STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 October 2012

More To Those Hands?

Illustration of type specimen
The gracile hands of Chirostenotes are of importance to the genus not just because they are what the initial description of the species was based off of, but also because those hands are, themselves, quite spectacular appendages. The hands that were found were basically complete and articulated; digit three was missing a few of the metacarpals, however, even that small deletion in the articulation laid out a unique and interesting manus to study. Comprised of digits 1-3 the hand was elongated, and ended in short, but substantial, claws that curved down and backward slightly. Most images show the hands being held with fingers splayed, palm surface facing medially, toward the center of the body. Many images, due to the current theory of feathering within the Oviraptorosaurids and Dromaeosaurids as well, show the wrists covered in feathers and the fingers are covered to the claws in what appears to be a soft down in most of the illustrations that are available. The hands being gracile is as important as the length of the fingers are to the animal. Gracility, or agility, in the fingers of Chirostenotes is essential for the theory of omnivorous behavior. Agility in the hands of Chirostenotes allowed for easily capturing small fast moving mammals and lizards in addition to also allowing for reaching for those animals in smaller areas than the stubby toothless beak of the animal would be able to probe; the beak of Chirostenotes would not be able to probe very far into any small areas at all actually, given the rounded and short structure of the actual beak itself. This toothless beak, coincidentally, has not been found whole yet, only as assorted top and bottom cranial/jaw elements.


30 October 2012

Two Important Papers

Today I can present to you, the audience, not the entire two papers of the most importance to Chirostenotes within the last fifty years, but at least their abstracts. Gilmore's paper naming and describing the hands of Chirostenotes is not online anywhere that I have found, the papers by Currie and Russell and Sues are online, at least partially, and of the utmost importance to the Chirostenotes that we know and love today. Gilmore's paper was, of course, the arguably most important paper, because it named and described a new species, but these two papers reformed Gilmore's, and others, discoveries and completed the picture of Chirostenotes.

Currie and Russell in 1988 renamed some specimens, like Parks' 1933 specimens, as a new species of Elmisaurus, a close relative of Chirostenotes, replacing its designation within the Ornithomimus genus, and redescribing its family and order classifications as well. Currie and Russell pointed out the markedly dromaeosaurian characteristics of Chirostenotes and, particularly, its relationship to Oviraptorids, namely Oviraptor itself. Chirostenotes, being the oldest name of the material that Currie and Russell linked together is still what we use today, but without that 1988 publication, we would also still have nearly a dozen other disorganized sets of remains attributed to different animals.

In 1997, though, Hans Dieter Sues came along with a new set of research and published his theories and results on Chirostenotes. Building off of other ideas and discoveries about Chirostenotes, Sues looks at a new partial skeleton consisting of partial skull elements, pelvic girdle, and vertebral elements from all regions of the spine. Sues also refers Parks' 1933 material to Chirostenotes, instead of Elmisaurus, as well as Caenagnathus (RM Sternberg, 1940, described jaw elements and attributed them to Caenagnathus, a small bird) to Chirostenotes. Sues also went on to claim that Chirostenotes revealed important phylogenetic relationships between Oviraptorids and Therizinosaurs as well as new characteristics which would refer Caenagnathids to Oviraptorosaurids. His work was an exhaustive study that I can actually read (as can anyone with JSTOR or JVP access), and so may not contain so much more information as it appears compared to the 1988 study above, but may be of equal amounts of information. Regardless, both studies and publications were of extreme importance in the study of Oviraptorids as well as Chirostenotes itself at a generic level.

29 October 2012

Chirostenotes On Celluloid

First of all, I know that no films really use celluloid any more, especially those that are animated, as with Dinosaur Train, or those that are featured on BBC and Discovery channels that entertain the topics of dinosaurs and other extinct animals. There was a time when they were of course, when skeletal models and "talking heads" were more important to the documentary than CGI flashiness. At this exact moment those days are a little put aside, some shows still focus on the older documentary style, but not entirely, and models in CGI are the norm. Chirostenotes, as noted yesterday, has appeared in Dinosaur Train at least once; there is the potential to see the character again though given that it lives in the same location as the main characters. Whether or not we see that character again in the show no one knows for certain, but it is the only noteworthy mention of Chirostenotes so far in a show that has made its way to being mentioned online. Dinosaur King shows a hit somewhere, but I have not watched that cartoon in a good long while, not since my brother used to watch it after school when he was a lot younger, so I have not sifted through to see if it really show up. 4KidsTV has two seasons of episodes on Youtube (above link) but at the moment I do not have the time to sift through all of those episodes to look for one dinosaur sadly! Regardless, it may contain one. Other shows that we know contain dinosaurs do not mention Chirostenotes yet. Hopefully this will change as it is a remarkable animal and very interesting, but for now, it just is not happening.

28 October 2012

Theropods Are Loved

Few theropods are not featured somewhere in the children's literature, television, toy, or game markets. Theropods are just intriguing for children it seems, or perhaps they are intriguing to toy makers who can use similar molds to bust out similar looking theropods and illustrators in books and television that can use basic lines of models to create somewhat similar dinosaurs. Regardless of the reasons or purposes or purported laziness ( I do not think everyone is that lazy, I am just being a butt about it!), there are plenty of Chirostenotes references in children's faces these days. That is certainly not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to things to color (the illustrator, and I knew this, reminded me that this work was not necessarily intended as a coloring sheet, but how often have I used non-coloring sheets as coloring sheets in this blog?):
©Osvaldo Cort├ęs
I honestly do not know how I could avoid using this piece, with permission of course, as a coloring sheet. It almost looks like it is right out of a coloring book. Remember though kiddos, no posting the finished product online without first talking to the illustrator!

Now, as for other things, there are fact sheets from KidsDinos, our favorite short fact sheet producing website geared for kids, and there are also Dinosaur Train references for Chirostenotes. A word of warning on the KidsDinos page today though; the illustration shown on the page today is much closer to the image of Ornitholestes, and not quite a match for Chirostenotes at all. The model used for Dinosaur Train, and its related toys of course, is based on the scientific illustrations that are now used, so it looks fairly accurate. It can be seen on the associated website or in the episode, which can be found on Netflix, called "A Frill A Minute" which was actually the seventh episode (1st on Netflix's list). The Chirostenotes in question is a bully that lives near the Big Pond that the Pterandon family visits with their Triceratops friend Tank.

27 October 2012

Even In Canada I Bet Chirostenotes Is Warmer

An ice chilled day in Kansas folks. I cannot see any ice from my living room but it's clear there is frost on the grass and the temperature was 23 F when I sat down at the computer; that was 2 hours ago, but I have been sifting through a lot of art this morning trying to find some pieces that really highlight what we are looking for this week.

