STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 October 2013

In Storage

Originally posted by Mickey Mortimer
The skull of Adasaurus, not seen for many, many years, was unveiled in a paper last year that reviewed Dromaeosaurine systematics and phylogeny. It was alluded to in Tuesday's post of papers that were not free to the public and were not explicitly about Adasaurus. Mickey Mortimer posted the image above on his own site on the same day the paper was published. Part of the reason that Adasaurus has never been truly popularized can be seen in this skull. The skull is missing many elements and the majority of the skull. It is not, in its current state, on display to my knowledge either. These things combined with little recognition outside of the professional and amateur communities have created a very small sphere of recognition by the public at large and thus made this dinosaur minutely if at all known to others.

30 October 2013

Adasaurus is A Stocky Animal

©Mike Hanson
This Adasaurus does not appear as stocky as my title in today's blog would have anyone imagine. However, remember that at about 6 ft (2 m) long, this is not an exceptionally large animal overall and therefore that body mass that we can see here is in a small area, all said and done. Estimated weights for Adasaurus have not been published; perhaps not even calculated actually. Dromaeosaurus, of nearly equal length, has an estimated weight of approximately 33 lbs (15 kg) and this is probably a reasonable estimate for Adasaurus considering the similar body plan and size. The animal is assigned to the same subfamily (Dromaeosaurinae) as Dromaeosaurus and one of the characteristics of animals in the subfamily is a stocky appearance giving the impression that the animals were more wrestlers than runners. Perhaps more studies and remains will be recovered in time and a more in depth understanding of these somewhat small but powerful and deadly dinosaurs will fill in some of the gaps and purported knowledge with hard fact. For the moment, however, Adasaurus will be the Mongolian version of Dromaeosaurus in at least my imagination.

29 October 2013


Adasaurus has a short history of being written about. Unfortunately, it is a history that is mostly lacking. In part due to the recentness of the writing and in part due to the fact that the writing was not recent enough that it made its way onto the internet. There have been other articles which mention Adasaurus or allude to it such as this 2000 article about a French Dromaeosaurid. Sadly, that means, there are no scholarly articles to share without finding a paper copy of the original and scanning it. Hopefully someday someone will do that or we will find a copy that the publisher finally decided to put online.

28 October 2013

Gaming Material

Good morning from GSA in Denver, first of all. Secondly, Adasaurus has not made its way into any documentaries that I have found online. That is a little sad in and of itself. However, as we can see here, some intrepid gamer has taken it upon themselves to re-purpose and play with the models of Zoo Tycoon enough to add a modified Adasaurus into the game. I could write a fair amount about the model and how it looks rather plain compared to the feathered appearance of most modern Dromaeosaurid interpretations, but it looks pretty nice all said and done to be honest. I am going to go listen to a talk on archaeology, enjoy your day, and the conference if you are in Denver.

27 October 2013

One For Kiddos

There are few fact pages dedicated to children for Adasaurus. We have seen fewer than are available today though. There is a pretty easy to read page over at Academic Kids, its only real short coming is how short it is. The About page on Adasaurus is a little more detailed, so we should definitely share that as well. The biggest loser of the day, though, is in the coloring pages area. There really are not any. This gelatinous dinosaur exists and there are a few that might qualify on deviantArt (the first page is kid friendly and only has one non-dinosaur but fully clothed model photo, beyond that I have not checked, so be wary). Those illustrations are not meant as coloring pages though, so so not assume that they can be used as such!

26 October 2013

Being Average

Unknown but clearly based on the Timothy Bradley illustration
The thing to know about illustrations of Adasaurus is that they all appear to be very uniform in terms of looking like Dromaeosaurids. They always appear rather gracile regardless of how stocky they seem to appear, and they are always portrayed with the toe claw characteristic of the majority of Dromaeosaurs in an extended position. It is a sad occurrence that there is not imagination typically portrayed in these dinosaurs, but that is how it is.

25 October 2013

Adding Up!

©Karkamesh (accuracy disputed)
Adasaurus mongoliensis, meaning Ada's lizard, is a small theropod dinosaur described and named in 1983 by Rinchen Barsbold. Ada is a Mongolian mythological character considered to be an evil spirit, and this Dromaeosaurid dinosaur certainly could be considered an evil looking animal. Unfortunately the relationships of Adasaurus and other Dromaeosaurids are not well understood because Adasaurus is represented by fragmentary fossils of the skull as well as post-cranial skeleton. These fragments, however, have lead to the idea that Adasaurus should be considered a member of the subfamily that includes Dromaeosaurus and Utahraptor, the Dromaeosaurinae. These are heavily built members of the family. Conversely the animal is shown to be a part of the Velociraptorinae subfamily which consists of smaller and more gracile members of the family.

