STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 August 2013

Camera Shy

©Nobu Tamura
Nyasasaurus, in part due to the fragmentary nature of the few remains that have been recovered, is not represented in images often. In fact, only two or three images of the dinosaur exist in the public domain. One of these is a bubble representation of proposed or predicted biomass of the dinosaur as extrapolated from the measurements of the available bones. Of the other two, one indicates herbivorous behavior and the other omnivorous or carnivorous features are highlighted. The image show here is the latter. Both body types work, especially given that we are missing a lot of the information needed to correctly reconstruct the body. That said, compare today and yesterday's images and feel free to discuss the positives of both bodily representations as each interpretations has both merits and negatives as well.

30 August 2013

New Old Partial Dinosaurs

©Mark Witton
The original material of Nyasasaurus (Nyasasaurus parringtoni) was a partial skeleton described in the 1956 doctoral dissertation of Alan Charig. The material was minimal, consisting of a humerus, three sacral and three presacral/thoracic vertebrae. A second specimen exists, also minimal remains, consisting of a trio of cervical vertebrae and two postsacral/caudal vertebrae. Nyasasaurus was discovered in central Africa near Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi) in Tanzania. The skeletal elements were discovered in the early 1930's by Francis R. Parrington, and is now considered to represent what is possibly the oldest dinosaur known. Living with cynodonts, rhynchosaurs, and other therapsids and diapsids, Nyasasaurus dates from around 243 MYA, approximately 30 MY prior to Coelophysis. Perhaps, thanks in part to a paper published within the last year, we can definitively assign Nyasasaurus to a family, but for today, remember that it is considered one of the most basal dinosaurs and that it is most certainly an Archosaurian animal.

29 August 2013

Famous Falcarius

Falcarius, as noted on Monday, was the subject of its own dedicated documentary produced by the Discovery Channel. The fame, however, does not stop there. Falcarius has also been modified into games, or just plain created as a character in some people's games.

Falcarius has also appeared in a few books, some about feathered dinosaurs. This assumes, and it appears to be the general consensus at the moment, that Falcarius was at least partially feathered. Drawing it with the steps in a dinosaur how-to-draw book also includes feathering, which is usually fairly difficult for most amateur artists that are using how-to-draw books. Toys and statues have also been created by companies and artists depicting Falcarius. Cartoons, our semi-normal fame related outlet, seem to be lacking when it comes to Falcarius, strangely.

28 August 2013

More Than Arms

Falcarius is so much more than arms and leaf shaped teeth. It is a rather long dinosaur that tells us a lot of information about the other members of its family both before and after it in addition to being a member of that very unique family. Falcarius has a long neck and a long tail counterbalancing that neck and its bipedal stance allows for a great reach with the head that is on the end of the neck. The arms of Falcarius were also unique in that they were robust and were capable of extending through a rather interesting range of motion. Though very much like their Maniraptora sisters, Therizinosaurs developed a different set of motions in their forelimbs. In fact, Zanno 2006 states that 20% of the synapomorphies of Maniraptora and Therizinosaur actually show that Therizinosaurs were reversing their pectoral girdle conditions and thus the range and types of motions they were capable of producing in their forelimbs. Twenty percent is a significant change from similar animals. Not requiring their forelimbs to grapple with prey and instead using them in a different manner entirely, such as reaching for vegetation, would certainly alter their range, and therefore their anatomical makeup, significantly over many generations. This, then, makes sense that Falcarius is little changed as a basal ancestor, but the fact that it still possesses many of those changes and represents transitional stages of those changes is significant.
L. E. Zanno. 2006. The pectoral girdle and forelimb of the primitive therizinosauroid Falcarius utahensis (Theropoda, Maniraptora): analyzing evolutionary trends within Therizinosauroidea. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26(3):636-650

