STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 December 2011

Pictures of a Gorgosaur

©Michael Skrepnick
Images of Gorgosaurus tend to look a lot like its tyrannosaur brethren. That, of course, is okay considering that Gorgosaurus is a tyrannosaur and all of the family looks quite similar whether they're from America or Asia. The characteristic appearance of the animals makes them highly distinguishable from other types of dinosaurs but kind of makes it difficult, at times, for the laymen to tell the difference. As an example, Skrepnick's Gorgosaurus is very well done and has enjoyed a good meal which the Bambiraptor in the foreground is also clearly enjoying. To most this is a typical tyrannosaur and I'll bet nine out of ten people would say its a T. Rex based on the arms and general look of the skull. However, that is where we start our inspections to decide what sort of animal this is. The skull is elongated and blunt nosed as opposed to the boxy T. Rex head. That clue is easy to collect even from a distance, and it can be seen without looking at the bones.
©Alain Beneteau

Beneteau's work shows the skull at less of a distance and we can clearly see how it is elongated in both the standing juvenile and the resting adult; also note the lacrimal ridges of bone above the eyes. Making a reasonable assumption based on assuming that the entire animal is drawn to correct proportions we can see that the tibia and femur are of about equal length. This gives us clues to draw conclusions about the speed of the animal. In most speedy animals the tibia is longer than the femur and the ratio can go closer to 1:1 and still be considered a quick animal. Considering that this animal's bones are approximately equal length we can assume it had the ability to move quickly if not fast. The juvenile, however, appears, and both adult and juvenile bone sizes have been noted in specimens, to have a longer tibia than femur, meaning that these dinosaurs were probably fairly speedy when they were younger.

Rachel Clark herself has said that this drawing is outdated and needs to be updated. I haven't seen any updates on it online. However, it highlights the sub-adult specimen very well whether she thinks it grossly outdated or not. The skull is wonderfully elongated, as would be the actual case with the animal. The lacrimal ridges above the eyes are very plain to see as well. Additionally, the structure of the skull that can be inferred by ridges and placement of characteristics of the face aligns with the circular rather than oval placement of the eyes in the head of Gorgosaurus, a feature which separates this dinosaur from other tyrannosaurs. The tibia-femur ratio is much closer to an adult specimen, which fits well with the assumption that this is a later juvenile of the species. All said and done, outdated or not, this is a wonderful drawing.

30 December 2011

Little Cousin

Living at the same time and more than likely in some of the same areas as Daspletosaurus, Gorgosaurus was a slightly smaller tyrannosaurid of North America. The two animals both lived in western America and Canada with Daspletosaurus living mostly to the south of Gorgosaurus, however, they have been found together. It is believed, because of the more robust body of Daspletosaurus, that the animals could have easily coexisted and this theory explains some fossil finds in which both animals are found near one another without marks of predation or combat between skeletons. The sleeker Gorgosaurus it believed to have dined on large animals with fewer strong defensive attributes such as horns and tough armors. These, it is believed, Gorgosaurus left for Daspletosaurus who was tougher and more robust and more likely to take the punishment of an Ankylosaur or Chasmosaurus where it would more easily kill a Gorgosaurus.

Gorgosaurus is a genus that consists of one recognized species, Gorgosaurus libratus. Many other species have been named but have been eventually determined to either be a G. libratus or some other animal entirely, as happens (see last week's dinosaur). Though a tyrannosaur, Gorgosaurus was smaller than Tyrannosaurus Rex and even Tarbosaurus, weighing in around the same size as Daspletosaurus but closer to Albertosaurus, an animal that the remains of Gorgosaurus have been mistakenly assigned to in the past. At about 30 feet long and 2.7 tons, this dinosaur was still a very large predator despite being one of the smaller members of the family. Gorgosaurus, however, had many key differences in its body and these are well documented in the dozens of skeletons found. One such difference from its family was its brain shape, another being the shape of its eyes which rested in a circular cavity rather than an oval or key shaped area. Its skull was also longer and thinner than many tyrannosaurs and was fairly reminiscent of Albertosaurus' skull. Additionally, skin impressions found in the type fossils have led researchers to the conclusion that Gorgosaurus had smooth skin, rather than the scale covered skin found in most skin impressions of fossils.

