Dinosaurs – Species Encycolpedia


Monday, July 24, 2017

Murusraptor barrosaensis. Image credit: Jan Sovak.

With hollow hips, big body and a pair of savage claws, this newly discovered species refuses to fit neatly in the dinosaur family tree.


A new species of dinosaur – Murusraptor barrosaensis – was named in 2016 in the journal PLOS One, thanks to the discovery of one of the most complete fossils of a Megaraptorid on record.

Megaraptorid dinosaurs are medium-sized and walk on two legs. They’re characterised by large claws and bird-like features. The name “Megaraptor” translates to “giant thief” – a reference to their carnivorous ways.

The clad includes Megaraptor from modern-day South America, as well as Australian dinosaurs Rapator and Australovenator, among others.

The family’s newest addition, Murusraptor, was discovered in Sierra Barrosa, in the fossil-rich Patagonian region of Argentina. Murus is Latin for “wall” and refers to the location of the fossil, in the side of a sandy canyon in 80-million-year-old rocks.

“Although incomplete, the beautifully preserved bones of Murusraptor unveil unknown information about the skeletal anatomy of megaraptors, a highly specialised group of Mesozoic predators,” says Rodolfo Coria from Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council and co-author of the paper.

Skull and body reconstructions of Murusraptor barrosaensis. Discovered bones are in white. CREDIT: CORIA ET AL, 2016, PLOS ONE

The fossil, which included a significant portion of skull, 31 teeth, pelvis and tibia, belonged to an immature dinosaur, but the new species appears to be bigger than its cousin Megaraptor.

Murusraptor bears unique facial features in the details of its bone structure as compared to other Megaraptorid dinosaurs, as well as differently-shaped hip bones.

The researchers say the discovery could contribute to questions that still surround the Megaraptorid clan, including its positioning among the wider theropod group.

Source: cosmosmagazine.com

T. Rex Linked to Chickens, Ostriches

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The closest living relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex are birds such as chickens and ostriches, according to research published today (2008) in Science (and promptly reported in the New York Times). Paleontologists used material discovered in a chance find in 2003 to pin down the link.

T-Rex evolved into Chicken?


The dinosaur-ness of birds has been suspected for many years based on anatomical similarities, but the new research is the first molecular evidence. For decades, dinosaurs were thought to be reptiles: big ones, to be sure, but basically cold-blooded, slow-moving, and dim-witted. The movie Jurassic Park popularized the idea of dinosaurs as quick, smart and birdlike. (The movie’s ideas had been proposed in the 1970s–a book by paleontologist Robert Bakker, called The Dinosaur Heresies, nicely conveys this change in thinking and the controversy that accompanied it.)

To get molecular evidence about dinosaurs, you need some actual molecules–a tall order for a group of animals that died out 65 million years ago. But in 2003, scientists Jack Horner and Mary Schweitzer discovered some unfossilized material inside a T. rex bone by a combination of luck, desperation, and sharp eyes (see Smithsonian, May 2006). Faced with flying a giant femur out of a remote Montana field site, they broke the bone in half so it would fit inside their helicopter. If they’d had a larger helicopter, we might never have known.

Unlike in Jurassic Park, the real-life researchers couldn’t recover any DNA from the ancient remains. But they did retrieve molecules of collagen, a structural protein that appears in slightly different forms in many animals. They compared the dinosaur version with 21 living animals, including humans, chimps, mice, chickens, ostriches, alligators and salmon. T. rex‘s collagen proved to be most similar to chickens and ostriches; its next closest match was to alligators.

Chickens and ostriches are only distantly related to each other, so the research says little about what kind of birds might be the closest relatives of the famous carnivore. The scientists noted that answering that question would require data from more molecules than just collagen. Whether they are currently cracking into any more giant fossils in search of material was not divulged.

(Images courtesy Science)

Source: smithsonianmag.com


Monday, June 19, 2017

Machairoceratops cronusi by Fabrizio De Rossi, 2016

Machairoceratops is a genus of centrosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur known from the Late Cretaceous Wahweap Formation (late Campanian stage) of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah, United States.

It contains a single species, M. cronusi, first described and named in 2016 by Eric K. Lund, Patrick M. O’Connor, Mark A. Loewen and Zubair A. Jinnah. The generic name is derived from Greek machairis, meaning “bent sword”, in reference to its unique frill ornamentation showing two forward curving horns on the frill’s uppermost part, and Latinized Greek ceratops, meaning “horned-face”, which is a common suffix for ceratopsian genera names. The specific name cronusi refers to Cronus, a Greek god who deposed his father Uranus by castrating him with a sickle or scythe based on the mythology, and as such is shown carrying a curved bladed weapon. Machairoceratops is known solely from the holotype UMNH VP 20550, found in 2006, which is housed at the Natural History Museum of Utah. It is represented by a partial skull including two curved and elongate eyesocket horncores, the left jugal bone, a nearly complete but slightly deformed braincase, the left squamosal bone, and a parietal bone complex and its unique horn ornamentation, all collected in association.