27 August 2013

Lindsay Zanno's Abridged Works

Not that everything thing Lindsay Zanno has ever written has been about Falcarius or anything, but Dr. Zanno spent a good deal of time with Falcarius and wrote, or coauthored, quite a few articles about different aspects of Falcarius' anatomy. We know quite a bit about Falcarius thanks to the work of many different paleontologists, but the names that came up the most in the early articles were Zanno, Kirkland, and Sampson; coincidentally, the tooth shape mention I made on Saturday was corrected by Dr. Kirkland, if anyone missed that. In 2005 Kirkland et al. officially named Falcarius (an article that can be found here) and described the animal in a short but detailed paper. Phylogenetic analyses from this paper placed Falcarius as the "basalmost therizinosauroid known". Zanno went on the next year to analyze the pectoral girdle and forelimb of Falcarius, which is of interest to everyone given those rather unique and interesting claws. She discusses clade placement in the paper, which is very interesting, but if anyone was wondering what the range of motion for that nifty forelimb was, that is also addressed, so no worries! The systematics lovers that are now appalled at my casual dismissal of the former part of the 2006 Zanno paper should try to find a copy of Zanno's 2010 article examining the osteology of Falcarius and placement of Falcarius and other basal therizinosaurs within their family and clade. It makes up for my dismissal of the previous papers section on systematics, I promise.

26 August 2013

Falcarius and the Video Question

Discovery, a few years back, aired a show dedicated to Utah's dinosaur graveyard at Crystal Geyser Quarry. The show follows the evolution of a theropod line of herbivores from carnivorous ancestors and attempts to parallel that evolution with the initial radiation of dinosaur evolution from a single bipedal carnivore ancestor.

The show is separated into 5 clips and, for the time being exists on YouTube starting with the video shared here. Given the nature of Discovery shows being slowly taken off of the internet due to copyright rules, if you want to watch this online do so as quickly as possible!

25 August 2013

Falcarius, Too Scary for Kids?

In terms of links friendly to younger readers Falcarius scores very low in search returns. That in itself is not a problem really, if there is someone around to help them read the harder to read items that are out there related to Falcarius. Intermittent internet issues today have made my search even more difficult as well. However, I did turn up some easier to understand fact pages through the Natural History Museum of Utah and Bob Strauss' writings for Both sites can be read by younger readers, but as they are not written specifically for younger readers, they may be a little higher reading level than I usually like to expose kids to. Tomorrow I should be able to find a bit more to share and will also hopefully have more time to share things as well.

24 August 2013

Some Short Anatomy

©Gaston Designs
The arms of Falcarius are where the name came from, so we expect them to be pretty stunning. The large claws of the arm are just that; they are quite extraordinary in the world of an herbivorous dinosaur. Most herbivores either use size or speed to protect them from predators. Many have other forms of protection, such as safety in numbers, but the large claws of Falcarius would certainly have made formidable weapons for protection against predators. Additionally, the claws are situated much like those of a sloth, and as such, are fairly ideal for pulling branches to the animal rather than grabbing and grasping.

The teeth of Falcarius are rather peg-like. In some other animals, like Diplodocus, we find these sorts of teeth and they are mainly for sheering leaves off of the twigs and branches from which the dinosaur fed. Because of this it is also highly likely that Falcarius ate in a very similar manner. Use of the hand like that of a sloth, for pulling down branches, while the teeth strip the leaves from the plant. The teeth are not designed for crushing and chewing plant matter in a highly efficient manner. There are a few teeth that appear to be for crushing plant matter, but they are very few and more toward the posterior end of the mouth. This probably entails the use of a gizzard in the digestive system, though as yet we do not seem to have compelling evidence of this organ structure.

