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Mars Dinosaur? It’s Just Another Curio From Curiosity Rover

Image: Curiosity picture
A picture from the Curiosity rover's mast camera, taken on June 7, 2013, shows a rock reminiscent of a dinosaur, complete with tooth-shaped pebbles. Can you spot it? The rock is off to the lower left in this true-color version of the image. Today, the rover is miles away from the site. NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

If you scan through the thousands of pictures that NASA's Curiosity rover has sent back from Mars, you'll find a lot of interesting rock formations. Some of them, including a formation that looks like a toothy dinosaur skull, wind up on Scott Waring's UFO Sightings Daily.

The "Ancient Dinosaur Skull" is the latest offering, but the picture was actually taken a long time ago — back on Sol 297 in June 2013, when Curiosity was rolling through an area known as Glenelg. Scientists say the site was a stream bed in ancient times, as evidenced by the rounded pebbles strewn across the landscape.

Some of those pebbles ended up stuck in the crevices of a wind-sculpted rock, and all this led Waring to call attention to the dinosaurian appearance: "Look closely and you will see there is a nostril area, lower jaw area and jaw hinge area as well," he writes. "There are also teeth. A crap load of teeth and evenly spaced and white as all get out. It's the details that we have to focus on. It leads us to the truth."

Top weekend Google searches: Mars rat, Al Capone 2:57

Yes, the truth is out there — and the truth is that this is the latest example of pareidolia, the human tendency to pick out seemingly meaningful patterns even in randomly arranged phenomena. The Face on Mars is a good example of that, as are the Mermaid on Mars, the Mars Rat, the Mars Iguana, the Penis on Mars, the Rover Rotini and other Red Planet anomalies.

What is it about Mars that sparks so many strange sightings? Now that's a mystery worth investigating.