STL Science Center

STL Science Center

31 January 2016

Small Consolations

There are a number of fact pages online, though none are comprehensive and a number of them conclude with the argument that this dinosaur does not exist. Some of these end this way because they are old enough to have not been edited since the 2014 study mentioned earlier (to be discussed later) and some disregarded that study. Regardless, the number of fact pages is healthy, but small. The debates, if not the fact files, are good reading and discuss some of the main arguments for and against that have been mentioned here. These pages include:
Dann's Dinosaur Info
Everything Explained

30 January 2016

Illustrations with No Basis

The fact that an ulna is the holotype and the only anatomical remains that exist for Serendipaceratops means that we have no real idea what the dinosaur would have looked like. Inferred depictions of the dinosaur are based on the basal-most members of the tree and known neoceratopsians. Looking closely, the interpretations of Serendipaceratops appear very similar to many of the images of of Protoceratops. Considering that the ulna is the only information available, a complex inference like this is merely speculation. The controversy of the validity of the taxon makes that speculation even more difficult to accept as fact, though that may change with the discovery of more fossils, if that occurs in the future.

29 January 2016


As an ode to the calendar, or maybe just because I think it is interesting to make the last week of every month "calendar week", we are going to discuss the dinosaurs that are featured in space on the calendar I bought from Brynn Metheney. This month's dinosaur is Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei. An Australian discovery, Serendipaceratops is a questioned genus that is typically considered a nomen dubium. The back and forth disagreement between validity and not is weakly argued and not currently ongoing, but there are a number of reasons that the argument has taken place. The initial material of discovery consists of an ulna that has been described and disputed, but has been placed, as far as official placement has allowed, in a basal position within ceratopsians. Statistical studies conducted on the ulna have been used to secure this placement, but these have been doubted in the past. The studies for and against this dinosaur will have to be considered this week and discussed accordingly.

28 January 2016

Retaining Fame

How does a dinosaur once famous for anomalous anatomy retain its wonder and fame with the populace when they are told that the anatomy was false? In the case of Tsintaosaurus the anatomical description may have failed the dinosaur in the long run, but the incorrect description was around long enough that the dinosaur gained some fame simply from having been described as an oddity. It is remembered as such in numerous erroneous statues and displays. Skeletal mounts may appear to be incorrect, but they are merely displaying the skeletal morphology that was preserved during fossilization and cannot, therefore, be faulted. Instead, simply enjoy the dinosaur in its many representations, correct or otherwise, and try not to hold the old descriptions against it. Those old descriptions will continue to lurk in the background and spread the fame of the animal and short of eradicating all of the fossils and texts that described them, there is nothing we can do about them anyway.
User CaptMondo

27 January 2016

Hadrosaur Sized

Hadrosaurs were large ornithischian dinosaurs in their most common forms and in their most derived forms. Early hadrosaurs were small, compared to later hadrosaurs, but even these genera and species were rather large dinosaurs. The idea of a new clade proposed by Prieto-Marquez and Wagner based on Tsintaosaurus and Pararhbdodon and discussion of Tsintaosaurus' place in the evolution of Eurasian hadrosaurs makes us wonder how far into that family tree the position of Tsintaosaurus really is. Whether it has an early position within that new clade or a later position, it was a large hadrosaur with a unique crest. It is, of course, not as unique as the original description depicted it, but it is still uniquely shaped and more than likely produced a unique sound. Aside from its large, but average for a hadrosaur, size and odd crest, Tsintaosaurus was an average lambeosaurine hadrosaur. The post cranial body was typical of hadrosaurs and was not remarkable or unique among its family tree.

