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Re: Quo vadis, T. rex? [long]



On Tue, 6 Feb 1996, Sharon A. Calpin (717) 621-3118 wrote:

> Whoever wrote
> "Why? They're all birds, you know..."
> If you were walking down the street with a non-dinosaur-knowledgable person 
> and  
> a tyrannosaur walked by (if only), would you say "Whoa, that's a BIG bird" ?? 
> (Granted, you'd probably say a lot more than that)

You certainly might!  (although, granted, that wouldn't be my *first* 
reaction...)


> Mr. Webster says:
> bird: any of a class (Aves) 

Class, as a Linnaean rank, is really practically meaningless, IMHO.

> of warm-blooded vertebrates 

at least as likely to be true of dinosaurs as not!

> distinguished by having 
> the body more or less completely covered with feathers 

Many small or juvenile tyrannosaurs may have been "more or less 
completely covered with feathers" (or not), especially if one accepts my 
claim that tyrannosaurs are closer to modern birds than _Archaeopteryx_, 
which is clearly covered with feathers.


> and the forelimbs modified as wings.

Uh-oh! There go the ratites!  Actually, one of the few things I agree 
with Dinogeorge about wholeheartedly is that tyrannosaur forelimbs are 
degenerate wings.

> Everyone is trying to be so careful about pronunciation and Latin spelling, 
> why not be careful about vocabulary.

I always make an effort to be very careful with my vocabulary.

Anyway, Mr. Webster is obviously not a cladist.  A common cladistic 
definition of a "bird," often left unstated, is "a descendant of the last 
common ancestor of [your favorite modern bird here] and _Archaeopteryx_.  
Tyrannosaurs, ornithomimosaurs, troodonts, and _Avimimus_ (if it exists) 
may well be "birds" under that definition.

Nick Pharris
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447
(206)535-8204
PharriNJ@PLU.edu

"If you can't convince them, confuse them." -- Harry S. Truman