STL Science Center

STL Science Center

25 July 2017

Feathers on Paper Again

One of the original papers that describes and discusses Sinosauropteryx that we discussed and is worth bringing back immediately on this site: Ji and Ji 1996. Other articles that mention or describe Sinosauropteryx have been written since 2012, which makes because it is such an interesting and important dinosaur. Lingham-Soliar 2015 examines the postural stages of death in Sinosauropteryx. This paper describes three stages of the tail and neck as they assume what is known as an opisthotonic pose of the tails and necks. Studying the taphonomy of Sinosauropteryx is not all that has occurred in the last few years. Due to its important position as the first non-avian dinosaur positively sporting feathers, Sinosauropteryx has also been studied as a means of better understanding the evolution of the feathers. Studying the epidermis and dermis of the tail, Lingham-Soliar 2013 details the death pose (prior to his paper specifically on the death pose). Scaling and feathers and the fibers of the epidermis are all in play throughout this paper. Enjoy the reading this evening and learn some more about feathers and Sinosauropteryx.

24 July 2017

Videos Everywhere

There are a number of Sinosauropteryx videos all over the internet. There are, of course, the videos that have been shared on this blog first in 2012 and the one shown shared yesterday of the cartoon version of a Sinosauropteryx talking about itself and what it does on a daily basis; there is also a French version of the cartoon floating around. Today, rather than placing a tribute here or a random but newer collection of images we will watch some art as it's created. Gabriel Ugueto narrates his work as he creates it. Enjoy watching this illustration take shape. And color. And personality.

23 July 2017

Finding New Links

Dinosaur: ©Matt Martyniuk adapted under
Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
It has been just over five years since we discussed Sinosauropteryx prima. Since that time many other illustrations, links, and opinion pieces (as well as scientific facts) have been published online in one form or another. Sinosauropteryx is one of the more famous feathered Chinese fossils. It was originally unearthed and recovered from the Early Cretaceous soils rocks of northeastern China's Liaoning Province. The rocks it comes from are specifically Jehol Biota rocks of the Yixian Formation. This is the same group of rocks that have contained animals like Yutyrannus, Psittacosaurus, and Sinornithosaurus. Sinosauropteryx stands out among its rocky neighbors for a variety of reasons. The first obvious characteristic of this non-avian theropod is that it is a very small dinosaur. As we can see in this photoshopped image that originally appeared in the 2 May 2012 post on this site which approximates the height of the animal based on description and measurements of the fossil, Sinosauropteryx was a small dinosaur. That post does not mention that it is wise to assume the image is an approximation of measurements taken, but at less than 0.5 m tall, this image is within the realm of reasonable approximations for Sinosauropteryx. The second characteristic of Sinosauropteryx that is well-known is the fact that the animal was covered in what appears to be a down-like layer of feathers and was the first recorded non-avian dinosaur to possess feathers and to exhibit that characteristic clearly in its fossils.

Due in part to its fame as a small feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx is well known throughout paleontology and with the general public.This has led to more fact files, coloring pages, and other educational pages. The old links can all be found in this 2012 post. Additionally, I'm a Dinosaur has since produced (actually it appeared approximately six months after our posts here) a Sinosauropteryx episode of the popular cartoon. Enjoy the cartoon, the old links, and the black and white drawing/coloring page. There is a lot of new information to go over this week and this is a fairly good amount to start with on your Sunday.

21 July 2017

Gargoyles in the Woods

The most typical situation in which an ankylosaur is depicted is open plains or rocky habitat with woods in the background or, at most, the foreground. An ankylosaur like Gargoyleosaurus, however, requires a different background to live in. As we have learned, Gargoyleosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic which had an appreciably different climate and overall landscape than those seen around the Cretaceous members of the ankylosaur family tree. This scene of a bellowing Gargoyleosaurus in a small opening in a Jurassic forest is more accurate for the time period and where it lived than a wide open plain would have been. Those areas may have existed of course, but a dinosaur in an interesting scene rather than a wide open and low detail scene is not as exciting as seeing the vibrant scenery of the forest.

20 July 2017

Little Popularity

Gargoyleosaurus does not appear in many mainstream popular outlets at all. There are a number of books that mention Gargoyleosaurus in some capacity or another; however, none of these are exceedingly popular, mainstream, or well-regarded within the scientific community. Most of the books are actually short kids books about dinosaurs or generalized field guide-esque books that discuss the most important scientific aspects and discoveries of whichever dinosaur in particular. There are some video game references and toys and these appear in videos or on websites dedicated to toys and video games, not surprisingly. There is a rather interesting video worth sharing here that shows the resulting miniature 3D printed sculpture. Check out the detail here:

19 July 2017

Size of Early Ankylosaurs

Gargoyleosaurus was a somewhat smaller ankylosaur than its descendants and later cousins. Measuring in with a skull approximately 29cm (11in) long, Gargoyleosaurus' skull was approximately the size of a squirrel (minus the tail). The entire body of the dinosaur was estimated to be up to 4m (13.1ft). The largest Ankylosaurus were estimated to be as long as 10.6m (35ft); about 2.5 times the size of this early member of the family. Estimated weights, likewise, are radically different for this smaller ankylosaur. Gargoyleosaurus was estimated to weigh 1 tonne (2,200lbs) whereas Ankylosaurus was estimated to weigh in at approximately 6.8 tonnes (15,000lbs). Aside from the weight and absolute length of Gargoyleosaurus, the dinosaur was about the size of some common livestock. It could have certainly made an interesting large pet.

18 July 2017

Gargoyles Described

Skulls and postcrania in original descriptions are described together, but this does not mean that later in the research of any given taxa they may not be described separately in equal or greater detail and compared to diverse taxa. The original descriptive material pertaining to Gargoyleosaurus specifically refers to a description of a skull of a Jurassic ankylosaur (the article's title is indeed "Skull of a Jurassic ankylosaur") and does not mention the postcranial material specifically. Many years after this initial description, the pelvis received some individual detailed study and description. The love for the pelvis was part of a dedicated study of ankylosaur pelvic evolution and includes comparative descriptions of other ankylosaur pelves within the family tree. The paper contains a large number of figures showing these different pelves and how they are compared in the paper. Unlike the original description, this paper is open-sourced and therefore open to being read. The one paper significantly missing from reading that turns up on an initial search is a new description of the original materials. We can learn a lot from these two available descriptions, however, and will certainly make do with them.

