STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 July 2011

Bringing it back to the fun

Illustrations, arguments for and against the separation of genus, etc. are way too adult to happen everyday around here. Today, we're going to kick back a little and relax. It's not too prevalent, but things, such as toys that were based on B. brancai are now, technically speaking, based G. brancai. It's a silly distinction really, but if you have two different sized toys you could call the shorter on Brachiosaurus and the taller one Giraffatitan.

The Natural History Museum of London keeps information for kids separated into the two different genera now so you can look up either. The link above is for Giraffatitan's page. There is, among scientists dealing with the public, a general consensus to allow for both genera but there is still the debate about it, so don't let the NHML fool you into thinking that scientists have laid the matter to rest because they separate them. A lot of amateur scientists and dinosaur lovers have expressed a feeling of losing the past because of the name change, but really, we're gaining another animal, not losing an old one.

Regardless, sit back, color yourself an animal that, depending on your leanings, may or may not be Giraffatitan today. It'll make you feel better, promise.

30 July 2011

Pictures and differences

©John Conway
Important in distinguishing the difference between B. altithorax and G. brancai are the illustrations of artists which are based upon the skeletal reconstructions of each animal. Though I have not put any illustrations of Brachiosaurus altithorax up to critique, the one above should suffice to act as a model against the other images contained herein. The first image I've used is John Conway's Giraffatitan to exemplify the enormous neck of the animal. B. altithorax also has a large neck, but Conway's Giraffatitan shows how thick and long the neck of the animal was due to the sheer size of the cervical vertebrae in the animal. Giraffatitan's cervicals are larger than Brachiosaurus' cervical vertebrae, thus causing that enormous neck in terms of girth, rather than length. The length of the neck is also greater, but from this perspective it would be difficult to tell which neck is longer. Either way, the neck is not so much longer that the unknowing observer would be able to tell 100% the difference between the animals.
copyright unkown

The next image was an unfound copyright, but skull can be seen, and that is what is important in this bit. The skull here is in a strange perspective but two things stand out that remind us of Brachiosaurus immediately: high nostrils and skull size. The dental battery in both animals is fairly similar; both dinosaurs exhibit a mouth full of long peg-like teeth on both maxilla and mandible. The difference comes in the length of that skull and the crest at the top. The length of this skull is somewhat difficult to see due to the perspective of the illustration, however, it is clearly of a fairly long length for a Brachiosaur. This is due to the fact that the skull of Giraffatitan is actually longer than that of Brachiosaurus and therefore this illustration of the skull is correct in that regard. The crest is set back further on the skull it appears, because the skull is in fact longer than that of its contemporary. The crest itself is also slightly larger than the nares of Brachiosaurus. Brachiosaurus actually possesses a nares much like Camarasaurus does which places the potential opening for the nostrils, if in the center of the nares, more between the eyes. If Giraffatitan were to have its nostrils at the center of its nares crest the nostrils would be just above the eyes and almost even with them rather than forward of them.

©Dmitry Bogdanov
The inclusion of Bogdanov's Giraffatitan is to exemplify the chest and tail of the animal. Brachiosaurus possessed a longer tail and a deeper trunk than did Giraffatitan. Here in this Giraffatitan we can see clearly that the shallow trunk does not extended below the knees and does not push forward of the knees either when standing at 90 degrees to the ground. It also does not slope downward as we continue backward but stays clipped level at about  and just above knee level from the coracoids to the pelvis. There we meet the iliac vertebrae joining to the caudal vertebrae and find a short tail by dinosaur standards extending only about the length of the trunk behind the dinosaur. Looking above you can see a pot bellied version, Brachiosaurus' belly going below his hind legs' knees while the chest remains deep.
©Greg Paul
Paul's 1988 Giraffatitan reconstruction

©Michael Taylor
Below I have included Paul's original 1988 reconstruction of Giraffatitan and Mike Taylor's composite of Giraffatitan and Brachiosaurus with his own captioning of the image to explain. This was taken from the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29(3) 787-806. These are for reader's reference, and I will not critique them.

Skeletal reconstruction of Brachiosaurus altithorax. White bones represent the elements of the holotype FMNH P 25107. Light grey bones represent material referred to B. altithorax: the Felch Quarry skull USNM 5730, the cervical vertebrae BYU 12866 (C?5) and BYU 12867 (C?10), the “Ultrasauros” scapulocoracoid BYU 9462, the Potter Creek left humerus USNM 21903, left radius and right metacarpal III BYU 4744, and the left metacarpal II OMNH 01138. Dark grey bones modified from Paul’s (1988) reconstruction of Giraffatitan brancai. Scale bar equals 2 m.

29 July 2011

My, my, my, what a tall lady.

Call it one of the tallest Brachiosaurus species or call it its own genus and it's still just as tall, but this week this blog in going to call it by the name that has been surfacing out there due to the efforts of Paul and later Olshevsky: Giraffatitan. Some people have been reluctant to side with Paul and Olshevsky, hopefully only due to scientific leanings and not because both started their careers as notable artists and Mr. Olshevsky as a freelance writer, but never put aside the human capacity for belittling someone based on things like that! However, freelance writer, artists, special education teacher; we all have to start somewhere with our careers (I'm the last one and I'm working on being a paleontologist, so maybe that's why I lean my sympathies on other amateur paleontologists!). Regardless, both Paul and Olshevsky noticed difference between Brachiosaurus altithorax, the original North America Brachiosaurus, and Brachiosaurus brancai which they believed have given it sufficient pull to be separated and now named Giraffatitan brancai.

