31 August 2015
Documentaries! I love being able to share documentaries. Their science is always to be taken with a slight grain of salt, as one should do their own reading and, not often possible, look at the fossils first hand, but they are good to have access to. This first video is actually a non-narrated journal of the creation of a Protostega model, which is awesome despite not conveying any facts. Seeing museum replicas fleshed out is really fantastic.
The second video is a short clip from the National Geographic's Sea Monsters special. They have a nice part devoted to Protostega and a longer version would be excellent, but what they do show is nice. The CGI looks a little low budget here, but sometimes that is acceptable.
The last video is a video journal from Triebold Paleontology. They go over the 2011 dig with Mike Everhart in a nice concise manner and show how the dig was conducted through narration and a slideshow. If one has never seen a specimen in a jacket, or has and has wondered how it got that way, the video is very nice and interesting. Remember that Triebold is a business, so the last 30 seconds or so is a sales pitch. A Protostega would make a good paperweight though...
30 August 2015
Missing days is awful, but there is usually a very good reason. However, more important is the idea that the information shared on Sundays is shared, regardless of the day on which it finally gets posted. Sundays still remain a day for families and friends to talk about fossil animals with the next generation of scientists and fossil enthusiasts. Sometimes the youth is learning, sometimes the youth is teaching, no matter which way that is happening the links and information sites are usually the same. The sites for Protostega are actually spread quite far across the internet; it turns out that giant turtles are quite interesting to a lot of people. There are sites developed with kids in mind (to a point) like About and National Geographic. There are sites that are more engineered toward fossil experts and casual scientists (of a more adult persuasion) like Oceans of Kansas also. There are also entertainment websites that keep some facts available. Adventure Aquarium, for example, posts facts about Protostega.
29 August 2015
|Smithsonian displayed Protostega|
28 August 2015
The calm movements of Plesiosaurus, if they were indeed calm, were not the only calm movements in the Mesozoic oceans. Even more calm, just as they are today for the most part, were the giant sea turtles that inhabited the same seas. One of the largest and most impressive specimens has been well represented across the United States by many finds. These finds were given a name in 1872 by E. D. Cope: Protostega gigas. At approximately 3m (9.8ft) from nose to tail, Protostega is the second largest known marine turtle (Archelon being the largest). The upper Cretaceous has many frightening predators, but most of them could not have cracked the shell of an adult sized Protostega so it was most likely safe from almost all harm once it reached an adult size. It had also had an extremely well built shell, as far as early turtles go, that allowed for flexibility in addition to remaining rigid.
27 August 2015
Plesiosaurus is popular in so many ways that we can easily defer to the massive might of Google and declare that even a cursory search there will turn up so many items that it would take one a millennium to go through it all. Some of that statement is a little hyperbolic, but not by much. The most depressing bit of Plesiosaurus knowledge that has massively impacted the general public, unfortunately, is the conjecture that the long famed and well known Loch Ness Monster is depicted, often, as an extant Plesiosaurus. The idea is equal parts farcical and intriguing, though, as a living group of plesiosaurs would be a great discovery, but is more than likely completely unfounded and unrealistic. In lieu of supporting and touting more mythologies about Plesiosaurus, however, let us say that the greatest contributions to the popular knowledge and love of Plesiosaurus comes in the form of art, books, and toys, particularly this little gem (perhaps not, but it makes me want to have the skills to make one):
26 August 2015
The long necks of Plesiosaurus made them slightly cumbersome at speed, but they were not truly built for speed and such a feat was probably reserved for escape or short bursts from below prey. The large robust bodies and smallish flippers of Plesiosaurus itself is actually quite ill suited to speedy activity, as it certainly was higher in drag than later short necked plesiosaurs with aerodynamic bodies.However, the triangular head of the animals must have allowed for some aerodynamic capabilities. The large round eyes and nostrils, situated near the eyes and high in the skull, did not create too much drag either it appears. A shortened tail did not aid in mobility and, again, was most well suited to reduce drag as it did not directly aid in mobility of the animal. It did, certainly, aid in the stabilization of the animal as it swam, which the flippers did as well in addition to moving the animal through the water. Almost penguin-esque, Plesiosaurus must have been quite agile and beautiful as it swam, if not powerful or terribly interesting.
