24 October 2014

Epidexipteryx The Almost Bird

©Nobu Tamura
Toting a name that means "Display feather", Epidexipteryx is often portrayed as almost peacock-like.The feathers that are portrayed as such often have wonderful colors and almost distract from the small paravian body of the dinosaur. Paravian dinosaurs are small theropods that are closely related to birds, but also still related to dinosaurs, with Oviraptorids being considered one of the closest dinosaurs related to their clade. Epidexipteryx comes from the Jurassic beds of China, meaning it was temporally near Archaeopteryx and many other bird-like and paravian dinosaurs. One rather interesting anatomical feature of this dinosaur is the strange shape of its lower jaw, which we will look at in further detail this week. Also, we will look at its unique fingers and those rather ostentatious tail feathers as well.

23 October 2014

Ultimate Fame

Usually when a paleontologist is immortalized in the name of some taxon it is as part of the specific epithet. Once in a while paleontologists are remembered at the generic level (e.g. Drinker, Othnielia, Bennettazhia) or animals are named after family members (e.g. Timimus, Leaellynosaura). Gasparinisaura falls into the former category, being named after Zulma Brandoni de Gasparini, one of the premier female paleontologists of South America. Does being named after the second woman to chair the Paleontological Association of Argentina make the dinosaur famous all on its own? How well known, in North America, is Zulma Brandoni de Gasparini honestly? Regardless, there is a rather tiny South American dinosaur named after her and it is famous because it is tiny, named after a famous paleontologist, was on television, and was even featured in a dinosaur "how to draw" book. It is a rather wonderful little dinosaur and well known all over. Gasparinisaura has also introduced a renowned and well rooted Argentinian paleontologist to people unfamiliar with her career.

22 October 2014

Short and Light

Gasparinisaura was a short dinosaur at about 1.7m (5.6ft) in total length. The height of the dinosaur was probably less than that, measured at the hip. The compact body was approximately 13kg (28lbs) according to some estimates. These small measurements were made off of the light bones of the body, including the skull. The forelimbs were noticeably lighter than other members of Gasparinisaura's family tree. The pelvis is also lightweight, small, and the femur was shorter than the tibia and fibula. The quadratojugal attaches to the squamosal, a basal trait, which helped assign its place on the family tree. The gastroliths in the fossil, while not important in placing it the tree, have so far been counted at approximately 140 polished round stones that accounted for approximately 0.4% of the total weight of the dinosaur.

21 October 2014

Written Dinosaurs

Gastroliths in dinosaurs are well known from many different genera and many different time periods. They are somewhat rare, as are all fossils, but they are most definitely well known. Gasparinisaura are one of those dinosaurs that have well documented gastroliths. In 2008 those gastroliths were discussed by Cerda. His paper describes the stones, their purpose, and the implications they provide to the diet of Gasparinisaura. The image at left is from the paper and has been released on Wikipedia. Cerda is a professional when it comes to Gasparinisaura. He also had a hand in describing the microstructure of Gasparinisaura bone in Cerda and Chinsamy (2012). The original knowledge of the dinosaur came to the general public through the work of Coria and Salgado (1996), but new material has been unearthed since that time. That new material was again described by these two scientists, but in Salgado et al. (1997). The latter two papers kind of speak for themselves and do not need to be detailed ahead of time.

20 October 2014

Under the Feet of Giants

Planet Dinosaur almost features Gasparinisaura in its 5th episode. However it does not actually feature Gasparinisaura but it does feature Argentinosaurus. Under the feet of Argentinosaurus lived small dinosaurs, quickly darting in and out under the larger dinosaur's body. Those dinosaur do appear in the show and they happen to be Gasparinisaura. So far this entire paragraph has been a very convoluted way of saying that Gasparinisaura shows up in Planet Dinosaur as a speck beneath the lumbering giant that is Argentinosaurus. We should probably just watch it scurrying around rather than talking about it.

19 October 2014

Gasparinisaura's Lonely Link

Gasparinisaura appears on the internet very sparingly. We do have three quality sites that address our three normal levels of reading ability. The Dino Directory addresses the lower level readers and supplies an illustration and size comparison. Enchanted Learning actually rests in the middle level position with more detail taxonomically and guides for pronunciation. The third level is adequately filled by the Dinosaur Wiki. That page details more about the discovery, anatomy, and properties of the dinosaur. Unfortunately, that is where our road ends in the pursuit of educational links. There are no coloring sheets or videos for today.

18 October 2014

Looking Basal

©Nobu Tamura
Ornithopods all have a similar look to them. Basal ornithopods are no different in that respect. They exhibit primitive and derived traits, but they all have a fairly basic body plan that can be generalized as typically facultatively (at least) bipedal with a beaked face and a body that suggests that running is the primary defensive tactic of these animals.Safety in numbers may not have been their only defense, but for now it appears to be the only one we know of. This is, of course, partly due to the fact that there are not many remains from the known individual and that that one is fragmentary to begin with. However, it is important to note that there does not appear to be much in the way of novel traits that stick out in Gaspirinasaura's body plan.