01 August 2014

How Was I Missed?

Somehow I managed to miss a rather interesting South American theropod dinosaur. The small theropod lived in the Late Triassic approximately 232 million years ago and is considered a basal dinosaur, some have even gone so far as to call it the "Eve" of dinosaurs. The skeleton was discovered in 1996 in Argentina by Ricardo Martinez and Jim Murphy in the Valle de la Luna Member of the Ischigualasto Formation. Initially the remains were thought to belong to a new species of Eoprator, previously discussed on this blog, but Paul Sereno, Martinez, and others that have looked at the remains determined that the animal was not a species of Eoraptor but a new species belonging to a new genus was named as Eodromaeus murphi. Like the "Dawn Thief" the "Dawn Runner" was an early dinosaur but unlike its near cousin, it is still considered a theropod; subsequent papers have named Eoraptor as an early sauropodomorph though this is still questioned.

31 July 2014

Whale's Tale

A lot of stories have been told this week about Cetiosaurus including the discovery of the Rutland Dinosaur and the original description and naming of the genus by Richard Owen. The popularity of Cetiosaurus does not hinge so much on these stories or that it is technically the first sauropod ever described. The fact that Cetiosaurus is famous at all is owed to the seemingly, these days, odd influence of natural history museums and the collected knowledge of paleontology as a science. Paleontologists have known of Cetiosaurus for a long time and it has been on display in the museums of the United Kingdom for an equally long time. These facts have led to the other important factors that influence popularity in the general public: toys, some form of marketing (usually documentaries or cartoons), and books. As usual most of these things are aimed directly at children, though the guys at the Dinosaur Toy Collector's Guide, Dinosaur Toy Blog, and the modellers at CollectA would disagree that toys are just for kids. Children's books featuring Cetiosaurus are not frequent, but one, the cover of which is shown below, features Cetiosaurus heavily. Dinosaur King and the Republic of Gabon have even hit the popularity circuit with Cetiosaurus. Why Gabon has Cetiosaurus stamps, I do not know honestly.
A book by David West

30 July 2014

Mistaken Identities

Cetiosaurus, as noted, was originally described by Owen as a large crocodile. The logic used by Owen to support this idea is that any animal as large as Cetiosaurus would require the buoyancy of saltwater to survive without its own girth crushing and suffocating it. Owen may not have been completely off considering that the remains were discovered in an ancient woodland floodplain; however, due to this error in reasoning the name, "whale lizard," was created by Owen and many other fossil remains were attributed to this genus over time. Not all of those remains were what the original descriptions proposed them to be either; some were partial remains of other species, some were entirely different animals, and all of them were subject to further descriptions divulging their true nature as so often happens to early taxonomic assignments in paleontological history. Anyone with an interest in some of the named species that no longer "exist" under the genus are advised to consult this short list. Despite its large size Cetiosaurus is considered to have been a prey item for theropods like Megalosaurus and Eustreptospondylus. In terms of what Cetiosaurus could eat, its mid-range neck appears to have allowed it to strip ground level plants as well as middle height trees and ferns, leaving the tops for larger necked and taller sauropods.
A small herd of Cetiosaurus mogrebiensis Lapparent 1955 ©2008 Raul Lunia (usually known as DinoRaul)

29 July 2014

Cetiosaurus the Career

Many paleontologists make careers centered around one species, however it is not the normal situation. One paleontologist that appears to have devoted a good amount of his time to Cetiosaurus is Dr. Paul Upchurch. Far from his entire career, he has published a decent handful of papers on Cetiosaurus with varying main topics. He has written about the Rutland Dinosaur, its anatomy, and its relationships with other sauropods of Jurassic England. He has also gone further back in the history of Cetiosaurus and written about the entire anatomy and history of the taxonomy of Cetiosaurus. These articles are co-authored with other paleontologists, but it is clear that Dr. Upchurch is drawn to Cetiosaurus and has been for a while. As someone that has published a number of papers on Cetiosaurus he is  probably one of the most knowledgeable paleontologists on the animal currently (that has published I should say). We also have at our disposal Owen's initial description of Cetiosaurus which we can compare to Upchurch's and see how far the understanding of anatomy and paleontology has taken the science behind Cetiosaurus.

28 July 2014

Cartoons Only Please

Cetiosaurus is a famous dinosaur that is not famous. It is one of the first known sauropods and has been known for nearly 200 years now. However, it has no appearances registered in major shows, movies, or documentaries. This makes it a little less well known to the public. In scraping for movies, therefore, there is only a short tribute video of English dinosaurs and a short video on the "Rutland Dinosaur" in addition to the cartoon featured Sunday. The Rutland video discusses the history of a particular Cetiosaurus. It is definitely worth watching to get the history of the individual specimen, once one of the most complete dinosaurs known.

27 July 2014

He's A Dinosaur!

HooplaKidz has struck again with a cartoon we can share with the children we know that love dinosaurs. It has been a while since we had one of those cartoons, so definitely take the time to watch the cartoon below after you read today's links. Dinosaur Jungle starts us off today with a page that includes some abbreviated information in shortened paragraph form. This makes it easy to read for confident readers. Those that do not want to read an awful lot of information can look at even more abbreviated information hosted by the NHM of London's DinoDirectory pages. As always, their page sums up the key facts about Cetiosaurus concisely and in an easy access format. Lastly, the coloring page access continues in two places. One, unofficially, on the DeviantArt page of Josep Zacarias and the other, more vague image, from Super Coloring that also features pterosaurs and an Iguanodon.

26 July 2014

Where's Your Neck?

©Nobu Tamura
As was mentioned yesterday, Cetiosaurus had a conspicuously shorter neck and tail than other sauropods. As a primitive looking member of its family it anatomically represents the lengths between even more basal and more advanced sauropods. Unbeknownst to Owen and other paleontologists of his day they were describing an animal that was neither the first of its kind nor the last. They thought it had an extremely long neck and tail despite its middle-ground length in comparison to presently known taxa. They were correct in stating that it was an herbivore, once they gave up on the idea that it was an early crocodile. Strangely, however, despite its middle-ground appearance and primitive characteristics, this animal was discovered in Late Jurassic sediments, a time during which larger and longer necks and tails were certainly evident in sauropods discovered in North and South America.