Holotype cranial Material and Cranial Reconstruction of Machairoceratops cronusi (UMNH VP 20550) gen. et sp. nov. Recovered cranial elements of Machairoceratops in right-lateral view, shown overlain on a ghosted cranial reconstruction (A). The jugal, squamosal and braincase are all photo-reversed for reconstruction purposes. Machairoceratops cranial reconstruction in dorsal (B), and right-lateral (C) views. Green circle overlain on the ventral apex of the jugal highlights the size of the epijugal contact scar (ejcs). Abbreviations: BC, braincase; boc, basioccipital; bpt, basipterygoid process; ej, epijugal; ejcs, epijugal contact scar; j, jugal; lpr, lateral parietal ramus; lsb, laterosphenoid buttress; m, maxilla; n, nasal; o, orbit, oc, occipital condyle; oh, orbital horn; on, otic notch; p, parietal; pf, parietal fenestra; pm, premaxilla; po, postorbital; poc, paroccipital process; p1, epiparietal locus p1; sq, squamosal. Scale bars = 0.5 m. Eric K. Lund, Patrick M. O’Connor, Mark A. Loewen, Zubair A. Jinnah


Source: Wikipedia.com, ifls.com

24 Interesting Facts About Dinosaurs

Sunday, June 18, 2017

1. Dinosaurs had giant fleas with beaks the size of modern syringe needles.

2. Researchers have calculated that DNA has a 521 year half-life, meaning the oldest clone-able samples of DNA could be no more than 2 million years old, ruling out any possibility of ever replicating dinosaurs, as the youngest dinosaurs were around more than 65 million years ago.

3. Earth’s rotation is slowing at a rate of approximately 17 milliseconds a century, and the length of a day for the dinosaurs was closer to 22 hours.

4. The time separating Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus is greater than the time separating Tyrannosaurus and us.

5. Canada is eliminating the penny, and has a collectible glow in the dark quarter with a dinosaur on it.

6. New research indicates the asteroid that killed the Dinosaurs did so, not primarily due to dust blocking out the sun, but by ejecting ~500 cubic miles of tiny glass spherules at near escape velocity. Upon falling to earth they incinerated nearly all surface life in a matter of minutes.

7. Only 59% of U.S. adults know humans and dinosaurs did not coexist.

8. Hans Larsson is a scientist who is trying to reactivate dormant dinosaur traits that linger in unexpressed bird genes. So far, he has managed to create chicken embryos that have teeth and long reptilian tails.

9. Taxonomically, modern-day birds aren’t just descended from dinosaurs, but are considered to BE dinosaurs.

10. The spikes at the end of a dinosaur’s tail are called the thagomizer, a term coined by Gary Larson in a 1982 Far Side comic.

11. Some dinosaurs, such as the Apatosaurus, may have been able to break the sound barrier with their tails, creating a sonic boom.

12. Prison officials has used the children’s song “I Love You” by Barney the Purple Dinosaur as a form of torture in Guantanamo Bay.

13. The blue whale, weighing in at 170 tons, is way bigger than any dinosaur ever was and probably the largest known animal to have ever existed.

14. Triceratops had a 15 horned cousin called Kosmoceratops that used to be native to what is now Utah.

15. Tyrannosaurus rex, VelociraptorGallimimus, Triceratops, and all other dinosaurs in the film Jurassic Park other than the Brachiosaurus, did not actually live during the Jurassic Period, but in the late Cretaceous Period.

16. The T.rex doesn’t even qualify as one of the 15 largest dinosaurs to walk the earth.

17. There’s a small town called Dinosaur, Colorado (USA). Some of its street names include Brontosaurus Blvd, Brontosaurus Bypass, Stegosaurus Freeway, and Tyrannosaurus Trail.

18. The Nigersaurus had +500 teeth: 50 columns with 9 replacement teeth behind them. The front ones would be worn out in just a month, making the Nigersaurus the fastest teeth-replacing dinosaur.

19. There is a Civil War/Dinosaur-themed amusement park in Natural Bridge, VA which features statues of Dinosaurs fighting Civil War Soldiers.

20. Seismosaurus is considered the largest dinosaur to ever have existed with a height of 84 feet, 150 foot long and weighing 150 tons.

21. During the Cretaceous period (145 – 100 million years ago), Earth’s climate was so warm that there were no polar ice caps, and forests probably extended all the way to the South Pole. Local plants and dinosaurs evolved to live in continuous sunlight in the summer and darkness in the winter.

22. Chinese villagers used to consume dinosaur fossils as medicine believing the fossils to be “flying dragon bone.”

23. The first dinosaur bone described in scientific literature was thought to be the femur of a giant human.

24. Nicolas Cage owned a copy of Action Comics 1, one of the most haunted houses in the world, and outbid Leonardo DiCaprio in an auction for a dinosaur skull.

79 Interesting Facts About Dinosaurs

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dinosaurs were reptiles that lived on Earth from about 230 million years ago to about 65 million years ago.

Dinosaurs lived during a period of Earth’s history called the Mesozoic (“middle life”) Era. They lived during all three periods of this era: the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.

Meat-eating dinosaurs are known as theropods, which means “beast-footed,” because they had sharp, hooked claws on their toes. In contrast, plant-eating dinosaurs tended to have blunt hooves or toenails.

Dinosaur skulls had large holes or “windows” that made their skulls lighter. Some of the largest skulls were as long as a car.