24 October 2013

Dubious Favorite

Acanthopholis, meaning "spiny scales", is somewhat famous, despite being dubious in its distinctions, from time to time.  Unfortunately, the debatable nature of things due to fragmentary remains as well as the 1999 study that determined it to be a nomen dubium. Regardless, it has shown up on websites for information purposes and not in many other places. In fact, toys, books, and even modifications to video games seem to be lacking for Acanthopholis. It is just too bad that there is not much in the popular culture world for this dinosaur.

23 October 2013

Something New to Consider

In 1999 Superbiola and Barrett reviewed the materials attributed to Acanthopholis and determined that the material was not distinct enough to merit being anything more than fragmentary bits of the average Nodosaur. As such, they determined the name to be a nomen dubium and to disregard its existence. However, the name is still in use and considered valid, apparently, by the majority of research that I have seen. Nestled in the family Nodosauridae, Acanthopholis is a small member of the family with small oval dermal ossifications with spikes in the shoulder and neck area and along the spine. Nomen dubium or small Nodosaur? You decide.
©Mariana Ruiz

22 October 2013

Short of A Prize

Thomas Huxley described and named Acanthopholis in the 19th century. Some of the writings he created in which the dinosaur is mentioned have survived long enough to make it online. However, these writings are far from free and, honestly, are quite a bit more expensive than a one or two page historical document would appear to warrant; though I am not a historiographer nor am I an appraiser so I cannot say with certainty that this is true. Regardless, at around $45 a piece, some of the articles from the Geological Magazine printed by the Cambridge University Press can be obtained. Ken Carpenter tackles armored dinosaur phylogeny in a book he edited called The Armored Dinosaurs and mentions the positioning of Acanthopholis within the family and this reading is far more easily available at any large library or here in piecemeal if one wanted to simply skim over an article.

21 October 2013

Drawing in Tribute

Acanthopholis has tribute videos, like many another dinosaur that has been featured in these hallowed spaces throughout the few short years this page has been open. It appears as though all dinosaurs will be revered at some point after we know about them and spread the wealth of our knowledge about them. The tribute video is shown here, view if you would like, or not. Remember, sometimes images are not exactly what they are credited as and that there is usually music. This one is in Spanish also, which is interesting. Personally, I am a big fan of this speed drawing video in terms of videos related to Acanthopholis; it really is not that speedy honestly, but it is faster than I would draw it.

20 October 2013

Acanthopholis, Late for Kids

Acanthopholis, though a bit late today, is for children and quite friendly in that regard. Since it is so late on a Sunday (in the states) I can only imagine this will not be seen by children until Monday. Therefore, may they enjoy an early Monday, or late Sunday fact page and a somewhat simplified coloring sheet:

19 October 2013

When You've Seen Them All

Nodosaurs, and Ankylosaurs, in general, appear to have always been drawn in a very odd way. Older illustrations are always pretty entertaining, and therefore, we shall start with that older illustration this time around. Acanthopholis in an old school fashion appears as do many of those old school Nodosaurs; namely with a semi-sprawling gait, dragging tail, and odd posture of the trunk brought about by the combination of sprawling and shortened forelimbs depicted here. The head of this Acanthopholis is also a little odd in that there is no dermal armor depicted on it; as if it was completely devoid of any type of protection. Even without "armor" the head of this dinosaur was most likely not entirely smooth as appears to be the case in this illustration.

The DK illustration, illustrator otherwise unknown, is a little more acceptable in terms of modern interpretation of the skeleton of Acanthopholis. The dermal armor on the trunk and tail are a little more heavy duty than they appeared on the older illustration. The tail is also held straight out from the body rigidly rather than drooping and dragging in the dirt. The trunk is now show as being mostly leveled with the forelimb less sprawled and therefore nearly as tall as the hindlimb. The head has also been massively updated with a keratinous beak and at least a less smoothed over skull roof if not a dermal plated skull roof.

18 October 2013

Feminine Dinosaurs

A small Nodosaur, Acanthopholis horrida, was named and described by Thomas Huxley in 1867. This dinosaur was unearthed and recovered in England at Folkestone, Kent, in 1865 by John Griffiths and sold to Dr. John Percy. Dr. Percy brought them to Huxley who then paid Griffiths even more money to dig up all of the dinosaur remains he found at the site. The original name was Acanthopholis horridus as prescribed by Huxley, however, Arthur Smith Woodward changed the name to horrida because Acanthopholis, and horrida, is feminine.