Obviously they have more than my support given that you can look up Giraffatitan and find hundreds of articles, images, videos, toys even (if you have a toy modeled after you you've made it in popular culture!). Also, it's just a fun name to say; Giraffatitan! Say it out loud, really loud, it sounds sort of mysterious, kind of powerful, like you are inventing your own animal and naming it... or something. Anyhow, G. brancai has been separated from the Brachiosaur genus, and given its own genus, not without contention of course, and it is not just because it is from Africa while Brachiosaurus is from North America. No, Giraffatitan has different vertebrae in its trunk area, also known as dorsal vertebrae, with a slightly larger build and it is also, as Paul noted, a more gracilely articulated dinosaur. That doesn't just mean it's prettier than Brachiosaurs, it means that the animal appears to be more lithe, more graceful on its feet, more athletically built, less like a lineman and more like a linebacker for you football fans.

To back up Paul's and Olshevsky's claims Michael Taylor wrote and released a detailed description, after in depth research and poring over the bones of both animals for a copious amount of time, in 2009 in which
Taylor showed that "Brachiosaurus" brancai differed from B. altithorax in almost every fossil bone that could be compared, in terms of both size, shape, and proportion, finding that the placement of Giraffatitan in a separate genus was valid.
Also, to support this claim, which I will support this week, that G. brancai deserves its own genus, are studies of B. altithorax skulls, there is a small doubt as to whether or not they belong to this animal, which find that their skulls had more features in common with temporal and continental contemporary sauropods like Camarasaurus than with its temporal only contemporary Giraffatitan; remember Africa and North America were no longer in cahoots in the Late Jurassic. We have a week to debate this though, so let us not sort it all out right here and now or we won't have anything to talk about later in the week.

28 July 2011

Pop Culture

You're simply not going to find much in popular culture about this animal. It's too new to science! Instead, I found some old articles from last year about the announcement of the discover:

Wired Science

27 July 2011

The people responsible

The first fragments, unearthed in 1997, of Balaur bondoc were found by Dan Grigorescu. The partial skeleton was found by Mátyás Vremir of the Transylvanian Museum Society of Cluj Napoca and by Zolton Csiki of the University of Bucharest in Romania.Unfortunately, there is not much information available about any of these men so we cannot really talk about them all that much. One man that we can mention, who helped with the description and the naming of the species as well as publishing the article jointly with Csiki and others is Mark Norell (who works alongside Stephen Brusatte another co-author of the article).

Dr. Norell has been around for a little while now and has done a lot of work in helping to modernize the paleontological exhibits in New York's American Museum of Natural History while also being a professor linked to Columbia University. He has had quite an active career aside from the work on Balaur bondoc, but his life summary does a good job of explaining that here.Unfortunately there isn't much available on his involvement in the project either, so there is not much available in that vein today.

26 July 2011

THE Article

The one article written so far, from August 31, 2010's issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) is all that I have to share on this article/newsday Tuesday. However, we have looked into it at great length and used it to further discussions greatly, so, without much ado about already discussed articles, I present to you a link to An aberrant island-dwelling theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Romania

25 July 2011

Lack of videos

What we have here is a nearly silent, and in Romanian, exhibition of the skeleton of B. bondoc. It is neat, at least to look at the remains laid out like that. Below is a short video with some facts laid into it. It's not too bad, but I wish there was more to offer in video form for this animal.

24 July 2011

Case for Solitude

There isn't much family fun related traffic on the internet for Balaur bondoc. This isn't because the animal is unpopular it is simply because it is so new to science. Therefore, considering that we will not have much to talk about in that vein today, let's look at the uniqueness of the skeletal remains that have been uncovered. The obvious place to start is at the toes. The first and second digits of the feet are extended in a way that we see in other dromaeosaurs on only the second digit, the first (or fifth depending on the source) being behind the leg present as a dew claw sort of arrangement. The third and fourth toes bear the weight of the animal. In B. bondoc the animal possesses killing type claws on both the first and second toes held retracted and available in different arcs or areas of attack for either the functions of slashing or grasping prey. The exact nature is, of course, still debated.

Going up the leg we have the unique femoral and pelvic muscle attachment spots on this animal. Like its cousins the velociraptors this animal had strong legs. However, in velociraptor those legs were strong and the muscle lean and lithe while being strong enough to use its second toe for offense thus enabling it to also run at a fair clip over distance. B. bondoc, however, has deep musculature attachment sites for its quads and hamstrings that are much more indicative of kicking and pounding strength than of possessing speedy muscles. Think of B. bondoc as the Bruce Lee of the dromaeosaurs; it can knock out heavy prey with a strong kick, and with the twin claws the kicks are even deadlier, but its cousins were built more for speed than brute force.

It has been therefore thought that this animal may have hunted alone despite its small size. Of course, we then have to take into account why it was so small yet clearly successful enough a predator to evolve and survive. The key to this is looking at its habitat and what behavioral clues we can find in the fossil record. There is evidence of the other small dromaeosaurs, like velociraptor and microraptor, becoming stable hunters and successful animals in their environments due to their performance within their niche of their world and there is evidence for their behaviors within their fossils as much as there is sure to be evidence in these fossils of some of the behaviors of this animal. Back to topic, being a small, solitary, hunter in the world of velociraptor would not have worked out well given the sizes of its contemporaries and microcraptors probably lived in small units for hunting and safety as well given their contemporary world. How can we then believe that the small Balaur would also then be successful but could have lived alone? The answer is in the habitat.

