Monday, 28 July 2014

"20 scientific facts seldom taught to students" critically reviewed #19

Collyer's nineteenth point is the assertion that "[m]ost dinosaurs are known only by their tracks impressed on mud that turned to stone." This is untrue. We have many dinosaur fossils, ranging from incomplete skeletons, to multiple near-complete skeletons.

Unfortunately, his nineteenth point degenerated further with the embarrassingly ill-informed claim that "in Russia, horse-hoof tracks and human footprints have been found alongside dinosaur tracks, contrary to the evolutionary scenario." This is untrue. Collyer had uncritically cited a long-debunked creationist claim without confirming its credibility The dinosaur footprints are real, but the human ones are partly-filled dinosaur prints. Even some creationist organisations warn against using the “Russian human / dinosaur” example.

It is readily apparent that Collyer had not consulted credible sources before making this claim. Most dinosaurs are known from fossil evidence, while there is zero evidence for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. The common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees lived around 4-6 million years ago, while the last non-avian dinosaur died out at the end of the Cretaceous 65 million years ago.

The assertion that most dinosaurs are only known from fossilised tracks is flatly wrong. Wang and Dodson note that many genera are known from single individuals, with the fossil remains sometimes partial.
The study of dinosaur diversity has long been impeded by taxonomic difficulties and the incompleteness of the fossil record. Dinosaur taxonomy has at times been problematic, with many named genera having been invalidated because of synonymy, preoccupation, or being based on nondiagnostic material, particularly isolated teeth. Moreover, of currently recognized genera, 59% are known from only a single individual, and many of these only from very incomplete material. These factors have posed substantial challenges to assessing the diversity of dinosaurs (here used to refer only to nonavian dinosaurs). [1]
Wang and Dodson sought to estimate dinosaur diversity, and concluded that at the time of publication (2006) around 71% of dinosaur genera remained to be discovered. One needs to remember though that thosr which have been classified have been done so on the basis of fossil evidence, which refutes Collyer’s assertion, as well as once more highlighting his lack of research. One does not classify genera based on nondiagnostic evidence such as footprints! Collyer here demonstrates his lack of expertise in vertebrate palaeontology and species classification.

One of the standard academic references is The Dinosauria [2] which is currently in its second edition, and details the date of discovery of every known dinosaur genera, where it was found, how old the fossils are and exactly what was found. Space precludes a full listing of the fossil evidence for every known dinosaur taxon (those interested are referred to this book), but detailing what is known about a single group, namely Ceratopsia [3] should suffice to demonstrate the error of Collyer’s assertion. 



P. guyangensis (Cheng, 1983)

Found: Lisangou Formation (Nei Mongol Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China
Age: ?Aptian–Albian
Material: 4 fragmentary individuals, one with partial skull

P. mazongshanensis (Xu, 1997)

Found: Xinminbao Group (Gansu), People’s Republic of China
Age: Barremian– Albian
Material: One individual lacking caudals and hindlimb

P. meileyingensis (Sereno, Chao, Cheng, et Rao, 1988)

Found: Jiufotang Formation (Liaoning), People’s Republic of China
Age: Early Cretaceous
Material: 4 individuals, 2 complete skulls

Source: Wikipedia

P. mongoliensis (Osborn, 1923a = P. protiguanodonensis Young, 1958a, including Protiguanodon mongoliensis Osborn, 1923a)

Found: Khukhtekskaya Svita (Övörkhangai), unnamed unit (Bayankhongor), Khulsyngolskaya Svita, Shinekhudag Svita (Dundgov’), Khukhtekskaya Svita (Dornogov’), Mongolia; Jiufotang Formation (Liaoning), unnamed unit (Nei Mongol Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China; Shestakovskaya Svita (Gorno-Altayaskaya Avtonomnaya Oblast), Russia
Age: Aptian–Albian
Material: More than 75 individuals, including more than 15 skeletons

Source: Wikipedia

P. neimongoliensis (Russell et Zhao, 1996)

Found: Ejinhoro Formation (Nei Mongol Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China
Age: Early Cretaceous
Material: 1 nearly complete skeleton and other fragmentary material

P. ordosensis (Russell et Zhao, 1996)

Found: Ejinhoro Formation (Nei Mongol Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China
Age: Early Cretaceous
Material: Partial cranial material

