STL Science Center

STL Science Center

30 May 2017

Citipati's Anatomy

The skull of Citipati is among the most iconic skulls of all theropods, if not all dinosaurs. This skull has brought about much interest and description. The original description of the material, of course, is online and is worth reading. The paper includes detailed photographs of the skull Citipati and a second description of another oviraptorid, Khaan mckennai. One of the original descriptions was published less than a year after the description of the original material as a re-description of the cranium by Clark, Norell, and Rowe with comments on another specimen, Oviraptor philoceratops. This paper contains a detailed description of the cranial material and multiple angle, well labeled, photographs of the holotype cranial material, skull and mandible, that are very helpful for understanding the overall anatomy of the skull. The publication also includes CT scans of the material. Beyond the anatomy, Citipati has been used as a basis for parental care in dinosaurs and to explain the origins of avian parental care. Their nesting and parental care has also served as the base for growth studies in nesting dinosaurs. The reason that there are so many studies of Citipati eggs, nesting, and growth is because there have been many finds of Citipati on their nests as well as eggs containing Citipati embryo without the parents found nearby.
Photo by Jordi Payà from Barcelona, Catalonia

29 May 2017

Forget Everything but the Short

There are a few mentions of Citipati in different documentaries and news stories, but rather than posting any of those today I think that the only video we need to really watch is a beautiful short showing Citipati. Unfortunately the entire short does not appear online. However, the trailer to the short (and the fact that it won an award) make me really want to find the entire film to share with everyone here. The film shows Citipati in an everyday-life situation that then gets turned upside down and shows Citipati in an environment that really evokes the namesake of the dinosaur; the Buddhist protector deity and "Lord of the Crematorium" Citipati. Please find the trailer, posted by the creator Andreas Feix, below, and take a moment to enjoy the film that you can see. I hope to hear from Andreas to be able to share the full short with everyone soon.
Citipati (2015) - Trailer from Andreas Feix on Vimeo.

28 May 2017

Podcast Win

Despite the well-known nature of Citipati it is probably important to note that the dinosaur is still relatively new in terms of dinosaurs and their presence on the internet. There are news stories floating around and a number of other assorted websites that specifically mention Citipati. These include sites like Prehistoric Wildlife, the Natural History Museum in London, and the I Know Dino website. However, to get right at the crux of the Sunday theme, we can turn to the I Know Dino Podcast, rather than just using their website as a source, to summarize the majority of websites.

27 May 2017

Another Missed Dinosaur

I truly love finding that I have somehow overlooked a dinosaur that I am and have been aware of for quite some time. This week that dinosaur that I suddenly remembered existed is Citipati osmolskae. Citipati is one of the better known oviraptorids and one of the most iconic members of its family. Possessing a crest on its forehead and a beak characteristic of other oviraptorids. Probably covered completely in feathers, Citipati was a large dinosaur at approximately 3m (10ft) long and were the largest members of their family known between 2001 and 2007. Clark, Norell, and Barsbold named Citipati (Hindi for funeral pyre) after the highly successful paleontologist Halszka Osmólska of Poland. Osmólska was a prolific discoverer and describer of oviraptorids and theropods of Mongolia where Citipati was also discovered.
Display from "Dinosaurs. Treasures of Gobi Desert" in CosmoCaixa, Barcelona.
Photo by Eduard Solà

26 May 2017

Polacanthus Presents Itself

©Rodrigo Vega
There are a number of different interpretations of Polacanthus in a number of different views. There are also a number of different actions being undertaken by these interpretations of Polacanthus ranging from sleeping to evading and actively engaging predatory dinosaurs or intraspecific rivals. The type of action in which the Polacanthus in any given interpretation does not necessarily relate how intriguing or impressive the individual piece is; a sleeping Polacanthus has exactly as much potential as a running animal. I would actually go so far as to say that the sleeping Polacanthus image shared here today is almost more dynamic than the second image.Rodrigo Vega's sleeping Polacanthus is the centerpiece of a rather dark image. Two small Hypsilophodon occupy the cliff protecting the large sleeping ankylosaur from above. The Polacanthus itself is quiet and almost appears to be somewhat contemplative. Though I have described it as asleep, it almost appears awake but with its eyes closed which is a very real possibility of course. This, like many ankylosaur illustrations, is a solitary animal living a lonely life. The Hypsiolophodons above the animal may have acted as a portion of a surrogate herd, as animals like Polacanthus are hypothesized to have lived solitary lives except at points where they needed to be around their own kind (i.e. during mating seasons). There is the possibility that this kind of behavior would be related to poor eyesight  on the part of the ankylosaur; essentially it would have used its non-conspecific herd members as its eyes to be aware of predatory dinosaurs.