23 August 2013


Therizinosaurs are some of the creepiest dinosaurs I can think of. Our dinosaur this week, Falcarius (One species: Falcarius utahensis), is considered a valuable transitional discovery between other theropods and true therizinosaurs. Study of this Utah discovery in conjunction with the recently discovered Beipiaosaurus from China have allowed researchers to discover a lot more and draw a lot more logical conclusions about the evolution of the family of therizinosaurs. Falcarius, meaning "sickle" in Latin, was named for its high curvature claws present on its hands. A fairly long dinosaur, Falcarius has quite a stretch at the neck as well as quite a reach with its forelimbs. Typical therizinosaurs are assumed to be some of the only theropods that are obligate herbivores; ornithomimids are the other major family of theropods thought to be partially herbivorous but are proposed to have been much more omnivorous in nature. Falcarius was discovered by Larry Walker in 1999 in the Crystal Geyser Quarry of eastern Utah. James Kirkland, who we mention a lot in Utah related paleontology, was called in to head the geological survey team in 2001 that began to recover the bones of this dinosaur from the quarry. By 2005 a couple of thousand specimens had been recovered comprising the total remains of at least 300 individuals. Since that time the number of specimens has increased to over 3000 in the original quarry and a second quarry has been discovered to also contain specimens of this animal. The name was officially given to the dinosaur in May 2005's publication of Nature by Kirkland et al., which we will visit later in the week.
Picture by Paul Fisk. Mounted at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

22 August 2013

Othnielosaurus Waited All Afternoon

Paleontology Museum of Zurich
I slacked a little bit today, and I apologize for that my friends. Othnielosaurus was more popular as Othnielia than it ever has been as Othnielosaurus. Under its new designation as Othnielosaurus this dinosaur has not gotten anywhere near as much recognition. Part of the difference is that Othnielia was a recognized name for 30 years and was renamed during the height of the Dinosaur Renaissance. Under that name many documentaries mentioned the dinosaur as well as many papers/articles, and books. Dinosaur toys are still more often associated with Othnielia that with Othnielosaurus. The dinosaur has made it into the world of video games under both names; it has been created and displayed in Spore by different creature creators under both names. Othnielia did appear as a toy under the Discovery Kids brand of "educational" dinosaur toys a few years back.

21 August 2013

Othnielosaurus Confused

Othnielosaurus is a very confused dinosaur, as we have seen this week. Most of the confusion associated with Othnielosaurus is due to the fact that the name and assignment of the remains has been changed so many times during the history of our knowledge of this species. The reason is that, as we have seen, different reviewers of the material have had different ideas about the associations of the animal with other animals. Overall, this is how the history of the dinosaur's names goes:
Species recognized in each of the genera to the left are listed with authority.
Laid out like this it is not too confusing really, but it is very easy to see how and why it can get confusing rather quickly. Technically Othnielia still exists, but the fragmentary nature of the single femur that Galton still recognized as belonging to Othnielia relegates the genus, as Galton himself even recognized, to the status of nomen dubium. Therefore, Othnielosaurus is the only genus of those above that is officially recognized as valid at the present time. In the future it is probable that Othnielia will be officially classified as a nomen dubium or be revived by the discovery of new remains.

20 August 2013

Othnielosaurus in Writing

Many papers have been written about, or mention, Laosaurus, Othnielia and Othnielosaurus. The key papers that describe and assign the animals through time into ever smaller groups are the most important papers though. Marsh's original 1877 piece describing what he called Laosaurus is of the utmost importance as it provides original descriptions of the remains of Othnielosaurus. Likewise important is CW Gilmore's 1909 description of an addition to the family; Laosaurus minimus. Both articles are difficult to find copies of, and your best bet honestly seems to be inter-library loans, as the internet does not have scanned copies hidden in it anywhere it seems. In 1977 Galton reassigned both L. consors and L. gracilis to Othnielia rex and redescribed the remains of the two species. 30 years later, in 2007, Galton again re-examined the remains and reseated the genus as Othnielosaurus. Both of these writings are of importance. The 2007 writing is a part of a book called Horns and Beaks: Ceratopsian and Ornithopod Dinosaurs edited by Kenneth Carpenter while the 1977 article was published in Nature, and is therefore hard to come by as well online.

