Just what did dinosaurs eat?

This from the latest Daily (pseudo)Science Update at the ICR, Dinosaurs Ate Rice.

One way researchers are finding out is by studying coprolites, or fossilized dinosaur dung. And as it turns out, some dinosaurs ate rice plants. But if flowering plants like rice did not evolve until millions of years after dinosaurs lived—as evolution maintains—how could dinosaurs have eaten them?

The pollen bearing organs of the early "flower" Crossotheca

There’s an easy answer to that. Taking my 10-year-old Walking With Dinosaurs book, and turning to the introduction to the final episode – Death of a Dynasty – on page 244, I read the following: (emphasis added)

The same epoch has witnessed massive changes among all its living creatures, including the evolution of most of the modern groups of animals.

The landscape has transformed from a dry world dominated by conifer forests to a moist green place full of flowing plants.

Additionally, Wikipedia informs me that the angiosperms date from the early Cretaceous. Basically, Mr Thomas has his facts wrong, plain and simple.

But this isn’t the end of the DpSU. What we’re really talking about is the evolution of grasses/rice. Point is, more recent studies have shown that the makers of the Walking With Dinosaurs show needn’t have gone to the trouble of ensuring that there was no grass in their shots, especially in the later episodes.

For example, in 2005, researchers found phytoliths [“uniquely shaped microscopic crystals manufactured by various plant tissues”] from grass, palm trees, conifers, and other flowering plants in (probably sauropod) dinosaur coprolites from India. “It was very unexpected….We will have to rewrite our understanding of its evolution….We may have to add grass to the dioramas of dinosaurs we see in museums,” palaeobotanist Caroline Strömberg told Nature News at the time.

Recently, Strömberg and two of her co-authors from the 2005 study described coprolite-encased phytoliths that are so similar to those made by certain modern rice plants that those found in dinosaur rocks “can be assigned to the rice tribe, Oryzeae, of grass subfamily Ehrhartoideae.” They collected these samples from the same Indian rock layers, the Lameta Formation, that contained their 2005 finds.

This find joins others that have shown that rice, grass, palm trees, and conifers from dinosaur rocks were essentially the same as their living counterparts. It’s as though millions of years of plant evolution never occurred.

Well, no – it’s more like the evolution happened earlier than previously thought. The rice has changed over the time – but yes, it’s still rice.

One problem with fossils is that they show only the outer shape of the organism, and so the internal mechanisms could easily have changed. Also, we have here the problem of definitions.

One of the ideas that allowed Darwinian theory to come forth is that organisms don’t care what we call them. There is no perfect chicken blueprint, from which all else are based. Millions of years of evolution and a fungus is by no means guaranteed to move out of our rather broad definition of a yeast. While, on the other hand, a few random mutations to an E. coli in the lab can cause it to no-longer meet the definition of the species!

Therefore, just because our weird brains can still recognise a “conifer” if it’s been dead for a hundred million years, means nothing as to how much time and evolution has gone on between it and its descendants in the modern world.

Thus, these coprolites show that rice plants existed before the Flood. Either rice had diversified from an originally created grass that was common to many other grasses, like wheat and bamboo, or God created rice grasses separately from other grass kinds. Studies show that rice grasses do not hybridize with other grasses. These dinosaur-eaten phytoliths add weight to the idea that rice was a distinct creation from the beginning.

What about the counter evidence – flowering plants and grasses still only appear late in the record. There are ferns and mosses for millions upon millions of years before flowering plants arrive on the scene, and it should be noted that angiosperms are by far the most versatile of the land plants. This is legitimately a problem for the creationists, in a way that this story is not for evolution. But, reading Genesis, it does rather sound like Cain had flowering plants as crops when he tilled the land. There is no way out for biblical literalism.

According to Scripture, God created all the grasses, plants, and grazing mammals, along with any grazing dinosaurs like sauropods, by the sixth day of the creation week. As far as what the fossils have shown, Scripture is right.

Quite the contrary, my friend.

One thought on “Coprolite

  1. Pingback: Mistakes Were Made – But Not By Us « Eye on the ICR


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