STL Science Center

STL Science Center

20 April 2012

News and New Dinosaurs

First and foremost, my friends and readers, I have to share with everyone the very awesome news that I have finally gotten back into school. I've been accepted to grad school and the career change now begins. However, I know that my first masters degree will help me work on this second one, so it is still a good thing that it took me one career to realize what my dream career would be. Anyhow, on to the dinosaur for the week.

If anyone knows who this belongs to, give me a shout.
In 1977 an animal from China was named and described. This occurred exactly 100 years after the naming of Stegosaurus and as such was a rather appropriate and interesting moment in paleontology. That Chinese animal, Tuojiangosaurus multipsinus, has a name that means "Tuo river lizard." Fairly similar to the contemporary Stegosaurus, this is the best known of the Chinese stegosaurids and is known originally from two skeletons; one nearly complete and one that is comprised of about half the skeletal material. The musculature of Tuojiangosaurus is different from that of Stegosaurus and this is used as evidence of different feeding habits. Also, the vertical plates on the back of Tuojiangosaurus are much different from those found on the back of a Stegosaurus or even a Kentrosaurus. The "thagomizer" (thank you very much Mr. Gary Larson), the four spikes on the end of the tail, is very much, in contrast, like those of Stegosaurus and Kentrosaurus. The apparent lack of ossified tendons in the tail lends itself to the idea that worked toward other stegosaurids using the tail as a weapon. Lacking these ossified tendons the animal is able to swing its tail in a highly flexible arc (compared to dinosaurs with stiff rigid tails) that, pivoting on the center of balance, give the animal a wide range of defensive striking distances which, in Kentrosaurus at least, included up to swatting at attackers standing near the ribs of the animal. Whether or not Tuojiangosaurus had that exact amount of flexibility remains to be seen, but wouldn't that be a fun thing to test?

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