Taking Down A Unicorn

In mythological situations the destruction of a unicorn is often considered a terrible and disgusting act. In the case of Tsintaosaurus the reversal of unicorn status to a fully crested hadrosaur was not s much terrible and disgusting as it was good scientific reasoning via retrieval of the anatomical facts from available evidence. The paper that takes apart the unicorn argument and rebuilds a fully fleshed out lambeosaurine crest for Tsintaosaurus is an open source PLoS article. Some may scoff at PLoS as a repository of barely refereed articles; however, the science is not always bad even if the writing sometimes is. We do not want to get into the argument of PLoS that exists among some scientists. Instead, read the article regardless of opinions about the vehicle it is delivered by. The article not only addresses the shape and inferences made about the crest but also the evolution of lambeosaurine hadrosaurs over time. This is not the first time that Prieto-Marquez and Wagner have worked on Tsintaosaurus and discussed it as a lambeosaurine hadrosaur. In 2009 they discussed Tsintaosaurus and Pararhabdodon as members of a new clade of lambeosaurine hadrosaurs. Tsintaosaurus has been compared to other hadrosaurs for years however, and these newer articles are not unique in that aspect at least. In 1993 Buffetaut and Tong-Buffetaut had compared Tsintaosaurus to the genus Tanius to show that earlier comparisons between the two genera describing little difference in general cranial anatomy were mistaken.

25 January 2016

Florida Transport

There are a few short clips featuring Tsintaosaurus circulating on the internet. These range from an animatronic dinosaur park in Florida to museum exhibits. Fleshing out of the dinosaur in the animatronic park resulted in a strange unicorn-like dinosaur that was not, like the rest of the dinosaur park, mobile. This representation is actually a static statue. It is not the greatest representation, however, it is an acceptable version and is introducing more people to this unique dinosaur. The fact that it is misrepresenting the crest anatomy is not a big problem. It could certainly be a worse situation. It could definitely be a better situation though as well. The museum exhibits are, as we would expect, not fleshed out dinosaurs. They are skeletal mounts of course, and they are quite well done. They have the originally described crest in all of the skeletal mounts that I have looked at so far at least.

24 January 2016

Unicorn Facts

Slightly less colorful than facts about the mythical unicorns of fantasy tales, these unicorn facts are all concerned with a dinosaur initially described as possessing a unique and special crest. We know that after subsequent study of the skull a new version of the crest was hypothesized making Tsintaosaurus a less unicorn-like hadrosaur. That should not taint our fact pages fro the day. That change in facts did not change this dot-to-dot that I found; mainly because the crest on this dinosaur is completely absent.

Lack of crest aside, there are also plenty of quality fact pages out there also. The regular set of pages are out there, headlined by About, but also from a number of museums including Melbourne and London.

23 January 2016

Anti-Unicorn Illustration

Albert Prieto-Márquez, Jonathan R. Wagner
Processes on the premaxilla and prefrontals of Tsintaosaurus were missing or at least degraded in the fossilization process on the type specie cranium. The loss, absence, or degradation of these processes on the cranium of Tsintaosaurus led to the initial description of the hadrosaur as a uniquely ornamented ornithischian dinosaur. The absent portions of the crest left a surviving crest that was posteriorly angled in a way that made the unicorn-like horn extend dorsally superior to the midline of the cranium and directly above the orbits. The hypothesized full size crest arced rostrally before sweeping inferiorly to finish the articulation with the premaxilla and maxilla. The crest was not hypothesized to bulge rostrally but instead indented and arced inferio-posteriorly from the acme of the crest to the premaxilla. Sound production in the crest, as is often assumed in hadrosaurs (especially lambeosaurine hadrosaurs), is not documented or hypothesized at the current time that is any different from existing sound profiles. The unicorn horn was not considered to be relevant to vocalization as far as I have seen, but I have not read all of the literature as yet and this could therefore be a misrepresentation at the moment.

22 January 2016

Lizard of Qingdao

Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus is named for the place from which its fossils were unearthed and recovered initially and its most peculiar characteristic at the time of discovery. Tsintaosaurus is a large Chinese hadrosaur with a prominent crest. The crest that it was discovered sporting was fragmentary and broken approximately in half. The area that remained was the posterior portion of the crest and, in its preserved state, was reminiscent of the horn of the mythical unicorn. The specific epithet directly references this "spine nose". However, recent discoveries have made this epithet obsolete. The crest has been "filled"  in by recent discoveries, but the pre-correction illustrations (see below) are wonderful and the hadrosaur is an interesting addition to the Chinese fauna as well. It is worth looking at and learning more about to be sure.
(C) Dmitry Bogdanov

21 January 2016

Anchiornis the Popular

Anchiornis is popular in many ways. We have detailed many of those ways in the past week. There are a few that have not been represented well here by image or description. These are the prime reasons that Anchiornis is popular with both scientists and dinosaur connoisseurs of various ages and backgrounds:

1) They make good toys and statues.