©Jaime A. Headden
I think we should start by looking at what Gilmore and other early paleontologists were looking at when they first unearthed Chirostenotes. The hands in this skeletal illustration are the holotype used by Gilmore to describe a new genus and species; a little goes a long way it appears. The legs are paired by Headden, legs had not been discovered in the earliest finds in pairs like this and it is done "for the sake of elegance" according to the illustrator. In the past I have also shown the holotypes of some genera and species specifically, but I think this may be one of the smallest amounts of data we have had to look at to proclaim a new species so far. That does not mean this has not been done, naming a species, with less material than this before, because it has indeed been done. How do we know that the skull is correct though? Or perhaps the shape of the skull is a new thing?

©Tuomas Koivurinne
The fact is that it is a newer addition to the body in terms of known skeletal material. The hands were discovered initially in 1914, feet in 1932, 1936 gave us lower jaws, the 1960s saw a few other sorted pieces given other names and the discovery of Elmisaurus in Asia, 1988 found Currie and Russell looking at a 1923 stored specimen that tied almost all of the North American specimens back together, and in 1997 Hans Dieter Sues renamed Parks' 1933 specimens as a second species in the Chirostenotes genus. Somewhere in there, during the 1970s I think it was, a skeleton was found that showed some more of the skull shape, mostly lower and forward jaw fragments, and helped to further identify Chirostenotes as an Oviraptorosaur, as if the body pieces found before the skull had not pointed in that general direction to begin with. The overall behaviors and diets of the animal were therefore referred to as being akin to their earlier ancestors and cousins in Asia: omnivorous with an ability to consume leaves and seeds in addition to small prey items like early mammals and lizards of the forest floor.

Courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History
via Wikimedia Commons
The most curious bit about any dinosaur restoration comes in the form of filling in the gaps of course. In Chirostenotes that actually has worked a little bit backwards from what we would assume; allow me to explain. Oviraptor is the head honcho of the family, a lot is known about Oviraptor, and as such we would assume that any missing skeletal elements down the line of the family would refer back to Oviraptor ultimately for clarification and reinterpretation. In the skeleton of Chirostenotes we see a lot of inferences made from the skeletal information we have about the particular animal and those made from other members of its family including Oviraptor; however, we have also seen that the discovered bits of skull of Chirostenotes have helped to refine Oviraptor's skull as well. That happens sometimes, but not very often that a more well known species gets tips and pointers from a lesser known species, and that makes Chirostenotes a little bit more interesting in that way. The hands of Chirostenotes have also told us a lot about the evolution of the entire Oviraptorid family as we can compare them to their Asian ancestors and down through the eras to the large gracile hands of Chirostenotes. What this tells us, though, we will try to examine in a later discussion, as those hands are very important and deserve a lot more scrutiny than can be afforded today.

26 October 2012

A New Old Face

©Daniel Benson
The Cretaceous of Alberta 75 million years ago had a number of smaller theropod dinosaurs running around. In 1924 (Gilmore) one of these was named and described under a new genus, Chirostenotes, based on two elongated nearly complete hands, thought to be from a single specimen, discovered in the Judith River Formation of Alberta. Chirostenotes pergracilis was the first, and is to some paleontologists the only, species in this genus. Since 1924 a partial skeleton possessing those hands has been discovered as well, the earliest discovery being described by Currie and Russell in 1988. In 1933 (Parks, based on a foot found in the same area) a new Ornithomimus was named and has, subsequently, been considered as a second species under the name Chirostenotes elegans (it has also been considered as a member of another genus, Elmisaurus, thus leading to the split amongst paleontologists which we will discuss further in the coming week). Gregory Paul (2011) places C. elegans within C. pergracilis and separates another set of remains into an unnamed species of Chirostenotes. Currie and Russell (1988) stated that Chirostenotes was a caenagnathid elmisaurid (see below) while Ostrom thought that Chirostenotes was a synonym of Dromaeosaurus (The Dinosauria, 1990 edition). Regardless of where these other skeletons actually were thought to belong at one time or another, Chirostenotes pergracilis has a specific meaning that is Greek (genus) and Latin (species); the meaning of the name is "narrow hand, gracile throughout." Some animals' names are explanations of what they are in the common name (felis catis is the common house cat and translates to "cat cat" basically), but with dinosaurs we tend to run into these wonderfully descriptive names that are Greek or Latinized that sound, if one can sound them out, nearly impossible to say correctly.

Enough of that aside though; the point of today is to learn about our new dinosaurs. Chirostenotes did indeed have narrow hands. Its hands were elongated, like many Maniraptoriforme dinosaurs, though oviraptorids are not currently considered members of the Maniraptor family (C. pergracilis is placed in the Caenagnathidae which includes Elmisaurus as well and other similar Late Cretaceous oviraptors). As with all oviraptors, Chirostenotes lacked teeth and had a rather large bird-like beak with a healthy looking crest situated on its frontal-nasal ridge which sloped up and over the parietal to come back down in attachment on the squamosal. The remainder of the skeleton is quite typical to oviraptors and small theropods in general. Chirostenotes was mostly like an omnivores, catching small mammals and reptiles with its agility and speed, aided by its large manipulative hands, and eating prey and plant matter alike (possibly eggs as well?) with its toothless beak in a manner possibly similar to the way chickens can eat small insects from time to time.

25 October 2012

Belated Popularity

Argentinosaurus does not, contrary to my title today, have belated popularity at all; in fact, it was popular almost immediately after being described and revealed to the public in 1993 in part due to its massive size and also in part due to its implications for further study of the then burgeoning fauna of South American paleontology. Titanosaurs are an older group, officially named in 1877 by Lydekker, but have been haggled and argued over ever since, but Argentinosaurus still has titanosaur as a cladistic differentiation, and as such it is one of the more popular of the titanosaurs. Argentinosaurus has shown up, as noted previously, as toys, in books, and in documentaries on both Patagonia as a region as well as size related documentaries that discuss the more gigantic of the entire dinosaur clade of reptiles. Dinosaur King, a typical installation on the popularity post for most of the dinosaurs featured here, does not have a feature for Argentinosaurus that pops right out on a search. That is actually quite intriguing honestly. However, there are plenty of other new places to look at Argentinosaurus today. Argentinosaurus is one of the more popular museum cast skeletons, though most of the skeleton is a guesswork casting, such as in Atlanta:
Also, an animatronic version is standing tall in New Jersey to entertain the public as well:
Go out and find other displays of Argentinosaurus, I am willing, for one, to bet that there are plenty more scattered about this globe!

