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Dinosauria Obsoleta: Aquatic Compsognathus And Flying Stegosaurus

May 23, 2016

by Carnoferox

This is the start of a new series that will be focused on obsolete and bizarre theories about dinosaurs. These theories may be outlandish, but they are certainly fascinating nonetheless.

Compsognathus with Flippers

In the 1972, French paleontologist Alain Bidar proposed that a specimen of Compsognathus longipes that had been recently discovered in France was actually a new species. He named it Compsognathus corallestris, and distinguised it based on its hand structure. The original and only other known Compsognathus, found in Germany in 1859, did not have well preserved hands; they appeared to only have two digits. The new specimen had better preserved hands and had three fingers. Bidar theorized that corallestris had evolved enlongated hands that served as fins, and that it was suited for an aquatic or semi-aquatic lifestyle.

Bidar’s illustrations of the different postures of Compsognathus corallestris. Image courtesy of svpow.com.

Bidar believed that corallestris had adapted to the island environment of Late Jurassic Europe and hunted for fish and crustaceans. This theory was relevant for a few years, and even appeared in many informative books. However, in 1978, John Ostrom published a thorough redescription of both specimens of Compsognathus. He concluded that Bidar’s theory was highly inaccurate and unfounded, and that both specimens belonged to Compsognathus longipes. The theory of the finned, aquatic Compsognathus was debunked, and faded into obscurity.

Gliding Stegosaurus

Ballou’s bizarre reconstruction of a flying Stegosaurus. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian.

In 1920, paleontology enthusiast and author W.H. Ballou postulated an unorthodox use of Stegosaurus’ plates. At the time, the plates of Stegosaurus were thought to be flexible and able to move up and down; it is now known that they were rigid and immovable. Ballou’s theory stated that Stegosaurus could lower its plates and use them as rudimentary “wings”; it would leap off of cliffs and glide down. This theory was never corroborated by any paleontologists, and only appeared in a single newspaper article.




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