Dinosaurs – Species Encycolpedia

T. Rex Had Bushy Red Eyebrows and Freckles, BBC2 Documentary Reveals

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Presenter Chris Packham comes face to face with a T. rex - but not as we know it

A new BBC2 documentary, entitled The Real T-Rex with Chris Packham, sees experts re-imagine what the dinosaur would have looked like based on the latest research - and viewers may be surprised by what it suggests about the creature.

PALAEONTOLOGISTS have revealed that early science and popular culture have got it all wrong when it comes to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Scientists in the show claim that it had orange markings around its eyes, as well as black feathers.

And while it is portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park as being green and having a huge roar, experts now believe it was instead black and produced a rumble that was barely audible.

It is thought that the creature may instead have more in common with birds, following analysis of dinosaur bones, teeth and skin.

The T. rex actually had freckles and red eyebrows, according to the new documentary

In the show, Packham claims that it would have had "a light patching of feathery bristles strategically placed for social display".

And as well as having orange markings around its eyes - as if it had red eyebrows - the T-Rex may also have had a biological pigment that produces freckles.

But despite the show claiming that there are many misconceptions about the T-Rex, there is one thing for certain: it was a fierce predator.

The T. rex has been portrayed differently in popular films such as Jurassic Park

Top 10 Ceratopsians

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ceratopsia by atrox1 on DeviantArt


Ceratopsia or Ceratopia is a group of herbivorous, beaked dinosaurs that thrived in what are now North America, Europe, and Asia, during the Cretaceous Period, although ancestral forms lived earlier, in the Jurassic.


10 – Einiosaurus

Daspletosaurus Attacking The Herd of Einiosaurus by WillDynamo55

Einiosaurus has rapidly become one of the more popular ceratopsian dinosaurs thanks mostly to the unusual nasal horn that curves around like a can opener. How the horn grew though is also interesting. In hatch lings the horn would have been a small upwards facing point, and then as juveniles grew the horn would not only increase in length, but would also begin to curve forwards. In the most mature individuals, the horn would curl almost right round upon itself into the distinctive can opener shape.


9 – Centrosaurus

At the Coast of Inland Sea — Centrosaurus apertus by cheungchungtat

Centrosaurus is the type genus of the Centrosaurinae, a group of large quadrupedal ceratopsians that are noted for their extensive spiky growths, but reduced neck frills. Centrosaurine ceratopsians like Centrosaurus are noted for being more common earlier in the late Cretaceous around the early Campanian. Fossil beds of many hundreds of individuals of the same genus, including Centrosaurus also indicates that centrosaurines gathered in vast herds.


8 – Chasmosaurus

Chasmosaurus by PaleoGuy

The main group of ceratopsian dinosaurs that are separate from the centrosaurines are the chasmosaurines, of which Chasmosaurus is the type genus. Chasmosaurus and relative genera are noted for having less elaborate horn displays than centrosaurines, but at the same time they had far larger and more elaborate neck frills. Modern interpretations of the horns and neck frills are that they were for display, and since chasmosaurines became more common during the Late Campanian and proceeding Maastrichtian, it seems that ceratopsians began to favour larger crests over horns.


7 – Pachyrhinosaurus

Pachyrhinosaurus speculative coat by Raph04art

Not all horned ceratopsians had spiky growths on their nose, and Pachyrhinosaurus is proof of this. Instead of a spiky horn, Pachyrhinosaurus had a clumpy growth instead. Pachyrhinosaurus lived during the later stages of the Cretaceous, after and during relative genera were still sporting horns. This is against the old notion that the horns of ceratopsian dinosaurs were weapons for defense, as if this were the case, why did genera like Pachyrhinosaurus lose them? Instead it seems that the crest and horns (or even growths) of ceratopsians were for display.


6 – Zuniceratops

Zuniceratops by deskridge

Zuniceratops makes the list for being the earliest occurrence of a horned ceratopsian in North America. This has raised fresh questions over whether horned ceratopsians evolved in North America or Asia first, though while we might have an idea, in all likelihood the early horned ceratopsians probably radiated out across both continents and back again several times. Zuniceratops was named in honour of the Zuni tribe.


