STL Science Center

STL Science Center

05 December 2016

Back Next Week

My apologies folks. I've been considerably busier the past week than usual and haven't had time to write here. I'll be back next week, but for now, here's my excuse note for not writing!

02 December 2016

Lizard of Yunnan

Yunnanosaurus is a special prosauropod. Facultatively bipedal and sporting sixty spoon shaped teeth, this was a dinosaur well adapted for its world and solidly laying the evolutionary body frame for the giants that would be its descendants (some speculation included here). One of the strangest things about the animal is the almost absolute lack of quality illustrations. Many, even most, of the illustrations of this dinosaur are the textbook quality pre-1980's style drawings, such as the one below. This is interesting and confusing because there is indeed a wealth of fossil information about the morphology of this dinosaur. If anyone wants to contribute a better drawing or knows of one I think we would all benefit greatly. It is, however, fun to note the antiquated dinosaur art that is out there. This version of Yunnanosaurus has frog-like thighs and a snake-like tongue that make it more ridiculous than accurate while at the same time underlying the problem that Yunnnosaurus, despite its popularity, suffers from: namely a lack of illustrations and interpretative materials.

29 November 2016

Scholarly Fun

Yunnanosaurus has been written about extensively. The most important papers are the papers that describe various aspects of the fragmentary prosauropod. There are fewer articles exploring aspects of functional morphology and other aspects of paleobiology, but we can ignore this lack for the most part as the descriptions more than keep us occupied in terms of pages for reading and pure content. Young's original description is online but can be difficult to access. In contrast Sekiya's description of a new species, Y. robustus, is easier to access and read online. Those interested in just the skull may, instead, find Barrett's description of the skull of Y. huangi more useful. Be aware that this paper is entirely a description of the skull and not a biomechanical analysis of the skull.

28 November 2016

Popular Without Movies

Yunnanosaurus is an early dinosaur with no movie credits in its accomplishments. There is a WizScience video that exists regarding Yunnanosaurus. Unfortunately the other videos mentioning the dinosaur either do not actually show the animal or have a very abbreviated (think 2 - 5 seconds) of actual mention in the videos. This is a short video, but one can add on this how to draw video as well to get more Yunnanosaurus today:

27 November 2016

Long Lists of Knowledge

Yunnanosaurus is a well known sauropodomorph and as such has many fact pages devoted to it hosted online. These include well known sources such as KidsDinos and Prehistoric Wildlife. It also includes sources we have not referenced often including Age of Dinosaurs and a Raresource page. For the first time in a very long time we can also share a coloring sheet of Yunnanosaurus (that may actually be almost accurate). Enjoy reading facts and coloring your own Yunnanosaurus this evening!

26 November 2016

Silly Sauropodomorphs of Space

This is the last week of November and therefore it is the week of the calendar creature. This month that animal is the sauropodomorph Yunnanosaurus. Discovered originally in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan and described in 1942 by C. C. Young (the anglicized name of Chinese paleontologist Yang Zhongjian). The original fossil material consisted of twenty incomplete skeletons of the facultatively bipedal sauropodomorph dinosaur. Two species are recognized: Y. huangi Young 1942, and Y. youngi Lu, et al. 2007. The teeth of Yunnanosaurus may be the dinosaur's most interesting feature, as we shall see later in the week; however, its position early in dinosaur evolution is also interesting and we may learn a lot about early dinosaur environments from studying this animal over the week.

25 November 2016

Quality Images

The best quality images of Shastasaurus are all somewhat similar and lack the flash that is often added into dinosaur illustrations. However, there are a number of high-quality illustrations of Shastasaurus that are interesting and intriguing. One such illustration shows Shastasaurus digging along the bottom of the ocean for its food, presumably. This is one of the only (if not the only) image of this ichthyosaur from a more ventral angle. The belly of the beast, figuratively and literally, is not all that impressive. The flippers and underside of the trunk are smooth and non-remarkable; however, the tail is differently interesting (that does sound odd, admittedly). The tail vertebrae, assuming that this illustration is entirely accurate, occupy the ventral region of the tail and curve downward to the end of the hypocercal tail. The tail also has what appears to be an untethered membrane which, being untethered to the body or the remainder of the tail, would need to be extremely rigid in order to produce any appreciable thrust. Either way, adding the membrane to the tail is not unique to this illustration, but this version of the animal has probably the most conservative amount of interpreted soft tissue that has been shown.
©Nikolay Zverkov