STL Science Center

STL Science Center

26 January 2015

Find the Bird Mimic

Supposedly, in one of Discovery Channel's last realistic documentaries, Avimimus is mentioned and discussed because of its relationship with the origin of birds. Unfortunately, since the last time I found that documentary, the quality copies of it have been rather quickly disappearing from circulation on the internet. One of the remaining copies is still online, in pieces, and it is a good show, but it does not directly discuss Avimimus for an extended amount of the show. Regardless, it is the only documentary that shows Avimimus or discusses it, to my knowledge, and therefore works for this week's watching.

25 January 2015

Links Aplenty

Avimimus facts are everywhere on the internet. Part of the reason that it is so popular is that it is a fairly charismatic animal, has a name that means "bird mimic", and a readily recognizable body plan (much like that of its relatives). The fact files range from the somewhat simplified (Enchanted Learning) to the much more complex (Dinosaur Jungle). There are also intermediate websites full of fun facts (including About and KidsDinos). As has happened in the past, the best coloring page available is a line drawing by Josep Zacarias (do not forget to ask for his permission to post any coloring of his images!).

24 January 2015

Shades of Yellow

©John Conway
A lot of paleoartists are known for their wonderfully energetic and colorful illustrations of dinosaurs in action. Avimimus could be, and has been many times, portrayed in a very vivid color scheme in an extremely active manner. One of my favorite paleoartists, John Conway, went the opposite way with his interpretation of this dinosaur. His version of Avimimus is much calmer and subdued compared to many of the other interpretations. The colors of the dinosaur, its chicks, and the scenery are all soft earthy tones. Feathering of the dinosaurs is minimal but effective. If this Avimimus possessed large display feathers in this color scheme it would look somewhat ridiculous. As things are though, the smaller, less ostentatious feathering on Conway's Avimimus is both effective and appropriate. To my knowledge neither long nor short feathers would be accurate right now as we do not have concrete evidence of the determinant growth length of Avimimus' feathers.

23 January 2015

Bending the Rule

There are technically no rules in the order of entries around here, however, typically the animals discussed oscillate between carnivore and herbivore with an omnivore mixed in here and there. Standing between the heights of extant Turkeys and Emus, Avimimus portentosus was one of those potentially omnivorous species that is, this week, wiggling its way into the rotation. A theropod averaging approximately 1.5 meters (5 feet) long including its tail and just under 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall when not standing completely erect and stretched out. Discovered in Mongolia in 1981, Avimimus was thought to be an insectivore, as many oviraptorid dinosaurs usually are, but is now hypothesized to have been more omnivorous. Evidence indicates that this may have been a semi-gregarious dinosaur that dabbled at the edges of marshlands and collected in large flocks or herds throughout the year.

22 January 2015

Walking In Toy Land

Saltasaurus has been immortalized many times over since its description in 1980 in many different ways that have gained it popularity in the general public. This includes the rather strange headed Carnegie model pictured here. Saltasaurus also has been featured in various dinosaur parks as both a static and animatronic model. Saltasaurus has also made an impact in video games, card games, and even in electronic encyclopedias and cartoons. This is definitely one of those weeks when links could fill up the entire page and one could visit websites on just Saltasaurus for the rest of the week. It has been modded into Spore and Zoo Tycoon as well. One of my favorite links is from the cartoon Dinosaur King, enjoy the episode.

21 January 2015

Welcome to Salta

The amazing find of a titanosaurid sauropod with osteoderms growing along the length of its back would cause the assumption that its generic name would refer directly to those osteoderms. Instead, the specific epithet does refer to those osteoderms (loricatus means armored) while the generic name referred to the town (Salta) in the Lerma Valley of Argentina nearest to the dig site that turned up those osteoderms and the other high quality fossils included in the original description. A lesser known importance of Saltasaurus is its impact on the ever changing perceptions of the world of paleontology. Saltasaurus was name and described during a time in which it was becoming readily clear that sauropods still maintained a dominance in the southern half of the world as the largest group of herbivores. In other parts of the world sauropods had clearly been replaced by better adapted herbivores and as these were the most collected areas of the world it was assumed by many, if not all paleontologists at one point, that sauropods had declined in the non-collected areas as well. The discoveries of Saltasaurus and many other sauropods in the last 30 years in the southern half of the globe has, and still is, turned those assumptions completely upside down and repainted the Cretaceous world completely. Thankfully. It is a wonderful dinosaur and a wonderful world that it once lived in.

20 January 2015

Armoured Sauropods

Probably the most important feature of Saltasaurus, as mentioned previously, was the presence of osteoderms along the neck, back, and tail of this enormous sauropod. This was a fact that was not lost on the discoverers of the fossil or Jose Bonaparte who wrote the original description of the dinosaur (excluding von Heune's description of similar material that did not possess the osteoderms later discovered). Those osteoderms have been the center of attention concerning Saltasaurus for many years and, not entirely to the detriment of the entire animal, many studies of them have been conducted. In fact, histological studies have been conducted relatively recently that shed even more light on the dinosaur, the growth of the osteoderms, and their development in an animal where they are not typically expected to be found.