©Will Brennan
This could be the exact circumstance of the second illustration of a much more awake Polacanthus. This Will Brennan image might be portraying a similar herding behavior in which Polacanthus has adopted a group of Iguanadon as surrogate herd members in the place of other Polacanthus (and smaller animals like Hypsilophodon). The Polacanthus in this image is actually a part of the foreground and is a secondary character of the image. The illustration itself draws the eye to the center with the light in the distant forest and the central Iguanodon braying or calling the herd together. Assuming that the herd is being called together and Polacanthus is a member of the herd that understands this call, that would mean that are smaller ankylosaur was willing to separate itself from the herd in deeper woods, allowing the safety of numbers to be minimized in this situation.

All of these interpretations are, of course, my personal speculation based on the speculation of artist interpretation of events that may or may not have occurred and may or may not have some kind of scientific evidence underlying them. The most important thing to do with these illustrations is to enjoy them, appreciate them, and create your own ideas about what is happening in them.

24 May 2017

Pelvic Polacanthus

Tuesday there was a paper describing the pelvic armors of different ankylosaurs and Polacanthus was one of the ankylosaurs that was specifically mentioned because it possessed very unique pelvic dermal armors. Most ankylosaurs have somewhat uniform sheets, scutes, or patches of dermal bone that protect their dorsal surfaces. Polacanthus also has dermal armor along its back; however, the dermal armor along the pelvic region is uniquely constructed and protective of the dinosaur's pelvis and hips. Assuming that, as many ankylosaurs are thought to have defended themselves, Polacanthus made itself small when threats loomed, making it difficult to get at its soft underbelly, the expansive pelvic armor was capable of protecting the hips of the animal quite well as it would have served as an armored roof to that area. In many illustrations it appears as though the hips are still exposed (such as that below); however, in the skeletal reconstructions of Polacanthus we can see fairly well that the actual hip socket lies medial and ventral to the armored shelf of bone resting on the pelvis. In some line illustrations this has been exaggerated slightly, such as in the Nopsca drawing which pulls the shelf more laterally than some others, but these small errors in representation do not change the fact that the armored shelf protected the hips of Polacanthus very well and probably kept the dinosaur safe from most direct bites, slashes, and kicks to the hindlimb which, as we saw with Edmontonia, was most likely used to pivot the front shoulder spikes of Polacanthus in threatening displays or actual offensive strikes at rivals and predators.
©SADistikKnight (Robert)

23 May 2017

Polacanthus the Printed

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of papers on the armor of Polacanthus and its configuration. Of course, we should start with the original descriptions of Polacanthus fossils but there is only one of those available online. The first few description papers are short and largely unimportant; however, Hulke's 1881 description, featuring a number of quality line drawings of the known fossils to that time, is online and is worth reading. This was followed up approximately 20 years later by a review of English dinosaurs by Franz Nopsca with a dedicated chapter and new descriptions of Polacanthus. This trend of description has continued off and on through a number of different publications, researchers, and specific foci of research in general. The latest descriptive paper of Polacanthus actually describes a number of ankylosaurs and, specifically, focuses on the pelvic armor and its variations across all ankylosaurs.

22 May 2017

Park Darling

Polacanthus has appeared in a number of documentaries (including two episodes of Walking with Dinosaurs) as a major figure. However, the bulk of non-amateur created videos of Polacanthus are documented interactions of visitors to animatronic dinosaur parks with the statues at the parks. Not all of these moving statues are accurately built, meaning there are a lot of versions of this dinosaur at parks and "fossil zoos" that do not accurately portray the animal. The best model is the one shown below, though this clearly has some interesting individuality sculpted into it.

