Micro post on body size

Pretty much everyone in the UK should know this clip, but others may want to enjoy this humorous explanation of perspective. However, while slightly tangential, it does cover the main point I want to make about interpreting both bones and footprints in palaeontology. While many bones have indicators of their ontogenetic status visible, not all do, and of course that’s not true at all of isolated teeth and tracks.

Long story short, I’m *really* bored of people assuming that because a bone, tooth or track is small, it must have come from a small species. Small animal yes, small adult, no. A small tyrannosaur tooth does not mean it’s from a  dwarf tyrannosaur – it could be from a juvenile, or just be a relatively small tooth in the jaw. Remember to keep things in perspective.

4 Responses to “Micro post on body size”

  1. 1 Manabu Sakamoto 26/04/2010 at 3:16 pm

    It gets more variable if you’re working with neontological collections even with complete adult specimens; there are quite a lot of specimens showing adult morphology that are rather small for that species. Sometimes it’s sexual dimorphism, sometimes it’s just individual variation, but the variation is staggering.

    • 2 David Hone 26/04/2010 at 3:48 pm

      Exactly, but it’s amazing how few people seem to realise this. Faced with the record of say Linheraptor (to a take a recent example) being X m long with a femur of length Y and teeth Z etc. people seem to get fixed on the idea that anything not this exact size (or near identical) can’t be Linheraptor. I guess you could summarise it as people somehow not grasping that (or perhaps even thinking that) fossils are just dead organisms and would be just like living organisms, just a fair bit older.

  2. 3 Princess Sparkle Pony 27/04/2010 at 6:38 am

    Well, OK. But that doesn’t automatically exclude all magical, adorable, pixiesauruses, does it?

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