Math Confirms Dinosaur Classification

Scientists have used mathematical and statistical methods to ascertain the classification of the dinosaur Serendipacerotops arthurcclarkei.

AsianScientist (Jun 11, 2014) – An international team of scientists has shown that the dinosaur Serendipacerotops arthurcclarkei is a cousin of the famous Triceratops, resolving controversy over its classification and suggesting potential revisions to our knowledge about the way continents were connected in the ancient past.

After an ulna bone of S. arthurcclarkei was found in southern Australia, researchers classified the dinosaur under the Neoceratopsia family that also includes the Triceratops. However, a debate soon emerged as other researchers refuted the results, claiming that Neoceratopsia only existed in the Northern Hemisphere and that the geographical land masses had already split. Central to the refutation was prevailing knowledge of continental splitting that was based on fossil data.

In other to investigate the claim that S. arthurcclarkei belongs to Neoceratopsia, the team decided to analyse structural properties of its bones. In doing so, co-author Dr. Robert Sinclair, a mathematical biologist at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, measured the flatness of the bones and compared them against those of other members of the Ceratopsia family.

By combining three different types of mathematical data, the research published in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology confirmed that the bones of S. arthurcclarkei are statistically compatible with ceratopsians and that the synapomorphy (similarity of structure) places it “robustly within Ceratopsia.”

“(The challenge was to) use mathematics in a field where it is not commonly used or well understood and utilize it in a way that is understandable to those in the field,” explained Dr. Sinclair about the research.

The article can be found at: Rich et al. (2014) Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei Rich & Vickers-Rich, 2003 is an Australian Early Cretaceous Ceratopsian.


Source: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Alan Aw is a maths enthusiast who likes sharing the fun and beauty of science with others. Besides reading, he enjoys running, badminton, and listening to (and occasionally playing) Bach or Zez Confrey.

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