21 May 2017

Learn Your Polacanthus

Polacanthus is a bit more popular than a large number of other ankylosaurs and, by being one of those more famous and known dinosaurs, has a lot more pages and videos dedicated to it online than others. These include sites like KidsDinos and Age of Dinosaurs. As we know, most websites contain similarities and work with the same set of information to build their fact files and paragraphs of information. The same can be said for most videos. The prime example of this is the WizScience video series that relates the same information over a series of images of the fossil animal in question. Strangely, there is no cartoon for Polacanthus like the I'm A Dinosaur series; given its popularity this is a little strange.

20 May 2017

More Ankylosaurs

During the past week I made mention of different types of ankylosaurs including their namesake group, nodosaurs, and polacanthids. This week to continue painting that picture and better understand what makes each kind of ankylosaur fit into that familial relationship, we will discuss the polacanthid Polacanthus foxii, the namesake of its subfamily. Polacanthus was originally discovered by the Reverend William Fox of the Isle of Wight in 1865; hence the specific epithet. This came about because the reverend, disliking a name given by Lord Alfred Tennyson (Euacanthus Vectianus), the first describer of the fossil, presented the fossil to Richard Owen with the new name in tow; this information is attributed to an anonymous pair of 1865 sources thought to be by Owen, Fox's own 1866 writings naming Owen, Huxley's 1867, and Hulke 1881. Regardless, Polacanthus was an ankylosaur of respectable size, measuring in at approximately 5 m (16 ft) and weight estimates of approximately 2 tonnes. Featuring armor and spikes similar to other ankylosaurs, Polacanthus was not a typical armored dinosaur and possessed unique armors, especially over the pelvis, that separated it from its closest relatives in unique ways.
Model in Sandown, Isle of Wight, Photo ©Henry Burrows

Special Edition - Save the Fossils and Their Land!

peak out for fossils! Executive order 13792 mandates a review of the boundaries of 21 US national monuments, including two whose express purpose includes protecting vertebrate fossils -- Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante. Both monuments are in southern Utah and both contain rich vertebrate fossil resources.

Please consider commenting that the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument should be maintained and and those of Bears Ears expanded.

Comment submission form:

Deadline for comments on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is May 26.

18 May 2017

Famous Dinosaurs

The popularity of Edmontonia is rooted mostly in its representation in the fossil record. Some very popular and well known dinosaurs have not been well represented in the fossil record, so we can certainly say that it is possible to be poorly represented but very well known. Edmontonia is one of those dinosaurs that is both well known and well represented. Due to this popularity it appears in video games, card games, documentaries (announced simply as "an ankylosaur" in the linked video), cartoons, books (too many to list), and almost any other medium one can think about. I like to share, when they are available, these images from information cards on dinosaurs because they re the kind of things that I used to love when I was a kid and really got me into dinosaurs (of course I am a huge nerd though). These summarize some of the things we know about Edmontonia at the same time as making the animal appear dynamic and interesting to people that would consider themselves dinosaur enthusiasts. They serve the purpose of a popular culture outlet in that way exceedingly well, and are therefore an important resource for popularity day here.

17 May 2017

Dermal Armor and Spikes

E. rugosidens, specimen AMNH 5665
Photo ©Shriram Rajagopalan from Vancouver, Canada
The armor of nodosaurs is generally similar across taxa with variation changing sizes, shapes, and numbers of plates and spikes depending on not only the genus or species, but also the individual animal. Edmontonia, for the most part as a genus, possesses armor that is constituted of flat, mostly smoothed, dermal plates starting with laid out rounded rectangles in organized rows from the neck into the tail. The skull and head lack dermal plating entirely. Over the pelvic and pectoral girdle the dermal plating is significantly different, making the armor patterns similar over the torso and abdomen and pelvis and tail. The torso and abdomen pattern consists of large oval plates guarding large areas of the rostral back (dorsum) of the animal whereas from the pelvis to the caudal-most plates the shape of the plates is more spherical and the shapes are more populated. This causes the armor to leave smaller gaps, possibly providing greater overall protection from crushing bites and injuries than the more rostral armor. The trade-off is in the sizes of spikes and mobility; not to mention Carpenter's hypotheses of sexual dimorphism and/or age as judged from the sizes of shoulder spikes. Nodosaurs do not have tail clubs like ankylosauridae genera nor do they have vertical spikes or sheets of armor across their pelves like some polacanthinidae genera. Instead, nodosaurs like Edmontonia possess large lateral spikes across their shoulders with smaller spikes trailing down to the pelvis, a trait that has led to many representations of nodosaurs hopping about to thrust their shoulder spikes at attacking predatory dinosaurs. The smaller links of armor around the pelvis would enable such movements as the plates would not take up as much space and could be compressed well as the animal twisted and turned. Additionally, the large plates could be similarly manipulated to manipulate the shoulders, but larger plates need more space between one another to move in a similar fashion, which could account, in part, for the large gaps between plates in the torso area. These large gaps could have also enabled the animal to look upward at a slight degree as the spacing between rows could be compressed as the head and neck pushed the extreme rostral rows of dermal plates back toward the shoulders.