Remember that B. bondoc was found on the Cretaceous island of Hateg or the land representing it leastways. This island was thought to be about the size and shape of Hainan off the coast of China making it about 12,000 square miles in size and it was probably heavily forested. Island and heavily forested are the first clues to the success of a solitary yet small predator. Undergrowth and the exclusion of the island from the mainland would immediately lend themselves to the benefit of a small hunter. Also, consider the prey that would be found on an island. An Iguanodont or a Sauropod can grow enormous on the mainland, but on an island both space and food sources are highly limited so that, over time, if a species does not adapt to available food, in this instance by not growing as large, they are bound for extinction. Smaller prey means predators would have to actually grow smaller also or risk eating up all available food sources too quickly to survive and smaller prey would also benefit from thick undergrowth in the same way a smaller predator could.

In summary; smaller prey, easy concealment in thick undergrowth, strong heavy-handedness in attack capabilities, probably a good sized brain, twice as much weaponry on its feet, and exclusion of mass competition probably spelled apex solitary predator for B. bondoc. Time will, however, tell and perhaps larger predators will be wrested from the earth on that island. Until then I find solitary behavior just as plausible as the "Raptor Pack" mentality for this species on this island.

23 July 2011

Fresh off the presses

 The partial skeleton of B. bondoc included the bones shown here in this skeletal reconstruction with images of the actual bones. Obviously this doesn't leave us much to go on and therefore there is a lot of guesswork in building this dinosaur for illustrators and paleontologists alike. In the very near future, about an inch below this, that will come into great play in discussing the illustrations. The key points of the skeleton which separate this genus from velociraptors, deinonychus, and other dromaeosaurs can be seen in the bones that have been found, however. There are two points: 1) the bones found in this specimen are more robust and heavy as if we are comparing bulldogs and greyhounds when we compare this animal to other dromaeosaurs that are not built as stocky and robust and 2) the foot clearly carries two claws poised for (depending on your view) gripping or slashing at victims.

In this illustration (copyright included in the image) the body is built up robustly and the two claws are included on the feet. Also included is the birdlike appearance now attributed to every dromaeosaur regardless of evidence of feathering, which is quite alright with me as an assumption included in illustrations recently. The one piece of guesswork is the head of the animal. Lacking a skull we have no idea how the head would have looked; for all we know there was a horn on the nose or pronounced eyebrow ridges. However, the head is done along the lines of the older, non-avian, reptilian look of dromaeosaur heads. It fits the animal, clearly, and the older style has its points of beauty and intrigue on its own.

©Mihai Dragos
Here we have two B. bondoc hunting a Telmatosaurus. From the illustrator's description:
Personally I see this animal as a solitary hunter although a pair of them would have been more successful. The heavy anatomy of this Dromaeosaurid indicates that it was by no means a swift and agile predator but more likely an ambush hunter.
The guesswork part of the skeleton has been filled in with the more modern avian head rather than the reptilian head of older models of dromaeosaur. It lacks heavy feathering on the head and thus still retains a reptilian look to it, especially around where the lips would be, if dinosaurs were ever shown with lips of course.

The final B. bondoc is completely avian from head to tail including the feathering along the length of the body. This is the only illustration which shows the habitat that we know existed as well with an extensive shoreline of the island being shown. The feathering here is rather downy, which is fine, and does not stop at all on the face of the animal even covering up the area of the mouth seen in the previous entry as reptilian.

22 July 2011

How Does One Say "Run From the Turkey Sized Dinosaurs!" In Romanian?

Mean, little, built like a bulldozer (compared to his cousins), and stranded on an island our new friend, Balaur Bondoc (stocky dragon: three syllables, stressed on the second /a/ and the species pronounced like "boned oak"), was described and publicized in August 2010. "Why not wait a few weeks and make it a one year anniversary?" you ask, well because the first bones of B. Bondoc were discovered in 1997 actually as small bits and pieces and fragments of the arms. Six small elements of frontal limbs that were confused with Oviraptor arms, to be exact. In September of 2009 the first partial skeleton was unearthed along the Sebes River in Romania. On August 31, 2010 the first descriptions of the species were published in scientific magazines.

The "island" on which it was found is called Hateg Island and was part of the European archipelago that was dotted about the Tethys Sea during the Cretaceous Period. Due to its being on an island the B. Bondoc is thought to be a case of dwarfism (see Sicilian Elephants) within the dromaeosaur family and related closely to Asian velociraptors. In addition to its dromaeosaur attributes it also possessed limbs that were proportionally shorter and heavier than those of its other relatives and an additional killing claw, meaning it had two large, retractable, sickle-shaped claws on each foot instead of the typically found single claw of other dromaeosaurs. This is going to be an interesting week to study this dinosaur friends!

21 July 2011

Not a popular guy

Camptosaurus stays out of the limelight. Not mentioned in any particular documentaries to my knowledge, Camptosaurus remains under the radar as a dinosaur. This is actually quite odd considering many people know that Camptosaurus exists both child and scientist alike. What is it that causes Camptosaurus to be so under represented in the popular culture? The fact is that Camptosaurus is just too plain to be a popular television or movie subject. Iguanodon has the thumb spikes and the worldwide fossil sites to be a star, Hadrosaurs have all those interesting crests, Sauropods have their immense size, and we could go on all day mentioning things that make dinosaurs stick out so well. Camptosaurus is a beautiful animal and complex and interesting, but nothing that about the animal causes the awe that other dinosaurs evoke unfortunately.

