Monday, August 24, 2009

Depicting the extinct

This is an interesting example of the question of how ancient beasts are reconstructed and how they are depicted, both in science and in popular culture. In this column from Cryptomundo, the specific example is whether the giant marine reptile Tylosaurus had any form of crest running down its back. Early paleontologists thought they saw evidence of a low crest, and depicted the animal that way. Later artists sometimes increased the size of the crest, mainly because it made the beast look more like that powerful creature of myth, the dragon. Modern paleontologists think any evidence for crests was misinterpreted, and they now depict Tylosaurus with a featureless back. Without an actual Tylosaurus, though, we don't know if that's precisely correct either.

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