5 – Achelousaurus

Achelousaurus horneri by atrox1

Achelousaurus is an interesting genus as it seems to represent a transitional form linking genera like Einiosaurus with genera like Pachyrhinosaurus. This has helped portray a line with Einiosaurus known from the Campanian stage, and Pachyrhinosaurus known from roughly the late Campanian/early Maastrichtian, it would seem that as the horns of genera like Einiosaurus curved over they eventually formed the large mass on the snouts of genera like Pachyrhinosaurus. This is yet a further indication that the horns of ceratopsian dinosaurs were less for defence and more for display.


4 – Psittacosaurus

Psittacosaurus sibiricus by Olorotitan

Out of all the dinosaurs on this list, Psittacosaurus is the one that looks least like the classic depiction of a ceratopsian that would spring into the minds of most people, yet paradoxically it is a genus that has made some of the largest contributions to our understanding of ceratopsians. Psittacosaurus lived in the early Cretaceous long before the appearance of the larger ceratopsians that were among the dominant fauna of the later Cretaceous. Psittacosaurus is known from several hundred individuals, many of which are complete. Some Psittacosaurus even had a row of long feather quills that ran down their tail, and a juvenile found inside the stomach area of a Repenomamus is the first proof that some mammals ate dinosaurs! On an additional note, as of early 2014, Psittacosaurus has the largest number of confirmed species out of any other dinosaur genus.


3 – Protoceratops

Velociraptor and protoceratops by Olorotitan

Protoceratops means first horned face, a reference to the primitive looking hornless skull that Protoceratops has become well known for. The truth of the matter though is that Protoceratops lived towards the end of the Cretaceous period, many tens of millions of years after more likely ancestors such as the previously mentioned Psittacosaurus. Unfortunately there are still people who take the name too literally and make false claims about Protoceratops being the first ceratopsian dinosaur. Protoceratops is best described as a late surviving form of the ceratopsians that was around before the appearance of horned forms such as the previously mentioned Zuniceratops. Protoceratops probably retained its primitive form because it had no requirement to evolve into a different one.

Fossil evidence shows that Protoceratops had an antagonistic relationship with the famous dromaeosaurid dinosaur Velociraptor. The specimen known as the ‘fighting dinosaurs’ shows a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops, which has the arm of the Velociraptor in its mouth locked in a death struggle when they were believed to have been buried by a sudden landslide. Also the oviraptorid Oviraptor was so named when the type specimen was believed to have been raiding a Protoceratops nest, though later it turned out that the nest actually belonged to the Oviraptor.


2 – Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus B n’ W by damir-g-martin

Easily one of the more popular ceratopsian dinosaurs that has been appearing in popular science and fiction for over a hundred years now, Styracosaurus is one of the best known of the type of ceratopsians that are classed as centrosaurines. Styracosaurus was on the larger end of a mid-sized ceratopsian, though in the past it has often been depicted as being much larger than it actually was, particularly in films. Like with some other centrosaurine genera, vast bone beds in North America indicate that Styracosaurus would congregate in large herds of several hundred, perhaps several thousand individuals.


1 – Triceratops

Triceratops in the forest by Swordlord3d

For most people this is ‘the’ ceratopsian dinosaur of choice, and the one that is by far the most popular of them all. Triceratops had three large horns (hence the name Triceratops which means ‘three horned face’), a robust neck frill, and a larger than average size, all things that have confirmed its place in popular culture. Triceratops has often been shown in opposition against large predatory dinosaurs such as tyrannosaurs, usually charging at them like a rhino. However the skull of Triceratops has been proven to be incapable of withstanding the stresses that impacts from charging would inflict. Also while there is fossil evidence that shows tyrannosaur tooth marks on Triceratops fossils, no tyrannosaurs have been proven to have been hurt by Triceratops. With that said, tyrannosaurs did have other kinds of dinosaurs to target such as hadrosaurs that would have been far easier prey than ceratopsians. Some Triceratops crests show damage that some paleontologists have interpreted as being caused by the horns of other Triceratops. It has been considered that rather than charging at predators, Triceratops may have used their horns on each other in dueling contests in order to assert dominance over rivals that could not be intimidated by just a visual display.

