Monday, December 03, 2007

New Duckbill Mummy

National Geographic News has a story about a new duckbill mummy fossil. It's been nicknamed "Dakota," and it reminds me of "Leonardo," a similarly-preserved Brachylophosaurus from a few years back. Leonardo has since been given a description in the book Horns and Beaks, a symposium about ornithischian dinosaurs. Sadly, Dakota has been given neither a genus nor species title. As usual for the Associated Press, the scientific virtues of the story are vague and questionable. I really doubt that a 35-foot long duckbill dinosaur weighed 35 tons, for example. The fossil paints a better picture of what hadrosaurs looked like, though. Apparently they had a lot more muscle on their back halves than previously thought, and changes in scale size could indicate differences in color across the animal.

That's not a great indicator, though. I have a frog-eyed gecko (Teratoscincus scincus), and while he's certainly multi-colored, scale size has nothing to do with color boarders. Rather, scale size has everything to do with practicality. His legs, belly, and throat have tiny scales that interconnect. His back, tail, and thighs and upper arms have large overlapping scales, probably for protection (although, honestly, he's very soft). The situation is similar in crocodilians--smaller scales on mobile parts, larger armor scales on exposed areas.

At any rate, I have my doubts that scale size can be used to determine color placement on any reptile. I look forward to any publications on this mystery duckbill.

Also, I've recently memorized the HTML tags for links, hence my recent obsession with linking to things. I will use this power only for good, and I will cite my fellow bloggers and news sites (and free PDF's!) in the post body rather than creating a separate "citations" section, whenever possible.


D. Esker said...

Manning and Peter Falkingham stopped by my place of employment in July and showed off some of this stuff then. They didn't say anything about patterns of coloration at the time, though. I thought that he already had the thing ID'd though, at least to genus. Perhaps he's just keeping mum untill he gets a paper out.

Traumador said...

Scale size indicator of colour indeed?

I sure hope they have at least ONE example of an animal where that's true, cause I sure can't think of any!