29 December 2011

The Popular Mythological Beast

Monoclonius, we have now seen, does not truly exist for a multitude of reasons. Actually, it exists, it's just its own separate genus or species because, unfortunately for this genus, all of the skeletons have been adopted as young or sexually dimorphic representations of other genera and species. The largest popular cultural influences that Monoclonius shared with the world, and continues to share because children and toy companies certainly still recognize the animal, were its roles in documentary pieces like the shots for Prehistoric Beast and Dinosaur! as well being a toy and character in the show DinoRiders. However, there are other places Monoclonius has popped up even in recent years as a toy
Why it looks evil I do not know
and Monoclonius has even survived to make it into the Japanese anime/card game/video game Dinosaur King

28 December 2011

Discovery Day

Monoclonius was discovered and described and named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1876. Since then we know that all of the species in the genus have been shuffled about and claimed by other genera. This confusion began with the discovery of the animal itself. When initially discovered, the skeleton consisted of few bones and a partial skull. Cope initially believed that the skeleton and skull belonged to a hadrosaur and named the animal based on its teeth as it did not have a horn by which to name it. Therefore, any source which mentions the name meaning "one horn" is actually very incorrect. The name actually refers to the roots of the teeth of the animal and means "one sprout" in reference to the manner in which the teeth grew in a single set to be replaced when mature teeth were worn out rather than having two sets of mature and immature teeth growing in at the same time in the animal's mouth. Cope, however, did fix his own mistake after reading Marsh's description of Triceratops, realizing that Monoclonius was a ceratopsian dinosaur and not a hadrosaur. In 1904 Lambe began comparing his newly discovered Centrosaurus with Monoclonius, and thus began the long slide of Monoclonius out of the good graces of being a true genus!

27 December 2011

Organizing Information

In the 1992 edition of Dinosaur Systematics edited by Carpenter and Currie there are quite a few mentions of Monoclonius and discussions over similarities between it and other species as well as analyses of the skeletons placed in that genus. The articles in the book, especially that of Dodson, which mention Monoclonius take a scientific approach to the subject and are very well written in general. The best articles, though, are the older articles which assume that Monoclonius is its own genus, in terms of understanding the animal itself. In fact, one of the best papers for understanding Monoclonius is Barnum Brown's 1914 article.

A Complete Skull Of Monoclonius, From The Belly River Cretaceous Of Alberta was Brown's title and the paper was highly detailed in relation to the find. Brown explains the finds of other scientists, compares Monoclonius to other Ceratopsians, and at the end of his paper announces that three species are to be recognized based on their straight horn (M. crassus), backward curved horn (M. dawsoni), and forward curved horn (M. flexus) with their supraorbital horns also figuring in to the equation of what kind of animal they are.

CM Sternberg, in 1938, compared Monoclonius and Centrosaurus skeletons a second time after Brown. Unfortunately the article is in JSTOR, and, as I've lamented many times before, I do not have a way to get into JSTOR articles. I assume this would be a very interesting reading beyond the first page though, so if anyone can get into JSTOR and pass along the knowledge, that would be great!

26 December 2011

Monoclonius' Big Moment

Monoclonius made its mark on the 1980's cartoon DinoRiders, but it's real big time on the screen was in Robert Guenette's"Dinosaur!" hosted by Christopher Reeves in 1985. The footage in this special featuring what was then called Monoclonius came from a stop motion film of about 8 minutes made the year before by a man named Phil Tippett in his garage. Tippett used this short film, called Prehistoric Beast, to catapult his teeny studio into a firm which handled movies like Jurassic Park amongst other documentaries and movies (Robocop, Starship Troopers, etc) and continues to be successful in the modern era working on films like Breaking Dawn (just to name something famous). However, I will always remember Tippett for this short film and I will always remember the dinosaur as Monoclonius, no matter what science wants to call it in the end. It's one of my earliest memories of television and I remember cheering when the Monoclonius wounds the Albertosaurus and being sad when the image fades to black after those snarling teeth. Juvenile or not, this is what Monoclonius will always be to me.

24 December 2011

Looking at What May Not Exist

Monoclonius may not exist, we said as much yesterday. However, it is clear that the artist's conceptions, overall, would place this dinosaur almost solely into the Centrosaurus family and we know that there are those that feel that Monoclonius may be a female or juvenile Styracosaurus as much as it may have been its own animal.The name Monoclonius came from its tooth growth, having nothing to do with a single horn because the original type specimen did no even have a horn it was so incomplete. There is evidence for all of the cases that have been made for this animal being Styracosaurus and/or Centrosaurus specimens of different genders or ages. The evidence for Monoclonius being a sample of Chasmosaurus and/or Brachyceratops, to me, is not as straight forward, though that of course does not make it wrong, it just means I have more research to do for myself.

