2362: Volcano Dinosaur

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 18:31, 23 September 2020 by (talk) (Explanation: The comic does not indicate that Megan’s question was facetious, and the humor does not depend on that. Actually, it’s probably funnier if the question was not facetious.)
Jump to: navigation, search
Volcano Dinosaur
Phylogeneticists are working on identifying and notifying its next of kin.
Title text: Phylogeneticists are working on identifying and notifying its next of kin.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a SLOWLY RECOVERING DINOSAUR. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic is a reference to this discovery of fossils of dinosaurs that were buried and killed by a volcanic eruption.

Megan asks if the dinosaur was okay. As living things typically don't survive being fossilized in volcano debris[citation needed], the answer to the question would obviously be "no", but Cueball replies that he is unsure. Even if the dinosaur somehow survived the initial burial, it would be very difficult for it to survive being buried for 125 million years. 2020 probably wouldn't be the best year to dig it up and potentially let it free.

Megan's response is natural and expected in many situations when hearing of a person or creature experiencing misfortune. The humour here comes from the inaptness of asking the question millions of years after the event. Rather than responding to the ridiculousness of Megan's question, Cueball takes it seriously, and deadpans that he can't tell.

The title text suggests contacting its "next of kin", which usually means a nearest living relative, e.g. a brother or a sister. The process of identifying and contacting next of kin is a standard step performed by authorities in the event of a death being discovered. In this case, dinosaurs are extinct[citation needed], so it is the job of phylogeneticists (those who study evolutionary relationships) to determine which living animal (presumably a bird of some kind) is the "nearest relative" to the deceased dinosaurs.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Megan is standing facing right, talking to Cueball who is sitting at a computer desk and also facing right, looking at a computer screen.]
Cueball: Oh cool, they just found a dinosaur that was buried by a volcanic eruption 125 million years ago.
Megan: Wow.
[Pause. Megan is still facing right. Panel closes in on Megan and Cueball is not shown. This panel has no dialogue.]
[Megan has stepped closer to Cueball, who is still looking at the screen.]
Megan: Was it okay?
Cueball: Hmm, it doesn't say.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


The nearest living relative of any 125 million-year-old dinosaur is all living birds. They are all descended from the same "stem bird," which was a dinosaur of a different group. Nitpicking (talk) 02:08, 22 September 2020 (UTC)

But some living birds will be fewer generations removed from that dinosaur than others Jeremyp (talk) 08:57, 22 September 2020 (UTC).
True, but is a 100,000,000th cousin that different from a 100,000,001th cousin? Nitpicking (talk) 11:25, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
Why would birds be closer relation than reptiles, since the dinosaurs were reptiles? SDSpivey (talk) 21:00, 23 September 2020 (UTC)
One might wade in caustic lakes, except when it flies to its feeding grounds, the other breeds in icy wastes and be flightless but a superb swimmer in freezing oceans. And if there's a large intestate estate needing to be inherited then be prepared for legal challenges! 11:47, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
Just in case, if you have a parrot you should ask it if its family has any stories of a great-to-the-millionth uncle who went missing around the time of an eruption. Barmar (talk) 13:37, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
But how close are parrots to dinosaurs? They might be the poor dino's 100,000,002nd cousin. Donthaveusername (talk)
That would depend on the value of the estate. BunsenH (talk) 17:32, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
After 65 million years of inflation and compounding, it must be worth quite a bit. Barmar (talk) 17:40, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
Compounding would indeed increase the value, but wouldn't inflation decrease the value? The value after 125 million years should depend on which factor is outpacing the other, on average. Also, bird species with short generations would be more distantly related than bird species with long generations. 23:49, 22 September 2020 (UTC)
That would depend upon many things, like how it turns out if progeniture is the basis of branch-prioritisation (male/female-preference giving different results to the absolute version) and sallic (including semi-sallic and quasi-sallic) rules which could see an entitlement even dive back up out of the avian branch and down into any other sprawl of the tree-of-life... 01:27, 23 September 2020 (UTC)
This specimen is described as "basal ornithopod dinosaur" which means it is close to root of the species and is also described as adapted for burrowing which would make it a very unlikely to fly. So it seems to me that there is very low possibility that there are any DIRECT descendants. So to find the "closest living relative" would require going back up many prior generations to find an ancestor of modern birds. Unless birds are descended from burrowing dinosaurs who escaped getting wiped out with all the other dinosaurs.

I'm only who feeling that [CITATION NEEDED] joke is overused by now? In every second comic there is [CITATION NEEDED] at least once. We have around 450 pages with that, https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php?title=Special:WhatLinksHere/285:_Wikipedian_Protester 09:15, 23 September 2020 (UTC) LauLain

There are 358 links to that page from actual comics (excluding redirect, talk pages, etc.). Since we have 2,362 comics, that's around 15% of the explanations. Quite high, but I guess not really overused, especially since it's not annoying. Justhalf (talk) 09:33, 23 September 2020 (UTC)
Links or pages? Some pages, like this one, have multiple links to it. JBYoshi (talk) 17:30, 23 September 2020 (UTC)

Why would 2020 not be a good year to dig it up and potentially let it free? 2020 is the perfect year for that. Let's get all the scary stuff over with so we can move on. I say we use the remaining three months of the year to open as many sealed graves, haunted houses and such things as possible. Bischoff (talk) 19:35, 23 September 2020 (UTC)

Well, I tried to build my luxury hotel and backpacker's hostel in the woodlands that grew over the old Indian Burial Ground that they burnt all those witches in, but my builders said they were still too busy building the secret government bunker for extradimensional gateway research and development of an RNA-based immortality serum for the military. 20:14, 23 September 2020 (UTC)
We don't know if COVID-19 can infect dinosaurs. (Probably not, it seems to only infect mammals.) 06:12, 24 September 2020 (UTC)