Cast of a Carcharodontosaurus saharicus skull, Santa Barbara. Author: Franko Fonseca

Scientists estimate that there were over 1,000 different species of non-avian dinosaurs and over 500 distinct genera. They speculate there are many still undiscovered dinosaurs and that there may be as many as 1,850 genera.

Dinosaurs lived on all the continents, including Antarctica.

Colorado’s nickname is the Stegosaurus State. The first ever Stegosaurus skeleton was found near Morrison, Colorado.

Some of the biggest plant eaters had to eat as much as a ton of food a day. This is similar to eating a bus-sized pile of vegetation every day.

Though mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, and Dimetrodon are commonly believed to be dinosaurs, they are not technically dinosaurs. The term “dinosaur” refers to just land-dwelling reptiles that have a specific hip structure, among other traits.

While many people think dinosaurs were massive, dinosaurs were usually human sized or smaller. Scientists believe that the larger bones were just easier to be fossilized.

Some dinosaurs’ tails were over 45 feet long. Most dinosaurs had long tails that helped them to keep their balance when running.

The earliest named dinosaur found so far is the Eoraptor (“dawn stealer”). It was so named because it lived at the dawn of the Dinosaur Age. It was a meat eater about the size of a German shepherd. The first Eoraptor skeleton was discovered in Argentina in 1991. However, another dinosaur has recently been found in Madagascar that dates as being 230 million years old. It has not been named yet.

Dinosaurs are divided into two groups by the structure of their hipbones. In the hips of saurischian, or lizard hipped, dinosaurs, one of the bones pointed forward. In the hips of ornithischian, or bird-hipped, dinosaurs, all the bones pointed backward. Ironically, scientists believe that birds evolved from lizard-hipped dinosaurs, not bird-hipped dinosaurs.

The word “dinosaur” was coined by British paleontologist Richard Owen in 1842. It is Greek, meaning “terrible lizard.” Rather than implying that dinosaurs were fearsome, Owen used the term to refer to their majesty and size.

The first dinosaurs that appeared during the Triassic Period 230 million years ago were small and lightweight. Bigger dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurus and Triceratops appeared during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

The dinosaur with the longest name is Micropachycephalosaurus (“small thick-headed lizard”). Its fossils are usually found in China.

Dinosaurs dominated Earth for over 165 million years. Humans have been around for only 2 million years.

Many scientists believe that a massive meteorite hit the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico 65.5 million years ago and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs as well as the pterosaurs and plesiosaurs. The 112-mile-wide crater was caused by a rock 6 miles in diameter. It would have hit Earth’s crust with immense force, sending shockwaves around the world. No land animal heavier than a large dog survived. However, animals such as sharks, jellyfish, fish, scorpions, birds, insects, snakes, turtles, lizards, and crocodiles survived.

No one knows exactly how long a dinosaur’s lifespan was. Some scientists speculate some dinosaurs lived for as long as 200 years.

The mass extinction of the dinosaurs and other animals that took place 65.5 million years ago is known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, or the K-T event. Scientists have several theories for this extensive die-off. One theory proposes that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs until the population became unsustainable. Other scientists believe the cause was dinosaurs’ bodies becoming too big for their small brains, a great plaque decimating the population, starvation, or climate change.

Mary Anning (1799-1847) was one of the most famous of all fossil hunters. However, she was never taken as seriously as she should have been because she was a woman from a poor background whereas most scientists were men from wealthy families.

Scientists believe that some dinosaurs were cold blooded, others warm blooded, and still others not fully one or the other. Small meat eaters may have been warm blooded. Plant eaters who were not as active were probably cold blooded. A warm-blooded animal needs about 10 times more food than a cold-blooded animal the same size.

Explorer Roy Chapman Andrews found the first dinosaur nest known to science in 1923 in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Before he found the nest, scientists were unsure how dinosaur babies were born.

The largest dinosaur eggs were as large as basketballs. The bigger the egg, the thicker the shell. So if the eggs had been larger, dinosaur babies probably would not have been able to get out.

This oviraptorid dinosaur, Citipati osmolskae, may have been protecting a nest of eggs.

The first dinosaurs were carnivores, or meat eaters. Later herbivores (plant eaters) and omnivores (both meat and plant eaters) appeared.

Triceratops had the biggest skull with a solid shield than any other dinosaur. It was up to 6½ feet (2 m) long, with a bony shield over its neck.

Most dinosaurs were vegetarians.

The Stegosaurus has the smallest brain for its body size of any known dinosaur. Its body was the size of a van, but its brain was the size of a walnut.

One tribe of Native Americans—the Peigan people of Alberta, Canada—thought dinosaur skeletons belonged to “the fathers of buffaloes.” Englishmen 300 hundred years ago believed dinosaur bones came from an elephant or even giant humans.

The first recorded description of a possible dinosaur bone discovery dates back to 3,500 years ago in China. At the time, people did not know about dinosaurs, so they thought their discovery, which was some dinosaur teeth, belonged to dragons.

Measuring 50 feet, Liopleurodon was the biggest aquatic reptile, half the size of the blue whale.

Most meat-eating dinosaurs had bones filled with air. Though their bones were huge, they weren’t as heavy as they looked. Birds have the same kind of hollow bones.