©Hal Robins
An alternative without the "tear" in the frill is equally viable
for the same reasons
 The case for a Centrosaurus line up of Monoclonius' remains makes sense based on the frills often found with Monoclonius which, coincidentally, are typically included in the artist renditions as they are here in this Hal Robins illustration. The markings on the frill are wonderful, but it is the top center portion of the frill which calls out as a Centrosaurus trait. The frill of Centrosaurus is just as large as any other Certaopsian dinosaur's frill, but at the top of the center of the frill on a Centrosaurus we see the remarkably torn appearance of the frill with horns facing into the torn area as well as down from the bottom of it pointing toward the face of the animal. This is what gives us the evidence that a Monoclonius, along with other evidence I assure you as I am being exceedingly simplistic in this analysis, is a younger Centrosaurus. There are other skeletal clues as well, though these clues are very important as the frill could certainly age from the above depiction to that of a Centrosaurus very easily.

 One person I am very anxious to get a hold of, and have been for quite a while now, has been Keiji Terakoshi. One of the reasons is to get official permission from him to use his artwork, the other being to congratulate him on his publications like this book sample below. While it is all in Japanese it puts all three of our questioned species, for today at least, together in one simple and easy place. Monoclonius is pictured at the top of the picture while Styracosaurus and Centrosaurus appear in the center and right on the bottom, respectively. Styracosaurus juvenile, we can see, is a little more of a stretch as it would require a considerable growth spurt in the frill. While not something that is not to be excluded from thought, it is not as probable as the growth of the Centrosaur frill. However, Peter Dodson has in the past put forth the idea that Monoclonius may have been a Styracosaurus gender role, being the female of the gender. This lack of ornamentation in females is seen all over the extant animal world in birds especially, but also in mammals and reptiles and fish as well. This is an interesting debate, and I hope to see some good evidence from the "professionals" as I continue to research so I can share it with you.
©Keiji Terakoshi

23 December 2011

Enter the Realm of Debate

I thought a long time what to do with this week's dinosaur. The reason is, as a kid, you grow up caring little for the quibbles and fights of grown men even in your favorite things. As such, I grew up ignoring the debate over the placement of Monoclonius in the dinosaur family. Peter Dodson calls it the female Styracosaurus, others call it a Centrosaurus, and in some cases it has even been enveloped into Chasmosaurus and Brachyceratops. The type skeleton, Monoclonius crassus, is about the only one that has escaped total inclusion into another genus or species and this is mainly not debated only because it lacks so many features that it's hard to place it in one area or another. Fifteen species, in total have come and gone as they were found to be juveniles, sub-adults, female specimens perhaps even.

Given all that information, is there even really a point to continuing a week dedicated to a nearly dubious dinosaur? For nostalgia, yes, completely. For science, yes, entirely. Without the failures, mistakes (and this is far more mistake than failure given that we have none of these animals to study and that we do not always get the luxury of pulling a family of five straight from the earth to see male, female, baby to adult), and even totally laughable errors, we cannot move on in science. This blog has discussed Styracosaurus. So this week, my aim is going to be to show how Monoclonius (which takes its name from its teeth, not its single horn), has been lumped into Styracosaurus and Centrosaurus so easily. Plus there are some wonderful pop culture and movie sources from the 80's that I would be completely remiss to ignore just because science has forsaken the Monoclonius. Besides, I can also discuss Centrosaurus a fair amount as well this week and give both their fair due; I'm on vacation after all!

22 December 2011


Because we know that Eustreptospondylus has only made an impact really through Walking with Dinosaurs I am doing almost zero talking today and instead providing videos for the Cruel Sea episode. Also, there are some toys, one of which you can read a review for at the Dinosaur Toy Blog.

But here are your videos:

21 December 2011

Getting There

Finally I feel almost human. My back from about my 7th ribs up to the back of my head is killing me though. Sore muscles from coughing are no fun at all.

Anywho, Eustreptospondylus is one of the old time dinosaurs. Originally described by Richard Owen in the 19th century as a new species of Megalosaurus, Eustreptospondylus had to wait until in 1964, a little over 120 years later, to be given his/her own name by Walker. Walker at the same time named another creature Magnosaurus but this turned out to be a synonym for Eustreptospondylus. Gregory Paul has gone one step further in his recent publication stating that Eustreptospondylus actually is placed within the designation of Streptospondylus altdorfensis, another species of animal completely. Since there is no presented justification of this placement I cannot comment on what made Paul place the animal within another genus and species, though I can say I find it quite weird. Rauhut has also proposed a reclassification of the animal based on its hip bones as Magnosaurus, stating that the differences in the two animals are, in that region, so minute they must be the same genus at least. So this leaves us in a unique position with a dinosaur; the question must be asked eventually of who is or was right: Owen, Walker, Rauhut, Paul? Is it a Magnosaurus, Megalosaurus, Streptospondylus, or Eustreptospondylus? These are the sorts of things that fights start over, let's hope it doesn't come to that ever!