17 October 2013

Seeing Elaphrosaurus Again

Elaphrosaurus does not appear in the toy world nor does it appear in the literary world (outside of Paul's Predatory Dinosaurs) and it does not appear in many other places like documentaries and movies. How does such a long known and even a well known dinosaur over time become so unknown to the general public? Perhaps this dinosaur was not as famous as it seems to have been when it was discovered. Perhaps it just fell out of favor as more and more of the synonyms disappeared over time because they were investigated further and determined to be synonyms. Regardless, Elaphrosaurus was a very interesting dinosaur and has been illustrated hundreds of times even though it has not appeared in many typical popular sources. Take one last look at Elaphrosaurus:

16 October 2013

Elaphrosaurus is Snakey

Regardless of the image I use for Elaphrosaurus, it always seems as though it is just a little bit off. This includes the use of the two different skeletal mounts that have been simultaneously attributed to Elaphrosaurus. Both of those skeletons, however, do share traits that are very similar. The difference is in the skull. The mounted skeleton, which is the newer mounting of the skeleton, that is free-standing has a robust and much more oval-like skull whereas this encased skeleton, the original mounting, has an elongated snout that is low in profile. The skeleton, post-cranial, is very gracile though, appearing rather slender and "snakey" in that it appears to have allowed for a great deal of flexion in many different planes. The newer mount reflects a much more active animal and appears a little stiffer, but still retains that rather gracile look at the same time. The older mount, we can see here, has the "classic" dinosaur profile with the tail nearly dragging. This mount is certainly based on the old way of mounting skeletons and given that the animal was unearthed from the Tendaguru Formation in 1910, that makes a lot of sense; it is also very informative as to how dinosaurs used to be viewed for younger readers that may not remember the depiction of dinosaurs as slow tail dragging beasts.

15 October 2013

Lack of Papers

©Michael BH
Elaphrosaurus, for all the study done concerning it and all of the information out there about it, does not appear in many papers that are available online. A partial paper, available for around $40, is shown as a sample, that was written in 1982 by Peter Galton. The paper discusses the North American and African, as well as the European, records of known Elaphrosaurus remains that have been unearthed, but does not provide much new information as we typically try to highlight here on Tuesdays. Another paper by Novas et al. compares the articular head of Elaphrosaurus and Abelisauroidea humeri to a newly discovered (as of 2006) humerus from South America. The paper determines that the humerus is from an Abelisaurid, but does not assign a determinant genus. Other papers exist, but again, they are not available online.

14 October 2013

Old Posts

Today feels like one of those days back when I started doing particular ideas or themes for different days of the week. Back in the beginning I found a lot of so-so tribute videos with music that was tolerable at best in the background. I also found a lot of Dinosaur George videos in which he answered emails on camera like this one.

These videos were always fun to watch; they have become quite a bit less frequent though and I assume it is because he has been a very busy guy as of late. Regardless, he has some good information and opinions, as always.

13 October 2013

The Tortoise and The Elaphrosaurus

I really like the days when I can let a video or something for all the talking. Not too informative, not like a Dinosaur Directory entry or another fact sheet, but it is interesting to cartoon enthusiasts, specifically kids today on family day. We also have a coloring sheet today, and there does not have to be much discussion with either the video or the coloring sheet and fact page, so enjoy!

12 October 2013

A Rather Blah Theropod

©Nobu Tamura
Elaphrosaurus was a fairly basal theropod dinosaur. The Late Jurassic, however, was a time of radiative adaptation by theropods in the eat-or-die arms race of evolution. How a rather basal theropod was successful long enough to appear in the fossil record could be a point of contention, but it is possible that even smaller populations of species can appear in the fossil record as well. That said, this illustration of Elaphrosaurus does not create a very likely picture of a highly successful carnivore. Instead this illustration of Elaphrosaurus makes the theropod look more appropriate as an omnivore or at most a carnivore whose diet would consist of small mammals and lizards. Perhaps, given the small size of Elaphrosaurus compared to apex predators such as Allosaurus, this diet and this look would be ideal for a carnivore like Elaphrosaurus.

©M. Shiraishi
Appearing more like Dilophosaurus in this image, this Elaphrosaurus interpretation appears much more vicious in terms of carnivorous appearances. Regardless of how much more of a larger game hunter this Elaphrosaurus would have been, it would still have been the same size as an adult as would have been the previous illustration. The skeleton on display in Berlin, however, does not have any crest on its skull. The crests pictured here are speculative and are not present on known specimens of Elaphrosaurus. It is possible that Elaphrosaurus had some sort of dermal crests, but these sorts of soft tissue protrusions have not been preserved in any known specimens to this point that has been described.

