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The Ohio Center for Ecology & Evolutionary
Biology Presents….
Dr. Jacques Gauthier
Professor, Geology & Geophysics &
Curator, Yale Peabody Museum of
Natural History
“Not Your Parents’ Dinosaurs: The Role of
Crown Dinosaurs and Stem-Birds in
Evolutionary Theory”
Did you know that tyrannosaurs had feathers? New fossils have dramatically altered our
understanding of dinosaur evolution. In a triumph for the predictive power of the
Darwin’s ‘Theory of Descent’, they provide more support of the idea that birds are in
fact living (crown) dinosaurs. But this also means that other species such as Diplodocus
and Triceratops are in fact early (stem) birds. This may not seem intuitive, as those
extinct giants are so different from one another and from the diminutive hummingbirds
of today. However, our job as evolutionists should be less concerned with similarity and
more focused on discovering common-ancestry relationships. And on that point there
can be no doubt: dinosaurs share a deep genealogical connection with birds. Although
this hypothesis has been the simplest explanation for the available data from the midnineteenth century to the present day, it continues to meet resistance. The history of
this controversy can teach us some profound lessons about the scientific enterprise, not
the least of which is that although science as a process may be objective, people are
scientists, and they sometimes aren’t.