STL Science Center

STL Science Center

26 July 2017

Obvious Start

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

25 July 2017

Feathers on Paper Again

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

24 July 2017

Videos Everywhere

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

23 July 2017

Finding New Links

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

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

21 July 2017

Gargoyles in the Woods

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

20 July 2017

Little Popularity

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

19 July 2017

Size of Early Ankylosaurs

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