Still a Mystery | God's World News

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Still a Mystery
Science Soup
Posted: February 20, 2018

THIS JUST IN

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Imagine you lived centuries ago—around the fourth century B.C. You uncover some bones while digging in your backyard. Eventually, you’ve unearthed a whole stegosaurus skeleton! (Of course, you don’t know it belonged to a stegosaurus. Back then, you couldn’t check out a dinosaur encyclopedia from the library. Dinosaurs were still quite mysterious!)

The entire skeleton measures around 30 feet long and 14 feet high. One by one, you find the sharp spikes that lined the creature’s back. What have you discovered? Could it be . . . an ancient, fire-breathing monster—a dragon?

It’s possible that ancient people thought so. You can see why!

Ancient people weren’t the only ones who have been wrong about fossils. More recently, people have put bone puzzles together all wrong. In the 1800s, they had the wrong idea about the Iguanodon dino. They stuck a strange bone onto its nose like a spike. Really, that “spike” was Iguanadon’s thumb! Dino-studiers have been wrong about other things too. They once thought dino tails dragged on the ground. Now they think the beasts held their tails up straight. Once, they believed all dinosaurs had scales. Now they think some had feathers.

Even today, our ideas about dinosaurs have a lot to do with the way artists draw and paint them. These artists can’t copy “paleo art” from living models. All they have is a pile of bones and some scientists’ ideas to work from! What is missing from their drawings? Did dinosaurs have pouches, skin flaps, or quills we have never imagined? People once thought dinos were dragons. Will they someday think our current ideas about dinosaurs are just as silly?

To learn about ancient fossils, we need humility and patience. New finds must shape our understanding of what we've already learned. Centuries have passed. But we still don’t know everything. In many ways, dinosaurs and other ancient creatures are still mysteries.