STL Science Center

STL Science Center

26 January 2013

Teeth, Babies, and Borrowed Poses

Joseph Leidy, when describing the teeth of Astrodon johnstoni, described them with a number of other teeth. The other teeth belonged mainly to hadrosaurs; however, the teeth of Astrodon almost do not stick out against the other teeth which were described. Perhaps it was Leidy's art that made them look somewhat similar, or perhaps it was a little mislabeling, that sort of thing happens. The teeth attributed to Astrodon are the four illustrations in the lower left corner of the plate, which, in these angles, look very little like stars. Regardless, Leidy did not describe them as star-like; Christopher Johnston did. These illustrated teeth may have been worn or chipped in the intervening years between the descriptions of Johnston and Leidy. There are many reasons that this could have happened; poor handling, poor storing, dropping of samples. Any number of things would have been possible. The inclusion of the hadrosaurs' teeth points to either a misjudgment of Leidy and Johnston in assuming that the teeth belonged to a hadrosaur, or Leidy had another reason, such as common deposition, for including the teeth together in this way. Considering bones had not yet been discovered, it is fair to assume that Leidy may have supposed the teeth all belonged to forms of hadrosaurs.

Luis Rey painted a wonderful scene not too long ago in which a  pack of Utahraptors were depicted assaulting an Astrodon in an Early Cretaceous plains landscape. Since then, numerous other images that are very much alike have shown up in random places. This is one such imitation of Rey's painting. It is a little less earthy in its color tones and has a bit more of a motion blur added to the fast pace of the action that is taking place whereas Rey's painting is like a well focused freeze frame of life in action. Additionally, Rey's image is a little outdated in terms of feathering in relation to maniraptoriformes and theropods whereas this image is done in what we can consider the latest scientific based style of feathering on a deinonychosaur. This Astrodon appears to be running away with the Utahraptor (I assume it is a Utah raptor with an adult or near adult Astrodon) rather than dashing it against the trees in the scene or tossing it away from its body, which could be disastrously dangerous considering we can imagine the other Utahraptors slowing the Astrodon or this Utahraptor composing itself and doubling back on its body to attack the Astrodon. In the Early Cretaceous there would have been fewer large theropods that would have been willing to attack a full grown sauropod, but it would be refreshing to see that sort of image rather than more and more artists borrowing the "raptor pack" image from Rey with regard to Astrodon.

©Tuomas Koivurinne
Finally, I would like to end on a fun illustration today without having to think up possible destruction scenarios for fossils or trying to explain why they were grouped the way they were. I would also not like to describe more paleo-violence as I end our day of images. Instead, I offer up the artwork of one of my favorite amateur illustrators (and tattoo artists) in a proposed parental care situation, or potentially a herd caring situation depending on one's individual preference, depicting a young juvenile Astrodon playfully chasing the tail of a taller, and therefore most likely older, Astrodon. If that image does not make you smile look at it again. Also, notice the much more Brachiosaur like head on this image than on other images of Astrodon.

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