Dinosaurs – Species Encycolpedia


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mounted D. carnegii holotype skeleton at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


Once considered among the biggest and most impressive of all dinosaurs, most experts now agree that the house-sized Seismosaurus was probably an unusually large species of the much better-known Diplodocus. Not to further disillusion you, but there’s also a distinct possibility that Seismosaurus wasn’t quite as big as once believed. Some researchers now say this late Jurassic sauropod weighed as little as 25 tons and was considerably shorter than its stated length of 120 feet, though not everyone agrees with these drastically scaled-down estimates. By this accounting, Seismosaurus was a mere runt compared to the gigantic titanosaurs that lived millions of years later, such as Argentinosaurus and Bruhathkayosaurus.

Seismosaurus has an interesting taxonomic history. Its type fossil was discovered by a trio of hikers, in New Mexico in 1979, but it was only in 1985 that the paleontologist David Gillette embarked on a detailed study.

In 1991, Gillette published a paper announcing Seismosaurus halli, which in a burst of reckless enthusiasm he said may have measured over 170 feet long from head to tail. This certainly generated impressive newspaper headlines, but one imagines it didn’t do much for Gillette’s reputation, as his fellow scientists re-checked the evidence and calculated much more petite proportions (in the process, of course, stripping Seismosaurus of its genus status).

The (indisputably) extreme length of Seismosaurus’ neck–at 30 to 40 feet, it was much longer than the necks of most other sauropod genera, with the possible exception of the Asian Mamenchisaurus –raises an interesting question: could this dinosaur’s heart possibly have been strong enough to pump blood all the way to the top of its head? This may seem like an arcane question, but it bears on the controversy of whether or not plant-eating dinosaurs, like their meat-eating cousins, were equipped with warm-blooded metabolisms. In any case, it’s most likely that Seismosaurus held its neck roughly parallel to the ground, sweeping its head back and forth like the hose of a giant vacuum cleaner, rather than in the more taxing vertical position.

Source: NatGeo.com


Monday, May 22, 2017

 Hadrosaurus. DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images

Hadrosaurus from Greek ἁδρός, hadros, meaning “bulky” or “large”, and σαῦρος, sauros, meaning “lizard”) is a valid genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur. The only known skeleton was discovered in 1858, representing the first dinosaur species known from more than isolated teeth to be identified in North America. In 1868, it became the first ever mounted dinosaur skeleton. Hadrosaurus foulkii is the only species in this genus and has been the official state dinosaur of New Jersey, United States since 1991.

Reconstructed skeleton, Academy of Natural Sciences. Photo by Jim, the Photographer

Leidy recognized that these bones were from a dinosaur by their similarity to those of Iguanodon, discovered in England some decades before, but the skeleton of Hadrosaurus was far more complete. Leidy’s monograph Cretaceous Reptiles of the United States, describing Hadrosaurus more completely and with illustrations, was written in 1860, but the American Civil War delayed its publication until 1865.

Hadrosaurus was named the state fossil of New Jersey, designated in 1994. It is one of the most celebrated dinosaurs ever, and is of great historic importance.

When the skeleton was first assembled, it was displayed with a plaster skull sculpted by Hawkins. Many other artists have recreated Hadrosaurus with skulls from other, related species such as Gryposaurus and Brachylophosaurus. A statue of Hadrosaurus, sculpted by Haddonfield resident John Giannotti, now stands in the center of the town of Haddonfield, commemorating its discovery there.

The New Jersey-born Hadrosaurus is significant for more than just starting off the first wave of dinosaur-hunting fever, however. It also became, in 1868, the first dinosaur skeleton to be mounted, and then displayed, at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The man responsible for that was naturalist and sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who had previously created life-sized models of dinosaurs (and also some basically imaginary creatures) for the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. Hawkins based his mount of the Hadrosaurus on the work of a University of Pennsylvania paleontologist Joseph Leidy, who significantly identified Hadrosaurus as a bipedal dinosaur (previous artists had largely theorized that most dinosaurs walked on all four legs). This was certainly a step forward in our collective understanding of dinosaurs, but looking at a photo of Hawkins model, it’s still fairly inaccurate-looking to the modern eye, even if you know nothing about actual dinosaur morphology. The almost comical human-like pose, when juxtapositioned with modern artistic renderings of Hadrosaurus (or the modern mounting which was on display at the Academy in 2008) couldn’t be much farther apart. The most visible change in our understanding of the Hadrosaurus since the Hawkins mount has been that scientists no longer believe the dinosaur used its tail as support in addition to its legs, and that it probably leaned much farther forward, using its short front legs for support when necessary. That development was the painstakingly slow result of nearly 100 years of research.

In a 2008 study, Hadrosaurus was found to be more primitive than either lambeosaurines or other “hadrosaurines”, and not a particularly close relative of classic “hadrosaurines” such as Edmontosaurus and Saurolophus. As a result of this, the name Hadrosaurinae was restricted to Hadrosaurus alone, and the subfamily comprising the traditional “hadrosaurines” was renamed the Saurolophinae.

