STL Science Center

STL Science Center

17 August 2017

Somewhat Well-Known

Conchoraptor has made a larger impact than many other dinosaurs. It is still not a widely known dinosaur, but it is known throughout the dinosaur community to a greater extent than many other dinosaurs. Conchoraptor is a dinosaur that is more well-known online than it is in most other media. It has appeared in books, illustrations, and has been featured in a few privately made tribute videos, but it does not appear in any games, movies, or documentaries. Having little to share in the vein of popular culture, there is at least a single private video that can, and is, shared here to show a variety of illustrations of Conchoraptor. As always, remember that these videos sometimes mislabel taxa unintentionally and that some of the images may not represent Conchoraptor as well as others. These images are open to interpretation as well.

16 August 2017

Feathers and Genders

At least one site mentions that Conchoraptor remains have been discovered with attached feathers. These feathers have been described sparingly, but have been described as sexually dimorphic characters of Conchoraptor. Sexually dimorphic characters are typically most reliable in adult animals. The assumption with the assertion that the feathers represent dimorphism is that they most likely came from adult specimens. One of the hypotheses of discerning adults from juveniles and sub-adults in Conchoraptor is less concerned with feathers and sexual dimorphism and more concerned with the crest on the cranium. Most oviraptorids possess a large crest along the midline of the skull that is larger rostrally than caudally. The original material lacks a crest entirely and remains recovered later also appear to lack crests or possess very minimal crests. The hypothesis that crests grew as the dinosaur aged are not abnormal or new, but without known fully adult specimens possessing full crests, we can neither, as yet, support nor refute that hypothesis. However, if evidence comes to light to fully support this and the hypothesis concerning dimorphism and feather morphology, then we will know a lot more about the life histories of these animals.

15 August 2017

The Brains and Skulls

Brains and other soft tissues are of great interest to scientists in extant and fossil specimens. There are a variety of ways to study organs in extant specimens and many of those methods can actually be applied to fossil specimens as well. Many of the methods used to investigate fossil soft tissue systems originate in studies of the soft tissues of extant organisms. These are systems that we can readily devise methods for and test out the methods on. Interpretation of the results can be compared with observations of behavior and organ use in extant animals as well. These model organisms and their organ systems allow for inquiries into similar systems in fossil animals. These steps result in studies such as Kundrat 2007 which looks at virtual brain models of Conchoraptor derived from CT scans of the skull. The scans are used to create virtual endocasts, or models of the negative space of the skull where the brain would have been in a living Conchoraptor. Endocasts show scientists potential lobes of the brain (assuming that the skull retained its original dimensions during the fossilization process). Kundrat 2007was able to identify characteristics of the brain that Conchoraptor appears to have shared, or at least approximated, with the brains of birds. Additional studies of the skull have been undertaken which look at other organ systems of Conchoraptor and use some similar methods. Kundrat and Janacek 2007 explored the hearing capabilities as well as the structure of the skull of Conchoraptor. They described pneumatization and sinuses of the cranium (another avian-like feature). This study also described and analyzed the bones surrounding the tympanum (eardrum). Recesses in the bone helped to describe the tympanum itself as well as the different portions of the ear. Specifically, Kundrat and Janacek were able to describe distinct proportions and geometry of the inner and middle ear of Conchoraptor and infer the hearing capabilties of the dinosaur.

13 August 2017

The Video File

There have been, as we have gotten more and more into the lesser known dinosaurs, fewer and fewer resources available at any given time. This has been related to the popularity of given dinosaurs, of course, and has not really made our job any easier when it comes to sharing interesting and new sources. However, we have a stable of consistent and helpful resources that we can typically fall back on that are reliable and accurate, which are far more important than new and interesting. For that reason, rather than posting a small number of websites all sharing the same basic information about Conchoraptor today, I would much rather share a single video, produced by WizScience, that summarizes all of those pages and does so over a series of illustrations and photographs.