19 August 2013

Othnielosaurus Hunted

Once again Othnielosaurus has not shown up in searches due to the change in name. However, Othnielia still turns up results on this happy little Monday. Strangely enough, the results it turns up appear to have landed us in two time frames; Jurassic and Cretaceous references are both present for Othnielia in the one documentary in which it seems to appear. The documentary series in question is Walking with Dinosaurs, and we know from experience here that the experience of Walking with Dinosaurs is that it is sometimes inaccurate. Othnielia/Othnielosaurus is hunted in two episodes of the series at large. In one episode it is approached by a Cretaceous Utahraptor in what is now Europe while in another episode it is hunted by Jurassic Allosaurs in North America. Unfortunately, clips from episodes of shows like Walking with Dinosaurs are slowly getting weeded out from the internet due to copyright laws, so it is getting harder and harder to find quality clips. Stills from the shows exist though and I can easily share those, as I have done today. As a caveat with this image though, it has also been seen labeled as Dryosaurus, Hypsilophodon, and probably others.

18 August 2013

Finding Othnielosaurus

In 1977 Peter Galton changed Nanosaurus to Othnielia. In 2007 Othnielia was again changed by Galton to Othnielosaurus. This made finding kids websites a little more of a chore this morning as I had to search multiple names to find the correct dinosaur. When I did find what we are looking for though, I found a lot of good websites for kids, just under an older name that has not been changed to the current name quite yet; widespread acceptance of Galton's reassignment of all of the remains to Othnielosaurus is not yet apparent. Anyhow, Othnielia, which would have been almost indistinguishable from Othnielosaurus at any rate (a good discussing point with young paleontologists), has pages dedicated to it at KidsDinos, Animal Planet, and Enchanted Learning; a long and short version are both available. Coloring pages for today seem to be lacking, but the conversations generated from the fact pages and a discussion of why the name changed may just fill the entire day with paleo fun for the young enthusiast, and that is what Sundays are all about around here anyway honestly!

17 August 2013

Omnivorous Herbivourous Carnivore

Marsh's Laosaurus
The typical configuration of hypsilophodonts is that of an herbivorous bipedal dinosaur running swiftly through the underbrush and nibbling at the leaves on the forest floor. Marsh's original interpretation was the opposite; he envisioned a small carnivore rushing around the underbrush snatching up small mammals and insects. However, he also envisioned Laosaurus as a tail dragging bipedal carnivore, as was the norm of many paleontologists in the 19th century. Tail dragging eliminates the ability of any animal to jog off into the underbrush of a forested canopy. The sub-rectangular head is full of teeth that, while they could be used by a carnivore, are far more likely to be found in the mouth of an herbivore or an omnivore; some of the teeth would be fairly out of place in the mouth of a carnivore.

©Nobu Tamura
A more horizontal position for the spinal column is also a little more pleasant to look at as the upright Othnielosaurus looks a little too rigid for a living, moving animal. An Othnielosaurus that is somewhat bent over can forage a little bit faster and is already in a pretty good position to sprint off to safety with very little notice. The ability to sprint with little notice is important for a dinosaur that has very little natural defensive ability outside the ability to bite at would be attackers, as any animal with teeth can do.

16 August 2013

Othniel Honored

Running herd cast at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Tad Williams
In 1878 Othniel Charles Marsh named a small ornithischian dinosaur Laosaurus consors; "kindred stone lizard". Since that time other species were attributed to Laosaurus by Marsh and Gilmore but subsequent and current research has determined that Laosaurus is a nomen dubium. Instead, the basal hypsilophodont Othnielosaurus consors has been renamed in honor of OC Marsh. As of 2007, the most current analysis of Othnielosaurus, Peter Galton has upheld a 1990 paper by Bakker et al that placed Othnielia, another previous placement of Othnielosaurus, in a position of being more basal than the most basal hypsilophodonts; in other words Othnielosaurus is primitive enough that it may be a common ancestor, a splitting point, of hypsilophodonts and another group of animals. Current cladograms, however, simply place Othnielosaurus at the base of a split between Thescelosauridae and Hypsilophodontidae, making them more basal than both but not a common ancestor from which the families are both derived; systematics and cladistics gets confusing rather quickly sometimes. Regardless, this is a rather basic ornisthischian dinosaur, the kind that looks like a large and active lizard and does not stand out like a Triceratops or a Dilophosaurus from the rest of the dinosaurs.