However, the latest phylogeny of the Hadrosauroidea indicates Hadrosaurus is definitely placed within the monophyletic group including all nonlambeosaurine hadrosaurids. Therefore, the traditional Hadrosaurinae should be still valid for designating all non-lambeosaurine hadrosaurids.

The holotype of Hadrosaurus was found in marine sediments, which suggests the skeleton was transported by a river and then deposited in the Cretaceous sea. The Hadrosaurus remains all persist to the Woodbury Formation.

Source: Wikipedia.org

Titanosaurus Facts

Monday, May 22, 2017

Titanosaurus colberti

Titanosaurus (meaning ‘titanic lizard’ – named after the mythological ‘Titans’, deities of Ancient Greece) is a dubious genus of sauropod dinosaurs, first described by Lydekker in 1877. It is known from the Maastrichtian (Upper Cretaceous) Lameta Formation of India.

David Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur

Titanosaurus is estimated to have grown up to 9–12 metres (30–40 ft) long and up to approximately 13 tons in weight. Wilson and Upchurch (2003) treated Titanosaurus as a nomen dubium (“dubious name”) because they noted that the original Titanosaurus specimens cannot be distinguished from those of related animals.

Titanosaurus is the signature member of the family of dinosaurs known as titanosaurs, which were the last sauropods to roam the earth before the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago.

The biggest dinosaur ever to be shown at the American Museum of Natural History will be unveiled on Friday, and its head will graze the ceiling. Known as the Titanosaur, it is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, and lived 100 million years ago

What’s odd is that, although paleontologists have discovered plenty of titanosaurs–the remains of these giant beasts have been dug up all over the globe–they’re not so sure about the status of Titanosaurus: this dinosaur is known from very limited fossil remains, and to date, no one has located its kull. This seems to be a trend in the dinosaur world; for example, hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs) are named after the extremely obscure Hadrosaurus, and the aquatic reptiles known as pliosaurs are named after the equally murky Pliosaurus.

Titanosaurus was discovered very early in dinosaur history, identified in 1877 by paleontologist Richard Lydekker on the basis of scattered bones unearthed in India (not normally a hotbed of fossil discovery). Over the next few decades, Titanosaurus became a “wastebasket taxon,” meaning that any dinosaur that even remotely resembled it wound up being assigned as a separate species.

Today, all but one of these species have either been downgraded or promoted to genus status: for example, T. colberti is now known as Isisaurus, T. australis as Neuquensaurus, and T. dacus as Magyarosaurus. (The one remaining valid species of Titanosaurus, which still remains on very shaky ground, is T. indicus.)

Lately, titanosaurs (but not Titanosaurus) have been generating headlines, as bigger and bigger specimens have been discovered in South America. The largest dinosaur yet known is a South American titanosaur, Argentinosaurus, but the recent announcement of the evocatively named Dreadnoughtus may imperil its place in the record books. There are also a few as-yet-unidentified titanosaur specimens that may have been even bigger, but we can only know for sure pending further study by experts.

As the type genus of Titanosauria, Titanosaurus at times became a wastebasket taxon for a number of titanosaurs, including those not just from India but also southern Europe, Laos, and South America. Only two among these, however, are currently considered species of TitanosaurusT. indicus and T. blandfordi, both of which are considered nomina dubia.

Other species formerly referred to this genus include:

  • “Titanosaurus” rahioliensis – Described based on teeth, this species is now considered an indeterminate neosauropod.
  • “Titanosaurus” colberti – This species was the most well-known species of Titanosaurus, but has been moved into its own genus, Isisaurus.
  • “Titanosaurus” australis – Known from relatively complete remains, but has been renamed Neuquensaurus.
  • “Titanosaurus” nanus – A small species found to be non diagnostic, and hence a nomen dubium.
  • “Titanosaurus” robustus – Now referred to Neuquensaurus.
  • “Titanosaurus” madagascariensis – nomen dubium; UCB 92305 apparently related to Vahiny, while UCM 92829 has been re-assigned to Rapetosaurus.
  • “Titanosaurus” falloti – This large species, native to Laos, has disputed affinities. It has been considered synonymous with Tangvayosaurus and Huabeisaurus, but the remains are too fragmentary to be sure.
  • “Titanosaurus” valdensis – Referred to a new genus, Iuticosaurus, but still considered a nomen dubium.
  • “Titanosaurus” lydekkeri – Also referred to Iuticosaurus, but its relation to I. valdensis is uncertain.
  • “Titanosaurus” dacus – A dwarf titanosaur; now moved to the genus Magyarosaurus.

