STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 October 2015

Shape of Bulls

Wikicommons user DFoidl uploaded this image
Oxen, in the United States, are typically pictured, I think, as those that are depicted in the computer game Oregon Trail. Infrequently oxen are seen in this country and that is what leads to the lack of proper depicting in the psyche of our country. That, of course, does not speak to all of the people in the country; surely some people in the United States have seen oxen in historic villages (e.g. Colonial Williamsburg, Plimoth Plantation), farms, and occasionally in a working capacity. Those of a working capacity are typically variants of the Bos genus, or we could call them Aurochs and be equally correct. Either way, the image seen here defines many of the anatomical characteristics that are associated with Aurochs. These characteristics separate our beloved fossil oxen from the domesticated versions of the species and from the other cattle that are often used for food rather than work. Regardless, the anatomy of the Aurochs is very bovine and the horns, while distinctive in their own right, are not 100% unique in the bovine world.

30 October 2015

Preparing for November

Sigismund von Herberstein (public domain)
Where October was Halloween themed, November will have a very different and fun theme. In the past few years more people, in Australia and the United States at least, have been referring to November as "No Shave November" because of an Australian campaign from 2013 to raise awareness for prostate cancer. November has also been called Dinovember in the past, but considering that we have had many Novembers full of dinosaurs, this No Shave November is going to be different. The most important difference is that we are going to cover some hairy fossil animals. Mammals are not often discussed here (when one considers the number of taxa that have been discussed). When they are, we attend to them with as much love and attention as birds and dinosaurs. The first of the hairy bearded mammals of November is the recently (geologically) extinct large wild ox Bos primigenius, commonly known as the Aurochs. These famed bovids last existed in the wilds of Eurasia and North Africa as recently as 1627 (final record reported from Jaktorów Forest, Poland). Unlike many extinct taxa we actually have direct descendants of these animals that we can document ancestry for, which is quite convenient for the bovine family tree. Two independent domestication efforts of the Aurochs have resulted in the still extant but different from their original stock Zebu cattle of India and Taurine cattle of Eurasia. While domesticated and different, many consider the two domesticated and the stock Aurochs breeds to be the same species, meaning that, while we are going to treat Aurochs as an extinct taxon, Aurcohs is still technically an extant species. The two thoughts are both accepted (one species is generally more widely accepted) but Aurochs was long considered an extinct taxon and as we look at the history of the animal as an extinct wild type, we will also consider the history of domestication of the species and what that means.

29 October 2015

Public Demons

Tomorrow I plan on starting November, a few days early, with something special. Today, however, the devilish October theme is coming to a close here. Daemonosaurus is a somewhat popular dinosaur that has made its way onto television and into a few books. It has also made an impact on gaming, though none of these appearances are so significant that they are the be all end all of dinosaur popularity. The name and quality of preservation of the holotype are probably the most important factors in the popularity of this dinosaur. The dinosaur has one last trick for us here, in this illustration by Jeffrey Martz. It appears extra bird-like in comparison to many other illustrations of the dinosaur.
(C) Jeffrey Martz

28 October 2015

Construction of A Cranium

From Sues et al., 2011
There are many places in which to see a labeled reconstruction of a fossil skull. There is only one place to really see a reconstructed and labeled of Daemonosaurus, officially at least. The description paper contains a fully labeled skull that is very handy for the amateur anatomist and the amateur dinosaur enthusiast. There are probably seasoned veterans of science that occasionally need a hint, especially with devastated fossils, so we cannot really say that the amateur scientist is the only person benefiting from labeled diagrams. The scale bar, which we also saw yesterday, truly shows how small this dinosaur was. A head only a 14cm long is not much of head, in regards to what we generally consider the size of a dinosaur head. In fact, there are many modern rodents that are not much longer than 14cm. Assuming there were analogous rodents in the Late Triassic in size, they could have made a fairly filling meal for the small theropod. Anyone forgetting exactly how small this dinosaur would have been overall should look back at the Robinson Kunz illustration of a few days ago. That illustration shows a rather diminutive theropod, as it only appears to top out at about 3m tall when standing in a normal posture.

