A Third of Unique Dinosaur Species May Not Have Existed

October 10, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A team of paleontologists spent the last ten years studying the fossils of known dinosaur species and made a remarkable discovery. At least a third of all identified dinosaur species are in fact, just juvenile versions of their parents and are not distinct species on their own. In other words, paleontologists may need to start rewriting some textbooks soon.

The study was conducted by paleontologists Mark Goodwin, University of California, Berkeley and Jack Horner, of Montana State University. The scientists discovered that, as dinosaurs matured into adulthood, they went through dramatic physical changes, like birds and other members of the animal kingdom.

So, for years paleontologists may have been misidentifying dinosaur babies, as separate and unique species. For example, the Nanotyrannus was identified, as a smaller relative of T. Rex, but actually may be just a T. Rex teenager.

The paleontologists found that the skull of the T. Rex drastically changed into adulthood, as it grew from an elongated shape to the terrifying broader snout and jaw we associate with an adult T. Rex dinosaur.

Their theory was confirmed when they happened upon a slightly larger fossil, having 14 lower-jaw teeth, compared to the 17 lower-jaw teeth of the Nanotyrannus. Adult T. Rex dinosaurs have 12 lower-jar teeth.

The paleontologists then realized that the smaller fossils identified, as relatives of T. Rex were actuallly juveniles with baby teeth.

The paleontologists found the same pattern in a group of Triceratops fossils, unearthed from Montana’s Hell Creek formation. The baby Triceratops had small horns that curved backwards, while the adult horns pointed forward.

The amazing findings of the two paleontologists are being presented on a National Geographic special entitled, “Dinosaurs Decoded,” which airs this Sunday night.

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