Triceratops would have lived alongside other types of ceratopsian dinosaurs, though not the previously mentioned Styracosaurus as it is often depicted since this genus lived much earlier in Campanian stage of the Cretaceous, whereas Triceratops is late Maastrichtian. In 2010 it was claimed that another genus of ceratopsian named Torosaurus was not only a synonym to Triceratops, but actually represented the true adult form. Torosaurus is noted for having a very similar body and horn arrangement to Triceratops, but a much larger neck frill with openings, whereas the frill on known Triceratops is relatively short and solid. Others have not been convinced however noting that a lack of known Torosaurus individuals at different ages makes a comparison to Triceratops difficult to establish. Differences in the skulls of Triceratops and Torosaurus are also pointed out, as well as to date there is no known occurrence of holes appearing in frills of adult ceratopsians when sub adults and even juveniles do not have them (holes in the frill usually start developing very early on in life). Either Triceratops and Torosaurus are indeed separate, or Triceratops would be the first known ceratopsian where frill holes suddenly appear upon adulthood.

*cover: Ceratopsia by atrox1

Source: NatGeo.com, Wikipedia.org

A 100 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Fossil Found in Haman County, S. Korea

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A 100 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Fossil Found in Haman County, S. Korea

The largest skin impression ever found a on dinosaur footprint has been discovered in South Korea.

A South Korean research team says it has recently uncovered a large skin impression on a sauropod dinosaur footprint from the Early Cretaceous period in floodplain deposits in southeastern South Korea.

The team led by Paik In-sung, an earth and environmental science professor at Pukyong National University, exposed the polygonal skin impression and its cast at the Gunbuk deposits in the town of Haman, South Gyeongsang Province.

The find, measuring over 50 centimeters in diameter, is the largest-ever skin impression on a sauropod dinosaur footprint on record worldwide, providing archaeologists with clues on the ecology of dinosaurs in the Early Cretaceous Epoch, or the geologic time epoch 146 to 100 million years ago in Cretaceous Period geochronology.

“Up until now, a number of fossilised dinosaur footprints have been found worldwide. But the case of a skin impression preserved in a dinosaur footprint is very rare,” Paik said.

The discovery of the skin impression suggests that some sauropod dinosaurs in the Cretaceous had a well-developed polygonal skin texture covering nearly the whole of their foot pads, as seen in modern elephants, which would increase stability when walking on muddy and wet ground.

The team’s findings are published in the latest edition of Scientific Reports, part of the international journal Nature.

Source: AAP

Meet Halszkaraptor, the Strangest New Dinosaur You’ve Ever Seen

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This illustration of the Halszkaraptor escuilliei dinosaur. The creature, about 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall. (Source Image: Lukas Panzarin and Andrea Cau via AP)

It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it swims like a duck—but it’s a predatory dinosaur unlike any scientists have seen before.

A study published this week in the journal Nature has introduced the world to the Halszkaraptor escuilliei, the first amphibious dinosaur ever discovered. It’s believed to have lived some 75 million years ago in the Ukhaa Tolgod area of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, known as a treasure trove of Cretaceous-era dinosaur bones. The unusual creature came to light in recent years after its fossil was purchased by a private French collector named François Escuillié, who contacted paleontologist Pascal Godefroit in 2015 for an expert opinion.

This illustration provided by Lukas Panzarin, with Andrea Cau for scientific supervision, shows a Halszkaraptor escuilliei dinosaur. The creature, about 18 inches 45 centimeters) tall, had a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc’s, a swan-like neck and killer claws.

The creature was clearly a small predator, much like Velociraptor. Its feet even had the distinctive sickle-shaped claws that clinked across the kitchen floor in Jurassic Park. But its long neck and tapering snout resembled those of a swan. Its arms and hands also had unusual proportions—something halfway between the grasping limbs of other raptors and the flattened flippers of modern penguins. It looked like a Velociraptor that had adapted for life in the water—that is, if it was even an actual dinosaur.

Lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy, said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil’s authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and left in a private collector’s hands.

“I asked myself, ‘Is this a real, natural skeleton, or an artifact, a chimera? If this is a fake, how could I demonstrate it?'” Cau said in an email. “Assuming it was a fake instead of starting assuming that the fossil is genuine was the most appropriate way to start the investigation of such a bizarre fossil.”

So researchers used the Synchrotron to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal and not a concoction built up from several sources. For example, an arm hidden in the rock perfectly matched the visible left arm, and lines indicating growth matched up across the bones.

Even though the creature wasn’t dreamed up by Dr. Seuss, it got a blessing from a Dr. Sues.

Hans Sues, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution who wasn’t part of the research, praised the work and said it “shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were.”

Source: www.history.com / www.theatlantic.com / www.newsobserver.com

T-Rex’s Short Arms Could Have Been Used For Slashing

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A paleontologist believes that the T. rex’s short forearms may have had more vicious purposes than previously thought. More than just grasping prey or mating, it’s possible the T. rex used the sharp claws to viciously slash its prey.


Grasping, Sex, Or Evolutionary Remnant?

Scientists still do not have a consensus as to the definite purpose of the T. rex‘s fairly short forearms. It’s a pretty defining feature of the prime predator, but experts still aren’t sure what the creature may have used it for. Some scientists believe that perhaps the claws were useful in grasping their prey, in pushing themselves up from the ground, or even to hold on to their mates when mating.

However, the current belief is that the short forearms may simply be a remnant of evolution, quite like wings on modern flightless birds. Some even believe that the short forearms were something of a compromise during evolution to make way for their large heads and necks.


Short But Vicious Arms

Steven Stanley, a paleontologist from the University of Hawaii in Maui, presented his findings at the Geological Society of America in Seattle. He believes that the T. rex may have used its claws for close-contact slashing, leaving its prey with deep slashes. Stanley states that similar to other dinosaur species, the T. rex possibly mounted on its victim or grasped it with its jaw while it repeatedly inflicted deep slashes in quick succession.

“Why should T. rex not have engaged in this activity?” asked Stanley.

Supporting this theory are the bones of the T. rex itself, with strong albeit short arm bones and ball-and-socket joints that allow it to move in various directions. What’s more, through the course of evolution, the T. rex lost one of three claws, leaving the remaining two claws with stronger slashing powers.


Short Reach And Stronger Jaws

Other scientists are skeptical of the hypothesis, stating that the T. rex’s arms are too short, and that the T. rex would have to practically push itself onto the other animal in order to cause a substantial slash. At that odd position, then the T. rex wouldn’t be able to use its powerful jaws to make a more effective attack.

That said, they agree that the T. rex’s forearms may have been bigger before it atrophied during the course of evolution where the powerful jaws took over as its prime weapon. However, Stanley believes that despite being atrophied, the forearms may still have had more function than just for mating, other minor purposes, or as a pre-evolution reminder.

Source: techtimes.com

On Isolated Madagascar, Even Prehistoric Evolution Was Unique

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Head restoration of Masiakasaurus knopfleri (Ceratosauria, Theropoda) by Lpanzarin.

More than 70 million years ago, the world’s fourth-largest island separated from Gondwana.

It has remained a loner ever since.

Situated off Africa’s southeastern coast, Madagascar’s continued geographical isolation means that today, about 80 percent of its wildlife — which includes zoologically primitive primates and hedgehog-like insectivores — is found nowhere else in the world.

That same isolation also greatly affected the evolution of Madagascar’s Cretaceous Period dinosaurs, bizarre creatures that included Masiakasaurus knopfleri, a predatory theropod or meat-eater that stood just 30 inches high, sported strange-looking, forward-pointing teeth at the front of its mouth, and was discovered by a team led by David W. Krause, senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Equally unusual was Majungasaurus crenatissimus, a 4,400-pound, cannibalistic predator with a taste for sauropod flesh and “arms” — forelegs too small to have been useful for feeding or hunting.