24 October 2012

Show Up Big; Or In Big Pieces At Least

©Ezequiel Vera
The middle Cretaceous, while we have mentioned in North America the downsizing of the sauropods, was a time of great expansion in the titanosaur family. Not only did the overall family grow in number, but also in sheer size with the ballooning bellies and extending necks and tails reaching greater and greater sizes. The size of these animals leads to problems in preservation due to the bulk of the enormous bones. As such, Argentinosaurus is known from only a handful, a giant's handful, of bones including a partial femur, a tibia, and a small number of vertebrae, a few of which may or may not be articulated. How does such a massive creature not get preserved? The answer to that is a lot more common sense than it sounds like it should be. An animal that large dying of natural or predatory causes is not a one course meal. In fact, it makes much more sense that it would have taken a pack of animals to bring it down and, even if it had died of natural causes, the sheer number of predators and carrion animals that would have been attracted to such a large meal would have meant that tempers more than likely would have flared. This, in turn, would lead to scavengers, at least some of the time, taking off what portions of food they could carry and fleeing from the melee that most likely was imminent at any point and time around the remains. Toes could have been carried off, the skull dragged away, radius and ulna picked up in a gaping jaw of giant teeth, and on and on until all that was left were a few mud covered bones that not one animal noticed and dragged away. Those mud covered bones went through the fossilization process and were eventually uncovered by erosion and the good fortune of a fossil hunter named Guillermo Heredia in Argentina. That scenario could have been played out who knows how many times in the Cretaceous wilds of what is now Patagonia.

The alternative logical thought process involves a dying animal and its rotting corpse not being covered in mud prior to some sort of flash flood scattering rotting remainders and exposed bones, meaning that the remainder of the bones attributed to this individual could be either downstream, wherever that stream moved back in that time, or the bones could have been left to dry out, bleach and eventually fall apart, break, crack and be utterly destroyed by the elements and the animals roaming the plains. Who rightly knows what happened to those wonderful fragments of a bygone giant, but hopefully we will find more someday and have a whole picture of this amazing creature.

23 October 2012

A Couple Papers

Thankfully Argentinosaurus is an animal that we can, with total confidence, say the paper naming and describing it is available for us all to read online. There is one hitch though; the paper was published in Ameghiniana, the Argentinian Paleontological Society's national publication, meaning it is completely start to finish in Spanish. Some of us in the world cannot, therefore, read any of the article. I am sure, though, based on past papers of both Bonaparte and Coria that I have been able to read, that this paper is a detailed study of the vertebrae and leg bones initially used to describe Argentinosaurus. One paper that we can read, which is not entirely about Argentinosaurus, is by Mazzeta, Christiansen, and Farina. Mazzeta and Farina were based in Uruguay and Christiansen, as usual, is based in Denmark. The purpose that brought these three together was studying the sheer sizes of Patagonian dinosaurs. As stated before Patagonian dinosaurs are some of the largest we know of, both herbivore and carnivore, and as such it is fairly interesting to study what made for a super-sized roster of species in this one specific area of the world. An exhaustive study was conducted for this paper that used estimation of body weight and length to fill in gaps on skeletons missing large quantities of skeletal material. The end result is well thought out and multiple estimates of the body size and weight of Argentinosaurus, as well as Giganotosaurus, Amargasaurus and a number of others, that relates a lot of important information about exactly how big this dinosaur truly was and how large its major threats, Giganotosaurus for instance, were in relation.

22 October 2012

The Movie Star

In part the fame of Argentinosaurus is owing to the size of the animal itself. In part it is famous because it was a part of a large group of animals, the sauropods, which played, in the northern hemisphere, a very tiny role in the Cretaceous, in terms of numbers of herbivorous species from unique families, whereas in the southern hemisphere they lived on as one of the primary and largest, overall not in size, herbivorous families living during that era. The titanosaurs, of which Argentinosaurus was one of the largest members, did exist globally, but where Pachycephalosaurs and Hadrosaurs as well as Ceratopsians were flooding the northern hemisphere we do not, or perhaps have not yet?, seen such a large influx of other species in the southern hemisphere, meaning that the sauropods, Argentinosaurus in particular, made up a greater percentage of the overall herbivorous animal numbers, which is both unique and pretty amazing. Therefore, when making documentaries about the southern hemisphere, and Patagonia exclusively, there is one dinosaur that cannot be left out because of the large part it played in the ecosystem; think of all the documentaries about North America that feature Tyrannosaurs and Hadrosaurs. That characteristic of the land, and of course there were other animals living there so the titanosaur sauropods were not alone, it may just be that we have not found enough skeletal material in South America yet, it makes sense that many of the documentaries created in the last few years that mention Patagonia in particular feature the massive bulk of Argentinosaurus. The BBC has put out two such documentaries, the more publicized ones out there with Argentinosaurus, and those are Planet Dinosaur and Chased by Dinosaurs, which is considered a part of the Walking With Dinosaurs family of shows. The other major one mentioned, Giants of Patagonia, was played in 3D in IMAX theaters and uses many of the Planet Dinosaur basic models, it seems (I am not an art student though, so it is just my interpretation that they are using the same computer models; this may not be completely correct). Regardless, the two BBC models of Argentinosaurus can be compared, as both are shown in short clips online; Youtube has clips that are presentable so there is not too much of a search that must be done in order to find Argentinosaurs parading across the screen. I will leave it to the clips to do their own talking, but as I stated Saturday, I think that the Planet Dinosaur/Patagonia model base is much better than the Chased by Dinosaurs model base; granted there were a few years between allowing for improvements both paleontologically and computer graphically/artistically.
Sorry about the audio here, on Chased by Dinosaurs, but we can see they are clearly slow plodding animals in this clip.

Planet Dinosaur: A bit more stylized, almost as plodding but more of a character.

21 October 2012

Children Love Argentinosaurus

KidsDinos has a fact page on Argentinosaurus for us today, that is always a fun time to introduce the kids to the dinosaur for this week. The NHM in London also has a kid friendly Argentinosaurus link. Both are equally good for the kids to use, so visit either or both of them. Arnie the Argentinosaurus is a character from Dinosaur Train, and that means this week there is an episode of a child-friendly television show to watch. If you do not have access to it at home or do not want to wait for the repeats it can be found on Netflix easily enough, but also remember that Dinosaur Train means there are toys out there, and kids can certainly make that connection without any help! In that vein, maybe someone wants to get ready for Christmas and they want an Arnie toy? There are some plush Argentinosaurs as well as durable plastic toys, but for Dinosaur Train related Argentinosaurs there is also a remote controlled Arnie toy. It's a bit more, but there are some kids and some parents that would love that sort of thing. Lastly, the coloring pages that are related to Argentinosaurus. There are actual coloring pages this week. Some are typical sauropods, some are not so correct, and some have silly expressions, but there is a lot available to color today.

