Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nyasasaurus parringtoni

There is a scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where the Arc is being moved down a long warehouse corridor to be stored in anonymity and obscurity for ever more. It got a laugh because the audience knew it was completely outlandish but consistent with every one's idea of a bureaucracy. Now come the intrepid dinosaur hunters. Where are they hunting? Museums.

A dinosaur, likely the oldest dinosaur ever found, has been discovered. Or rediscovered. The animal lived about 245 million years ago, 10 million to 15 million years earlier than any previously discovered fossils, when Pangaea existed before separating into Africa, South America, Antarctica and Australia. Called Nyasasaurus parringtoni after southern Africa's Lake Nyasa where it was found (now called Lake Malawi) it was about 3 feet at the hip, 2 to 3 times as long head to tail, and weighed about 44 to 130 pounds.

The problem is it was discovered and retrieved in the 1930's, packed and stored in London's Natural History Museum and only recently recognized for what it was.

Sterling Nesbitt at the University of Washington in Seattle who led the study said: "Found in the '30s, first described in the 1950s … Now 80 years later, we're putting it all together."
Artist rendering of Nyasasaurus parringtoni dinosaur
Doesn't this sound a bit vague and disordered, even for university professors? Doesn't this make "hiding in plain sight" somewhat inadequate?

Has our search for knowledge turned into some weird self irony where even when we find significance we either don't recognize it or we forget it?

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