Baby Mussaurus (“mouse lizard”) are the smallest dinosaur skeletons ever found. They would fit inside a shopping bag.

Small meat eaters were most likely the smartest type of dinosaurs.

Humans’ eyes face forward so that they can see in 3D. Plant-eating dinosaurs, like the Triceratops, had eyes looking out to each side, so they could watch for danger while they fed.

A newborn human baby has a bigger brain than most adult dinosaurs had. Whales and dolphins have the biggest brains of all living animals.

Most meat eaters walked on two feet. This made them faster and left their hands free to grab their prey. Most plant eaters walked on four feet to better carry their heavy bodies. Some plant eaters could balance on two feet for a short time.

Snakes and lizards shed their skin when they grow. Researchers believe that dinosaurs may have done the same.

Some dinosaurs may have had colorful skin, but scientists don’t know for sure. It’s likely that most dinosaurs had green and brown scales to help them hide among trees and plants.

Tyrannosaurus rex had huge back legs, but its tiny front legs were not much longer than human arms.

While dinosaurs had the same set of leg bones, some had feet like a rhinoceros, elephant, bird, or a pig. The biggest footprints ever found were 3 feet (1 m) across and 4 feet long. Millipedes have more legs than any other animal—up to 750.

Dinosaurs often swallowed large rocks. These rocks stayed in the stomach and helped them grind up food.

Tyrannosaurus rex ate up to 22 tons of meat a year. It had jagged teeth 6 inches (15 cm) long. It couldn’t chew, so it swallowed its food in large chunks.

Deinosuchus was a huge prehistoric crocodile. It most likely had the strongest bite out of any dinosaur, including Tyrannosaurus rex. It weighed eight times as much as today’s crocodile.

Corythosaurus had a big, hollow crest connected to its nose. The crest worked like an echo chamber, letting it make a loud blast of noise.

Sauropods were the tallest animals that ever lived. Some were more than twice the height of a giraffe.

Struthiomimus (“ostrich mimic”), as well as other small hunters, made high-pitched, screechy noises similar to an ostrich.

Parasaurolophus had a crest that looked like half of a trombone. The male’s crest was up to 6 feet (1.8 m) long, which was the biggest out of all the dinosaurs.

Some scientists believe that Tyrannosaurus rex may have been able to run as fast as 18 mph (28 km/h). Other scientists believe it could not run at all because it was so big.

Slim dinosaurs such as Compsognathus and Ornithomimus were among the fastest dinosaurs. However, the cheetah can run faster than any dinosaur that existed.

Dinosaurs that could run on two legs were called bipeds.

Dinosaurs had different self-defense mechanisms. Some, like meat eaters, had sharp teeth. Plant eaters had long horns or sharp spikes. Other dinosaurs were covered in bony plates.

It is estimated that trillions of dinosaur eggs were laid during the Mesozoic era, though fossilized eggs containing embryos are rare.

All dinosaurs laid eggs. About 40 kinds of dinosaur eggs have been discovered.

Modern birds and reptiles have a single body opening for urination, defecation, and reproduction: a cloaca (Latin for “sewer”). Paleontologists believe that dinosaurs were similarly designed and reproduced by pressing their cloacas together in a “cloacal kiss.” Additionally, some dinosaurs may have had a penis like some birds do or other “intromittent organs” like crocodiles. Paleontologists believe a Tyrannosaurus rex male reproductive organ might have been up to 12 feet in length.

Like birds and reptiles today, dinosaurs built nests and laid eggs. Some even fed and protected their babies.

Plant-eating dinosaurs often lived together for protection, like herding animals today do. The herds ranged from just a few adults and their young to thousands of animals.

Sauropods (“Lizard-Footed”) could travel many miles a day on their huge legs. Their fossilized “trackways” or “superhighways” can still be seen today.

The Megalodon was the biggest prehistoric fish. It looked like a shark, though it was three times bigger.

Dinosaurs that lived near water often left the best fossils.

The biggest hunter was the Spinosaurus (“spine lizard”). It was up to 49 feet (15 m) long.

The biggest plant eater was the Argentinosaurus. It was up to 98 feet (30 m) long.

The tallest plant eater was the Brachiosaurus (Giraffatitan brancai). Its head was up to 39 feet (12 m) off the ground.

The dinosaur with the thickest skull was the Pachycephalosaurus. Its skull grew up to 8 inches (20 cm) thick.

The Pentaceratops had the biggest skull at 10 feet (3 m) long.

The toothiest dinosaur was the hadrosaurs. It could have over 1,000 teeth and it continually grew new ones.

The biggest flying reptile was the Quetzalcoatlus. It had a wingspan up to 39 feet (12 m).

Quetzalcoatlus by Prehistoric Wildlife

The dinosaur with the longest claws was the Therizinosaurus (“reaping lizard”). Its claws were up to 3 feet (1 m) long.

The tallest hunter was the Deinocheirus (“horrible hand”). Its head was up to 20 feet (6 m) off the ground.

The fastest dinosaur was the Ornithomimus. It could run up to 43½ mph (70 km/h).

The largest mounted dinosaur skeleton to be exhibited in a museum is a Brachiosaurus.

