It was no great shock to learn last week that the Tyrannosaurus rex may have been covered with feathers, or even a fuzzy down like that of a baby chick.
Paleontologists aired this theory after finding the fossil of a close relative of the T. rex in China.
The creature was given the name Yutyrannus huali, a mix of Latin and Mandarin that means “beautiful feathered tyrant.”
It wasn’t shocking because we had already learned in recent years that the T. rex may have had brightly colored skin, that it was faster than the lumbering beast it was once thought to be, and that it was as much a scavenger as a predator.
Thank you very much, but I intend to go on picturing the T. rex standing upright, resting on his tail, dining on fresh-killed dino, sheathed in dark-green reptilian armor.
I am not opposed to progress in science, per se, but sometimes I do wish scientists would not monkey with cherished notions, such as my boyhood conception of the T. rex.
There are many more. As I was researching the beautiful feathered tyrant — which was also Sonny’s pet name for Cher — I came across other myth-busting discoveries of which I had been blissfully unaware.
Probably the most crushing revelation was that Bedrock was a fictional community. Like everyone else, I had always assumed that the home of Fred Flintstone was based on a real place, or was at least a composite of several documented prehistoric settlements.
In fact, I could have sworn that I read once about a paleontologist having discovered a foot-powered car, made of stone and rough timber, on a dig southeast of Jordan.
If there was no Bedrock, I suppose brontosaurs were never used as cranes in ancient quarries, and people like Fred Flintstone never slid down their necks at quitting time.
This idea will take some getting used to.
Another scientist has effectively demolished the once commonly held belief that a creature the size of Godzilla could successfully crush an all-steel 1950s-era automobile in its jaws.
One scientific paper went so far as to assert that a creature the size and shape of Godzilla could never even have lifted such an automobile off the ground using its jaws, no matter how much radioactive material the giant lizard had been exposed to.
And so it went, the unsettling revelations coming at me fast and thick.
Not so tough
The stegosaurus, long thought to have had a backbone bristling with bony plates and sharp prongs, with a spiked war club at the end of its tail, was actually a pacifist, almost Barney-like in its friendliness.
The plates, we now know, were closer in texture to foam rubber, the better to go bouncing along, whistling a happy tune.
And that tail? The stegosaurus used it for cracking giant Jurassic walnuts.
We have also learned that continental drift, once believed to occur at the rate of a few centimeters a year, periodically, and for reasons unknown, takes place at about one-third the pace of your standard moving sidewalk in an airport.
Evidently the continents would collide, form a mountain range or two and then start drifting apart again, all in a matter of decades, before slowing down to what we think of as the “normal” speed.
It is fascinating to think that Bedrock, had it existed, could have been near Jordan at one time and then, just a few years later, in the middle of France. I cannot imagine Fred Flintstone speaking French. Wilma, maybe.
Another scientist has all but proven that it would have been impossible for Raquel Welch, had she existed in 1 million B.C., to achieve such a magnificent coif.
Similarly, almost all paleontologists are now in agreement that even if you could clone a dinosaur from the blood carried by a mosquito preserved in amber, one movie about the development would be plenty.
If only Spielberg had heard this in time.
Meanwhile, scientists are still trying to determine why on earth people would hang giant Jurassic walnuts from the back of their pickup trucks.