17 July 2017

Gargoyles in Motion

Gargoyleosaurus is not much uglier than any other ankylosaurid dinosaur has been that we have looked at. Typically anything named a gargoyle or referred to as such is anticipated to have a disagreeable countenance; however, as we can see in this compilation of images, Gargoyleosaurus is not particularly hideous. The name instead refers to the gargoyle-like appearance of the skull rather than calling the animal itself grotesque. One of the earliest ankylosaurids, Gargoyleosaurus is extremely important in understanding the evolutionary history of the its entire lineage, and therefore we know a lot of facts about this large and interesting dinosaur. These facts can be found on sites like KidzSearch as easily as on the NHM of London's Dino Directory pages. Most of these, of course, are discussed in the video. The Dino Directory includes a nice little pencil drawing of the animal by Andrey Atuchin as well; always a nice little addition to a fact list.

15 July 2017

The Gargoyle Lizard

Gargoyleosaurus parkpinorum consists of two partial and undescribed skeletons as well as the holotype described by Carpenter, et al. 1998 (originally G. parkpini and edited slightly to the current form in 2001). The skeletons were recovered from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming. The known described material consists of a skull and the majority of the postcranial skeleton. These materials have been restored and a full skeleton is on display in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by "Firsfron" released under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

14 July 2017

A Pretty Site

A number of panoramas and beautiful illustrations have been made containing or featuring Pelecanimimus. Most of these show the animal in the foreground of the image even as a non-feature animal. The best of the non-featured Pelecanimimus illustrations are actually two Raul Martin illustrations. The first features Concavenator with a small herd or flock of Pelecanimimus in the middleground crossing the central river of the scene. The second Martin image centers on both Pelecanimimus and Goniopholis. In this illustration, however, Pelecanimimus figures in as a potential dietary morsel for Goniopholis. Pelecanimimus appears in more water filled scenes such as  Roman Garcia Mora's Baryonyx illustration; Pelecanimimus appearing in a shaded portion of the illustration and can be easily lost in its position in the foreground. The dinosaurs also appear drinking from a stream in an painting by Jose Antonio Peñas. The only high quality non-water filled illustration being shared today depicts a small flock of Pelecanimimus running in a Spanish desert and was created by Mauricio Anton. Check out all of these illustrations and enjoy the imaginative scenes.

13 July 2017

Pelicans and Video Games

Pelecanimimus may not be one of the most renown dinosaurs that has been described. However, it has been modeled, used, and shown in a number of different video games. The most popular of these is probably the currently popular Jurassic World game. That game is available through Facebook and on mobile devices and, with the popularity of the most recent movie, there are a lot of digital Pelecanimimus out in the world right now. This is reflected not only in the single 15 minute video above, but in the sheer number of videos from the game that appear online.

12 July 2017

Dewlap or Pelican Pouch

The gular flap of Pelecanimimus is a key character, in coordination with the unique dental structure it possesses, of what makes this ornithomimid special. The skull of Pelecanimimus, looking at the fossil material, does not clearly show the gular flap. The images may not clearly show this under normal light, but the illuminated fluorescent lighting that is shown in Perez-Moreno et al. 1994 does show that gular flap quite well. The point of the flap, either way, was under scrutiny for a while, but the general hypothesis that that gular flap was used to corral and capture food items, particularly fish. Possibly the most interesting aspect of this hypothesis is that the teeth are thought to have aided in the capture of fish and the gular flap area was to be used to store the fish. This use would be similar to that of a bird's crop. Pelicans use their gular flap in a similar fashion, but more often than not immediately swallow their meals of fish after grasping the fish using the tips of their bills. The hypothesized feeding habits of Pelecanimimus may have indeed mimicked those of pelicans but with teeth instead of simply the tip of the beak.

11 July 2017

Backwards Day

Some days I get Tuesday and Monday backwards. Therefore, today I will share some movies with everyone instead of papers (because I shared those on Monday instead). The first video that one can find online is a motion trial animation made by José Antonio Peñas. This animation is short, but shows a fairly accurate representation of Pelecanimimus running at a comfortable speed. It may not be top speed, but this Pelecanimimus is certainly running well and the motion of the animation is well articulated. The eyes are a little bit more bugged out than one would expect in an accurate reconstruction, but it makes it a little more interesting. The majority of other videos are tributes or video game clips. There is another video showing statuary that is highly inaccurate. We will stick with this singular video however.

10 July 2017

Teeth and Ornithomimids

Few ornithomimids have teeth and Pelecanimimus is the most renowned of all the toothed mimics. The dinosaur was originally presented in a short Letter to Nature as unique and multi-toothed Spanish dinosaur. The holotype consists of the anterior portion of a skeleton including the skull and all of the cervical vertebrae. This holotype is preserved on a slab that has been shown in the description paper under induced fluorescence. The fossil is accompanied by a hypothetical illustration of the animal. This recreation and the description of the original material are discussed in subsequent studies such as Allain, et al. 2014 which describes a number of European ornithomimosaurs. Prior to this, however, Pelecanimimus was scrutinized and praised for possessing mineralized skin and muscle in the fossil matrix. This discovery was described by Briggs, et al. 1997 which determined the validity of the materials and the presence of skin impressions in the slab in addition to the mineralized material attached to the skeleton itself.

09 July 2017

Pelecanimimus Facts Shown

Today please enjoy this WizScience video that sums up many of the facts that we know about Pelecanimimus. These facts are the same found on the few websites that mention Pelecanimimus, so therefore today, in the interest of time, consult the video first and conduct searches of the internet sparingly. Also, go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather (if you do not have beautiful weather enjoy what you do have!)

08 July 2017

Mimed Pelicans

The Early Cretaceous of Spain contained many animals, including the ornithomimosaurid Pelecanimimus polyodon described by Perez-Moreno et al., 1994. This ornithomimosaurid was slightly smaller than many other, later, members of its family, measuring in at approximately 2–2.5m (6.6–8.2ft). Hypotheses of the diet of Pelecanimimus are mostly centered around the idea of a piscivorous, or fish eating, diet. It has been hypothesized that this diet is plausible because Pelecanimimus possessed both teeth, rare for an ornithomimosaur, and the remains of a soft tissue gular flap. This flap of skin stretched between the mandible and throat, just as a very similar flap of skin does in modern pelicans. Instead of flying Pelecanimimus used its relatively long legs to run from danger.
Artist description: The carcharodontosaurid Concavenator corovatus ambushing the ornithomimosaurian Pelecanimimus polydon in the Early Cretaceous of Las Hoyas, Spain. ©Durbed "Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License."

07 July 2017

Unnamed Artists

A number of times in the past we have featured art by unknown artists and unnamed artists. Thankfully, for some of them, we have user names or some form of internet handle to use. This is true of the Polish artist Apsaravis, who created posted this image of a Dilophosaurus chasing a small Lesothosaurus across a Jurassic stream in Poland; this young woman from Poland pictures her homeland during the Mesozoic often in her creations. She describes the scene as the Early Jurassic of Sołtyków and larger theropod in the middle ground as "an early tetanurine theropod". Despite not specifically naming the sauropods in the background Vulcanodon, they are described as "Vulcanodon-like sauropods". Typically we show our animal of the week as the center piece of Friday's art, but this entire scene is somewhat majestic and wonderful; I could not resist sharing it with everyone.
©Apsaravis (

06 July 2017

Fat and Skinny Dinosaurs

Vulcanodon has been portrayed in many different ways since it was first discovered, recovered, and described. These include the skinny, emaciated, Vulcanodon that is shown on Prehistoric Wildlife;  you may have seen this on Sunday. Also included in the grand menagerie of Vulcanodon images are far more healthy looking, or less emaciated appearing, at least. The animals of the JuraPark in Solec Kujawski, Poland are somewhere between emaciated and very well fed (i.e. "healthy"). There are mentions in books, as noted on a previous day this week as well; however, enjoy this herd that resides, and is very popular, in the well known JuraPark.

05 July 2017

Happy 4th

While much of America was setting off or watching fireworks, I considered writing Tuesday's entry, then became exhausted and obviously did not. I did begin the search for papers about Vulcanodon and it was a search that turned up a few interesting results. The first thing that stands out is that the original description by Raath is not available online; this is not abnormal of course with older publications. A secondary assessment of the remains and description of the phylogeny of Vulcanodon by Michael Cooper can be found online and does tell us a great deal about the the dinosaur. Many other papers mention the dinosaur sparingly or only briefly; this does not inform us about much about Vulcanodon.

03 July 2017

Short Tributes

Vulcanodon deserves to have been in some documentaries or at least should have shown up in a cartoon by now. The Early Jurassic of Africa, in all honesty, deserves to have been better documented than it has been thus far in the history of dinosaur documentaries and cartoons; there is a lot of flora and fauna from that time that is interesting. However, back to Vulcanodon, there are a few sped up drawings of the animal on YouTube and a very few tribute videos. Since it is movie Monday, though, we will share one of those tribute videos. This video possesses the fewest questionable images (with sauropods there are inevitably a few images that are mislabeled). The music accompanying the video is tolerable as well; we have seen some that are better muted, we can admit that.

02 July 2017

Alphabet Dinosaur

The letter V is often filled in by Velociraptor but at least one child directed resource has used Vulcanodon as its letter V. In terms of videos and alphabet issues, we will dig up only the WizScience video and that only because it presents a nice summary of all of the pages that we typically share here on Sundays. These pages include sites like KidsDinos, which presents a short written summary of some of the information that we know about the Early Jurassic African dinosaur. This contrasts with sites like the Natural History Museum of London's Dino Directory which presents short facts along the side without excessive text otherwise. More extensive than both, and possibly even more extensive than the Wikipedia article that was written about the dinosaur, is the Prehistoric Wildlife page for Vulcanodon. This page presents the same facts and then describes the dinosaur in extensive details. It is a bit of a read, but well worth doing so for blossoming readers and dinosaur enthusiasts.

01 July 2017

Volcano Tooth

Welcome to July one and all. We are going to start one of the hotter months of the summer here in the Northern Hemisphere with an early sauropod that has a name that sounds fairly hot. Volcanodon karibaensis of the Early Jurassic was discovered in Rhodesia in 1969 (presently known as Zimbabwe) and described by Michael Raath. Raath, as a side note to the dinosaur, famously described many fossils from Zimbabwe during the 1960's (1969 was an especially prolific year for Raath) from the Port Elizabeth Museum of South Africa and many southern African dinosaurs are known to science due to his descriptions. Vulcanodon was a moderately sized early sauropod at 11m (35ft) and was an obligate quadruped; some contemporaneous early sauropods were still considered to be facultatively bipedal. Vulcanodon, though had limbs that were not entirely consist with later obligate quadrupedal sauropods. This little known, but very important, early sauropod will tell us a lot about Jurassic Africa and the history of sauropods.
©Nobu Tamura

30 June 2017

Fantasy and Dinosaurs

©Elise B (Elisetrations)
As we all know, fantastic representations of dinosaurs are often not scientifically accurate or exaggerate some of the most interesting details of the dinosaurs that best accent the points of the fantastic representation of the dinosaur that the illustrator wants to convey. In this illustration,  the fantasy is that of a lovable pet dinosaur, or companion dinosaur may be a better term, for a happy little girl in a pastel yellow dress. The real estimated size of Chaoyangsaurus is actually fairly well represented by this interpretation of the dinosaur, though it could be said to be a small exaggeration of this estimation. This is, of course, assuming that this little girl is approximately 5 or 6 years old and of average size for a young lady of this age. Regardless, the hypothetical quill knobs seen in the earlier posted Tamura illustration are repeated here along the dorsal aspect of the most rostral tail and the head of the animal is slightly more generically fashioned as an ornithischian head than as a ceratopsian line dinosaur; this is possibly more appropriate for the animal however. The image is striking in its simplistic lines and colors, though, and the fantasy of a dinosaur and young girl sitting by a stream is somewhat intriguing.

29 June 2017

Making It Famous

Sometimes dinosaurs with very little material seem to be much more hyped than they deserve, but when the animal is as important to the evolutionary history of its line as Chaoyangsaurus is it is not much of a stretch of the imagination that the dinosaur deserves to be popularized in both the media and the professional paleontological community. The importance of the low-yield of material attributed to Chaoyangsaurus is not only in showing that our world hosted many different sizes of dinosaurs, but also in what is arguably the more relevant capacity of showing another link in the family history of ceratopsian dinosaurs and effectively enhancing our knowledge of their similarities and differences with their nearest cousins. This includes dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus. Though Chaoyangsaurus is a very distant relative, it certainly helps us fill in gaps in our knowledge. To that end, we have seen many attempts to understand the familial ties and to describe Chaoyangsaurus throughout this week that are impressive and have reached well into the professional, amateur, and general public arenas. There have not been cartoons or feature length movies, these arguably help the most to interest the general public, but there have been news stories and books like New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. This book is a very technical tome of scientific presentations, but as a member of the general public, then an amateur, and now an in training member of the professional field, I can say that books like this generate a lot of interest in certain people around the world. Never underestimate someone that is keenly aware of what they want to learn and their ability to learn it in formal and informal settings; dinosaurs like Chaoyangsaurus that are less visible to the public than Tyrannosaurus but still are well known names with children (and it is, strangely and almost frighteningly) prove this mindset.

28 June 2017

The Face of Chaoyangsaurus

©Jamie A Headden
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
The type material of Chaoyangsaurus consists mainly of dorsal cranial material including the mandible. There are are also some shoulder girdle materials and cervical vertebrae. The skull elements, particularly the maxilla and the mandible, contain the characteristics that associate the small dinosaur with its descendants, the ceratopsians. The teeth possessed similar wear patterns to those seen in definitive early ceratopsians and psittacosaurs like Psittacosaurus. The snout of Chaoyangsaurus and its jugals are also similar to those in ceratopsians. The jugal bones are a set of bones in the "cheek" of ceratopsian dinosaurs that give the larger dinosaurs their characteristically pointy jowls. Phylogenetic analyses taking these and many other characteristics into consideration in the original paper placed Chaoyangsaurus into a polytomy with Psittacosaurus and the base of the ceratopsian family tree proper.

27 June 2017

Chaoyangsaurus and the Ceratopsians

Chaoyangsaurus was initially described in 1999 by Zhao, Cheng, and Xu in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology as an early ceratopsian from Liaoning, China. Their description included detailed maps of the region from where the fossils were recovered as well as detailed photographs of the type materials. Many of the remaining papers that reference the animal are more about the origins of ceratopsians and characteristics of the family that started showing up in animals like Chaoyangsaurus. These studies that mention the dinosaur include Xijin, et al.'s Houcheng Formation ceratopsian as well as Xu, et al.'s description of early ceratopsians and discussion about Liaoceratops. These discussions of the evolution of ceratopsians occur frequently in research and often discuss animals like Chaoyangsaurus, though not always of course, because the evolutionary history of ceratopsians is complicated and loaded with taxa.

25 June 2017

Tiny Facts

Chaoyangsaurus is one of the smaller dinosaurs we have discussed here and it has smaller facts and yet the same amount of fact pages as many of its larger ancestors, descendants, and contemporaries. These pages vary considerably but the information is generally similar or at least presented in ways that are appropriate for their target audiences. The most simplistic of these pages, as it always is, because the Natural History Museum of London wants to convey information as quickly and as easily as possible. Their page on Chaoyangsaurus is supposed to have a nice simplified line drawing of the dinosaur, but it is not loading for me today. Hopefully this simplified version of the dinosaur will load for other people. Prehistoric Wildlife, meanwhile, does not have any illustrations, but does augment the listed information with a very short written description of the animal. The Dinosaur Database takes both approaches and makes a single page with short written descriptions (shorter than Prehistoric Wildlife) and two different interpretations of Chaoyangsaurus. The two interpretations show the dinosaur as a typical, old school, taut skin reptile and the second version is actually the image shared yesterday. Despite this shorter interpretation of the facts, the pages all together paint a fairly complete picture of the dinosaur.

24 June 2017

Before Horned Dinosaurs Got Ugly

Ceratopsians are interesting in their own right and some might even say that they look rather interesting. Prior to the evolutionary shift that leads to ceratopsians proper, a small ornithischian ancestor with a skull that shows some characteristics of basal ceratopsians without fitting into that family due to other, more differential, characters, was running about in the undergrowth and under the feet of giants. Chaoyangsaurus youngi Zhao, Cheng, and Xu, 1999 was named for the Chaoyang area and specifically after the Chinese paleontologist C. C. Young (Yang Zhongjian). Measuring in at approximately 1.1m (a little over 3ft), Chaoyangsaurus inhabited the Late Jurassic of China and is often depicted as a bipedal herbivore with (hypothetical) quills along the tail and caudal portion of the back. The speculative nature of this illustration is one of the first things that the artist acknowledges about the work but it also poses some interesting questions for us this week.
©Nobu Tamura

23 June 2017

Illustrated or Not

As usual this week, this entry is a little shorter than our typical entries for any given subject. As interesting as illustrations about Triassic subjects can be, especially considering the majority of these animals that are illustrated are early dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that do not look much like what people expect dinosaurs to be are intriguing and sometimes confusing to many people; this is a conversation I have had many times over with random people. One of the more interesting illustrations that does exist of Efraasia is slightly older and depicts Efraasia walking almost quadrupedally, but with its hindlimbs in a position that suggests bipedal locomotion. This illustration, like all the other illustrations of Efraasia simply depicts the animal as is by itself and without any kind of background. This version of the sauropodomorph is simple, but does have odd fingers, and is somewhat salamander like in its general appearance.

22 June 2017

Size of the Dinosaur

Efraasia was originally considered to be a small animal, based on fragmentary remains that could not be assembled extremely well, but it was later realized that the animal was much larger than believed. The estimated larger size is approximately 6.5m (21 ft). The dinosaur was still small for its size, but by small we mean gracile and lightly built rather than short or thin. The gracile hands and feet of the animal could be used to imply facultative quadrupedalism, though this is also implied by the fact that may other very early sauropodomorphs were known to be capable of moving bipedally and quadrupedally equally well. Poor pronation of the forearm, as some have hypothesized, may have limited Efraasia as an entirely bipedal dinosaur. Its gracile hands and digits were probably quite capable of grasping food items (and predatory animals and intraspecific competitors) which could then enable it to better survive its environment by adapting its diet (and defending itself more capably).

20 June 2017

Writing in Efraasia

We mentioned a number of articles, descriptions, and re-descriptions of Efraasia and thankfully there are a lot of examples of this writing hosted online in many different places. Only one of these writings is entirely about Efraasia and that is the Galton 1973 article that was previously described here. The paper (hosted on Springer's site), as many may remember, re-described a number of specimens collected by Eberhard Fraas and reassigned these specimens to a new genus named after a contraction of the collector's name; Eberhard Fraas was turned into the name Efraasia minor in this dinosaur.

19 June 2017

Efraasia in Motion?

Unfortunately Efraasia never made it, yet at least, into any documentaries, cartoons, or movies. There really are not too many movies that use Triassic animals though, so the fact that it has not been in any movies is a little less surprising than the idea that it has not been in any documentaries. Cartoon dinosaurs are typically the more famous of the dinosaurs, so its exclusion from cartoons is equally anti-climactic. The only other video online, actually, is from a young man reading about and discussing Efraasia from Stephen Brusatte's published dinosaur field guide. Barring any other videos, which I would gladly post, here is the single video that is out there:

18 June 2017

A Known Dinosaur

Efraasia is a well known dinosaur and has some of our typical webpages (e.g. Prehistoric Wildlife and Dinosaur Facts) to share facts about this sauropodomorph. These facts are read over a great set of images in the following WizScience video.

17 June 2017

Lesser Sauropodomorphs

Efraasia minor (von Huene, 1907–1908) was a gracile middle-sized sauropodomorph of the Late Triassic of Germany. The name was not actually coined by von Huene, despite the fact that he originally described the fossil remains. The name von Huene gave the remains was Teratosaurus minor; this genus is a group of rauisuchians, which Efraasia was deemed to not be a member of. The name we use was coined by Peter Galton in 1973 when he reassigned a number of specimens to the new genus named after the collector of the specimens, Eberhard Fraas. Estimated at approximately 6 to 7m (20 to 23ft), Efraasia is a respectable size for its time and place, but, as we can see, it appears to have been a rather generic looking early dinosaur; however, it is a generic dinosaur that stands out for a number of reasons that we will discuss this week.

16 June 2017

Plain Illustration

Most of the illustrations of Tarchia are fairly plain. These are mostly lateral views of the dinosaur in a static posture that shows a lot of what the dinosaur could have looked like from the side. There are not very many dynamic poses that are out there of the dinosaur that show it by itself, but this is also okay. One of the best piece of art I have actually found relating to Tarchia is a statue. The statue is a scale model of both Tarchia and Tarbosaurus engaged in one of those epic dinosaur battles that has long captivated the public audiences. The art is a collaboration between Vladimir Trush and Vitaly Klatt. Trush appears to have sculpted a number of Tarchia inspired statues.

14 June 2017

Thursday Already

The material of Tarchia is terribly incomplete to the point that size estimates of the animal are based on completely different animals, have been estimated from the smallest known remains at times, and have been independently made but not verified across a number of sources. This has made the dinosaur difficult to model in a popular context without arbitrarily picking one or another size estimate as the size of the model that will be illustrated, animated, or sculpted. It is partially this reason that there was no animated Tarchia until Dinosaurs Alive! was produced and other ankylosaurs of Mongolia were used in previous videos and films depicting that area of the world and its dinosaurs. Looking at these various estimates of size, however, Tarchia may appear to either have been the longest of Mongolian ankylosaurs with an estimated length of 8m (26ft) or a modest 4.5m (14.8ft). The upper estimate of 8m places Tarchia in the same size category as Ankylosaurus whereas the 4.5m estimate is within the range of Nodosaurus sized ankylosaurs. Basically this means that Tarchia was either a typically sized, though longer than any other Mongolian, ankylosaur or it was a smaller member of the ankylosaur family. This is important to our discussions on popular culture because the Tarchia model used in Dinosaurs Alive! appears to be of a similar size to the Tarbosaurus it is shown fighting. Tarbosaurus measures in with a range from 10m to 12m (33ft to 39ft) and even at its largest estimates this would be oversized for Tarchia.
Larger Size Estimate

Smaller Size Estimate (image by Conty)

13 June 2017

Discussing the Skulls of Ankylosaurs

There are a number of articles and citations for Tarchia. There are a lot more citations than full articles online, but there are still articles that discuss the dinosaur, so those that learn by reading are not at any kind of disadvantage this week (i.e. there is plenty of material to read and learn from about Tarchia). The most important and useful articles that exist online as full articles are possibly the most important articles in the current body of literature for Tarchia outside the initial description by Maryanska. The first is the description of the junior synonym Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani which describes what the authors (Miles and Miles) interpreted as a unique and novel cranial structure unknown before the discovery of these remains. The second article linked here today is the Arbour, Currie, and Badamgarav, 2014 that re-describes both Tarchia and Minotaurasaurus (as well as many other ankylosaurs of Mongolia) crania interpreting similarities, differences, and variations within the genus. It is worth noting that these authors mentioned that Minotaurasaurus is a fossil lacking provenance and was purchased at a mineral and gem show but has been hypothesized to have been recovered from Mongolia by Dalton 2009. The authors consolidated Minotaurasaurus as the same species as T. kielanae, but they did interpret the remains of another animal, Dyoplosaurus giganteus, as similar enough to belong to the same genus and redesignated the animal as T. gigantea; I have not looked up how this species was erased from the taxonomy so cannot offer more as to why it is no longer included in the Tarchia family tree.

12 June 2017

The Quiet Documentary Star

Despite the seemingly forgotten nature of Tarchia after the first decade or so of its known existence, that is to say after it was initially described, Tarchia managed to remain known enough that it was featured in a documentary in 2007. The IMAX movie Dinosaurs Alive! looked at the Triassic fauna of New Mexico and the Cretaceous fauna of Mongolia. The Mongolian desert scenes lean heavily on Tarbosaurus, but in its treks the large tyrannosaurid runs into a Tarchia. No hilarity ensues, but a short altercation does and it ends with Tarchia knocking Tarbosaurus off its feet and sending it into the sand.

11 June 2017

Tarchia Facts

Here is a video full of facts about Tarchia today. There are also a number of websites that contain facts about this strangely little known ankylosaur; I say strangely because during the first decade after its description Tarchia was actually fairly popular. These include ThoughtCo, the Natural History Museum of London, and Prehistoric Wildlife.

10 June 2017

Back to Tanks

©Nobu Tamura; listed as Minataurasaurus
The name Minataurasaurus is a fairly awesome name, in my opinion. Unfortunately it has been recently decided that Minataurasaurus is a junior synonym to an ankylosaur described by Osmolska in 1977 known as Tarchia. There are two species in this genus; Tarchia kielanae Maryanska, 1977 and Tarchia teresae Penkalski & Tumanova, 2016. Overall Tarchia is a fairly typical ankylosaur but the holotype name references a somewhat unique feature of the animal: a larger brain than other ankylosaurs. This may be in the eye of the beholder (Maryanska) or it may be supported by the remains of the animal; hopefully this will be something we can address later this week. The generic name comes from the Mongolian word for brain, tarkhi, and the scientific name refers to a part of the name of the leader of the 1970 Polish-Mongolian expedition that discovered the fossil, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska.

08 June 2017

What Makes A Dinosaur Popular?

Since the discovery of Citipati it has been a bit of media darling and a very popular dinosaur with the general public. The dinosaur has appeared in books and cartoons, documentaries, movies, and shorts, and has been a very popular subject for illustrations, toys, and statues. The dinosaur's name comes from a Buddhist deity, meaning that searches for either bring up the other, only increasing the search popularity of both. We could look at any number of these outlets and even talk about the Buddhist inspiration of the dinosaur's name, but instead, we can see here how others are envisioning the dinosaur as a video game character. It does have a rather dodo-esque bill here, but it is an interesting interpretation.

07 June 2017

Continuing From Last Week

©Edyta Felcyn (Apsaravis)
Continuing where I left off last week, we can see that Citipati continues to be an animal that is often illustrated and has been studied not only for its interesting anatomy but also its peculiar behaviors. As with many of its kin the oviraptors, Citipati was an apt nest-tender and has been discovered many on separate and independent times on, in, or around its nests. Its eggs have, likewise, been recovered on numerous occasions and have even revealed whole embryos as well as hatchlings. These embryos and newly hatched oviraptors began life little taller than the average human knee (assume your own knee is within an acceptable range and attribute height differences to variation; how unscientific of me!). The adults would have been approximately 3m long and, in natural pose, approximately 1.8m tall. Assuming that the growth of these young Citipati was somewhat quick, perhaps even rapid, the combination of quick growth and the known brooding habits of Citipati says an awful lot, as we saw in papers last week, about inferences made into the history of avian style brooding as it relates to and is evolved from this maniraptoran style of brooding. The nesting position is often depicted in a singular manner, and for those not aware, this looks very much like this first image. The second image is a slight alternative, but the difference in the two images is most likely a question of heating or ventilating the nest to maintain proper brooding temperature.
©Edyta Felcyn (Apsaravis)

30 May 2017

Citipati's Anatomy

The skull of Citipati is among the most iconic skulls of all theropods, if not all dinosaurs. This skull has brought about much interest and description. The original description of the material, of course, is online and is worth reading. The paper includes detailed photographs of the skull Citipati and a second description of another oviraptorid, Khaan mckennai. One of the original descriptions was published less than a year after the description of the original material as a re-description of the cranium by Clark, Norell, and Rowe with comments on another specimen, Oviraptor philoceratops. This paper contains a detailed description of the cranial material and multiple angle, well labeled, photographs of the holotype cranial material, skull and mandible, that are very helpful for understanding the overall anatomy of the skull. The publication also includes CT scans of the material. Beyond the anatomy, Citipati has been used as a basis for parental care in dinosaurs and to explain the origins of avian parental care. Their nesting and parental care has also served as the base for growth studies in nesting dinosaurs. The reason that there are so many studies of Citipati eggs, nesting, and growth is because there have been many finds of Citipati on their nests as well as eggs containing Citipati embryo without the parents found nearby.
Photo by Jordi Payà from Barcelona, Catalonia

29 May 2017

Forget Everything but the Short

There are a few mentions of Citipati in different documentaries and news stories, but rather than posting any of those today I think that the only video we need to really watch is a beautiful short showing Citipati. Unfortunately the entire short does not appear online. However, the trailer to the short (and the fact that it won an award) make me really want to find the entire film to share with everyone here. The film shows Citipati in an everyday-life situation that then gets turned upside down and shows Citipati in an environment that really evokes the namesake of the dinosaur; the Buddhist protector deity and "Lord of the Crematorium" Citipati. Please find the trailer, posted by the creator Andreas Feix, below, and take a moment to enjoy the film that you can see. I hope to hear from Andreas to be able to share the full short with everyone soon.
Citipati (2015) - Trailer from Andreas Feix on Vimeo.

28 May 2017

Podcast Win

Despite the well-known nature of Citipati it is probably important to note that the dinosaur is still relatively new in terms of dinosaurs and their presence on the internet. There are news stories floating around and a number of other assorted websites that specifically mention Citipati. These include sites like Prehistoric Wildlife, the Natural History Museum in London, and the I Know Dino website. However, to get right at the crux of the Sunday theme, we can turn to the I Know Dino Podcast, rather than just using their website as a source, to summarize the majority of websites.

27 May 2017

Another Missed Dinosaur

I truly love finding that I have somehow overlooked a dinosaur that I am and have been aware of for quite some time. This week that dinosaur that I suddenly remembered existed is Citipati osmolskae. Citipati is one of the better known oviraptorids and one of the most iconic members of its family. Possessing a crest on its forehead and a beak characteristic of other oviraptorids. Probably covered completely in feathers, Citipati was a large dinosaur at approximately 3m (10ft) long and were the largest members of their family known between 2001 and 2007. Clark, Norell, and Barsbold named Citipati (Hindi for funeral pyre) after the highly successful paleontologist Halszka Osmólska of Poland. Osmólska was a prolific discoverer and describer of oviraptorids and theropods of Mongolia where Citipati was also discovered.
Display from "Dinosaurs. Treasures of Gobi Desert" in CosmoCaixa, Barcelona.
Photo by Eduard Solà

26 May 2017

Polacanthus Presents Itself

©Rodrigo Vega
There are a number of different interpretations of Polacanthus in a number of different views. There are also a number of different actions being undertaken by these interpretations of Polacanthus ranging from sleeping to evading and actively engaging predatory dinosaurs or intraspecific rivals. The type of action in which the Polacanthus in any given interpretation does not necessarily relate how intriguing or impressive the individual piece is; a sleeping Polacanthus has exactly as much potential as a running animal. I would actually go so far as to say that the sleeping Polacanthus image shared here today is almost more dynamic than the second image.Rodrigo Vega's sleeping Polacanthus is the centerpiece of a rather dark image. Two small Hypsilophodon occupy the cliff protecting the large sleeping ankylosaur from above. The Polacanthus itself is quiet and almost appears to be somewhat contemplative. Though I have described it as asleep, it almost appears awake but with its eyes closed which is a very real possibility of course. This, like many ankylosaur illustrations, is a solitary animal living a lonely life. The Hypsiolophodons above the animal may have acted as a portion of a surrogate herd, as animals like Polacanthus are hypothesized to have lived solitary lives except at points where they needed to be around their own kind (i.e. during mating seasons). There is the possibility that this kind of behavior would be related to poor eyesight  on the part of the ankylosaur; essentially it would have used its non-conspecific herd members as its eyes to be aware of predatory dinosaurs.

©Will Brennan
This could be the exact circumstance of the second illustration of a much more awake Polacanthus. This Will Brennan image might be portraying a similar herding behavior in which Polacanthus has adopted a group of Iguanadon as surrogate herd members in the place of other Polacanthus (and smaller animals like Hypsilophodon). The Polacanthus in this image is actually a part of the foreground and is a secondary character of the image. The illustration itself draws the eye to the center with the light in the distant forest and the central Iguanodon braying or calling the herd together. Assuming that the herd is being called together and Polacanthus is a member of the herd that understands this call, that would mean that are smaller ankylosaur was willing to separate itself from the herd in deeper woods, allowing the safety of numbers to be minimized in this situation.

All of these interpretations are, of course, my personal speculation based on the speculation of artist interpretation of events that may or may not have occurred and may or may not have some kind of scientific evidence underlying them. The most important thing to do with these illustrations is to enjoy them, appreciate them, and create your own ideas about what is happening in them.

24 May 2017

Pelvic Polacanthus

Tuesday there was a paper describing the pelvic armors of different ankylosaurs and Polacanthus was one of the ankylosaurs that was specifically mentioned because it possessed very unique pelvic dermal armors. Most ankylosaurs have somewhat uniform sheets, scutes, or patches of dermal bone that protect their dorsal surfaces. Polacanthus also has dermal armor along its back; however, the dermal armor along the pelvic region is uniquely constructed and protective of the dinosaur's pelvis and hips. Assuming that, as many ankylosaurs are thought to have defended themselves, Polacanthus made itself small when threats loomed, making it difficult to get at its soft underbelly, the expansive pelvic armor was capable of protecting the hips of the animal quite well as it would have served as an armored roof to that area. In many illustrations it appears as though the hips are still exposed (such as that below); however, in the skeletal reconstructions of Polacanthus we can see fairly well that the actual hip socket lies medial and ventral to the armored shelf of bone resting on the pelvis. In some line illustrations this has been exaggerated slightly, such as in the Nopsca drawing which pulls the shelf more laterally than some others, but these small errors in representation do not change the fact that the armored shelf protected the hips of Polacanthus very well and probably kept the dinosaur safe from most direct bites, slashes, and kicks to the hindlimb which, as we saw with Edmontonia, was most likely used to pivot the front shoulder spikes of Polacanthus in threatening displays or actual offensive strikes at rivals and predators.
©SADistikKnight (Robert)

23 May 2017

Polacanthus the Printed

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of papers on the armor of Polacanthus and its configuration. Of course, we should start with the original descriptions of Polacanthus fossils but there is only one of those available online. The first few description papers are short and largely unimportant; however, Hulke's 1881 description, featuring a number of quality line drawings of the known fossils to that time, is online and is worth reading. This was followed up approximately 20 years later by a review of English dinosaurs by Franz Nopsca with a dedicated chapter and new descriptions of Polacanthus. This trend of description has continued off and on through a number of different publications, researchers, and specific foci of research in general. The latest descriptive paper of Polacanthus actually describes a number of ankylosaurs and, specifically, focuses on the pelvic armor and its variations across all ankylosaurs.

22 May 2017

Park Darling

Polacanthus has appeared in a number of documentaries (including two episodes of Walking with Dinosaurs) as a major figure. However, the bulk of non-amateur created videos of Polacanthus are documented interactions of visitors to animatronic dinosaur parks with the statues at the parks. Not all of these moving statues are accurately built, meaning there are a lot of versions of this dinosaur at parks and "fossil zoos" that do not accurately portray the animal. The best model is the one shown below, though this clearly has some interesting individuality sculpted into it.

21 May 2017

Learn Your Polacanthus

Polacanthus is a bit more popular than a large number of other ankylosaurs and, by being one of those more famous and known dinosaurs, has a lot more pages and videos dedicated to it online than others. These include sites like KidsDinos and Age of Dinosaurs. As we know, most websites contain similarities and work with the same set of information to build their fact files and paragraphs of information. The same can be said for most videos. The prime example of this is the WizScience video series that relates the same information over a series of images of the fossil animal in question. Strangely, there is no cartoon for Polacanthus like the I'm A Dinosaur series; given its popularity this is a little strange.

20 May 2017

More Ankylosaurs

During the past week I made mention of different types of ankylosaurs including their namesake group, nodosaurs, and polacanthids. This week to continue painting that picture and better understand what makes each kind of ankylosaur fit into that familial relationship, we will discuss the polacanthid Polacanthus foxii, the namesake of its subfamily. Polacanthus was originally discovered by the Reverend William Fox of the Isle of Wight in 1865; hence the specific epithet. This came about because the reverend, disliking a name given by Lord Alfred Tennyson (Euacanthus Vectianus), the first describer of the fossil, presented the fossil to Richard Owen with the new name in tow; this information is attributed to an anonymous pair of 1865 sources thought to be by Owen, Fox's own 1866 writings naming Owen, Huxley's 1867, and Hulke 1881. Regardless, Polacanthus was an ankylosaur of respectable size, measuring in at approximately 5 m (16 ft) and weight estimates of approximately 2 tonnes. Featuring armor and spikes similar to other ankylosaurs, Polacanthus was not a typical armored dinosaur and possessed unique armors, especially over the pelvis, that separated it from its closest relatives in unique ways.
Model in Sandown, Isle of Wight, Photo ©Henry Burrows

Special Edition - Save the Fossils and Their Land!

peak out for fossils! Executive order 13792 mandates a review of the boundaries of 21 US national monuments, including two whose express purpose includes protecting vertebrate fossils -- Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante. Both monuments are in southern Utah and both contain rich vertebrate fossil resources.

Please consider commenting that the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument should be maintained and and those of Bears Ears expanded.

Comment submission form:

Deadline for comments on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is May 26.

18 May 2017

Famous Dinosaurs

The popularity of Edmontonia is rooted mostly in its representation in the fossil record. Some very popular and well known dinosaurs have not been well represented in the fossil record, so we can certainly say that it is possible to be poorly represented but very well known. Edmontonia is one of those dinosaurs that is both well known and well represented. Due to this popularity it appears in video games, card games, documentaries (announced simply as "an ankylosaur" in the linked video), cartoons, books (too many to list), and almost any other medium one can think about. I like to share, when they are available, these images from information cards on dinosaurs because they re the kind of things that I used to love when I was a kid and really got me into dinosaurs (of course I am a huge nerd though). These summarize some of the things we know about Edmontonia at the same time as making the animal appear dynamic and interesting to people that would consider themselves dinosaur enthusiasts. They serve the purpose of a popular culture outlet in that way exceedingly well, and are therefore an important resource for popularity day here.

17 May 2017

Dermal Armor and Spikes

E. rugosidens, specimen AMNH 5665
Photo ©Shriram Rajagopalan from Vancouver, Canada
The armor of nodosaurs is generally similar across taxa with variation changing sizes, shapes, and numbers of plates and spikes depending on not only the genus or species, but also the individual animal. Edmontonia, for the most part as a genus, possesses armor that is constituted of flat, mostly smoothed, dermal plates starting with laid out rounded rectangles in organized rows from the neck into the tail. The skull and head lack dermal plating entirely. Over the pelvic and pectoral girdle the dermal plating is significantly different, making the armor patterns similar over the torso and abdomen and pelvis and tail. The torso and abdomen pattern consists of large oval plates guarding large areas of the rostral back (dorsum) of the animal whereas from the pelvis to the caudal-most plates the shape of the plates is more spherical and the shapes are more populated. This causes the armor to leave smaller gaps, possibly providing greater overall protection from crushing bites and injuries than the more rostral armor. The trade-off is in the sizes of spikes and mobility; not to mention Carpenter's hypotheses of sexual dimorphism and/or age as judged from the sizes of shoulder spikes. Nodosaurs do not have tail clubs like ankylosauridae genera nor do they have vertical spikes or sheets of armor across their pelves like some polacanthinidae genera. Instead, nodosaurs like Edmontonia possess large lateral spikes across their shoulders with smaller spikes trailing down to the pelvis, a trait that has led to many representations of nodosaurs hopping about to thrust their shoulder spikes at attacking predatory dinosaurs. The smaller links of armor around the pelvis would enable such movements as the plates would not take up as much space and could be compressed well as the animal twisted and turned. Additionally, the large plates could be similarly manipulated to manipulate the shoulders, but larger plates need more space between one another to move in a similar fashion, which could account, in part, for the large gaps between plates in the torso area. These large gaps could have also enabled the animal to look upward at a slight degree as the spacing between rows could be compressed as the head and neck pushed the extreme rostral rows of dermal plates back toward the shoulders.