2) The art that has spawned of Anchiornis after its description is stunning.
(C) Vasika Yasanjith Udurawane
3) Anchiornis has made at least one adorable forays into video games.

4) The dinosaur has appeared in beautiful tattoos.
(C) Brian Thomas Wilson
5) The videos of the scientific discoveries that have been made are phenomenal!

20 January 2016

Coloring Your Feathers

The preservation of soft tissue structures, including pigmentation, blood, and some other rare and hard to spot tissues, is becoming almost commonplace in paleontology. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that there has been a great deal of fossil material unearthed in recent years that exquisitely preserved the tissue in one way or another. This includes T. rex collagen and DNA that survived well beyond the originally hypothesized timeline of a million years. The second reason that more soft tissues have been recovered in recent years is the increased technology with which paleontologists, anatomists, and geologists (to name a few disciplines) are now regularly versed and proficient in using. In the case of Anchiornis both of those things happened. The fossils of the small dinosaur were very well preserved and the best preserved of the individuals possessed not only feathers but clearly defined melanosomes that were able to be interpreted by Li et al. in 2010. Their interpretation lead to the color scheme that is presently, and has always been, associated with Anchiornis. That color scheme includes white barring on the wings (hind and fore limbs) and a rufous crown. The crown varies between orange and a fiery red, depending on the interpretation of the artist.
Looking for the illustrator!

19 January 2016

Where Are Your Bird Parts?

Anchiornis lacks a lot of parts of birds that are diagnostically avian. The most telling lack is in the chest. A requirement for powered flight is to develop muscles that can manage to power one's wings such that they provide thrust and lift. Bats, birds, and insects (and pterodactyls before) all manage this in different ways. Birds solved this problem by placing the muscles for both the power and recovery strokes of their flight on the chest and extending the sternum ventrally such that the bone resembles the keel of a ship. This keeled carinate sternum and the resulting pectoralis and supracoracoideus muscles (responsible for the down and upstroke respectively) are enormous and the center of gravity lies, in most birds, in the middle of the sternum between the chest muscles. This is important because Anchiornis lacks that sternum morphology, the associated muscle morphology and,more importantly, may represent the basal most characteristic of the avian sternum. That is the hypothesis of Zheng, et al. 2014 that investigates the absence of the sternum in both Anchiornis and Sapeornis (an Early Cretaceous basal avian from China). This study contemplates other anatomical studies investigating the flight capabilities of Anchiornis. The lack of a sternum and the associated musculature negates the abilities of Anchiornis to conduct powered flight. The feathers corroborate this hypothesis. Feathers are the subject of Longrich, et al. 2012. Longrich, et al. concludes that both Archaeopteryx and Anchiornis possessed similar feather configurations. The two configurations of the feathers consisted of multiple layers of nearly symmetrical feathers. Powered flight feathers are asymmetrical and neatly layered so that they create a thin layer of feathers rather than a multilayered arrangement. The feathers of both Anchiornis and Archaeopteryx, according to this study, possess limited flight capabilities. These are most likely limited to gliding and controlled descent in respect to this study.

18 January 2016

Anchiornis Takes Flight

The majority of sources and literature concerning Anchiornis mention that the animal was a dinosaur. Very few, and there are still some holdouts in popular outlets, not as much in the literature, still cling to the viewpoint that Anchiornis is a very early form of bird. Regardless, there are a number of clips online showing the dinosaur flying. We know that powered flight was not part of whatever flight regimen the animal was capable of however. It is different to watch someone's interpretation of a powered flight, but the shape of the wings and the more symmetrical flight feathers indicate that gliding or controlled descent was much more likely than powered flight if any mode of flight was available to the dinosaur. The clips of flying Anchiornis still contain some good facts, of course, but their locomotive facts about this dinosaur are entirely false, unfortunately. The videos therefore must be taken with many grains of salt. Proper portrayals of the dinosaur in flight, or free-fall rather, do exist. The Rise of Animals, narrated by David Attenborough and a National Geographic special on dinosaurs and including Anchiornis both show the dinosaur gliding down from trees. However, these clips are not online in abundance and quality versions are difficult to come by. One of the best quality versions of the national Geographic clips is absolutely ruined by having the My Little Pony theme blared over it. I will attach a link to it, but I genuinely refuse to put it directly onto this page.