Please remember that these are hypotheses based on looking at fossils, the papers of others, and generally restating shown interpretations of the animal already distributed via film and screen and that we still have many unanswered questions about these very interesting animals. When traits like spikes and armor plating are highlighted everyone automatically (it seems) thinks of two possibilities: defense or mating. The defensive capabilities of nodosaurs like Edmontonia are fairly clear in looking at the skeleton and associate spikes and dermal plates: a large, but squat, animal with hardened scales on its back and large sharp protrusions of bone was probably very good at getting low and defending itself regardless of how it actually managed it. If its shoulder spikes were used as offensive weapons they were probably used mainly to intimidate as they would otherwise need to be picked up, moved with speed, and very accurately aimed. Any movement that elevated and sped up the body of this animal would have left the unprotected underbelly exposed long enough that it could have been tragic. This leaves us with two possibilities, as I see it: Edmontonia was much more turtle-like in its defense of itself or it was a brash and intimidating animal that attempted to scare away predatory dinosaurs rather than actually fight them. Both of these possibilities are intriguing and the behaviors behind both could be fascinating. Please feel free to discuss the likelihood of either or both scenarios. I enjoy these kinds of conversations and thoughts.

16 May 2017

Edmontonia the Northern Dinosaur

Whenever we hear and see discoveries from the extreme northern or southern areas of the globe there is a certain amount of amazement not only because of the remoteness of the discoveries, but also because of the idea that dinosaurs lived in colder areas. This, of course, is regardless of the current climate in these areas. There are hypotheses of the climate, seasonal change, and temperatures of places like Antarctica and Alaska. These are discussed in the literature concerning Edmontonia on a fairly regular basis because many examples of the animal have been discovered at higher latitudes in both Canada and Alaska. New species of Edmontonia were hypothesized from Alaska during the 1990's, such as in this Gangloff article from 1993 calling the remains the first ankylosaur remains of their kind from Alaska. A great deal of the Edmontonia articles do not reach as far north but stop with remains from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, which has held a wealth of Edmontonia remains that have been recovered. This has led to many studies revealing more about cranial anatomy, flexibility in naturally occurring dermal armors, or even the teeth of Edmontonia (or whatever ankylosaur you are personally interested in).

15 May 2017

Watching A Drawing

Sometimes my favorite videos are not portions of documentaries or news stories. Some of my absolute favorites are actually sped up art videos. Whereas I have a few not-so-good documentary clips and one fairly nice time-lapse artwork image, I choose to share the artwork today instead of the weak documentaries. There are nodosaurs in documentaries that are based off of Edmontonia more than any other nodosaurs; however, given that these are only based on the dinosaur and do not expressly discuss the animal, the artwork video is still a slightly better choice for sharing today. Enjoy!

14 May 2017

Nodosaur Facts

For Sunday's fact entry, I am choosing to link a few videos. The I Know Dino podcast about Edmontonia says anything and everything I could in a nice quick format. I Know Dino is run by a team of dinosaur enthusiasts that has made digging up and presenting information about dinosaurs their number one goal.

The Dinosaur Diversity lecture in University of Alberta's Coursera lecture series also discusses, and shows, Edmontonia and the anatomy of the dinosaur. This lecture can be found here.

