I was on vacation last month when the news broke that the triceratops had gone extinct. I didn't find out about it for weeks, and I'm still not over the shock.
The triceratops ("three-horned face") was one of the top five or so dinosaurs whose fossils and drawings we all marveled at as kids. It was a fat lizard with Texas longhorn appendages sticking out of its face and a big bony neck that looked as though it had turned up its collar.
Now, we find that the triceratops never even existed.
Paleontologists at Montana State University reported last month what we all remember as triceratops was actually just a younger version of another something called torosaurus ("pierced lizard.") A study reporting the ancient news was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, in case you were on vacation, too.
The findings are pretty fundamental, kind of like saying there's no such thing as a 40-year-old teenager. (Well, except in Hollywood.) Like the rest of us, apparently, dinosaurs changed their looks as they aged.
Dinosaurs are dying out faster today than they did 65 million years ago. In the 1970s, many of us were shocked to learn there was no such thing as a brontosaurus.
The brontosaurus ("thunder lizard") lived just long enough to provide Fred Flintstone with bronto burgers before scientists learned it, too, was living under an assumed name.
Because 19th-century fossil hunters rushed to judgment over what they had found, the long-necked, long-tailed, gentle giant was ruled to be, in fact, an apatosaurus ("deceptive lizard").
Many of us remember the brontosaurus because a green one became the corporate symbol of Sinclair Oil Co. (which means, "If petroleum really came from dinosaurs, wouldn't oil be green, too?")
Not just dinosaurs are going extinct. It looks as though the letter "D" is endangered, too. That's the case in one New Jersey school district, anyway.
The school board in Mount Olive Township voted last month to do away with the D grade for middle and high school students.
The superintendent doesn't want youngsters to get credit for sliding by, so beginning next month, kids must score a 70, instead of the current 65, to pass with a C. Below 70 is an F.
"When students have the option to get the D, they will get the D," Larrie Reynolds told The Star-Ledger.
Schools are cutting back everywhere you turn, so I suppose we won't miss a solitary letter from the report card. We have survived all these years without an E grade - except for those "excellent" grades in the lower classes - so perhaps A, B, C, F can become the new alphabet.
You know, I'm not going on vacation anymore. It takes too long to catch up on the news.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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