Into Jurassic World Part 3: Attack of the Fanboys

Hey there every peoples

Here we are. About to dig into the hideous, cancerous world of dinosaur fanboys  (and fangirls. They certainly exist, but I’m using fanboy as a shorthand. Plus most of the hate i have encountered has come from the male variety). There are no winners here. We all lose. Oh deep unabiding joy. Let’s get this over with.

Now I know what you are saying. “Doug, these people are just passionate. They just love dinosaurs so much. They were simply voicing their opinion over what they saw as disrespect towards something they care deeply about.” And to that I say:

YES, they are fanboys! Let me count the ways!

Let’s see, they present their opinion as fact:

Feathered dinosaurs are awesome. Deal with it.

Well I thought it was terrific. So there -> response -> well you’re wrong. fact


They call others fanboys while engaging in the behavior themselves:

Dear Collin JW and Trevarrow (AKA He Who Relies on Nostalgic 90s Fanboys)

… attempting to explain scary freathered dinosaur to a 90s fanboy

I think the movie is being made by fans of the original Jurassic Park. I doubt they care about or even understand any of it.

Hollywood is a braindead parasite and it couldn’t give a toss about accuracies or bastardizing books, tv shows, and comic books written by far better people

Condescension towards differing opinions/arguments:

people keep coming up with excuses to not do the creatures accurately. That fact alone should tell you something isn’t right

“It didn’t satisfy him emotionally”… And I guess having aliens in an Indiana Jones movie did, eh? Hmmmmm… sounds like someone has an emotional imbalance.

(trivializing mental issues to look down on someone who did something that you disagree with. as some who does suffer an emotional imbalance… fuck you, you arrogant jerkoffs)

They nitpick like hell:

Gallimimus:… arms are attached in the wrong place

The Apatosaurus had the wrong feet

The hadrosaurs chewed wrong

Triceratops… close up of paw was not accurate

Nothing is good enough:

”Maintain aesthetic continuity” sounds like “be lazy and keep it safe”. yawn.

Ok…. I’m going to be really witty and coin a new term for what is going on here… Jurassic Park Apologetics”

I call bullshit. They can easily correct it in cannon

Jurassic World delivers boom in prehistoric interest ->response -> it is an ill wind that blows no good

They feel the need to constantly take pot shots to prove how “above” the movie they are:


“Look, they found a rubber tire with eyes!” (Photo copyright Universal Pictures)


-“Does anyone here recall seeing the shopped JW scene where the gyrosphere is caked in dinosaur shit?” -“Made by David Krentz. All glory to him.” -“Not the only shit in this movie…”

They brush everything off as an excuse:

people keep coming up with excuses to not do the creatures accurately

but this becomes a lazy excuse quite quickly

And, of course, they judge something without even seeing it:

Nothing could convince me to see this stinkbuger of a film

… I haven’t seen it yet- but without feathers its CRAP!!!!

I saw the clip on youtube

Your podcast will be the closest I get to seeing it

Now, we have already discussed a lot of their ire in the last post. Now being a fanboy about fiction is one thing. Except they seem to act like fanboys about real world things. You see, I get the distinct feeling that all this impotent rage isn’t just about being scientifically accurate. I think all the gnashing of teeth and foaming-at-the-mouth hate has to do with their obvious affinity for feathered dinosaurs.

I mean, when you get right down to it, the majority of the hate directed at this movie is because the dinosaurs don’t have feathers:

I already talked about how movies don’t HAVE to be scientifically accurate. So why do they rage like they do? It appears because their beloved feathered dinosaurs weren’t given their proper (in their eyes) respect. The director said he didn’t find feathered dinosaurs scary. How dare he! Then came the onslaught of “feathered dinosaurs are scary!”

Anyone who isn’t afraid of feathered dinosaurs clearly hasn’t manhandled a goose or gone into a hen house with a rooster in it.

Yeah, I have been around those things at my aunt’s ranch and my cousin’s place. Apparently bir- sorry, feathered dinosaurs- are no match for a small dirt clod. No biggie.

Tigers are fuzzy too, but you don’t see the producers of Life of Pi shaving Richard Parker

Consider the mane on a lion or the fuzz on a gorilla’s arm.

Yeah but there is just one problem: lions and tigers have had thousands of years of interaction with humans to establish their deadly predator cred (Maneaters of Tsavo, anyone?). And they have always looked like that. They weren’t depicted for a century as scaly and then had fuzz added on in the last 10 or so years.

Of course, this is not a new development. Back before any of this (in the forgotten age of 2012), science writer Brian Switek made a bizarre attempt at trying to prove the “superiority” of feathered dinosaurs. (What I don’t get, though, is this was after Yutyrannus came onto the scene. So why he didn’t use it is beyond me). A couple days before, he railed against someone who thought feathered dinosaurs are “lame”. A simple matter of opinion. Doesn’t change the fact that there are fossils of dinosaurs with feathers. But to the fanboys, any opinion that isn’t theirs is a giant affront to their favorite dead animals that must be proven wrong. Switek proclaimed at the end of his post “feathered dinosaurs are awesome. Deal with it”. Presenting opinion as fact, how professional. Indeed, the subtitle of the article was “Feathered dinosaurs are awesome. Why do so many people hate them?” I know, right? Why doesn’t everyone agree with my opinion that feathered dinosaurs are awesome?

Sinocalliopteryx, truly the scourge of the ancient Liaoning forest. Except for that big Yutyrannus thing… Art by Cheung Chungtat, from Xing et al., 2012.