P. osborni (Young, 1931 including P. tingi Young, 1931)

Found: Qingshan Formation (Shandong), People’s Republic of China
Age: ?Aptian–Albian
Material: More than 20 individuals, 5 complete skulls, 3 articulated skeletons

P. sinensis (Young, 1958a)

Found: Qingshan Formation (Shandong), People’s Republic of China
Age: ?Aptian–Albian
Material: More than 20 individuals, 5 complete skulls, 3 articulated skeletons

P. xinjiangensis (Sereno et Chao, 1988)

Found: Tugulu Group (Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China Shestakovskaya Svita (Gorno-Altayaskaya Avtonomnaya Oblast), Russia
Age: ?Valanginian–Allbian
Material: More than 10 individuals, including articulated skeleton with skull

P. youngi (Chao, 1962)

Found: Qingshan Formation (Shandong), People’s Republic of China
Age: ?Aptian–Albian
Material: Partial skeleton with skull



A. oshimai (Dong et Azuma, 1997)

Found: Xinminbao Group (Gansu), People’s Republic of China
Age: Aptian–Albian
Material: 2 individuals lacking forelimbs


B. rozhdestvenskyi (Marya´nska et Osmólska, 1975 (including Breviceratops kozlowskii [Marya´nska et Osmólska, 1975]; Protoceratops [kozlowskii Marya´nska et Osmólska, 1975])

Found: Red Beds of Hermiin Tsav Baruungoyot Formation (Ömnögov’), Mongolia
Age: middle Campanian
Material: 5 complete skulls, 20 fragmentary skulls, postcranial skeletons, juvenile to adult


C. youngi (Zhao, Cheng, et Xu, 1999)

Found: Tuchengzi Formation (Liaoning), People’s Republic of China
Age: Tithonian
Material: Partial skull with mandible, cervicals, humerus, and scapula


G. mongoliensis (Sereno, 2000)

Found: Shireegiin Gashuun Formation (Ömnögov’), Mongolia
Age: Cenomanian– Santonian
Material: Partial skull, skeleton


L. yanzigouensis (Xu, Makovicky, Wang, Norell, et You, 2002a)

Found: Yixian Formation (Liaoning), People’s Republic of China
Age: Barremian
: 2 nearly complete skulls, juvenile to adult


L. gracilis (Brown, 1914c)

Found: Scollard Formation (Alberta), Canada; Lance Formation (Wyoming), Hell Creek Formation (Montana), United States
Age: late Maastrichtian
Material: 3 complete skulls, 2 partial skulls, skeletons


M. cerorhynchus (Brown et Schlaikjer, 1942) = Leptoceratops cerorhynchus Brown et Schlaikjer, 1942)

Found: St. Mary River Formation (Montana), United States; Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Alberta),Canada
Age: early Maastrichtian
Material: Partial skull with associated skeleton, second articulated specimen

Source: Wikipedia


P. andrewsi (Granger et Gregory, 1923)

Found: Djadokhta Formation, ?Beds of Alag Teeg (Ömnögov’), Mongolia; Minhe Formation (Gansu), Djadokhta Formation, Minhe Formation (Nei
Mongol Zizhiqu), People’s Republic of China
Age: late Santonian or early Campanian
Material: 80 skulls, some skeletons, juvenile to adult

Source: Wikipedia

P. hellenikorhinus (Lambert, Godefroit, Li, Shang, et Dong, 2001)

Found: Djadokhta Formation (Nei Mongol Zizhiqu) People’s Republic of China
Age: ?late Santonian or early Campanian
Material: Complete skull

Source: Wikipedia


U. tschizhovi (Kurzanov, 1992)

Found: Djadokhta Formation (Ömnögov’), Mongolia
Age: ?late Santonian or early Campanian
Material: Partial skull and postcranial skeleton


Z. christopheri (Wolfe et Kirkland, 1998)

Found: Moreno Hill Formation, New Mexico, United States
Age: Turonian
Material: Partial cranial and postcranial materials of five individuals

Remember what Collyer said?
Most dinosaurs are known only by their tracks impressed on mud that turned to stone.
The above has clearly shown just how wrong Collyer's statement was. And remember, this is the evidence from only one group of dinosaurs. What is even more damning is that the Testimony allowed such a statement to go uncorrected.