27 October 2015

Explain The Head

From Sues, et al. 2011
The chunk of rock preserving the head of Daemonosaurus is of respectable size as far as heads and fossils are concerned. One can see in the fossil that both sides are present and one is slightly better preserved than the other (my opinion is that the left side is better). The fossil was recovered from the Chinle Formation at Ghost Ranch in an area that has yielded many Coelophysis skeletons over the years. Probably the anatomical characteristic that sticks out the most right away in this fossil is the dentition of the premaxillary and maxillary. Those teeth are very noticeable even if they are not the first thing one notices because of the amount or protrusion they are afflicted with. Remarkably, the protruding teeth are not the only interesting thing about this small theropod. It is also one of the oldest basal theropods that is known to us at this time. Hailing from that Coelophysis quarry we know it is from the Triassic. Phylogenetic analysis in the description placed Daemonosaurus roughly between Eoraptor, another basal theropod, and the Tawa/Neotheropoda lines. The authors use this information to infer that the lineage of Daemonosaurus must have been one of the first theropod lines to diversify and successfully branch into multiple niches up to the end of the Triassic and leading into the Jurassic. There are many more important assertions and statements in the describing article, but in case one did not have time to read it, hopefully this short synopsis has enough information in it. I would recommend, as I always do, reading the paper and not relying solely on my interpretation as mentioned here however.

26 October 2015

Is There Any Motion?

Sometimes the Smithsonian site shows up under the video tab on Google when there is in fact no video. However, there is a video or two available, though they are not of professional documentary level. These videos are often among the best of course, as they are made by amateur dinosaur enthusiasts and artists with a passion for what they are doing. A really good video shows an amateur version of Daemonosaurus running around in a Triassic landscape. The interpretation of the theropod dinosaur is quite well done also.
In the new, Canadian/UK, version of the BBC show Primeval (often maligned for its science though it was a fun show to watch) called Primeval: New World, there is an episode that features a trio of Daemonosaurus that are loose and terrorizing a Walmart-esque department store. The little dinosaurs are angry and very athletic, possessing the ability to bound over rows of shelving. They also appear quite resilient, as one takes a solid smack in the ribs and gets up to continue the chase.

If the embedding here does not work, use this link to view the clip.

25 October 2015

Facts for Sunday

There are not too many fact pages about Daemonosaurus that are tractable in terms of children reading and understanding the information. Granted that many children these days that are interested in dinosaurs have the ability to understand many dinosaur related articles, but on Sundays we do like to share pages that are a little bit more middle to lower level in terms of reading comprehension difficulties so that we can extend the popular reach of the dinosaur of the week. The only pages worth sharing in this manner today are those hosted by About and a news article from National Geographic. Anyone can search and use Wikipedia, and the stories at this point announcing the dinosaur are somewhat disappearing from the internet as interest in the dinosaur wanes a bit, which gives us less to choose from.

24 October 2015

Feathers, Demons, and the Triassic

(C) Robinson Kunz
The idea of feathers on a theropod in the Triassic was more than taboo only a few years ago. It was laughable at best to be sure. However, the times have changed thanks to many different fossil finds within the last 15 or so years. The feathering on this version of Daemonosaurus is actually a little subdued, but it is very effective in its subdued appearance. The truly key anatomical ingredients in this drawing are the large orbit and consequently large eye as well as the protruding and strange teeth. Those teeth appear to be designed for grappling with fish, but the surrounding fauna and environment make a dietary inference of insects a bit more plausible. Those teeth snaring either fish or insect would have been highly effective though. The size of the prey would have been smaller than larger animals with these types of teeth would have been able to grab, but given the small size of the theropod, the food it could grab was probably perfectly suitable for it. The eyes being as large as they are points at inferences including crepuscular and even nocturnal lifestyles. A small theropod running around at night gobbling up insects is very interesting. This kind of animal would be very neat to see in person running around.