So in covering a new paper, he decided he had to prove to the world that he was right and that feathered dinosaurs are the most awesomest thing EVAR!!1! His post concerned a small predatory dinosaur from the early Cretaceous of China. Called Sinocalliopteryx, it was 3 feet tall, 8 feet long, and weighed about 40 pounds. The paper discussed two specimens with preserved gut contents. One had eaten the hind leg of a small dromaeosaur (Microraptor) while the other had snatched a couple of small birds (Confuciusornis). Switek crowed:

Earlier this week, I got into a snit over the blinkered assertion that feathery dinosaurs are lame. I argued the opposite point–as I wrote at the time “Feathered dinosaurs are awesome. Deal with it.” How fortunate that a new paper this week offers proof of fuzzy dinosaur superiority.

Um, how does that make it superior to non-feathered dinosaurs? Because it ate things? As opposed to scaly dinosaurs… that also ate things? Even when we can’t tell whether it caught and killed its lunch or simply scavenged it? And if eating a couple of little tweety birds makes you superior to non feathered dinosaurs, then my cat is superior to non feathered dinosaurs. Hell that means spiders are superior to non-feathered dinosaurs. So we have a dinosaur barely taller than a goose and weighing no more than my dog. Ignoring the 30 foot, one and a half ton feathered brute revealed earlier that year, Switek instead declared Sinocalliopteryx to be

… a great example of a fluffy dinosaur you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Really? Ok, Sinocalliopteryx:


Gile knife used by the Afar tribe of Ethiopia. Those east African herdsman were some tough bastards!

Gile knife used by the Afar tribe of Ethiopia. Those east African herdsman were some tough bastards!


Mayan war club, reconstructed by moi from Stele 5, Uaxactun.

Mayan war club, reconstructed by moi from Stele 5, Uaxactun.


Polynesian thrusting spear (ihe in Hawaiian, tao in Maori)

Polynesian thrusting spear (ihe in Hawaiian, tao in Maori)

You know, I showed Sinocalliopteryx to my uncle and cousin, asking them what they would do if they found this thing on their property. Rather than cower in fear or gasp “hell no, I ain’t going near that thing”, they simply said they would shoot it like any other varmint. In fact, with few exceptions (Yutyrannus, Therizinosaurus, Gigantoraptor, Deinocheirus), pretty much all feathered dinosaurs could be easily dispatched with Uncle Colt:


Or the 12 Gauge Twins:


But all of that seems rather excessive. The dreaded Sinocalliopteryx looks like it could be fended off with a cricket bat. But what do I know about the oh so “superior” feathered dinosaurs? (and a suggestion: if you want feathered dinosaurs to be taken seriously, to be viewed as scary and awesome, then maybe you should stop describing them as “fuzzy” and “fluffy” and “enfluffled”, and when they eat something they “snaffled” it up, and how you “adore them”. You can write however you want, I just wanted to throw that out there.)

Another prime example this is all about feathers: the “build a better fake theropod” challenge.  The first entry:

“Quilled Slasher” by Alex Lovegrove.

Just bigger claws and feathers. Maybe the next will be better:

My Version of Indominus rex (Second Pass) by DeinonychysEmpire

Again, just looks like some generic theropod.

“Suckertip” by Traheripteryx

What?! You didn’t build a better fake theropod, you just spliced an oviraptorsaur with Ahnold. Alright, you have one more chance and it is:

“Cryptonychus arborealis” by Brian Engh.

Seriously? Your answer to the Indominous rex is the dinosaur equivalent of Trumpy ? Hey Brian Engh, you can do stupid things (+20 internet points to anyone who knows where that’s from). And again, the only difference is feathers. So basically, the only thing the fanboys think is an improvement is feathers. The dinosaur could have machine guns for hands, giant bat wings, a chainsaw at the end of its tail, laser vision, acid blood, fire breath, titanium teeth that double as self-replenishing rockets, and host a late night talk show… but as long as it has feathers, it’s ok and certainly a step up from the I. rex. I know you, in your infinite humility, believe that are right no matter what and always do better than the preproduction artists who designed the I. rex. But I don’t think those are any better. I mean, the only difference I see is feathers. You couldn’t have used your imaginations? Or was all this just another hissy fit because the movie didn’t have feathers on their dinosaurs? Just an exercise in self congratulating that you are so much smarter and better than a movie? You are of course free to do so, it’s your opinion and all. Just don’t expect everyone to take it seriously because you think science backs your opinion.

Amongst the waving of pitchforks and torches, this caught my eye:

I think it’s clear that nobody able to raise the dollars required to make a big budget dinosaur-themed film is interested in doing anything interesting.

Ok, that’s your opinion and that’s fine and all but… could you maybe elaborate on what you mean by “interesting”?  Again, that word is subject to the personal views and tastes of the person using it. Remember what I said in my last post about movies being risks? Different and interesting don’t always mean success at the box office. Jurassic World was trying to keep things interesting with the genetic monstrosity that is the Indominus rex. Comment sections in the preceding months were showing reservations over that decision. Avatar was different in that it wasn’t (outright) based on any franchise or property. And yet it is probably the most hated movie in the last decade (I get torn a new one anytime I mention that I actually enjoy it). Batman: Arkham Asylum tried to do something interested with the Joker by having him get injected with Titan. Fans disliked that aspect of the game because “Joker isn’t a brute. He’s supposed to be smart, not strong”. The second Jurassic Park movie tried to do something interesting by bringing a dinosaur to the mainland. People still talk about how “stupid” and “silly” that was . Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull tried to keep it interesting with inter-dimensional beings (basically aliens), which are a big part of the lore of the Crystal Skulls. Judging from the fanboy hate that rages to this day, you’d think that movie was the biggest crime against humanity since… any of the appalling genocides of the 20th century (equal opportunity Godwin, because I do my best to keep this blog progressive). Jurassic Park 3 tried to keep things interesting by replacing the T. rex with Spinosaurus. That wasn’t well received either. In fact:

Right now, your lot’s definition of interesting seems to be limited to feathers on dinosaurs. How do you know putting feathers on the dinosaurs would have made it better in everyone else’s eyes? How do you know the people who aren’t as obsessed with dinosaurs as you would have found the feathers interesting? Not everyone is you!

