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MARK NORRELL SAID, today...!!! SAUROPOD FEATHERS! (NO JOKE)



    I just returned from attending a lecture (with slides) presentation by
Mark Norrell in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Colloquia
2002 Spring Series.  It was entitled Feathered Dinosaurs.

    To a group of over a hundred NASA employees, Norrell made a statement
that surprised me and possibly most of those present, judging from audience
reaction.  It went quite a bit farther than I had anticipated he might go,
to be sure.  He declared (Capitals represent a word he stressed.), "ALL
dinosaurs had feathers."  He repeated that statement several times, adding
that the larger dinosaurs probably lost them (or most of them) when size
became great enough that they would not need them as insulation.

    Wanting to be sure he really meant ALL dinosaurs, I asked him in the
question and answer session, "Minutes ago, you told us that all dinosaurs
had feathers.  Presuming you meant that, in fact, ALL SPECIES of dinosaurs
had feathers, at least when young, would one, then, not be far out in left
field to say that even hatchling SAUROPODS had feathers?"

    He responded that he feels quite certain hatchling sauropods had
feathers.

    I somewhat wanted to believe Norrell, but then commented that one might
wonder why we see no signs of feathers or even incipient feathers in the
beautifully fossilized sauropod embryos found in Patagonia a few years ago
(1977).

    Norrell responded by suggesting that the embryos were at too early a
stage to have signs of feathers, but I found that unconvincing because it is
my understanding that the embryos must have pretty well filled the eggs when
they died of suffocation due to the eggs getting covered with mud. (I have
read the book, Walking on Eggs, by Chiappe and Dingus.)

    Rather than argue about the development stage of the Patagonian sauropod
embryos, I just commented with a smile, "Well, then, this means that when
Bob Bakker was visiting me back in 1998, and he assured my wife and me that
sauropods had feathers, we wasn't so far out in left field, after all!"

    Norrell responded, "Well, he was right, but he didn't have any evidence
for it!"

    Well, I'll just say that maybe Norrell shouldn't have been so sure in
saying Bakker hadn't had any evidence.  :)  Anyhow, I was neither in the
mood nor the right situation to dispute the distinguished guest speaker.

    I really did want to ask just what evidence Norrell might have, now, of
sauropod feathers, that Bakker could not have had in 1998, but didn't want
be impolite and take up time that others might need for their questions.
So, I just clamed up, and thought to myself that if Bakker had not been
talking science, then he must have spoken prophetically (if Norrell is right
about sauropod feathers).

    Reflecting, afterward, upon Norrell's comment about Bakker allegedly
speaking without any evidence, a Biblical (New Testament) passage slipped
into my mind, whether justified of not:  "A prophet is not without honor,
except in his own country"  :)

    O.K., now.  Please don't shoot the messenger.  I didn't make up
Norrell's message, but just accurately quoted it.  There were plenty of
witnesses this afternoon.

    And, please, let's not get into any nasty comments or arguments about
Bob Bakker.  He is really peripheral to this message.

    Just being a messenger,
    Ray Stanford

"You know my method.  It is founded upon the observance of trifles." --
Sherlock Holmes in The Boscombe Valley Mystery