Stegosaurus had huge upright plates on its back that could grow as large as 30 inches. While scientists do not fully understand the function of these massive plates, they speculate that the stegosaurus could control its body temperature by regulating blood flow through them. A stegosaurus may have also been able to control its skin color this way, to either attract a mate or scare predators. Scientists call this color change “blushing.”

The smallest fully grown dinosaur fossil is Lesothosaurus (“Lizard from Lesotho”). It is only the size of chicken. Smaller fossils have been found, but they are of baby dinosaurs.

The smallest dinosaur egg ever found was only 3 centimeters long and weighed 75 grams. It is not known what kind of species it came from. The largest dinosaur eggs ever found belong to a meat eater in Asia called segnosaurus (“slow lizard”). The eggs are around 19 inches long.

The smartest dinosaur was probably the Troodon (“tooth that wounds”). It had a brain the size of a mammal or bird today. It also had grasping hands and stereoscopic vision.

The first known American dinosaur was discovered in 1858 in the marl pits in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Although other fossils were previously found, they were not correctly identified as dinosaur fossils.

There was such fierce rivalry between paleontologists Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh to find new dinosaurs fossils that they spawned what became known as the Bone Wars. The fight lasted for over 30 years. Marsh is said to have “won” the wars, in part because he found more fossils and he was better funded.

Paleontologists are not perfect. For example, Gideon Mantell (1790-1852) put Iguanodon’s thumb claw on top of its nose. It stayed that way for 40 years. Edward Cope (1840-1897) reconstructed Elasmosaurus (“thin plate”) with its head on the end of its tail. Until recently, Apatosaurus appeared in museums with the head of Camarasaurus (“chambered lizard”).

Current dinosaur fossil “hot spots” include South America (particularly Argentina) and China, where several feathered dinosaurs have been found.

Source: Wikipedia, NatGeo.com


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Artist's impression of Yangchuanosaurus shangyouensis

Yangchuanosaurus is a genus of metriacanthosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in China during the Bathonian and Callovian stages of the Middle Jurassic, and was similar in size and appearance to its North American relative, Allosaurus. It hails from the Upper Shaximiao Formation and was the largest predator in a landscape which included the sauropods Mamenchisaurus and Omeisaurus as well as the Stegosaurs ChialingosaurusTuojiangosaurus and Chungkingosaurus. It got its name after its discovery site in Yongchuan, in China.

The type specimen of Y. shangyouensis had a skull 82 cm (2.7 ft) long, and its total body length was estimated at about 8 m (26 ft). Another specimen, assigned to the new species Y. magnus, was even larger, with a skull length of 1.11 m (3.6 ft). It may have been up to 10.8 m (35.4 ft) long, and weighed as much as 3.4 metric tons (3.7 short tons). There was a bony ridge on its nose and multiple hornlets and ridges, similar to Ceratosaurus.

Yangchuanosaurus was a large, powerful meat-eater. It walked on two large, muscular legs, had short arms, a strong, short neck, a big head with powerful jaws, and large, serrated teeth. It had a long, massive tail that was about half of its length. Its feet had three toes, each with a large claw. Its arms were short.

Delaware Museum of Natural History Wilmington. Author: Jim, the Photographer

Yangchuanosaurus zigongensis is known from four specimens including ZDM 9011 (holotype), a partial postcranial skeleton; ZDM 9012, a left maxilla; ZDM 9013, two teeth and ZDM 9014, a right hind limb. It was first described by Gao (1993), and all specimens were collected from the Middle Jurassic Xiashaximiao Formation in the Dashanpu Dinosaur Quarry of Zigong, Sichuan. A phylogenetic analysis by Carrano et al. (2012) found Yangchuanosaurus to be the basalmost known metriacanthosaurid and the only non-metriacanthosaurine metriacanthosaurid.

10 Facts You Don’t Know About Spinosaurus

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Spinosaurus is one mysterious critter. Why don’t we know more about it? Blame the British (seriously). Here are 10 remarkable factoids about this incredible dino.

1. It Was One of the Largest Carnivorous Dinosaurs of All Time.

Spinosaurus was big. Just how big, exactly? That’s difficult to ascertain, since, to date, no complete skeletons have been unearthed. Some estimate that a large adult could be almost 50 feet long, but the general consensus holds that a maximum length nearer to 41 to 43 feet is far more likely.

2. Spinosaurus was Chosen as the Villain in Jurassic Park III Because of Its Weird Profile.

“A lot of dinosaurs have a very similar silhouette to the T. rex,” said director Joe Johnston, who’d been looking for a new reptilian antagonist to replace Tyrannosaurus in the third film, “and we wanted the audience to instantly recognize this as something else.”

3. Some of the Creature’s Dramatic Spines Were Over Five Feet Tall.

Illustrations of the vertebrate “sail” bones of Spinosaurus that appeared in one of Stromer’s monographs. Courtesy of Munich Museum of Paleontology

When you’ve got accessories like these things—known scientifically as “neural spines”—sticking out of your vertebrae, nobody tells you to “show some backbone.”

4. Spinosaurus Wasn’t the Only Sail-Backed Dino.

Ouranosaurus nigeriensis, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ouranosaurus (pictured above) was a majestic African herbivore complete with a series of similar-looking spines. Additionally, one enigmatic beast by the name of Deinocheirus appears to have had some too.

