When 2 dinosaurs become 1


57 Responses to “When 2 dinosaurs become 1”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I had the following thought in a museum a few years ago: maybe the arms of Tyrannosaurus rex are not evolutionarily vestigial, but rather developmentally vestigial.

    If you imagine a T. rex growing from a much smaller egg, at some point you would have a dinosaur about the size of a Velociraptor. It *could* be shaped exactly like a T. rex and go around biting things, but it seems like it would do much better for itself if its arms were proportionally longer and more useful, and it looked and acted more or less like a Velociraptor. (I.e., scratching and disemboweling its prey rather than simply grabbing it with the head.)

    As it got bigger and bigger, my theory goes, its arms would not grow as much as the rest of it, leaving it with tiny useless arms when it got to full size. I think the hormonal system could make such a selective growth happen.

    • California Will says:

      Some of the earliest recognizable tyrannosaurid ancestors from China did have long raptor like arms. While a smaller t-rex with proportionately bigger arms would be cool, there have been a number of very young tyrannosaur fossils found and they still have puny arms, and actually proportionately longer legs instead. Since tyrannosaur bonebeds often contain individuals of all age classes, we now think that they probably hunted as a family group, with fleet footed youngsters running prey down and super powerful adults bitting prey like it was getting hit by a buick with teeth.

  2. Roach says:

    This is seriously one of the coolest things I have ever read. Good commentary too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    In cases like this, when a name must be changed or eliminated, the older name takes precedence. O.C. Marsh named both Triceratops, and Torosaurus — Triceratops in 1889, and Torosaurus in 1891. So, the correct name would be Triceratops for all, and there would no longer be a Torosaurus (unless they recycle names and someone else uses it for a new dinosaur later on down the road).

  4. nixiebunny says:

    So extinct insects would really trick these poor scientists. Caterpillar? Butterfly? How could those be the same species?

  5. adonai says:

    Paleontologists: curse this sudden but inevitable betrayal!

  6. efergus3 says:

    So Velociraptors turned into IRS agents? Makes perfect sense to me.

  7. Jonathan Badger says:

    So, let me follow your analogy. Parmigiana is the adult stage of chickens?

  8. Anonymous says:

    “when two dinosaurs become one”


  9. Markle says:

    Like with Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus, the first named example wins out. So it’ll be Triceratops.

  10. Felton says:

    Ah, so not a dinosaur love story.

  11. harpdevil says:

    TRICERATOPS is evolving!

    Congratulations! You TRICERATOPS evolved into TOROSAURUS!

  12. NoahApples says:

    So basically triceratops evolves at level 22?

  13. harpdevil says:

    #8 I love we both had the same idea at the exact same time.

  14. MrJM says:

    If paleontologists were wrong, then the creationists must be right, right?

  15. lolbrandon says:

    A tadpole and a frog. A caterpillar and a butterfly. Yeah, I wonder if metamorphosis wouldn’t be totally unheard of on other planets, too.

  16. Anonymous says:

    While we have bits of dino DNA, mostly from those insects trapped in amber, it’s like having a picture puzzle of a forest where most of the pieces are missing. There’s no way you can guess what the leaves on all those missing pieces would look like. In other words, we’re nowhere close to being able to clone a dino.

    As for the theory on Triceratops being a Torosaurus, it’s cool. Horner is the guy who first theorized that T-rex wasn’t a predator but a scavenger. But then you have a guy like Bakker who totally refutes that. So I think it’s premature to say definitely that it is so. But it’s definitely a pretty cool idea.

    Oh, and as for that T-rex “soft tissue”– it was proved to be a mistake three years later. There was no soft tissue inside a 65 million year-old bone.

  17. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Many people in long-term relationships experience this confusion and disbelief regarding the life stages of spouses.

    • extra88 says:

      Speaking of spouses, mine didn’t know the yellow flower weeds and white puffy flying seed weeds were both the same thing (dandelions) until she was in her thirties :)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Cf. baby and adult eels. The juveniles look like silver leafs, and ichthyologists didn’t know what they grew into. They also didn’t know what a juvenile eel looked like. SCIENCE!!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Fair enough, and I love science, but where’s my pet dinosaur? It’s 2010!

  20. Anonymous says:

    So, how will this affect things with regards to the Blue Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger?

  21. Ugly Canuck says:

    Any excuse to hear a song about a little dinosaur…


    ..but it’s just too sad that he has to go away.