Source: thoughtco.com, Wikipedia.org, NatGeo.com

Sauropods: Triumph of the Titans

Monday, May 22, 2017

Paleontologists traditionally viewed the long-necked, small-brained giant dinosaurs referred to as sauropods as doomed creatures unfit for life on land or in the water. Recent discoveries have upended that scenario, revealing that sauropods prospered for nearly 150 million years. The secrets of their success seem to have been their mix of mammal-like and reptile-like traits, combined with an ability to adapt to a changing world. (Illustrations by Raúl Martin, Graphics by Jen Christiansen)

Sauropoda or the sauropods (“lizard-footed”), are an infraorder of saurischian (“lizard-hipped”) dinosaurs. They had very long necks, long tails, small heads (relative to the rest of their body), and four thick, pillar-like legs. They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land. Well-known genera include BrachiosaurusDiplodocusApatosaurus and Brontosaurus.

Scale chart comparing the sizes of several of the longest known dinosaurs. Author: Dinoguy2

Sauropods first appeared in the late Triassic Period, where they somewhat resembled the closely related (and possibly ancestral) group “Prosauropoda”. By the Late Jurassic (150 million years ago), sauropods had become widespread (especially the diplodocids and brachiosaurids). By the Late Cretaceous, those groups had mainly been replaced by the titanosaurs, which had a near-global distribution. However, as with all other non-avian dinosaurs alive at the time, the titanosaurs died out in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Fossilised remains of sauropods have been found on every continent, including Antarctica.

The name Sauropoda was coined by O.C. Marsh in 1878, and is derived from Greek, meaning “lizard foot”. Sauropods are one of the most recognizable groups of dinosaurs, and have become a fixture in popular culture due to their large sizes.

Complete sauropod fossil finds are rare. Many species, especially the largest, are known only from isolated and disarticulated bones. Many near-complete specimens lack heads, tail tips and limbs.

As with any broad definition, though, there are some important “buts” and “howevers.” Not all sauropods had long necks (witness the oddly truncated Brachytrachelopan), and not all were the size of houses (one recently discovered genus, Europasaurus, seems to have only been about the size of a large ox). On the whole, though, most of the classical sauropods–familiar beasts like Diplodocus and Apatosaurus (the dinosaur previously known as Brontosaurus)–followed the sauropod body plan to the Mesozoic letter.


Sauropods were herbivorous (plant-eating), usually quite long-necked quadrupeds (four-legged), often with spatulate (spatula-shaped: broad at the tip, narrow at the neck) teeth. They had tiny heads, massive bodies, and most had long tails. Their hind legs were thick, straight, and powerful, ending in club-like feet with five toes, though only the inner three (or in some cases four) bore claws. Their forelimbs were rather more slender and ended in pillar-like hands built for supporting weight; only the thumb bore a claw. Many illustrations of sauropods in the flesh miss these facts, inaccurately depicting sauropods with hooves capping the claw-less digits of the feet, or multiple claws or hooves on the hands. The proximal caudal vertebrae are extremely diagnostic for sauropods.


Sauropod necks have been found at over 50 feet in length, a full six times longer than the world record giraffe. Enabling this were a number of essential physiological features. The dinosaurs’ overall large body size and quadrupedal stance provided a stable base to support the neck, and the head was evolved to be very small and light, losing the ability to orally process food. By reducing their heads to simple harvesting tools that got the plants into the body, the sauropods needed less power to lift their heads, and thus were able to develop necks with less dense muscle and connective tissue. This drastically reduced the overall mass of the neck, enabling further elongation.

Sauropods also had a great number of adaptations in their skeletal structure. Some sauropods had as many as 19 cervical vertebrae, whereas almost all mammals are limited to only seven. Additionally, each vertebra was extremely long and had a number of empty spaces in them which would have been filled only with air. An air-sac system connected to the spaces not only lightened the long necks, but effectively increased the airflow through the trachea, helping the creatures to breathe in enough air. By evolving vertebrae consisting of 60% air, the sauropods were able to minimize the amount of dense, heavy bone without sacrificing the ability to take sufficiently large breaths to fuel the entire body with oxygen. According to Kent Stevens, computer-modeled reconstructions of the skeletons made from the vertebrae indicate that sauropod necks were capable of sweeping out large feeding areas without needing to move their bodies, but were unable to be retracted to a position much above the shoulders for exploring the area or reaching higher.

When sauropods were first discovered, their immense size led many scientists to compare them with modern-day whales. Most studies in the 19th and early 20th centuries concluded that sauropods were too large to have supported their weight on land, and therefore that they must have been mainly aquatic. Most life restorations of sauropods in art through the first three quarters of the 20th century depicted them fully or partially immersed in water. This early notion was cast in doubt beginning in the 1950s, when a study by Kermack (1951) demonstrated that, if the animal were submerged in several metres of water, the pressure would be enough to fatally collapse the lungs and airway. However, this and other early studies of sauropod ecology were flawed in that they ignored a substantial body of evidence that the bodies of sauropods were heavily permeated with air sacs. In 1878, paleontologist E.D. Cope had even referred to these structures as “floats”.


