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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
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.
[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
*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
*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.
Orphan Vertebrate Paleontologist
"May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places you must walk."