There is one outlet other than books and toys that always draws in dinosaurs these days whether you like card games or anime or not and that thing is the show/game/comics Dinosaur King. If nothing else, Dinosaur King has brought to younger children many many more dinosaurs than television ever did and this can only help to expand the science of paleontology.

20 July 2011

Finding Camptosaurus and Article Discussion

Camptosaurus was found in the general manner of fossil finds in the 19th Century. An amateur fossil finder at the time, William Harlow Reed, who would work for Marsh for a decade after, stumbled upon the remains in 1879 and Marsh, this time, rushed in stealthily to name, describe, and claim the fossils from the earth. In 1885 he changed the name from Camptonotus to Camptosaurus because of the aforementioned cricket problem but the name still refers to the animal's bent stature required to keep all four feet on the ground. Another version of the discovery story is lurking about as well and goes like this; "It was first found in Utah, USA by the dinosaur collector Earl Douglass and named by paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh in 1885."

As to the articles from yesterday, the first article detailed the species C. prestwichii from Europe. It is a rather lengthy and in depth piece on the animal including full body sketches, bones in different views and other figures relative to the animal. The depth of the knowledge of the skeleton by Galton and Powell is remarkable and they conveyed their knowledge in a very scientific way. Sometimes scientific writing is dry and coarse, but I think the article, overall, is done very well and is very easily readable.

The second article articulated the standpoint of the introduction of a new species of Camptosaurus from the Morrison Formation of Utah. So far, this article was written in 2008, this species has been recognized as substantially different from C. dispar and has been mentioned here before, that new species being C. aphanoecestes. This article is written very well and minutely details the differences that make C. dispar and C. aphanoecestes different species. It is certainly worth reading to understand how these animals are different species.

19 July 2011

For now a list

I have a meeting 8-4 today, so I'll be back later to discuss these two articles, read in the meantime and enjoy:

17 July 2011

A Fun Filled Day

When it comes to children I love to let the science of dinosaurs take a seat as a passenger and let fun take the reigns. As always, I would like to start with linking in a good fact page, Kids Dinos, and National Geographic's Ultimate Dinopedia, because I believe every child should teach themselves something everyday and also because everyone should read a book, even if it is online, every now and then. Now, let us get on to the artistic abilities of our little friends. There are two pages of note.

I'm fairly cheap for a dinosaur toy, buy me!
One is coloring online at Kidopo and the other can be printed out to be colored (rather than coloring then printing out like you can do at the first site) at more of a mom oriented site called SheKnows. I would guess the idea of including in coloring pages is part have fun with your family part "give mom a rest!"

Last, but of course not least, and only last because sometimes you cannot just run out and find a toy you see online and so would have to wait, are the splendid toys of today. Much like Iguanodon, the original toys are pretty sketchy and a bag of dinosaurs at the dollar store probably contains some animal referred to as Camptosaurus. However, as with most dinosaurs, there are museum quality specimens. Depending on the size they can run from $5 to $30 in most stores. A $30 dinosaur is expensive, but the quality on these are usually awesome and the attention to details is usually fantastic as well. The dinosaur above can be found at CollectA for $3.49, not bad for a dinosaur these days with fairly accurate details.

16 July 2011

Artistic Ventures

Camptosaurus. One of those dinosaurs that there are major questions surrounding on all sides. Did it walk on all fours? Or did it walk mostly upright? Were those hands good for grasping things and pulling them to its mouth? How did it defend itself from danger? These and many more questions remain to be answered and hopefully will someday, but the fossils can only tell us so much to begin with, so there are certain to be gaps in the record and the understanding of this animal. For now, the images we have are of a docile looking, very cow-like animal that is typically shown on all four feet, though sometimes can be seen reaching and pulling on branches and leaves to pull them down to its mouth. The above statue is definitely of an animal that walks on four legs, as seems to be the overall consensus, but to me that tail looks very suspicious. It's not that it is short or awkward looking, in fact it appears to be at the correct angle and stiffness, but the tail ends rather abruptly. The shortness of it takes away any semblance of weaponry and would not counterbalance the animal well on two legs. The tail being this stiff is likewise odd because Camptosaurus lacked the diagonal struts found in its far-down-the-line descendants the Hadrosaurus. The conclusion from that is that this version of the animal could certainly neither stand nor run on two legs for very long if at all.

This Camptosaurus version is strangely Iguanodon-like. The thumbs pointed straight up with the spike-like attachments of the later Iguanodonts including Iguanodon. The flimsy tail, while good for getting out of the way when it rears up to search trees for vegetation would have provided no weapon still and now no real balance for the animal as it moved around the Late Jurassic forests. In fact, this tail is so thin top to bottom that it appears to be lacking key elements of the caudal vertebrae including the ventral facing slats or ribs attached to the vertebrae in this region. This model, clearly, is not accurate in any way, means, or shape then. Let's move onto the next image and see if it is any better.