In a study published in Plos One on October 30, 2013, by Bill Sellers, Rodolfo Coria, Lee Margetts et al.Argentinosaurus was digitally reconstructed to test its locomotion for the first time. Before the study, the most common way of estimating speed was through studying bone histology and ichnology. Commonly, studies about sauropod bone histology and speed focus on the postcranial skeleton, which holds many unique features, such as an enlarged process on the ulna, a wide lobe on the ilia, an inward-slanting top third of the femur, and an extremely ovoid femur shaft. Those features are useful when attempting to explain trackway patterns of graviportal animals. When studying ichnology to calculate sauropod speed, there are a few problems, such as only providing estimates for certain gaits because of preservation bias, and being subject to many more accuracy problems.

To estimate the gait and speed of Argentinosaurus, the study performed a musculoskeletal analysis. The only previous musculoskeletal analysises were conducted on homonoids, terror birds, and other dinosaurs. Before they could conduct the analysis, the team had to create a digital skeleton of the animal in question, show where there would be muscle layering, locate the muscles and joints, and finally find the muscle properties before finding the gait and speed. The results of the biomechanics study revealed that Argentinosaurus was mechanically competent at a top speed of 2 m/s (5 mph) given the great weight of the animal and the strain that its joints were capable of bearing. The results further revealed that much larger terrestrial vertebrates might be possible, but would require significant body remodeling and possible sufficient behavioral change to prevent joint collapse.

Body size

Sauropods are gigantic, and descendants of surprisingly small ancestors. Basal dinosauriformes, such as Pseudolagosuchu sand Marasuchus from the Middle Triassic of Argentina, weighed approximately 1 kg (2.2 lb) or, in most cases, less. At the evolutionary point named Saurischia, a rapid increase of bauplan size appeared, although more primitive members like EoraptorPanphagiaPantydracoSaturnalia and Guaibasaurus still retain a moderate size, possibly even less than 10 kg (22 lb). Even with these small, primitive forms, there is a notable size growth in sauropodomorphs, although scanty remains of this period of sauropod evolution make assumptions necessary as the size is difficult to interpret. There is one definite example of a derived sauropodomorph being small however, and that is Anchisaurus, which reached under 50 kg (110 lb), even though it is closer to the sauropods than Plateosaurus and Riojasaurus, which were upwards of 1 t (0.98 long tons; 1.1 short tons) in weight.

Compared to even derived sauropodomorphs, sauropods were huge. Their even larger size probably resulted because of an increased growth rate, which appears to have been linked with tachymetabolic endothermy, a condition that evolved in sauropodomorphs. Once branched into sauropods, sauropodomorphs continued steadily to grow larger, with smaller sauropods, like the Early Jurassic Barapasaurus and Kotasaurus, evolving into even larger forms like the Middle Jurassic Mamenchisaurus and Patagosaurus. Following the size change of sauropods, theropods continued to grow even larger, shown by an Allosaurus-sized coelophysoid from Germany. As one possible explanation for the increased body size is less risk of predation, the size evolution of both sauropods and theropods are probably linked.

Source: Wikipedia.org, NatGeo.com, ifls.com

5 Facts About Pachycephalosaurus

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reconstruction of Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis with cranial lesion.

Pachycephalosaurs (Greek for “thick-headed lizards”) were an unusually small family of dinosaurs with an unusually high entertainment value. As you can guess from their name, these two-legged herbivores were distinguished by their skulls, which ranged from the mildly thick (in early genera like Wannanosaurus) to the truly dense (in later genera like Stegoceras). Some later pachycephalosaurs sported almost a foot of solid, albeit slightly porous, bone on top of their heads!

Size comparison of an adult P. wyomingensis (green), potential growth stages, and a human by Matt Martyniuk

However, it’s important to understand that big heads, in this case, didn’t translate into equally big brains. Pachycephalosaurs were about as bright as the other plant-eating dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period (which is a polite way of saying “not very”); their closest relatives, the ceratopsians, or horned, frilled dinosaurs, weren’t exactly nature’s A students, either. So of all the possible reasons pachycephalosaurs evolved such thick skulls, protecting their extra-big brains certainly wasn’t one of them.

Based on the available fossil evidence, paleontologists believe that the very first pachycephalosaurs–such as Wannanosaurus and Goyocephale–arose in Asia about 85 million years ago, only 20 million years before the dinosaurs went extinct. As is the case with most progenitor species, these early bone-headed dinosaurs were fairly small, with only slightly thickened skulls, and they may have roamed in herds as protection against hungry raptors and tyrannosaurs.

Pachycephalosaur evolution really seems to have taken off when these early genera crossed the land bridge that (back during the late Cretaceous period) connected Eurasia and North America. The largest boneheads with the thickest skulls–Stegoceras, Stygimoloch and Sphaerotholus–all roamed the woodlands of western North America, as did Dracorex hogwartsia, the only dinosaur ever to be named after the Harry Potter books.

