More About Dinosaurs
1. What did dinosaurs look like? The great French "father of paleontology," Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), established the method of comparative anatomy. This method depends upon knowing the relationship between living creatures and their skeletons. Then, by similar relationships, extinct creatures can be reasonably reconstructed from their fossil (skeletal) remains. For example, both the living hippopotamus and its skeleton is known and from this relationship the extinct hippopotamus (Hippopotmus gorgops) was reconstructed. In the same way, the Stegosaurus was reconstructed although to this day no one knows if the plates on the back of the Stegosaurus were in one row or two nor is anyone certain of the purpose for these plates. Some have suggested cooling fins. Most fossil discoveries are broken and flattened and very often consist of the bones of many animals mixed together. The great merit of the comparative method is that it enables paleontologists to be reasonably certain which bone belongs to what animal although occasionally mistakes have been made. The great Brontosaurus displayed in many museums and books, was found to have received the wrong head during reconstruction and has now been corrected and renamed Apatosaurus. The American Museum of Natural History, New York, sent an expedition to the Gobi Desert, China, in 1926, and discovered the first dinosaur eggs; since that time, many dozens of fossil eggs have been found some containing the delicate bones of embryonic dinosaurs. These eggs are typically reptillian, that is, the same size at both ends like reptile eggs. Other discoveries have included fossilized skin impressions of dinosaurs showing that they were not covered in fur but scales and skin like reptiles of today. Any modern reconstruction of the dinosaurs "invents" the skin colour since there is no way of knowing what it was like in life. All these evidences taken together long ago led to the conclusion that the dinosaurs were cold-blooded like the reptiles of today.
2. How big were the dinosaurs? One of the first dinosaur fossils to be discovered was in a cave of the chalk deposits at Maestricht, Holland, in 1799. It was a huge set of jaws and Georges Cuvier gave it the name Mosasaur. The general name dinosaur, meaning "terrible lizard," was coined by Sir Richard Owen of the British Natural History Museum in 1840, so the word will not be found in books, such as the Bible, antecedent to the mid-1800's. Following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, there was a great hunt for dinosaur remains especially in the US. While many dinosaurs, such as the Compsognathus, were never much larger than a chicken, others were notoriously large; one recently discovered specimen was as tall as a five-story building. As museum displays, these large specimens attract much attention. The motivation to collect specimens is two-fold: Good prices are paid by museums and it is hoped that transitional types will be found and thus confirm Darwin's expectations. There are two basic types of dinosaur: Those who walked on four legs generally called crocodillian, although there is debate about whether individual species did, in fact, waddle like a crocodile, and those who walked on two large back legs and are called bird-hipped. One of the characteristics of reptiles today is that the longer they live, the bigger they become. As an example, when first discovered by Europeans in 1590, the alligators of Florida were 35 feet long and very dangerous. Today, they are rarely found more than 8 feet long and the reason is that they simply do not survive long enough to grow any larger. The fact that fossils of the large dinosaurs, such as the Diplodocus (meaning double-beamed and weighing up to 100 tons), are found and recalling that they each began as eggs no more than about 8 inches long, indicate that they must have lived a very long time, perhaps hundreds of years. The Bible gives the ages of the patriarchs in terms of centuries; Adam lived for 930 years. The life-span of the large dinosaurs would thus seem to confirm that conditions on the early earth allowed living things, including man, to live a great deal longer than we do today.
3. Were the dinosaurs ferocious carnivores? The popular scientific press always depicts the Tyranosaurus rex chewing away at some poor toothless duck-billed hadrosaur. The teeth of Tyranosaurus' certainly look like that of a carnivore yet closer inspection shows that these long, needle-like teeth did not extend deeply into the jaw bone. Teeth of real carinores, such as the lion, are deeply set into the jaw bone because living flesh is extremely tough. The fruit bat (Myotis volifer) has long, needle-like teeth yet lives on nothing tougher than mangoes and papyas. Scientists now consider T. rex to have been a scavenger and thus it lived on soft, dead meat.
4. Were there marine dinosaurs? There are believed to have been about 350 different kinds of dinosaur and some of these evidently lived in the early oceans. Each dinosaur was unique, and after 150 years of searching, there is still no sign of a transitional form. For example, Monoclonius had one horn, Triceratops had three and, although popular science books tells us that the three-horned evolved from the one-horned type, nothing intermediate has ever been found to support this idea. The Brachiosaurus, for example, had its nostril on top of its head but no transitional creature has ever been found showing the migration of the nostril from the front to the top. Genesis 1:21 speaks of "the great creatures of the sea" and certainly even apart from the whales, there have been and possibly still are, some very large marine animals. The Tylosaurus, known from its fossil and believed to be extinct, was an 80 foot long crocodile-like creature with paddles rather than feet. Then there was the ever-popular Plesiosaurus, an air-breathing, marine reptile. Said to have become extinct 60 million years ago, there is good evidence that they still exist today. In April 1977 a Japanese commercial fishing boat trawling at 400 feet off the east coast of New Zealand caught a dead creaure in its net. It weighed 4,000 pounds, was 32 feet long and, according to the zoologist on board the vessel, had been dead in the water for about a month. Fin samples, a sketch and several colour photographs were taken before it was dumped back into the ocean. A panel of Japanese marine scientists examined the evidence and, while there were various opinions, some said it could be a Plesiosaur; the Japanese government celebrated the event by a postage stamp declaring it to be the discovery of the century. It is possible that the fabled Loch Ness monster is a Plesiosaur and is seen from time to time as it surfaces for air. For the past three centuries, reports have come from Zaire in western Africa that a dinosaur-like creature exists in the remote swamps. Expeditions have been launched several times but even if found, it is going to be very difficult to prove its existence. It would be virtually impossible to bring back a live or even a dead specimen while it has today become all too easy to fake photographs.
