Jurassic roadkill: OMNH 4167

November 12, 2008

I’m worried that you might be getting spoiled, only getting to see perfect beautiful vertebrae, so I’m gonna show you some uglies now and then just to keep the universe in balance.

As uglies go, this one ain’t bad. It’s clearly a cervical, probably from Camarasaurus, given how far the prezyg overhangs the front of the centrum. As I recall, the internal structure on this one is pretty gorgeous, which illustrates a paradox that Kent Sanders and I discovered: many times the verts that are ugliest on the outside have the most beautiful internal structures, whereas verts that look nice on the outside are sometimes unreadable mush within.

Or rather, the internal structure of this vert would illustrate that paradox, if I could show it to you. But nice as it was, this was never one of my worth-publishing-on specimens, and although I know the CTs are around here somewhere, I can’t pinpoint their location right now. It’s a Heisenberg thing.

Until next time…

3 Responses to “Jurassic roadkill: OMNH 4167”

  1. Nathan Myers Says:

    Awesomeness aside, I never get over how complicated the shapes of these things are. Is there any single part of the typical automobile or motorcycle that is anywhere near as complex, even if you ignore camellae? Not even the crankshaft qualifies.

  2. Vertebrat Says:

    Engine blocks are pretty complex. Camellate, too. But I understand how they get that way. What gets me about sauropod vertebrae (especially those baroque cervicals) is what kind of developmental rules could so predictably create such weird exterior shapes – and why those particular shapes? There’s obviously a lot more going on than just bone growing where it’s stressed and being pneumatized where it’s not.

  3. Terry Hunt Says:

    Generalising somewhat from the above discussion, I’ve been pondering for some time that the classic Paley’s Watch argument for a creator had it exactly wrong from the outset.

    If while wandering across a heath one finds a watch, one ought to infer a watchmaker not from the object’s complexity, but rather from its extreme simplicity; only a few dozen rather large components of extreme compositional purity, with almost no superfluous features. Even a stone usually has a far more complex microstructure, and the simplest living organism has many orders of magnitude more intricacy and considerably more redundancy.

    The lesson I’d draw from the watch (after wondering if there was a reward for its return) is that any competent, benign sentience would design an artefact to be about as simple as it can be while still fulfilling its intended purpose[s] (which might, to be sure, include aesthetic effects). Natural objects in general and living organisms in particular are much, much more complicated precisely because they were not predesigned for predetermined purposes, but arrived at by unpurposeful and undirected processes such as evolution by natural selection, which of course are not “random” but constrained by natural laws.

    At this point a creator-proponent (I deliberately don’t say “creationist” here) might ask “Ah, but who made the laws?” I’ve also been thinking lately that the adoption of the term “law” into a scientific context was an unfortunate and misleading mistake, given that jurisprudential laws have different, and in some respects almost opposite, characteristics. Is it too late to substitute some other word lacking the implication of a lawmaker?

    I suppose creator-proponents and the science-minded interpret the same “facts” differently because of their largely unconscious assumptions, stemming at least partly from their prior intellectual environments. The challenge must be to identify and proceed from facts and axioms with whose implications no-one can logically disagree.

    Sorry for going off on one, but Nathan’s comment dovetailed perfectly with my current bonnet-bee. Feel free to ignore this or take it elsewhere as you like.


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