17 January 2016

Anchiornis Facts

Anchiornis is a contentious dinosaur because of its mixture of traits that are similar to both dinosaurs and birds. Therefore, the fact pages that show up discussing Anchiornis are written from a multiude of view points. These points include the better sites that look at just the published peer-reviewed papers, matters of opinion, and pages that have clear agendas to prove or disprove one thing or another. Sadly this last category typically is the realm of Creationist literature using species of transition as evidence that evolution never happens. The most impartial sites hosting facts are About and the KidzSearch encyclopedia. There are plenty of dinosaur-bird viewpoint related fact pages as well. These include Dinosaur Jungle most prominently, in terms of fact pages aimed at younger audiences.

16 January 2016

Seeing the Dinosaur

(C) Matt Martyniuk
The dinosaurian head of Anchiornis is one of the most visible features of the little dinosaur. The small body, wings, and tail are much more bird-like than the head. Granted the tail is very long and dinosaur-like overall, but there are also long tailed birds. The anatomy of these tails is completely different, with dinosaurs like Anchiornis possessing a long column of caudal vertebrae and the long-tailed birds possessing very long tail feathers supported by a fused "clump" of caudal vertebrae called the pygostyle. The blunted nose of Anchiornis, getting back to the dinosaur traits of the head, was covered in feathers to the nasal protuberance. The maxilla and premaxilla have been described as housing teeth, a very unbird-like trait. The feathers of Anchiornis have been found with fossilized pigmentation, therefore we can attest to the validity of coloration in the illustrations that are in existence all over. That includes the wonderfully red crown portrayed in this illustration. That crown, assuming it was not dimorphic was probably present on males and females, like modern birds such as the Northern Cardinal. Like the Northern Cardinal, the brightest crowns would have belonged to the males. However, to bring in another extant bird, the crown could have been like that of the Blue Jay, which is not dimorphic in presence or pigmentation between the sexes.

15 January 2016

The Smallest Dinosaur

(C) Nobu Tamura (
Anchiornis huxleyi is arguably the smallest dinosaur that ever existed. This ignores extant dinosaurs, but comparing hummingbirds to small avialan dinosaurs is not relevant or easily done in a short blog entry. Dating from the Jurassic of China, specifically around 161 to 160 million years ago, Anchiornis belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as Eumaniraptorans, also called Paraves. This very interesting group of dinosaurs is extremely closely related to the first birds, and Anchiornis is one of the absolute closest dinosaurs to the first animals we recognize definitively as birds. Anchiornis actually means "near bird" when translated. The specific epithet is in honor of one of the strongest early proponents of the theory of evolution. This naming makes sense in light of the position of Anchiornis along the line to true birds as the littlest dinosaur was clearly in an interesting anatomical position of possessing bird and dinosaur traits and some that were mixtures of the two. Feathers, wings, evidence of color, long limbs, bird-like heads with dinosaurian teeth (and other characteristics) all mark Anchiornis as an extremely intriguing taxon. The description of Anchiornis in 2009 was, and still is, an important landmark in studying birds, dinosaurs, and all the vertebrate life on this planet.

13 January 2016

Gilmore's Dinosaur

Gilmoreosaurus was a pile of rubble, basically, that came across the desk of Charles Gilmore at the Smithsonian close to 100 years ago. His description of the dinosaur under a different genus (later renamed for him rather than after himself by Gilmore) was very well done given what existed of the dinosaur at the time. The fact that those remains could be used to identify cancerous growths in dinosaurs approximately 80 years later is a testament to the enhanced abilities of science as well as to the advent of new technologies since the time of Gilmore. It can be assumed that Gilmore would be a star today as he was in his own day, however, the new technologies that now exist would have made his scientific abilities even much more comprehensive and, of course, modern. Gilmore named a great number of fossil animals, Gilmoreosaurus being one of that number.