20 December 2011


So, there are quite a few good papers about on Eustreptospondylus. Unfortunately, it's one of those dinosaurs where I can't post PDF links for you. I forgot to ask my friend from the Theropod Archives, but if anyone expresses any interest, I'll ask if he can forward it to me, because he has it somewhere. The only other sources are bits and pieces of abstracts found in this list of search items.

19 December 2011

A Montage

Rather than try to post the entire episode Cruel Sea today, I found this montage of clips from the episode which should suffice. Other than this video and other videos related to Walking with Dinosaurs including the Cruel Sea episode, there really isn't much available in the form of videos for Eustreptospondylus. So, enjoy this montage and look up the episode if you haven't seen it.

18 December 2011

Still under the weather

I'm still not feeling well friends. However, to do my duty, here is, today, the two solid links I found for our dinosaur on DinosForKids and Enchanted Learning. Please have fun and enjoy and tomorrow I'll try to be better to do my job better!

17 December 2011

Eustreptospondylus Poses

Eustreptospondylus is a typical Megalosaurid theropod. Two arms, two legs, big teeth, long fairly stable tail, tridactyl toes and fingers. The major differences we see in illustrations of this dinosaur come in the neck, hands, and face. The Walking with Dinosaurs model from the episode Cruel Sea is a fairly typical and accurate animal. The muzzle of the dinosaur is meaty, we cannot see the outlines of the bones or the fenestra that line the skull too heavily, only near the front fairly far forward on the muzzle. The hands and feet are tridactyl with the hands facing inward toward one another. The tail hangs out and up, flexible, but not too flexible, securely counterbalancing the animal as it walks. Eustreptospondylus' teeth are medium sized, not enormous and by no means tiny either. They recurve toward the rear of the mouth as do most predators' teeth and they have some serration to them to aide in slicing meat off of the bodies they take down. While not an enormous predator, in its environment it was the biggest scariest island predator of its day. The dwarfed island denizens would agree wholeheartedly with this I am sure.

This illustration is not too bad. I don't know who did it and I can't find a name, so if anyone does please let me know. The only problem I have with it is the starved look it has. The neck looks twice as long as any other neck I've seen drawn myself and that is mostly because it has almost no meat on it. The same can be said about the muzzle. The fenestra are deeply pronounced on this illustration in part because of the very lean, not too well fed appearance of the dinosaur as a whole. It could be that the artist just pictured it as a lean and fast animal, but as a large apex predator in its domain I expect more muscle and meat on it from head to toe, myself. Additionally, the tail looks stunted and on that one, I cannot really tell why I think it looks stunted. It just seems awfully short.

This last illustration is a lot like a healthy compromise between the two previous illustrations. The deep fenestra punctuation still exists in the face. It is so deep, in fact, that the eye could not possibly see in any other direction than straight out from the skull at a 90 degree angle. I find that quite unbelievable honestly. That would leave the dinosaur at a terrible disadvantage when hunting as it would likely run directly into trees and whatever else lay directly ahead of its path. The arms and legs as well as the tail look great and the neck is meaty and muscled, the way I like my apex predator necks. Really, the only issue I see is that unfortunate eye structuring. It is my opinion that if the eye were that sunken in the pit of a fenestration that the eye would be almost useless to the animal in anything other than a scavenging role. Personally, I find it difficult to imagine processing a non-binocular field of vision anyway myself.

16 December 2011

I feel like this is what I have right now...

Eustreptospondylus, which sounds a lot like streptococcus (which I always think I have when I get a sore throat), was a medium sized Jurassic dinosaur living in Europe in the area of what is known to have been an island chain, and some main lands, ringing the Northern Tethys Sea (This could also be considered the start of the North Atlantic, depending on what source you go with). Sir Richard Owen described the original specimens, which makes the fact that Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis is considered a Megalosaurid not really big news; Owen pretty much labeled anything on two legs a Megalosaurid because he was a pioneer in a fledgling field and no one was going to question him at the time. In 1964 Owen's sample remains were compared to remains known to be called Eustreptospondylus and re-categorized. The poor animal has been lumped in with Streptospondylus as well in the past and a 2000 study determined that only minor differences in the hips made Eustreptospondylus identifiable as something not in the genus Magnosaurus.

Poor Eustreptospondylus, right? Wrong! The medium sized animal was the apex land predator of the island chain in the Northern Tethys. The only animal that could regularly bother this animal was in the water and that sort of danger only exists when swimming or standing on a beach. It is believed that Eustreptospondylus could swim short distances through shallow water and shallow water would have been much safer than deep water considering the size of animals like Liopleurodon that would have threatened the land carnivore. All in all, Eustreptospondylus was a fairly good predator and we'll see why over the next few days in greater detail.

