March 26, 2010

Science Pick of the Week

by Heather Falconer

In today’s issue of Science, a study led by Dr. Robert Benson of Cambridge University reveals the discovery of a pelvic bone from a tyrannosaur in southern Australia. What is so special about this particular discovery that makes it the pick of the week?

Well, first, this bone shows that a much smaller ancestor of Tyrranosaurus rex  roamed the Australian continent 110 million years ago — thriving tens of millions of years before the much larger, dominant carnivore. Second, it disproves the previous theory that tyrannosaurs only lived and evolved in the northern hemisphere.

The bone of this smaller creature comes from the mid-Cretaceous period, when the super-continent Pangaea began to spread further apart and differences between the flora and fauna of the northern and southern continents became more prevalent. This was also a period of time when many new types of dinosaurs evolved. Though additional research and evidence is necessary, this discovery provides the first step in showing that tyrannosaurs existed worldwide. It also may provide links to the evolution of this particular group of dinosaurs, explaining why larger carnivores such as T. rex evolved primarily in the northern hemisphere.

(image copyright Dr. Robert Benson)

Heather Falconer

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Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.