This Camptosaurus is much better than the previous, older, illustration and so has more accuracy to it. Still, it has the Iguanodon thumbs. The skeletal reconstructions based on Bakker's 1969 drawings (also bipedal) do not include this thumb spike. Other drawings and reconstructions vary depending on the artists, but the skeletal displays I have found in the majority of museums displaying C. dispar do not have the thumb jutting outward as if to indicate a spike. The two leg locomotion here is unique in the illustrations present but shows the ability of the animals to  walk on two legs if for only short distances. This is as plausible as quad locomotion for this animal so the debate really cannot be solved by artistic interpretation or even the fossil record; wear on the front legs could indicate quadruped locomotion or biped locomotion with inclusion of the front legs at key times. Without a living model we will likely never definitively know the answer. The tail here is flimsy as well but this time looks as though the caudal ventral ribs are still accounted for.

©John Bindon
John Bindon's art has been shown before here when we discussed Cryolophosaurus. Here we have his version of Camptosaurus and Allosaurus, contemporary dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic. Mr. Bindon has opted for the quadruped pose and low vegetation, thus leaving out the need for those front legs to stretch out at all. Quadruped or bipedal, any animal looks for the easiest meal to conserve energy while adding to their store of energy. Obviously if stretching out and reaching in a bipedal stance is more straining on the dinosaur then remaining on all fours would conserve more energy. The tail is also accurate here; enough room for the ventral caudal ribs, not stiff, and not dragging either. The shape overall of the dinosaur is clearly going to inspire Hadrosaurs and that has been captured very well here. Also, something that has been altered from previous illustrations is the length and shape of the neck. The neck has been drawn behind the shoulders slightly and straightened minutely to avoid the giant S-curve found in other dinosaurs. The only really strange thing here is that the Allosaurus is roaring right in their faces and only one of the Camptosaurs seems even minutely alarmed. Maybe they were a lot more like big cows than we thought!

15 July 2011

That's quite Campy indeed!

Camptosaurus loves postage stamps.
Ceratosaurus, not so much.
Camptosaurus (Flexible Lizard), lover of the postal service. Hugger of trees. Genus of dinosaur! As a genus, Camptosaurus is comprised of one unique species, Camptosaurus dispar, named by Marsh which was previously a species name occupied by a synonym of the animal, Camptonotus. This was declared a synonym to Camptosaurus and made defunct based mainly on the fact that calling this dinosaur Camptonotus would lead to a world of confusion. Camptonotus, you see, is a genus of cricket comprised of six or seven different species. Imagine a high school student's surprise when looking up the genus for a biology project and finding a dinosaur mixed in with the crickets!

Apparently Camptosaurus really loves trees.
 Camptosaurus, not a cricket of course, is an ornithischian dinosaur of the Late Jurassic common in North America. The animal possessed a strong beak, like Iguanodon, stood about 6.5 to 7 feet at the hips and has been placed between 16 and 26 feet long, which is certainly quite a discrepancy. The length numbers are based on Gregory S. Paul's 2010 estimates and original studies of the many partial skeletons found over time respectively. It is believed that many growth stages of Camptosaurus have been found as well including the now defunct C. nanus, which is believed to have simply been a juvenile C. dispar.

Many European fossils have also, in the past, been assigned to the Camptosaurus genus as C. prestwichii.  Paul (2010) questions the genus of Camptosaurus for these European animals but also recognizes C. aphanoecetes, which is not as popularly known as C. dispar. This is strange because it is believable and logical that C. dispar is the direct ancestor to the younger C. aphanoecetes. Of course, this is also because, while the majority of the skeleton has been found at this time, not as much of the skelton and skull have been recovered as have been found for its ancestor. It's not much of a surprise, regardless of which species you knew before, to find that Camptosaurus is considered a basal Ankylopollexia (an early branch of Iguanodontids) based on its body shape and carriage.

14 July 2011

Unleashed on the Culture

Toys get more and more frightening as I get older.
Giganotosaurus has certainly appeared in our world culture in many different places. Science has certainly been affected, as well as books and literature, the toy market, television documentaries and dramas (as we saw on Monday), and even clothing. The strangest fact about Giganotosaurus in the public eye is that many people do not realize that it is a different dinosaur from many other large carnivores. Of course, we can see this happen in our world in any area of life; cars, planes, insects, etc. People that are not specifically interested in a subject tend to lack knowledge of the subject, and that is fine, but as scientists we can tell Giganotosaurus apart from Allosaurus or Tyrannosaurus. This lack of differentiation, though, keeps some newer animals, like Giganotosaurus from becoming as popular as previously known dinosaurs.

Just a wee lad we now know.
However, Giganotosaurus continues to gain recognition throughout the world, if slowly, as quite possibly the largest theropod, certainly larger than Tyrannosaurus, that the world has ever seen. As that fact becomes more common I guarantee that Giganotosaurus will become as popular as Tyrannosaurus and maybe even spawn some giant statues like the one beside this paragraph. It would have to be taller of course, because Tyrannosaurus is now just your average size dinosaur since the discovery of Giganotosaurus.