The evolutionary relationships among different genera of pachycephalosaurs are still being sorted out, as are the growth stages of these strange dinosaurs. According to new research, it’s likely that two supposedly separate pachycephalosaur genera–Stygimoloch and Dracorex–in fact represent earlier growth stages of the much bigger Pachycephalosaurus. If the skulls of these dinosaurs changed shape as they aged, that may mean that additional genera have been classified improperly, and were in fact species (or individuals) of existing dinosaurs.

Source: thoughtco.com, wikipedia.org

10 Cool Facts About Therizinosaurus

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis by unlobogris

If T. rex is the Citizen Kane of dinosaurs, Therizinosaurus and its kin are The Rocky Horror Picture Show: They’re strange-looking, slightly threatening, and command a dedicated fan base. Here’s some trivia guaranteed to impress your fossil-loving amigos.

1. Therizinosaurus Had the Longest Claws of Any Known Animal

The humongous claws on this dino’s hands were capable of reaching well over two feet in length. Appropriately, its name literally means “scythe lizard.”

2. Despite This, it Was (Probably) An Herbivore

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis claw. Author: Ghedoghedo

With fingers that seemingly belong in a slasher flick, you’d think these creatures were designed to slice and dice hapless victims. But most of its relatives had small, leaf-shaped teeth built to munch on foliage. (Scientists have yet to uncover a Therizinosaurus skull.) So what’s with those frightening digits? The theory is that, come mealtime, they might have helped the dinos pull down lush tree branches. For a cooler explanation, skip ahead to bullet point number nine.

3. Therizinosaurus Was Originally Mistaken for a Huge, Turtle-Like Reptile.

Fossil Therizinosaurus arms from Mongolia, exhibited in Experimentarium, Denmark. Author: FunkMonk

In 1954, Russian paleontologist Evgeny Aleksandrovich Malayev concluded that the beast basically resembled a modern sea turtle. He wrote that its distinctive forelimbs were in fact “powerful swimming organs” with claws designed for “cutting aquatic vegetation.”

4. It’s Part of a Formerly-Baffling Family.

Therizinosaurus model, Royal Ontario Museum. Author: Aaron Gustafson

When it became clear that these things were actually dinosaurs, scientists didn’t initially know how to classify the eccentric Therizinosaurids. Could they be related to the gigantic, long-necked sauropods like Jurassic Park’s Brachiosaurus? Or did they belong to the “bird-hipped” order of dinosaurs along with Stegosaurus and Triceratops?

Despite their plant-guzzling habits, closer examination revealed that therizinosaurs hailed from a group known as theropods, the vast majority of which (TyrannosaurusVelociraptor, etc.) were carnivores. Strange as this might sound, today’s pandas (which only occasionally eat meat) are similarly considered members of the mammalian “carnivora” order.

5. Some Therizinosaurs Were Covered in Feathers.

China’s Beipiaosaurus had multiple layers of primitive feathers, as seen in some beautifully-preserved fossils. Given its limb proportions, Beipiaosaurus definitely didn’t fly, so this plumage likely served to keep it warm and attract the opposite sex.

6. A Nest of Therizinosaur Eggs Was Found in 2013.

Therizinosaur egg. Author: Pavel Riha

After locating 17 clutches of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert, Hokkaido University’s Yoshitsugu Kobayashi concluded that they’d been laid by indigenous therizinosaurs, a few bony remains of which had been unearthed nearby. If true, this would imply that the animals were somewhat social (at least, come nesting season).

7. Therizinosaurs Had Weird Feet.

Skeletal showing the known material of Therizinosaurus cheloniformes by Jaime A. Headden

Ever the nonconformists, therizinosaur feet rested on four toes while standing and walking. Most theropods, meanwhile, only used three.

8. Therizinosaurus Was One Hefty Dino.

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis by Scott Hartman

Let’s return to Therizinosaurus itself, shall we? The red areas in the above picture represent all of its presently-known skeletal material (the rest has yet to be found). Based on these partial remains, scientists have ascertained that the critter’s total length was somewhere in the ballpark of 10 meters (33 feet) while it could’ve weighed upwards of 5 tons. Not too shabby…

9. Therizinosaurus Had to Cope With a Huge T. rex Cousin.

Tarbosaurus bataar and Tyrannosaurus rex are so similar that they may have belonged to the same genus (though most experts disregard that idea). The former predator occupied Therizinosaurus’ Mongolian range roughly 70 million years ago, making this herbivore’s fearsome claws look all the more necessary. Here’s a cool (Greek language) clip from 2002’s Chased by Dinosaurs documentary in which these natural enemies spectacularly square off.

10. There’s a Life-Sized Therizinosaurus Statue in Poland.

JuraPark Bałtów – Park Dinozaurów – Terizinozaur (Therizinosaurus). Author: Alina Zienowicz

Jurapark, located in the village of Bałtów, contains dozens of full-scale dinosaur models, including AllosaurusDiplodocus, and the world-famous Iguanodon.