23 October 2015

Demonic Dinosaurs Continue

Daemonosaurus chauliodus, from Sues, et al.,
as presented by Jaime A. Headden
Halloween is just around the corner, so if scary sounding or scary looking dinosaurs are not your kind of fare, no worries. The dinosaurs will be getting far less evil sounding when November rolls around, but for now there are at least a very few remaining that are (still) legitimate dinosaurs to discuss. The dinosaur this week sounds much more devilish than the intended meaning of the name actually is from when it was initially described in 2012. The small theropod Daemonosaurus cahuliodus was recovered from the Late Triassic Chinle Formation of New Mexico and is known from a solid chunk of rock that encompasses the entire surviving cranium; it is really an interesting piece of rock. The most unusual anatomy of this skull, according to the authors, was that it had a very short cranium for a basal theropod and its protruding teeth were also considered quite derived. Regardless, the restoration of the skull is wonderful, thanks to the completeness of the specimen, and the inferred body plan, which we will see later, is well done and very intriguing. For today, however, bask in the reconstruction of the cranium and admire its shape.

22 October 2015

Fascinating Headwear

The past two weeks have been rough on the blog. There has been quite a bit of turmoil in post length, time, and content; however, that has almost passed. Today we are going to spend a lot of effort at looking at the popular science behind Stygimoloch. We know there are a lot of popular outlets including video games, but there is too much popular science out in the world, good and bad, about Stygimoloch for us to ignore or simply walk away from. The news stories of the day, when Stygimoloch had its news hey-day as a newly assigned junior member of a new Pachycephalosaurus family, were all about the strange heads of the lumped genera and how their ontogeny must have been an amazing thing to witness. This took form of blog posts by graduate students (now junior researchers with PhDs actually) that were well informed and discussed the topic from a different angle than the news outlets and senior researchers. A note about that particular linked post though, the author did have a close tie to the university and researchers involved in the paper. That does not automatically assume agreement with the paper, but it can be noticed in the language of the post. There are also outlets that never stopped using the name Stygimoloch, for various reasons, but in part because those in charge never wanted to change the name of the dinosaur. The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center was one such site. The Smithsonian was one of those institutions and outlets that was not against the change, though I cannot say how they brand the dinosaur currently or if the institution considers it at all. It could just have been Brian Switek's article and not an official position, we could probably ask.

20 October 2015

Writing About Weird Dinosaurs

From Horner and Goodwin, 2009
There were plenty of opportunities to pick the brains of many paleontologists about the solution to the Stygimoloch phylogeny problem. However, there were really no reasons to do so because there were so many papers written that will allow the reader to make their own inferences and come to their own conclusions about the dinosaur. These include papers on the cranial anatomy of the dinosaur, cranial histology, and even descriptions of cranial remains (admittedly these are discussed as Pachycephalosaurus elements). The focus is, as we would expect, entirely and completely on the thick head of Stygimoloch and its morphology. That morphology is what led to the paper that most people know about in relation to Stygimoloch. That paper, found here on PLoS One, made an enormous public impression and much ado was cast about dinosaurs in the fall of 2009. It led to interesting illustrations such as the one shown to the left that exhibit the proposed ontogeny of Pachycephalosaurus described in the paper.

Horner, J. R., & Goodwin, M. B. 2009. Extreme cranial ontogeny in the Upper Cretaceous dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus.

19 October 2015

Posts At Odd Times

The posts the past ten days or so have been a little irregular for a variety of reasons. Tomorrow we will get back on track with Stygimoloch by looking at papers related to the dinosaur. Today, I simply want to announce the fact that Dinosaur of the Week now officially has a Twitter feed. I will attempt, from now on to post a quick synopsis on Twitter while using Blogger and Facebook to post the full size posts. We are growing up around here folks! Be even more connected with Dinosaur of the Week with @DinootWeek_INC

17 October 2015

Hopefully this poll will work for everyone!

I apologize the background is funky on this. The widget was created for the white backgrounds of Facebook. I encourage you to visit Facebook and vote if voting here is too hard on your eyes. You can find the poll here.