We’ll get back to the fan rage in just a moment. Right now I want to talk about feathered dinosaurs themselves. You see, the fanboys weren’t just outraged that the Velociraptor didn’t have feathers. They were mad that the T. rex didn’t have feathers. Now the matter of feathers on T. rex is a matter of debate. Some of it’s earlier, more basal relatives have feathers or protofeathers. But no advanced tyrannosaurids (ie Daspletosaurus, Albertosaurs, and T. rex itself) have been found with feathers. A few skin patches have been preserved, showing large and bumpy scales. Of course, the fanboys have an answer to everything:

Nor does a patch of skin automatically mean that the entire animal was covered in only that sort of integument. (The same, of course, goes for feathers and their forerunners.)

True, but why do I get this sneaking suspicion that if a tyrannosaurid is found with a little tuft of fuzz, you would be crying “we told you so! We told you so!” and start slathering feathers all over it. Except you already do that. Reconstructing the appearance of an extinct animal is always going to be an exercise in speculation. There is no physical evidence that tyrannosaurids had feathers. Of course, the fanboys have an answer to everything:

Based on it’s a phylogeny, it’s almost certainly a mix of the two(scales and feathers)

Firstly, phylogenetic bracketing is evidence…

For those of you who don’t know, phylogeny is the practice of using relationships to predict soft tissues in animals. It isn’t airtight, however, and modern animals show that there are always exceptions. T. rex may be “surrounded” by things with feathers, but how do you know there wasn’t some circumstance that could have stripped it of its fuzzy integument? It’s size, its habitat, its climate may have all favored a scaly, “nude” body. Jingmai O’Conner said that we should even take taphonomy into consideration when trying to determine integument. Of course, when the discussion concerns feathers on T. rex, the fanboys always gleefully point to Yutyrannus as if it’s some magic bullet. Yutyrannus means feathers on T. rex! But Yutyrannus, while big, is only a quarter the weight of T. rex. Large animals have more issues with heat loss, so maybe T. rex lost its feathers to help it stay cool. Yutyrannus! But it has been suggested that Yutyrannus lived in a rather cold climate. The feathers likely served as insulation to shield it from the cold. Since T. rex lived in a warmer climate, it wouldn’t have needed them. Yutyrannus! But Yutyrannus is one species. How do you know it’s the rule and not the exception? Isn’t painting with a broad brush kind of frowned upon in science? Yutyrannus! But Yutyrannus is a tyrannosauroid. Yes it shares a larger group with T. rex and its cousins, but they are in a different family, the tyrannosaurids. YUTYRANNUS! Yutyrannus, the deus ex machina of feathered dinosaurs!

Cassowaries are covered with feathers and they live in the sweltering tropics. Their feathers are even black, the most heat absorbing color.

Cassowaries aren’t 40 feet long and 6 tons in weight.

Scales-only cannot be taken as the default any more than totally-feathery tyrannosaurids can. But given how the story of dinosaur feathers has unfolded, I’d bet on the fuzz.

Ok, but you people seem to be taking feathers as a default, decrying anything that doesn’t have them. And bet all you want. Doesn’t mean you are or will be right. We’ll need to wait for that little thing called… evidence. Unless you have some magical ability to see the future that the rest of us don’t.

I’m sorry but really can’t take serious someone defending any kind of featherless coelorosaur for “not enough evidence” reasons anymore. Its nostalgia and people just don’t want to admit it.

Well I can’t take you seriously, not least for resorting to “nostalgia” in response to people who don’t share your feather lust. This right here encapsulates my problem with what has been dubbed the “all yesterdays movement”. Named after the book of the same name, it posits not just feathers but all sorts of weird and extravagant soft tissue (and even behaviors) on dinosaurs . The point is sound: dinosaurs may have had all kinds of soft features and behaviors that haven’t preserved. Art is a form of opinion, and if you want to make a fuzzy T. rex with a giant cock’s comb and fins on its tail, you can do that. However, science deals in evidence. Usually hard evidence. Fanboys like the above quote seem to want to engage in rampant speculation, reconstructing dinosaurs more to what they find awesome than what science has to say. Their desire to see feathers on anything they can find any reason to feels just as much like an obsession with the changing look of dinosaurs. Yes, our perception of dinosaurs is changing like never before, but for god’s sake it doesn’t give you an excuse to draw dinosaurs however you like and call it science. I mean, Brian Switek once wrote an article titled “I am tired of seeing naked dinosaurs.” Well, we have evidence for feathers in lots of dinosaurs and they are depicted accordingly. If that makes you view “naked” dinosaurs with contempt then that is your problem. But putting feathers on everything is stretching the evidence too far. Like I said, you can portray dinosaurs however you want. But when it comes to scientific reconstructions, you have to follow within the confines of the evidence. It may not be “right”, it may not be “cool”, it may be “boring”, but it is what we have to do until a new discovery says otherwise. If you go outside the bounds of that evidence, then you need to let people know that. But you won’t, because you have decided that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

The dinosaur’s appearance is open to multiple hypotheses.

Really? If we are supposed to be open to all possibilities, then why are you guys throwing such a tantrum over a T. rex in a movie being shown without feathers?