12 January 2016

Papers and Cancers

Important papers about dinosaurs always exist and we usually start out each Tuesday mentioning that there are a lot of important papers out on whatever taxon we are discussing that week. This week that is exceedingly true. After looking at the important papers that tell us more about the anatomy and phylogeny of Gilmoreosaurus we should be able to discuss where the animal rests in the family tree. This description can be augmented by a slightly older description by Weishampel and Horner that also gives us an accurate picture of the contemporaneous fauna of the formation, such as was known in 1986. Having an up to date faunal assemblage is important for understanding animal behaviors and relationships between predators, prey, and symbiotic groups (regardless of their position along the scale from parasitic to mutualism). The most interesting study, in my opinion, is a widely focused study on evidence of tumors in dinosaur fossils. Tumors can be caused by cancers, benign or malignant. In an older context tumor could refer to any swelling, but Rothschild, et al 2003 was concerned specifically with abnormal vertebral tissue growth in dinosaurs. An examination of some Gilmoreosaurus remains provides evidence for cancerous growths. There is a great deal more discussion on the discovery, but one really ought to read this for themselves and draw their own conclusions of validity on the study. Imagine being able to diagnose dinosaur cancer as a cause of death from fossils though!

11 January 2016

An Odd Day

There is no additional video for Movie Monday for Gilmoreosaurus. We looked at the single video that concerned Gilmoreosaurus yesterday; this is equal parts sad and unfortunate. Instead, we will look at an interesting combined image that appeared on a Chinese website. There was no artist attributions and the translation appears pretty coherent (I do not know how Google decides to translate pages). However, I do not think that the page's translation is all that important in the interest of the image. What we get out of the image is not only a long view of the mounted skeleton on display, but also an artist's interpretation of the fleshed out hadrosaur. Unlike the NHM image, this version of Gilmoreosaurus is more modern and "common" in the world of hadrosaur interpretation. Additionally, we can see, as we expect with all hadrosaurs, that Gilmoreosaurus is larger than an average human being. Gilmoreosaurus is actually an average sized hadrosaur despite being an early member of the tree. We can infer from this that even the most basal hadrosaurs were hadrosaur sized; consider for instance, that early sauropods and ceratopsians are much smaller than later members of their respective families. The last part of the image is a map of the locality from which the original fossils were recovered.

10 January 2016

Gilmoreosaurus Facts

Partially because of the fact that Gilmoreosaurus suffered a name change and partially because it was only named, not discovered, before any other Chinese fossil animal, there are not as many facts online about Gilmoreosaurus. About hosts a fairly good quality page on Gilmoreosaurus. The Encyclopedia of Life page dedicated to Gilmoreosaurus has been taken down. The reasons are unknown, but it is quite unfortunate that the page is now missing. The only other facts online are actually contained in the WizScience video on YouTube. These videos have been shown on here a number of times, so readers should be familiar with these videos. These are the series of videos read by a computer over dinosaur images.

09 January 2016

Limited Reconstructions

Reconstruction hosted at NHM Dino Directory (
Gilmoreosaurus suffers from a problem that many ornithischian dinosaurs suffer from in scientific popularity and representation. The fossil remains indicate that the dinosaur was a basal hadrosaur along the line of iguanodontids. The reconstructions of the dinosaur appear very reminiscent of hadrosaurs but also very basic and "any dinosaur" looking. The hadrosaurs, either way, would have had a very recognizable habitat. We know a lot about the environment from paleobiological samples and other taxa that came from the same region and time. Assuming that Gilmoreosaurus had similar behaviors to hadrosaurs that descended from itself and other basal hadrosaurids we are able to recreate not only the known environment but also the manner in which the dinosaur went about its day as well as its reproductive cycle. Working on the assumption that all hadrosaurs, even the earliest, were good parents, we can present illustrations like this one in which Gilmoreosaurus is a doting parent, watching their hatchlings emerge and escorting them around the nest site. The hatchlings in this image are carbon copies of their larger parents. However, there is no known complete embryo or hatchling that has been assuredly assigned to the genus.