25 August 2015
Conybeare and other early Plesiosaurus scholars filled the libraries and scholarly journals, or annals of museums, with copious amounts of articles. Conybeare himself wrote a number of articles describing Plesiosaurus and comparing it to contemporary marine reptiles. Richard Owen also wrote a number of articles on marine reptiles, including Plesiosaurus, that are well known. Many of the earliest accounts come from England, in fact. Plesiosaurus, though, is a worldly reptile and has been discovered in areas as diverse as Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, and Germany. The papers here are more than enough to get a fairly good history of Plesiosaurus and a lot of quality descriptions of the genus.
24 August 2015
The sheer number of plesiosaurs discovered across the globe has led to many, many documentaries, news reports, and tons of other television and movie spots (I am still a little sad that none of these wonderful animals made an appearance in Jurassic World). It has also led to a lot of sightings across the globe, some of which make Nessie look like a weak Plesiosaurus sighting. Therefore, for today, skipping the video shared yesterday, I will let this list of videos do the work for us:
For fun, though not a "paper dinosaur".
23 August 2015
Plesiosaurus was and is most definitely well loved by children of all ages. There are bits of information everywhere on the internet, off the internet, and basically anywhere one could think to look for information on fossil animals. Unfortunately most of these sites online are dinosaur sites like KidsDigDinos, Dinosaur Jungle, and other dinosaur fact pages. There are also videos and copious amounts of black and white photos that can be used for coloring sheets. The video is probably the most entertaining thing online:
22 August 2015
The original interpretation of Plesiosaurus involved what could arguably be called the most gracile neck in all of paleontology. Since that time the neck's ability to flex and stretch has been looked over many different times by many different people and the overall arc of movement has changed each time. That range of motion is less than it used to be, but we still have the wonderful illustrations of Knight, Williston, and a host of other illustrators to show us the strangeness of the original descriptions of Plesiosaurus necks. Sometimes the tail is also rather oddly illustrated as well. Check the images below. The images are almost all of Plesiosaurus but there are some Elasmosaurus interpretations masquerading as Plesiosaurus as well.
|Image: Charles R. Knight|
|Image: Edward Riou|
|Image: Edward Riou|
|Note the tail on this version|
|Image: S.W. Williston; actually an Elasmosaurus|
|Image: Dmitry Bogdanov|
21 August 2015
After Ichthyosaurus and their kin "took over" the ocean from the largest sharks and fish it was really only a matter of time until a bigger and more fearsome animal came along. There was actually a two pronged assault on the apex predator title of the ocean; later it would become a three tine fork as mosasaurs began to populate the ocean. However, the first assault on that role by a second marine reptile taxon was seen in the form of animals like Plesiosaurus. Plesiosauria existed in two general bauplans: long neck and short neck variations. The short necked members of the group were fast, maneuverable, and mobile whereas the longer necked, more basal members, appear to have been slower and more cumbersome. The name-bearer for the group, Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus Conybeare 1824, is probably one of the most iconic marine reptiles in existence. In modern and archaic illustrations it is easily identifiable and beautiful.
20 August 2015
There are often very popular fossil animals that capture the imagination of many and inspire documentaries and other television or movie screen appearances. Stenopterygius is a fossil animal nearing that tier of popularity. Toys (rare collectibles even!) have made an appearance claiming to be Stenopterygius as have books, though these typically only reference or briefly discuss this well known ichthyosaur. The animal is popular enough even that it has been stuffed and sold as a plush animal. It would make rather interesting throw pillow and probably be a conversation starter. Someday, hopefully, Stenopterygius will make more of an impact in documentaries or on the screen, but for now books, toys, and stuffed animals will have to do in the world of popular culture.
19 August 2015
|Image by Charles R. Knight|
18 August 2015
|Image by Nobu Tamura|
17 August 2015
16 August 2015
|From DK Eyewitness Books|
15 August 2015
|The derived ichthyopterygian Stenopterygius with one embryo in birth position and three in body cavity, reconstructed based on SMNS 6293 (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Stüttgart, Germany). .|
14 August 2015
13 August 2015
Thescelosaurus has been drawn and even made into a small plastic toy. The small plastic toy actually appears to be much more hadrosaur-like than Thescelosaurus-like, however, we have all seen much less accurate toys over the years here. There are casts of the toe claws available for sale; strangely not much more of the skeleton beyond the toes are regularly found online for sale. Unfortunately, other than some small mentions in large tomes of knowledge, Thescelosaurus does not show up in many books only about itself.