I can’t take depictions of a featherless T. rex seriously anymore

Oh yeah, clearly he’s open to all possibilities. I mean, to listen to the fanboys, you’d think phylogeny was this magic wand that lets them put feathers on anything they like. Because a Psittacosarus was found with a few bristles, that means all ceratopsians most likely had them too. Phylogeny!


Ah yes, so rather than acknowledge that people have different opinions and address problems (even if they are scientific) with a feathered tyrannosaurid, just regurgitate some stupid internet meme and then act like you won.

But the fanboys have one more desperate ploy left: mammals. As if dinosaurs and mammals were completely alike. I mean, hair is used as a defining trait of mammals. There are some exceptions, but it is clearly universal. Feathers, on the other hand, have only been seen in one group of dinosaurs (theropods, and even then only certain groups). And some bristle-like structures have only been found in a couple dinosaurs. But facts are irrelevant to fanboys:

There is also no physical evidence that Hyaenodon had fur.

If you discovered the skeleton of a prehistoric cat you’d reconstruct it with fur

There is no evidence ancient hominids had hair. But we can infer they did.

There is a lot here, but to start with it should be obvious that even those are up to interpretation. First off, the hominins. Yes we infer hair, but have you ever noticed that the amount of hair on a fossil hominin is proportional to how “human” we think they are? And mammal reconstructions are not set in stone. Because Bison latifrons is a bison, it has long been depicted as a modern bison with longer horns. But according to Jerry McDonald, it probably didn’t look that way. The occipital condyles are angled differently, implying that B. latifrons held its head in a more horizontal position. And it probably didn’t have a ruff either. American bison have shorter horns than European bison and other ancient bison species. This means it can’t lock it’s like the others. If you watch American bison fight, they include more butting. The ruff acts like a cushion. Compare that to European bison. When they fight, they lock horns and push each other around. And guess what, their head hair is a mere mat compared to the American bison’s afro. Cave art and frozen carcasses show that Bison priscus also had reduced hair. So based on all this, and its more robust limbs, McDonald’s Bison latifrons looks more like a Texas longhorn than the classic bison:

barstow bio strat

From the top going clockwise: Bison latifrons, Bison antiquus, Bison bison, and Bison priscus. from McDonald, ’81, scan curtesy of Eric Scott

(By the way, that book was written in 1981 . So why did it never catch on?)

And what if there were no elephants alive today? All we would have are woolly mammoths to go on. So all elephants would be depicted hairy. Or say we found preserved skin from Indian elephant, Columbian mammoth, and Stegodon, but not woolly mammoth. We would depict it naked. Some would argue it was hairy because of the cold climate it lived in. But its “surrounded” by bare-skinned animals, so it must have been bare skinned as well. Or pinnipeds. Most have some kind of fur (except walruses). But if pinnipeds were known only from fossils, we would portray them naked because they lived in the sea, like whales and sea cows. But what about Andrewsarchus? This animal, from the Eocene of Mongolia, is known from a single skull without a lower jaw. It was originally thought to be a mesonychid, and so for much of the 20th and 21st century it looked like this:

Andrewsarchus as it appeared in Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (copyright BBC)

But a recent study completely rewrote its taxonomic status. They found Andrewsarchus to be an artiodactyl (even-toed hoofed animals), specifically related to entelodonts. So along came this new reconstruction:

New reconstruction employing new phylogenetic data. By Mike Ellison

According to the fanboy definition of phylogeny, that is how Andrewsarcus looked in life, no if, ands, or buts. But how do they know? We don’t have ANY body fossils! Maybe it looked more like a mesonychid (leading the original describers astray) because it may have converged on them. We won’t know until we actually find the rest of the bloody thing. And dinosaur taxonomy, it seems, is being rewritten all the time. So how can we be so confidant when something is “surrounded”? It may not be tomorrow.

Here is a rather facepalm worthy tidbit. This is a comment from a youtube video actually calling for a boycott of the film:

What’s wrong with raptors evolving on the island? That’s way better than saying the made them on wrong on purpose.

No. Just no. The dinosaurs suddenly “evolving” feathers is waaaaaay more stupid than the in movie explanation. Evolution doesn’t work like that. It takes more than the 20 years the dinosaurs have been on the islands. Besides, these are dinosaurs, not pokemon.

raptor pokemonSo because the fanboys’ fee fees were bruised, they decided to go on a meme campaign to “prove” how scary feathered dinosaurs are. To do that they used… birds. Oh right, birds aren’t birds, they are feathered dinosaurs. Here we go:

10438535_1091429704206028_2889185202609669204_nNice try, but clearly you don’t know much about horror movies. Any horror movie fan worth their salt can tell you that gore is never scary. Fear comes from what we don’t see, what they can’t make sense of. When all you do is spray blood and fling body parts all over the place, you don’t get people running in terror. You get people trying to stifle their vomit. Hell, James Cameron said so himself: “You don’t get fear from gore. You get disgust.”

11082536_1091712257511106_4659080162632828409_nAgain, that’s gross, not terrifying. And are you implying that anyone who doesn’t share your feather fetish deserves to have their eyes pecked out by birds? Classy.

11050102_1094252033923795_9151877310346920540_nCHepnvvVEAEjBTg.jpg largeCongratulations you can beat up a 10 pound fox.

Whoa. You do know golden eagles can and do kill wolves. Right?

And they can kill domestic calfs over 100 kg?

And they have killed reindeer, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, roe deer, coyote…

Ok then, why aren’t you showing that? Why can your fearsome, terrifying bir… sorry, feathered dinosaur- only be seen pounding small fry? And really? All you can muster in terms of oh-so scary and terrifyingly deadly bir- sorry, feathered dinosaurs- is just one example? Ok the golden eagle is a fearsome predator. But it seems to be the only one that can even be considered on par with mammalian carnivores.

