STL Science Center

STL Science Center

30 July 2017

Video Facts

Melanorosaurus is the kind of dinosaur that we do not hear about an awful lot. Therefore, it is a little odd to see any videos about this relatively unknown, to the general public, dinosaur. There is, though, a WizScience video that exists that summarizes a number of facts and shows a number of illustrated interpretations of the dinosaur. There are also websites that mention Melanorosaurus and share relevant information. These include favorites such as Dinosaur Jungle, KidsDinos, and Prehistoric Wildlife. The last page, Prehistoric Wildlife, even has future reading listed on the page, which is quite useful for later.

29 July 2017

Early Sauropods

In the Late Triassic of South Africa herbivores were already becoming enormous animals with strong limbs, large bodies, and small heads. Melanorosaurus readi, Haughton 1924 was a basal sauropodomorph that is thought to have looked much like its descendants and could have possibly fed and lived in similar ways to at least some of its descendants. Large enough to have left facultative bipedal locomotion to its ancestors and adopted obligate quadrupedal locomotion, Melanorosaurus was one of the first members of the family of herbivorous behemoths that would later be known as sauropods. Based on syntype (two specimens used to describe a single taxon) materials from the Elliot Formation of Black Mountain (Thaba 'Nyam) in Transkei, South Africa, Melanorosaurus is not well known despite being described from a femur and two skulls. This constitutes more material than a number of other fossil animals, but is nonetheless minuscule and makes Melanorosaurus problematic in a number of ways. regardless, as one of the earliest assigned members of the family of sauropods, it holds an important place in the family tree and provides clues to the steps of evolution between the earliest dinosaurs and the giants they eventually became.

28 July 2017

The Faces of Sinosauropteryx

The pudgy little fluffball that Matt Martyniuk illustrated, and is photoshopped into the image shared on Saturday, is only one version of this well known dinosaur. It may be among the most adorable recreations of the feather covered non-avian dinosaur, but it is not the most dynamic nor the most thought provoking interpretation of the animal. It is not, thankfully, a skin and bones dinosaur, though this interpretation also exists. The interpretation is done in an older style that is no longer considered acceptable in scientific interpretations of fossils. It is worth looking at to see what the 1990's version of Sinosauropteryx would have looked like though. Instead of remaining on that interpretation though, here are some more realistic interpretations. The interpretations of Emily Willoughby and Julius Csotonyi both feature feathered Sinosauropteryx in wooded areas. However, the styles are different, making the feathers and dinosaurs look very different. Each version shows Sinosauropteryx in a different light and they both have their high points and low points. Enjoy both for their different reasons.

26 July 2017

Obvious Start

Photo by Sam Ose
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
After the discovery of the slab containing the holotype material of Sinosauropteryx was initially discovered one of the more important characteristics of the animal's anatomy was immediately visible. The impressions of the filaments appeared as a reddish brown band of small fibers extending from the crown of the skull to the tail. Some of these fibers are seen on the ventral edge of the tail as well. These are also visible on the counter slab and on both slabs the disorganized appearing fibers are slightly removed from the spinal column. This gap has been hypothesized to represent the area where muscle and skin would have existed during life. The missing soft tissue would have, therefore, held the proto-feathers before death. These proto-feathers, as they appear in the fossil, look like a mohawk stretching the length of the small dinosaur's body. Due to their disorganized structure, individual filaments have not been studied. The body was covered in two described filaments; however, the hypothetical types of filament (referred to as thick and thin) have not been entirely validated. However, the thicker filaments are thought to be stiffer than the thin filaments. Thicker filaments also lie at angles to these thinner filaments whereas the thin filaments are parallel to one another. All of these filaments would have made for a short down-like layer of proto-feathers that would have certainly kept Sinosauropteryx warm.