15 December 2011

Super Pop Culture

As noted, Supersaurus has appeared in many documentaries and in many other places. There was that website, there was Mammals vs. Dinos, we saw a couple coloring pages and kids fact pages. We didn't see this yet though

or this
Yes, it's a balloon
or even this toy
Made by Bandai... crazy Japanese video game companies!
There's also a band called Supersaurus. I'll let you make your own conclusions about their music when you find it, check YouTube. Also, here's a video about Jimbo, the dinosaur in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center:

14 December 2011

Supersaurus 400th Entry

Oh!, that Vivian and Eddie Jones!
Supersaurus was found by Vivian Jones, no not this Vivian Jones or even that Vivian Jones. No, Vivian and Eddie Jones were Uranium prospecting after Word War II, looking in Wyoming for Uranium deposits they could sell to the US military in 1972, when they came across a large fossilized bone (there are other versions that state they were merely rock hounding as amateur geologists, but I think Jensen's version of the story is much more awesome). That bone turned out to be a scapularcaracoid, a shoulder girdle, from one of the largest animals to ever grace the face of the Earth. It wasn't until 1985 that James Jensen named the animal Supersaurus and not until the mid 1990's when the other two animals he named in that were found in the area, Ultrasaurus (Ultrasauros) and Dystylosaurus, were decided to be parts of Supersaurus specimens. in 1996, to be specific, a Supersaurus named Jimbo was unearthed in Wyoming that helped put the argument over the three species to rest and made them all one. Jimbo now lives at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

13 December 2011

Is There Any News?

Supersaurus is as big in the recent (past 30 years) history of paleontology as it was in its era of plant eating domination. A gut as large as the one on Supersaurus certainly led to many eating competition prizes and now, all that fuel which created such an enormous dinosaur has led to a great deal of excitement in us far smaller creatures about what this giant was like and what we know about them. The bones are enormous, of course, and any paper that has made use of the bones has been forced to show them on whole pages and, where details of small segments of these enormous bones are required, without going anywhere near showing the entire bone on that whole page dedicated to the bone.

I think, despite the many papers and articles I found today that go into very good, fair, sometimes crappy, and even extraordinary detail about Supersaurus, I am going to stick with those papers that are always of the utmost importance to dinosaurs, effectively what we could consider their birth certificate into human culture: discovery, description, and naming articles and articles that step back years and years later and discuss the morphology of the species. To that end, the first paper that I will present is James Jensen's October 1985 article which ties Supersaurus vivianae and Ultrasaurus mcintoshi into a conspecific hierarchy, effectively eliminating U. mcintoshi from the vernacular, and making it a junior synonym, in favor of Supersaurus. Though this would actually happen later, after the name was changed to Ultrasauros, the groundwork for the name change was set by Jensen himself unintentionally. I am sure Jensen doesn't mind considering the third dinosaur he described in this 1985 article, Dystylosaurus edwini is now also considered to be a specimen of Supersaurus misnamed. Another interesting item from the article that has been revisited over the years is that Jensen repeatedly refers to Supersaurus as a Brachiosaur and Supersaurus is now known to exist within the diplodocid family. A minor detail that has been changed, but a very important detail as it is very important to the family tree of sauropods.

The second article, by David Lovelace, Scott Hartman (who does fantastic skeletal recreation that I have used to teach myself quite a bit), and William Wahl, discusses the morphology of Supersaurus and evaluates diplodocid phylogeny twenty two years after Jensen's article. Lovelace, Hartman and Wahl's 2007 article describes a new specimen of Supersaurus recently found and goes on, after describing it, to discuss osteology and shows an alternative placement for Supersaurus as an apatosaurid specifically, a subfamily of diplodocids generally not attributed to the Supersaurus genus. In fact, most places I have looked, and there may be a debate I do not know about concerning this placement, has Supersaurus in the diplodocid family in the subgroup diplodocinae where this paper makes the genus a part of the diplodocid family and the apatosaurine subgroup. I think I may have to shoot an email to Mr. Hartman seeking his opinion of their placement in that subgroup to more fully explain it to all of us. The article goes in to great detail on Supersaurus and sadly I do not have the time it would take to discuss it all, but there are some wonderful photos of bones and well done skeletals, as would be expected, used in the article. Take a good chunk of the day to at least skim the article, 18 pages is a lot of science reading after all, and I know you will learn a lot about the dinosaur and its family at the same time.

12 December 2011

Videos of A Giant

Supersaurus lived longer than 100 years at times, couldn't chew its food, and had a 35 foot long neck. I won't spoil all the facts these documentaries want to share with you today, in fact, I am not going to say anything more today. Watch and learn!