This string of self-satisfying memes not only unleashed a circle jerk of feather worship, but also something that further cemented their status as fanboys: crowing about how dinosaurs are superior to mammals. For example, this exchange from the last image:

Wow that’s an amazing… fox!

Response: mammal lover

Now I know you can’t get emotions from type, but am I the only one detecting a sneering tone in the response?

Being the idiotic masochist that I seem to be, I waded into the cesspit:

And what about those of us who think feathered dinosaurs are meh

Didn’t say they were lame, didn’t say they sucked, and didn’t say they weren’t scary. Just wondered about those of us who don’t think feathered dinosaurs are so holy. And what did I get?

I suggest therapy

Therapod therapy

Hey jackasses. I’m already in therapy. And it isn’t because I don’t get down and lay prostrate before the golden dinosaur altar.  It’s partly because of idiots like you who think it’s a-ok to judge people on trivial issues.

… hey, nobody’s asking you to be interested in dinosaurs. There are plenty of echinoderms out there

Echinoderms. He doesn’t say mammals or reptiles or fish or amphibians or birds (oh right, they are feathered dinosaurs, never mind). Not brontotheres or squalodonts or machairodonts or catarhines or xiphodonts or gomphotheres or plessipines or camelids. Not phytosaurs or aetosaurs or metoposaurs or ryhnchosaurs or rauisuchians or pterosaurs or mosasaurs. Not gorgonopsids or dicynodonts or cynodonts or dinocephalians or pelycosaurs or pareiosaurs or rhizodonts or temnospondyls or placoderms or even them Paleozoic sharks . No, he said that if I am not interested in dinosaurs, then my only alternative is little invertebrates that hardly anyone gives a crap about. Now tell me that wasn’t intentionally derisive.

In the third meme, I tried to stick up for mammals. I said “I’ll take brains over brawn any day” and shared a video of an orca at Seaworld using a fish to bait a seagull into reach of its jaws. Oh silly me. Because dinosaurs are superior and birds are dinosaurs, anything involving modern birds is a trump card. And I just had to be put in my place:

Yeah using bait to catch gulls, old news. Cue the green-backed heron videos.

Yep brains over brawn. Brains over brawn.

So after that further display of asshatery, I found myself asking the question: “So basically there is nothing mammals can do that bird… sorry, feathered dinosaurs can’t do better?”

Not only did he like that, but the feather fanboys just had to rub salt in the wound.

Milking: Mammals top pride

… what about flamingo and pigeon crop milk?

Caecillian claocal milk, Sauropod milk

So one of the defining traits of mammals is on the same level as bir- sorry, feathered dinosaur- barf and something secreting fluid out its ass? Are you starting to see why I have written at length why you are a bunch of reprehensible fanboys?

And it’s not just here. When my “35 More Awesome” post was shared, it apparently warranted these comments:

Coolness ended at the end of the Cretaceous. The rest is mere postscript.

Post K life is judged awesome by how closely it approaches Mesozoic forms in coolness

And when Andy Farke was nice enough to share with me a “top ten list of mammals cooler than any dinosaur”, well…

Uh… top 10? There ain’t even ONE that’s cooler that ALL of dinosauria!

When someone posted a picture of a Pleistocene bone asking for id ideas, someone felt compelled to say

Ewww… mammals

The eye one seemed pretty popular:

dino worship08a“Lighten up Doug”, I hear you say, “they are just joking around.” Maybe, but how are we supposed to know that? Mind you, most of the stuff I used here was harvested from facebook. It is all too clear from… well anywhere on the internet, that people tend to act like jerks when they are hidden behind the anonymity of the internet. They think they can get away with it because no one knows who they are. Or in the case of facebook, only their inner circle will see it, protected by the echo chamber of their friends and followers. They could be nice people in life, but in the consequence free and hazy world of the internet, they feel free to reveal an ugly side to themselves. A lot of the quotes I used came from a well known scientific figure. I used to think pretty highly of him. I used to think that if I ever met him at a conference, I’d have to shake his hand for being such a great scientist and science writer. But after all this, if I ever saw him in person, I’d have to fight off the urge to kick him in the nuts for being such an insufferable jerkass.

Look, some people may be joking, some might not be, so how do you parse it out? Furthermore, you got so offended when someone didn’t fully respect your feathered dinosaurs but you had no problem dumping on mammals. Maybe you should take a break from whining and crying and take a moment to reflect on just how good you have it. Dinosaurs overwhelmingly dominate the public’s impression of prehistory. Dinosaurs have been featured in countless movies, books, tv shows, documentaries, and theme park attractions (for starters). The Mesozoic is always described as the “age of dinosaurs”. Stuff about the Paleozoic and Cenozoic are often titled “before the dinosaurs” and “after the dinosaurs”, as if they are somehow the focal point of the history of life (much like the arrogance of early Christian historians who thought the birth of their god- Jesus- was the center of human history). Go to any museum and dinosaurs have way more space and attention than anything else. I mean, the dinosaur hall at the Los Angeles Museum is expansive, it feels well done, while the fossil mammal hall feels like an afterthought. I am always being asked about dinosaurs, despite the fact I specialize in the Cenozoic. So when another dino feature comes out, you bray like asses over how it doesn’t absolutely 100% perfectly cater to your sensibilities.

Only dinosaurs deserve to have millions of dollars spent recreating their world. Boring old mammals deserve a boring bland hole.

Only dinosaurs deserve to have millions of dollars spent recreating their world. Boring old mammals deserve a boring bland hole-in-the-wall.

