460: Paleontology

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Dinosaurs totally jumped the ichthyosaur when they got rid of Brontosaurus.
Title text: Dinosaurs totally jumped the ichthyosaur when they got rid of Brontosaurus.


This comic is essentially a set up for a pun: "Underground" can mean "under the ground" (buried in the dirt) or "non-mainstream." In this case, Ponytail is whining that she had been doing paleontology before Jurassic Park kicked paleontology into the mainstream with living reproductions of dinosaurs, thus apparently undermining the hard work paleontologists had done. In other words, this comic is also poking fun at hipsters.

Of note is the fact that Acrocanthosaurus is misspelled in the third panel as "arcocanthosaur." Assuming this isn't merely a spelling mistake on Randall's part, Ponytail's incorrect pronunciation further undermines her self-proclaimed superiority over all the Jurassic Park-inspired "bandwagon" paleontologists. Since the publication of this comic, the time since Jurassic Park came out has doubled to more than 30 years.

The title text refers to the controversy of calling the Brontosaurus by its newer, correct (at the time) generic name of Apatosaurus, despite its previous name still being in mainstream use long after its taxonomic redefinition in 1903. (As of 2015, Brontosaurus is once again the correct generic name, as it has been reclassified as a distinct genus.) The title text claims that this renaming has "jumped the ichthyosaur," which is a play on the idiom "jumping the shark" — i.e. that the subject of dinosaurs has reached a point of declining relevance, and Brontosaurus has been renamed as a publicity stunt to compensate. The "shark" in the idiom has been replaced by an "Ichthyosaur," which was a marine reptile that resembled a shark or dolphin and lived alongside dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era (although sharks also lived during that time). 636: Brontosaurus also references the Brontosaurus name change. A Brontosaurus also appears in 15: Just Alerting You and an Apatosaurus in 650: Nowhere.


[Cueball and Ponytail in a museum, near a reconstructed dinosaur fossil and a display cabinet.]
Ponytail: Man, paleontology sucks these days.
Cueball: Why?
Ponytail: Jurassic Park came out 15 years ago.
Cueball: So?
Ponytail: Today's grad students got into dinosaurs after seeing it as kids. They don't care about fossils. Brats.
[A woman in a hat exploring a barren landscape.]
Ponytail: Before they had living dinosaurs handed to them by Hollywood, I was out in Texas digging up Arcocanthosaur teeth.
Cueball: So, you were into dinosaurs when they were still underground?
Ponytail: Exactly!

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