12 August 2017

Shell Stealing Dinosaurs

Known from the Nemegt Formation of Maastrichtian soils of Mongolia, specifically the Red Beds of Hermiin Tsav, the conch stealing oviraptorid Conchoraptor gracilis. Barsbold 1986 described a partial skeleton and skull of an oviraptor which, like its cousins also discovered by Barsbold and the Polish-Mongolian expeditions of the 1970's, is a victim of the hypotheses of many scientists that the oviraptorid dinosaurs were stealing eggs rather than incubating eggs. The name Conchoraptor reflects Barsbold's hypothesis that the animal's lack of dentition was indicative of a diet that was rooted in mussels and other shellfish rather than eggs. This dietary hypothesis was unpopular at the time, though we now know that oviraptors, whether they fed on mussels and clams or not, were not feeding on the eggs that they were found with.The lack of crest, seen in this representation of the skull, is thought to have been a result of immaturity in the described holotype. This hypothesis will be explored during the week as we explore Conchoraptor.
©Jaime A. Headden
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

10 August 2017

Fish Foods

©Florida Museum of Natural History
It has been determined, or rather hypothesized, that Enhydritherium had a mainly piscivorous, or fish-based, diet. This was based on the fact that Enhydritherium possessed bones in its front paws that are more similar to extant fish catching otters than to its ancestors which are thought to have lived on land and did not eat fish regularly. Modern fish catching otters use their mouths to catch their prey whereas the ancestors of Enhydritherium used their hands to catch and grab food items; this means that the hands of Enhydritherium and modern otters are not as adept at grasping and handling food items as their ancestors. Enhydritherium also possessed large attachments for neck biting muscles and, as a direct relation, probably had extremely large and powerful neck muscles. These would have been used to attack prey quickly and hold them as the otter then left the water to secure and feed on its fish prey. These neck and biting muscles were very important for Enhydritherium because it was not capable of chasing its food in the water. Poor swimming adaptations in the hindlimbs made Enhydritherium good at wading into water and escaping from the water, but unable to chase aquatic prey. The hindlimbs of the animal were much more adapted to terrestrial locomotion. As such, it was capable of long overland journeys like that which Tseng, et al. 2017 describes as a hypothesis of migration between the bicoastal populations of Enhydritherium.

08 August 2017

Otters and the Ocean

Due to being found near a coast and looking like their extant descendants, Berta and Morgan's initial description of Enhydritherium was heavily angled toward portraying the skeletal remains as those of a large ancestor of modern otters. Their description was not wrong, of course, and Enhydritherium is known to be one of the largest otters, fossil or extant, that has been recorded. As a large sea mammal Enhydritherium has garnered attention throughout the time that it has been known to science. This has led to a number of studies describing different aspects of the animal's life history. The most all encompassing study discusses, describes, and analyzes the osteology of the otter in order to describe its paleoecology; Lambert 1997. This is a fairly typical order of events in describing fossils and the world in which they lived that, in turn, allows for inferences concerning the interactions of this particular species both intra- and inter-specifically. What helps even more, of course, is the discovery of additional remains. Depending on how and where the remains are recovered, new answers can be found to old questions or new questions can be developed. In the case of the Mexican dental remains that we have seen earlier this week, old hypotheses have been refuted and new hypotheses generated concerning the movement of this otter. Tseng, et al. 2017 refutes old hypotheses of migration that include Arctic and Central American Seaway dispersal of Enhydritherium between what are now Florida and California. A lack of fossil evidence from either region is deemed troubling as supporting evidence of such migratory routes. However, the trans-Mexico route does possess fossil remains and, with a skeleton that appears to support terrestrial travel over long distances, also seems suitable for Enhydritherium.

07 August 2017

News and Finds

Furry extant otters are often described as adorable, mischievous, and sometimes simply with the word "awwww." The newest discovery of Enhydritherium fossils could possibly be described using those adjectives, but likely there is nothing that most people would find adorable about the teeth discovered in the Mexican wilderness. However, those teeth were the diagnostic element of the fossil that identified the animal for the crew. As Dr. Jack Tseng recounts, he recognized the teeth as carnivoran and another member of the field crew recognized the teeth further as belonging to an otter. Rather than summarize everything that he has told reporters, though, everyone should watch this video instead.