    The dinosaur hall has a wall of 100 dinosaur fossils. Because they are just that special!

The dinosaur hall has a wall of 100 dinosaur fossils. Because they are just that special!

fossil hall face off 3

Dinosaurs get the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. Mammals get a couple cases to fill some space.

I know Museum of the Rockies specializes in dinosaurs (even though Utah is really giving them a run for their money), but Montana has some good Cenozoic stuff as well, from the Eocene, Miocene, Pleistocene, and even rare Paleocene fossils. Look at this beautiful Miocene dog skull:

It was actually found by the Raymond Alf Museum Of Paleontology (which is awesome. Stop by anytime you’re in southern California). Probably because they are the only ones interested in Montana’s Cenozoic (everyone else is trolling for dinosaurs). But because it was found on state land, it had to be reposited in Montana. So it is now at the Museum of the Rockies. Why do I get the feeling it’ll just sit around in some forgotten cabinet because all anyone cares about is dinosaurs?

Perhaps the perfect example of dinosaur privilege and over-focus is this thing:


Reconstructed skull of “Chomper” (photo: Museum of the Rockies)

It’s called “Chomper”. It’s a baby T. rex from the latest Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation in Montana. It is billed by the Museum of the Rockies as the smallest T. rex in the world. But “Chomper” was incomplete. So they recruited the Witmer Lab to scan the fossils and reconstruct the skull using knowledge of T. rex ontogeny. All this was for a new display about tyrannosaurus. Not unusual, you say. Museums do that all the time. Yeah, but this is the original fossil:


All known material from “Chomper”, compared with the tooth of an adult T. rex (Photo: Witmer Lab)

That has to be one of the most incomplete, fragmentary, scrappy dinosaur fossils I have ever seen. They did all that work to turn that into this:

11425508_1107227029304841_8716975390885046543_oWhen was that ever done for a mammal? When was that ever done for a juvenile gorgonopsid or a pelycosaur or a mammoth or a horse? Do you know because I’m drawing a blank here.

This cartoon kept popping up in the fanboy circles (I have occasionally seen it pop up on facebook in non-fanboy contexts as well):

1292753667860000399Because only the changing face of dinosaurs (hell, only dinosaurs in general) can get people interested in science. God forbid the scenario ever go like this:

reintroduction to paleontology

Back to movies, you know what we Cenozoic folks get? Just Pleistocene mammals and that’s only so they can battle cavemen. The best representation of Cenozoic life put to film? 10,000 B.C. The most beautiful, most accurate Cenozoic animals put to screen are in a fucking Roland Emerich movie! The public already shares your attitude of “dinosaurs rule, everything else sucks!” You don’t have to struggle to get people interested in dinosaurs. Try getting them interested in fossil horses or dogs or camels. Try getting them interested in Devonian fish or Permian synapsids. The one thing mammals had was that they are still around. Except…

I once saw an eminent scientist say that calling birds dinosaurs adds to the richness of our world. But for me, it actually takes away from it. In my eyes, birds are no longer descendants of dinosaurs, a distinct lineage carrying on the legacy of their forbearers. No, they are dinosaurs, so even when talking about the modern world I have to deal with dinosaurs. Birds aren’t a highly successful group who managed to diversify and fill countless niches. Nope, they are just continuing the rule of dinosaurs. The terror birds weren’t a unique case of birds rising to the ranks of top predators in a mammal dominated world. Nuh uh, they were just dinosaurs continuing to dominate those stupid mammals after their “official” reign ended. New Zealand isn’t the land of the birds it’s the land of the dinosaurs! The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Dennis M. Power Bird Hall is really the Dennis M. Power Dinosaur Hall. With almost 500 mounts, the Santa Barbara Museum has one of the largest displays of dinosaurs on the west coast (without even knowing it!). A Pleistocene hawk isn’t a hawk, it’s a Pleistocene dinosaur (yeah, that’s sure to never cause any confusion).

I mean, when looked at through your infantile eyes, dinosaurs win everything. Still around? Birds are dinosaurs. Have been around longer? Birds are dinosaurs, increasing their time through the Cenozoic. Mammals are smarter? Birds are dinosaurs, and parrots and crows are smart. Mammals conquered land, air, sea. Birds are dinosaurs; ratites and other birds live on the ground, most birds fly, and penguins swim. Dinosaurs are bigger. Dinosaurs are weirder. Since birds are dinosaurs, dinosaurs are more diverse than mammals can ever hope to become. Dinosaurs are bigger (whales don’t count, don’t cha know). Dinosaurs are weirder (you can have this giant reptile with all this weird stuff on its head. Or you can have an extinct horse, which you can go see down at Bubba’s farm so why even bother). No matter what weird or extravagant feature a mammal has, it will never be as weird or extravagant as what dinosaurs have. And the public thinks so. I have seen loads of people in museums look at any large fossil skeleton (be it a mammoth, a sloth, or anything else) and call it a dinosaur. People are always asking me about dinosaurs. So when birds aren’t called birds and are instead called dinosaurs, it seems there is no escape from the damnable things. So are we to just bow down to the god-like awesomeness of dinosaurs? Are all other forms of life expected to submit to dinosaurs and let them own the animal world unquestioned, unchecked, unchallenged?

mammals neveeermammals never give upmammals never surrendermammals intimidatedmammals meet themmammals no quartermammals feastmammals coward reptilesmammals cut reinforcements

drawing by Flickr user brianfbarker

drawing by Flickr user brianfbarker

In this publicity image released by Universal Studios Hollywood, King Kong battles a dinosaur in a scene from the attraction "King Kong 360 3-D," created by Peter Jackson. (AP Photo/Universal Studios Hollywood)

In this publicity image released by Universal Studios Hollywood, King Kong battles a dinosaur in a scene from the attraction “King Kong 360 3-D,” created by Peter Jackson. (AP Photo/Universal Studios Hollywood)

Look, I don’t deny that birds are in the dinosaur family. But I will never see them as dinosaurs. I will never call them dinosaurs. Because not everything has to be about god damn fucking dinosaurs!


