STL Science Center

STL Science Center

23 April 2011

The nice side of Tenontosaurus

Happy 100th Dinosaur Related Post!

Let's look at a typical Tenontosaurus image by Raul Martin.
Copyright belongs to Raul martin
Notice the impending doom in the shape of two rather hungry leaping dinosaurs? Deinonychus' favorite snack is thought to be, and there is evidence of struggles between the two animals, our loving Tenontosaurus. This is typical of depictions of Tenontosaurus. Usually the claws are already in and there's blood flowing and the Tenontosaurus is dying, or is already dead and being eaten. I even found a painting that replaced the Deinonychus with an Acrocanthosaurus, so Tenontosaurs never really gets a break it appears. What this image doesn't show us, however, is the gentle side of the animal. All we ever seem to see is fear. The peaceful art that exists make it look like a cow.
There's a very hadrosaur look to these animals. This makes sense because Tenontosaurs are early Iguanodontians, which are themselves ancestors to the Styracosterna which includes the Hadrosauridae. That's a mouthful! In plain English Tenontosaurs are related to Iguanodon and both are early Ornithopods, the group which would later evolve into the Hadrosaurs Saurolophus, Lambeosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Anatotitan, etc.

Tenontosaurus lived along that coast of inland sea we know of that stretched through the heartland of America. It had a grasping hand but lacked the enormous thumb spike of its cousin the Iguanodon. This image, therefore, is not sculpted correctly as the hand is actually quite slender and the five fingers actually show a bit of articulation, enough to grasp plant matter at the very least. However, as far as dinosaur safaris go, it is an interesting piece.
It's thought that Tenontosaurus, like many other nearly defenseless (=clawless, fangless, spike-less, armor-less) dinosaurs lived in herds, pods, gaggles, or flocks (whatever the chosen terminology would be). To that end the adult pod here
and the clearly seen family group in the center of Karen Carr's panorama piece here
show that group dynamic quite well. In Karen Carr's piece we also have a much more subtle and anticipated attack mounting which allows our imaginations to flow a great deal more than in pieces where the attack is already taking place. The alarm in the herd is evident, but they may not be able to see the two animals lurking in the foreground and have not yet panicked, showing a united front against the dangerous invader. Personally I love this piece.

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