05 August 2017

Amazing Otters

Fossil mammal make appearances here from time to time. This week is one such time when mammals will be featured exclusively. Known from sites in California, Mexico, and Florida, and described initially in 1985 by Berta and Morgan from a Floridian specimen, Enhydritherium terraenovae was a North American otter dated from approximately 9.1 to 4.9 MA. The majority of sites where this otters fossils have been recovered are in Florida, but the newest discovery was made in the Juchipila Basin of Central Mexico. This find suggests that these otters not only successfully lived on both coasts, but that they may have migrated between the coasts as well. Unlike extant otters, Enhydritherium was not yet particularly aquatic, which enabled the animal to conduct movements across expanses of dry land in ways that extant otters would find both improbable and, most likely, impossible. Not many interpretations of this large otter, an estimated 16 kg (35 lbs), exist; however, its skeleton suggests that it already had a "weasel-like" body plan and was elongated, compact, and close to the ground. It may have appeared very much like Potamotherium but was likely more stocky and larger than this more recent member of the otter family.

04 August 2017

Interesting Interpretations

Figure 1: Old school Melanorosaurus herd with gracile forelimbs.
©Zdeněk Burian (1905 — 1981)
As an early sauropodomorph, Melanorosaurus has been treated in many illustrations as a proper sauropod. In a few illustrations it has been treated more as what was once properly called a prosauropod; meaning that it showed Melanorosaurus as a sauropod-like animal with more gracile forelimbs which look as though they may have been capable of reaching for food and potentially grasping items (Figure 1). Unfortunately, this is less likely than a more sauropod-like body plan. The Natural History Museum of London features an illustration that portrays Melanorosaurus as a stereotypical sauropod with a body shape similar to a diplodocid; . We would assume, with this interpretation, that the back possesses a hump of fat in the middle portion. That, of course, is not unrealistic, as it has occurred in extant and fossil animals numerous times. The kind of back shape that we expect from the skeletal reconstruction, without a hump of back fat, is well represented by Josep Zacarias' black and white illustration of Melanorosaurus. I have a number of favorite illustrations of Melanorosaurus that show varied amounts of the back fat hump; both the lean and fattened versions of the animal are acceptable and offer their own interesting versions of the potential life history of Melanorosaurus. However, the most interesting of those images, to me, is John Conway's image of a herd at a drinking hole. The animals possess neck wattles not shown in other interpretations and are portrayed in various postures across the image and in all plains of the image. A couple in the background are even rearing up on their hindlimbs. The scene has a lot of little activity in it in all corners.

03 August 2017

Anatomy and Popularity

Some may have noticed that in the past few weeks I have missed days of writing now and again. These missed days are intended and do not in any way attest to a lack of interest in subject matter or the continued existence of this work. They do reflect the amount of time available to me to write on some days but more likely than not, they are related to the amount of information in existence online or in my personal print library available on any given species of fossil animal. Melanorosaurus, for example, is an animal with fewer links, videos, and mentions in the literature than an animal like Tyrannosaurus and some days the information to be presented is less than is optimal for a stand alone entry.

©Scott Hartman
Melanorosaurus has gained some popularity in recent years. Many illustrations, commemorative stamps, and a number of videos (including one in Spanish) have been designed, created, and released that feature Melanorosaurus. The low number of fossils that have been recovered have not hindered entire skeletal recreations either; this is the case for the majority of fossil species of course as many animals are reconstructed and illustrated with hypothesized skeletal elements inferred from related or at least similar species. Hypothesized skeletal reconstructions are more informative when they include a representation of the known fossil materials, such as that shown here.

01 August 2017

On Paper

A big year for Melanorosaurus recently was 2007. In that year both the forelimb and the first complete skull of the early sauropodomorph were described using new methods and new technologies. These new papers are not readily available online, but with a little digging they can either be found or the volume containing them can be purchased. The skull and forelimb papers both, for instance, are available via Wiley as individual articles in a larger publication that can be purchased at this link. The price tags on scientific literature are always a little higher than many other publications; despite what it looks like, that is actually not a terrible price. There are books that can be mostly read online (and are also available for purchase) that contain Melanorosaurus descriptive articles. The postcranial specimens that have been designated as members of Melanorosaurus are described by Galton, et al. in the 2005 book "Thunder-lizards: The Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs" and much of this chapter is free to view through Google books. There are missing pages, as there are with many Google books, but typically these are illustrations, graphs, or other figures and not too much text is missing; lost content is unfortunate either way of course. Melanorosaurus continues to be a heavily studied animal outside of textbooks and special publications though. There have been osteological studies published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology abstracts (stemming from a conference presentation).