Yes, i will forget. It’s bad enough hearing “birds are dinosaurs” everywhere but I will not let it taint my favorite holiday.

You know what here is the plot of the next Jurassic Park movie. It will be called Prehistoric World. Another company with a genetics division has set up a park in South America. However, it is not an amusement park but rather a game preserve, where the animals are allowed to roam free and interact with each other like they did in the past. And unlike the other parks, there are no dinosaurs. The company has instead decided to focus on Pleistocene megafauna recovered from well preserved bones from around the world. A bog in Patagonia has yielded: Stegomastodon, Megatherium, Hippidion, Macrauchenia, Toxodon, Doedicurus, Smilodon populator, terror birds, wolf-like dogs, and the large bear Arctotherium. A cave in Australia produced: Diprotodon, Procoptodon, Zygomaturus, Phascolonus, Geniornis, Simosthenurus, Megalania, Thylacoleo, Quinkana, and thylacines. Permafrost in Russia has provided: steppe mammoth, steppe bison, irish elk, woolly rhino, horses, giant hyena, cave bear, and steppe lion. The park is rather successful, since the animals are easier to manage than dinosaurs and the predators are easier to fend off on the rare occasion they get too close to the tour transports. But not everyone thinks the park so great. A small but very vocal movement of dinosaur fanboys thinks they need to create and release dinosaurs into the preserve because they are so much cooler and interesting, including one of the parks lead geneticists. The park’s heads say that is out of the question, given what has happened before. Besides, there are terror birds in the South American fauna and thunder birds in the Australian section. Since birds are dinosaurs, they still have their beloved feathered monsters to faun over. But those aren’t enough. They want “real dinosaurs”. So they go to InGen and obtain dinosaur DNA. The geneticist then begins to engineer some dinosaurs. They of course put feathers on the dinosaurs, even the non-theropod ones (because feathered dinosaurs are superior and feathers on non-theropod dinosaurs are not totally unreasonable (“But we shouldn’t be too quick to roll our eyes at depictions of fuzzy tyrannosaurids or even illustrations as heretical as sauropods with some kind of protofeather equivalent”)). With the geneticist’s help they sneak the dinosaurs into the park and things go haywire (as they always do). However, the park’s current residents turn out to more of a match than the fanboys initially thought. The mammals are able to go toe to toe with their saurian usurpers. The climax consists of the survivors running the T. rex into a huge bull steppe mammoth who is in musth and ready to fight anything in sight. The two prehistoric titans duke it out, but the mammoth’s strength and sharp tusks prove too much. It knocks its weakened foe over and crushes the T. rex’s skull with its foot . Roll credits. Oh right, dinosaurs are bigger and fiercer and stronger and everything else than mammals. I forgot who I’m dealing with.

So I’m just gonna cut it here. Dinosaurs were a big part of my life growing up and I still hold some interest in them. But even that token interest isn’t going to last much longer if the dinosaur fanboys keep up their rancor. I’m the kind of person where hype kills things for me. And calling birds dinosaurs means I have to put up the “terrible lizards” 24/7. Dare I say that feathers didn’t ruin dinosaurs for me, but dinosaurs ruined birds for me? I would love something on the level of success as the Jurassic Park franchise that contained the equally wonderful beasts of the Cenozoic era (and even some of the stuff from the Paleozoic). But that isn’t going to happen because the only thing people care about is dinosaurs. So what if Jurassic World didn’t have the most accurate of dinosaurs? Given their domineering status over all things prehistoric, it’s just a matter of time before you get an accurate portrayal. Meanwhile, we Cenozoic folks are stuck with those Ice Age movies (which quickly went downhill after the first one).

I’m sure I’m going to get a veritable flood of unmitigated hate for my Jurassic World series. People howling and snarling at me because I don’t understand science or that I’m a fanboy myself or that my writings are just ignorant diatribes. I expect even being dismissed out of hand. Comments will run at length about how I know nothing about dinosaurs and I’m just bitter over them. That and loads of other things that I could list (but I’ve held you long enough). And to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. No two craps or even a flying fuck. I have TOO much on my mind lately only exasperated by dire family emergencies. Hell, I’ll probably be lucky to even be around to hear your impotent abuse. But hey, somebody had to call the fanboys out on their bullshit. Thanks for reading. It is after all you that I do this for.

Till next time!

10 thoughts on “Into Jurassic World Part 3: Attack of the Fanboys

  1. Pingback: Just some Notes on my Ineptitude | A Central Coast Paleontologist

  2. That was the most amazing speech you ever gave to those mammals. Sure dinosaurs are amazing animals, but prehistoric mammals are as awesome, along with other Cenozoic creatures and Paleozoic creatures. I feel like you given a Independence Day speech to all the other prehistoric animals that are always thought to be “less cool than dinosaurs”.

  3. Doug,
    You should check out the Cincinnati Mussum of Natural History. They have much more space dedicated to Cenozoic and Paleozoic critters than Mesozoic. You’re just in the wrong part of the country. Our Ice Age exhibit is awesome.