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is nothing new. I seem to remember that one of the EARLY FAMOUS dino investigators went around creating 2 species from 1. He found he got more attention and money if found a NEW species instead of a variation of a previously known species. So he would declare almost every new site a new species. The real scientists since have been reversing his ‘work.’

  23. pauldrye says:

    Thankfully it looks like we’ll avoid another Brontosaurus -> Apatosaurus debacle on this one. A quick check shows that Triceratops is the older name, so Torosaurus is headed for the dustbin of history if this gains wide acceptance.

  24. pauldrye says:

    Or, on further reading, what Markle said.

  25. Chuck says:

    So at what elevation do triceratops turn into torosaurus? (Or is that a seasonal issue?) :-P

  26. California Will says:

    We paleontologists follow fads of lumping and splitting species names. Scannella and Horner’s paper does an excellent job of illustrating ontonogenetic series of a ceratopsian, but come to the conclusion that Triceratops changed morphology very rapidly, very late in development. The Torosaurus morphology is much rarer, and it stands to reason that breeding age individuals were not the minority. Therefore, either Triceratops underwent this transformation after reaching breeding age, there are two sexes of the same species and males underwent late changes for stronger mate competition or there are two different species with similar early life stages. I think that the last is the correct hypothesis. Scannella and Horner illustrate an ontonogenetic series of 11 frills. I see two distinct size series within their one ontonogenetic series with the distinct morphologies. It seems likely that we’ve been calling too many of the baby dinosaurs Triceratops when some of them were probably Torosaurus. This would be like confusing a young chicken and a young guinea foul. When more research is done into the fine detailed differences between individuals, I think it is likely that we’ll come up with more ways of differentiating the two and Torosaurus will be considered distinct again.

    • Anonymous says:

      So, two different species in the same place at the same time, extremely hard to distinguish until they reach old age? Scannella and Horner suggest it but dismiss it as a less parsimonious explanation, which sounds more reasonable to my ears (though I am no palaeontologist).

    • AlKorz says:

      Or, the young of the species were more likely to walk into tar pits or get stuck in the mud in a river, whereas the ones who were smart enough to avoid that fate died of old age under a shrubbery somewhere and their bones never fossilized. You can’t assume that the number of fossilized remains is proportional to the number of living creatures. We Engineers get fooled less often than Paleontologists.

  27. cinemajay says:

    FWIW, if you have stock in that company, I heard they are not doing so well :(

  28. Anonymous says:

    wouldn’t genetic testing settle it?

  29. Anonymous says:

    Now if they’d only bring back Pluto. They should too.

  30. Anonymous says:

    BoingBoing, I just want to thank you for not presenting this story as “Triceratops Never Existed!” the way pretty much every other news source is doing.

  31. Anonymous says:

    ‘I Still Believe’ triceratops shirt: http://ow.ly/2jW7o

  32. Stooge says:

    After all—as my husband pointed out—nobody would be shocked to learn that a baby chick, an adult chicken, and plate of parmigiana were all the same animal.

    In the US that may be true, but if you try telling an Italian that parmigiana contains chicken, don’t be surprised if the response involves torches and pitchforks.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Triceratops.. you’re the tops!!

  34. Anonymous says:

    I think Triceratops was described first and then Torosaurus–by a couple of years. If the two species become synonymized, then the rules of zoological binomial nomenclature demand that Torosaurus, not Triceratops disappears. Translation: Torosaurus is really a Triceratops, not the other way around. Of course, there are alot of other possibilities–like that there are juveniles of two different species. Horner is famous for sensationalism and over-reaching conclusions with meager data, but that’s another story. Long live Triceratops.

  35. Anonymous says:

    How can you see growth rings on the bones when they’ve been replaced by minerals? Does someone have some real bone skulls they’ve been holding out on? I thought they were all fossils.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Jesus turned triceratops into torosaurases with a wiggle of his nose. All praise my invisable friend in the sky

  37. Anonymous says:

    Don’t know where this story/science went, but a few years ago they found soft tissue within a T-Rex fossil:


  38. duncan says:

    Sounds like some one found the shard. The urRu and the Skeksis are about to be rejoined.

  39. peterbruells says:

    wouldn’t genetic testing settle it?

    A superlative suggestion sir, with only two minor drawbacks: one, we don’t have any dino dna and two, we don’t have any dino dna. I know that technically that’s only one drawback, but I thought it was such a big one it was worth mentioning twice.

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