13 July 2011

Discovering a Giant

Giganotosaurus was found in the following sequence of events:

Giganotosaurus carolinii was named for Ruben Carolini, an amateur fossil hunter who, in 1993, discovered the fossils in deposits of Patagonia (southern Argentina) in what is now considered the Candeleros Formation. The initial description was published by Rodolfo Coria and Leonardo Salgado in the journal Nature in 1995.
The holotype specimen's (MUCPv-Ch1) skeleton was about 70% complete and included the skull, pelvis, leg bones and most of the backbone. Various estimates find that it measured somewhere between 12.2 and 13 m (40 and 43 ft) in length, and between 6.5 and 13.3 tons in weight. A second, more fragmentary, specimen (MUCPv-95) has also been recovered. It is only known from a portion of the left dentary which is 8% larger than the equivalent bone from the holotype.
Giganotosaurus' discoverer, being an amateur, is not very well reported on around the internet. The scientists, though, Coria and Salgado, do pop up from time to time. The group that was involved in digging up the animal, including Carolini, Salgado, and Coria, did pose for a picture that we have here:
L to R: Unknown, Salgado, Corilini, Coria

12 July 2011

Articles of Epic Proportions

Article 1 today: From the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology we have an article on the braincase of Giganotosaurus. An interesting read on the anatomy of the braincase of the animal. If the link below doesn't work, let me know and I can look for it somewhere else. Scribd is kind of dodgy with me sometimes.
THE BRAINCASE OF GIGANOTOSAURUS CAROLINII (DINOSAURIA:THEROPODA) FROM THE UPPER CRETACEOUS OF ARGENTINA The second article I have found is from a 1998 Lisbon based publisher, in English though, which supports the claim to Giganotosaurus being the largest theropod ever found through newly, at the time, unearthed evidence. This article can be found at:

New Specimen Of Giganotosaurus Found
The third article for the day is about the cursorial ability, the ability of the dinosaur to move and run, based on the femur of Giganotosaurus. In particular, the 2001 study is highly interested in the ability of the animal to run and what kinds of grave injuries a multitonne animal like this could fall victim to while running. Find this article here, at:

A new approach to evaluate the cursorial ability of the giant theropod Giganotosaurus carolinii

11 July 2011

Video Monday

There are many sources for Giganotosaurus videos. There are the typical tributes that people make all over Youtube with sometimes awful music (in my opinion of course). There are also original source videos such as this episode of Chased by Dinosaurs, a BBC show which would later spawn a slight spinoff of the idea of time travel called Prehistoric Park. The episode which we are interested in is Land of Giants in the Chased by Dinosaurs series. Here I started with a clip from the show, other links to the other parts follow. For some odd reason Netflix skips this episode but has the other two.
Another place, though not in a documentary standpoint, that Giganotosaurus appears is the show that replaced Prehistoric Park in its time slot, Primeval. A series of highlights from that episode of the show, which takes place at an airport, is put together below.
Dinosaur George answered some questions about Giganotosaurus on a number of different videos. I have only included one, but going to his page and searching the uploads you can find over 20 more.

10 July 2011

Short family day

Fact pages for the kids today:

--Knowledge Bears
--Dinos for Kids
--Kids Dig Dinos
--Enchanted Learning

Enchanted Learning and the Knowledge Bears sites contain coloring pages as well.

PBS' show Dinosaur Train has an episode featuring a Giganotosaurus named Laura.The episode where that character is introduced is not yet available on DVD but will be next month, in case you know anyone that loves this show. There are toys related to it as well.

09 July 2011

Giganotosaurs Images

Table of Taxonomies
Giganotosaurus is a unique Late Cretaceous theropod in that it has more than two digits on its hand. There's more Allosaur than Tyrannosaur in the Evolution of these animals; of course we already knew that because Tyrannosaurs are Coelurosaurids and Giganotosaurus is an Allosaurid Carcharadontosaur. The animal kingdom does, admittedly, get ridiculously confusing sometimes, but if we were to break down Giganotosaurus into its Kingdom etc. and place it alongside T. Rex's Kingdom etc. we can see the differences (a word of note: current categorizing has gone far beyond Linnaeus' system of taxonomy so this image is going to be bigger than you expect).
©Todd Marshall

I have tried many many times to get a note through to Todd Marshall to let him know that I am going to use his illustrations on days when I use them, but I still haven't gotten anything through to him that has had a reply, so if he reads this, I'm using an image today! Marshall has highlighted here the theorized pack behavior of Giganotosaurus and done a fantastic job in showing why the pack would be needed. While they were enormous animals this Argentinosaurus is clearly even more massive than the full grown Giganotosaurs running alongside

©Todd Marshall
trying to make it a meal. The detail is amazing, as you can see from far away, but the up close detail of the Giganotosaurus shows exquisite attention to the skin, the coloring, and the muscles underneath the skin. The hands are splayed out as if readying to grasp or rake at the Argentinosaurus and the power in those quaking legs is clearly evident as the Giganotosaur steams alongside its prey. A masterful piece and a wonderfully detailed piece to look at today.

©Bruno Hernandez
The piece by Bruno Hernandez is wonderful as well. It's the antithesis of of pack behavior; solitary disputes. This could be over mates within a pack I suppose, but let us assume it is territorial reign that is at stake here to keep the antithesis theory afloat. The predators in this image don't really have much coloration to them at all. There is nothing particularly stunning about the animals in the color department except the red coloring above the eyes. However, the enormous muscles are still present in the legs and we can see the power that could be unleashed if this fight were to move past the intimidation stage. Certainly the animals are going through the motions of having a good shouting match at one another before escalating to violence. Dinosaurs of the size of Giganotosaurs would do serious damage to one another should the argument escalate to a physical match whether they would have clawed at each other or just snapped their teeth at one another.

