Could JANE change all the rules?

Phil Currie is a doctor of dinosaur paleontology and curator of the Tyrrell Museum in Drumhiller, Alberta, Canada. The Tyrrell Museum is the best dinosaur museum in Canada, and its parking lot sits just a few hundred yards from dinosaur fossil dig sites.

These dig sites are part of the northern region of the North American Badlands. Drumhiller, in fact, is very close to some of the best dino fossil land in the world. What could be better for a dinosaur expert than to work in the best dino museum and live in the best dino land? Currie doesn’t have to go anywhere to reach his dinosaur desires, so why is he drawn to the Burpee Museum of Natural History and JANE?

Because JANE is the biggest dinosaur find in decades. Dinosaurs have been known properly to science for less than 200 years. Most of the knowledge painstakingly acquired about dinosaurs came in the 20th century, notably the last 30 years.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, dinosaur paleontologists Horner and Bakker led a dinosaur surge that culminated in the information age with the movie Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs appeared to reside in an exciting, special place in the human psyche, especially in the minds and hearts of youth.

As dinosaurs are a part of our modern culture, one terrible lizard lurks in the human psyche more than any other. That is the Tyrannosaurus rex.

T. rex may have been the fiercest predator to ever roam Earth. Rex is a tyrannosaurid; others in the tyrannosaurid family are the Albertasaur, Dapletasaur and the Gorgasaur. All were around millions of years before Rex. T. rex was here for only a million years before the end of the Dinosaur Age, but it was the ultimate in dinosaur predator evolution. Then along came JANE.

This is no hype; JANE may upset the proverbial apple cart. That is one of the bigger reasons Phil Currie comes to do research on JANE. If Phil and other researchers prove JANE is a distinct species, that means there was one more big predator, and that changes all the rules. This means Rex’s million-year reign would lessen substantially. That’s why Currie and other prominent scientists come to research that current huge mystery named JANE.

In April, Phil was crunching numbers, measuring teeth, noting locations and positions of teeth in the jaw and drawing pictures of JANE’s teeth. It seemed painstaking and sometimes monotonous, but it was necessary.

There are enough teeth of juvenile T. rexes, Albertasaurs and Gorgasaurs now in researchers’ hands to draw conclusions and justifiable graphs. Trends were found, patterns learned, and all this information will help pull some of the truth from JANE’s jaw. JANE’s dental data are much easier to see; many of her teeth were found in her tooth sockets. A big percentage of other fossil tyrannosaurid teeth are not.

JANE’s quality of wholeness in the jaw area will give her statistics near completeness in species representation. If JANE’s info bucks the trends, if her info sets a unique pattern, then this presents a strong case for a separate species identity. Enough is known about juvenile tyrannosaurid tooth growth to determine whether JANE falls in any of those juvenile patterns. Of course, you know that it’s been determined JANE was still growing, and therefore not an adult yet.

Phil was trying to relate to me that the separating line in basic bio entities is species. Species draw the line; all relatedness within a species is influenced by human subjectiveness; it’s human invention. If JANE, the Nanotyrannus existed, then there was a whole new niche, one more successful big predator, and as was said before, that changes all the rules. If the world learns of another terrible lizard that was smaller, yet faster and deadlier, and may have even ganged up and killed individual Rexes, JANE may replace the T. rex in popularity.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!