Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Prehistoric Prognostications 2014: The Final List
The masses have spoken, and here is the final collection of predictions for the year in paleontology to come. I'll recap those from the writers of LITC first:
A new pterosaur fossil is unearthed that sports flamboyant, gigantic soft tissue crests all over its body, and is accompanied by a string of unossified baby skeletons. David Peters is therefore shown to be right all along, pterosaurs are declared lizards, ceremonial bonfires are held of the existing pterosaur literature, and riots break out in institutions across the globe. Mark Witton is forced to walk the streets of Portsmouth with a bell around his neck, flagellating himself with a whip.
Do I have to have a serious one? Oh, I don't know, definitive feathers are found on an animal further down the tyrannosauroid family tree. There you go.
I went and thought and came up with something considerably less silly than I had anticipated after all: soft tissue evidence for 'cheeks' in a hadrosaur, with implications thereby for other ornithischians.
Feathered sauropod. If only because the bitching from anti-feather people will be truly glorious to watch if and when it happens.
Secondarily-flightless Azdarchid. It seems too obvious not to exist somewhere (probably an island animal, if it ever existed.) My guess is either a medium sized animal or a real giant, something larger than anything else in the ecosystem.
More Deinocheirus material would be nice. I suspect there's probably going to be some cool carcharodondosaur material as well--they seem to come out of the woodwork with some regularity every year, and it's always fun when they do.
Bruhathkaysaurus and Amphilicoelias. Full skeletons. Sprawled out in all their huge, brain breaking glory. Expect the apocalypse to occur shortly afterward, and the elder dinosaur gods to come back and take their revenge on the world of man.
A firming of the hypothesis that most protobirds had leg-wings. It seems to be pretty well accepted at this point, but it'd be nice to see it firmed up some more.
I'm going to go against my urge to do something integument-related and predict a ceratopsid "mummy" with eggs intact.
...and now on to commenters. Some excellent ones in here. I hope we get as many as possible!
I'm always hoping for a truly epic "frozen in time" battle. We have the famous Gobi combatants, the Acrocanthosaurus/Paluxysaurus(Pleurocoelus) trackway, and recently the more debatable Nanotyrannus/Triceratops thing. But I'd like to see a half-dozen Ceratosaurs swarming a brachiosaur or something. Or Therizinosaurus slapping a tarbosaur silly. Probably no chance of those two, but come ON scientists! Give us something!
Elijah Shandseight (who also posts predictions here):
Since the feathered sauropod has already been cited, there are other interesting critters that just await to be found: a new stegosaurid, a carnivorous silesaurid, a giant troodontid (there are many giant coelurosaurus around, and I wouldn't be surprised if there giant species in Troodontidae), a big psittacosaurid, an oviraptorosaur from South America, a Lambeosaurinae from Australia and a macropredatory ichthyosaur with short skull (there's already Thalattoarchon, but I mean something more like a Dakosaurus-mimicking genus).
Given that thyreophorans are still missing a major overhaul, I'll go with evidence that Stegosaurus' plates were covered in two fatty humps running the length of its body. Also, marine spinosaurid. Though given that I think the claws were for locomotion, pulling the animal forward in the mud, this might be somewhat unlikely if I'm right.
Some evidence of definite omnivore Ceratopsians.
I would say evidence of feather-like structures on neovenatorids.
Evidence of coprophagy in sauropodlets.
A mass burial site reveals that sauropods really did spend their lives floating around in rivers and shallow coastal waters, using their long legs to anchor themselves against the current/tide as they slept.
A more serious thing I'd like to see discovered: evidence that a small maniraptoran used sticks or thorns as tools to extract insects or small prey. (Not shaped or firehardened! Just poking implements as used by modern birds.)
1. A new dinosaur belonging to an entirely new group (preferably some sort of carnivorous ornithischian)
2. Quills/Protofeathers on an ornithopod or thyreophoran.
3. A quilled/feathered primitive ornithodiran or even just archosaur (by that I mean I'd like to find at least some feathery integument on a primitive ornithodiran OR primitive archosaur if we're extra lucky).