08 July 2011


I have found out this morning that the more one writes Giganotosaurus the easier it becomes. I must have misplaced a letter about ten times before I started hitting them all correctly. The fact that I've written Giganotosaurus more than ten times in one day is astounding in its own right to be honest. Onto the facts about this Argentinian behemoth.

I say behemoth with the utmost respect, not only considering that this animal could swallow me whole, but also because it was in fact, enormous. In known species Giganotosaurus is rivaled in size by Spinosaurus above and Tyrannosaurus very slightly below, making it quite a huge theropod. The "Giant Southern Lizard" is estimated by bone length to be between 40 and 43 feet long with rather large weight estimates at higher and lower ranges between 6.5 and 13.3 tons. That's much more than just full belly versus empty belly, unless this monster could shove nearly seven tons of food down its gullet in one sitting.

Probably not impossible for an animal with a skull almost six and a half feet long, but that would be about the equivalent of eating the entire carcass of Sue (the famous T. Rex in Chicago's Field Museum) in one sitting, which we are pretty confident wouldn't have happened with any carnivore at that time. It's just an enormous chunk of flesh to gulp down!

So what did Giganotosaurus eat then? An enlarged olfactory region in the skull and brain point to a keen sense of smell and pack behavior has been theorized, as with many other theropods, for this animal as it hunted the Late Cretaceous of South America. That land at that time was filled with dinosaurs of rather large sizes such as Andesaurus, Argentinosaurus, Adamantisaurus, Rinconsaurus, and Saltasaurus. There have not been many non-sauropod discoveries in South America at this time, and as such, it is difficult to pinpoint any smaller prey of Giganotosaurus, which may certainly account for its overall size as an adult animal.

07 July 2011

Pop culture invasion

As we know, Iguanodon has become so ingrained in popular culture it rivals Triceratops and T. Rex as one of the most recognized symbols of dinosauria that we possess. This can be evidenced in a variety of ways including looking over the past few days worth of entries to see all the coloring sheets, academic articles, fact websites, and images that exist which are labeled Iguanodon. As we move on to other popular culture references it is quite easy to see its popularity in other areas, most notably as a toy.

The Dinotoyblog has seven reviews alone on Iguanodon toys. These reviews range from the severely outdated (see above), to the plain weird (left), and on to the anatomically correct and overall wonderfully built toys that exist within our culture today (below). These toys have been made new time after time, year after year, for as long as there have been dinosaur toys. Buy a tube of dinosaurs and you'll likely find an Iguanodon in there somewhere. Look through old toys on eBay and you're likely to find the older, kangaroo postured toys that were once all considered the best dinosaur toys in existence. You can also find medallions, plush toys, and books about Iguanodon there.

Let's not forget the video games and movies that exist which thrive on their inclusion of Iguanodon. Our typical video game (Spore) has Iguanodons. Of course it does, the kid in us can create whatever we like with it and someone is bound to love Iguanodon enough to do that. However, additionally, Little Big Planet 2 has a level editor and someone else that loves Iguanodon has created a level wherein you use an 8-bit Iguanodon to roam through the level and collect items.

The most remembered bit of Iguanodon screen time, though, is in Disney's Dinosaur, where the main characters all belong to a species of Iguanodon. For time's sake I'm just going to post one of the climactic scenes involving Carnotaurs chasing the herd:

06 July 2011

Iguanodon bernissartensis

The best known species of Iguanodon is Iguanodon bernissartensis. This species was named in 1881 by George Albert Boulenger, I. bernissartensis became the neotype, a specimen used in preference over the original or holotype of a specimen, of Iguanodon though other species had been found, named, and described as early as 1822. Gideon Mantell, being the first to do all three with his found specimen which was mostly fossilized teeth found by his wife while they visited a patient supposedly, ran into controversy at the hands of William Buckland who refused to believe that these teeth were anything more than fish teeth. As we know, Iguanodon does exist and Mantell was correct, not Buckland. However, it is Boulenger's I. bernissartensis and not Mantell's Iguanodon. Species names for a variety of Iguanodon are nonexistent, antiquated, have been reassigned- such as Dollodon-or just not at all used due to disputes over legitimacy of belonging to the Iguanodontidae. I. bernissartensis comes from a coal mine in Belgium which has proved to be a very wealthy fossil mine as well with at least 38 individuals unearthed.

05 July 2011

Article Tuesday

From articles on new species propositions to findings in Utah and the evolution of thumb spiked dinosaurs, Iguanodon is one of the most referenced dinosaurs in history due, in part, to it relatively early discovery and also due to its common appearance during the time in which it thrived. Iguanodon was, for all intents and purposes, as common as the dog is now. Dogs are everywhere now, Iguanodon was everywhere when it reigned as the pinnacle of herbivorous evolution. Though eventually unseated by even more sophisticated Hadrosaurs, Ceratopsians, Pachycephalosaurs, and even more Sauropods, Iguanodon and its closest relatives were the best herbivores of their time thanks to those special dental batteries and cheeks. Richard Owen had a great deal to say about Iguanodon in his book on British dinosaurs entitled A History of British Fossil Reptiles (this is linked to volume 1). Science, thankfully, has continued to advance and now one can even learn about the histological history of Iguanodon in articles such as Abnormal Histology in an Iguanodon Caudal Centrum from the Lower Cretaceous of the Isle of Wight, which means the study of the microscopic tissues and cells found in the fossil, in case you weren't aware! The last article I've found today is on the heart of the matter that surrounds Iguanodon, its impact on the culture of the world.

