Some evolutionary scientists want to boot Tyrannosaurus rex out of his place on the dinosaur family tree.
In March researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Natural History Museum in London published an article in Nature proposing that dinosaur groupings on the evolutionary tree need to be reworked. The proposal is a shock to evolutionary biologists who have trusted in the dinosaur tree for well over a century, but it illustrates how so much of evolutionary science involves guesswork.
Until now scientists have divided dinosaurs into two groups: bird-hipped dinosaurs, including the armored Stegosaurus, and lizard-hipped dinosaurs, including theropods like T. rex and sauropods like Brontosaurus. Many evolutionary scientists have long believed theropods evolved into birds, but that has been confusing since theropods are in the lizard-hipped family.
Citing skeletal similarities, the U.K. researchers now propose theropods be moved to the bird-hipped group, a position more favorable to the dino-to-bird hypothesis.
The proposed change, if widely adopted, could upset museum displays around the world. It is also an important point in the creation/evolution debate, according to Jerry Bergman, a biology professor at Northwest State Community College in Ohio.
Evolutionary scientists base their tree on a wrong assumption—that all living organisms evolved from a common ancestor—and must tweak any new evidence to fit their theory, Bergman said. If the theory says theropods evolved into birds, it makes more sense if you can tweak theropods into the bird-hipped group: “Eventually you tweak it so much the whole thing falls apart.”
Bergman believes the huge variety of dinosaurs, some gigantic like T. rex, others not much bigger than a dog, support the view that God created animals by their kinds. “The tree hypothesis can’t explain that kind of diversity,” he said. “When you look at the world through Darwinian glasses … that is all you are going to see.”
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