Wednesday, September 11, 2013

PLATEOSAURUS: Being Misunderstood

(Please note the claws are too big.)

Named in 1837 by Hermann von Myer, an early naturalist, Plateosaurus was one of the most misunderstood of the Dinosaurs for many years. The first Prosauropod (“basal sauropodmorph”) ever found, She confused many paleontologists.  Because of her shape and size, they thought that Plateosaurus was the ancestor of the giant Sauropods (Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and others). However, it turns out that She is only a cousin who lived alongside their Ancestor.
            Plateosaurus was so abundant, that her fossils can be found throughout Europe. Since She was so common, her bones sometimes got mixed in with those of other animals. Because of this, many incorrect species of Plateosaurus were named. One of them was Teratosaurus, who was a combination of Plateosaurus and an Ancestor of Crocodile. This supposed “Plateosaurus” was a meat-eater, and thus further confused paleontologists. Now they had to link a carnivore to the Sauropods, who ate only plants.
Finally in the 1980s, the scientists reviewed everything they knew about Plateosaurus. And realized that they had made many mistakes about Her. What was Plateosaurus like, once things were sorted out? Living in the late Triassic (220 million years ago), Plateosaurus was one of the largest dinosaurs of that time. According to studies based on her plentiful fossils, She had a small head, a long body, and a long tail. Because She could either walk on her four or two legs, Plateosaurus ate the tops of trees and the ferns on the ground. To grasp and shred leaves, She used her partially-opposable thumbs on her front “hands.” (Some scientists also believe the thumb claws were used in mutual combat like Roosters do with their spurs.)
            Known as the “All-Purpose Dinosaur,” Plateosaurus did a lot of things moderately well. Growing big as a bus, she could stand taller than many of the other Dinosaurs of the Triassic. At that time, She was one of the most advanced Dinosaurs. However by the early Jurassic, Plateosaurus became prey to the more advanced meat eaters such as the Ceratosaurs.
            Plateosaurus is the poster child for being misunderstood. Confused paleontologists thought that She was many things until they finally decided to figure out who She actually was. However, they are still arguing over her thumbspike and what She used it for. “Be patient,” counsels Plateosaurus, “things will get sorted out eventually.” Until then, just continue to do what you have already been doing. Eventually, people will come to understand you.

No comments: