STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 October 2017

Papers for Halloween

Is there a better way to spend Halloween than reading papers about a fascinating and scary looking shark? There might be, but I am not going to tell you how to spend your evening. One could spend literally all night reading about Helicoprion; there is seriously that much literature out there on this very interesting shark. I will gladly pick out a few articles for everyone today though. First, I recommend reading both Chorn, et al. 1978 and Eastman 1900 for reviews of the early and more recent reviews of Helicoprion descriptions. Next, I would recommend reading Tapanila, et al. 2013. This study includes a CT image study of the tooth whorl and description of its anatomy and corrected placement in the mouth including a massive illustration of all of the hypothesized placements of the tooth whorl in recorded publications. Lastly, I suggest Ramsay, et al. 2015 which further explores Tapanila, et al.'s hypothesis, CT data, and compares Helicoprion with other genera of shark. This publication also discusses the overall morphology of the shark and how it went about using that tooth whorl in its daily life.

30 October 2017

Prehistoric Terrors

Helicoprion has appeared in a number of documentaries and has been mentioned in a number of shows that do not really concern the intriguing shark. This short clip from Animal Planet's River Monsters is the best clip available online from any of the documentary mentions of Helicoprion. It is also the only clip online other than the Discovery Canada clip shared yesterday. As a bonus, one can see a photo of a 3D printed tooth whorl on the River Monsters website for the episode Prehistoric Terror here.

29 October 2017

Scaring Children with Teeth

The teeth of Helicoprion can be somewhat frightening in a number of different ways. However, we should probably make sure that the kids in the audience are not frightened when they look at sites like Prehistoric Wildlife that showcase the teeth and the many different hypothesized alignments of those teeth over time. The number of alignments and positions of the teeth are actually somewhat amazing, all things considered; every idea that was put forth had those teeth in some interesting and new position in the body of the shark until their actual position was surmised in the last 50 years or so. In addition to the history of the teeth on Prehistoric Wildlife, there are a number of short informational videos and clips of longer documentaries from Discovery and Animal Planet that are worth checking out. This shorter clip from Discovery Canada goes well with the comprehensive fact page and leave us some other quality videos for tomorrow.

28 October 2017

Fearsome Sharks

©Nobu Tamura, 2016; most recent accepted iteration of whorl location
Few animals are as frightening to humans, as primates, as large oceanic predators. The diversity of sharks is such that we could discuss almost any member of the shark family and have a "scary" animal for the final full week of October. What most anyone would imagine is the obvious choice for a scary shark would is something in the Carcharodon genus; that being the group that contains C. megalodon (Megalodon) as well as C. carcharias (Great white shark). Instead, because it is one of the most interesting of the odd members of the shark family tree, this week we will discuss the genus Helicoprion. Contrary to most popular knowledge, Helicoprion is not a single species, but rather a genus consisting of 3 acknowledged and accepted species and 3 questionable species. These species are: H. bessonowi Karpinsky, 1899; H. davisii Teichert, 1940; H. ergasaminon Bendix-Almgreen, 1966; ?H. karpinskii Obruchev, 1953; ?H. mexicanus Mullerried, 1945; and ?H. svalis Siedlecki, 1970. Helicoprion is better known as the "tooth whorl" shark, owing to their unique spiral arrangement of teeth. The shark is known from global deposits spanning North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, but the cartilaginous elements of the skull, spine, and body are unknown because of their relative inability to fossilize well. The whorl of teeth was, because of a lack of associated material, at one time or another, thought to have been the nasal process, a throat structure, and teeth, of course, placed in different portions of the jaw. Different specimens are named from different regions and for having disparate tooth whorls; the only possible evidence for individual species given the lack of other skeletal elements for most of the specimens.

27 October 2017

Iconic Representation

Deviant Paleoart via Creative Commons
As I have mentioned a few times this week, there are many illustrations of Majungasaurus out on the internet for people to view and be entertained by. There are many images of the dinosaur running, such as this one (though it is a bit skeletal). There are also interpretations of Majungasaurus roaring, which look quite frightening, to smaller dinosaurs, and is somewhat stereotypical, but nonetheless, classic subjects of illustration. This version of the mouth open posture is simply showing an interpreted gape and the rows of teeth Majungasaurus had in its mouth, which is nice to see and a nice inset to the main illustration. There is even am illustration on the National Science Foundation page detailing the hypothesized air sacs of Majungasaurus. These are all well done and worthy of note, but whenever I think of Majungasaurus there is one very specific illustration that always comes to mind. The image, shown here, is a specific view of the head of Majungasaurus in high detail. We could spend a day discussing, critiquing, and appreciating all of the illustrations here, but instead, as I am backdating this entry, we will move on shortly.

26 October 2017

Majungasaurus Everywhere

Majungasaurus has been seen in many different forms of media for the past 60 years. Originally described by the French paleontologist Rene Lavocat in 1955, Majungasaurus was named as the dinosaur of the province it came from, Mahajanga in northwestern Madagascar. Lavocat's described remains were not the first remains described, but the 1896 description of theropod remains from Mahajanga were published as new remains of Megalosaurus by another French paleontologist, Charles Deperet. Given this extremely long history of remains, the amount of popular knowledge and subsequent popular culture references of Majungasaurusought to be much more extensive than it currently is, despite the mistaken name. Following the 1979 description of remains under the name Majungatholus atopus (Sues and Taquet) the dinosaur garnered more attention, as a pachycephalosaur, until its theropod and cannibalistic nature became more well known and widespread after the 1998 discovery of Majungatholus-like set of remains. Those remains were described and reassigned to Majungasaurus, with the name Majungatholus then synonymized with the older name.

Aside from the two documentaries shared earlier this week Majungasaurus has not appeared in many places on television or in movies. However, Majungasaurus has been illustrated many different ways by many different artists and has been written about many different times by many different authors. Majungasaurus appears in dinosaur encyclopedias aimed at kids, kids picture books, general dinosaur knowledge books, and even college level texts. Perhaps speaking even more to the popularity of Majungasaurus is the copious number of toys and models produced in different poses and from different molds.

24 October 2017

Papers Everywhere

Being an ugly cannibal dinosaur has its perks. In the scientific community it has perks at least. The number of papers written about Majungasaurus (including its synonymous genus Majungatholus) is very respectable. The paper regarding cannibalism was shared the other day, though if you cannot find it through an institution of your own it is difficult to find online. I would share it if I had permission to do so, unfortunately it is not my paper. I can point out some other good topics that have been covered though.

The interesting anatomy of Majungasaurus is discussed in detail in a 184 page special memoir entirely dedicated to Majungasaurus crenatissimus published through the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in 2007. A number of different topics including the appendicular skeleton, phylogney, dentition, and observed pathologies are discussed in the memoir. Particularly interesting to myself is an article on the craniofacial anatomy. The craniofacial anatomy of Majungasaurus is a defining feature of the dinosaur and is covered in depth in the memoir as well. Majungasaurus is a dinosaur with a lot of bumps and nodules on its skull that cause it to look somewhat terrifying and rather interesting at the same time. These morphological oddities have been discussed in passing a number of times by a number of different authors but Sampson and Witmer tackled the topic head on in the memoir The paper discusses the anatomy of the skull in light of a then newly discovered cache of skull material. This entire publication can be found at this link on BioOne, though access to JVP articles is regulated and available to members only without paying for individual articles. I understand that this does not help anyone access the articles mentioned here if they are not members, but this is a one stop source for Majungasaurus information. Those without access can find a similarly populated list here, but please be aware that the list is 5 years old and some links may not work.

23 October 2017

Cannibalism Imagined

Due to the highly publicized knowledge of cannibalism in Majungasaurus there have been multiple iterations of animated and illustrated versions of Majungasaurus engaging in cannibalism. As stated earlier in the week, the act of cannibalism is intriguing to many different people and that is why there are so many different interpretations. There are two different documentaries that have animated this behavior. The two documentaries independently portray active predatory situations wherein one Majungasaurus attacks and eats a second individual. This, as we stated before, is hypothesized and, while making for good television, is certainly not a guaranteed certainty. In the BBC documentary Planet Dinosaur the predatory cannibalism occurs when there is a shortage of food and two young animals are still hungry, prompting their mother to secure some kind of food for the young. The second, History's Jurassic Fight Club, approaches the subject in a similar manner. Instead, a solitary Majungasaurus eating a smaller dinosaur it has killed is confronted by another Majungasaurus looking to steal a meal. Fighting ensues and one of the animals ends up with two meals. The downfall of both documentaries is not in presenting hypothetical situations or imagining dinosaur fights (most dinosaur documentaries love doing these scenes) but instead in the fact that Majungasaurus was an abelisaurid and possessed very unique forelimbs and hands. The BBC version of the dinosaur is closer to the reconstructed skeleton, but is still a little wrong because the arms are still facing forward and in a "want to hug you" sort of posture.

22 October 2017

Cannibalism on Display

How do we know an animal that is now a fossil was a cannibal? As with much evidence of cannibalism, even in extant animals, we must look at the teeth, the wounds, and how these two pieces of evidence are correlated. In the past, ichthyosaurs (specifically Shonisaurus and the ichnospecies Ichthyosaurolites) and Coelophysis were suggested to have been extremely cannibalistic in their behaviors. A little over 11 years ago, the cannibalistic tendencies of Coelophysis were analyzed and refuted; the supposedly cannibalized animasl turned out to be a basal crocodile and outside of the body of the second Coelophysis specimen accused. Ichthyosaurolites, on the other hand, is an ichnospecies based entirely on ichthyosaur coprolites that contain the skeletal remains of other ichthyosaurs; the name literally means "ichthyosaur coprolite (fossilized feces)".

From Rogers, et al. 2003. Caudal tail chevron of Majungasaurus. White arrows indicate drag marks and black arrows indicate impressions initial biting marks from Majungasaurus teeth.
In the skull of Majungasaurus, the teeth are characteristically shaped, spaced, and serrated. All of these identifiers have helped paleontologists to recognize the marks of Majungasaurus feeding on a number of other animals from Madagascar. Chief among the animals possessing numerous bite marks from Majungasaurus teeth are the sauropod Rapetosaurus and Majungasaurus itself. No other theropods are known from Madagascar during the 70 - 66 MYA time frame during which Majungasaurus is known to have lived. This was used as the first inference concerning the tooth marks on Majungasaurus bones. This in turn led Rogers, Krause, and Curry Rogers to look at the teeth of Majungasaurus and at the marks that they had left on Rapetosaurus bones in 2003; Curry Rogers had led the description of Rapetosaurus in 2001. The initial bite marks that we see (look at the black arrows) are spaced and shaped identically to the teeth known from the multiple Majungasaurus skulls that have been recovered. The drag marks (white arrows) indicae areas where the serrated denticles have been dragged across the bones.

The first argument that is made here, often, is that the results of interspecies combat might look something like this. However, there are two important aspects of these wounds that make the case for cannibalism more compelling. The first is that these wounds show no sign of healing; the bone would have likely attempted to heal itself, at least, a little, after a traumatic bite in which humerous teeth insulted and scratched the bone deeply enough to clearly score the skeletal material. The second is that these chevrons, and many other limb and vertebral elements that also contain bite marks like these, are inaccessible during combat as they are in areas that could only be (easily) bitten when other elements of the body were exposed either through decomposition or predation.

The remaining question, however, is whether this cannibalism occurred as a result of scavenging behaviors or if Majungasaurus actively hunted members of its own species. The two activities have been documented in various extant species including lions and chimpanzees, so neither would be exceptionally abnormal or unique to Majungasaurus. For more reading on the exact findings of the Rogers, et al. team, read the following paper:

Rogers, R.R.; Krause, D.W.; Rogers, K.C. (2003) “Cannibalism in the Madagascan dinosaur Majungatholus atopus.” Nature, Vol. 422, pp. 515-518

21 October 2017

An Old Ugly Dinosaur

©Nobu Tamura
One thing that creeps into horror movies and the Halloween season every year is the act of cannibalism. There are cannibalistic animals throughout the animal world but it is a taboo in most human societies and that makes many of us cringe when we hear about cannibalism in animal groups. Dinosaur cannibalism is rarely documented, but one theropod is particularly well known for its cannibalistic behaviors. Majungasaurus crenatissimus was an abelisaurid theropod and the apex, and possibly only large, predator of Madagascar during Late Cretaceous. At the time Madagascar was already an island separated from both the Indian subcontinent and African continent. As the largest predator on the island Majungasaurus had only other members of its species to truly challenge its supremacy as a predator on the island. Whether these clashes led to the evidence of cannibalism or it was a result of scavenging we do not know. However, Majungasaurus' cannibalistic behaviors and its abelisaurid body plan and often craggy frightening skull morphology make this theropod one of the ugly and frightening fossil animals that deservedly we are discussing during October and during the week leading into the Halloween week.

20 October 2017

Portrait of an Ugly Therapsid

One of the best things about very odd animals is that they tend to inspire a lot of interpretations and illustrations because they tend to spark the imagination. Estemmenosuchus certainly inspires fantastical illustrations; Dinocephalian fossils have a tendency to inspire fantastical illustrations because a number of them possess very intriguing and unique skulls. The reconstructed skeleton of Estemmenosuchus is equally intriguing; we will not look at illustrations only today however.

©Dmitry Bogdanov
It is important to note that the realistic nature of illustrations can be affected by the type of illustration we are looking at. Dmitry Bogdanov's style, like Nobu Tamura's, is very soft and often portrays the animal in sterile conditions on white backgrounds; this is not true for all of either artist's illustrations. However, this is not detrimental to the art and, in fact, the implied simplicity of the illustration of this Estemmenosuchus uralensis alows us to more thoroughly take in the entire animal and appreciate the posture, the size of the head, and the stout character of the overall animal. Estemmenosuchus, as we knew before seeing the animal as portrayed here, was a sprawling and squat animal with large canine teeth, which are very visible here. This illustration is labeled as a male animal. The largest canines are used as evidence to support hypotheses of sexual dimorphism in Estemmenosuchus in at least one paper.

©Vladimir Nikolov
More realistic appearances of Estemmenosuchus are as reliant on a stark and bold illustration style as the first is on a softer and cooler colored style. These are most realized in the line drawings that accompany the description papers, but can also be found in the styles of artists like Raul Martin, Dinoraul, and Walter Myers. The illustration included here as a representative of the more realistic appearing (because of its hard lines and high contrast as well as lack of soft tones) was drawn by Vladimir Nikolov. The description of this piece by the artist states that the scene depicts two male members of the genus are engaged in territorial combat. The fierce looking faces and skulls of the animals were apparently not enough to warn one another off from actual physical fighting, as we see in many extant species today.

18 October 2017

Sprawling Horned Faces

From Chudinov 1965
Estemmenosuchus has a crown of horns. The crown of horns has been hypothesized to have been used for intraspecific signalling and display short of combat; combat with the horns was probably used as an absolute last resort by these animals. The reason that it would have been used as a last resort is that the horns were massive bone structures. Unlike antlers, horns are composed of bone and insult or injury to these structures can be much more traumatic to the animals than damage to antlers (injuries to antlers are serious of course though). The horns of Estemmenosuchus were composed of extremely thick outgrowths of the frontals and cause the skull to appear even more massive than it is. Known skulls of Estemmenosuchus are approximately 65 cm (26 in) in length. That is not the only thing that is large and unique about Estemmenosuchus though. This large therapsid (approximately 3 m  or 10 ft long) also had a sprawling posture; this is somewhat typical in therapsids and Permian reptiles as well. Some have used this sprawling posture as evidence for an herbivorous diet, saying that the sprawling posture enabled the animal to hold a large fermenting gut with more support than if it had a posture like cattle or a similar mammal; this seems less than ideal given what we know about extant mammals. The canines of Estemmenosuchus are used as evidence to a different, more omnivorous but not quite carnivorous, dietary regimen.

17 October 2017

Working Hard to Find Papers

Finding papers that are about, reference, or even vaguely mention Estemmenosuchus is actually a lot more difficult than I had initially thought it would be. The majority of the papers that make mention of the interestingly shaped therapsid are descriptions of faunal assemblages of Eastern Europe, Russia, or simply Permian fauna in general. These papers are exemplified online by Chudinov's (Tchudinov) 1965 paper Deinocephalians of the U.S.S.R. and Battail's 2000 paper A comparison of Late Permian Gondwanan and Laurasian amniote faunas. Chudinov actually described the two species of Estemmenosuchus in 1960 and 1968; these descriptions are not available online. Unfortunately, Chudinov's treatments of Estemmenosuchus are possibly the best and are certainly the best online at the moment.

16 October 2017

Ugly Animals Get All the Love

Whenever a fossil animal is bizarre enough to be a little scary or to be called ugly outright it appears to gather an awful lot of attention in the media and within the general population. Estemmenosuchus is an animal that exemplifies this sort of massive interest across the lines of professional and amateur as well as including the typically disinterested portion of the population. Despite knowledge of the animal and its respected, if not well known, existence in the fossil record, it has not made am impact in the animation or documentary community that typically brings dinosaurs and other fossil animals to life. A Permian Monsters exhibit was once outfitted with an animatronic Estemmenosuchus and Gondwana Studios captured the statue in motion and displaying all the small conical teeth it was installed bearing. Seeing an interpretation in action is important to understanding how scientists envision this animal moving around its environment, regardless of the actual motions that this statue is engaged in (what I mean here is that it is roaring and moving its head around perfectly well, but there is no locomotion aspect to the animatronics). Maybe someone should have suggested this rather intriguing animal for a role in the Walking with Monsters series from 2005. It would have been contemporary with other Permian animals like Gorgonops, Dimetrodon, and  Edaphosaurus, to name a few. Perhaps this age will be revisited by television and film, but until then the movies for Estemmenosuchus are sadly lacking overall.

14 October 2017

News Then Therapsids

In the somewhat recent past I  found myself thinking that perhaps we could use a name change here at Dinosaur of the Week. The fact of the matter is that we have covered a lot of dinosaurs and fossil animals in the past 7 years (give or take a week or two off a year for vacations and conferences we are talking about ~50 animals a year for 7 years) and the number of well known, well documented, and well represented dinosaurs have become rarer and rarer for us to cover. We could easily cover only dinosaurs, but there is a point, and we are very near it, where we will start to cover dinosaurs that are represented by singular fragments of singular bones and are highly hypothetical. In exploring other fossil animals we have extended the life of this blog beyond a few years and have been able to explore a much larger range of life on the history of this planet.

Why haven't we changed the name in all that time then? I have seriously considered it a number of times in the past year or two because I realize that we discuss much more than dinosaurs. There could be any number of good names: Fossil Animal of the Week, Extinct Animal of the Week, to name a few. So far I have decided that the fact that Dinosaur of the Week is acceptable as a name, though we could rebrand ourselves without losing an audience. The reason that I am reluctant to do so at the moment is that we have recently become more widely known. The site has been cited in scientific and educational presentations at conferences and it has been used in classrooms in public schools for an extended period of time. All of that said, should a name change occur, the change would be effected in the first week of the new year. This will give me time to make a final decision on a new name, how to rebrand the site, and to illustrate all of the necessary materials for the site. Now, on with the animal for this week:

©Roland Tanglao
Estemmenosuchus is a genus of Dinocephalian ("terrible headed") therapsid. Two species are known; E. uralensis Tchudinov, 1960 (type)and E. mirabilis Tchudinov, 1968. These two species are both known from the Perm region of Russia, an area near the Ural mountains in the center of the country. The name Estemmenosuchus means "Crowned crocodile" in Greek, but therapsids like these two species are actually mammals, and not at all related to crocodiles. A body measuring approximately 3 m (10 ft) that looked something like the body of sprawling hippopotamus was attached to this crowned reptilian looking head. Important questions remain: What are all of these growths made of? What were their purpose? What did this animal eat? What makes it a therapsid?

13 October 2017

On the Nest

©Maurilio Oliveira
Guidraco venator is unique among pterosaurs in a variety of ways. The teeth are actually somewhat common in earlier pterosaurs like Dimorphodon, but the size of Guidraco is more rare for a pterosaur with those type of teeth. In terms of interpretations of Guidraco the animal is unique in that many of the illustrations of this pterosaur do not take place in the air. A number of interpretations do show Guidraco flying but we have not seen any of it diving toward food items, taking off or landing, or participating in any visibly powered flight (i.e. there are no interpretations or illustrations that appear to be showing down or upstrokes of the wings more definitively than they depict soaring. There is nothing wrong with any of these depictions, of course. However, as with any other fossil animal we discuss here, we do like to see a little variation in how animals are depicted because we know that animals engage in dynamic behaviors throughout their lifespans. There are a number of illustrations and interpretations of Guidraco walking on the ground. These are interesting, but not as interesting as the illustration we are looking at today. This illustration combines some odd perspective (like the directly facing Guidraco) and the aforementioned not seen before act of feeding (look in the background) with the pose of a sitting Guidraco and different wing positions which are showing hints of powered flight. It may look as though I set that up earlier in saying that we had not seen those things until now, but an image search with those keywords actually seems to have turned in the perfect storm of an illustration which we should look at in great detail. The behaviors that were, until I found this image, uninterpreted or at least had not been illustrated, represent a substantial portion of the life history of Guidraco and the ideas hypothesized in these representations of their lives can, potentially, tell us a lot about the pterosaur. This illustration also tells us a lot about how the researchers interpreted the life history of Guidraco based on sister taxa and the fossil that was known to them when they described it.

11 October 2017

Mouth of the Dragon

Attributed to Feng Lan
Guidraco possessed approximately 82 teeth in its 38 cm (14.9 in) long skull. Both the mandible and upper jaw (consisting of maxillae, premaxillae, and nasals) were of equal length but the upper jaw contained 23 teeth on each side whereas the mandible contained 18 teeth per side. The first teeth in each row are held almost horizontal and, as the teeth are followed caudally in the mouth, they begin to curve more and point toward the open mouth; up in the mandible and down in the upper jaw. The mandible's rostral teeth are slightly larger than their counterparts in the upper jaw and for the most part the teeth are of similar sizes caudally. These forward most teeth come together, or occlude, in such a way that they form a basket of teeth and mouth which would have been very well suited to grasping fish and other "slippery" meals. The initial description makes mention of this dietary inference as well and leans heavily on the idea that this would have been the preferred diet of Guidraco.

10 October 2017

Describing a Dragon

The description of Guidraco written by Wang, et al. in 2012 is available online with 15 different websites hosting the article or links to the article. The phylogenetic relationships of Guidraco and other pterosaurs are briefly described at the end of the paper, but the most important portion of the paper is the actual physical description of the pterosaur. This description includes a number of high detailed photographs of the fossil as well as detailed line drawings that point out individual bones of the skull. That, in turn, informs an accurate reconstruction of the skull which also accompanies the description of the fossil. The postcranial skeleton is also described in great detail in the paper, but is not illustrated in the reconstruction, but is labelled in the initial line drawing and shown in the details of the photographs.

09 October 2017

It Flies, but it Doesn't Film

Guidraco is a very interesting animal with a scary set of teeth but it has garnered less attention than an animal this scary looking probably should be more involved in films, short and long. The only videos online that feature Guidraco are actually those that either describe toys based on the pterosaur or this WizScience video.