Perhaps such limbs were a feather-covered factor in attracting a mate, says Joe Sertich, curator of dinosaurs at DMNS. He discovered the fossilized Majungasaurus skull and neck bones housed at the museum as part of its Madagascar Paleontology Project and displayed in the special exhibition “Ultimate Dinosaurs.”

Other oddities include rahonavis, the smallest Cretaceous Period dinosaur found thus far on Madagascar. Although this theropod probably had feathers and might have been capable of flight, rahonavis wasn’t a direct relative of birds, the living descendants of the dinosaurs. It might, instead, have been a genuine link between small theropod dinosaurs and “true” birds.

And then there’s Simosuchus, a stubby, blunt-snouted, and rather cute (to me, at least) creature that turned out not to be a dinosaur at all, but a land-dwelling, plant-eating crocodilian completely unlike any modern crocodile.

A New Cretaceous Dinosaur from Utah with Origins in Jurassic of Europe

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A New Cretaceous Dinosaur from Utah with Origins in Jurassic of Europe

The collaboration of Utah paleontologists with Spanish and English researchers has led to identification of the correct familial relationships of the new Utah dinosaur.


Although the Doellings Bowl Bonebed was first identified by Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland in 1991, the age and great extent of skeletal remains at the site were not recognized until 2006. Following a flash flood in 2010, some large bones were observed by former UGS geologist Gary Hunt of Enterprise, Utah at the base of a dry wash adjoining the original dig site. Excavation of these bones revealed the skeleton of a mired sauropod or long-necked dinosaur with both a fore limb and hind limb extended down into the marsh deposit below the level of the rest of the skeleton. The excavation team, led by Dr. James Kirkland of the Utah Geological Survey, discovered and prepared two sauropod specimens, one of them very complete, including the skull.


The Doellings Bowl Bone Bed is in the lower Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation near the very base of Utah’s thick and very fossiliferous Cretaceous sequence. The Yellow Cat Member is divided into an upper and lower sequence as it preserves two non-overlapping dinosaur faunas separated by a well-developed fossil soil horizon representing significant time on the order of one to a few million years. It has been shown recently that the Yellow Cat Member in Grand County, Utah preserves the two oldest dinosaur faunas because Early Cretaceous salt movement induced subsidence, creating a protected depression in the northern Paradox “salt” Basin while the rest of western North America was undergoing erosion.

The presence of silicified peat, fern roots, tiny fish bones, rare turtles and rare crocodilian fossils suggests the Doellings Bowl Bonebed represents a marsh deposit. Mierasaurus coexisted in the same ecosystem as the ornithopod Iguanacolossus, an armored polacanthid ankylosaur, small “raptors” (carnivorous dinosaurs), such as Yurgovuchia, large allosaurid theropods, and a large, primitive therizinosaur. The environmental interpretation for the site where Mierasaurus was discovered was a marsh area with vegetation of ferns that was climatically wetter than that indicated for both the underlying Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation and overlying upper Yellow Cat Member.

The specific age of these rocks is controversial but new data is being published. Our best current estimates are approximately 130-135 Ma (millions of years ago).


The collaboration of Utah paleontologists with Spanish and English researchers led to identification of the correct familial relationships of the new Utah dinosaur. While it is obviously a new dinosaur species, without the collaboration Kirkland’s team would almost certainly have compared the new dinosaur with North America’s well-known Upper Jurassic sauropod Camarasaurus. As it turned out, Dr. Rafael Royo-Torres first recognized the more primitive turiasaurs as a distinct group of European Upper Jurassic sauropods.

During 2016 and 2017 the description and comparison of the new remains was conducted by an international multidisciplinary team composed of Doctors Rafael Royo-Torres, Alberto Cobos and Luis Alcalá from the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis (Teruel, España), Paul Upchurch from the University College London (London, United Kingdom), James Kirkland and Donald D. DeBlieux from the Utah Geological Survey (Utah, USA), and John Foster from the Museum of Moab (Utah, USA).