20 October 2012

Check Out The Big Guy

Photograph taken by L. Quagliotto, from Mazzeta et al 2004
First of all, I'd like to point everyone in the direction of Nima Sassani's Argentinosaurus entry detailing how he went through the steps of drawing his own Argentinosaurus. I could ask for permission to use his, but I would rather not wait and so will not put up any of his drawings today. Instead, we can start by simply looking at how enormous this dinosaur must have been. This vertebra cast, remember they did not find all of the vertebrae from head to tail, came from the thoracic region of the dinosaur most likely. The fact that the vertebra is almost as large as the average young lady, let us assume she is about 5'5" (165 cm), and that makes this part of the backbone extremely large. For this single bone to be contained in the back of an animal we can assume that the animal must also have been a gigantic animal and the size estimates, though taken from the legs and not the vertebrae that were found, attest to this idea of a gigantic dinosaur when all is said and done. So the question then becomes what would this dinosaur, whose skull and the majority of its body are missing, have looked like completely fleshed out?

©Timothy Bradley
The answer to that question may look a little bit like this. The long tail of Argentinosaurus was not as whip-like as the diplodocid cousins Argentinosaurus found in North America. The head, which has not been recovered from the earth at this point, is boxy, squared off, and short from nose to vertebral joining. That is a common setup for most large sauropods, and as such is nothing to get excited about; it is also probably quite accurate given what we know about sauropod's heads. The legs, of which a tibia and a partial femur have been recovered, are accurate in agreement with the majority of sauropods that have been found as well. The rear legs in this illustration are shown as more powerful than the front legs, though I seriously doubt and cannot think of a time when an Argentinosaurus would need those rear legs to rear up or those front legs to brace against a tree while rearing. The last thing that is notable about this illustration, and I am borrowing from Sassani's blog linked above, is that the chest is strong and barreled as opposed to a thin and weak chest. In order to support the estimated weight it would need to be strong, which makes the illustration more accurate.

From Giants of Patagonia
Giants of Patagonia was a 2007 IMAX film that featured the work of Rodolfo Coria amongst his discovered and described dinosaurs, one of which, of course, was Argentinosaurus. The Argentinosaurus model used in the film was a little more apatosaurine than Argentinosaurus should be. The head is a little longer than we anticipate it to be, but the tail being held stiffly is a much larger problem in the model. The tail would have been held high for sure, but not stiffly out behind the body like a living truss bridge. The chest is also a little bit concave and weak looking, which, as discussed previously, is not as we anticipate we would find in an Argentinosaurus at all.

19 October 2012

Long Overdue Creature Feature

©Nobu Tamura
Amazingly, and I searched the history of all of the entries ever done for this blog, I have never covered, individually for an entire week, Argentinosaurus as anything other than a prey item. Argentinosaurus huinculensis is named for the country and the rock formation in which it was initially found. The type skeleton consists of bits and pieces of skeleton, but enough remains were found to estimate its size given known sauropods and their length and girth ratios to the same times of bones that were found. The largest bone recovered is a partial femur, though this is not a bone that is 100% known to belong to the animal, it contains enough characters that the study around it, conducted by Bonaparte and Coria, assigned it to Argentinosaurus and helped to estimate the size of the animal. Bonaparte and Coria published their findings in 1993 and, at the time, Argentinosaurus was one of the largest titanosaurids known. Amphicoelias and, the supposed, Bruhathkayosaurus are larger, but Argentinosaurus is still one of the largest sauropods ever known; Amphicoelias is a diplodocid and Bruhathkayosaurus is tentatively still assigned to the titanosaurids.

18 October 2012

The Popular Mapusaurus

©Tuomas Koivurinne
On this last day of Mapusaurus, the popular culture day, I usually would send us off with a picture of some random toy or television episode, but not today. I asked last weekend, of all my artist acquaintances, if any had any Mapusaurs which I could borrow for the blog. Tuesday afternoon I got an email from one Mr. Koivurinne asking if I still wanted/needed illustrations and of course I said yes that we would like to see something if he had it, I like his style, and he replied that he was going to whip something up overnight. Actually, the exact words were "I could make a quick work of it." The above is the end result, which is one heck of a quick work! This is my "quick work" skill level with drawing:
Awesome cartoon-esque bunny skills
Needless to say, his illustration deserved to be up on the head of this column today regardless of what aspect of Mapusaurus I was going to talk about.

So, on to popular culture. A quick list would go: Planet Dinosaur from BBC, Dinosaur King, a few random books, none of which are singularly devoted to Mapusaurus at this time, and  one toy and a few tribute videos. Dinosaur King is the only topic we have not hit in popular culture which deserves a good look today though (books always deserve a good look, but most of these books only vaguely include Mapusaurus). Dinosaur King features five cards with Mapusaurus on them. For a collectible card game three different cards with one character is usually a lot in my experience (yes, I played Magic a lot when younger, and sometimes older) so to have five is pretty fantastic, especially given the sheer amount of characters we have seen through the past two years alone in the card game. Mapusaurus is definitely a popular dinosaur and getting more and more popular all the time. I hope the next time I see a dinosaur specific book come out for kids it will have Mapusaurus right up in the front of it honestly. Maybe in my spare time I should start trying to write dinosaur books for kids...

17 October 2012

A Word on Size

Tyrannosaurus rex, long held to be and for a good long while the actual holder of the title "World's Largest Carnivorous Dinosaur," (we are going to ignore the Spinosaurus completely as a tall fat fisherman amongst big game hunters for this conversation, though that is clearly a bad over generalization) was bound to be outsized by a southern hemisphere dinosaur some day. Large sauropods were the deal of the day the world over during the Jurassic and the smaller predators that took them down as food items showed evidence of conducting their hunts in packs, thus making size an important, but not a determining, factor in who eats whom and what is permanently off the menu. Pack hunting allows for smaller individuals to take down larger, as well as faster, prey items. Consider Tyrannosaurus and the slightly larger Mapusaurus as pack hunters a moment. The Tyrannosaur pack has dangerous and large prey to take down in Cretaceous North America, but their prey, despite being large and well armed, is not as large as the animals being taken down in Patagonia by the Mapusaur pack. The little bit of extra size, and potentially muscle and body weight, makes sense in the south for a totally different reason than it makes sense in the north. If your prey is larger than the largest prey of another predator then it makes sense that one route of adaptation may be for your species to get larger; remember that there could be any number of evolutionary routes Mapusaurus could have taken aside from being a large predator to take down even Argentinosaurs. Deinonychus is only one example of another route of small versus large. Instead, for many different reasons, Mapusaurus grew from chick to adult to be the largest terrestrial carnivore, albeit by mere centimeters in some individuals perhaps, of the Cretaceous.