07 October 2017

Chinese Dragons

By Ghedoghedo - Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0,
Possessing a name that is actually based on Chinese and Latin roots, Guidraco venator sounds as though it comes from a deposit in the African country of Guinea or the Asian country of Papua New Guinea (or simply the island of New Guinea, of which Papua New Guinea occupies half the landmass). However, as it was mentioned, Guidraco is a hybrid Chinese and Latin name. The Chinese portion (gui) roughly means "Malicious ghost" and the Latin portion (draco) means dragon. This malicious ghost dragon is actually an Early Cretaceous pterosaur from northeastern China's Liaoning Province (origin of many flattened birds and other Jehol biomass) and consists of a single articulated holotype consisting of the skull a portion of the post-cranial skeleton. Pterosaur preservation is notoriously "slabby" so it comes as no surprise that Guidraco is contained in a thick and flattened slab of rock. The most interesting feature of this slab and its fossil is, I think we can all agree, the very strange looking dental hardware in the pterosaur's mouth. This arrangement has been seen many times in pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and fish. Every time we have seen this the number one prey item that is hypothesized for teeth like this is slippery wet animals like fish; we can learn more about this throughout the week!

06 October 2017

The Angry Squirrel Dinosaur

©Robinson Kunz
The vast majority of illustrations of Sciurumimus that we have looked at this week have portrayed this small coelurosaur as a very fuzzy and, honestly, a cuddly looking ball of adorable dinosaur. The truth is more than likely a lot less fuzzy and cute and a lot more predatory and periodically violent. The most realistic illustrations take into account the fact that Sciurumimus was a living, breathing, and hunting dinosaur that ate meat. This makes all of the feathery fuzziness on the caudal end of the animal a little more interesting, in my opinion. This feather covering would have kept Sciurumimus warm in cold times and, if the feathers were as short as they appear to be, would not be as well suited to being used for signalling as some other feathered dinosaurs' integumentary structures. The rostral portion of this particular Sciurumimus is all business and certainly predatory. The head is very much that of a predatory theropod and leaves very little question to the idea that this dinosaur was capable of hunting animals and making a meal of them.

04 October 2017

The Furry Tails

© Román García Mora
Feathered dinosaurs are nothing new. In 2012 they were not really all that new, though the number of theropod, non-avian, dinosaurs that we knew had feathers was on the rise and the evidence from the fossil record was becoming not just more numerous but also clearer. Fossils like Sciurumimus represented the clearness of fossil integument in ways that previous discoveries simply had not been able to. In part this new picture of feathers was due to new methods; in Sciurumimus those new methods included filtered UV light enhancing the micro-details on the slab of the fossil. One of the benefits of this method has been that the UV light enhances the collagen and feather filaments in different ways. Because of this, collagen fibers of the skin can be differentiated from the feathers that covered the dorsal and caudal portions of Sciurumimus. Instead of simply stating that Sciurumimus was covered all over with feathers because some feathery structures were found, the actual amount of feathery covering, or at least a much better estimation, results from being able to differentiate the fibers as well. This has been well portrayed over and over again in the world of illustration.

03 October 2017

The Description Alone

Sciurumimus was sensationalized prior to any description being published that detailed the anatomy or even what the fossil may have looked like. Nearly a year later the description of the fossil was sent for publication and the fossil was officially named and revealed to the world by Rauhut, et al. (2012). That paper is the only substantial paper that has been released concerning the animal to this point, but it is an interesting paper that details how the feathers were observed and described. Specifically, the fossil was observed to possess some interesting integumentary structures and these needed to be seen in greater detail in order to accurately describe them. Filtered ultraviolet light exposed the differences between collagen fibers and feather filaments along the tail of Sciurumimus. The differences, including high resolution images of the collagen fibers and feather filaments, are central to the paper's description of Sciurumimus both anatomically and phylogenetically.

01 October 2017

A Short Tour in Squirrel Dinosaur Knowledge

©Emily Willoughby
There is actually no WizScience video for Sciurumimus; this is possibly the first time in years that we have been able to say that there is not a video available for a given dinosaur from WizScience. There is an equivalent, or near equal, video in German from another source (follow this link). The majority of facts this week instead come from websites that we are very familiar with. These include the ever useful Prehistoric Wildlife, which as always, includes a number of well known facts and some lesser known items such as a phonetic guide for saying the name correctly. Those interested in images of Sciurumimus may be most interested in The Dinosaur Database site which has compiled illustrations labeled as Sciurumimus. Some of these are adorable, I am not going to lie, it is a tiny fluffy dinosaur in some of the illustrations. This may or may not be entirely accurate, but they are okay either way as they are artist interpretations.