16 October 2015

New Discovery

I have been trying to post screenshots of my Facebook version of the blog all week from my phone and just noticed today that my OneDrive account can extract the text from the screenshots, making posting much easier. Here, then, is the post I put up this morning (I'll have to edit the text and spacing later):
It has been quite a week. First of all, I
apologize to the really ardent fans of
Stygimoloch for having a shortened week with
that dinosaur. Tuesday was a travel day.
Wednesday saw me running around. My
phone says I walked about 5.4 miles total and
my Airbnb is 1.1 from the conference; that
means I did about 3.2 miles at the conference.
Yesterday I presented my poster. In the future
I can share some of that poster; however, until
the images and information have been turned
into a manuscript the masses will simply have
to wait! Rather than start a new dinosaur this
week, I will finish up the conference, go over
what happened there a little bit, and then
finish the week of Stygimoloch.

14 October 2015

SVP Today

Today I have listened to a lot of birds talks. If I am not exhausted this evening I'll put up some Stygimoloch info, but I'm in a paleontology and the media workshop. I'm in paleontology. This is the media. Are we a success? I think we are doing okay! I'll get something more substantial up this evening, thanks for hanging out and waiting today folks.

12 October 2015

More Movies of Stygimoloch

I am preparing to go to Dallas tomorrow for SVP.
Shameless self promotion

Today you get to watch two video game clips featuring Stygimoloch:

11 October 2015

Kids Shows Everywhere

There are kids shows that treat Stygimoloch from both sides of the argument of its phylogenetic/familial relationship. Rather than discuss which show is more correct than the others, that is simply too bad for today. Here are the clips from Dino Dan (no longer regularly on Nickelodeon) and Dinosaur Train (still on PBS). I have included an episode of Dinosaur Train dedicated to Stygimoloch at the end also:

10 October 2015

Fighting with Your Head

(C) Eivind Bovor
Stygimoloch, regardless of its family tree, had a head made for hitting things. The horns around the circumference of the dermatocranium were probably less well adapted for smashing into other skulls than the flattened dome-y parts. The skull, unlike in this illustration, was much flatter than it appears in both of these animals. The shape shown here would have been detrimental for hitting head to head and even head to body. The body of the animal on the ground, assuming it was hit in the chest, for instance, would be in a fairly bad predicament if a solid cone shaped skull impacted it. Additionally, the cone shaped skull of the still standing dinosaur, despite its ability to deflect and transmit stresses, would probably still be damaged from smashing into the chest of another dinosaur. Regardless, the head ornamentation and shape of the dome are the most distinctive features of this illustration. The body plan of Stygimoloch would have been reminiscent, in overall shape, to those of other pachycephalosaurs. Those, in turn, were somewhat similar to other large bipedal herbivores such as hadrosaurs.

09 October 2015

An Odd Week

(C) José Miguel Pino
This week is going to be odd and a little difficult
. The reason posts the last two days have been a little bit late, backdated, or seem rushed is because the last two days have seen myself, and possibly many other biologists, paleontologists, and geologists triple checking posters and presentations in preparation for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting that begins next Wednesday in Dallas. This week's animal is going to be a contentious animal, partly because it is always fun to look at animals that have been lumped and split by various studies, and partly because there are enough materials that it will be easy to write about the dinosaur and also update, as I can, on some of the more general happenings of the conference.

Somehow, in all the years we have been going over dinosaurs, we have not discussed a still debated (though not as hotly as before I am sure) intermediate form of Pachycephalosaurus. The proposed life cycle of Pachycephalosaurus includes a juvenile form (Dracorex), a subadult form (Stygimoloch), and the adult Pachycephalosaurus. This week we are interested in the subadult form and, for our purposes, we will consider the animal outside of the debate (or as a split genus if one cannot separate the animals and the debate); this is not an endorsement of either side of the debate and we really just want to look at this animal. Stygimoloch continues our October of evil sounding fossil names and, additionally, adds an even more evil appearance to the taxa being discussed. Juvenile, female, or separate species, this is an interesting dinosaur and should be a delight to discuss as this week goes on.