This new paper, published in the journal “Scientific Reports” contains several milestones:

1.-Description of a new genus and species of sauropod dinosaur (quadruped, with long neck and tail and small skull);

2.- identification of a group of Upper Jurassic European dinosaurs, the Turiasauria, not identified in North America prior to this study;

3.-Given the evolutionary relationships of the Turiasauria, Mierasaurus is the most primitive sauropod identified in North America, though actually younger than many Jurassic N.A. sauropods

4.-Recognition that a second North American sauropod from the upper Yellow Cat fauna, Moabosaurus, also belonged to the group of Turiasauria;

5. Moabosaurus is more specialized than the older Mierasarus in having divided ribs along its neck; and

6.- Recognition that the Cretaceous turiasaurs in North America are the geologically youngest known so far.

Recovered fossils (from the skull, teeth, neck, back and tail, bones of the shoulder and hips, and bones of the front and back limbs, including the hands and feet) allow us to state that this new specimen, Mierasaurus, represents the most complete individual sauropod dinosaur from the Cretaceous of North America. In addition, Mierasaurus (as well as Moabosaurus) are sauropods with more primitive characteristics, when compared to other sauropods from North America. The length of Mierasaurus, estimated between 32-39 feet (10 and 12 meters), is much smaller than that of its European relatives, which in Turiasaurus could surpass 82 feet in length (25 meters).

How did the turiasaurs arrive to North America from Europe? The study indicates that none of the more than 430 examples of sauropods documented in North American sites from the Upper Jurassic are turiasaurs. The Turiasauria were well-represented in the Jurassic only in Europe. The discovery of the turiasaurs Mierasaurus and Moabosaurus in younger deposits, in the Lower Cretaceous Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation in Utah, allows scientist to infer that representatives of this group of primitive sauropods migrated into North America via an intercontinental bridge, after the Upper Jurassic (between 145 and 130 million years ago) from Europe, during the final opening of the North Atlantic during a time of lower sea levels.

The name of the genus of the new dinosaur, Mierasaurus, is dedicated to the Spanish cartographer and chief scientist D. Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco (1713-1785), born in Santibáñez de Villacarriedo (Cantabria, Spain). Miera was the scientific leader of the 1776 Domínguez-Escalante Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to establish a stable communication and trade route between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Monterrey, California. For six months, they traveled 2,000 miles, establishing peaceful contact with numerous groups of native Americans (Hopis, Lagunas, Yutas and Apaches, among others). Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco made the first map of this territory, largely unknown to Europeans at this time.

This map stands out for its accuracy and artistic style, and for the numerous geographic, geological and ethnographic notes that it contains. This expedition was also the first known arrival of Europeans into what is now the state of Utah, where Mierasaurus was discovered. The name of the species, bobyoungi, is dedicated to the American geologist Robert Young, who conducted the first comprehensive work on the Early Cretaceous of the Colorado Plateau, where Mierasaurus was discovered.

 Source: ecprogress.com

Dinosaur Unearthed in Fort McMurray Oilsands was Carried to Watery Grave by ‘Bloat and Float’

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dinosaur Unearthed in Fort McMurray Oilsands was Carried to Watery Grave by ‘Bloat and Float’

‘As a big-gutted ankylosaur, you have lots of big digestive chambers that fill up with the rotting gasses’


A dinosaur famously unearthed from a Fort McMurray oilsands mine was likely the victim of “bloat and float,” says Edmonton paleontologist Scott Persons.

The Borealopelta ankylosaur skeleton was found at the Suncor site in 2011, tens of millions of years after it had been “dumped at sea.”

Scott Persons during a dig. (Scott Persons/Supplied )

“It had sunk to the bottom and settled down into the very fine silty sediment of the sea floor, before scavengers could disturb it and before the skeleton fell apart,” Persons said during his dinosaur series with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

“Bad stuff usually happened to their bodies. They got torn apart by scavengers, or their carcasses rotted and their skeletons fell apart into a big jumble.

“But not the Borealopelta specimen.”

Much like the opening scene of a murder mystery: a few hard-working labourers were going routinely about their jobs at the remote mine, when they stumbled across the specimen.

