A Good Dinosaur Gone Bad

TRILOGY OF LIFE - Ballad of Big Al - "Ornitholestes" - YouTube

One of these days I’m going to want to bring a dinosaur or two into the fantasy world of my Bell Mountain novels.

Ornitholestes was the most famous small dinosaur when I was a boy–and by famous I mean in all the books, on all the posters, toys and museum souvenirs: if you were at all interested in dinosaurs, you knew Ornitholestes (the name means “bird hunter”)–probably from this famous drawing by Charles R. Knight, found in just about every children’s book on dinosaurs.

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Bird Hunter

See? There he is, catching a prehistoric bird.

The fame of this creature rests upon a single fossil, consisting of a damaged skull and some bits of the skeleton–to this day, the only fossil of Ornitholestes yet discovered.

By the time the popular documentary, Walking with Dinosaurs, came out in 1999, Ornitholestes–it really needs a shorter name; how about “Bob”?–had been jazzed up a lot. Now Bob had a kind of crest on his nose–very sporty. Looks great in a movie. But after only a few years they decided Bob’s flashy nose crest was really only a piece of the skull that had gotten knocked loose, so now he’s back to where he was when Charles R. Knight drew him in the 1930s. Only some artists like to give him feathers. No feathers have been found, there’s only one fossil, oh, well…

In spite of all the confusion, I find it easy to imagine this critter darting in and out of the undergrowth in Lintum Forest—–Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Did I just get the faint whiff of an opening scene for Bell Mountain No. 14? You know what? I think I did!

I think the Lord has just given me a birthday present. And this is not the first time that’s happened. Thank you, Father! This is just so cool!

3 comments on “A Good Dinosaur Gone Bad

  1. We have fossils, frequently incomplete, and little more, in the way of concrete information. Somehow, from all of this, elaborate narratives are formed and sometimes presented as fact. A dinosaur’s life an behavior are assumed from a small amount of information and a great deal of imagination, up to and including imaginary feathers which “prove” that they are evolutionary ancestors of modern day birds.

    So a few bones, a made up story and voila, a bunch of people are convinced of the evolutionary narrative. Take away the made up part of the bargain and the reality is much more restricted.

    Perhaps the best one was Lucy, which was supposed to be an ancestor to modern humans. The skeleton appeared to be fairly similar to a chimpanzee, but someone decided that the skull had been crushed and they set about making a model of what they thought was the original shape of the skull. Amazingly, this new, completely imaginary, model of the skull had a shape which made this into some sort of missing link, but in reality, it appears to be the bones of a dead ape with a human name, a model of an imaginary skull, and a fanciful story, which conveniently enough supports the evolutionary narrative.

    Of you look at much of what is presented as evolutionary “fact”, you will discover that there is some fanciful storytelling and little else. Unless they found the fossilized remains of a bird where Ornitholestes‘ stomach would have been, they only surmise that it ate birds. For all we actually know, it ate at Burger King. RegalBurgensisEstes Rex might be just as accurate. 🙂

    1. You shouldn’t have suggested the R. Rex dinosaur. It will probably show up in a NYT page 3 feature and wind up in science textbooks for years to come. 🙂

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