04 July 2011

Movie Madness?

Some documentaries are available today. Some pop reference material too. Iguanodon facts from Dinosaur George and physicist Franklin Rhuel to start:

Now, I have cut up a video, very carefully, to just include the following clip. Dinosaur Planet from Discovery featured a short, about 3 min., clip that included what they called "Dwarf Iguanodon." This Iguanodon is actually modeled after a smaller animal named Rhabdodon. Rhabdodon is thought to be a missing link animal between Hypsilophodonts and Hadrosaurs. Also, Rhabdodon has a very close skeletal structure and look to Iguanodon, so we can use this clip to explore believed and perceived territorial attitudes and confrontation styles of the larger and true Iguanodon:

03 July 2011

Family friendly Iguanodon

©Encyclopedia Britannica 2010
Iguanodon is one of those dinosaurs that has had a family friendly presence for decades, like "Gertie the Dinosaur" did. There are hundreds of kid friendly websites, such as the Dinos For Kids site and science facts for kids sites, which will educate and present known facts to kids. Then there are sites that allow us to both learn and color like these sites from the Texas Park and Wildlife office and Enchanted Learning. There is also the opportunity to color other random pictures, some not quite accurate, for children:

Of course, let us not forget the toys that you can pick up even at a dollar store that represent Iguanodon. The cheap ones tend to look a lot more like this:
than this, which is what they should look more like:

02 July 2011

The Crystal Palace and Iguanodon

 I thought I'd start the picture festival with a fairly simplistic version of the modern, and anatomically correct, version of Iguanodon. Simply put, Iguanodon is the cow of the early Cretaceous. It has that thumb spike, which you can see in this illustration, which is clearly un-cow-like. One large adaptation that Iguanodon presented to its descendants was the mouth and facial features surrounding it. The large beak for clipping off vegetation was an enormous evolutionary step that we can see quite plainly here, however, the dental battery, which we cannot see, was another giant step in the war to eat more. The grinders and vegetation mashers in that mouth were complexly shaped and made to tear apart rough leaves and other aspects of vegetation. The other part of the highly evolved mouth area that we can see in this illustration is the cheek. Earlier dinosaurs, especially herbivores, lacked the muscles and attachment points to have had cheeks. We take our cheeks for granted, but these early hadrosaurs were very grateful for them. Having a cheek meant one could keep their food in their mouth as they chewed as opposed to earlier dinosaurs who, while chewing, would have lost all sorts of vegetation to the forest floor due to their inability to hold it in with the flaps of skin we call cheeks. An interesting tool that we don't think of, but pay attention to your cheeks at your next meal!

 This model of Iguanodon I decided to include on account of the fact that very rarely are dinosaurs shown in sculptures in resting positions. Typically we see dinosaurs about to run, locked in mortal combat, or, at the very least, eating some unfortunate tree into non-existence. Here someone has sculpted what appears to be a younger Iguanodon in a resting position. The thumb spikes are flexed inward under the chest of the dinosaur and the we can clearly see the large clipping beak and even the cheeks puffed outward vaguely. The tiger striping on the animal, something we clearly associate with a predator, is a bit of well done artistic interpretation on the part of the sculptor and, in the shading with a little more foliage to cover it, this would appear to be fairly interesting and successful camouflage.

Now, onto some older sculptures. Commissioned and created in the years from 1852 to 1854, the Crystal Palace sculptures were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins with scientific advice from Richard Owen. Here is the original Iguanodon reconstruction, well preserved to this day, in the Crystal Palace in London, England. As one can see, Iguanodon was certainly thought to resemble a modern day Iguana and the thumb spike, if we look closely, has been  relocated to the top of the nose of the animal. This sculpture gives Iguanodon a very reptilian and predatory stance and look to it, which we know to be false. The resting position here is much more of a sunning position which goes hand in hand with its reptilian look. These are the famous versions in which a grand banquet was held with the dinner party seated inside the sculpture of the rather silly looking and anatomically incorrect version. How the entire dinner party was seated inside the sculpture I am not entirely sure, but the famous lithograph of the event still exists today and is one of the most famous images in the entirety of paleontology as a science despite its representation of a complete gaff and misinterpretation by the scientific community.

The final image is one that has not been presented in any way at this point. Unfortunately I have found no artist but the artist's vision of herding behavior is what has really drawn me to use this piece today. Juveniles and adults walk together as a family unit in this illustration while the wildlife around them interacts accordingly; meaning that the herd is given its path through the world without much hindrance from the other animals. A predator in the background, for instance, is not even paying much attention to the herd, though it is clear from the rearmost adult that the family unit is paying attention to the predators and other animals around them. Again we also have some striping on the animals in both adult and sub-adult versions and, looking at the youngster, we can see the artist believes even sub-adults had the exact same coloration pattern as the adults.

01 July 2011

A New Old Face

The second dinosaur ever to be named and the first to have a banquet given inside its very incorrectly rebuilt skeleton, this week's dinosaur is a contemporary of Baryonyx, Utahraptor, Compsognathus, and many more in the early Cretaceous time period while living in Europe, Asia, and North America simultaneously. This week will be all about one of the plainest looking, child friendly (I remember seeing it all the time growing up in my dinosaur books, on TV, and everywhere else), and earliest discovered dinosaurs: Iguanodon.