A potentially fatal mistake

Posted .

I know it must seem like I get a real kick out of spotting other’s taxonomic mistakes and pointing them out here, but really I’d be a much happier man if it wasn’t necessary. All it would take would be for journalists to double check their terms before going to press, or to make sure they got their pieces proof read by someone familiar with the subject. It’s the BBC’s turn again this time, and in the midst of what is, otherwise, an excellent piece about recent pioneering work on determining the colour of dinosaur feathers, by using an electron microscope to examine the shape and structure of fossilised melanosomes. There’s nothing at all wrong with most of the article. In fact, go and read it now; I’ll wait.

See? It’s all very interesting; well researched, and well written, and it avoids the two most grating errors science pieces in the mainstream media usually make; making it sound like this has overturned everything we’ve previously thought about the subject, and giving ‘equal time’ to some wacko who disagrees with the research. So, yes, it’s a great piece. With one small error:

This gives more weight to a very well-supported theory that modern birds evolved from theropods, the group of small carnivorous dinosaurs to which Sinosauropteryx belonged.

A relatively benign mistake to make while sat at a desk in a nice comfortable office, but there are scenarios where you might want to be a little more careful in checking your definitions…

T Rex was a theropod that was not at all small

While it’s true that some theropods were small, the largest were the largest terrestrial carnivores ever known to have existed, and included the most famous of all dinosaurs; Tyrannosaurus rex (so you wouldn’t think it would be that hard to check the accuracy of the statement.)

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