25 July 2017

Feathers on Paper Again

One of the original papers that describes and discusses Sinosauropteryx that we discussed and is worth bringing back immediately on this site: Ji and Ji 1996. Other articles that mention or describe Sinosauropteryx have been written since 2012, which makes because it is such an interesting and important dinosaur. Lingham-Soliar 2015 examines the postural stages of death in Sinosauropteryx. This paper describes three stages of the tail and neck as they assume what is known as an opisthotonic pose of the tails and necks. Studying the taphonomy of Sinosauropteryx is not all that has occurred in the last few years. Due to its important position as the first non-avian dinosaur positively sporting feathers, Sinosauropteryx has also been studied as a means of better understanding the evolution of the feathers. Studying the epidermis and dermis of the tail, Lingham-Soliar 2013 details the death pose (prior to his paper specifically on the death pose). Scaling and feathers and the fibers of the epidermis are all in play throughout this paper. Enjoy the reading this evening and learn some more about feathers and Sinosauropteryx.

24 July 2017

Videos Everywhere

There are a number of Sinosauropteryx videos all over the internet. There are, of course, the videos that have been shared on this blog first in 2012 and the one shown shared yesterday of the cartoon version of a Sinosauropteryx talking about itself and what it does on a daily basis; there is also a French version of the cartoon floating around. Today, rather than placing a tribute here or a random but newer collection of images we will watch some art as it's created. Gabriel Ugueto narrates his work as he creates it. Enjoy watching this illustration take shape. And color. And personality.

23 July 2017

Finding New Links

Dinosaur: ©Matt Martyniuk adapted under
Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
It has been just over five years since we discussed Sinosauropteryx prima. Since that time many other illustrations, links, and opinion pieces (as well as scientific facts) have been published online in one form or another. Sinosauropteryx is one of the more famous feathered Chinese fossils. It was originally unearthed and recovered from the Early Cretaceous soils rocks of northeastern China's Liaoning Province. The rocks it comes from are specifically Jehol Biota rocks of the Yixian Formation. This is the same group of rocks that have contained animals like Yutyrannus, Psittacosaurus, and Sinornithosaurus. Sinosauropteryx stands out among its rocky neighbors for a variety of reasons. The first obvious characteristic of this non-avian theropod is that it is a very small dinosaur. As we can see in this photoshopped image that originally appeared in the 2 May 2012 post on this site which approximates the height of the animal based on description and measurements of the fossil, Sinosauropteryx was a small dinosaur. That post does not mention that it is wise to assume the image is an approximation of measurements taken, but at less than 0.5 m tall, this image is within the realm of reasonable approximations for Sinosauropteryx. The second characteristic of Sinosauropteryx that is well-known is the fact that the animal was covered in what appears to be a down-like layer of feathers and was the first recorded non-avian dinosaur to possess feathers and to exhibit that characteristic clearly in its fossils.

Due in part to its fame as a small feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx is well known throughout paleontology and with the general public.This has led to more fact files, coloring pages, and other educational pages. The old links can all be found in this 2012 post. Additionally, I'm a Dinosaur has since produced (actually it appeared approximately six months after our posts here) a Sinosauropteryx episode of the popular cartoon. Enjoy the cartoon, the old links, and the black and white drawing/coloring page. There is a lot of new information to go over this week and this is a fairly good amount to start with on your Sunday.

21 July 2017

Gargoyles in the Woods

The most typical situation in which an ankylosaur is depicted is open plains or rocky habitat with woods in the background or, at most, the foreground. An ankylosaur like Gargoyleosaurus, however, requires a different background to live in. As we have learned, Gargoyleosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic which had an appreciably different climate and overall landscape than those seen around the Cretaceous members of the ankylosaur family tree. This scene of a bellowing Gargoyleosaurus in a small opening in a Jurassic forest is more accurate for the time period and where it lived than a wide open plain would have been. Those areas may have existed of course, but a dinosaur in an interesting scene rather than a wide open and low detail scene is not as exciting as seeing the vibrant scenery of the forest.

20 July 2017

Little Popularity

Gargoyleosaurus does not appear in many mainstream popular outlets at all. There are a number of books that mention Gargoyleosaurus in some capacity or another; however, none of these are exceedingly popular, mainstream, or well-regarded within the scientific community. Most of the books are actually short kids books about dinosaurs or generalized field guide-esque books that discuss the most important scientific aspects and discoveries of whichever dinosaur in particular. There are some video game references and toys and these appear in videos or on websites dedicated to toys and video games, not surprisingly. There is a rather interesting video worth sharing here that shows the resulting miniature 3D printed sculpture. Check out the detail here:

19 July 2017

Size of Early Ankylosaurs

Gargoyleosaurus was a somewhat smaller ankylosaur than its descendants and later cousins. Measuring in with a skull approximately 29cm (11in) long, Gargoyleosaurus' skull was approximately the size of a squirrel (minus the tail). The entire body of the dinosaur was estimated to be up to 4m (13.1ft). The largest Ankylosaurus were estimated to be as long as 10.6m (35ft); about 2.5 times the size of this early member of the family. Estimated weights, likewise, are radically different for this smaller ankylosaur. Gargoyleosaurus was estimated to weigh 1 tonne (2,200lbs) whereas Ankylosaurus was estimated to weigh in at approximately 6.8 tonnes (15,000lbs). Aside from the weight and absolute length of Gargoyleosaurus, the dinosaur was about the size of some common livestock. It could have certainly made an interesting large pet.

18 July 2017

Gargoyles Described

Skulls and postcrania in original descriptions are described together, but this does not mean that later in the research of any given taxa they may not be described separately in equal or greater detail and compared to diverse taxa. The original descriptive material pertaining to Gargoyleosaurus specifically refers to a description of a skull of a Jurassic ankylosaur (the article's title is indeed "Skull of a Jurassic ankylosaur") and does not mention the postcranial material specifically. Many years after this initial description, the pelvis received some individual detailed study and description. The love for the pelvis was part of a dedicated study of ankylosaur pelvic evolution and includes comparative descriptions of other ankylosaur pelves within the family tree. The paper contains a large number of figures showing these different pelves and how they are compared in the paper. Unlike the original description, this paper is open-sourced and therefore open to being read. The one paper significantly missing from reading that turns up on an initial search is a new description of the original materials. We can learn a lot from these two available descriptions, however, and will certainly make do with them.

17 July 2017

Gargoyles in Motion

Gargoyleosaurus is not much uglier than any other ankylosaurid dinosaur has been that we have looked at. Typically anything named a gargoyle or referred to as such is anticipated to have a disagreeable countenance; however, as we can see in this compilation of images, Gargoyleosaurus is not particularly hideous. The name instead refers to the gargoyle-like appearance of the skull rather than calling the animal itself grotesque. One of the earliest ankylosaurids, Gargoyleosaurus is extremely important in understanding the evolutionary history of the its entire lineage, and therefore we know a lot of facts about this large and interesting dinosaur. These facts can be found on sites like KidzSearch as easily as on the NHM of London's Dino Directory pages. Most of these, of course, are discussed in the video. The Dino Directory includes a nice little pencil drawing of the animal by Andrey Atuchin as well; always a nice little addition to a fact list.

15 July 2017

The Gargoyle Lizard

Gargoyleosaurus parkpinorum consists of two partial and undescribed skeletons as well as the holotype described by Carpenter, et al. 1998 (originally G. parkpini and edited slightly to the current form in 2001). The skeletons were recovered from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming. The known described material consists of a skull and the majority of the postcranial skeleton. These materials have been restored and a full skeleton is on display in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by "Firsfron" released under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

14 July 2017

A Pretty Site

A number of panoramas and beautiful illustrations have been made containing or featuring Pelecanimimus. Most of these show the animal in the foreground of the image even as a non-feature animal. The best of the non-featured Pelecanimimus illustrations are actually two Raul Martin illustrations. The first features Concavenator with a small herd or flock of Pelecanimimus in the middleground crossing the central river of the scene. The second Martin image centers on both Pelecanimimus and Goniopholis. In this illustration, however, Pelecanimimus figures in as a potential dietary morsel for Goniopholis. Pelecanimimus appears in more water filled scenes such as  Roman Garcia Mora's Baryonyx illustration; Pelecanimimus appearing in a shaded portion of the illustration and can be easily lost in its position in the foreground. The dinosaurs also appear drinking from a stream in an painting by Jose Antonio Peñas. The only high quality non-water filled illustration being shared today depicts a small flock of Pelecanimimus running in a Spanish desert and was created by Mauricio Anton. Check out all of these illustrations and enjoy the imaginative scenes.

13 July 2017

Pelicans and Video Games

Pelecanimimus may not be one of the most renown dinosaurs that has been described. However, it has been modeled, used, and shown in a number of different video games. The most popular of these is probably the currently popular Jurassic World game. That game is available through Facebook and on mobile devices and, with the popularity of the most recent movie, there are a lot of digital Pelecanimimus out in the world right now. This is reflected not only in the single 15 minute video above, but in the sheer number of videos from the game that appear online.