Possibly one of the more important papers for Melanorosaurus in the past decade is de Fabregues and Allain 2016. This paper explores new material attributed to Melanorosaurus. In so doing, the authors revise the position a species of Melanorosaurus and name a new genus. Despite this paper being largely about splitting taxa, a lot is said about the genus and the anatomy of the dinosaur. This makes it very informative for our purposes this week.

30 July 2017

Video Facts

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

29 July 2017

Early Sauropods

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

28 July 2017

The Faces of Sinosauropteryx

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

26 July 2017

Obvious Start

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

25 July 2017

Feathers on Paper Again

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

24 July 2017

Videos Everywhere

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

23 July 2017

Finding New Links

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

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

21 July 2017

Gargoyles in the Woods

©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.

18 July 2017

Gargoyles Described

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

17 July 2017

Gargoyles in Motion

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

15 July 2017

The Gargoyle Lizard

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

14 July 2017

A Pretty Site

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

13 July 2017

Pelicans and Video Games

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

12 July 2017

Dewlap or Pelican Pouch

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

11 July 2017

Backwards Day

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

10 July 2017

Teeth and Ornithomimids

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

09 July 2017

Pelecanimimus Facts Shown

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

08 July 2017

Mimed Pelicans

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

07 July 2017

Unnamed Artists

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

06 July 2017

Fat and Skinny Dinosaurs

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


05 July 2017

Happy 4th

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

03 July 2017

Short Tributes

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

02 July 2017

Alphabet Dinosaur

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

01 July 2017

Volcano Tooth

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

30 June 2017

Fantasy and Dinosaurs

©Elise B (Elisetrations)
As we all know, fantastic representations of dinosaurs are often not scientifically accurate or exaggerate some of the most interesting details of the dinosaurs that best accent the points of the fantastic representation of the dinosaur that the illustrator wants to convey. In this illustration,  the fantasy is that of a lovable pet dinosaur, or companion dinosaur may be a better term, for a happy little girl in a pastel yellow dress. The real estimated size of Chaoyangsaurus is actually fairly well represented by this interpretation of the dinosaur, though it could be said to be a small exaggeration of this estimation. This is, of course, assuming that this little girl is approximately 5 or 6 years old and of average size for a young lady of this age. Regardless, the hypothetical quill knobs seen in the earlier posted Tamura illustration are repeated here along the dorsal aspect of the most rostral tail and the head of the animal is slightly more generically fashioned as an ornithischian head than as a ceratopsian line dinosaur; this is possibly more appropriate for the animal however. The image is striking in its simplistic lines and colors, though, and the fantasy of a dinosaur and young girl sitting by a stream is somewhat intriguing.

29 June 2017

Making It Famous

Sometimes dinosaurs with very little material seem to be much more hyped than they deserve, but when the animal is as important to the evolutionary history of its line as Chaoyangsaurus is it is not much of a stretch of the imagination that the dinosaur deserves to be popularized in both the media and the professional paleontological community. The importance of the low-yield of material attributed to Chaoyangsaurus is not only in showing that our world hosted many different sizes of dinosaurs, but also in what is arguably the more relevant capacity of showing another link in the family history of ceratopsian dinosaurs and effectively enhancing our knowledge of their similarities and differences with their nearest cousins. This includes dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus. Though Chaoyangsaurus is a very distant relative, it certainly helps us fill in gaps in our knowledge. To that end, we have seen many attempts to understand the familial ties and to describe Chaoyangsaurus throughout this week that are impressive and have reached well into the professional, amateur, and general public arenas. There have not been cartoons or feature length movies, these arguably help the most to interest the general public, but there have been news stories and books like New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. This book is a very technical tome of scientific presentations, but as a member of the general public, then an amateur, and now an in training member of the professional field, I can say that books like this generate a lot of interest in certain people around the world. Never underestimate someone that is keenly aware of what they want to learn and their ability to learn it in formal and informal settings; dinosaurs like Chaoyangsaurus that are less visible to the public than Tyrannosaurus but still are well known names with children (and it is, strangely and almost frighteningly) prove this mindset.