5. Paleo-Artists Mis-Drew Its Head For Almost Eighty Years.

A very 80’s Spinosaurus messily chows down on an Ouranosaurus carcass. Babble Trish

Dinosaur drawings have fairly short shelf-lives (at least in the accuracy department). Until some groundbreaking new discoveries were made in the 1990s and 2000s, paleontologists lacked any good Spinosaurus skull material. Some decently-preserved Spino remains had been found nearly eight decades earlier, but they didn’t include a head. Artists, therefore, gave an educated guess and largely portrayed it with a Tyrannosaurus-like skull for most of the 20th century. It was an honest mistake. We now know that Spinosaurus had, instead, a long, narrow snout—making these pictures obsolete.

6. Frustrated Paleontologists Named One of Its Close Relatives Irritator challengeri Out of Spite.

Reconstructed mount of Irritator challengeri

When dealing with fossils, some assembly is usually required. However, things got a bit extreme in 1995, when a team of scientists purchased the skull of an unknown dinosaur from a Brazilian fossil-poacher. The man had (most disingenuously) smothered the poor thing in a thick layer of car body filler to make his find look bigger than it actually was. As one can imagine, removing this substance proved highly “irritating” for the buyers, hence that strange scientific name.

7. Spinosaurus Has Been Featured on an Array of International Postage Stamps.

Spinosaurus stamps

It may be extinct, but Spinosaurus’ likeness sure does make for a great stamp—at least the governments of such countries as Liberia and Guyana seem to think so.

8. Spinosaurus Had Plenty of Menu Options.

Illustration of a Spinosaurus catching fish in a river. Thinkstock

Like an overgrown heron, Spinosaurus is generally thought to have snagged fishy treats from the North African mangroves it stalked some 97 million years ago. Having a mouth full of long, crocodile-like teeth certainly would’ve helped. But a 2013 paper argues that its diet would have allowed for a lot more variety. Since the animal’s jaws were imperfectly-designed for grappling with fish (at least compared to a modern alligator’s), Spinosaurus probably sought out other entrees as well.

9. Spinosaurus Had Some Really Big Competition.

Dinosaur in the Plants – Garfield Park Conservatory

No one knows exactly why Spinosaurus had that trademark sail on its back. However, with flesh-eating neighbors like the 26-foot Deltadromeus and the T. rex-sized Carcharodontosaurus sharing its habitat, this apparatus might’ve helped Spinosaurus scare off rival killers by making the creature look bigger or more intimidating than it actually was.

10. The Best Spinosaurus Fossils Ever Found Were Destroyed in World War II.

Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach

In 1944, the most complete collection of Spinosaurus remains science has so far unearthed were obliterated by the British Royal Air Force. Thirty-two years earlier, they’d been sent to German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, who resided in Munich. Unfortunately, Stromer’s outspoken anti-Nazi sentiments doomed the fossils he cherished. In an act of retribution, Third Reich officials refused to let him move his collection to safer ground during the Second World War, and the museum that housed them was later bombed amidst an RAF raid.

Source: mentalfloss.com

10 Facts About Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, May 25, 2017

April 14, 2014---The Nation's T. rex, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found, is taking a 2,000-mile road trip from Montana to its new home in Washington, D.C. To prepare the dinosaur fossils for the journey, a team of experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of the Rockies packed and cataloged the hundreds of bones to ensure their safe arrival.



Tyrannosaurus rex is by far the most popular dinosaur, spawning a huge number of books, movies, TV shows, and even video games. What’s truly amazing, though, is how much about this carnivore that was once assumed as fact has lately been called into question, and how much is still being discovered. On the following slides, you’ll discover 10 fascinating facts Tyrannosaurus rex facts.


Most people reflexively assume that the North American Tyrannosaurus rex–at 40 feet from head to tail and eight  tons–was the biggest carnivorous dinosaur that ever lived, The fact is, though, that T. rex was outclassed by not one, but two, dinosaurs–the South American Giganotosaurus, which weighed about nine tons, and the northern African Spinosaurus, which tipped the scales at 10 tons. Sadly, these three theropods never had the chance to square off in combat, since they lived in different times and places.


One feature of Tyrannosaurus rex that everyone likes to make fun of is its arms, which seem disproportionately tiny compared to the rest of its massive body. The fact is, thought, that T. rex’s arms were over three feet long, and may have been capable of bench-pressing 400 pounds each. In any event, T. rex didn’t have the smallest arm-to-body ratio of any carnivorous dinosaur; that honor belongs to the truly comical-looking Carnotaurus, the arms of which looked like tiny nubs.


Granted, most of the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era didn’t brush their teeth, and very few of them flossed. Some experts think the shards of rotten, bacteria-infested meat lodged in its numerous, closely packed teeth gave Tyrannosaurus rex a “septic bite,” which infected (and eventually killed) wounded prey. The problem is, this process likely would have taken days or weeks, by which time some other lucky meat-eating dinosaur would have reaped the rewards!


We don’t yet know for sure, but there’s good reason to believe (based on the size of existing fossils and the shapes of their hips) that female T. rex outweighed their male counterparts by a few thousand pounds, a trait known as sexual dimorphism. Why? The most likely reason is that females of the species had to lay clutches of T. rex-sized eggs, and thus were blessed by evolution with bigger hips, or perhaps females were simply more accomplished hunters than males (as is the case with modern lions).