11 October 2013

A Lightweight Lizard

Elaphrosaurus skeleton, Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin
Tanzania, Africa. 1920. Werner Janensch and his expedition unearth, name, and describe a small theropod. Also unearthed in Egypt and North America, Elaphrosaurus bambergi is now considered a ceratosaur (it was previously described as a late coelophysoid) genus consisting of a single species. A Late Jurassic carnivore, Elaphrosaurus existed with sauropods, stegosaurs, iguandonts and other theropods such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus. The size of Elaphrosaurus was somewhat smaller than other theropods, only measuring in at about 20 ft (6.2 m) in total length. The diet of Elaphrosaurus most likely consisted of small ornithopods.

10 October 2013

New Popularity

When dinosaurs are discovered and named they are media darlings for, usually, a few months, before their name starts to fall out of headlines and disappear back into the quiet rocks from whence they came (to get a little poetic). As noted, the official paper was released this year that described Nasutoceratops, but the story goes back 7 years to the 2006 unearthing of a nearly complete skull and a rather well preserved post cranial skeleton; "rather well" is a bit of a misnomer when we consider Ceratopsian post cranials as they are not often associated with skulls if they are present at all. The paper and name were known in 2010; editing and peer review, as usual, slowed publication for years. Nasutoceratops, therefore, should have been popular for the past 7 years instead of the last 7 months. Thankfully, though, Dr. Scott Sampson has presented our newest friend here at least once, as seen below, and that gets the name spread around. I predict this will be a much loved dinosaur in the next few years given its interesting anatomy.

09 October 2013

Horns and Noses

From Sampson et al.
Nasutoceratops had, as we have seen many times now, very unique horns and an immense nasal passage. As mentioned in many sources this week, the purpose of that enlarged cavity is not, as had been hypothesized here, exhibiting a powerful sense of smell. What is that cavity for then if this hypothesis is rejected? The cavity is filled with pneumatic excavations. These make the skull lighter, but what else do pneumatic excavations do for any animal, dinosaur or not? Could they be involved in some sort of vocalization or perhaps they were simply for heating air in the skull and respiratory system. Pure speculation could even create a hypothesis, using the idea that the excavations were used for heating air inhaled by Nasutoceratops, that these excavations were used by an animal that had the ability to survive in colder climates. Is there sufficient evidence for a cold weather climate anywhere in the world during the existence of this Centrosaurine?  I sincerely hope that there was some seasonal climates somewhere that this dinosaur may have encountered and needed a warming passage for. Barring that, the idea of some sort of undiagnosed noise production apparatus in the Nasutoceratops nasal region would also be very interesting.

08 October 2013

In the News

Nasutoceratops, as we have discussed, is in the news a lot this year because of its discovery and naming in May. The paper that announced and discussed the anatomy of Nasutoceratops is available for free through the Royal Society. I can let the paper talk for itself today I think!

07 October 2013

More Newscasts

It is rough being the new guy on the block. As a dinosaur, unless it is the prime dinosaur documentary making time, which seems to happen every few years, there are pretty long furloughs where newly described dinosaurs have to wait for extended periods of time to be recognized. In our "gotta have news" world, however, I can dig up newscast after newscast that announces new dinosaurs; media outlets seemingly revel over being able to discuss new dinosaurs no matter what the public may think of that particular outlet's stance on dinosaurs and evolution I have seen announcements for newly named and described dinosaurs treated nearly equally by creationist websites and ABC news while NPR takes calls and comedians announce how ridiculous these new animals look. Everyone, somewhere in their mind, seems to love dinosaurs; I am not complaining. However, Nasutoceratops is far too recent a discovery to warrant its inclusion in anything other than newscasts though I have no doubt its unique physique will make it into a documentary sometime in the near future. Yesterday I shared an NPR broadcast that was a bit longer than a traditional news story, and today I would like to share the other extreme by sharing this one minute news story. Speed reading at, arguably, a very fine moment in news.

06 October 2013

Nasutoceratops is for Kids

Technically, it is not for kids. Really, there is not even really much of a fact page concerning Nasutoceratops that is completely related to children or for children. In part this is due to the newly described nature of the remains and it is also partly due to the fact that it just has not been done quite yet. In response to the lack of a fact page I have dug up an NPR Science Friday broadcast concerning the discovery and naming of Nasutoceratops. Have a listen and enjoy.

