STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 April 2012

Back in North America

Technically, I know, we have been talking about North America a lot lately, but in the subject of pterosaurs, not dinosaurs. A great deal of the past few months of dinosaurs have been African, which is all well and good, but this dinosaur is American again. Obviously that means I am not tossing myself mercilessly upon the back of the Yutyrannus bus that is screaming out of the station right now.

No, what I'm talking about this week is Gastonia burgei. Gastonia is a nodosaur that runs approximately 125 million years old as the fossil record goes. In my mind I remember Gastonia just like I remember Kentrosaurus; as the prickly older cousin of Ankylosaurus in the same way that Kentrosaurus is Stegosaurus' prickly contemporary cousin. Why would I need to equate the two? I cannot really be sure either, but I guess in part of my mind I lump "prickly" dinosaurs together in a separate category from armored dinosaurs (I guess that makes horned ceratopsians prickly armored dinosaurs doesn't it?). Gastonia was plucked from the same quarry in Utah as Utahraptor and was named in 1998 by James Kirkland who also named Utahraptor. Despite being a cousin of Ankylosaurus, the most famous of the Ankylosauria, it is not as closely related to Ankylosaurus as it is animals like Polacanthus which also features a pelvic or sacral armor girdle and shoulder spikes like Gastonia. Gastonia is an herbivore and as such its main enemies during its lifetime would have been predators like Acrocanthosaurus and Utahraptor. It has been mentioned in literature that the male Gastonia may have competed in leks for mates and that they may have wallowed in shallow pools to keep cool during the mating competitions, though this is, of course, speculation as no solid evidence for either has yet been found in the fossil record.

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