12 July 2017

Dewlap or Pelican Pouch

The gular flap of Pelecanimimus is a key character, in coordination with the unique dental structure it possesses, of what makes this ornithomimid special. The skull of Pelecanimimus, looking at the fossil material, does not clearly show the gular flap. The images may not clearly show this under normal light, but the illuminated fluorescent lighting that is shown in Perez-Moreno et al. 1994 does show that gular flap quite well. The point of the flap, either way, was under scrutiny for a while, but the general hypothesis that that gular flap was used to corral and capture food items, particularly fish. Possibly the most interesting aspect of this hypothesis is that the teeth are thought to have aided in the capture of fish and the gular flap area was to be used to store the fish. This use would be similar to that of a bird's crop. Pelicans use their gular flap in a similar fashion, but more often than not immediately swallow their meals of fish after grasping the fish using the tips of their bills. The hypothesized feeding habits of Pelecanimimus may have indeed mimicked those of pelicans but with teeth instead of simply the tip of the beak.

11 July 2017

Backwards Day

Some days I get Tuesday and Monday backwards. Therefore, today I will share some movies with everyone instead of papers (because I shared those on Monday instead). The first video that one can find online is a motion trial animation made by José Antonio Peñas. This animation is short, but shows a fairly accurate representation of Pelecanimimus running at a comfortable speed. It may not be top speed, but this Pelecanimimus is certainly running well and the motion of the animation is well articulated. The eyes are a little bit more bugged out than one would expect in an accurate reconstruction, but it makes it a little more interesting. The majority of other videos are tributes or video game clips. There is another video showing statuary that is highly inaccurate. We will stick with this singular video however.

10 July 2017

Teeth and Ornithomimids

Few ornithomimids have teeth and Pelecanimimus is the most renowned of all the toothed mimics. The dinosaur was originally presented in a short Letter to Nature as unique and multi-toothed Spanish dinosaur. The holotype consists of the anterior portion of a skeleton including the skull and all of the cervical vertebrae. This holotype is preserved on a slab that has been shown in the description paper under induced fluorescence. The fossil is accompanied by a hypothetical illustration of the animal. This recreation and the description of the original material are discussed in subsequent studies such as Allain, et al. 2014 which describes a number of European ornithomimosaurs. Prior to this, however, Pelecanimimus was scrutinized and praised for possessing mineralized skin and muscle in the fossil matrix. This discovery was described by Briggs, et al. 1997 which determined the validity of the materials and the presence of skin impressions in the slab in addition to the mineralized material attached to the skeleton itself.

09 July 2017

Pelecanimimus Facts Shown

Today please enjoy this WizScience video that sums up many of the facts that we know about Pelecanimimus. These facts are the same found on the few websites that mention Pelecanimimus, so therefore today, in the interest of time, consult the video first and conduct searches of the internet sparingly. Also, go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather (if you do not have beautiful weather enjoy what you do have!)

08 July 2017

Mimed Pelicans

The Early Cretaceous of Spain contained many animals, including the ornithomimosaurid Pelecanimimus polyodon described by Perez-Moreno et al., 1994. This ornithomimosaurid was slightly smaller than many other, later, members of its family, measuring in at approximately 2–2.5m (6.6–8.2ft). Hypotheses of the diet of Pelecanimimus are mostly centered around the idea of a piscivorous, or fish eating, diet. It has been hypothesized that this diet is plausible because Pelecanimimus possessed both teeth, rare for an ornithomimosaur, and the remains of a soft tissue gular flap. This flap of skin stretched between the mandible and throat, just as a very similar flap of skin does in modern pelicans. Instead of flying Pelecanimimus used its relatively long legs to run from danger.
Artist description: The carcharodontosaurid Concavenator corovatus ambushing the ornithomimosaurian Pelecanimimus polydon in the Early Cretaceous of Las Hoyas, Spain. ©Durbed "Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License."