4. A at least partially complete Spinosaurus (crosses fingers for 18(or more) meters in length).
5. A Jurassic Rauisuchian.
6. Some sort of Pterosaur mummy or at least good skin impressions.
7. New Amphicoelias material or some fossils from whatever made the Broome trackway.
8. A T. rex with a femur cracked open by a Triceratops beak.
9. Some new polar dinosaurs. (Especially contemporaries of Cryolophosaurus)
10. A stegosaurid or diplodocid in Mid-Late Cretaceous rocks. 11. A Megalania sized Tegu somewhere in South America or a giant varanid on Hateg.
12. A new Holtz' Dinosaurs or book in similar style! (preferably with illustrations by Luis Rey (not photomanipulated either, yuck), Doug Henderson, John Conway, and C.M. Kosemen.
1. Definite evidence of omnivorous ceratopsians.
2. More mummies! :D
3. More of little-known dinosaurs like Utahraptor and Amphicoelias fragillimus (for A. fragillimus it's more proof it existed in the first place).
4. A sauropod with quills or protofeathers.
5. A spinosaur or abelisaur with feathers.
6. More giant feathered dinosaurs in general.
Skull-mendous remains from an early eudromaeosaurid that isn't Deinonychus. Fingers crossed for a pre-Barremian example to shed some light on how the group evolved.
Good remains from an early definite neovenatorid.
New oxygen isotope findings reveal semi-aquatic lifestyle in a non-spinosaurid dinosaur, hopefully an ornithischian of some kind.
Unambiguous "missing link" between basal marginocephalians and pachycephalosaurs.
I don't know if it's geologically possible for something like this to last for tens of millions of years, but I'm still holding out hope (and 2014 feels lucky to me) that someone will find a Pompeii-esque site that gives us casts of dinosaur feathers/skin/body shapes.
I'd also like to see the improbable discovery of a dinosaur from Ohio (so far as I can tell, the only way that could happen is if one managed to fall through a chasm into an aquifer).
Neither of those are really predictions, so much as dreams, but at least I didn't include time travel on the list.
That's for 2015.
Fuzzy juvenile sauropod
Body imprints of neoceratopsians showing bristles
More attempts at de-extinction (fingers crossed)
North American spinosaurs
More Asian ceratopsids
Better trackways and soft tissue preservation shows that dinosaurs from all major groups had webbed feet and were aquatic.
Evidence that the rate of radioactive decay for all elements was up to six magnitudes greater in the past. All prehistoric life is now estimated to be less than 6000 years old.
Feathers on anything other than a bird (definition varies conveniently) turn out to be collagen fibres after all.
Marc's already mentioned the two I would've said forrealz (altho' I would limit the pterosaur to a single fleshy cranial extension) so I will say definitive feathers in a sub-adult albertosaurine.
Well, it's easy: More chinese diminutive birdie-things. Sure.
Keep in mind these are just things I'd like to see that seem likely, not just what I'd like to see. That list is waaaaay too long:
1. definitive evidence of feathers on a coelophysiod
2. definitive evidence of complex feathers on an ornithischian
3. definitive evidence of feathers on a tyrannosaurine
4. fragmentary remains of a new giant (30+ m) sauropod
5. one or more new carcharodontosaurids
6. relatively complete remains of a 12-14 m span azhdarchid
7. more heterodontosaurids, maybe a carnivorous one
8. more bizarre palaeofauna from Madagascar
9. more (preferably really bizarre) palaeofauna from Antarctica
10. a giant (12+ m) abelisaurid
11. bizarre (very short-necked, very long necked, unusually large, unusually small, armoured, really weird-skulled, etc) diplodocoids
12. more relatively complete pachycephalosaur postcranial remains
13. a truly giant (20+ m) pliosaur, think WWD-proportions here
14. a giant (4+ m) compsognathid
Well, alright then! That will wrap up the prognostications for this year. Next December, we'll take another look at the list and see if any of these came true. Thanks for participating, and here's to a great 2014!