When paleontologists discover a new dinosaur skeleton, how exactly do they know if it’s an entirely new species or if it falls under a known species category?

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I’ve kind of wondered this, because how do these scientists know that a certain discovered specimen doesn’t have a physical disability (making it look very different from other members of its kind) and know that whatever physical skeleton differences they find are enough to warrant a new species or not?

In: Biology

2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Declaring a new species can be pretty controversial.

When you unearth a fossil that looks *similar* to a known species but isn’t the *same*, you have to consider a lot of questions.

Is this a juvenile of a known species and we’ve only identified adults?

Is this an adult of a species we’ve only identified from juveniles?

Is this a male from a species that’s highly dimorphic and so the male skeletons are much larger and more heavily armored than the females we’ve identified before?

And your question, is this individual representative or just sick/stunted? That’s unlikely since sick animals don’t generally reach adulthood, but always possible.

We try to mitigate some of these questions by looking at the wear and tear on the joints and other estimations of age to make sure you’re not comparing a middle schooler with an adult, but 100 million years later it can be hard to parse an incomplete skeleton.

The dinosaur family tree gets rearranged all the time when we find a new fossil that confirms or refutes the existing species.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They dont. And that a species is first identified as a new species but later found to be a known one that looked a bit diffrent happens quite often. Also if the diffrences are small there often is quite a bit debate if its a diffrent species or not.