More new dinosaurs were continually being discovered and named from various places around the world, Animatronic dinosaur and although they created dramatic centrepieces in museums, palaeontologists seemed to be doing little more than adding new names to the roster of extinct creatures. A sense of failure took hold to the extent that some even used dinosaurs as examples of a theory of extinction based on ‘racial senescence’. The general thesis was that they had lived for so long that their genetic constitution was simply exhausted and no longer capable of generating the novelty necessary for the group as a whole to survive. This supported the idea that dinosaurs were merely an experiment in animal design and evolution that the world had eventually passed by.
Not surprisingly, many biologists and theoreticians began to view this area of research with an increasingly jaundiced eye. Walking dinosaur costume New discoveries, though undeniably exciting, did not seem to be providing data that would lead in any particular direction. Discovery required the scientific formalities of description and naming of these creatures, but beyond that all interest seemed essentially museological: to be brutal, the work was seen as the equivalent of‘stamp collecting’. Dinosaurs, and many other fossil discoveries, offered glimpses of the tapestry of life within the fossil record, but beyond this their scientific value seemed questionable.
Several factors justified this change of perception: Gregor Mendel’s work (published in 1866, but overlooked until 1900) on the laws of particulate inheritance (genetics) provided the crucial mechanism to support Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Mendel’s work was elegantly merged with Darwin’s theory in order to create ‘Neodarwinism’ in the 1930s. At a stroke, Mendelian genetics solved one of Darwin’s most fundamental worries about his theory: Animatronic dinosaur for sale how favourable characteristics (genes or alleles in the new Mendelian language) could be passed from generation to generation. In the absence of any better understanding of the mechanism of inheritance in the mid-19th century, Darwin had assumed that characters or traits, the features subject to selection according to his theory, were blended when inherited by the next generation. This, however, was a fatal flaw, because Darwin realized that any favourable traits would simply be diluted out of existence if they were blended during reproduction from generation to generation. Neodarwinism clarified matters enormously, Mendelian genetics provided a degree of mathematical rigour to the theory, and the revitalized subject rapidly spawned new avenues of research. It led to the new sciences of genetics and molecular biology, culminating in Crick and Watson’s model of DNA in 1953, as well as huge developments in the fields of behavioural evolution and evolutionary ecology.
Unfortunately, this fertile intellectual ground was not so obviously available to palaeontologists. Self-evidently, genetic mechanisms could not be studied in fossil creatures, so it seemed that they could offer no material evidence to the intellectual thrust of evolutionary studies during much of the remainder of the 20th century. Darwin had already foreseen the limitations of palaeontology in the context of his new theory. Using his inimitable reasoning, he noted the limited contribution that could be made by fossils to any of the debates concerning his new evolutionary theory. In a chapter of the Origin of Species devoted to the subject of the ‘imperfections of the fossil record’, Darwin noted that although fossils provided material proof of evolution during the history of life on Earth (harking back to the older progressionists’ arguments), the geological succession of rocks, and the fossil record contained within in it, was lamentably incomplete. Comparing the geological record to a book charting the history of life on Earth.