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Detecting discontinuity in the Dinosauria using baraminic distance correlation.


Todd C. Wood (Bryan College)

Marcus Ross (Liberty University)

Paul Garner (Biblical Creation Ministries)

The bottom line:

This study began the task of identifying the created kinds of dinosaurs using the methods of statistical baraminology. It also indicated the need for samples of morphological data that are as holistic as possible in order to successfully identify the created kinds.

A restoration of the theropod dinosaur Neovenator salerii on display at the Dinosaur Isle Museum, Sandown, Isle of Wight.

Technical summary:

Much baraminological research has been based on the baraminic distance correlation (BDC) test introduced by Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998), but there has been little serious assessment of the value of the BDC test itself. This study attempted to evaluate the utility of BDC for detecting putative discontinuities among fossil groups, where discontinuity is recognized by significant, negative BDC between two groups of taxa. Assuming that the rank of family is an approximation of the holobaramin, the BDC test should detect discontinuity when more than one family is present in the set of taxa and characters being evaluated.

For our evaluation, we selected nineteen character sets derived from Weishampel et al. (2004), Williamson and Carr (2002), and Sullivan (2003), all of which focus on high-level classification of dinosaurs and consequently contain multiple families. By focusing exclusively on taxa known only from fossils, all character matrices also contained many unknown character states, which could hamper efforts to detect discontinuity using BDC.

We found evidence of discontinuity in thirteen of the nineteen character sets (68.4%). Six character sets failed to produce evidence of discontinuity, despite the presence of more than one family of taxa in each set. The results indicated that in terms of number of characters, the failed matrices appear to be more holistic than the successful matrices. Thus, it appears that unknown character states may inhibit detection of discontinuity by the BDC test.

Based on BDC analysis of the thirteen successful matrices, we suggest the following apobaramins could be recognized: Coelophysoidea, Neoceratosauria, Tyrannosauroidea, Oviraptorosauria, Prosauropoda, Ankylosauridae, Nodosauridae, certain Iguanodontoidea (Ouranosaurus, Iguanodon, Probactrosaurus, Protohadros, Eolambia and Altirhinus), Hadrosauridae, Pachycephalosauridae, and Ceratopsidae. To further clarify dinosaur baramins, future studies should expand this research to additional character matrices and techniques such as multidimensional scaling (MDS).

The results of this study were presented at the 2011 Creation Biology Society conference (Wood et al. 2011).


Robinson, D.A. and D.P. Cavanaugh. 1998. A quantitative approach to baraminology with examples from the catarrhine primates. Creation Research Society Quarterly 34:196-208.

Sullivan, R.M. 2003. Revision of the dinosaur Stegoceras lambe (Ornithischia, Pachycephalosauridae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23:181-207.

Weishampel, D.B., P. Dodson and H. Osmólska (eds.) 2004. The Dinosauria. Second edition. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Williamson, T.E. and T.D. Carr. 2002. A new genus of derived pachycephalosaurian from western North America. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22:779-801.

Wood, T.C., M. Ross and P.A. Garner. 2011. Detecting discontinuity in the Dinosauria using baraminic distance correlation. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series B: Life Sciences 1:26-27. See page 9 of PDF file.