STL Science Center

STL Science Center

25 April 2012

What Makes This Special?

Number One: Of the two original skeletons, one was nearly half complete and the other was nearly all complete. Finding two highly completed skeletons when finding a new dinosaur is so rare that this find was better than good luck it was amazingly supreme fantastic amounts of luck playing out in China as the teams dug up these bones. A lot of information about some skeletons is educated estimation and educated guessing, but very little of that was needed with Tuojiangosaurus on account of the fact that the skeletons were so nearly complete. How does that happen anyhow? Clearly these animals were either buried very quickly when they died or died because they were covered quickly. It's sad to think that such a thing had to happen in order for us to study these magnificent skeletons, and they are magnificent in their own ways. Not everyone loves the stegosaurs but these skeletons are highly fascinating thanks to their well preserved state.

Number Two: People imagine up some fascinating things for this animal and explain them as being missing from the skeletons. When a T. rex is missing bones no one imagines that it had five fingers and a war club on its tail, but with Tuojiangosaurus which is missing some tail and leg bones on the better specimen, people have imagined up some crazy additions. National Geographic and others put giant spikes on the shoulders of Tuojiangosaurus like it was a Kentrosaurus. Gregory Paul has put six spikes on the tail instead of the customary stegosaurid four. Does that mean it is incorrect? Not necessarily, but only one other species, Dacentrurus, has multiple tail spikes represented on it. Imagination is the place where the study of dinosaurs starts though, if you remember back to childhood, so we can't really fault anyone if they want to imagine that Tuojiangosaurus wore a hat and danced the rumba if they want to.

Number Three: Finding fossils of this and other stegosaur species in Asia shows just how proficient they were at adapting to different lands throughout time. There have been stegosaurs found on every continent save Australia, South America, and Antarctica, to my knowledge, and their existence spans from the mid Jurassic to almost the mid Cretaceous which is a long time for dinosaurs, especially given that many genera seemed to have gone into extinction or radically changed at the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary areas.

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