Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they?"
Just popping in to report on the ongoing saga of the new Deinocheirus specimen(s?).
For those who haven't been keeping up, rumors of one or more new finds from this age-old dino mystery have been swirling for a few months now. While a new find was whispered of over a year ago, the real action didn't start until Michael Ryan posted on his blog regarding Phil Currie's re-discovery of the original quarry where the infamous "terrible hands" and their adjoining titanic arms were first found in the late 1960s. He ended the short post with the tantalizing statement that they'd found more of the skeleton.
[Reconstruction of Deinocheirus as an ornithomimid by Wikipedia illustrator and DinoForum member known as FunkMonk, some rights reserved. More on this image below]
As a child of the '80s, and thanks to any number of old dinosaur books for kids, Deinocheirus stands out at THE mystery dinosaur. Gigantic, clawed arms of a predatory dinosaur larger than anything else like them by an order of magnitude. What kind of creature could these possibly have belonged to? The imagination runs wild.
Thanks to phylogenetic studies done in the 1990s and 2000s, most paleontologists have concluded that it was probably a gigantic ornithomid, or "ostrich dinosaur," though just what a 40ft ornithomimid would look like and what kind of specialised adaptations it must have had remain a mystery.
Well, a mystery to most. I brought up Ryan's blog post at DinoForum last November to fish for clues. And boy did I get them. Several people posted tortured cries of "wait for the paper." I can't imagine the Machiavellian pleasure people must take in knowing the answer to such a compelling and long-standing mystery and not being able to talk about it. They must feel like the creators of Lost.
Most people couldn't resist posting more clues, or teaser answers to questions in that thread. T. Mike Keesey of Dinosauricon fame knows what it is. Is it a giant ornithomid, or something more? Says Keesey: "Oh, it's more." Keesey also dropped the bomb that the find in the original quarry was NOT the one he was thinking of. More than one Deinocheirus? A new member of the deinocheirid family? Something else? Somebody knows what it is. Somebody knows. Ok, now I'm just sounding like the creepy ginger guy from Watchmen. Anyway, more rumors from those in the know suggested that, while Currie and Ryan's site had turned up new remains, they weren't much. The other new find, however, seemed to be something much more complete.
By the end of January, Scott Hartman weighed in... by laughing at us poor blind plebs. Openly mocking our futile attempts at solving the puzzle. Yup, creators of Lost all right.
But, today, another solid clue, perhaps the most solid yet. Not a clue: an answer.
FunkMonk (mentioned above, sorry, don't know your real name dude) had posted a thread for critiques of his artwork a while back, also at DinoForum. Now the subject of his Deinocheirus has come up again. Scott Hartman reckoned a giant ornithomimid should be more graviportal (with heavy and stout limbs, unlike the lithe form of small, fast ornithomimds). But, it was an old thread, and the picture was done before rumors of the new find(s), and Keesey's implication that it might not be an ornithomimid. Funk didn't want to put more effort into a drawing that might be completely off base. Well, someone came along and put that one to rest.
"It's an ornithomimid."
Stay tuned, gosshounds, as the saga continues to unfold!
[Photo: cast of the currently-known Deinocheirus specimen from Wikipedia, some rights reserved.]