  4. Dude, I say this as a “dinosaur fan boy” (person? human? what’s the gender neutral term for fanboy?) who hecking LOVES feathers on dinosaurs to death but I’ll be darned if that Cenozoic film of yours isn’t a really great idea. The presence of Megalania could satisfy those wanting classic “scaly” animals, and the various large birds (I’d admittedly love an Argentavis, Pelagornis, or Ornimegalonyx, haha) would do at least something to help the clamors of people like myself. Honestly, I guess I just want to see a really good film with feathered nonavian dinosaurs. My case can’t be helped!

    My one thing to say here (and heck, it’s not even a criticism, due to the date of the article) is the publication of Kulindadromeus. It seems to indicate that feathers were a lot more widespread, which is pretty interesting to think about, but *shrugs* IDK man.

    Hopefully this isn’t hostile or annoying or anything, it was certainly not intended to be. I leave you with this sentiment: 😀

    • “(person? human? what’s the gender neutral term for fanboy?)” I haven’t the slightest. I think that while fangirls do exist, everyone just uses fanboy because most debates that attract them are male dominated.

      “I say this as a “dinosaur fan boy”” That depends. Do you meet any of the criteria i used? Simply loving feathered dinosaurs in and of itself doesn’t make you a fanboy. How you express it does (in a decidedly negative manner).

      “Cenozoic film of yours isn’t a really great idea” Thanks. Those birds would be cool too, but not within the constraints of my idea. I chose what i did because they have been found in environments that offer high level preservation and therefore a chance to recover intact dna. Ornimegalonyx is a possibility though. I have an idea that while those faunas roamed free, at the head of the park there is a more traditional zoo with animals that have recently been resurected and thus not ready to be released. This would include megafauna from Madagascar and New Zealand (hey, maybe the Haast’s Eagle could break free and kill something/someone). Maybe Ornimegalonyx could be included in that.

      “My one thing to say here (and heck, it’s not even a criticism, due to the date of the article) is the publication of Kulindadromeus. It seems to indicate that feathers were a lot more widespread, which is pretty interesting to think about, but *shrugs* IDK man.” yeah that one has been brought up. Many scientists have suggested those structures could have evolved independently. But more importantly, I feel like it’s stretching the evidence. Saying things like “this early dinosaur had feathers, therefore everything that came after MUST have had feathers as well” to me, seems like the kind of broad sweeping generalization that science normally frowns upon. It has always been my understanding that science requires a good sized body of evidence. Like the case for feathers in dromeosaurs and oviraptorsaurs. They evidence is so overwhelming. One example is intriguing, but it needs to be worked on more (and more evidence gathered). I tend to be a little more conservative in that respect.

      “Hopefully this isn’t hostile or annoying or anything, it was certainly not intended to be. I leave you with this sentiment” Not as hostel as other responses I’ve gotten, thank you for your civility. I appreciate the sentiment, but it may be a little late. This experience has really done a number on me.

  5. This is great. I guess you could call me a fanboy, as I love dinosaurs and put feathers on a lot of my theropods, but I understand what your main point is. Also, while you pointed out that many modern animals break the rules of phylogeny, you should realize that while some may have more than others, pretty much all mammals have hair. If you’ve ever ridden an elephant, you would feel how hairy that bugger was. Even in your arguement about the bisons, longhorn cattle still do have hair. It is very rare for an animal to completely lose all of its ancestral covering. T. rex could have had very little feathers, or it could have had a large coat, but we just don’t know. Also, could you elaborate a bit more on what you said about the end of your post please? It was not the most clear. Do like, hate dinosaurs or something? Or do you just really like mammals? Not being hostile or trying to start an arguement, but what you were saying towards the end almost kind of contradicted your fanboy arguement.

    • ” I guess you could call me a fanboy, as I love dinosaurs and put feathers on a lot of my theropods, but I understand what your main point is.”- Possibly, but if you don’t engage in the crap i mentioned in my definition i think ‘you’re safe.

      “T. rex could have had very little feathers, or it could have had a large coat, but we just don’t know.”- But the fanboys seem to know: fully feathered! Just about every depiction of a feathered dinosaur is fully feathered. There is zero consideration for phylogeny, habitat, behavior (especially mating), or anything else. Just a full coat of feathers because that’s what they think is cool. And if you question it, they just bark “phylogenetic bracketing” (as i said in my post, it feels less like scientific debate and more like justification). But perhaps more infuriating than this is the apparent black and white thinking. There is no middle ground. No variation in the integument pattern. It’s fully feathered or bust. Sure, they’ll say what you said, but that only seems to be in response to critics. Maybe that’s why it rubs me the wrong way so much. There is little to no exploration of what the possible range of feathers could have been like and instead we just get what the artist likes.

      “Do like, hate dinosaurs or something? Or do you just really like mammals?”- Yes and no. I really like the Cenozoic. I don’t hate dinosaurs. I like them just fine. It’s they fans i have a problem with. I just rail on dinosaurs so much because they overwhelmingly dominate anything and everything prehistoric at the expense of everything else. But that isn’t the dinosaur’s fault. It’s the fault of the people who obsess over them.

      “Not being hostile or trying to start an arguement, but what you were saying towards the end almost kind of contradicted your fanboy arguement.”- If you read any of the follow ups to those post then you would know that a lot of what i said was venting. I wrote it at a very stressful time and wasn’t thinking clearly then. But the smug self-righteousness and just all around deplorable attitude displayed by these people can and will invite hostility. I made the mistake of being surprised by such when they responded (again, read the follow ups. A single post doesn’t live in a vacuum.)

  6. I agree. All these feather-fights shouldn’t be going on anyway,because some people add so much feathers they don’t look like animals. But Cenozoic,cambrian and permian animals are wacky! Gorgonopsids and Deinofelis would be terrifying predators. (And,whats scarier about Cenozoic animals is that our human relatives encountered them daily)

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