Pop-Tarts is not supposed to be educational. I know that. But, there’s at least one probable error on this Pop-Tarts box: that 65 million years ago was the Late Cretaceous.

It takes a while to calibrate the absolute ages of events that happened a long time ago, and this leads to a situation wherein the age of an event that has a relatively large amount of public awareness (the end of the Mesozoic) has shifted during the relatively recent past. Back in 1983, the age for the end of the Mesozoic was 66.4 Ma (Megaannums, basically the same as saying million of years ago but in geological jargon). Over the course of the 1980s and the 1990s, the end of the Mesozoic slowly moved closer and closer to the modern day; in 1999 it was 65 ± 0.2 Ma. But then in this century it’s been moving further away from the modern day; in 2008 it was 65.5 ± 0.3 Ma and by 2012 it had reached where it is now, 66 Ma.

Obviously nothing in scientific knowledge is permanently and definitively known; it’s entirely possible that further scientific research and chronological calibration will push the end of the Mesozoic closer to the modern day. But it’s equally as possible that further scientific research won’t change the time, and that the Cretaceous was over 66 million years ago. In the face of an unknowable future, the best way to err with scientific knowledge is saying what’s current knowledge, to the best of our ability to know.

And this isn’t something that was discovered this week or this month or this year, this is a scientific discovery from almost three full years ago that not all popular science writers (let alone Pop-Tart writers!) are up-to-speed with. To pick on the people supplying the bandwidth here (hi Gawker Media Group!) the writers in the GMG seem to not have a definite Style Guide answer: some articles at Gizmodo and io9 are still talking about non-avian dinosaurs having a very bad day 65 million years ago, while others at io9 and Gizmodo have been written, correctly in light of modern research, to state that the Cretaceous ended 66 million years ago.


A pretty great piece of content from here 3 months ago lauded the Jurassic World webpage for being pretty awesome. And the webpage is way better at accurate science than the (obviously can’t-be-accurate) film is; they hired a paleontology-focused science writer to write much of its dinosaur content and it shows. Its website about Tyrannosaurus says Tyrannosaurus was dead 66 million years ago, same as its website about Triceratops. This is great.

To pick on someone who should know better... The American Museum of Natural History is probably the biggest natural history museum in North America. Natural history is what they do. Someone writes a Kinja blog for them. Whoever that someone is doesn’t consistently talk about this 66 million years ago thing. That is not great.