11 December 2011

Jim the Supersaurus

In 1996 the first complete, nearly completely complete, Supersaurus was found and, like Sue before him, was named. His name is Jim. Jim the Supersaurus. Jim the Supersaurus has links for the kids to look at.Kids can learn about Jim at Dinosaur Facts or they can learn about Supersaurus in general at Enchanted Learning and KidsDinos. Additionally, they can watch a video on it at Dinosaur Days. There are no coloring sheets today, sadly. I was trying to do something awesome for the kids today, but I'll have to research it during the week and try again next Sunday.

10 December 2011

Too Big for A Camera

©Raul Martin
Supersaurus looks like almost any other sauropod, what makes it so radically different is the length of this behemoth. The Apatosaurus weighs in at around 25 tons and 75 feet; a very long and heavy dinosaur by any means and an enormous land animal. Supersaurus dwarfs its cousin at over 40 tons and 116 feet. Why would an animal need to get larger than Apatosaurus? For one, food niches in the environment. What an Apatosaurus cannot reach with its long neck, either up in the trees or down along the ground just inside the reaches of a forest, say, are easy pickings for Supersaurus. Additionally, with a longer and equally whip-like and therefore potentially deadly tail, Supersaurus was much more of a threat to the predators of its time. If Allosaurs only hunted Apatosaurs in packs on account of their size and tail, the pack of hunters taking down Supersaurus would have had to have been even more wary at greater distance from the prey's vital parts.

©Luis Rey
Any predator attacking an animal like Supersaurus, such as this foolish Allosaurus, are going to get hurt. That tail is not the only weapon available to a dinosaur that large. Just the sheer bulk of this animal is deadly. Here, this animal in Rey's illustration is clearly large, but I would venture to say that it does not look to be a fully grown Supersaurus based upon the fact that the proportions in relation to the Allosaurus are not large enough. Surely it cannot be debated that this sauropod is tossing an Allosaurus bodily into the air with its front legs, but it does not seem to tower over it enough to be an adult. Look at his head also. For a sauropod it seems as though Supersaurus had a rather large head relative to his overall body size. Typically when we think of or look at sauropods we see extremely tiny heads in relation to their body size. In some illustrations this is also the case for Supersaurus. However, it is not always the case in all ages of this animal and therefore not in all illustrations. This head size is further fuel for the idea that this specimen of Supersaurus is not a fully grown adult but is actually a mostly grown juvenile who still has a summer or so ahead of her before she is fully grown. Supersaurus did, however, have a larger skull regardless of the individual's age, relative to body size, than did Apatosaurs and Diplodocids. Also here, notice the inside fifth digit on the forepaws of this sauropod and how they are bent inward as sinister looking claws for defense mostly.

©Vladimir Nikolov
The last image I want to use today (permission pending but it's here for now at least granted) is of two Supersaurus having a slight argument. The illustrator states that the two are an older and younger male fighting over mates. Regardless of the material of the fight I want to use this to show how dangerous these animals were to each other as well as how dangerous they were to other species. The tail, for example, is thin and sharp when cracked the right way against another individual. That tail, much like the whips humans have used for centuries in one capacity or another, could probably have opened up another animal at lightning speed and caused sever damage to the skin and underlying muscles as well. The other danger, as discussed, is, of course, the size of the animal. The weight of one of these animals driving in the fifth digit spike on the forepaw or even just pounding on another dinosaur with its weight would have been enough to cause most animals to yield and turn away from another Supersaurus. As we see in modern giraffes, I wouldn't be amazed if these dinosaurs also used their necks in fights. Surely they must have bit and nibbled at each other as well as a way to end a fight without the wrestling antics of slicing each other up with that tail. We may never know for certain, but that's okay, we have imagination, evidence, and common sense to figure it out.

09 December 2011

Super Size It

©Raul Martin
One of the largest sauropods ever, and a good reason to leave the Triassic for the Jurassic again!, Supersaurus has, quite possibly, one of the most mundane names ever. It is an adequate description, it is pretty darn super, but it sounds like something we could have all come up with when we were playing with dinosaurs in my limestone driveway as a little kid. I digress, but, I loved that driveway because I was always finding some little bit of a seashell here and there and it was kind of like being a paleontologist if only a little bit. Anyhow, Supersaurus was a giant. Measuring in at about 112 feet long and around 40 tons, Supersaurus was almost thirty feet longer and about fifteen tons heavier than Apatosaurus.

Supersaurus also heralds a return to North America after all of our time spent in South America. Supersaurus is, or was, a denizen of the Colorado to Wyoming area during the time of the Morrison Formation. As far as most sauropods go Supersaurus is fairly basic, but there are certainly things which set it apart, which we shall see.

08 December 2011

Erma Eoraptor

 It would be wonderful to share with everyone the Dinosaur Train episode with Erma Eoraptor. Sadly I cannot because no one, not even PBS, has put up the episode online in a place where everyone can see it. It is on Netflix, but not everyone can see that. However, there are a few tribute videos that you can skim, and, more importantly, Eoraptor has found a small following in Dinosaur King
as well as in the Spore creators universe. Actually, in Spore Eoraptor seems to be fairly popular with a few authors taking on the challenge of building up Eoraptors.