A team of expert detectives is called in to investigate, and a slew of mysterious circumstances surface.

The fossil, which is now the centrepiece of a recently opened exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum near Drumheller, is part of a larger paleontological mystery, said Persons, a PhD student at the University of Alberta.

The armoured herbivores, not much larger than the modern hippo, were land animals but their fossils are most often found in areas that were once submerged in prehistoric ocean.

How did the “Suncor Ankylosaur” reach its watery grave? Paleontologists believe they have cracked the case.

The dinosaur likely died in an inland marsh, and as it began to rot, its distended body was carried out to sea, Persons said.

The “Suncor ankylosaur” was likely transported to its watery grave by rotting gases in its guts. (Alberta Tourism and Culture)

“Bloat and float, that’s something not uncommonly observed today, when the carcasses of cattle can be found bobbing up and down in the ocean,” said Persons.

“Or when the corpse of an Indian elephant is seen floating down even a shallow portion of the Ganges River.”

Persons hypothesizes that the dinosaur was living in the wetlands of prehistoric Alberta, it died of natural causes.


‘Like really gross balloons’

“Imagine this, you are an elder Borealopelta living it up in the wetlands of prehistoric Alberta, but the time has come to shuffle off your mortal coil.”

It died, but not in a violent way, said Persons.

“You aren’t torn apart limb from limb by a hungry tyrannosaur or pack of raptors. You’re done in by a disease, or a heart attack, or maybe you drank some bad swamp water,” Persons said.

“As your body sits in the subtropical sun, you start to rot. Bacteria feeding on your soft insides produce gas as a byproduct.”

“You’re done in by a disease, or a heart attack, or maybe you drank some bad swamp water.” – Scott Persons, paleontologist

The ankylosaur, one of the best-preserved specimens of its kind, is the perfect example of this puzzling phenomenon, said Persons.

The combination of having extra big guts and heavy armour, which would bring the carcass quickly to the bottom of the briny deep, made ankylosaurs particularly prone to bloat and float.

From fossil records, paleontologists can tell that these armoured animals had great barrel-shaped bodies designed to house lots of digestive vats and looping intestines.

“As a big-gutted ankylosaur, you have lots of big digestive chambers that fill up with the rotting gasses quickly and swell, like really gross balloons.

“That’s the bloat.”

Source: cbc.ca

Time to Rewrite the Dinosaur Textbooks? Not Quite Yet

Friday, November 3, 2017

Time to Rewrite the Dinosaur Textbooks? Not Quite Yet

The classification of the dinosaurs might seem to be too obscure to excite anyone but the specialists.

However, this is not at all the case. Recently, Matthew Baron and colleagues from the University of Cambridge proposed a radical revision to our understanding of the major branches of dinosaurs, but in a critique published today some caution is proposed before we rewrite the textbooks.

Every child learns that dinosaurs fall into two major groups, the Ornithischia (bird-hipped dinosaurs; Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Iguanodon and their kin) and the Saurischia (lizard-hipped dinosaurs; the predatory theropods, such as Tyrannosaurus, and the long-necked sauropodomorphs, including such well-known forms as Diplodocus).

Baron and colleagues proposed a very different split, pairing the Ornithischia with the Theropoda, terming the new group the Ornithoscelida, and leaving the Sauropodomorpha on its own.

Their evidence seemed overwhelming, since they identified at least 18 unique characters shared by ornithischians and theropods, and used these as evidence that the two groups had shared a common ancestor.

An international consortium of specialists in early dinosaurs, led by Max Langer from the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, and including experts from Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, and Spain has now re-evaluated the data provided by Baron et al. in support of their claim.

Their results, presented today in the journal Nature, show that it might still be too early to re-write the textbooks for dinosaurs.

In this new evaluation, the authors found support for the traditional model of an Ornithischia-Saurischia split of Dinosauria, but also noted that this support was very weak, and the alternative idea of Ornithoscelida is only slightly less likely.

Max Langer said: “This took a great deal of work by our consortium, checking many dinosaurs on all continents first-hand to make sure we coded their characters correctly.

