STL Science Center

STL Science Center

11 January 2013

A Panoply of Dinosauria

Before I begin today, allow me to explain the changes you may have noticed. The banner/cover photo is a little vague for a reason; basically I like surprises of all forms and types. As longtime readers may remember in the past few years at least once a year for a month we explore a different set of paleo-creatures. One time it was birds, we had a month of pterosaurs and a month of ice age mammals also. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to find a suitable time to venture into another part of the paleontological history of the world, and so, for the first time, I am dedicating February and March both to a class of animals that we have not discussed or featured here to date. I am sure a few good guesses can be made at this point, but for the next two Thursdays I will change the banner at the top of the page to give a little bit more of a clue as to where we are going for the unsure and for February and March I will put up an entirely new banner and then afterwards I plan to have an updated dinosaur themed banner back up; the current one has been reminding me of the 80's lately, and things need to change a little bit at least! Now, on to this next week of dinosaurs!

Panoply, in the title, has a lot of meanings, for this week we are going with the old military meaning: A full suit of armor. I cannot say for sure why I keep making the research end of this much more in depth than it needs to be the last few weeks, looking up dinosaurs with very little past, but I am going to do it again this week. An Aptian "pseudofossil," it was an embryonic dinosaur, was discovered by Ray Stanford, an East Coast ichnofossil (trace fossils like footprints and coprolites etc.) phenom; seriously, the man is a "citizen scientist," meaning he is not a PhD guy out doing this professionally, that scours the land and finds fossil trace evidence like he belongs on a Mesozoic version of CSI or Bones and he's been doing this since the late 80's. Pseudofossils are rare enough, and naming a species, in this case Propanoplosaurus marylandicus, after a juvenile is even more rare, because dinosaurs do change over time, like other animals, and naming a species after a juvenile may just create a junior synonym for a known adult which we did not recognize as a later growth model of the juvenile. Propanoplosaurus means "toward or before Panoplosaurus" which in turn means "completely armored lizard." It is a middle Cretaceous nodosaur; Panoplosaurus is a Late Cretaceous dinosaur. Nodosaurs, remember, are armored herbivores, low to the ground with thick bone scutes and dermal thicknesses ("osteoderms") protecting their bodies; they are a subfamily under Ankylosaurs.

This baby (embryo, fetus, etc.) was discovered as an imprint of a good amount of the dinosaur. It is not the actual bones, but a cast of the skull and postcranial skeletons including the ribs, but lacking the pelvic girdle and caudal vertebrae. The word baby evokes oohs and ahhs on its own and Brian Switek even went so far as to call it adorable; I cannot say I disagree that it was probably an adorable little armored tike:
From Stanford, et al. 2011
I look forward to delving into the mystery of this little guy and exploring what he could have grown to be this week!

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