Normally, being wrong sucks. It’s all -10 points and you don’t get into Harvard. Sadness. But, not in science. One of the best things about scientific method is that it makes being wrong fun. That does not mean that scientists always like to hear they are wrong. We are after all sinful, prideful beasts like the rest of you – just smarter – just kidding.
A while ago, I discussed some relatively recent, amazing contributions of paleontology in order to illustrate that, while DNA may trump fossils for reconstructing evolutionary histories and the relationships between organisms, paleontology provides information on physiology and geographical location that can only be inferred by other disciplines. One of the discoveries discussed was of a 125 million year old, man-sized Tyrannosaurus rex ancestor, Raptorex, reported in Science on 17 September 2009. Continue reading “corREXion?”
Paleontology doesn’t always get the respect it deserves (or desires), in the molecular, genomic, evolutionary, quantitative genetic circles we run in around here. Blame the DNA. Sequence comparisons have proven incomparable in establishing phylogenetic relationships between organisms.
Paleontology can also irritate us by creating false controversy, which irritates the heck out of us. The fossil record is a sparse and biased record of life. Supposed “missing links” are often an artifact of this fact. Supposed discrepancies between sequence divergence times and divergence in form from the fossil record often reflect the fact that sequence divergence necessarily precedes any differences in form significant enough to be noticeable in the fossil record.
Suffice it to say that earning the title Predator X should require a resume loaded with specific instances of statistically significant bad assery. Big fangs or some kung fu lessons might get you Predator L or, even, E, but we are talking about Predator Freaking X here. By law, Predator X must be one bad mother. . .
Shut your mouth!
I’m talking ’bout Predator X.
Then we can dig it.
Predator X was a pliosaur, a group of prehistoric marine reptiles (within the order plesiosauria) characterized by large body size, long heads, short necks, conical teeth, four flippers, and eating tasty things that had the misfortune to be smaller than them. Basically, pliosaurs were sea monsters, and sea monsters are already pretty bad ass.
Originally discovered in 2006, Predator X was the subject of a History channel documentary in 2009. Predator X was the subject of all manner of articles with the notable exception of the academic, peer-reviewed variety. Hmmm, the publicize before peer-review strategy sounds familiar to me.
What makes Predator X deserve all this attention? According to the team from the University of Oslo Natural History Museum Predator X stands out even in a clade of sea monsters:
Its anatomy, physiology and hunting strategy all point to it being the ultimate predator – the most dangerous creature to patrol the Earth’s oceans – quoted in New Scientist(link to original press release no longer available)