“We thought at the start we might only cast some doubt on the idea of Ornithoscelida, but I’d say the whole question now has to be looked at again very carefully.”

Baron and colleagues believed their data suggested that dinosaurs might have originated in the northern hemisphere, but the re-analysis confirms the long-held view that the most likely site of origin is the southern hemisphere, and probably South America.

Professor Mike Benton from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, a member of the revising consortium, added: “In science, if you wish to overthrow the standard viewpoint, you need strong evidence.

“We found the evidence to be pretty balanced in favour of two possible arrangements at the base of the dinosaurian tree. Baron and colleagues might be correct, but we would argue that we should stick to the orthodox Saurischia-Ornithischia split for the moment until more convincing evidence emerges.”

Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, a member of the consortium, said: “Up until this year, we thought we had the dinosaur family tree figured out.

“But right now, we just can’t be certain how the three major groups of dinosaurs are related to each other. In one sense it’s frustrating, but in another, it’s exciting because it means that we need to keep finding new fossils to solve this mystery.”

More information: Untangling the dinosaur family tree, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature24011

Journal reference: Nature

Provided by: University of Bristol

Early Cretaceous Feathered Dinosaur Had ‘Bandit Mask’ and Striped Tail

Sunday, October 29, 2017

University of Bristol paleontologists and natural history artist Robert Nicholls have revealed how Sinosauropteryx prima — a small theropod dinosaur that lived about 125 million years ago (Early Cretaceous epoch) in what is now China — used its color patterning, including a bandit mask-like stripe across its eyes and a banded tail, to avoid being detected by its predators and prey. The research is published in the journal Current Biology.

“Far from all being the lumbering prehistoric grey beasts of past children’s books, at least some dinosaurs showed sophisticated color patterns to hide from and confuse predators, just like today’s animals,” said co-author Dr. Fiann Smithwick, from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

“Vision was likely very important in dinosaurs, just like today’s birds, and so it is not surprising that they evolved elaborate color patterns.”

To explore the color pattern of Sinosauropteryx prima, Dr. Smithwick and colleagues examined the remnants of pigmented feathers from the best-preserved specimens available.

By making comparisons among three specimens, they were able to confidently reconstruct the unique way that this dinosaur looked.

“The bandit mask was really amazing to discover. It’s a pattern seen in numerous living animals today,” Dr. Smithwick said.

Sinosauropteryx prima was also countershaded, meaning that its body was darker on top and lighter underneath.

The particular way it was countershaded further suggests that the dinosaur lived in more open habitats, not in the dense forest.

Once the paleontologists reconstructed the color pattern, they created 3D models of the dinosaur and photographed them under different lighting conditions to see where their coloration would have hidden them best from potential predators.

Their images show that Sinosauropteryx prima must have spent lots of time out in direct sunlight, not in the shade.

Sinosauropteryx prima fossils and interpretive drawings. The plumage distribution is mapped out across each specimen, with feathers shown in brown, internal soft tissues and pigment from the eyes shaded gray, and vertebrate stomach contents in light blue. Scale bars – 50 mm. Image credit: Smithwick et al, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.032.

The findings are especially interesting in light of an earlier reconstruction by the team of the color patterns of Psittacosaurus, an early relative of the famed horned dinosaur Triceratops.

Those studies showed that Psittacosaurus was also countershaded, but in a manner suggesting that it lived in the forest.

The distinction between species suggests that the environment around China’s prehistoric Jehol lakes, where these dinosaurs lived, was unexpectedly diverse, hosting dinosaurs adapted to life in different environments.

“We have shown how a greater understanding of ancient environments can come from better understanding of the paleoecology of extinct animals through paleocolor reconstructions,” said study senior author Dr. Jakob Vinther, from the Schools of Earth and Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol.

“Both meat- and plant-eating dinosaurs had excellent vision; both needed to stay camouflaged.”


Fiann M. Smithwick et al. Countershading and Stripes in the Theropod Dinosaur Sinosauropteryx Reveal Heterogeneous Habitats in the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota. Current Biology, published online October 26, 2017; doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.032

Source: sci-news.com