12 August 2015
|Image from Fisher, et al. (2000)|
Fisher, P. E., Russell, D. A., Stoskopf, M. K., Barrick, R. E., Hammer, M., & Kuzmitz, A. A. (2000). Cardiovascular evidence for an intermediate or higher metabolic rate in an ornithischian dinosaur. Science, 288(5465), 503-505.
11 August 2015
Charles Gilmore originally described Thescelosaurus in 1913 from the well preserved original fossil material.This eventually led to his paper on the osteology of the dinosaur as well. Later, in the 1940's, CM Sternberg discussed the taxonomy of Thescelosaurus and Hypsilophodontidae, which was once considered to be the family of Thescelosaurus. More recently the dinosaur was assigned, through a number of studies on crania, postcranial anatomy, and, even general ornithopod taxonomy, to its own family, Thescelosauridae.
10 August 2015
09 August 2015
Aside from the misinterpreted facts about a hypothetical fossilized heart, there are a lot of facts out on the internet about the somewhat unheard of Thescelosaurus. KidsDinos has a good information on their dedicated page as does the New Zealand hosted site Science Kids. About also has a very well thought out site with good information on their page. They usually do have good fact pages as well, of course. There are also many black and white images that can be used as coloring pages. The most reliable source is, as usual, Enchanted Learning, though the dinosaurs are, also as usual, not extremely well illustrated.
08 August 2015
07 August 2015
|Photo by Ben Jacobson, Burpee Museum of Natural History|
06 August 2015
|Image by Sterling Nesbitt|
05 August 2015
04 August 2015
Asilisaurus kongwe only really completely exists in a single paper. That paper, however, is the main describing paper that discusses the fossil and the inferred phylogenetic placement of the material on the tree of dinosaurs. The initial paper is not actually as deep and detailed as one would imagine; it appeared as a three page letter to Nature. Many papers these days do not describe animals in the same amount of detail as earlier papers did though, so a short paper, three pages being an acceptable average, describing a fossil has become the standard in fossil identification. Not everyone has the material and in depth description of a John Ostrom did with Deinonychus.
03 August 2015
The videos for Asilisaurus are all news breaks on the naming and description of the new species. Sometimes, if the journalism is well thought out and the news story produced nicely, those short videos are very informative and worth watching. Often they are actually better than documentaries and almost always on par or better than feature length movies. Unfortunately, many, maybe even all, of the news stories related to the ancestor lizard have disappeared from the internet. The Quirks and Quarks program on CBC radio also did a short news story about the discovery as well. Sadly, this has also disappeared, though their short article corresponding to the program is still available.
02 August 2015
The largest problem we run into with new-to-science fossil animals is that they take a while to gather followers in society. Asilisaurus has a few links here and there that describe the animal in a way that younger audiences could explore the near-dinosaur's history for themselves, but far fewer than most of the fossil animals that we explore here. The online dinosaur encyclopedia, or Dinopedia, includes references and quality information, but may be at a slightly higher reading level than our youngest fossil animal fans might be able to muster just yet. Mid-level readers should be fine with this page. They should also be able to easily read the About page dedicated to Asilisaurus. The top of that page is actually perfect for our youngest readers as well. Prehistoric Wildlife hosts probably the shortest page that I would consider "kid-friendly" and does not have as much information on it as the other two; however, it is still a useful tool for learning about the near-dinosaur and can be visited by younger readers. The animal in question has no coloring pages or fun little sites to visit, but these three pages should help start an interest in Asilisaurus for kids that are into dinosaurs and anything that looks like a dinosaur.
01 August 2015
Triassic body shapes are generally very similar for all of the earliest Dinosauriformes. There is, as usual, a very good reason for that which is based on fossil evidence that is available.The fossil evidence, which was described in 2010, shows us a very gracile early Dinosauriforme that looks similar to its contemporary animals and near descendants like Coelophysis. Unlike these descendants, however, Asilisaurus was more likely quadrupedal regularly with the ability to act as a facultatively bipedal reptile. Additionally, like most other early Dinosauriformes, Asilisaurus was a rather small animal, as can be seen here. When anything dinosaur related ventures into the pet-sized area it is quite fantastic, and this is no exception.