28 June 2017

The Face of Chaoyangsaurus

©Jamie A Headden
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
The type material of Chaoyangsaurus consists mainly of dorsal cranial material including the mandible. There are are also some shoulder girdle materials and cervical vertebrae. The skull elements, particularly the maxilla and the mandible, contain the characteristics that associate the small dinosaur with its descendants, the ceratopsians. The teeth possessed similar wear patterns to those seen in definitive early ceratopsians and psittacosaurs like Psittacosaurus. The snout of Chaoyangsaurus and its jugals are also similar to those in ceratopsians. The jugal bones are a set of bones in the "cheek" of ceratopsian dinosaurs that give the larger dinosaurs their characteristically pointy jowls. Phylogenetic analyses taking these and many other characteristics into consideration in the original paper placed Chaoyangsaurus into a polytomy with Psittacosaurus and the base of the ceratopsian family tree proper.

27 June 2017

Chaoyangsaurus and the Ceratopsians

Chaoyangsaurus was initially described in 1999 by Zhao, Cheng, and Xu in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology as an early ceratopsian from Liaoning, China. Their description included detailed maps of the region from where the fossils were recovered as well as detailed photographs of the type materials. Many of the remaining papers that reference the animal are more about the origins of ceratopsians and characteristics of the family that started showing up in animals like Chaoyangsaurus. These studies that mention the dinosaur include Xijin, et al.'s Houcheng Formation ceratopsian as well as Xu, et al.'s description of early ceratopsians and discussion about Liaoceratops. These discussions of the evolution of ceratopsians occur frequently in research and often discuss animals like Chaoyangsaurus, though not always of course, because the evolutionary history of ceratopsians is complicated and loaded with taxa.

25 June 2017

Tiny Facts

Chaoyangsaurus is one of the smaller dinosaurs we have discussed here and it has smaller facts and yet the same amount of fact pages as many of its larger ancestors, descendants, and contemporaries. These pages vary considerably but the information is generally similar or at least presented in ways that are appropriate for their target audiences. The most simplistic of these pages, as it always is, because the Natural History Museum of London wants to convey information as quickly and as easily as possible. Their page on Chaoyangsaurus is supposed to have a nice simplified line drawing of the dinosaur, but it is not loading for me today. Hopefully this simplified version of the dinosaur will load for other people. Prehistoric Wildlife, meanwhile, does not have any illustrations, but does augment the listed information with a very short written description of the animal. The Dinosaur Database takes both approaches and makes a single page with short written descriptions (shorter than Prehistoric Wildlife) and two different interpretations of Chaoyangsaurus. The two interpretations show the dinosaur as a typical, old school, taut skin reptile and the second version is actually the image shared yesterday. Despite this shorter interpretation of the facts, the pages all together paint a fairly complete picture of the dinosaur.

24 June 2017

Before Horned Dinosaurs Got Ugly

Ceratopsians are interesting in their own right and some might even say that they look rather interesting. Prior to the evolutionary shift that leads to ceratopsians proper, a small ornithischian ancestor with a skull that shows some characteristics of basal ceratopsians without fitting into that family due to other, more differential, characters, was running about in the undergrowth and under the feet of giants. Chaoyangsaurus youngi Zhao, Cheng, and Xu, 1999 was named for the Chaoyang area and specifically after the Chinese paleontologist C. C. Young (Yang Zhongjian). Measuring in at approximately 1.1m (a little over 3ft), Chaoyangsaurus inhabited the Late Jurassic of China and is often depicted as a bipedal herbivore with (hypothetical) quills along the tail and caudal portion of the back. The speculative nature of this illustration is one of the first things that the artist acknowledges about the work but it also poses some interesting questions for us this week.
©Nobu Tamura

23 June 2017

Illustrated or Not

As usual this week, this entry is a little shorter than our typical entries for any given subject. As interesting as illustrations about Triassic subjects can be, especially considering the majority of these animals that are illustrated are early dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that do not look much like what people expect dinosaurs to be are intriguing and sometimes confusing to many people; this is a conversation I have had many times over with random people. One of the more interesting illustrations that does exist of Efraasia is slightly older and depicts Efraasia walking almost quadrupedally, but with its hindlimbs in a position that suggests bipedal locomotion. This illustration, like all the other illustrations of Efraasia simply depicts the animal as is by itself and without any kind of background. This version of the sauropodomorph is simple, but does have odd fingers, and is somewhat salamander like in its general appearance.

