Ambivalosaurus

I love dinosaurs. I hate dinosaurs.

I love dinosaurs. I HATE dinosaurs.

I love dinosaurs. I HATE DINOSAURS.

I'll bet you anemone that dinosaurs aren't as good as invertebrates.

It's the problem with being a palaeontologist, especially when you're speaking to non-experts. Everyone assumes you 'do' dinosaurs; that you're really interested in them. I'm not, and it frustrates me when I have to disabuse people of that notion.

Sometimes, like last Sunday when I was out in the field near Whitby and a friend found this fabulous fallen block, I am delighted to see preserved evidence of extinct mega-lizards. Other times, like during the endless online arguments about the palaeobiological accuracy of Jurassic World, they bore me immensely.

I blame the media, mostly. Many friends of mine are palaeontologists who do study dinosaurs. They make fascinating finds and interesting interpretations, casting new light on the evolution of life on Earth. These promote palaeontology, and deserve publicity.

Trouble is, almost every dinosaur discovery is deemed newsworthy, when many of them really aren't. Oh wow, a solitary bone from an unknown sauropod! Goodness, two teeth from a theropod, proving that theropods definitely had teeth! I swear, one day, I really am going to work out what the most medium-sized dinosaur in history was, just to make a point.

Indeterminate.

There's so much more to the fossil record than a group of large, terrestrial, Mesozoic* chordates. Most of my palaeontological friends do not study dinosaurs. Most of them study marine invertebrates, or plants and pollen, or trace fossils. Their findings may be equally - or more - scientifically significant than those of the vanquished vertebrates, but it's very rare they get coverage in the popular press.

To begin trying to rectify this, I published an article on The Conversation today, describing five of my favourite weird fossil discoveries. My Hull colleague Charlotte did something similar a few weeks ago.

Yes, dinosaurs get mentioned in my article, but it's mostly about Eocene worm sperm, seedy Silurian todgers, and tropical Yorkshire. Oh, and fossil vomit. I doubt it will garner much attention, but it was nice to have the opportunity to write about the breadth of palaeontology, rather than just one group.

Now, all I need to do is to persuade someone to let me write about buffalo-sized guinea pigs from the ancient Orinoco...



*yes, ok, birds are extant theropod dinosaurs.

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