Source: mentalfloss.com

10 Facts About Deinocheirus

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Deinocheirus is a giant ornithomimosaurus

Five years ago, there wasn’t much one could say about Deinocheirusbut thanks to some amazing new discoveries, we can finally start connecting the dots and exposing the secrets of this enigmatic creature.

1. For Over Four Decades, It Was a Cryptic Mystery Dino.

Deinocheirus mirificus holotype in the exhibition “Dinosaures. Tresors del desert de Gobi” (“Dinosaurs. Treasures of Gobi Desert”) in CosmoCaixa, Barcelona. Author: Eduard Solà

Our story begins at the height of the Cold War. While exploring Mongolia in 1965, a Soviet team stumbled upon two massive and sinister-looking fossilized arms. At eight feet long each (!), these clearly came from an animal of frightening proportions—a beast which was promptly given the name Deinocheirus, or “terrible hand.”

But, in retrospect, perhaps it should’ve been called “terrible tease,” because the rest of Deinocheirus’ skeleton was missing! For years, those awesome appendages (and their shoulder girdles) were like the tantalizing trailer of a movie that was never released. With bated breath, dino enthusiasts hoped that Deinocheirus’ elusive body would eventually emerge. Finally, decent specimens started popping up in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

2. Deinocheirus is the Largest-Known “Ostrich Dino.”

Ornithomimids, or “ostrich dinosaurs” (as they’re sometimes colloquially called), were a group of bipedal omnivores which roamed North America and Asia during the Cretaceous period (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago). By default, the most famous species is Gallimimus, an animal that regularly zips into Universal Pictures’ Jurassic Park series.

3. It Would have Led a Relatively Slow-Moving Lifestyle.

Gallimimus and other ornithomimids are usually imagined as reptilian speed demons, but the 35-foot-long Deinocheirusutterly dwarfs its kin. To support its plus-sized physique, the dinosaur’s pelvis and hind legs are unusually thick by ornithomimid standards, indicating that Deinocheirus was more adept at lumbering than sprinting.

4. Deinocheirus Had a Fishy Diet.

Though its jaws and beak seem custom-made for handling veggies, plants weren’t Deinocheirus’ only option: some mashed-up fish remains (scales, bones, etc.) were found inside one specimen’s stomach.

5. It Had a Feathery Tuft at the Tip of its Tail.

Here’s a fun word: pygostyle, which, in Greek, means “rump pillar.” These are fused bony clumps on the ends of modern bird tails that are designed to support feathers. Interestingly, Deinocheirus had a small one, which was probably topped in a small, feathery fan.

6. Surprisingly, Deinocheirus Had a Sail on Its Back.

It’s an accessory nobody saw coming! Though sail-backed dinosaurs are nothing new, no other ornithomimid is known to have sported anything even remotely akin to the huge, hump-like ornament that gave Deinocheirus its distinctive profile.

7. Its Forelimbs Belonged to a Class of Their Own.

Deinocheirus and the equally-bizarre Therizinosaurus (which would have shared its habitat) are noteworthy for having the longest arms of any bipedal dinosaur we’ve yet discovered.

8. Perhaps Deinocheirus Waded for Food Like an Oversized Waterfowl.

Did this off-beat dino frequent waterways? It’s been hypothesized that Deinocheirus’ wide, blunt toe claws would have helped prevent its feet from sinking into muddy riverbanks and, accordingly, the animal might have collected aquatic weeds and unlucky fish from the water’s edge.

9. Apparently, a Few Specimens Became Tyrannosaur Chow.

Tarbosaurus by Dmitry Bogdanov

Bite marks (presumably) belonging to Tarbosaurus bataar —a carnivore so similar to T. rex that some believe it should be reclassified as a species of Tyrannosaurus—are clearly visible on a few Deinocheirus bone fragments.

10. Some Priceless Deinocheirus Material Was Poached and Nearly Lost.

When Canadian paleontologist Phil Currie came upon an incredibly rare Deinocheirus specimen in 2009, he soon realized that somebody else had gotten to it first. The site was in shambles, with trampled fossils strewn about haphazardly and even a bit of money tucked away beneath a nearby stone. Sadly AWOL were—among other things—this Deinocheirus’ skull and feet. However, word of Currie’s find soon got out, and before long, the scientist was contacted by a European collector who’d acquired some very intriguing fossils that, lo and behold, turned out to be the missing pieces in question.

Source: mentalfloss.com

10 Facts About Megalosaurus

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Megalosaurus ©Alexander Lovegrove

This English predator was among the first dinosaurs ever discovered—and, back in those early days of paleontology, its fearsome jaws must have fueled countless Victorian nightmares.