15 August 2013

Hard Being Popular

One of the worst things about ceratopsian skeletons is the general lack of post cranial material. Generally all ceratopsians are illustrated, sculpted, and modeled the same exact way post cranially due to this lack of information. Therefore, a lot of illustrations, etc. that are attributed to an animal like Pentaceratops are not always of that animal (images geared toward children are the absolute worst at misidentifying ceratopsians). Despite this and the sheer number of returns in a search for Pentaceratops, the popularity of Pentaceratops is not over exaggerated by misidentifications; it is in fact a rather popular dinosaur in popular culture. Pentaceratops has been depicted in Dinosaur King video games as well as cartoons (both episodes in which Pentaceratops appears are hosted by 4KidsTV on YouTube) and in other games, such as Spore, where it was created or added in by players of the game.
Pentaceratops has also been molded a number of different ways as toys and action figures; the ability to be posed being where I differentiate the two. Toys tend to be a little more often scientifically accurate models, whereas action figures are almost always gaudy representations of a passable version of the dinosaur in question.


Action figure

14 August 2013

The Big Frill

Holotype designated by HF Osborn, 1923
Measuring approximately 10 feet from the anterior of the premaxilla to the posterior end of the parietosquamosal frill, Pentaceratops had a head about as long as the largest known adult male lions; the largest known measured 12 ft, but many have been recorded around 10ft long including their tails. The horns of Pentaceratops were rather large, as we have seen and discussed previously. Technically Pentaceratops, though being called a five horned dinosaur, has only three horns. The protuberances along the cheek are epijugal extensions and are actually only extensions of the cheeks of the dinosaur. Likewise, the "horns" at the top of the frill are epiparietal extensions of bone and are, themselves, also only protuberances of bone and not true horns. The remainder of the skull is fairly typical of a ceratopsian dinosaur with the exception of the overall size. The nasal horn swings forward and up to a point and then begins to angle posteriorly at the apex. The orbital horns also follow the gentle forward curving but instead curve extremely anteriorly at the tips rather than posteriorly. The teeth are pretty much what we expect to see in a ceratopsian dinosaur as is the "beak" that makes up the majority of the premaxilla.

13 August 2013


Wired Science compilation using Nicholas Longrich's skull reconstruction on right
We could spend all day today simply linking articles that are about, mention, or vaguely address Pentaceratops. There are not enough hours in the day to read all the papers I found within the first ten seconds of searching for articles to read. There are later discoveries of skulls that are described, "new" compilations of data on the dinosaur genus (from 1993), and even re-evaluations of the genus as a whole. If you can find a copy I recommend, as always, reading the original description by HF Osborn and CH Sternberg which is only 3 pages and was published by the American Museum of Natural History. I also recommend reading Longrich's paper announcing Titanoceratops ouranos from 2011. The majority agreement at the moment is that Titanoceratops is a junior synonym of Pentaceratops, and that is the key reason I would say it is important to read this paper.

12 August 2013

Pentaceratops Movies

Movies about Pentaceratops, in a professionally done manner of speaking, are few and far between, but movies do exist. There are numerous Pentaceratops tribute videos; it is always kind of fun to see what images people grabbed and how they used them in that context despite my dislike for the music that is typically used in those sorts of videos. There are also a lot of Dinosaur King and other video game related movies floating around out there. Norman's Sam Noble Museum has a nice skeleton on display of Pentaceratops which is shared in a few videos that have been posted. The least personal of these is found below; the others are mainly home videos and, as such are a little more private even though they are posted online.

