Posted by: paulgarner | July 4, 2012

Phil Senter on melon-chomping tyrannosaurs

Phil Senter shows no signs of letting up in his anti-creationist crusade. For those just joining us, Phil is a palaeontologist at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and over the last three years has written a stream of papers intended to refute creationist claims. These include papers about Lucy, vestigial organs, the Kachina Bridge “sauropod”, dinosaur baraminology (parts one and two) and Flood geology. The July/August edition of Skeptical Inquirer (organ of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) has his latest offering.

In this new article he tackles what he describes as “the Melon Rex Myth”, the idea that the sharp, recurved teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex and other theropods were originally used for herbivory and only after the Fall co-opted for carnivory. He points to creationist literature claiming that the incrassate teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex were shallow rooted and thus not well adapted for predatory behaviour, and illustrating the tyrant lizard king munching on melons. In fact, Senter shows that tyrannosaur teeth had very deep roots and in any case were continuously replaced from beneath by new teeth. Furthermore, palaeontological evidence such as serration marks on bones, molds of bite marks and preserved stomach contents leave little doubt that theropods with similar (“ziphodont”) teeth were using them for carnivory and scavenging. He also shows that modern herbivores with sharp canines (such as the giant panda and fruit bats) cannot serve as modern analogues for “herbivorous theropods”, since none of them possesses ziphodont teeth and they do not routinely use their canines for food processing.

Of course, the greatest irony about such arguments is that they are completely unnecessary. As Senter himself points out, young earth creationists “have long recognized that each baramin (“created kind” of organism) has diversified into many species since it was created” and that baraminological studies have revealed evidence of continuity between carnivorous and herbivorous coelurosaurian theropods. He concludes: “It is consistent with the YEC worldview to infer that God originally created theropods with herbivore-style teeth like those of Falcarius and Jeholornis and that ziphodont and incrassate teeth arose in later generations as a result of the Curse.” However, he adds that he will mourn the passing of the Melon Rex Myth since it has given him “countless hours of joyous chuckling”.

Reference

Senter P. 2012. Dinodang: the Melon Rex Myth. Skeptical Inquirer 36(4):52-57.

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