STL Science Center

STL Science Center

26 March 2017

Quick Lists of Facts

Lagosuchus, dubious name or not, has a lot of pages dedicated to it online describing the animal or relaying short lists of facts. Today I will simply share a video that summarizes what many of these pages summarize over and over again. It is a somewhat less exciting video than we might normally share for facts, but it does discuss a lot about what we know of Lagosuchus.

25 March 2017

Early Archosaurs of the Triassic

Pavel.Riha.CB at the English language Wikipedia
Lagosuchus talampayensis is an early archosaur recovered from the Triassic rocks of Argentina. The ChaƱares Formation represents the Middle Triassic (230 MA) and, barring recent publications until their results can be independently verified, the some of the earliest remains of archosaurs representing the earliest dinosaurs. Discovered in the 1970's and initially described by Romer in 1971, it has been described by many as a nomen dubium by many. A second species was reassigned in 1994, making the description and known material to be even more questionable. That material is somewhat minuscule in nature as well, which does not help. Instead, we will look at what is known about Lagosuchus, its relatives and what its relationships mean for the current phylogeny of archosaurs.

24 March 2017

Everyone's Arkansaurus

There are only a very few widely circulated recreations and illustrations of the little known dinosaur Arkansaurus. The majority of these are variations on a dinosaur that looks very much like the Gallimimus that ran around in the original Jurassic Park movie. A more modern version of the illustrations by Brian Engh does exist that not only updates the general look of Arkansaurus but also adds feathering and a little weight.

20 March 2017

Short News Piece Day

Movie Monday is not going to have a movie or a documentary today. Arkansaurus was not, and is not, famous enough to have influenced any documentaries or movies despite its status as a symbol for a state. The only videos about the dinosaur are news coverage of the state's legislative debate over adopting the symbol. There was not a lot of debate actually, but it is a nice little news piece to watch.

19 March 2017

Arkansas Geological Survey Facts

The Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS) has a large number of publications and fact sheets describing the state dinosaur and other geological wonders of the state. As a somewhat obscure dinosaur, there are few references online that are more popular. However, aside from sites like Cool Dino Facts and the AGS there are also Arkansas based sites that discuss Arkansaurus. These include Paleoaerie, an evolution and education resource site based in Arkansas (AERIE = Arkansas Educational Resource Initiative for Evolution). Another important site hosting a nice post about Arkansaurus today is Arkansas Life Magazine.

18 March 2017

Legislative Dinosaurs

Photo provided to Arkansas Geological Society by ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster
In the past few months there have been a lot of dinosaur stories circulating in the popular news and one of the most relevant to the middle of the United States is the announcement of a new state dinosaur. That dinosaur is named Arkansaurus fridayi and is known from a few bones found by a farmer searching for a cow. In 1972 a man named J. B. Friday was searching his farm in southwest Arkansas and stumbled, almost literally, over a fossil dinosaur foot in the remains of a road cut, which is problematic. Any remaining fossil material may have been destroyed in the construction efforts, by water flow before or after burial, or scavenging prior to burial. The remains were initially described by members of the 1973 SVP meeting as an Ornithomimus which would represent the oldest member  of the species ever recovered. The animal remained informally named Arkansaurus fridayi for 30 years before it was re-described by ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster (published as an abstract under her maiden name; ReBecca K. Hunt). Considering this is the only publication of any type describing these dinosaur remains we will refer to the animal this week with italics rather than quotations; a difference typically separating formally described and accepted genera and species from those used informally. This remains a controversial name, but in defiance (or disregarding the informal nature of the name) the state of Arkansas recently passed a bill making the only dinosaur material known from the state the state's official dinosaur fossil. There is more significance than just naming Arkansaurus the state dinosaur; Arkansaurus is now the 25th official state symbol and Arkansas was the 25th state admitted to the United States.

17 March 2017

Too Much Titanoboa

©Jason Bourque
To finish out the past week we need to look at some of the beautiful paintings and sculptures of Titanoboa. The artistic interpretations and scientific recreations of the snake show the animal in typical snake postures and some are stunningly detailed. One of the more tame interpretations of the snake actually shows Titanoboa participating in one of the most common behaviors of snakes or any other animal: casually sunning itself or possibly moving from one place to another. A large dryosaur and turtle help populate the background of this painting and dryosaurs actually figure into more than one Titanoboa representation. The most well known sculpture, the Titanoboa featured in the Smithsonian exhibit for the giant snake, shows a Titanoboa in the process of swallowing a dryosaur. The dryosaur's distinctive tail is sticking out of the snake's mouth as it aligns itself perpendicular to the ground. This seems odd for two reasons: 1) the post hoc knowledge that the hypothesized diet of Titanoboa is composed of fish almost entirely and 2) lifting an animal as large as a dryosaur vertically into the air to swallow it would, it seems, be extremely taxing and difficult even for an enormous snake like this.
Photo by Ryan Quick