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What's with the name?

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hold on to your butts

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water: Scientists Discover Swimming Tyrannosaurs

In Jurassic Park III (yes, Jurassic Park III, okay, I’ve seen it, and am not ashamed to say that I loved it, though certainly for no reasons that the makers of Jurassic Park III would have preferred*) one of the only smart things the characters do is to find a large abandoned boat, get it running, and sail it to the coast where they can hypothetically meet up with their military rescuers. See, the predators that are after them won’t be able to reach them in the middle of the river, and they can just coast on by all these calm, gentle herbivores in a nice montage of pseudo-John Williams music. The only threat to them on the water is, of course, Spinosaurus, the movie’s omnipotent murder machine with a satellite phone stuck in its guts.

So it’s a good thing, really, that science has come along to prove Jurassic Park III wrong, because there was absolutely nothing terrible about it before this revelation.

Paleontologists have recently discovered some unusual dinosaur tracks in an ancient river bottom. These shallow scratches were left by two-legged dinos ran for close to fifty feet, likely left by a herd of dinos going for a paddle through the river, buoyed up by the depth of the water. From the Edmonton Journal:

Working with fellow U of A grad student Lida Xing and a team of international researchers, [Scott Persons] found paddling marks left by what he suspects was an early tyrannosaur, or feathered Sinocalliopteryx, a carnivorous predator that existed in that part of China more than 100 million years ago. The claw marks were found beside the fossilized footprints of giant herbivorous long-neck sauropods and ornithopods, all from the Cretaceous era.

“We found evidence of six or eight individual animals, all headed in the same direction, moving together as if they were part of a herd,” said Persons, a PhD candidate from North Carolina whose research is being supervised by Phil Currie, the noted paleontologist. “It looks as if they used the river bank as a superhighway.”

Persons isn’t so much surprised that they could swim, but rather that they could swim for such distances. In any case, if you’re planning on traveling back in time for your summer beach holiday, this might be something to keep in mind.

*This is because Jurassic Park III is literally the closest you can come to making a comedic parody of the Jurassic Park series without actually intending to be comedic or self-referential.

(via io9.)


  • A B Adams

    One of my favorite parts of the first Jurassic Park book is when Alan and the kids are in a raft trying to escape from the T-Rex and it starts swimming after them like a crocodile. Tim to Lex: “Of course it can swim!”

  • Sofia Alexandra

    All now living animals can swim, in some form or fashion, but they’re not all fond of it, and they’re not all very good at it. I’ve always assumed that it’s the same with dinosaurs and other prehistoric fauna.
    (And, as far as I know, humans are the only animals that sometimes drown because they THINK they can’t swim, even though keeping calm and doing some simple dog paddling could’ve saved them.)

  • Cynthia Massmann

    I really need to find my copy of my book and re-read it . . . I miss all these lovely details. Of course, I’d probably start reading it to my five year nephew, who is just as dinosaur obsessed as I am/was at his age.

  • Joe Fiore

    JP3 is an awesome movie. Such a huge mega colossal improvement over JP2. Joe Johnston never disappoints. (except Wolfman. That one time he did disappoint)

  • Anonymous

    Sinocalliopteryx isn’t a Tyrannosaur, it’s a Compsognathid = helluva large Compsognathid, but at just under 8 feet long it’s be a very small Tyrannosauroid. Tyrannosauroids and Compsognathids are closely related, but separate, families in the Coelurosauria clade. It’s a bit like the difference between rats and beavers: both are rodents, but they’re different families.

    Pedantic dinosaur fan AWAAAAAY

  • Mina

    “All now living animals can swim, in some form or fashion”

    False, especially depending on how you define “swim in some form or fashion.” Earthworms can’t swim. Some land turtles can’t swim. Many insects can’t swim, unless you count flailing pitifully until they drown as “swimming.” Basically a lot of animals can’t swim. Though I agree it makes sense for some dinosaurs to be able to swim, especially the relatively small ones.

  • Anonymous

    im fairly certain that gorillas cant swim…