11 August 2013

Pentaceratops the Gentle

Krispy Kreme hosted a coloring contest featuring Pentaceratops once in New Mexico; that is how popular the dinosaur is with kids in its "home state". Pentaceratops is a well known dinosaur the world over though it seems. Science Kids (the New Zealand website that shows up here from time to time), Enchanted Learning, NHM London, Dinosaur Jungle, and KidsDinos all turn up as fact pages that are geared toward children when we look up Pentaceratops in relation to youth. That makes it one of the most popular dinosaurs in terms of children related fact pages found online; a fairly spectacular occurrence to be completely honest. Enchanted Learning has links to one of their kid-drawn dinosaur coloring pages on their fact sheet, but there is also coloring available from a site called (equally inaccurate but "cute" dinosaur). There is little shortage of dinosaurs labeled Pentaceratops on coloring pages to be honest. All of them are slightly inaccurate, but inaccuracies, carefully approached, can lead to an enlightening conversation with any age child and developing critical thinking and the ability to compare images may be a good exercise today!

10 August 2013

Hanging Pictures on a Frill

Adopted from Sampson SD, Loewen MA, Farke AA, Roberts EM, Forster CA, et al. 2010
Pentaceratops had, arguably, one of the largest frills (a parietosquamosal caudal extension of the skull) in its family. Chasmosaurine ceratopsians typically had larger frill areas than centrosaurs and protoceratopsids. There are always a few exceptions to every rule (Styracosaurus for example had a rather large frill for a centrosaurine ceratopsian), but it does fit as a general rule that a large frill belongs to a chasmosaur. The eyebrow (orbital) horns are also quite extensive and curved downward (the bird world would call this a decurved horn but some here may refer to this as rostrally or ventrally curved). The small nasal horn curves slightly backward but does not reach such a length that the curvature becomes highly pronounced. Fenestrations of the parietal are found in the frill which serve to lighten the bone mass, as in most ceratopsians, and the skull is joined to the postcranial vertebrae in a complex joint that allows movement somewhat like that of a ball and socket joint.

Sampson, S. D., Loewen, M. A., Farke, A. A., Roberts, E. M., Forster, C. A., Smith, J. A., & Titus, A. L. (2010). New horned dinosaurs from Utah provide evidence for intracontinental dinosaur endemism. PLoS One, 5(9), e12292.
©Nobu Tamura
 When the skull is turned even slightly away from a direct lateral view we can see that the frill forms a rather large U bend in the center of the dorsal end of the frill. The small hornlets, or epiparietal horns, are turned down and forward (decurved/rostral and anterior facing). Also we can see that skin stretched tightly over the entire frill would accent the fenestrations by being "sucked" into the bony windows slightly but enough that we would be able to notice them. This theme occurs constantly in the recreation of ceratopsians and, given the idea that the fenestrations existed to lighten the bone rather than house important organs, it makes a great deal of sense that skin and other tissues above those holes would not disguise their existence by puffing outward or anything of the like.

09 August 2013

Star Heads

©Mariana Ruiz Villareal
Technically it just means "five horned face" but most star shapes have five points, so calling Pentaceratops sternbergii a star headed animal is not too much of a stretch. The five horns mentioned are the three we typically think of on a ceratopsian skull plus two spikes lower on the skull referred to as "epijugal" spikes; these are the protrusions of bone below the orbits which extend laterally. Pentaceratops is one of the larger members of the Chasmosaurine ceratopsian.  Discovered initially in 1921 (by Charles H. Sternberg) and named in 1923 (by Harry Fairfield Osborn), Pentaceratops was initially recovered from the San Juan Basin in New Mexico. Many examples of this dinosaur have been extricated from the land since, including a rather large specimen that, at the moment, is generally considered a synonymous species but is known as Titanoceratops ouranos (more on this later). As with many other ceratopsians, Pentaceratops discoveries generally consist of only, or little more than, a skull. The holotype is a skull only find from Sternberg's 1922 expeditions to New Mexico. Sternberg did, in 1921, discover a nearly complete specimen (why the 1922 skull is the holotype and not the 1921 skeleton is something that will be explored later, potentially).

