Learning about dinosaurs

Re: Dinosaurs of B.C. fill the Okanagan Heritage Museum in Kelowna (Castanet, Jun 6)

Dinosaurs of BC is the name of the exhibition that runs to Sept. 30 at Kelowna's Okanagan Heritage Museum.

The star of the show is “Buster,” the first dinosaur species of its kind ever discovered that is unique to British Columbia, whose scant remains (six bones) were found in 1971 by geologist Kenny Larsen while prospecting for minerals near the Sustut River.

In a June 5 interview, Amanda Snyder, the museum's curatorial manager, said Buster is part of the ceratops family (Ceratopsia) and a much smaller relative of Triceratops.

Victoria Arbour, curator of palaeontology at the Royal British Columbia Museum, and David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum examined Buster’s bones during research in 2019. Buster was given the scientific name Ferrisaurus sustutensis, meaning “The Iron Lizard from the Sustut River”.

Paleoartist Brian Cooley was brought in to recreate Buster. Arbour admits Buster’s colours are guesswork, but says the patterns are loosely based on the modern caiman lizard. Cooley took his inspiration from modern animals that need to camouflage themselves from predators, with brighter areas to attract mates.

Sarika Cullis-Suzuki and Anthony Morgan are the co-hosts of CBC television’s The Nature of Things. In a recent video short, the pair interviewed paleoartist Henry Sharpe:

Morgan: “Do we really know what dinosaurs looked like?”

Sharpe: “Well, reconstructing dinosaurs is science, right? In science, we never really know. We just have hypotheses that are supported and hypotheses that aren’t supported. And compared to when we first started looking at dinosaurs hundreds of years ago, we have so much more data that we can build better hypotheses on. So I’d say that our current hypotheses of how dinosaurs looked are pretty well supported.”

Cullis-Suzuki: “So this might be what dinosaurs look like today but in a few decades, who knows?"

Sharpe: “Exactly. We’ve got more people looking for dinosaur fossils now than ever before in history, so the chances of us finding new discoveries that completely change what we think dinosaurs looked like is entirely possible….”

The descriptions of more than 300 dinosaurs are found at The Dino Directory (Natural History Museum website).

Is it possible to document from the fossil record the series of step-by-step transitional forms that led up to *any* dinosaur species or genus? For example, the transitional series that led up to:

• Ankylosaurus?

• Argentinosaurus?

• Brachiosaurus?

• Parasaurolophus?

• Stegosaurus?

• Triceratops?

• Tyrannosaurus?

Even one species or genus?

Pterosaurs are often referred to as "flying dinosaurs," but they are not classified as such. The smallest known pterosaur is Nemicolopterus, with an estimated wingspan of about 25 centimetres. Other pterosaurs approached the size of a small airplane! (i.e. Quetzalcoatlus)

1. How does evolution explain pterosaurs gradually developing fully functional wings, with their long bony fourth finger, from non-winged ancestors?

2. Is there any fossil evidence for their transitional forms from non-winged ancestors?

David Buckna, Kelowna

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