22 June 2017

Size of the Dinosaur

Efraasia was originally considered to be a small animal, based on fragmentary remains that could not be assembled extremely well, but it was later realized that the animal was much larger than believed. The estimated larger size is approximately 6.5m (21 ft). The dinosaur was still small for its size, but by small we mean gracile and lightly built rather than short or thin. The gracile hands and feet of the animal could be used to imply facultative quadrupedalism, though this is also implied by the fact that may other very early sauropodomorphs were known to be capable of moving bipedally and quadrupedally equally well. Poor pronation of the forearm, as some have hypothesized, may have limited Efraasia as an entirely bipedal dinosaur. Its gracile hands and digits were probably quite capable of grasping food items (and predatory animals and intraspecific competitors) which could then enable it to better survive its environment by adapting its diet (and defending itself more capably).

20 June 2017

Writing in Efraasia

We mentioned a number of articles, descriptions, and re-descriptions of Efraasia and thankfully there are a lot of examples of this writing hosted online in many different places. Only one of these writings is entirely about Efraasia and that is the Galton 1973 article that was previously described here. The paper (hosted on Springer's site), as many may remember, re-described a number of specimens collected by Eberhard Fraas and reassigned these specimens to a new genus named after a contraction of the collector's name; Eberhard Fraas was turned into the name Efraasia minor in this dinosaur.

19 June 2017

Efraasia in Motion?

Unfortunately Efraasia never made it, yet at least, into any documentaries, cartoons, or movies. There really are not too many movies that use Triassic animals though, so the fact that it has not been in any movies is a little less surprising than the idea that it has not been in any documentaries. Cartoon dinosaurs are typically the more famous of the dinosaurs, so its exclusion from cartoons is equally anti-climactic. The only other video online, actually, is from a young man reading about and discussing Efraasia from Stephen Brusatte's published dinosaur field guide. Barring any other videos, which I would gladly post, here is the single video that is out there:

18 June 2017

A Known Dinosaur

Efraasia is a well known dinosaur and has some of our typical webpages (e.g. Prehistoric Wildlife and Dinosaur Facts) to share facts about this sauropodomorph. These facts are read over a great set of images in the following WizScience video.

17 June 2017

Lesser Sauropodomorphs

Efraasia minor (von Huene, 1907–1908) was a gracile middle-sized sauropodomorph of the Late Triassic of Germany. The name was not actually coined by von Huene, despite the fact that he originally described the fossil remains. The name von Huene gave the remains was Teratosaurus minor; this genus is a group of rauisuchians, which Efraasia was deemed to not be a member of. The name we use was coined by Peter Galton in 1973 when he reassigned a number of specimens to the new genus named after the collector of the specimens, Eberhard Fraas. Estimated at approximately 6 to 7m (20 to 23ft), Efraasia is a respectable size for its time and place, but, as we can see, it appears to have been a rather generic looking early dinosaur; however, it is a generic dinosaur that stands out for a number of reasons that we will discuss this week.

16 June 2017

Plain Illustration


Most of the illustrations of Tarchia are fairly plain. These are mostly lateral views of the dinosaur in a static posture that shows a lot of what the dinosaur could have looked like from the side. There are not very many dynamic poses that are out there of the dinosaur that show it by itself, but this is also okay. One of the best piece of art I have actually found relating to Tarchia is a statue. The statue is a scale model of both Tarchia and Tarbosaurus engaged in one of those epic dinosaur battles that has long captivated the public audiences. The art is a collaboration between Vladimir Trush and Vitaly Klatt. Trush appears to have sculpted a number of Tarchia inspired statues.

14 June 2017

Thursday Already

The material of Tarchia is terribly incomplete to the point that size estimates of the animal are based on completely different animals, have been estimated from the smallest known remains at times, and have been independently made but not verified across a number of sources. This has made the dinosaur difficult to model in a popular context without arbitrarily picking one or another size estimate as the size of the model that will be illustrated, animated, or sculpted. It is partially this reason that there was no animated Tarchia until Dinosaurs Alive! was produced and other ankylosaurs of Mongolia were used in previous videos and films depicting that area of the world and its dinosaurs. Looking at these various estimates of size, however, Tarchia may appear to either have been the longest of Mongolian ankylosaurs with an estimated length of 8m (26ft) or a modest 4.5m (14.8ft). The upper estimate of 8m places Tarchia in the same size category as Ankylosaurus whereas the 4.5m estimate is within the range of Nodosaurus sized ankylosaurs. Basically this means that Tarchia was either a typically sized, though longer than any other Mongolian, ankylosaur or it was a smaller member of the ankylosaur family. This is important to our discussions on popular culture because the Tarchia model used in Dinosaurs Alive! appears to be of a similar size to the Tarbosaurus it is shown fighting. Tarbosaurus measures in with a range from 10m to 12m (33ft to 39ft) and even at its largest estimates this would be oversized for Tarchia.
Larger Size Estimate