07 July 2017

Unnamed Artists

A number of times in the past we have featured art by unknown artists and unnamed artists. Thankfully, for some of them, we have user names or some form of internet handle to use. This is true of the Polish artist Apsaravis, who created posted this image of a Dilophosaurus chasing a small Lesothosaurus across a Jurassic stream in Poland; this young woman from Poland pictures her homeland during the Mesozoic often in her creations. She describes the scene as the Early Jurassic of Sołtyków and larger theropod in the middle ground as "an early tetanurine theropod". Despite not specifically naming the sauropods in the background Vulcanodon, they are described as "Vulcanodon-like sauropods". Typically we show our animal of the week as the center piece of Friday's art, but this entire scene is somewhat majestic and wonderful; I could not resist sharing it with everyone.
©Apsaravis (

06 July 2017

Fat and Skinny Dinosaurs

Vulcanodon has been portrayed in many different ways since it was first discovered, recovered, and described. These include the skinny, emaciated, Vulcanodon that is shown on Prehistoric Wildlife;  you may have seen this on Sunday. Also included in the grand menagerie of Vulcanodon images are far more healthy looking, or less emaciated appearing, at least. The animals of the JuraPark in Solec Kujawski, Poland are somewhere between emaciated and very well fed (i.e. "healthy"). There are mentions in books, as noted on a previous day this week as well; however, enjoy this herd that resides, and is very popular, in the well known JuraPark.

05 July 2017

Happy 4th

While much of America was setting off or watching fireworks, I considered writing Tuesday's entry, then became exhausted and obviously did not. I did begin the search for papers about Vulcanodon and it was a search that turned up a few interesting results. The first thing that stands out is that the original description by Raath is not available online; this is not abnormal of course with older publications. A secondary assessment of the remains and description of the phylogeny of Vulcanodon by Michael Cooper can be found online and does tell us a great deal about the the dinosaur. Many other papers mention the dinosaur sparingly or only briefly; this does not inform us about much about Vulcanodon.

03 July 2017

Short Tributes

Vulcanodon deserves to have been in some documentaries or at least should have shown up in a cartoon by now. The Early Jurassic of Africa, in all honesty, deserves to have been better documented than it has been thus far in the history of dinosaur documentaries and cartoons; there is a lot of flora and fauna from that time that is interesting. However, back to Vulcanodon, there are a few sped up drawings of the animal on YouTube and a very few tribute videos. Since it is movie Monday, though, we will share one of those tribute videos. This video possesses the fewest questionable images (with sauropods there are inevitably a few images that are mislabeled). The music accompanying the video is tolerable as well; we have seen some that are better muted, we can admit that.

02 July 2017

Alphabet Dinosaur

The letter V is often filled in by Velociraptor but at least one child directed resource has used Vulcanodon as its letter V. In terms of videos and alphabet issues, we will dig up only the WizScience video and that only because it presents a nice summary of all of the pages that we typically share here on Sundays. These pages include sites like KidsDinos, which presents a short written summary of some of the information that we know about the Early Jurassic African dinosaur. This contrasts with sites like the Natural History Museum of London's Dino Directory which presents short facts along the side without excessive text otherwise. More extensive than both, and possibly even more extensive than the Wikipedia article that was written about the dinosaur, is the Prehistoric Wildlife page for Vulcanodon. This page presents the same facts and then describes the dinosaur in extensive details. It is a bit of a read, but well worth doing so for blossoming readers and dinosaur enthusiasts.

01 July 2017

Volcano Tooth

Welcome to July one and all. We are going to start one of the hotter months of the summer here in the Northern Hemisphere with an early sauropod that has a name that sounds fairly hot. Volcanodon karibaensis of the Early Jurassic was discovered in Rhodesia in 1969 (presently known as Zimbabwe) and described by Michael Raath. Raath, as a side note to the dinosaur, famously described many fossils from Zimbabwe during the 1960's (1969 was an especially prolific year for Raath) from the Port Elizabeth Museum of South Africa and many southern African dinosaurs are known to science due to his descriptions. Vulcanodon was a moderately sized early sauropod at 11m (35ft) and was an obligate quadruped; some contemporaneous early sauropods were still considered to be facultatively bipedal. Vulcanodon, though had limbs that were not entirely consist with later obligate quadrupedal sauropods. This little known, but very important, early sauropod will tell us a lot about Jurassic Africa and the history of sauropods.
©Nobu Tamura