07 December 2011

Digging in Argentina

Several skeletons of Eoraptor have been discovered since 1991 allowing quite thorough study of this animal. During the 1991 dig season the University of Chicago and the University of San Juan teams were busy combing the rocks of the Ischigualasto Formation when Ricardo Martinez happened to unearth bones which would lead to the discovery of the first Eoraptor skeleton.After two years of study and fossil finding the paper released with Sereno as head author announced the Eoraptor and described what they had found (Martinez was not a named author in the paper). A very basal dinosaur lacking many traits of its descendants, Eoraptor was thought at the time to be a carnivorous dinosaur. However, only about half of its teeth were curved and serrated and its mandible did not have a sliding articulation which would allow for the grasping of large prey like later carnivores. It did have three digit hands and feet like many later predators and the tridactyl hand was a large factor in the placement of the animal in the theropod lineage.

Since that time Sereno has released further research that places Eoraptor in the sauropodomorph, others have argued it is still a theropod and Martinez has led research which came to the conclusion that there was no exact argument for either branch which would safely put it in either one. The research considered Eoraptor an eusaurischian, an animal that is so basal it is neither theropod nor sauropodomorph but at the base of both family trees. This is a unique position as it tells us a lot about the structure of the earliest dinosaurs and the building blocks of later evolution and how structures form. There is still a lot to learn from the Triassic fossils of the Ischigualasto, but we have a good start thanks to the discoveries made in the Ischigualasto formation like Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus, amongst many others.

06 December 2011

Just the Facts

The Ischigualasto Formation of Argentina has yielded quite a few good specimens of Triassic dinosaurs, amongst other large land vertebrates of the time. It does not come as a surprise then that many animals in the formation have been identified as basal sauropodomorphs or theropods along with the first animals we can think of as true sauropodomorphs and theropods, in some instances. South America, in fact, has become a hot place to be to dig up not only very early dinosaurs but later titans and leviathans as well as rather large predators as well. There is a lot more to be said about that... and if I only had a sponsor who would pay my bills so I could write and research even more... we can all hope and dream.

At any rate, our friend at the Theropod Archives has come through again for us and he has found a copy of the original Sereno, Forster, et al. paper that names and describes Eoraptor. As with all of their publications, Sereno and Forster, from this time and later, the information is well detailed and written and, as much as a science paper can be, interesting to read (facts and figures some days are just too much to sit and read, trust me, I have to do teacher related book studies for professional development and... well they are not page turners). Should anyone wish to read their paper please send me a message as it is not hosted online anywhere and I don't have the permissions to post it for the authors. I'm only rarely in touch with one of them actually, so it would take a good while to get the permissions anyhow, but I can share the article, there's no harm in that! It has some good illustrations of the skull and skeleton as well as good information about the animal and its, at the time, placement as a basal theropod (which was based a great deal on the tridactyl manus of the animal).

05 December 2011

Eoraptor Movies

Despite the lack of Dinosaur Train clips or whole episodes now that we know there is one episode all about Eoraptor, I do have some clips to share. One of these clips, the first one, is from Discovery's Dinosaur Revolution. I have not watched the entire series, merely clips here and there and, to be honest, I am sort of glad that I have not watched all of the episodes in their entirety at this moment. The clips I have watched all seem to have taken dinosaurs, and I admit that life is funny and living creatures do silly and funny things sometimes, into a medium that I think should be displayed in what the clips of the show truly resemble.

What I mean is that rather than using CGI modelling, the creators should have drawn the dinosaurs in and colored them in 1970's technicolor. The entire show plays out like Looney Tunes with cute funny little segments like a dinosaur making noises at night and keeping a dinosaur up who, in turn, gets mad, stalks off quietly to where the noise is being made, then bites off the offender's head. We know this not because they show it happen, but because a dinosaur starts running across the screen two, no, three times, then appears headless in the middle of the screen and collapses after the sleeping dinosaur has gone back to bed. The Eoraptor segment is no different. I thought it was just a funny little moment of chance encounters at the end of this clip until I started watching other clips of the show and realized that all that was missing was a quarrel between a duck and an oversized rabbit. Here's the clip anyhow:

I wish we had the Dinosaur Train clip so I could actually share some real science after that little entertainment piece, but it is not online. The clip below, however, does make up for it. This is information from some software that can be both CD and online based. The information is found on the website for DinosaurDays. It's got some good info in this clip though, and I think everyone can learn something new from it. I am going to save other clips I have found for Thursday's pop culture day, so enjoy what's here!