Would a Tyrannosaurus be able to take down an Argentinosaurus, as a pack or individual, in the same manner that Mapusaurus could? The answer, of course, is not at all. A Tyrannosaur's main weapon, despite any hunter/scavenger debating, is most definitely its mouth full of teeth. The hands of Tyrannosaurs were basically a non-issue when discussing hunting tactics. They had a purpose of course, but most likely not a large role in hunting. Could a Tyrannosaur take a big chunk out of an Argentinosaurus? Certainly! Mapusaurus could use its teeth as well, though it had a narrower and longer skull, think wolf, than the bulldog-like skull of a Tyrannosaurus, if we are still talking about dogs. In fact, with the more agile hands of Mapusaurus that may be the exact way to think of Mapusaurus' hunting tactics: it may have hunted in a pack in a very similar manner to wolves to take down larger prey like Argentinosaurus. The more agile hands could grasp prey items for a momentary well placed bite or rake them with the claws and wear them down to exhaustion. Different hunting styles for different prey items, but both genera had bulk to deal with the massive injuries that could be inflicted by prey, in part at least, and both, regardless of which was actually largest on average, were enormous carnivorous dinosaurs.

16 October 2012

Examining The Literature

Dr Coria and Dr. Currie, borrowed from ROMblog
Coria and Currie's paper announcing and describing Mapusaurus is online on a French website as of this writing. Whether or not that will stay up there I cannot tell, and almost no one else could tell us either. The site in question is actually the home of the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris. It's up there for now anyhow, which is the important part. Right in the abstract itself the authors name one of the diagnostic characteristics of Mapusaurus as the possession of a "deep, short and narrow skull" as I mentioned in the comparison of illustrations on Saturday. That's not to say "I told you so" as much as it is to say that there was a very precise reason that the illustrators that used that description depicted it in their Mapusaurs. The introduction of the paper has a funneled format starting nice and broad about the fauna of Patagonia and eventually narrowing its focus to these new finds that are about to be described under the new name Mapusaurus. It leads very nicely into the systematics discussion and then the description and diagnosis of the constituent skeletal elements of the holotype fossil. Additionally, Coria and Currie have made a nice list of fossils which they used as paratypes, which makes it plain to see that there is definitely ample material off of which to back up their descriptions and diagnosis of the new genus and species. The description itself of the holotype fossil is exhaustive and associated skeletal elements are additionally discussed in the same exhaustive manner allowing for a very detailed initial picture of a new animal, which is both critical and fantastic in paleontology. Having a nearly complete picture of the skeletal make-up of the animal allows for quite a bit of extensive study into the make-up of the corporeal animal later on, which will enhance our understanding of how Mapusaurus hunted, walked, stood, sat, saw, and on and on. The end of the paper hosts the data matrix and a great deal of information on the fossils used in the description themselves, but I have not delved too deeply in my "formal education" to really root out any issues in the data matrix or interpret it at the highest level, so I will leave that to others rather than muck it up and say yea or nay to their analysis, but it is there for the better trained eye.

15 October 2012

Mapusaurus in Motion

There are a number of videos which mention or show Mapusaurus, but only one actual documentary; though there are admittedly multiple copies of that one documentary floating about on the internet. The documentary in mention is Planet Dinosaur that aired on BBC, and so far to my knowledge not in America (but I do not have cable, so everyone is always welcome to keep me informed!). The program exhibits the pack hunting mentality, not made public by Coria and Currie remember as they favored the idea that the bone bed was a graveyard/animal trap and not an exhibition of pack mentality, of Mapusaurus and shows how this rather large animal could manage to take down even larger prey with another member of its species. Mapusaurus is, of course, almost large enough to take down quite a few of the larger animals of its environment alone including juvenile sized Argentinosaurus, the large animal it is shown taking down as a pack; though that is of course an adult as opposed to the much smaller juveniles. Tribute videos also exist, so those are found at the links in this sentence, but remember those are all still illustrations and photographs.

14 October 2012

A Child's Mapusaurus

Good news finally this week. First and foremost, no, we do not have our normal child related links to share with everyone. That is, as always, a little bit sad, but we have some other factual links that children can look at today. We have the Natural History Museum in London as well as the National Geographic Dinopedia (it's a preview and it's being a bit temperamental, but don't let that get you down) for the kiddos to look at today. There are toys out from CollectA now also, which are pretty decent models. The only bad thing about models of that stature is that they always tend to be expensive. These run about $10 US, which isn't bad for dinosaur models, but they aren't the same as a giant bag of generic plastics for $10 either. Additionally, there are plenty of black and white images for coloring (all my previous notions of "rules" still apply of course folks). The best ones are probably Brett Booth's sketch on his blog Carnosauria and Fabio Pastori's sketch of the scene I showed on Friday before he colored it. Just remember, these do not belong to me, so do not post them or say you have my permission to post them online with your coloring jobs!

13 October 2012

Monster Sized Images

©Luis Rey
The general feeling, though I have seen that Coria and Currie did not, by some sources, want the idea of pack hunting to be explicitly thought of with Mapusaurus (Coria and Currie believed the mass grave they excavated was actually an animal trap like La Brea and others), is that, though an enormous dinosaur itself, Mapusaurus would have needed to employ paired or pack hunting characteristics in order to hunt the largest herbivores of Argentina. Considering that even the mighty Allosaurus was thought to hunt in packs to bring down massive sauropods this makes sense. The major difference, however, is that Allosaurus was significantly smaller than Mapusaurus, which actually may have a slight edge on Tyrannosaurus in the size department. Thinking of a theropod larger and perhaps even meaner than Tyrannosaurus is quite a task given the ferocity in which Tyrannosaurus is typically portrayed. In Luis Rey's illustration two Mapusaurus are working to take out a young, maybe an early juvenile, Argentinosaurus. We can imagine the numbers needed to take down one of the large ones in the background if it takes two to get a juvenile to become dinner.