1. Megalosaurus Used to Be Called “Scrotum humanum.”

Cover of Robert Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire, 1677 (right), and illustration of a fossilized lower extremity of a Megalosaurus femur (left) taken from that book. The bone was described by Richard Brookes in 1763 and jokingly named Scrotum humanum. Author: Robert Plot, Michael Burghers

The illustration on the left was drawn by an artist/naturalist named Robert Plot in 1676. At the time, scholars hadn’t yet learned of the existence of dinosaurs, so nobody could identify the fossil Plot’s picture depicts. For his part, Plot theorized that this bone (which had turned up in an Oxfordshire quarry) once belonged to a Roman war elephant.

Nearly a century later, physician Richard Brookes copied Plot’s sketch, but didn’t buy his interpretation. To Brookes, it looked suspiciously like a certain piece of masculine anatomy, so he dubbed the specimen “Scrotum humanum.” Today, most scientists agree that the fragment in question actually came from a Megalosaurus leg bone.


2. It was The First Dino to be Scientifically Described.

In 1824, a large jawbone from some ancient reptile emerged near Oxford, prompting British geologist William Buckland to do something that had never been done before: formally describe a dinosaur specimen in an academic paper. His paper, “Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield,” saw publication via the Geological Society of London.


3. Megalosaurus Was Named by a Guy With Really Weird Dietary Habits.

William Conybeare drew this cartoon of Buckland poking his head into a prehistoric hyaena den in 1822 to celebrate Buckland’s ground breaking analysis of the fossils found in Kirkdale Cave.

Buckland’s quirks were legendary. When he wasn’t examining fossils or coining the word “Megalosaurus,” he enjoyed dressing up his pet bear (!) in academic robes. He owned a table made with dinosaur droppings which “was often much admired by persons who had not the least idea of what they were looking at.” And, stranger still, the man literally attempted to eat his way through the animal kingdom. Striving to sample every living thing in existence, Buckland devoured such main courses as panthers, crocodiles, and toasted mice. Apparently, the nastiest entrees he ever tried were mole and blue-bottle fly.


4. Megalosaurus was Mentioned in a Charles Dickens Novel.

Published serially between 1852 and 1853, Bleak House is, among other things, notable for having one of the world’s first literary dino references. While describing a gloomy day cloaked in fog, Dickens writes:

“As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”


5. Scientists Aren’t Exactly Sure What Its Skull Looked Like.

Skull and life restoration of Megalosaurus bucklandii skull. Megalosaurus was one of the first described dinosaurs. Author: Conty

Aside from some bits of snout and upper and lower jaw, no significant cranial material has been attributed to Megalosaurus.


6. Megalosaurus Helped Inspire the Word “Dinosaur.”

In 1842, MegalosaurusIguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus were three recently-discovered prehistoric reptiles which many scientists imagined as little more than overgrown lizards. Sir Richard Owen felt very differently. Seeing them as dynamic, active animals, he lumped them together in a brand-new group he called the “Dinosauria.”


7. … And Buckland’s Son Believed it May Have Also Inspired European Dragon Myths.

Buckland family silhouette – artist Mary Buckland, née Morland (1797-1857), British palaeontologist. Author: Mary Buckland, née Morland (1797-1857)

Franklin Trevelyan Buckland followed in his father’s footsteps and became an accomplished zoologist in his own right. At one point, he posited that dinosaurs like Megalosaurus may well have given rise to Europe’s greatest mythical monsters.

“May not the idea of the dragons,” he wrote, “curious stories of which are chronicles in various parts of England, owe their origin, in some way or other, to the veritable existence of these large lizards in former ages? To point out the train of ideas or circumstances which led to these ancient dragon stories is of course impossible, particularly as man was not coexistant with Megalosaurus and Co.—still there is a certain shadow of connexion [sic] between them.”


8. Scientists Have Dramatically Reduced Megalosaurus’ Top Length Estimates.

William Buckland suggested that adult Megalosaurus were about 40 feet long, though newer specimens indicate amaximum measurement closer to 21.


9. History Buffs Can See a Bear-Like Megalosaurus in London’s Crystal Palace Park.

Megalosaurus at Crystal Palace Park, London. Author C. G. P. Grey

During the 1850s, sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to build more than 30 life-sized prehistoric animal models which were to populate a glasshouse inside this historic English park. The house burned down in 1936, but the statues survived and are still being enjoyed (thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of local volunteers). Because scientists hadn’t yet learned that predatory dinosaurs were bipedal, Waterhouse’s Megalosaurus stands stoutly on all fours.


10. The Protagonist of TV’s Dinosaurs Sitcom is Purportedly a Dim-Witted Megalosaurus.

Dinosaurs TV Series

In 1991, ABC premiered Dinosaurs, a nuclear family-style comedy revolving around sentient dinos. Originally conceived by Jim Henson, the program’s patriarch is one Earl Sinclair, a beer-drinking, lunchbox-toting, television-loving Megalosaurus with less-than-exemplary parenting skills.