It’s difficult to infer a dinosaur’s life span from its fossil remains, but based on an analysis of existing specimens, paleontologists speculate that Tyrannosaurus rex may have lived as long as 30 years–and since this dinosaur was on the top of its local food chain, it would most likely have been felled by old age, disease, or hunger rather than attacks by its fellow theropods. (By the way, some of the 50-ton titanosaurs that lived alongside T. rex may have had life spans of more than 100 years!)


For years, paleontologists argued about whether T. rex was a savage killer or an opportunistic scavenger–that is, did it actively hunt its food, or did it tuck into the carcasses of dinosaurs that had already been felled by old age or disease? Today, this controversy seems rather quaint, as there’s no reason T. rex couldn’t have pursued both behaviors at the same time–as would any respectable carnivore that wanted to avoid starvation.


We all know that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and that some carnivorous dinosaurs (especially raptors) were covered in feathers. Hence, some paleontologists believe that all tyrannosaurs, including T. rex, must have been covered in feathers at some point during their life cycles, most likely when they first hatched out of their eggs, a conclusion supported by the discovery of feathered Asian tyrannosaurs like Dilong and the almost T. rex-sized Yutyrannus.


You thought Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was a compelling fight? Just imagine an eight-ton Tyrannosaurus rex taking on a five-ton Triceratops, a not-inconceivable proposition since both of these dinosaurs lived in late Cretaceous North America. Granted, the average T. rex would have preferred to tackle a sick, juvenile or newly hatched Triceratops, but if it was hungry enough, all bets were off.


Back in 1996, a team of Stanford University scientists determined that T. rex chomped on its prey with a force of anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds per square inch, comparable to that of a modern alligator, and more recent studies put that figure in the 5,000-pound range. (For purposes of comparison, the average adult human can bite with a force of about 175 pounds). T. rex’s powerful jaws may even have been capable of shearing off a ceratopsian‘s horns!


When the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope excavated the first T. rex fossil, in 1892, he briefly considered naming his find Manospondylus gigax–Greek for “giant thin vertebrae.” After further impressive fossil finds, it was up to the then-president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, to erect the immortal name Tyrannosaurus rex, the “tyrant lizard king.”

Source: www.thoughtco.com

Ankylosauridae Facts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Famous Ankylosaurids

Given the ferocious dinosaurs that roamed the planet during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods–toothy beasts like AllosaurusUtahraptor and T. rex–it would be surprising if some plant-eaters didn’t evolve elaborate defenses. The ankylosaurs (Greek for “fused lizards”) are a case in point: to avoid being lunched on, these herbivorous dinosaurs developed tough, scaly body armor, as well as spikes and bony plates, and some species had dangerous clubs on the ends of their long tails that they swung at approaching carnivores.

Ankylosauridae phylogeny

Although Ankylosaurus is by far the best-known of all the ankylosaurs, it was far from the most common (or even the most interesting, if the truth be told). By the end of the Cretaceous period, ankylosaurs were among the last dinosaurs standing; hungry tyrannosaurs couldn’t wipe them off the face of the earth, but the K/T Extinction did. In fact, 65 million years ago, some ankylosaurs had developed such impressive body armor–Euoplocephalus even had armored eyelids!–that they would have given an M-1 tank a run for its money.

Tough, knobby armor wasn’t the only feature that set ankylosaurs apart (though it was certainly the most noticeable). As a rule, these dinosaurs were stocky, low-slung, short-legged, and probably extremely slow quadrupeds that spent their days grazing on low-lying vegetation and didn’t possess much in the way of brain power.

Dyoplosaurus tail reconstruction, showing terms used for parts of ankylosaurid tails

As with other types of herbivorous dinosaurs, such as sauropods and ornithopods, some species may have lived in herds, which would have afforded even more defense against predation. (By the way, the closest relatives of ankylosaurs were stegosaurs, both groups being classified as “thyreophoran” (“shield-bearing”) dinosaurs.)



Although the evidence is spotty, paleontologists believe that the first identifiable ankylosaurs–or, rather, the dinosaurs that subsequently evolved into ankylosaurs–arose in the early Jurassic period. Two likely candidates are Sarcolestes, a middle Jurassic herbivore known only from a partial jawbone (this dinosaur received its name–Greek for “flesh thief”–before it had been identified as a plant eater) and Tianchisaurus. On much better footing is the late Jurassic Dracopelta, which measured only about three feet from head to tail but possessed the classic armored profile of later, bigger ankylosaurs, minus the clubbed tail.

Scientists are on much firmer ground with later discoveries. The nodosaurs (a family of armored dinosaurs closely related to, and sometimes categorized under, the ankylosaurs) flourished in the mid-Cretaceous period; these dinosaurs were characterized by their long, narrow heads, small brains, and lack of tail clubs. The most well-known nodosaurs included Nodosaurus, Sauropelta and Edmontonia, the last being especially common in North America.

One notable fact about ankylosaur evolution is that these creatures lived just about everywhere on earth.