08 August 2013

Story of Coelurus

Zander and Kevin Cannon have a knack for making dinosaurs more popular. Their cartoon studio has done an awful of lot work in multiple disciplines and over a wide variety of nerdy/geeky subjects. The book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, features their combined artwork and the writing of Jay Hosler and is set in a very accessible graphic novel format. Their inclusion of a rather baffled looking Coelurus in the artwork of the book can be attributed to the knowledge of the skeleton and the fact that Coelurus has been well known for such a long time before it was accepted that the entire skeleton was indeed the remains of a single individual spread out around the quarry. Coelurus has also showed up in a few video games such as Jurassic Park III: Park Builder, or at the very least, has been modded into a few games such as Zoo Tycoon. There is not a wealth of popular culture references beyond the inclusion in those games or the book, but it is enough really. There are so many dinosaurs out there we cannot really and truly expect them all to be extremely popular.

07 August 2013

Things I Like About Coelurus

Via the Daily Mail (Artist not credited)
From 1980 to the early 1990's Coelurus benefited from being studied again and, this time, by being recognized as itself. During this time different paleontologists looked at the different bones that had been recovered from the Como Bluff (in Wyoming) quarry known as Reed's Quarry 13. Many different skeletal aspects of many dinosaurs had been recovered from the quarry and upon inspection under the watchful eyes of the likes of John Ostrom it became apparent that many of the elements had come from the same individual but had been slightly scattered. That individual turned out to be a Coelurus adult and now is fairly complete, not entirely complete still however. The known skeleton consists of two arms from the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry (Utah) as well as pelvic and shoulder girdle elements, multiple vertebrae, a small section of mandible (probable remains), and members of both arms and legs housed at the Peabody Museum from Reed's Quarry 13. The mix up at Reed's Quarry 13 can possibly be explained by the nature of the area at the time of Coelurus' existence; a semiarid floodplain with wet and dry seasons is a good place for a dinosaur to expire in the dry season and then have its bones shuffled about in the next wet season. This phenomenon, or perhaps commonplace occurrence, is witnessed in other contemporary animals of the floodplains such as Allosaurus, Torvosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus, to name a few.

06 August 2013

Coelurus the Writer

Admittedly Coelurus did not write papers about itself (or have a written language itself) but there are papers out there that have been written about Coelurus. Some of these that can be found are about Coelurus bauri Cope, 1887; this dinosaur is now known, as was previously discussed, as Coelophysis bauri Cope 1889. Coelurus fragilis, however, is less well documented, but is still fairly well documented in and of itself. In fact, new finds of Coelurus have been well documented throughout time, including in 1997 in Wyoming and Coelurus has even been debated as a theropod and discussed in relation to ornithomimids. It has been included in some important works including The Dinosuria (both editions), numerous field guides (including Paul's Predatory Dinosaurs of the World), and even a few smaller books.

05 August 2013

Little Skulls

Coelurus has only made it into a short video that I have seen discussing the discovery of a small skull that belongs to it.

The fact that a skull was found is not that amazing, but that it was fairly intact is always good for science because it houses so many more clues than a skull that is missing any important elements. As with many other videos, I really wish there was more to this and there may have been when the clip aired in an episode, but copyright materials are not shared freely by corporations, so you may have to dig on your own a bit for this one.

04 August 2013

Little Dinosaur, Little Kids

via Arthur's clipart
Coelurus is a small dinosaur; I think that point has been made many more times than needed over the past few days. The main point of today, as always, is to share information that we can share with our younger audience. To that end, I have a good fact page for all of those kids out there that are developing their reading skills and love dinosaurs (you do not have to love them to read it though!)., one of our usual favorites, has a good and short page of fun dinosaur facts for today. Another typical entry for us today, the Natural History Museum in London, also has a short, actually a shorter, fact page to peruse for Coelurus. Coloring pages exist as well today, but the best are the image above and an image hosted by H&M Coloring Pages (not related to the store H&M).