13 May 2017

Edmonton's Nodosaur

In the news lately there has been a lot of talk about a nodosaur mummy. This week, therefore, I thought it would be prudent to discuss a nodosaur, though honestly a totally different nodosaur than the fossil mummy. This week's nodosaur is known as Edmontonia and the genus contains two species: E. longiceps and E. rugosidens. Nodosaurs like Edmontonia were covered in osteoderms and armor that we will see plenty of this week. Known from materials originally discovered in 1915 from the Edmonton formation of Southwestern Alberta. Specimens have been discovered as recently as 2010 and the taxonomic history of the genus is interesting and complicated. A lot is known about Edmontonia and so we will have a lot to discuss this week, but before we do, appreciate some art based on the original finds.
©E.M. Fulda, 1922; based on the 1915 AMNH specimen

12 May 2017

A Busy Day

Yesterday was busy, so here is Friday's artwork on Saturday afternoon (I will get you all a new dinosaur/fossil within the next few hours). The artwork I shared the other day was a brilliant family portrait of a Troodon and three young animals on a beach. I could easily put another well done family illustration as there are plenty of them online; Troodon families are apparently a very popular motif in the paleoart world such as Blair Sampson's woodland family illustration. This extends not only to young animals but also to eggs and groups of adults as well. Groups of Troodon are, simply stated, popular topics for people to draw and paint. As long time readers know, I prefer well thought out or imagined artworks that challenge our preconceptions or show active and energetic animals. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Troodon images online that are one or the other but not very often both active and imaginative. This image comes from BBC's Prehistoric Planet, which shows the dinosaur in many active and imaginative situations. The feathering that was placed on this Troodon is rather extensive, but looks very well thought out, not simply plugged in to make a completely feathered dinosaur.
©BBC, Prehistoric Planet

11 May 2017

Seen on Video

Dale Russell and Ron Seguin, 1982 
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada
Troodon has appeared in so many popular venues from books to video games to movies to toys that it is nearly impossible to focus on any single area of the dinosaur's sphere of influence. Instead, we should look a little closer at Dale Russell's interpretation of Troodon evolution and the hypothesis of its continued and increasing intelligence. This hypothesized animal was dubbed Troodon sapiens by Russell and was given form by sculptor Ron Seguin in 1982. I remember seeing it when I was young and being impressed and a little confused. The idea that other forms of animals could take on humanoid forms in the course of their evolution was very odd but not out of the realm of possibility. An intelligent dinosaur, like Troodon, that had been able to evolve (without a major extinction event limiting them), would have potentially been capable of evolving large heads and changing their posture. Therefore, Russell's hypothetical "Dinosauroid Man" was not, and is not, actually all that bizarre. Though any dinosaurs, intelligent or otherwise, could have potentially evolved into more upright, tail-less, postures over millions of years. The fact that someone put that idea into a solid form and wrote a paper about that idea is bold, but that did not endear Russell to everyone. Though I do not know how controversial the "thought experiment" was or still is, it was apparently controversial enough that many disliked it. One of the chief complaints, and what makes it so eerie, is the extent of the antrhopomorphic characteristics of this evolutionary experiment. As I mentioned on Monday (or Tuesday because I mixed up my days), discuss this sculpture, but do not lose friends over it!

10 May 2017

Anatomy of A Stereotypical Dinosaur

Troodon is nothing if plain looking in terms of dinosaur morphology. In modern terms that even includes the inclusion of feathers along both limbs and the majority of its body. The more numerous, and older, portrayals of Troodon are still out and flooding the internet with gracile dinosaurs that look emaciated and a strange oily green-black skin. That skin was typically portrayed as smooth rather than scaly but it is not overly important, considering that the interpretation and knowledge of what Troodon probably looked like has changed and become so much more feathered. Troodon was not, as we tend to see stereotypical gracile dinosaurs thought of, a small animal either. The dinosaur was approximately 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long and tall enough to rival the average human, though at 50 kg (110 lbs) it was the weight of a large dog, which many of us know does not need to be tall to knock down an average sized human being. Exhibiting eyes that face partially forward, indicating depth perception capabilities, that were rather large proportionally, indicating a potentially nocturnal lifestyle, and a brain that was equally proportionally large for its size, Troodon was most likely a very intelligent animal. Intelligence has been debated for a long time in fossils, but Troodon, for many years now, has been generally accepted as an intelligent dinosaur that was capable of manipulating its manual claws, i.e. that it was able to grasp and manipulate objects. This has many implications, including the idea that intelligence and social behavior often go hand-in-hand. That idea specifically has led to many great interpretations of the dinosaur and its capabilities and has told us a great deal about the intelligence of these animals once thought of as slow, stupid, and mostly solitary outside of herds.
©Taena Doman