04 December 2011

Eoraptor Plays Well with Others

Eoraptor frequented our favorite fact pages for children this week: KidsDinos and Enchanted Learning. Through a stroke of luck, or because it happens every time we use Enchanted Learning, we also automatically have a coloring page on Enchanted Learning already. That's always nice. There is another place to color Eoraptor. That is Kids Dig Dinos. It's pretty much a child's drawing, but it's a good one, so no one can really complain too much about that. Dinosaur Train, Season 1, Episode 18, Part 1 is about an Eoraptor named Erma. Unfortunately, I cannot find it online except on Netflix. I found a still from the episode that is pretty good quality however.

03 December 2011

Eoraptor Envisioned

Nobu Tamura graciously allowed us to use the picture I presented yesterday. His beautifully detailed rendition of Eoraptor is eye catching. The image captures many of simplistic basal traits of the animal as a dinosaur- the three clawed hand (which attributed it to its position as father of all theropods when initially described by Sereno, Forster, at al. but has since been reversed), gracile slender body form, perpendicular hip swivel (as opposed to the splayed 90 degree hip articulation of reptiles), long tail, small head (which possesses multiple fenestra), and an interesting mixture of carnivore and herbivore teeth, not unlike you and me.

The head of this animal does indeed possess many dinosaur traits including the fenetrae and the long shallow snout as well as two types of teeth, but these are typically found in two different types of dinosaurs. The carnivorous set of teeth near the front of the mouth are serrated and curved backwards like any other predator's teeth. The teeth in rear of the dental battery however are less suited to tearing flesh and more suited to biting into plant matter and chewing it. Omnivorous diet is nothing new to the idea of dinosaurs but initially this small dinosaur was thought to be the precursor of more advanced theropods, as such, being an omnivore is not a sin against its descendants, but to think T. Rex's greatest grandfather ate plants as well as animals seems a little unbelievable. It isn't really, everything starts out needing energy from somewhere, plants are a great source, so why not? The biggest predators in the world sitting down to a salad just seems funny.

For some reason, after the event of reclassifying Eoraptor as a basal sauropodomorph rather than a basal theropod artists have continued to render Eoraptor in a very carnivorous vein. That is not to say of course that they were never carnivorous, but they certainly did not have to hold themselves as carnivores all of the time. Maybe that's why I like the few illustrations I found where Eoraptor looks like the ancestor of the herbivores that it is rather than a bloodthirsty carnivore. I guess we will just have to see what is right; acting more like predator or prey for this animal!

02 December 2011

Dawn of a New Week

©2008 Nobu Tamura
Eoraptor lunensis, dawn thief of (the Valley of) the moon; who could want a better name than that? Eoraptor has had an interesting history. Typically the pattern here has been carnivore/omnivore then herbivore then back, and this week's part of the cycle should be carnivore or omnivore. Eoraptor has us there as the teeth indicate that this little denizen of the Triassic found in the same Ischigualasto formation in the Valley of the Moon in Argentina are indeed the teeth of an omnivore. Sharp recurved teeth up front, flat herbivore teeth in back. Eoraptor was originally thought to be one of the forerunners of all predatory dinosaurs, until another early dinosaur was found. This other dinosaur had more characteristics in common with later animals like T. Rex and new studies of Eoraptor determined that this little omnivore is actually more likely to be the ancestor of plant eating giants; Eoraptor is the first building block in sauropodomorph evolution!

01 December 2011

Popular Lambeosaurus

Lambeosaurus has been a fairly popular dinosaur since it was discovered, unearthed, and named properly. Part of the reason for dinosaur fame is always the ostentatious and outlandish look of dinosaurs. Lambeosaurus' crest designs have helped the animal along very well in that regard over time. There may be nothing too unique or outstanding in what amounts to basically a giant Cretaceous cow, but adding that interestingly shaped hood ornament sure does make for a stellar looking celebrity. We have seen Lambeosaurus in many places over the past week, but one place we haven't looked so far is one of our old mainstays of gauging popularity of animals: video games.

Lambeosaurus does not really show up in any currently popular games, strangely enough. No one has made a good rendition in Spore at all, which is interesting since even much newer dinosaurs have shown up in Spore. However, that's just looking for videos. Some folks have made some models in Spore and posted photos, though that's not nearly as entertaining, but here are a few anyhow on the pages of authors IanScott and peelstickputt. They have been done good jobs, but I have to give the win to this one from IanScott's page:
Also, lest we forget, my favorite dinosaur raising game of old: Zoo Tycoon. There's no way to really forget the Lambeosaurus from that game, it had wonderful coloring:
Last but not least on this frontier, someone made dinosaurs for Civilization games, and you'll find a Lambeosaurus unit here.