©Nobu Tamura
Let us take out all the clouds of dust and other animals and scenery a moment and just look at Mapusaurus. Its closest cousins, the Giganotasaurs, look a lot like Mapusaurus, but there are many differences that can be pointed out. Coria and Currie pointed out a lot of key differences between Giganotosaurus and Mapusaurus. In their paper they summarized those differences as follows (Coria R. A. & Currie P. J. (2006). A new carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Geodiversitas 28(1):71-118.):
thick, rugose unfused nasals that are narrower anterior to the nasal/maxilla/lacrimal junction; larger extension of the antorbital fossa onto maxilla; smaller maxillary fenestra; wider bar (interfenestral strut) between antorbital and maxillary fenestrae; lower, flatter lacrimal horn; transversely wider prefrontal in relation to lacrimal width; ventrolaterally curving lateral margin of the palpebral; shallow interdental plates; higher position of Meckelian canal; more posteriorly sloping anteroventral margin of dentary. Mapusaurus roseae is unique in that the upper quadratojugal process of jugal splits into two prongs; small anterior mylohyoid foramen positioned above dentary contact with splenial; second and third metacarpals fused; humerus with broad distal end and little separation between condyles; brevis fossa of ilium extends deeply into excavation dorsal to ischial peduncle. It also differs from Giganotosaurus in having conical, slightly curving cervical epipophyses that taper distally; axial posterior zygapohyses joined on midline; smaller and less elaborate prespinal lamina on midline of cervicals; remarkably sharp dorsal margin of cervical neural spines; tall, wider neural spines; curved ischiatic shaft; more slender fibula.

©Sergey Krasovskiy
Admittedly those few long sentences are a lot to try to understand. Basically what it boils down to is that the skull of Mapusaurus is thicker at the front of the nose but narrows as we move back to the eyes. Also, the fenestrae, holes in the skull that allow for muscle and organs while also lightening the skull somewhat, are of different sizes than those found in Giganotosaurus. Other differences within the bones and how they situated and fused in the skull also exist but that is not the only place in which Mapusaurus and Giganotosaurus are different. The arms are slightly more robust in Mapusaurus and the ilium is deeper and the legs are a bit slender in comparison, possibly making the slightly larger carnivore slightly more agile. The vertebrae are built completely different as well, making the backbone of Mapusaurus completely different from that of Giganotosaurus. The general appearance in all illustrations are pretty much the same, though they all accentuate the jaws of Mapusaurus somewhat differently and, given that it is one of its most identifying characteristics, that is fairly important. Rey's Mapusaurus has a thin, side to side, skull that does not appear long enough, which is one of those diagnostic features of Mapusaurus. Does a longer skull indicate stronger or weaker jaws? We will see how research has addressed this question in the near future and what the answer means for Mapusaurus.

12 October 2012

Drawing Out A New Map

©Fabio Pastori
Indigenous words are often fairly interesting; such is the case with the word Mapu, a word of the Mapuche people of Argentina. The word means "from the land" or "from the Earth" and sounds an awful lot like the word for a drawing of the Earth or land (of course that could also in part be the centuries of languages going back and forth to create similar words and all of that jazz). It was this word that Coria and Currie chose to incorporate into the name of a large theropod they unearthed and described in Argentina this past decade. The Argentina-Canada Dinosaur Project (ACDP from here out) has many influential members attached to it, but this dinosaur's main contributors were Rodolfo Coria of Argentina and Phil Currie up in Alberta, Canada. The name they settled on in 2006, a mere five years after excavation ended, was Mapusaurus roseae, the specific name coming from the funding leader of the project, Rose Letwin (wife of one of the original members of Microsoft), and from the rose-colored rocks that surround the site. Mapusaurus was a large theropod that has been determined to belong to the Carcharadontosauridae and more specifically to the Giganotasaur subfamily. Mapusaurus was identified based on a nasal bone of the right side of the skull, but is represented by at least twelve other individual nasals and other assorted skeletal elements including bones from most every other portion of the body; several sections of vertebrae, fibula, and carpals and metacarpals have additionally been found to name a few bones associated with the Mapusaurus skull fragments. The total length of the animal is estimated at 10.2 metres (33 ft) and a weight approximation has been made at 3 metric tons (3.3 short tons) based on estimates from larger partial bones (femur). Greg Paul (pg98 Princeton Field Guide) estimates the size and weight at 11.5m (38ft) and 5 metric tons (5.5 short tons). These measurements may be taken from a larger set of bones that Coria and Currie assumed to belong to a potential Giganotosaurus found in this quarry (piecemeal finds with no clearly defining characteristics).

On a housekeeping note, I widened the writing column in here so as to allow for larger picture placement as well as more space to read. This may make many entries ridiculously short, but that is okay. In the coming days I plan to sit down and really fine tune some background issues, perhaps update the banner at the top. I am open to receive anyone's art that wants to perhaps redo my banner or construct a background image and I will let you know if I go with your art after I look it over and try it out. Thank you for your patience during this process.

11 October 2012

Hashing Out A Few More Issues

©Tuomas Koivurinne
Bruhathkayosaurus cannot be left to rest, and that is both bad and good. There are no real popular culture remarks and discussions amongst paleontologists (check these comments from four years ago) even seem tortured and misdirected. It seems as though no one anywhere know anything about this animal. Due to the fact that I cannot get the papers, it seems to beg the question are the papers that supposedly reassigned Bruhathkayosaurus to a sauropod family even really about, in a small apart, that subject at all? Those citations could be completely made up and false too which makes some of the material in entries this week almost as bad as the shoddy workmanship conducted at the dig site for Bruhathkayosaurus. There are no toys, videos, or books dedicated to Bruhathkayosaurus. One book briefly mentions the animal and states that it supposedly weighed between 175-200 tonnes, though even this claim does not agree with the expectations of many, if not most, paleontologists that have dared to discuss the potential weight of this beast. I mentioned before that my old copy of The Dinosauria does not even contain the name Bruhathkayosaurus anywhere in it despite being published four or five years after Yadagiri and Ayyasami's naming paper, but a newer copy (2004) names Bruhathkayosaurus in one spot in the book: under Nomina dubia in the sauropod chapter. Dinosaur Train and Dinosaur King are devoid of mentions of the animal.

10 October 2012

Meeting People

Sometimes it is important to look at the people behind a discovery. This sort of look into the paleontologists has occurred here in the past for a variety of reasons, and there is no better reason than to redeem what many consider bad science by pointing out that these gentlemen are not bad scientists. If a claim was made falsely with someone's knowledge that is o course bad morals and the loss of ill prepared fossils is bad practice and poor shouldering of responsibility, but does that make any of those accountable bad people? Surely they are not bad people, let us look at the other things that have gone on in their careers, if the internet gods are appeased and help us search adequately.

