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Hi folks. What do you think about this puzzle? Someone named the "Masked
Dinologist" mailed this note to me anonymously, thinking perhaps that we would
print it in the letters column of a dino-fanzine I'm involved with.
Personally I don't believe a word of it, but you can all ponder his ideas
about "Stromerosuchus". Has anyone else heard about this discovery? According
to him, seems like some of you may have. The Masked Dinologist's note is
quoted verbatim below. Anyone know who this could be?
Take care, enjoy, and in case your wondering, no, I am not the "Masked
At the 1998 meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Salt lake
City, I overheard some really cool discussions among some very famous
paleontologists (in the lobby, at social events, the auction, etc.) regarding
Spinosaurids. The discussions were sparked by some recently published
articles about Spinosaurids (like Suchomimus), but mainly by a revelation made
at the meeting (see below). Everything was supposed to be "top secret" until
all the work was written up and published in a journal at some future date
(while we true dino-lovers have to wait, as usual). But luckily I'd brought
along a small cassette recorder!
Paleontologists from Germany told some really amazed American and Canadian
theropod experts this: Prof. Ernest Stromer, who named Spinosaurus in 1915,
really collected more of this unusual animal than shown in all thje old
pictures. But he never found time to work on this additional material. For
years these fossil bones stayed jacketed up in Munich, even as Germany found
itself in a second world war. In 1940, anticipating a possible air strike of
Munich, Stromer wisely sent these unopened jackets to a Herr C. Nagle, an
anthropologist friend at the University of Ingolstadt. So, when Allied planes
bombed Munich, not all of the Spino type specimen got destroyed. In 1960,
these long-forgotten jackets were "rediscovered". Only recently were the
jackets finally opened and their contents prepared and studied.
Remarkably, there were enough "new" bones to fill in gaps, so for the first
time ever, a SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE reconstruction of the skeleton of
Spinosaurus could be made. Even more exciting, some jackets contained
fossils of a NEW kind of animal, which Stromer had identified on the jackets
only as "Spinosaurus C".
I know, Spino and all the other Spinosaurids are supposed to be theropods with
crocodile type features (long snout, more teeth, etc.) or, as someone recently
put it, "dinosaurs trying to be crocodiles." These "new" fossils, though,
reveal quite the opposite to be true! In an upcoming article (which probably
won't be out for at least a year!), a combined group of theropod and fossil
croc experts are going to prove that Spinosaurus and all other Spinosaurids
are NOT DINOS at all, but a group of derived "crocs trying to be dinos." In
other words, all the old ideas about these animals are wrong! The authors
will say that dino-synapamorphies previously seen in Spinosaurids are either
1) plesiamorphs also found in primitive archosaurs, or 2) wishful thinking, as
Spinosaurids have always been ASSUMED to be dinos.
Looking back at the old pictures, the new skeletal reconstruction of
Spinosaurus is a letdown. (I managed to glimpse a rough sketch made by one of
the German scientists.) Turns out that all Spinosaurids (including
Spinosaurus, Baryonyx & Suchomimus) walked on all fours. And Spinosaurus's
skeleton really looks mostly like a giant alligator with long back spines.
(By the way, the paleontologists I tape-recorded agreed that Spino's spines
supported a cool Dimetrodon-like sail, not that ugly "hump" recently imagined
by that newcomer Bailey.)
Far more interesting, especially for paleo-artists and sculptors, is the so-
called "Spinosaurus C." It's a big Spinosaurid to be named (and frankly I
don't see the harm in giving out names before they're "official"; I mean let's
lighten up already!)..... Stromerosuchus ornatus, meaning "Stromer's ornate
crocodile." It'll be so named because of its two forward-directed horns, one
over each eye, and the single rows of sharp spines that run along the body on
either side of the back sail. The Stromero sail, by the way, is about twice
as high as Sucho's and half that of Spino. (This critter should make a great
toy or model kit!)
Originally, of course, Spinosaurids were classified as dinos. Now we're to be
told they're actually a group of prehistoric crocs linking up the primitive
Phobosuchus (which some stuffy paleontologists now insist on calling
Deinosuchus; will this "renaming" never end?) of Upper Cretaceous times. (And
let's be honest, how many of us non-pros hadn't already noticed the
similarities in the snouts of Phobo, Spino, Bary, and now Sucho?)
OK, I know this kind of info is supposed to stay confidential until all the
research is done and the article comes out. To be honest, I did hold back for
months. I was afraid I might get into trouble, as I was seen hanging around
those discussions and we all wore name tags (and my name frequently turns up
in dino-zine lettercols). But then I thought, hey, ever hear of Free Speech?
And the Freedom of Information Act? Last time I looked this was still the
USA. Does Free Speech apply to everything but dino-info? I DON'T think so!!
It's about time the high & mighty "real" scientists stop sitting on and, yes,
hording their precious data, sometimes for years, while those of us who TRULY
LOVE dinos must wait and wonder about what's scientifically accurate or not.
Besides, this is ONLY about fossil crocs, NOT dinos -- and in a year or so,
it'll all be old news anyway.
Listen up, dino-lovers! I've been real careful; not to name names (hint: the
paleo-artist illustrating the article isn't from the USA). And I haven't
given away the (let's face it, boring) "details" (the apamorphies, etc.).
Just the more interesting stuff like the name Stromerosuchus, how Spinosaurids
really looked and the fact that these animals AREN'T dinos. We're almost into
the New Millennium and today people "want to know." That explains the high
ratings of those recent TV shows where masked magicians and wrestlers tell
all. In that same spirit, I've brought this dino-scoop to countless dino-
lovers who resent having to wait to know the truth, usually in some article
we'll probably never see or fully understand anyway. The "Dinosaur
Renaissance"? Call this the "Dinosaur Revolution." See you at the next SVP,
where I promise to again follow my own motto.....
"Dig out news! Good luck until then...."
"THE MASKED DINOLOGIST"