Please remember that these are hypotheses based on looking at fossils, the papers of others, and generally restating shown interpretations of the animal already distributed via film and screen and that we still have many unanswered questions about these very interesting animals. When traits like spikes and armor plating are highlighted everyone automatically (it seems) thinks of two possibilities: defense or mating. The defensive capabilities of nodosaurs like Edmontonia are fairly clear in looking at the skeleton and associate spikes and dermal plates: a large, but squat, animal with hardened scales on its back and large sharp protrusions of bone was probably very good at getting low and defending itself regardless of how it actually managed it. If its shoulder spikes were used as offensive weapons they were probably used mainly to intimidate as they would otherwise need to be picked up, moved with speed, and very accurately aimed. Any movement that elevated and sped up the body of this animal would have left the unprotected underbelly exposed long enough that it could have been tragic. This leaves us with two possibilities, as I see it: Edmontonia was much more turtle-like in its defense of itself or it was a brash and intimidating animal that attempted to scare away predatory dinosaurs rather than actually fight them. Both of these possibilities are intriguing and the behaviors behind both could be fascinating. Please feel free to discuss the likelihood of either or both scenarios. I enjoy these kinds of conversations and thoughts.

16 May 2017

Edmontonia the Northern Dinosaur

Whenever we hear and see discoveries from the extreme northern or southern areas of the globe there is a certain amount of amazement not only because of the remoteness of the discoveries, but also because of the idea that dinosaurs lived in colder areas. This, of course, is regardless of the current climate in these areas. There are hypotheses of the climate, seasonal change, and temperatures of places like Antarctica and Alaska. These are discussed in the literature concerning Edmontonia on a fairly regular basis because many examples of the animal have been discovered at higher latitudes in both Canada and Alaska. New species of Edmontonia were hypothesized from Alaska during the 1990's, such as in this Gangloff article from 1993 calling the remains the first ankylosaur remains of their kind from Alaska. A great deal of the Edmontonia articles do not reach as far north but stop with remains from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, which has held a wealth of Edmontonia remains that have been recovered. This has led to many studies revealing more about cranial anatomy, flexibility in naturally occurring dermal armors, or even the teeth of Edmontonia (or whatever ankylosaur you are personally interested in).

15 May 2017

Watching A Drawing

Sometimes my favorite videos are not portions of documentaries or news stories. Some of my absolute favorites are actually sped up art videos. Whereas I have a few not-so-good documentary clips and one fairly nice time-lapse artwork image, I choose to share the artwork today instead of the weak documentaries. There are nodosaurs in documentaries that are based off of Edmontonia more than any other nodosaurs; however, given that these are only based on the dinosaur and do not expressly discuss the animal, the artwork video is still a slightly better choice for sharing today. Enjoy!

14 May 2017

Nodosaur Facts

For Sunday's fact entry, I am choosing to link a few videos. The I Know Dino podcast about Edmontonia says anything and everything I could in a nice quick format. I Know Dino is run by a team of dinosaur enthusiasts that has made digging up and presenting information about dinosaurs their number one goal.

The Dinosaur Diversity lecture in University of Alberta's Coursera lecture series also discusses, and shows, Edmontonia and the anatomy of the dinosaur. This lecture can be found here.

13 May 2017

Edmonton's Nodosaur

In the news lately there has been a lot of talk about a nodosaur mummy. This week, therefore, I thought it would be prudent to discuss a nodosaur, though honestly a totally different nodosaur than the fossil mummy. This week's nodosaur is known as Edmontonia and the genus contains two species: E. longiceps and E. rugosidens. Nodosaurs like Edmontonia were covered in osteoderms and armor that we will see plenty of this week. Known from materials originally discovered in 1915 from the Edmonton formation of Southwestern Alberta. Specimens have been discovered as recently as 2010 and the taxonomic history of the genus is interesting and complicated. A lot is known about Edmontonia and so we will have a lot to discuss this week, but before we do, appreciate some art based on the original finds.
©E.M. Fulda, 1922; based on the 1915 AMNH specimen

12 May 2017

A Busy Day

Yesterday was busy, so here is Friday's artwork on Saturday afternoon (I will get you all a new dinosaur/fossil within the next few hours). The artwork I shared the other day was a brilliant family portrait of a Troodon and three young animals on a beach. I could easily put another well done family illustration as there are plenty of them online; Troodon families are apparently a very popular motif in the paleoart world such as Blair Sampson's woodland family illustration. This extends not only to young animals but also to eggs and groups of adults as well. Groups of Troodon are, simply stated, popular topics for people to draw and paint. As long time readers know, I prefer well thought out or imagined artworks that challenge our preconceptions or show active and energetic animals. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Troodon images online that are one or the other but not very often both active and imaginative. This image comes from BBC's Prehistoric Planet, which shows the dinosaur in many active and imaginative situations. The feathering that was placed on this Troodon is rather extensive, but looks very well thought out, not simply plugged in to make a completely feathered dinosaur.
©BBC, Prehistoric Planet

11 May 2017

Seen on Video

Dale Russell and Ron Seguin, 1982 
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada
Troodon has appeared in so many popular venues from books to video games to movies to toys that it is nearly impossible to focus on any single area of the dinosaur's sphere of influence. Instead, we should look a little closer at Dale Russell's interpretation of Troodon evolution and the hypothesis of its continued and increasing intelligence. This hypothesized animal was dubbed Troodon sapiens by Russell and was given form by sculptor Ron Seguin in 1982. I remember seeing it when I was young and being impressed and a little confused. The idea that other forms of animals could take on humanoid forms in the course of their evolution was very odd but not out of the realm of possibility. An intelligent dinosaur, like Troodon, that had been able to evolve (without a major extinction event limiting them), would have potentially been capable of evolving large heads and changing their posture. Therefore, Russell's hypothetical "Dinosauroid Man" was not, and is not, actually all that bizarre. Though any dinosaurs, intelligent or otherwise, could have potentially evolved into more upright, tail-less, postures over millions of years. The fact that someone put that idea into a solid form and wrote a paper about that idea is bold, but that did not endear Russell to everyone. Though I do not know how controversial the "thought experiment" was or still is, it was apparently controversial enough that many disliked it. One of the chief complaints, and what makes it so eerie, is the extent of the antrhopomorphic characteristics of this evolutionary experiment. As I mentioned on Monday (or Tuesday because I mixed up my days), discuss this sculpture, but do not lose friends over it!