I have always had an interest in ancient elephants. Ever since I first laid eyes on the woolly mammoth at the Royal British Columbia Museum, they have always held a spell on me. It has only been in recent years that they have drawn me in as a research interest. Despite being a diverse and very successful group with a broad array of adaptations, not a lot of work has been done on them outside of naming new species and studying their Ice Age members. However, the first serious research question I ever came up* with involves our old friend the American mastodon.
Dinosaurs may seem cool on their face. But once you get into them they start heaping up their own kinds of problems. I usually tell people one of the reasons I stick with mammals is that dinosaur taxonomy is a complete freaking mess. It is always changing with families sunk and started all over the place. One relation may exist today, but it could be revised tomorrow. This is how science works, but hell if it aint hard to keep track of. But, some disputes over taxonomy can last longer than others. Especially when the evidence is scant. Here we are going to look at one of the most heated taxonomic debates since “Toroceratops” (in fact, it’s been around for 3 times as long).
With Jurassic World just around the corner, I thought I would do something to go along with it. I have a lot of words about the fanboys, but that will come after the movie premiers. So what shall we talk about? Well with the impending release of a Jurassic Park sequel there has been chatter about how much the first one changed our perception of dinosaurs. So why don’t we talk about that. Specifically, the franchise’s main villain.
As I’m teetering on the raggedy edge, I have been trying everything to keep my mind off it. School, movies, just going out for a walk. It aint looking good. But one thing that has been helping is a book that was released near a month ago. It tells the tale of a lost world that existed not too long ago. It was a world unlike anything else on earth, and with all the press and hype concerning dinosaurs, this place is a breath of fresh air. I am of course talking about Madagascar.
Today marks a momentous occasion: the release of Gareth Edward’s Godzilla! This is the first Godzilla movie on American soil since Roland Emerich’s disastrous (no pun intended) take on the iconic reptile in 1998. Considering the poor critical response and the perpetual ire of the fan boys, the G-Man would not get an American outing for 14 years. Godzilla is often used a comparison for any giant reptile. Most often it is applied to dinosaurs, since Godzilla is supposed to be a resurected dinosaur. But I think the title of Godzilla incarnate is better applied to a much different animal. Dinosaurs were related to birds, not lizards, and Godzilla is often called a lizard. We fear what we don’t understand, but often fear can come when something familiar (and maybe already terrifying) is taken to the max. And I’m not talking about feathered dinosaurs (“Would I like to see an enfluffled Tyrannosaurus chasing after hapless humans? Absolutely. I’d be thrilled to view such scientifically-informed nightmare fuel.”- Brian Switek. A featured tyrannosaurus is a can of worms for another time) I’m talking about something more insidious to our primitive monkey brains. Something that, unlike dinosaurs, early man would have encountered. I’m talking about the most famous of Australia’s Pleistocene menagerie: Megalania.