5. Did man and dinosaur live at the same time? According to the theory of evolution the dinosaurs became extinct at least 60 million years before the appearance of man, thus man and dinosaur could not have been contemporaneous. In contrast, according to Scripture, the beasts of the earth were made on the sixth day, only hours before Adam (Genesis 1:24 - 27). The book of Job (40:15) mentions "Behemoth," an untranslated Hebrew word and, from the description given, this would seem to nicely describe the Diplodocus. While some Bible footnotes suggest that Behemoth was an elephant this is highly unlikely since the elephant does not have anything like the tail described as "a cedar." Job (41:19-20) also has another untranslated Hebrew word "Leviathan" that is said to breathe fire from its nostrils. This sounds very much like the legends of fire-breathing dragons found throughout almost every culture. Is this possible? The Bombardier beetle (Brachinus americanus) has a mechanism whereby it is able to generate 28% hydrogen peroxide solution and mix this with hydroquinone in a special explosion sac. When the beetle is attacked, an enzyme triggers the explosive reaction of these mixed chemicals and very hot gases are shot out of a nozzle at the rear end of the beetle. This is a very effective defense mechanism and it would seem reasonable to assume that some dinosaurs may have had a similar mechanism. The duck-billed hadrosaur, for example, had no teeth but its fossil head has some strange passageways within its unusual bony dome which led from the throat area to the nostril. Just possibly these were used for breathing fire. The Chinese have records of large animals that could breathe fire and were kept for ceremonial occasions. The seventh century A.D. Saxon story of Beowolf is required reading for students of English literature and contains a description of the monster, Grendel, that perfectly fits a T. rex. Interestingly, because of the controversy, modern paperback editions of Beowolf, often leave out this description which appears in the first chapter of the book.
6. Did the birds evolve from the dinosaurs? As early as 1830 the French naturalist, Etienne St. Hilaire (1772-1844), proposed that the birds evolved from the bird-hipped dinosaurs. He had based his speculation upon the superficial similarity of bone structure, not size, but it was not until 1868 that the idea was given the voice of England's Thomas Huxley, the great promoter of Charles Darwin's evolution. The bird-hipped Daspletosaurus and the Dromiceiominus were two candidates for the ancestral bird; later, the much smaller Compsognathus seemed a more likely candidate. Following the publication of Darwin`s Origin' in 1859 and the German edition in 1861 in which Darwin had lamented that the absence of transition fossils was the most damaging evidence against his theory, the sought-after transition was discovered in the limestone beds of Solnhofen, southern Germany, and named Archaeopteryx lithographica. It had the appearance of a reptile but had feather impressions and a furcula or wishbone. This became the London specimen but in 1877 a much better specimen was discovered at the same location by the same Dr. Haberlein; this became the Berlin specimen. A photograph of this specimen appears in every biology textbook as the perfect evidence of the transition between the dinosaur and the bird. Since that time, four other specimens have been announced but not one of these contain feather impressions or a furcula. The London specimen has the only furcula but both Huxley and Darwin were suspicious of this and would not accept this specimen as a genuine transition. In 1986 Sir Fred Hoyle publically charged that the London specimen, kept at the British Natural History Museum, was a fake. The public were assured that this could not be the case because other specimens of Archaeopteryx had since been found but the public is generally not aware that all that has happened is that some previously existing museum specimens have been re-named! One was a pterosaur, another a compsognathus etc. Close inspection of the published data of the Berlin specimen leaves a heavy cloud of suspicion that this too is a fake and it would not be surprising since this specimen and the London specimen are the only two examples of transition fossils evolution has to offer yet the world's rocks should be packed full of them. One of the greatest difficulties facing the evolution of the birds from the dinosaurs is the fact that for years the dinosaurs have been assumed to have been cold-blooded, like reptiles. Birds, on the other hand, are warm-blooded. This is a major transition so great that the problem has in recent years been overcome by assumimg that the dinosaurs were warm-blooded. All the modern reconstructions now depict dinosaurs this way. They are shown in textbooks today as active creatures engaged in savage battle; the film Jurassic Park exemplified this new characteristic. However, the public should not be deceived by this new tactic to get around an old problem. Classifying all the dinosaurs as warm-blooded leads to a heating problem for the large specimens. The warm-blooded animals are limited in size to about that of the elephant. Digestion of food generates heat and the elephant's ears serve to dissapate that heat; there is no evidence that the large dinosaurs had large ears although the plates on the back of the Stegosaurus may have served as heat exchangers.The debate continues and real evidence will be required before it can be concluded that the bird-hipped dinosaurs were warm-blooded. One further difficulty with the thesis that the birds evolved from the dinosaurs concerns respiration. Recent fossil examination has shown that the lungs of dinosaurs operated in an entirely different way from that of the birds. Of course, this part of the anatomy has to work perfectly first time if evolution is true.
7. Did the dinosaurs go on the ark? Most, if not all, dinosaurs were hatched from eggs and thus began life quite small. Genesis 6:20 and 7:14-16 tells us that the Lord brought the creatures into the ark and it would seem perfectly reasonable that He would bring in only young, healthy specimens in order to begin the new generation. Every dinosaur fossil found so far appear to have been the victim of drowning in a catastrophic flood. Following the Genesis Flood, those dinosaurs from the ark began to multiply and dispersed throughout several continents. In time, as they grew larger and more numerous, they became a menace and it seems most likely that man, in an organized and systematic effort, has killed them off with the possibility that only a few are now left in isolated parts of the earth.
Photo: Tylosaurus specimen. Courtesy of Daderot. Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
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