Krishnan Ayyasami, for instance, is obviously not a terrible scientist. At the time of the discovery and description he was still working on his PhD and currently is the director of the paleontology division of the Geological Survey of India; someone trusts his science obviously. Very importantly, however, he does not mention Bruhathkayosaurus at all under his list of important discoveries in his CV. He does mention discovering a stegosaur in that list, though this stegosaur has since been reclassified as possessing the bones of a marine reptile and was then relegated to the plesiosauria as an incomplete skeleton of a potential new species.

P. Yadagiri, on the other hand, is somewhat of an enigma. That happens in paleontology all the time online though, so it is not a ready indication of one's worth in the paleontology community. Yadagiri has named several other species of dinosaur, including the "stegosaur" Ayyasami worked on with him, which are still valid today such as Kotasaurus, the oldest known sauropod.

Sankar Chatterjee had a limited role in the description of Bruhathkayosaurus and as such is not often associated with the questionable practices conducted at the site. However,  if the fossils were not prepared correctly we have to also lay that burden slightly on his shoulders. The reason for that is that he consulted on the find and took the role of identifying the remains as truly dinosaurian in nature, negating the idea that they were anything other (trees?) than large leg bones. Given that he was out there looking at the find he certainly could have taken some dynamic photos, sketched out some detailed drawings or even aided the other paleontologists in preserving and removing the fossils. However, it was not his find and was much earlier in his career, which has been fairly prestigious and includes a number of named species, and his role has been largely forgotten since then on account of his work before and after. Personally examining the fossils, unfortunately, makes him somewhat of an accomplice in the not so great work done there, but Dr. Chatterjee is definitely not an irresponsible scientist.

Perhaps none of these people are to blame for the disappearance of these fossils, but until they are found again or anew, they will sadly be remembered, in connection with Bruhathkayosaurus anyhow, as the group that lost potentially dubious fossils. In fairness to them, Bruhathkayosaurus in general seems to be a very weird spot in the history of paleontology in general, albeit a very little known weird spot.

09 October 2012

Papers Of Interesting Origins

The papers written about Bruhathkayosaurus are not hard to find; they're impossible to find. Online at least. There is probably a reason for that, and that reason is mainly that they are just plain not hosted anywhere. Given the scrutiny and negative feedback from the original paper that is certainly not difficult to understand; if I were one of the authors of that paper I would not want my work online where everyone that had been negative toward it could still get at it to rip it apart. The reasons that I believe everyone would in the paleontology community would still, after all these years, have a negative view of the paper is because it included only the aforementioned shoddy artwork and blurry pictures (I read a few days ago that the pictures were not even included in the paper actually) in its rather un-detailed description of what was at the time thought to be a new carnivore from India. The later paper written by Kraus and others reassigned Bruhathkayosaurus as a sauropod, but, sadly, that paper is no more accessible than the original description was. In respect to other materials that a paleo-fiend like myself may have on hand, Greg Paul's newest book only briefly mentions Bruhathkayosaurus (the entire mention, pg 204, states "Poorly documented Indian fossils labeled Bruhathkayosaurus matleyi may or may not be a titanosaur of some 150 tonnes...") and does not show any other information about it. The older copy of The Dinosauria that I own does not even mention it, despite being published about five years after the initial description of the animal.

08 October 2012

Did You Expect A Video?

The strange nature of the circumstances surrounding the very existence of Bruhathkayosaurus would relegate any video of the creature to a pretty narrow band of genres. Actually, if I were some sort of prolific film-maker a documentary on the history of Bruhathkayosaurus would prove quite interesting. In part its story is very scientific; it was unearthed, described, somewhat accepted into the paleontology community, and even studied a second time, as mentioned on Friday, when it was reassessed as a sauropod instead of as a carnivore. Additionally, the story of the disappearance of the fossils has a very cryptozoological feel to it. It's a mystery that really does need probing into to discover the true past of Bruhathkayosaurus. Here are just a smattering of questions this brings up for me that I would like to, or like to see someone, document on film: 1) How many seasons was this site left exposed to the elements like a roadcut in Kansas? 2) Why were the fossils never packed up, prepped, and moved to a museum? 3) How much rain does it take to "disappear" (to use a mob movie term) a fossil as gigantic as the shin of a Bruhathkayosaurus? 4) Why are there no detailed photographs of the site? (There are some rather blurry very low res photos here, hosted by Mike Taylor.) 5) Why are the only drawings of the bone very much like my cartoon doodles of dinosaurs as opposed to professionally detailed sketches? (Again, Mike Taylor has hosted an image from the original publication here.)

07 October 2012

Keeping Things Real

In the interest of keeping kids in the loop it is always important to present not only the one hundred percent known dinosaurs but also those that might be dubious or are questioned by the scientific community. One problem with that is that the resources we typically share on this page on Sundays are generally not available if the animal is not completely known or understood by science and even tidbits of what I like to share are typically not available at all if the dinosaur is considered to be a false report or ill described by the paleontology community as a whole. As far as this animal is concerned though, I believe it is important for children to look at the animal and to understand why they will never see it in a museum. As adults we can use this as an opportunity to explain to children that not responsibly doing your job, i.e. preserving these fossils before they got washed away by nature, can lead to a lot of trouble and people mistrusting you, amongst other things. You can do this while coloring Steve O'Connor's black and white illustration of Bruhathkayosaurus from the previous day to keep it in context. Either that or you can just have a nice day of coloring, but don't forget Steve probably doesn't want a million of his pictures posted online by young artists!

06 October 2012

Ghost Pictures

I'd like to start off today's post by posting a picture and the caption from Edaphosaurus.com:


The picture above shows the scale between it [Bruhathkayosaurus]in
red Grey and other dinosaurs. They are: sauroposeidon in blue; seismosaurus in orange;  Argentinosaurus in purple and diplodocus in green. Bruhathkayosaurus was larger than all of them.

The size of Bruhathkayosaurus would have been its most important feature, and to not sound too skeptical, it probably is still its most important feature. Given that we know very little, and did even when the findings were originally unearthed due to the fact that the skeleton was mostly incomplete, the general body shape of Bruhathkayosaurus is thought to be that of a very typical, though very large, sauropod. The unfortunate fact that we have so little of this sauropod's skeleton (nothing now to be exact due to the improper care shown to the type fossils) is a great tragedy to all of paleontology, not just the sauropod loving community within paleontology.