The Flintstones is not a science documentary - the human-dinosaur track story is a creationist hoax

Collyer’s claim that dinosaur footprints have been found alongside horse and human footprints in Russia is false. As mentioned before, nearly 60 million years separate the last non-avian dinosaur and the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. Creationist claims of human and dinosaur footprints being found in the same strata have repeatedly been debunked. The best known examples are the Paluxy River footprints near Glen Rose, Texas. The dinosaur footprints are real, but the “human footprints” are either forgeries, or misinterpretations:
For many years claims were made by strict creationists that human footprints or "giant man tracks" occur alongside fossilized dinosaur tracks in the limestone beds of the Paluxy River, near Glen Rose Texas. If true, such a finding would dramatically contradict the conventional geologic timetable, which holds that humans did not appear on earth until over 60 million years after the dinosaurs became extinct. However, the "man track" claims have not stood up to close scientific scrutiny, and in recent years have been abandoned even by most creationists. The supposed human tracks have involved a variety of phenomena, including forms of elongate, metatarsal dinosaur tracks, erosional features, indistinct markings of uncertain origin, and a smaller number of doctored and carved specimens (most of the latter occurring on loose blocks of rock). A few individuals continue to promote the Paluxy "man tracks" or alleged human tracks in pre-Tertiary rocks from other localities, but such claims are not considered credible by either mainstream scientists or major creationist groups. [4]
The special creationist geophysicist Sergei Golovin claimed [5] that human footprints were found alongside dinosaur footprints in Turkmenistan. The original announcement he states was made in the English version of Moscow News in 1983, and later reported in the 31st January 1995 edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda. Tellingly, one does not see in the AiG article any reference to independent scientific confirmation of this discovery, or any references to the mainstream palaeontological literature where such claims would be reported. In short, Collyer has uncritically cited material either from a creationist source, or a non-scientific paper. The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim. Collyer has not met that burden of proof, so his claims can be dismissed.

It is interesting however to note that Glen Kuban has also examined this dubious story of Russian (actually, Turkmen) human / dinosaur footprints in the same era, and as one would expect, the claims are entirely without merit:
A 1996 Creation magazine article by Russian geophysicist Sergei Golovin, reproduced as an AIG website article, reported that the 31 January 1995 edition of the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda stated, "Human footprints lie alongside thousands of dinosaur prints on a Turkmenian plateau." The author of the article, journalist Alexander Bushev, reportedly traveled to the tracksite near the village of Khodja-Pil Ata in Turkmenistan, and had seen the fossilized prints of dinosaurs and humans together. According to Golovin, who has not personally visited the site (Golovin, 2006), Bushev indicated that the half-kilometer wide rock bed contained over 3000 three-toed dinosaur tracks, considered by Turkmenian scientist Kurban Amanniyazov to be at least 200 million years old (which would place them near the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic periods). Golovin's article quoted Bushev as stating 'But the most mysterious fact is that among the footprints of dinosaurs, footprints of bare human feet were found!'  
Despite these claims, Golovin's article did not include any photos or scientifically rigorous descriptions of the alleged human tracks, in terms of their specific size, clarity, shape and contour details, or stride patterns. Nor have any of the other creationist authors who repeat or encourage the human track claims. 
Amanniyazov himself authored a scientific paper describing the Turkmenistan Tracks, noting that there were a number of track sites in the area, with the main site contained 35 recognizable trackways, involving 1365 individual traces. These he attributed to three different types of bipedal dinosaurs, and indicated that the track beds were late Jurassic, not late Triassic (about 50 million years younger than earlier reported). Curiously, no mention is made of human like tracks until the end of the paper, where (based on the English translation), Amanniyazov writes, "One more thing should be pointed. It's track that has a resemblance of a print of some human being. It is not clear, but is easy for distinguishing. There are not enough scientific reasons yet to confirm that its a human being's, but the investigations are still going on" (Amanniyazov, 1985). If the translation is reasonably accurate, this appears to imply that unlike earlier reports referring to multiple "human tracks" or clear human tracks, there was only one indistinct human-like track. The meaning of "easy for distinguishing" is uncertain--since the human track was already called "not clear" perhaps the author simply meant that it was unlike the nearby types of dinosaur tracks. However, he did not include a photograph of the print in question, nor indicated where on the site it was located, or even if it is on the main site. Thus, it remains uncertain as to exactly what Amanniyazov had seen. [6] (Emphasis mine)

Turkmenistan dinosaur trails. Photo courtesy of

Turkmenistan dinosaur track shown at website.