03 August 2013

Look at the Detail

©Kazunari Araki
First of all, that is not a set of toys or digitally created. This is a small sculpture. That in and of itself is pretty amazing. Mr. Kazunari has created sculptures for some of the largest museums in Asia, particularly Japan, and has also written books on the subject of dinosaur sculptures. He has also helped produce model kits for Kaiyodo, a Japanese model making company more famous for their WWII models that dabbles quite a bit in prehistoric creatures as well. The actual statuette (measuring 25x15x25cm) does not have the background shown here but does show Coelurus attacking a small Rhamphorynchus on an oval shaped base. How often a Coelurus would have had this particular meal is something that could be debated, but its hollow vertebrae indicate it was somewhat light skeletally meaning it may have had the speed to sneak up on a landed pterosaur provided it also had the needed stealth to accomplish that feat. Regardless, a wonderful rendition of the small Late Jurassic carnivore.

Looking for artist
The idea of Coelurus as an ornithimimid has been brought to light a few times, though not in peer reviewed discourse, to my knowledge. Rather, Coelurus is considered a Coeulrid, a family that includes many other small Jurassic and Cretaceous carnivores such as Compsognathus and Sinosauropteryx. The main shape of all three dinosaurs is quite similar. Long tails counter-balance a forward leaning running animal allowing it to accelerate, turn, and maintain a top speed with maximum efficiency for the dinosaur's hunting and escape habits. Being a lighter dinosaur Coelurus may have had the ability to climb as well; this is a fairly common sense lifestyle attribution given that the feet of Coelurus are quite avian in its design.

02 August 2013

Coelurus in the Afternoon

©Nobu Tamura
Some days we just have busy morning. Coelurus does not mind at all. As long as I get to introduce him to everyone I strongly doubt that Coelurus would care. The genus Coelurus consists of one species, Coelurus fragilis, though it does have two synonymous names; C. agilis and Elaphrosaurus agilis. Elaphrosaurus is a rather odd name, though it sounds interesting, and I for one am glad that it was the junior to Coelurus and not the other way around (Coelurus Marsh 1879 versus Elaphrosaurus Marsh 1884). Elaphrosaurus, just to avoid confusion, has been raised since that time (Janensch 1920) as an ceratosaurine genus; more about Elaphrosaurus in the future though. Meaning "hollow tail" Coelurus' description was a product of what has come to be called the "Bone Wars" of the 19th century between Marsh and Cope. As such, it was not given much thought after it was named and described. A full year of quarrying, September 1879 to September 1880, revealed many different aspects of the skeleton of Coelurus, but the passage of time and the disassociated elements lead to confusion and the misidentification of the remains as belonging to more than one species, thus the synonymy that is present now. Cope and Lydekker also named species of Coelurus, only to have them changed later to other genera; Cope redescribing the two Coelurus specimens he had named as belonging to Coelophysis and Lydekker's specimen being transferred to Thecospondylus. Thankfully, however, all of that misinformation and confusion has been cleared today and we recognize, and know, a single species of hollow-tailed fragile dinosaur as Coelurus fragilis.

01 August 2013

Almost Complete

Photos by Adam Stuart Smith and Stefan Schröeder, top to bottom
as seen on the Dinosaur Toy Blog
The most complete skeleton discovered in the British Isles is that of Scelidosaurus. It begs the question, then, why is Scelidosaurus not a little bit more popular, at least a little more anyhow? Illustrations have been quite numerous over the 150 years of Scelidosaurus' named existence in the knowledge of human beings, as have statues and other artistic visions (I am counting photographs of aforementioned art as well as models/toys) of the species. We can generalize and state that any really basic (i.e. dollar store) bag of dinosaurs has a small quadruped that we can say with some certainty represents Scelidosaurus; it could be attempting to represent a different but similar dinosaur, but when we are talking extra cheap dinosaur toys it almost does not matter what the model is supposed to be. There are, of course, good toys out there. There is also the one video game reference and there are books that mention Scelidosaurus, including kids books. Scelidosaurus is a fairly famous dinosaur with little popular fame, which is a bit sad when you think about it.