Source: mentalfloss.com


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Miragaia by Mohamad Haghani

Miragaia (named after Miragaia, the parish in Portugal and geologic unit where its remains were found) is a genus of herbivorous stegosaurid dinosaur. Its fossils have been found in Upper Jurassic rocks in Portugal. Miragaia has the longest neck known for any stegosaurian, which included at least seventeen vertebrae.

Miragaia is based on holotype ML 433, a nearly complete anterior half of a skeleton with partial skull (the first cranial material for a European stegosaurid). The remains were found after the construction of a road between the villages of Miragaia and Sobral. The rear half of the skeleton was probably destroyed by the roadcut. The fossils were dug up in August 1999 and August 2001. Among the recovered bones were most of the snout, a right postorbital, both angulars of the lower jaws, fifteen neck vertebrae (the first two, which articulated with the skull, were absent), two anterior dorsal vertebrae, twelve ribs, a chevron, the shoulder bones, most of the forelimbs including a possible os carpi intermedium, a right first metacarpal and three first phalanges; and thirteen bony plates plus a spike. The bones were not articulated but dispersed over a surface of about five to seven metres, though there was a partial concentration of fossils that could be salvaged within a single block.

Miragaia longicollum fossil. Photo by Ghedoghedo

The total length of Miragaia has been estimated at 5.5 – 6 metres (18–20 ft). In 2010, Gregory S. Paul estimated the length at 6.5 metres, the weight at two tonnes. Histology shows that the holotype specimen was agout 21 years old.

Miragaia, like all known stegosaurians, showed an array of plates and spikes, consisting of skin ossifications or osteoderms. Paired triangular plates ran down the midline of the neck, reconstructed as eight pairs. They were asymmetrical with a convex outer side and a concave inner side. Their bases were not very expanded with the exception of a possible last pair, located on the front back. They were obtuse but lightly hooked at the front. A rather long, narrow and straight preserved spike was at first considered to have been a shoulder spine, but was later seen as part of some tail arrangement.

Miragaia is from Mateus et al. (2009), and Brachytrachelopan from Rauhut et al. (2005). Both critters come with the 1 meter scale bars from their respective figures. Sauroposeidon looms in the background, just to keep things in perspective. The entire neck of Miragaia might have been about as long as one of the middle cervicals of Sauroposeidon or Supersaurus.

Miragaia was placed in the Stegosauridae in 2009. Mateus and colleagues performed a phylogenetic analysis and found Miragaia to group with Dacentrurus in a clade Dacentrurinae, newly named for the occasion, the sister group to Stegosaurus (the latter genus was in the cladistic analysis considered to include Hesperosaurus and Wuerhosaurus).

Source: NatGeo.com, mentalfloss.com

Borealopelta: ‘Sleeping dragon’ Fossil the Best Preserved Armored Dinosaur Ever Found

Saturday, May 13, 2017

STUNNING DISCOVERY Some 110 million years ago, this armored plant-eater lumbered through what is now western Canada, until a flooded river swept it into open sea. The dinosaur’s undersea burial preserved its armor in exquisite detail. Its skull still bears tile-like plates and a gray patina of fossilized skins. PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT CLARK

A newly unveiled 110 million-year-old fossil, described as “the best preserved armored dinosaur ever found,” is providing researchers with invaluable information about the recently discovered species.

The ancient fossil was accidentally discovered by machine operator Shawn Funk at a mine near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in 2011.


Further investigation revealed that the extraordinary fossil was a newfound species of plant-eating ‘nodosaur.’ The beast was so remarkably well preserved because its remains ended up in a river, possibly swept up by a flood, shortly after it died.

Its carcass was then carried out to sea where it sank to the ocean floor, becoming enveloped in mud which both preserved and petrified the nodosaur’s remains, giving the fossil the appearance of a sleeping dragon.


Usually just a dinosaur’s bones and teeth survive long enough to be fossilized, however, in this case because of its quick burial, intricate details of the nodosaur’s scale armor were preserved. The fossil has revealed valuable details to researchers about the makeup of the animal’s armor.

Nodosaur fossil cave spots

“We don’t just have a skeleton… we have a dinosaur as it would have been,” postdoctoral researcher Caleb Brown told National Geographic of the extraordinary find.

For researchers, finding the fossil was like winning the lottery. Jakob Vinther, a Paleobiologist from University of Bristol, said that it’s so well preserved it “might have been walking around a couple of weeks ago…I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Nodosaur fossils close up ridges

The public can watch the careful restoration of the nodosaur via a lab gallery window at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. The fossil now forms the centerpiece of a new exhibit focusing on Alberta’s fossil finds.

The job of preserving the fossil fell to museum technician Mark Mitchell, who worked on the nodosaur for more than 7,000 hours over five years to painstakingly expose the fossil’s skin and bone. “You almost have to fight for every millimeter,” he said.

Article by RT.com, Photographs by Robert Clark