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  • (tribal drum music)

  • - [Narrator] Dinosaurs are awesome.

  • (dinosaur roaring)

  • We all know it.

  • When we figured out

  • these guys were a thing,

  • we wanted more, more fossils, more art, more, well,

  • whatever this is.

  • So we went out and found them.

  • Fast forward to today,

  • we're still discovering like never before.

  • (soft marimba music)

  • - Paleontology as a science started in the 1800s.

  • Back then, we understood for the first time

  • they were a unique and different group of animals.

  • - [Narrator] Fossil discoveries were happening

  • long before this distinction, though.

  • Dinosaur bones were mistaken for mythological creatures

  • thousands of years before science

  • could tell us what they really were.

  • And for generations,

  • people connected these fossils to living creatures

  • they already knew.

  • Until Richard Owen, frenemy of Charles Darwin,

  • concluded these fossils were different

  • from any living creature on earth.

  • - He coined the term dinosaur,

  • the terrible lizard.

  • - [Narrator] New type of animal, big step forward.

  • (dinosaur roaring)

  • - For the first 100 years,

  • we knew very, very little about dinosaurs.

  • We only knew 50 or 100 species or so.

  • - [Narrator] Discovery started slow,

  • but the public's curiosity was high.

  • So a view into this prehistoric world

  • came from a different perspective, art.

  • (upbeat jazz music)

  • Creativity brought dinosaurs to the cultural forefront.

  • While these drawings, paintings, and sculptures

  • were initially based on scientific discoveries,

  • (toilet flushes)

  • let's just say that didn't last.

  • Our imaginations might've gotten a headstart,

  • but technology, it's catching up.

  • - Paleontology has been undergoing this massive revolution.

  • - [Narrator] One of those technologies?

  • CT scanning, giving paleontologists a new look at dinosaurs.

  • - You can look at the brain size,

  • you can look at the different parts of the brain,

  • because basically the bones that demarcate the brain cavity

  • are very good proxy for what the brain actually looked like.

  • So there's a ton of new morphological information

  • that we can get through these high resolution

  • imaging techniques that are fairly new.

  • - [Narrator] This in depth view has been a game changer

  • in the field,

  • but one classical aspect of paleontology

  • has also experienced a renaissance.

  • (shovels scraping)

  • Finding fossils.

  • - In the U.S. or Europe,

  • that's where paleontology first grew as a science,

  • but other continents,

  • they have not been explored as much.

  • There are so many expeditions being conducted right now,

  • but many, many new dinosaur species

  • are coming from these places.

  • - [Narrator] Example, Diego's team in Patagonia

  • discovering the Patagotitan mayorum,

  • one of the largest dinosaurs ever found.

  • Fossil discoveries in China are also answering

  • an age old question,

  • dinosaurs' relationship to birds.

  • - Birds are extremely rare in the fossil record,

  • and this is for a number of reasons.

  • One is that birds are all pretty small.

  • Aerodynamics limits body size, so you can't get that big.

  • The other thing is that birds have hollow bones.

  • They get crushed easily,

  • they get destroyed, and they just don't survive.

  • So all these fossil birds all come

  • from ancient lake deposits,

  • (bell dings)

  • the perfect environment to preserve

  • these very delicate fossils.

  • - [Narrator] Birds evolving from dinosaurs

  • is not a new idea, but it's the access

  • to these ancient lake deposits

  • (bell dings)

  • that's finally providing the necessary evidence.

  • - The notion that birds are living dinosaurs

  • actually dates back to like the second half

  • of the 19th century.

  • A guy named Thomas Huxley, based on his observations,

  • he came up with a hypothesis

  • that birds descended from small bipedal dinosaurs.

  • But other scientists opposed this idea

  • because they said, well, you know,

  • all birds have a wishbone, right?

  • This is not known in any dinosaurs.

  • So birds can't be living dinosaurs.

  • - [Narrator] Next up, John Ostrom,

  • who analyzed theropod dinosaurs,

  • and also hypothesized that birds were living dinosaurs.

  • - But again, people kind of rejected this hypothesis.

  • At the time, their new reason was

  • velociraptors that were supposed to be closely related

  • to birds were much younger in the fossil record

  • than Archaeopteryx, the oldest bird.

  • So they were like,

  • how could Archaeopteryx have descended from taxa

  • that don't appear in the fossil record

  • until like 70 million years later, right?

  • (engine racing)

  • - [Narrator] Inconclusive evidence persisted,

  • until, well, that's what brings us back

  • to these ancient lake deposits.

  • - So in 1996, you find

  • the first feathered dinosaur in China.

  • So then an enormous amount of field work started to happen,

  • and this produced these thousands of specimens.

  • (upbeat music)

  • - [Narrator] Paleontologists then discovered an area

  • where fossils predate Archaeopteryx.

  • And within this area,

  • they found small feathered dinosaurs with bird-like traits,

  • including wings here and here,

  • making his theory much stronger, also.

  • - There was a little troodontid dinosaur named Mei long

  • that was discovered, and it's really tiny.

  • It's like this big,

  • and it's preserved with its head underneath its wing,

  • sleeping the same way modern ducks do.

  • So that's behavioral evidence

  • that birds are in fact living dinosaurs.

  • - [Narrator] Today, substantial evidence points

  • to birds evolving from dinosaurs, specifically theropods,

  • and showcases the progression of paleontology.

  • But the discoveries don't stop here.

  • - There are still new things out there

  • that once they are discovered

  • are gonna shake up everything we think we know.

  • New data will cause us to adjust our existing hypotheses,

  • so you just kind of have to go with the flow of discoveries.

(tribal drum music)

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Why Now is the Golden Age of Paleontology | Nat Geo Explores

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/15
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