08 January 2016

Geographic Challenge

In the course of history international borders have changed with an ebb and flow that some times makes sense from geographic and political changes (i.e. when rivers change and new countries are established over time) to conflict inspired changes (i.e. outcomes of war/treaties/purchases) and some times makes little to no sense at all (e.g. when rivers move and borders are retained). However things have come about in China, the province of Inner Mongolia within China's northern borders is south of the country of Mongolia and has lent itself to some confusions over locality descriptions in secondhand (or more) accounts of fossil discoveries. One prominent example is the discovery of a fossil hadrosaur originally described in 1933 by Charles Gilmore as a member of the established genus Mandschurosaurus Riabinin 1925. Gilmore's description named the animal Mandschurosaurus mongoliensis; thereby leading to some of the geographic confusion as mongoliensis means "from Mongolia". Predating the naming of Euhelopus (discussed last week) by four years, Mandschurosaurus is the first named genus of all Chinese fossils (considering only those properly described by scientific study). Gilmore's fossil was discovered, by all accounts, in Inner Mongolia in 1923 by George Olson. Olson was collecting the fossils for the United States National Museum (now: National Museum of Natural History or colloquially "The Smithsonian") at which Gilmore was lumbering through old Yale finds from the days of Marsh. This is important in the context of what Gilmore was doing at the time, because the fossil remains of M. mongoliensis were fragmented and retrieved from multiple locations. Gilmore's expertise with a wide variety of fossil material from Yale included greatly fossilized bones constituting partial specimens as well as the broken fragments that Marsh had gleaned over, ignored, or simply not gotten around to describing during his life (subsequent workers at Yale had not described all of the works being passed on to Gilmore either of course).

Gilmore pieced together what he could of this basal iguanadont or hadrosaur dinosaur and attributed it to the genus Mandschurosaurus and continued on with all of the other fossils on his plate. Over 60 years later those remains and others attributed to the species were reviewed by Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman (then of Johns Hopkins, currently the Smithsonian; coincidentally he is the first Smithsonian employee to have ever conducted a PhD strictly on dinosaurs!) in an all encompassing review of hadrosaur dinosaurs. His analysis determined that Gilmore's Mandschurosaurus was in fact derived enough in its own right that it warranted its own genus. The type is now known as Gilmoreosaurus mongoliensis Gilmore 1933. This may confuse some as it appears that Gilmore named the dinosaur after himself, but he most certainly did not as the genus is actually attributed as Gilmoreosaurus Brett-Surman 1979. Since that time two other species have been assigned to the genus.
Attributed to a user calling him/herself Thesupermat

07 January 2016

Launching a Science

Euhelopus may not be the main catalyst for Chinese paleontology, but as the first major find documented and described from China, it does hold a very important place in the machine that eventually became Chinese paleontology. In part, because of that, it is a well known fossil and fairly well known, in paleontology at least, to a wide audience as a very large sauropod. One of the first titanosaurs discovered, despite the name not officially existing until 80 years later, Euhelopus was an enormous animal. Rather than looking for toys and video games, continue to read the long papers from Tuesday and visit Big Time Attic, because they deserve the traffic and Euhelopus was "Dino of the Day" number 42.

06 January 2016

Anatomical Characteristics

There are a number of anatomical characteristics discovered with the four recovered specimens of Euhelopus. The first two recovered fossils are the basis of the type species while the subsequent fossils are comprised of a number of fragments. The final recovery mostly consisted of cranial elements whereas the third find consisted of elements from many different regions of the body. All of these fossils and elements together present many anatomical characters that separate Euhelopus from the other sauropods. These characters range from shape differences to internal bone architecture. The majority of characters, though, are centered in the vertebral column, as many of the characters of other sauropods have been derived from the vertebrae, which are often the only skeletal elements that are recovered. The vertebral characters include postaxial cervical vertebrae that possess variably developed epipophyses. These also possess "pre‐epipopophyses" below the prezygapophyses. The cervical neural arches are adorned with an epipophyseal‐prezygapophyseal lamina that separates the two pneumatocoels. The anterior and posterior cervical vertebrae are differently organized as well. The anterior vertebrae have three costal spurs on the tuberculum and capitulum. Many of the characters are also concentrated in the pelvic area. The presacral neural spines are divided. The anterior dorsal vertebrae bear a median tubercle that is at least as large as the metapophyses. These are absent in the posterior dorsal vertebrae. The middle and posterior dorsal parapophyseal and diapophyseal laminae are arranged in a "K" configuration instead. The presacral pneumatic space extends into the ilium. All of these structures are enormous because of the enormity of the dinosaur itself. These are somewhat easier to see thanks to that large size, but they are not so evident that they can be seen without any kind of effort.