This alone casts enough doubt on the claim for a reasonable person to conclude that the creationist allegation can be set aside as unproven. Kuban continues by noting that the Turkmenistan tracks have been studied in the mid-1990s by a team of American scientists. [7] The dinosaur tracks are real, and have been dated to the late Jurassic:
The largest site in Turkmenistan, Kodhja-Pil-Ata, reveals the longest dinosaur trackways recorded anywhere in teh world so far (five trackway segments that measure between 184 and 311 meters). The late Jurassic sites, as well as other localities in adjacent Tadjikistan probably formed part of a huge megatracksite covering several thousands of square kilometres. All of them are associated with the northern Tethyan costal belt.
The authors don’t refer to any human-like tracks in their paper, but they do refer to elongated, long-heeled prints up to 70cm in length. Kuban notes that such tracks, particularly if they are blurred or filled-in can be mistaken for human prints. [8] One would imagine though that prints 70cm in length, are hardly likely to be confused with human prints. What of the alleged human footprint? Kuban notes:
Until 2007, the only track photograph I was able to locate in connection with this site that is even remotely humanlike in shape was shown in an article about the Turkmenistan prints on a website (removed in 2007) by strict creationist Jeff Brenner (Brenner, 2006). The article did not indicate the source of the photo, or even clarify whether it is from the Turkmenistan site. The photo did not show a clear human track, but rather an elongate depression with what appears to be significant anterior splaying and more of a three-toed than 5-toed human pattern at the front. There is no discernible ball-arch-heel pattern on the print bottom, and overall, it appears at least as compatible with a metatarsal dinosaur print as a human print. Unfortunately, if it is the former, the far anterior end which might show more indications of a dinosaurian digit pattern is probably cut out of the picture.
Track shown at Jeff Brenner's website. Presumable from the Turkmenistan site. Source 

Kuban’s concluding paragraph should settle the question of whether the Turkmenistan prints are human:
In view of the fact that elongate dinosaur tracks and other non-human phenomena that have been mistaken for human footprints in the past, (Kuban) the lack of rigorous documentation by the human track advocates, Golovin's suggestion that the those who do not accept the human track claims suffer from "evolutionary indoctrination" rings hollow. Likewise, when Benner suggests that the human track claims seem convincing simply because evolutionists have not disproved them, he seems to misunderstand the nature of science. When extraordinary claims are made, the burden is on the claimants to back them up. Without rigorous documentation of the alleged human tracks, what does Benner expect the scientists to address? They've described and documented the dinosaur tracks, and so far the humanoid track proponents have presented no substantial evidence that human or even very human-like tracks occur at the site. Indeed, even major creationists groups have refrained from endorsing the claims. For example, "Answers in Genesis" tempered Golovin's remarks by noting that "one needs to be cautious about accepting the prints described on the basis of just this report. None of our sources has been able to obtain any further information on the prints, nor any photographs to this date."

Collyer's first claim is wrong, as the detailed fossil evidence from just one dinosaur group, the Ceratopsia, shows. His second claim is even more unfortunate, not just because he fell for an easily debunked hoax, but because even extremist YEC organisations such as AiG expressed reserve about the story. Finally, the fact that the Testimony allowed this article to go unchallenged reflects poorly on their credibility on scientific matters.


1. Wang, S.C., and Dodson, P. (2006). "Estimating the Diversity of Dinosaurs". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103 (37): 13601–13605

2. Weishampel DB, Dodson P, Osmolska H (2004) The Dinosauria (Univ of California Press, Berkeley), 2nd Ed.

3. ibid, p 478-480. The Ceratopsia were a group of herbivorous beaked dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous. Triceratops was a later member and is the best known member of the group

4. Kuban G.J. The Texas Dinosaur / “Man Track” Controversy. The Talk Origins Archive.

5. Creation (1996) 18:52. It was later republished on the Answers in Genesis website.

6. Kuban G.J. A Russian “Paluxy?”

7. Meyer, C. A. and Lockley, M. G., 1997, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaur tracksites from central Asia (Usbekistan and Turkmenistan) Journal of the Paleontological Society of Korea, p. 43-65.

8. Kuban, G.J. 1986 “Elongate Dinosaur Tracks” In Gillette, David D. and Martin G. Lockley, eds., Dinosaur Tracks and Traces, (1989, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge) pp. 57-72