09 May 2017

Monday on Tuesday

I happened to think yesterday was Tuesday apparently for some reason. The post related to Tuesday and literature therefore appeared yesterday which means that today we will look at some videos concerning, describing, and generally about Troodon. These videos are informational, educational, and entertaining, sometimes all at the same time and sometimes one way at a time or a combination of these. When searching Troodon online it is important to skip a few pages of results, as the only items on the first few pages relate to the ARK video game and videos that are made using its models. The first documentary that appears is an old Discovery documentary discussing, specifically, the intelligence of Troodon including Dale Russel's hypothesized Troodon evolution; for those not acquainted this is a very humanoid version of a highly evolved dinosaur which is shown and discussed at length in the documentary. Troodon also appears in many other documentaries, but for tonite, the single documentary will suffice. It leaves a lot to be discussed between friends and colleagues and can lead to many happy discussions (or terrible angry ones if you choose that path).

08 May 2017

Smart Dinosaurs and Their Eggs

In the case of Troodon there are a lot of research studies and fossil discoveries centered around both the animal's intelligence and its nests. These studies of eggs are not relegated to the egg itself, but have even discussed embryos and nesting ichnofossils. The adult, and juveniles, have also been studied extensively. This includes their teeth, the microstructure of their bones, and their famous intelligence. This, of course, has led to many studies of the braincase and the endocast of the skull. The brain has not received any single treatise that demands attention and is also hosted online anywhere I can find it.

07 May 2017

Facts in Video Form

Today we have a short video about Troodon that goes over some facts about the dinosaur as told by the one of the dinosaurs. There are many other videos as well, but I think this video wraps up a good majority of the facts and presents it in a rather fun way.

06 May 2017

More Surprise Dinosaurs

©Greg Heartsfield, Perot Museum
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
There are relatively few times these days when we encounter a dinosaur that we probably should have discussed previously but somehow we missed in the past. This week I noticed that we have somehow skipped a rather prominent dinosaur: Troodon formosus. Dated from 77 MA and originally recovered from the Judith River Formation of Montana. The first fossil was a tooth found in 1856 and described by Joseph Leidy (under the spelling Troödon), making Troodon one of the first North American dinosaurs found and described by Leidy, let alone anyone on the continent. These teeth were described as the teeth of a lizard initially. It was not until 1877 that the dental remains were redescribed and assigned to a place in the dinosaur family tree. The first skeletal remains recognizable as a dinosaur were discovered in the 1930's by Charles M. Sternberg in Alberta, Canada. Since that time many other skeletons and clutches of eggs attributed to Troodon have been discovered, recovered, and have been prepared. These remains have been discovered from a geographic range that includes Alaska, Wyoming, and potentially Texas or New Mexico; these finds are not conclusive at this time however.

05 May 2017

Not A Glamour Shot

This week has flashed by somewhat quickly. Typically, if available, I show a size comparison of the fossil animal to modern humans at some point during the week and I noticed that I have not done so this week. Anyone that has seen a Glyptodon fossil in a museum can very much appreciate the size of this fossil relative of armadillos without seeing such a size comparison. However, those that have not can view the first image shown here and begin to really gauge what this animal may have looked like up close. Despite being an herbivore, and most likely a relatively calm one at that, the sheer size of the animal and its carapace are daunting and, this is my speculation, would be terrifying to view with only a few feet or yards between the animal and an average sized human.