08 October 2015

Toys and Games

We know that the Walking With Dinosaurs movie came out a few years ago and we know that it spawned toys, as movies (especially action movies) tend to do. Therefore, it is quite easy to find the toys all over the internet, with the Gorgosaurus line being fairly popular. They were the "villains" of the story after all. As far as toys go, they are acceptable versions of dinosaurs; however, they have a lot of small joints and overlaps of elements which make it look a little strange.
I cannot say why they renamed the animal.
 Between the movie, the extensive historical record, and cartoons like I'm a Dinosaur and Dinosaur Train (a Gorgosaurus family owns a forest in the PBS show), Gorgosaurus is an extremely well known dinosaur. Regardless of the modern push of Gorgosaurus into the limelight, the museums and multiple specimens and casts that are visible to the public have kept Gorgosaurus in the public eye for over a century now.

07 October 2015

Reading Readings

Typically I try not to host links to other hosted sites, but now and again there are very good reasons for doing just that. Over twenty Gorgosaurus specimens are known to science currently and one of the more recent arrivals to the pack was being prepared in and around the year 2011. The undertaking was documented well and, rather than steal pictures and reexamine the process, any interested party could read about the work on a different blog.

In terms of anatomy that we find very interesting, most of the Gorgosaurus body is very similar to other mid-family tree tyrannosaurids. The head, however, is similar to other theropods, including tyrannosaurids, in the ways in which it is different. The confusion of that statement is all housed in the supraorbital area of the dermatocranium. Directly above the eyes there are two small horns, typically illustrated much larger than the dermal bones would indicate, that are rostrolaterally oriented and could only be ornamental in nature. This ornamentation would typically be interpreted as evidence of sexual ornamentation or sexual dimorphism. However, the recent trend in regards to sexual dimorphism in tyrannosaurs has been to look for (mostly hope for) medullary tissue in the bones; ornamentations have been considered, since, as species indicators and communicative structures that could be used to signal to rivals as well as the other sex when needed. Many of these symbolic communication studies are difficult to validate because of the lack of naturally acting tyrannosaurs roaming the countryside. The horns, despite their interpreted size, add a bit more devilishness whatever their purpose.
ROM 1247 cast, photo by Mark Peters

06 October 2015

Wading Through Papers

Gorgosaurus has a number of papers per find. I would not go so far as to say tenfold (that would be over 200 papers), though there could certainly be that many papers concerning the genus; the internet surely does not hold all of the literature and knowledge of the ages despite the fact that it does indeed hold many and more individual treasure troves of such. In many recent papers Gorgosaurus is considered in conjunction with, or contrast with, many of the dinosaurs that are being discovered in China and Mongolia (the linked paper is from 1955, but is indicative of many of these types of papers) and in many family-wide comparisons. There are papers that discuss Gorgosaurus behaviors in relation to other tyrannosaurid behaviors, especially the gregarious behaviors associated with hypothesized pack hunters. In the modern era of science, Gorgosaurus is still making a name for itself, especially in the 3D world with digital finite element analyses (FEA). Strain and stresses are buzz words in science and Gorgosaurus s one of those few dinosaur that has had its bones stressed and tested in the digital world of FEA. The results are fantastic and the images that come from these sorts of studies are beautiful.

05 October 2015

Gorgosaurus Runs

Since the time that we last covered Gorgosaurus it has featured in even more documentaries, movies, and many other forms of motion (animation or computer animation) media. The most commonly known are the feature length movies and longer documentaries. The best available online are segments of Walking With Dinosaurs (the Disney movie, not the documentary). These show a very thin version of the dinosaur, apparently starved and really desperate to eat the Pachyrhinosaurus herd members that appear with it in clips.

The adults appear a little healthier than the younger dinosaurs, though this may be partly an interpretation of the dinosaur's ontogenetic cycle.

