The discovery of a perfectly preserved dinosaur egg, with a feathered baby dinosaur inside, is a reminder of what remains undiscovered.
The discovery of a fully preserved dinosaur egg, complete with feathery dinosaur baby about to hatch, has the scientific community abuzz with speculation this week. What will the find mean for our understanding of where dinosaurs fit into the evolutionary jigsaw puzzle?
Impeccably preserved dinosaur embryo looks as if it 'died yesterday'
About 70 million years ago, a wee ostrich-like dinosaur wriggled inside its egg, putting itself into the best position…
The most well-preserved specimen found to date, Chinese researchers have been excitedly sharing their unique find with the scientific community at large since announcing it, studying the specimen and sharing their research.
Though we are living in the Information Age, this discovery is a good reminder of how much remains to be discovered. Where is the lost tomb of Alexander the Great? Where is the long lost crown-piece of ancient Egypt? Why do we sleep? Why do we age? Why are the very cells of life itself programmed to die? Are we alone in the vast universe? How did we get these magnificent brains?
These questions and many others persist. Plus there is what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know.
The first naturalists, curious farmers and early paleontologists to dig up and discover the enormous bones of creatures unlike anything in our current epoch had no idea they were hunting for dinosaur skeletons.
It was a staggering discovery that was at first lambasted by the public, labeled heresy by religious authorities, excoriated in the press, and called a hoax in ten different languages before the post-1900 world at large was forced, as grudgingly as any former flat-earther, to admit that yes; indeed there were once animals that defy our ability to fully comprehend their vast size.
There were things swimming in the Jurassic and pre-Jurassic oceans to give a tiny land-dwelling mammal like human beings heart palpitations.
The existence of dinosaurs, so long gone from the earth, has captured the imagination of schoolchildren and scientists, the curious and the intrepid since mankind first faced the terrible Tyrannosaurus Rex.
“How did dinosaurs come to be?” is but the shadow of another question: “How did mankind come to be?
“Why did dinosaurs vanish from the earth?” is another such parallel question.
Improving our understanding of creatures who lived and died millions of years ago might seem to some a frivolous and even fanciful pursuit. In the grand scheme of human society, with all our sufferings and tribulations, what does it matter if dinosaurs hatched or had feathers or invented chess?
Understanding the earth 250 million years ago, an era utterly like our own, the devastation of which gave rise to our first mammalian ancestors- is key to understanding our own history.
Human beings have been anatomically modern for about 200,000 years, give or take; we have about 10,000 years of recorded history. The other 190,000- to say nothing of what our ancient ancestors experienced, why they died out or evolved- are a complete mystery.
What little we know, we have pieced together from fragments scattered throughout the world, from the barest traces which are left, filtered through the lens of modern sensibilities.
Modern scientists look at an ancient structure and see a sports arena or a ceremonial temple in the remains of an ancient society with none of those things. Our society has those things. Lacking any other information, context, controlled experiments, or additional data of any kind, scientists project, as humans are wont to do.
We may never know.
There are ancient languages which remain undeciphered. Myths to unravel. Strands of DNA to unravel. Vast, undiscovered countries without and within, down to the information encoded in our very cells and how it got there.
To say that the success of the human species was improbable is an understatement. We shouldn’t even be here. Technically, amino acids should never have been able to form into proteins to form the basic building blocks of life in the first place, but here we are.
Here we all are.
The dinosaurs, for good or ill, are gone forever, some preserved better than others in the fragmented fossil map that tells the tale, if only we can read it.
Humans have accomplished what no dinosaur ever dreamed. We’ve been the moon; we split the atom. We invented air travel and the internal combustion engine and Netflix, though not in that order. We’ve mapped the human genome.
But we still have questions, and plenty of them. Some are related to the survival, long-term, of humanity.
Until we have all the answers, mankind is fortunate to have scientists dedicated to seeking out, digging up and following the evidence of our primeval past.
It is more than just an exercise in imagination and discovery; the story of the dinosaurs is the human story, too.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)