05 January 2016

Rebuilding the Skull

The famous Cretaceous sauropod of China Euhelopus was fossilized with a  nearly complete cranium. Because the fossil was discovered so early in the history of documented Chinese paleontology, the description of the fossil material other than that complete cranium, was well done, but not up to the same standards as today. In part that is, as it always is with science, because of the advances in technology that allowed current researchers to look at the skeleton with more advanced optics, imaging, and better techniques. The original description was well done for certain, but the newer description and reevaluation of Euhelopus by Wilson and Upchurch is thorough and well written. This new description definitely reveals more details about the dinosaur than the original and officially places Euhelopus in Titanisauriformes; this classification was not described or valid until 1997. This redescription and a subsequent study were used to make the hypothesis, which is upheld in this 2010 Christian paper, that Euhelopus was capable of high browsing and raising its neck higher into foliage. The paper makes cases for other sauropods as well, but these have not been as well received as the evidence and argument for Euhelopus. Possibly the most intriguing, and colorful, study was also the "simplest" study that has been published about Euhelopus. The Poropat and Kear study digitally reconstructed the disarticulated cranium of Euhelopus for the first time. The nearly complete skull was color coded by bone and makes a wonderful learning tool for anatomy of sauropods. The cranium of the sauropod is amazing. It really is worth all of the hype that has been attributed to it.

04 January 2016

Euhelopus on Film, Kind of

Euhelopus is a popular Chinese sauropod. It is a unique dinosaur with longer forelimbs than hindlimbs and a head that was almost entirely preserved. The fossilized cranium may have been disarticulated, but it was complete enough that it is one of the most well preserved sauropod crania that has ever been discovered. Combining the facts discussed here and listening to even more in this video, you may just learn everything there is to learn about Euhelopus in one weekend. We will elaborate more in the next few days of course!

03 January 2016

Chinese Sauropods for Kids

Euhelopus shows up quite often on the internet. Given that it is extremely important in many ways that we have discussed a number of times in the two days since we started discussing the animal, the amount of information online makes a great deal of sense. This includes sites like About, Kids Dinos, and the NHM of London. There are far more sites than these few that have fact files or short essays about Euhelopus. There are not, unfortunately, many coloring sheets that are anything more than generic sauropods instead of the specific body plan of Euhelopus.

02 January 2016

Heads Up

(C) Hirokazu Tokugawa
The longer forelimbs of Euhelopus create a natural slope in the body which elevates the chest above the posterior end of the sauropod. The neck and head are raised higher because of the forelimb length, somewhat like those of a giraffe. The shorter hindlimbs naturally lower the tail and help to create that taller anterior end of the animal, also somewhat like a giraffe. The head appears to be very much like the heads of any other sauropod. That cranium is one of the most complete heads that has ever been discovered for a sauropod dinosaur, making it far more important than the fact that its discovery led to more paleontology within China itself. That skull is also disarticulated, so the reconstructed skull is an approximation, but it is quite a fantastic reconstruction. Knowing what the head looks like on the end of the long neck is important for understanding its diet and the way in which it interacted with other members of its species and members of other species. The neck is extremely long and the body itself is as we would expect for a large sauropod. The immensity of the sauropod and the anatomy of Euhelopus have placed it in the titanosauriformes of the early Cretaceous.

01 January 2016

Back to Dinosaurs

Photo by Kumiko in Tokyo, Japan
The Good Marsh Foot, Euhelopus zdanskyi, was renamed in 1956 by A. S. Romer. The original name was simply Helopus zdanskyi as described  by Carl Wiman in 1929. Collected by Otto Zdanskyi in 1923 after being discovered in 1913 by a Catholic missionary named Father Metrens, the fossil originated in the Mengyin Formation of Shandong Province, China. This formation is of Cretaceous origin and this respectably large sauropod (between 15-20 tons and 15 m (49 ft) long) was very interesting in a multitude of ways. One of the most obvious and interesting characteristics that is readily seen is the configuration of the legs. In most sauropods the forelimbs are shorter than the hindlimbs. However, Euhelopus the forelimbs are longer than the hindlimbs by a significant and appreciable amount. This was also the first fossil that was discovered and recovered from China. The knowledge that dinosaurs existed in China, thanks to this discovery, would lead to many future digs and eventually discoveries that are monumentally important. However, the story of Euhelopus is unique, interesting, and is going to make for a fun study this week.