05 October 2013

Exaggerating the Exaggerated

©Lukas Panzarin
The horns of Nasutoceratops are a very interesting and important subject to cover when discussing this dinosaur. There are a variety of reasons why the horns of any given ceratopsian are important. This dinosaur's horns, however, are important because their design is rather unique and, coupled with the bulbous sinus cavity of this particular Centrosaurine ceratopsian represent apomorphies of the dinosaur and can be used to diagnose the position of the dinosaur within the subfamily. The horns appear slightly exaggerated, and they are to a point, but these coupled with the unadorned parietal frill and the enlarged sinus all point to a position within the family that is in the medially basal part of the phylogenetic tree. The Centrosaurine phylogenetic tree basally exhibits characters that include vaguely ornamented parietal-squamosal frills combined with medium to large brow horns and a low nasal ridge or small nasal horn. The more advanced members of the family lose brow horns entirely and have ornamented frills with thick nasal bosses and ridges along the parietal.

The parietal frill's ornamentations are, simply put, very weak compared to the ornamentations of later members of the family like Styracosaurus. The brow horns' cores are slightly smaller than those of even more basal forms, such as Diabloceratops. The nasal ridge is quite prominent in Nasutoceratops and the sinus cavity is enlarged, as stated previously. The antorbital fenestra is not exactly larger than any other Ceratopsian or Centrosaurine specifically, but evidence for the extension of the sinus cavity extending along the nasal and top of the maxilla  has been described briefly at least. An enlarged olfactory and sinus may provide us with what was essentially the first truffle scenting animal. Picture that for a moment as you look at this skull with its extremely forward pointing and almost horizontal brow horns; a truffle digging ceratopsian. That idea is one part speculation and two parts hopeful interpretation of what we are looking at on my part, however, and is not, to my knowledge endorsed by anyone else.

04 October 2013

Centrosaurs Bring in October

©Andrey Atuchin
The "Large-nosed Horned Face" is plodding in, a few days after the 1st of October, to welcome us to one of my favorite months of the year. Possessing horns much like those found on rather large bovine, Nasutoceratops is a newly described member of the Centrosaurine subfamily. As with many ceratopsians, Nasutoceratops is known from the discovery of a nearly complete skull. Osteodermic ridges were preserved along the edge of the frill in addition to the bulbous nasal bone and bovine-like horns. The sinus area of Nasutoceratops is rather large, but we can discuss the implications of an extended sinus later, for now, simply take in this interestingly beautiful creature.

03 October 2013

Popularity and the Hound

Highlights by David Thomson
Hesperocyon, which we never said means "Western Dog", never ventured very far from the middle of North America as far as we can tell. Perhaps, in part, that is why it is not a widely known animal. The small fossil record of Hesperocyon may also play a part in this. As with any species that is known globally though, as dogs are now, it is quite amazing to see how that ancestral animal was so limited in its range. I would like to have a lot of popular links to share today about Hesperocyon or at least a toy or stuffed animal, but instead, take a look at a pretty good approximation of the known/suspected total range. Take this into consideration when you hold your (French bred) Basset Hound later today.

02 October 2013

Before Things Got Dire

Hesperocyon, as the progenitor of the canid lineage, was an interesting small dog. Being only about 3 feet long and 4 pounds the "dog" was a rather small animal. It was also the only dog in the canine family with retractable claws (as far as I am aware). The body of the average Hesperocyon actually appeared much more like an extant civet than it did either a dog or a cat. The fact that it was not an arboreal living hunter make it much less like a civet or even its ancestors the Miacidae. Hesperocyon would eventually lead to a rapid radiation of canids including at least 28 members of the subfamily of Canidae, Hesperocyoninae that are most closely related to Hesperocyon. Canidae today includes a lot of species placed into two modern tribes: Canini (wolf related) and Vulpini (fox related); though this was generations away from Hesperocyon. We have seen many of those traits over this week that would continue into the descendants as well as those that would be lost, such as retractable claws.

01 October 2013

Hesperocyon's Brain

More than one study has been conducted on canine brain evolution. This, in part, is most likely due to the fact that people love dogs; canines are man's best friend after all. There have also been recent (this article is from 1994, so not too recent) phylogenetic studies conducted on Hesperocyon as well, but I admit I am more interested in the brain question today. Both of the papers I have found on brain evolution in canids discuss the evolution of the entire lineage of canines from Hesperocyon to the modern members of the family. One study uses endocranial casts of skulls throughout the lineage to discuss the evolution of the canids whereas the second paper discusses the endocranial casts of only Hesperocyon gregarius and Hesperocyon sp. to draw conclusions about the evolution of the canine brain. The former is available with purchase, subscription, or library loan and, while it appears to be solid in its science, that is only a preliminary conclusion drawn from the abstract. The latter paper is available for free, is a a fairly good read, and does provide a lot of good information in addition to a few very high detail images of skull casts, which are great to look at.