04 October 2015

Helping Kids Everywhere

There are even more facts out there for younger readers and dinosaur enthusiasts than there were the first time that I relayed Gorgosaurus facts to our readers. The usual suspects are still around, like About and Enchanted Learning. These have been updated in the past couple of years, because staying with the times is of great importance in science and in education both. That means that even if the readers out there that have seen the earlier Gorgosaurus series of entries, it is worth clicking on the links to see what has changed and go back over the information just like it was the first time seeing the dinosaur. The youngest readers and dinosaur enthusiasts will be seeing Gorgosaurus for the first time, so they will be excited anyway, because Gorgosaurus is a fantastic and frightening dinosaur. However, these are not the only places to find this rather interesting dinosaur. Raresource has a short paragraph, easy to read for most middle level readers, that explains what we know, and how we know this, about Gorgosaurus. The gem of the day is probably the BBC website that has been created to help supprt BBC's Children in Need fundraising initiative. This is, of course, a U.K . program to help children with various needs (special needs, diseases, and many other charitable programs), but the activities and dinosaur fact pages are available for everyone. Everyone's favorite cartoon dinosaurs from Hooplakidz also have an episode for Gorgosaurus since we last discussed this dinosaur:

03 October 2015

Changing Times

Many theropods have changed over the years thanks to many different research and digging discoveries. These changes are sometimes met by arguments and disbelief, but over time many of them have either been fully adopted or shown to be less feasible and therefore overturned (returning the original status quo). Gorgosaurus has been portrayed as a typical tyrannosaurid; two digits on the forelimb, tyrannosaur posture, and long strong legs. Many of the illustrations and interpretative scientific illustrations of the past also suffered from the sunken and starving look that many dinosaur illustrations suffered from for a very long time. This continues in some paleoart even today making it a problem of the modern era also, but not as much as it was in the past. The Gorgosaurus shown here near this very tranquil looking pond (or river) spans the ages of illustration in many of the characteristics that can be seen. It possesses typical tyrannosaurid features but also has some meat on its bones and does not look like it is starving or dying of a terrible wasting disease of some kind. The posture is very modern, with the tail suspended in the air for balance. The only thing that this Gorgosaurus is truly lacking to be considered a quality modern and accurate illustration is feathering, kind of like that which this second illustration is sporting:
(C) Robinson Kunz

02 October 2015

Revisiting Evil Dinosaurs

Drumheller, Sebastian Bergmann
Due to the fact that Halloween falls in October , and in concordance with the fact that we have been discussing devilish dinosaurs, we shall discuss another terrifying sounding dinosaur this week. This week is going to be a revisitation of a dinosaur that was discussed around New Year's 2012. That dinosaur was a rather fearsome looking theropod named Gorgosaurus libratus. The unwritten rule with rehashing old dinosaurs is that they had to have been written about years ago and that new findings or continued interest in the animal warrants more writings. In the case of Gorgosaurus, the information and interest in this dinosaur has always been monumentally high. There are many reasons for this. One is that the dinosaur is a large theropod of the Late Cretaceous of North America; making it a favorite of many kids and adults that love dinosaurs. Another is that it was a fearsome looking predator, which tends to inspire awe and amazement. The name of this dinosaur means Dreadful lizard" and it was quite dreadful to its prey and even rival theropod dinosaurs.

01 October 2015

Good Old Australia

Australia appears to be a place that has always been very fond of its fauna. This extends across the continent geographically and across time as well. A people that are very aware of how dangerous their land has always been have embraced even their gigantic flightless birds of the ancient past (and current large birds like emus too). At any rate, a public park, with a nice looking playground in the background, sports a trio (the third is slightly to the left of this frame lying on the ground) of life-sized and life-like Bullockornis planei. Those interested in the trio can find them on the southwest side of the pond in which Kings Park Botanical Garden sits in Synergy Parkland within the larger scope of Kings Park, Perth. This is on the western bank of the Swan River near the University of Western Australia in Perth. There is a dense amount of locality information here because I went through the trouble to find the statues on Google maps and it is therefore at my disposal right now. Additionally, the statues are worth finding if one finds themselves in Australia; they are very impressive statues of some frighteningly immense terrestrial avians. This is possibly the most prominent public display of the birds and definitely the most intense physical manifestation of a public's knowledge of the birds.