To put that estimated size in proportion to animals we know of today, here is a nice little graphic that shows our animal in relation to a few other dinosaurs as well as an elephant, a man, a whale, and a pterosaur. Supposedly, if we believe the originally reported size estimates of Yadagiri and Ayyasami, Bruhathkayosaurus was larger than the current largest living animal, the Blue Whale, by at the least a few tons and many meters (or yards). It is too bad that the remains have been washed away permanently, as it would be wondrous to see such an enormous animal, even in its partial completeness, in some museum of the world for all to look at. This final size comparison shows many of the large sauropods with which we are familiar including one that was mistaken for tree trunks initially and later described as a dinosaur (look back to yesterday and notice how Bruhathkayosaurus had a reverse problem being recognized as a dinosaur that may only be trees). That dinosaur, by the way, was Sauroposeidon, the tallest grey image in the gallery here.

05 October 2012

A Doozy of A Tale, Part 1 of 7

I seriously contemplated scraping this week's planned animal after doing a bit more in depth research. I plan the weeks for this blog months in advance to stay ahead of myself and give myself time to do other things that need to be done. Every time I find my calendar growing down to three or four weeks of prepared topics I sit down on a Sunday or a time that is slow during the week and I look back to see where we have been and map out the road ahead. Then two to three days before the new dinosaur starts I give a once over to the animal for next week and start to build up material. Well, today is no exception to that rule; I have sat down with my material built up and my plan sketched in front of me and doubts as to whether or not I should even begin to publish this story. After much careful thought, however, I believe it is imperative that I publish this story for the entire week as much to warn others to be aware of the happenings of the paleo-community as to educate others in proper practices and potential hoax recognition, so here begins our strange and wild tale:

In the 1980's things were getting dug up all over India. In the southern tip of the subcontinent a uniquely enormous partial skeleton was unearthed by two Indian paleontologists by the names of Yadagiri and Ayyasami and described by them in 1989 as a carnosaur which they believed, specifically, to be a type of Allosaur. Since 1995, and officially in 2006 (Krause, D.W., O'Connor, P.M., Curry Rogers, K., Sampson, S.D., Buckley, G.A., and Rogers, R.R. (2006). "Late Cretaceous terrestrial vertebrates from Madagascar: Implications for Latin American biogeography." Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 93(2): 178-208.), the find has been described as a massive sauropod. Part of the reason for this confusion was that Yadagiri and Ayyasami never took detailed photographs, created detailed drawings, or diagnostically described the finding of what came to be called Bruhathkayosaurus matleyi (meaning Huge Body Lizard). The mostly incomplete skeleton and undetailed description raised doubts and the massive leg bones have been regarded as potentially being fossilized tree trunks rather than leg bones. The research of the pair (and another contributor to this find's mythos, Sankar Chatterjee) has come into question before as well, which does nothing to help the claim, and, even worse, in late 2011 the only evidence of the material attributed to Bruhathkayosaurus was reported to have been washed away by a monsoon years ago because, supposedly, the material was never prepared nor removed from the actual earth it was found in! More on that later, for now, take a look at what the proportions of this, as Matt Martyniuk says, "beast (or possibly, a tree?)" may have looked like.

©Steve O'Connor

04 October 2012

The Troubles of Indian Dinosaurs

Indian dinosaurs are rarely seen in the public eye. In America at least; I felt I needed to qualify that first sentence. It is not due to a prejudice against India, because no such prejudice exists, to my knowledge, in the paleontology fields. I cannot speak for everyone of course, but I cannot see the point in hating a dinosaur because of where it is found and therefore I have to stress the idea that I believe that the only reason that these dinosaurs are not popular is because they simply have not become popular. Popularity in the dinosaur world is like a roller coaster. Some dinosaurs became popular because they were found at the dawn of paleontology, then popularity fell on the largest specimens and moved on to the most impressive features of dinosaurs then back to size then to feathering potential, mummies, and size again and on and on. Rajasaurus, unfortunately, is not exceptionally large, strong, or in possession of unique features that make it stand apart from other dinosaurs, either in or out of its own family. The fact that the finding of the bones in the 1980's and the description of Rajasaurus in 2003 were not highly publicized is not the fault of the finders or authors. In India both events were most likely reported in the news and in America they were not; not, at least, in a wide spectrum of broadcasts. So how do we make a dinosaur like Rajasaurus more well known? The first way is someone saying that it is their favorite dinosaur and popular knowledge of the dinosaur will flow from that. The second is dedicated toys and books with perhaps some smattering of documentary involvement (no worries, I will not go on my Asian animals need a documentary rant today), which hopefully we will see for Rajasaurus soon. Right now, though, we have to make due with tribute videos on Youtube and some other small sightings in popular culture (like the rarely found toys), but not one of us knows what the future holds for Rajasaurus.

03 October 2012

Indian Discoveries

Rajasaurus was initially discovered by Suresh Srivastava in the Narmada River Valley. The discoveries were made between 1982 and 1984, but the paper officially describing Rajasaurus was not written and published until 2003. That describing paper was a two nation effort with both Indian paleontologists and Americans describing the skeleton and writing the paper. The description of the new genus within the Abelisaurid family added much to the family, showing, in part, that the Abelisaurid family was a truly southern hemisphere family that spanned the entire globe at one time. It also proved that the Abelisaurids were a dynamic long lasting family that was the equivalent of the Tyrannosaurs in their own ecosystem.

02 October 2012

Paper Housing at the University of Michigan

The paper naming Rajasaurus has Jeffrey Wilson as its lead author followed by Paul Sereno, Suresh Srivastava, Devendra K. Bhatt, Ashu Khosla, and Ashok Sahni. Obviously the last four authors are paleontologists of Indian descent; which makes a lot of sense given that the dinosaur in question was plucked from the heart of India. Because Jeffrey Wilson is located at the University of Michigan the paper has been placed online by the Museum of Paleontology at UM. Published in 2003, making Rajasaurus a relatively new dinosaur to science, the paper describes the skeletal elements found and offers details into the how and why these authors identified Rajasaurus as a new species as well as why it was fitted into the Abelisaurid family. The paper is actually quite exhaustive and, through the use of quite a lot of figures, plates, and tables of the data collected from Rajasaurus, describes the close relationship of Rajasaurus with Majungasaurus and Carnotaurus as well as summarizing the state of fossil hunting in India at the time of publishing. The sheer amount of data in the paper is fantastic and it really is quite an in depth look at this new animal.

01 October 2012

Video? Where Are You Video?

Rajasaurus is not a film star. However, if this is correctly labeled as a test animation for National Geographic, there may be a Rajasaurus appearing somewhere soon. Notice that the ridges and bumps on the head are not entirely accurate though. The nasal ridge is exaggerated where the rugosities and the main protuberance between the eyes on the frontal bone is absent almost entirely with only small spikes of bone sticking up between and behind the orbits. Even if it does not appear in a documentary, it is a pretty neat shot though.
MAKING OF: RAJASAURUS from Manuel Rico Freire on Vimeo.