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Theropod Bias?



The following are the results of a semi-scientific survey conducted at my 
University's library (this may show that I have *way* too much time on my 
hands). :^)

Accessing the on-line catalog, I conducted a literature search of the science 
database (which has a limited timeframe; 1989 to present).  I performed a 
keyword search of the following dinosaurian words: theropod, sauropod, 
prosauropod, stegosaur, ankylosaur, hadrosaur, iguanodon, ceratopsian (the new 
spelling wasn't recognized), and pachycephalosaur.  In recording the total 
number of references provided, a suprising trend occurred.

<<Keyword>>              <<Hits>>
Theropod                    35
Sauropod/prosauropod        21
Ankylosaur                   5
Hadrosaur                    5
Ceratopsian                  3
Stegosaur                    1

        [All other keywords provided no references]

I was suprised to discover that recent publications on dinosaurs are dominated 
by theropod-related topics.  I thought about these numbers, and came up with a 
few ideas that could explain the results.

        *"Preservational Bias" - This university doesn't get every paleontology 
related journal, so the actual coverage for ornithischian groups may be larger 
than indicated.

        *Timescale - Theropods were around for roughly the entire Mesozoic, so 
this longer "group lifetime" may give more topics for study.  Also, the length 
of time allows for a greater diversification of forms, lifestyles, and habits.

        *Only Group With Descendants - Feduccia's book aside, the bird-dino 
link is strong.  This gives theropods a seductive nature, because we can take 
modern birds, and try to extrapolate back to the Mesozoic.  From this, many 
authors try to deduce the Mesozoic ecosystem (I won't try to debate whether 
these attempts are successfull or not).

        *Thrill of the Hunt (also applies to nature documentaries) - We tend to 
see herbivore existance as one long buffet, broken up by moments of terror when 
the predators decide it's time for lunch.  As a result, we tend to see predator 
lifestyle as more interesting.  It could also relate to our semi-predaceous 
roots.

        *Morbid Facination - Since we humans were once prey ourselves, we tend 
to admire those animals that could find us appetizing.  This facination also 
shows why theropods (or theropod mutations) tend to be a favorite subject for 
monster movies; Gwangi, Gorgo, and Godzilla.

Granted, this post has been more philosophical than scientific, but I found it 
amazing that theropods get the most "air time."  I would be interested in 
hearing anyone else's interpretation of these results.

Rob Meyerson
Orphan Vertebrate Paleontologist
***
"May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places you must walk."
        -Susan Ivanova