The first dinosaur ever discovered in Antarctica–named, appropriately enough, Antarctopelta–was an ankylosaur, as was the Australian Minmi, which possessed one of the smallest brain-to-body ratios of any dinosaur (a nice way of saying that it was very, very dumb). Most ankylosaurs and nodosaurs, though, lived on the land masses, Gondwana and Laurasia, that later spawned North America and Asia.



During the late Cretaceous period, ankylosaurs reached the apex of their evolution. From 75 to 65 million years ago, some ankylosaur genera (most notably Ankylosaurus and Euoplocephalus) developed incredibly thick and elaborate armor, doubtless a result of the ecological pressures applied by bigger, stronger predators like Tyrannosaurus rex. One can imagine that very few carnivorous dinosaurs would dare to attack a full-grown ankylosaur since the only way to kill it would be to flip it onto it back and bite its soft underbelly.

Still, not all paleontologists agree that the armor of ankylosaurs (and nodosaurs) had a strictly defensive function. It’s possible that some ankylosaurs used their spikes and clubs to establish dominance in the herd or to joust with other males for the right to mate with females, an extreme example of sexual selection. This is probably not an either/or argument, though: since evolution works along multiple paths, it’s likely that ankylosaurs evolved their armor for defensive, display and mating purposes all at the same time.

Source: NatGeo.com, Wikipedia.org

Stegosauria Facts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Stegosauria is a group of herbivorous ornithischian dinosaurs that lived during the Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods. Stegosaurian fossils have been found mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly in what is now North America, Europe and China, though one species (Kentrosaurus aethiopicus) is known to have lived in Africa. Their geographical origins are unclear; the earliest unequivocal stegosaurian, Huayangosaurus taibaii, lived in China.

Stegosaurus, the classic Jurassic stegosaur that gave this breed its name (Senckenberg Museum)

Stegosaurs are classified as ornithischian (“bird-hipped”) dinosaurs. Their closest relatives were the armored dinosaurs known as ankylosaurs, and they were more distantly related to other four-footed plant-eaters like hadrosaurs (aka duck-billed dinosaurs) and ornithopods. In a crucial way, though, stegosaurs were less successful than these other dinosaurs: they only flourished toward the end of the Jurassic period (about 160 to 150 million years ago), with only a handful of species managing to survive into the ensuing Cretaceous.

Stegosaurians were armored dinosaurs (thyreophorans). Originally, they did not differ much from more primitive members of that group, being small, low-slung, running animals protected by armored scutes. An early evolutionary innovation was the development of tail spikes, or “thagomizers”, as defensive weapons. Later species, belonging to a subgroup called the Stegosauridae, became larger, and developed long hindlimbs that no longer allowed them to run. This increased the importance of active defence by the thagomizer, which could ward off even large predators because the tail was in a higher position, pointing horizontally to the rear from the broad pelvis. Stegosaurids had complex arrays of spikes and plates running along their backs, hips and tails. Their necks became longer and their small heads became narrow, able to selectively bite off the best parts of cycads with their beaks. When these plant types declined in diversity, so did the stegosaurians, which became extinct during the first half of the Cretaceous period.

There are still some mysteries, though: for example, the tantalizingly named Gigantspinosaurus had two huge spikes protruding from its shoulders, making its exact classification within the stegosaur line (if it even belongs there) a matter of controversy. The last stegosaur to appear in the fossil record is the mid-Cretaceous Wuerhosaurus, though it’s possible that some as-yet-undiscovered genus may have survived to the brink of the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago.


The most enduring mystery about stegosaurs is why they possessed those characteristic double rows of plates and spikes along their backs, and how these plates and spikes were arranged. To date, no stegosaur fossil has been unearthed with the plates still attached to its skeleton, leading some paleontologists to conclude that these scutes (as they’re technically called) lay flat along the dinosaur’s back, like the thick armor of ankylosaurs. However, most researchers still believe that these plates were arranged semi-vertically, as in popular reconstructions of Stegosaurus.

Stegosaurus plates

This leads naturally to the question: did these plates have a biological function, or were they strictly ornamental?

Because scutes pack a large surface area into a small volume, it’s possible that they helped to dissipate heat during the night and absorb it by day, and thus regulated their owner’s presumably cold-blooded metabolism. But it’s also possible that these plates evolved to deter predators, or to help differentiate males from females. The trouble with these latter two explanations is that a) it’s hard to see how an upright array of blunt plates could possibly have intimidated a hungry Allosaurus, and b) there has been very little evidence to date of sexual dimorphism among stegosaurs.

The first stegosaurian finds in the early 19th century were fragmentary. Better fossil material, of the genus Dacentrurus, was discovered in 1874 in England. Soon after, in 1877, the first nearly-complete skeleton was discovered in the United States. Professor Othniel Charles Marsh that year classified such specimens in the new genus Stegosaurus, from which the group acquired its name, and which is still by far the most famous stegosaurian. During the latter half of the twentieth century, many important Chinese finds were made, representing about half of the presently known diversity of stegosaurians.

One of the earliest skeletal reconstructions of Stegosaurus published by O. C. Marsh in 1896 shows a single row of plates and a tail with eight spikes, as well as a very short neck. Othniel Charles Marsh, 1896


Source: NatGeo.com, wiki.org