Moving away from the size comparison to look at a unique view of Glyptodon in comparison, we find this armadillo-like version of the ancestor to armadillos. Daniel Eskridge purposely and knowingly stresses that his art is art before it is paleo-art. Sharing this distinction straight away means that we can simply enjoy his interpretation of Glyptodon without complaining about how he got aspects of the animal "wrong" according to modern convention (not saying I think he did, just that some forums tend to focus on these things). These topics can still be broached, but appreciating the familiar looking snout of an armadillo morphed into an ancestral state on the body of Glyptodon makes this animal look less like a prehistoric creature and more like an animal that we could see in the modern wild. This sort of interpretation and believable subject is not uncommon in paleo-art, nor is it entirely frowned upon, but more and more the push for separating interpretation and scientific based representation, I think, is causing people to ignore some of the best endeavors of artists of the past in trying to recreate or interpret interesting soft tissue anatomy. Aside from this, the alert look of the Glyptodon and its head posture make it look curious but frightened at the same time. This gives the animal a somewhat innocent look as well. At the same time I think it underlies a very firm grasp on wildlife behaviors and how an animal that was interrupted at the stream might look at whatever (us in this case) interrupted his drink. As everyone knows, I appreciate paleo-art that is a little different and shares an intriguing new view of the animals we discuss here. This piece certainly does that.
©Daniel Eskridge; @deskridge;

03 May 2017

Anatomy of the Glyptodon

Fossil specimen at the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna
The anatomy of Glyptodon has been described over and over again and, because of this and the large number of known specimens, we can break down and describe this anatomy very easily. The vertebral column, eyesight, and skull and associated musculature are of great interest and we could spend a great deal of time on any or all of those individual areas. However, this post is going to specifically treat the most easily recognizable features of Glyptodon: the carapace and tail. The carapace and tail are both covered in osteoderms. Tracing the development of the osteoderms actually coincides with the evolutionary lineage of the species in the genus Glyptodon with specific patterns and sizes of osteoderms appearing across not only the tail and carapace but along the face, legs, and abdomen during the Pleistocene. Osteoderms began appearing in Glyptodon shortly after the North and South American continents were bridged. The current thought is that the osteoderms began becoming more regular and denser as a defensive response to more predatory mammals entering South America from North America. Prior to osteoderm enlargements, the Glyptodon carapace and tail were entirely smooth in appearance. This makes interpretations of Glyptodon somewhat confusing as Late Pleistocene Glyptodon, such as in the first image, are smoother in appearance and very Early Holocene Glyptodon appear to be rough, as in the second image.
Hungarian Natural History Museum

02 May 2017

Glyptodon on Paper

As one of the longer known fossil animals, a lot of articles, lectures, and descriptions of Glyptodon have been published. These have been published in peer reviewed journals and in annals of older collections of lectures and presentations. The older articles include descriptions of osteology by Huxley in 1865 as well as the dentition and partial skeletons of Glyptodon as reported by Owen in 1841. Glyptodon has never been solely an English find; as we saw yesterday the animal is known from South America also. Some works like Nodot's 1856 book (French) or Chavez-Aponte's 2008 article (Spanish) have made Glyptodon an internationally known fossil animal in multiple languages. As the years have gone by the articles have become more and more scientific, which is both a blessing and a little sad. Observation papers like Burmeister's 1864 paper on museum specimen observations have left us, but it was replaced by papers like Osborn's 1903 paper and more recent, more in depth and rigorous investigations. These include fetal remains, protein structures, and even estimations of body size based on limb proportions.

01 May 2017

The Movie Star Glyptodon

A number of Glyptodon videos are produced and published by amateur fossil enthusiasts. While these are good quality videos and worth mentioning, we have far too many videos of this peculiar mammal to share them all let alone discuss, fully, the few that we will share here. A few of the really interesting ones that are worth an extra look and the description that we will post here today include a news story about a fossil find, and an animatronic version of the big mammal. The news story comes to us from Ezeiza (Ezeiza Partido, Argentina) where a farmer, walking about in his fields, noticed an excavated area and the large fossil of the carapace-like structure of the Glyptodon sitting in the hole. Some have speculated that the shell of the animal may have been a hoax, mostly based on the hole in the shell, but Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum of London was quoted as saying that the hole likely resulted from "wear and tear" and did not necessarily indicate"where the head or tail went".

The video of the animatronic Glyptodon was posted by the Sichuan Lituo Landscape Science & Technology Co., Ltd which manufactured the robotic mammals. These versions of the animals are possibly the most realistic animatronic versions that have been manufactured and put on display. There are others with odd mustaches and toupees and there is even one that walks very slowly and without bending its knees.