Thursday, 22 October 2009

National Geographic News: A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed

According to a National Geographic documentary there were far fewer dinosaur species than we thought. Image: dinosaurs at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Joel Kontinen

Dinosaurs Decoded is a new documentary that challenges our views of dinosaurs. The film, produced by the National Geographic Channel, claims that a third of dinosaur species never existed.

Young dinosaurs differed in many ways from their parents. However, researchers have not always taken this into account. Science thus ”knows” species that have never existed.

Mark Goodwin of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jack Horner of Montana State University, are prominent palaeontologists who present their discoveries in the documentary. They suggest, for instance, that the relatives of T. rex were often classified as distinct species although they actually were juveniles that lacked the traits that are characteristic of adult Tyrannosaurs.

Nowadays many researchers regard Nanotyrannus as a young T. rex. They know that dinosaurs changed as they got older just like many present species do. For instance, deer get their antlers when they are full-grown.

Dinosaurs Decoded has important ramifications for the reliability of fossil finds. It suggests that we should perhaps take a more skeptical approach to them – or at least to headlines that advertise a discovery as the fossil of the century.

Later research almost always brings to light features that refute the original claims of the importance of the discovery. Recently, we saw this happen in the case of the Ida fossil.

Finding a new species brings prestige and fame to its discoverer. Is it any wonder, then, that scientists habitually defend the importance of their fossil and discount the significance of rival discoveries? Richard Leakey, whose research team found Turkana Boy, the famous Homo erectus fossil, for instance, moved Lucy or Australopithecus afarensis to a side branch of the hominid tree.

Seen from a creation perspective, Dinosaurs Decoded is a welcome innovation. Noah did not have to take as many dinosaurs on board the ark as evolutionists assumed. In addition, it is good to keep in mind that the average dino was as small as a sheep or a calf.


Barras, Colin. 2009. Richard Leakey: Passionate, prickly and principled. New Scientist 2730 (14 October)

Handwerk, Brian. 2009. A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed? National Geographic News (9 October)