious "flaws" with this theory: no evolutionary evidence (we just haven't found it yet); no explanation for the fire thing (yeah, I don't have one either, except standard mythological exaggeration); no legends of Pan-American dragons, per se (thunderbird, Quetzalcoatl). 

That aside, I think I've listed enough facts to build a good case for the theory that dragons are, in fact, giant flying Utahraptors with a unique defense mechanism. And don't tell me that would make dragons a solely North American phenomenon. First, there's Achillobator, and second, dragons can fly

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