Smaller Size Estimate (image by Conty)

13 June 2017

Discussing the Skulls of Ankylosaurs

There are a number of articles and citations for Tarchia. There are a lot more citations than full articles online, but there are still articles that discuss the dinosaur, so those that learn by reading are not at any kind of disadvantage this week (i.e. there is plenty of material to read and learn from about Tarchia). The most important and useful articles that exist online as full articles are possibly the most important articles in the current body of literature for Tarchia outside the initial description by Maryanska. The first is the description of the junior synonym Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani which describes what the authors (Miles and Miles) interpreted as a unique and novel cranial structure unknown before the discovery of these remains. The second article linked here today is the Arbour, Currie, and Badamgarav, 2014 that re-describes both Tarchia and Minotaurasaurus (as well as many other ankylosaurs of Mongolia) crania interpreting similarities, differences, and variations within the genus. It is worth noting that these authors mentioned that Minotaurasaurus is a fossil lacking provenance and was purchased at a mineral and gem show but has been hypothesized to have been recovered from Mongolia by Dalton 2009. The authors consolidated Minotaurasaurus as the same species as T. kielanae, but they did interpret the remains of another animal, Dyoplosaurus giganteus, as similar enough to belong to the same genus and redesignated the animal as T. gigantea; I have not looked up how this species was erased from the taxonomy so cannot offer more as to why it is no longer included in the Tarchia family tree.

12 June 2017

The Quiet Documentary Star

Despite the seemingly forgotten nature of Tarchia after the first decade or so of its known existence, that is to say after it was initially described, Tarchia managed to remain known enough that it was featured in a documentary in 2007. The IMAX movie Dinosaurs Alive! looked at the Triassic fauna of New Mexico and the Cretaceous fauna of Mongolia. The Mongolian desert scenes lean heavily on Tarbosaurus, but in its treks the large tyrannosaurid runs into a Tarchia. No hilarity ensues, but a short altercation does and it ends with Tarchia knocking Tarbosaurus off its feet and sending it into the sand.

11 June 2017

Tarchia Facts

Here is a video full of facts about Tarchia today. There are also a number of websites that contain facts about this strangely little known ankylosaur; I say strangely because during the first decade after its description Tarchia was actually fairly popular. These include ThoughtCo, the Natural History Museum of London, and Prehistoric Wildlife.

10 June 2017

Back to Tanks

©Nobu Tamura; listed as Minataurasaurus
The name Minataurasaurus is a fairly awesome name, in my opinion. Unfortunately it has been recently decided that Minataurasaurus is a junior synonym to an ankylosaur described by Osmolska in 1977 known as Tarchia. There are two species in this genus; Tarchia kielanae Maryanska, 1977 and Tarchia teresae Penkalski & Tumanova, 2016. Overall Tarchia is a fairly typical ankylosaur but the holotype name references a somewhat unique feature of the animal: a larger brain than other ankylosaurs. This may be in the eye of the beholder (Maryanska) or it may be supported by the remains of the animal; hopefully this will be something we can address later this week. The generic name comes from the Mongolian word for brain, tarkhi, and the scientific name refers to a part of the name of the leader of the 1970 Polish-Mongolian expedition that discovered the fossil, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska.

08 June 2017

What Makes A Dinosaur Popular?

Since the discovery of Citipati it has been a bit of media darling and a very popular dinosaur with the general public. The dinosaur has appeared in books and cartoons, documentaries, movies, and shorts, and has been a very popular subject for illustrations, toys, and statues. The dinosaur's name comes from a Buddhist deity, meaning that searches for either bring up the other, only increasing the search popularity of both. We could look at any number of these outlets and even talk about the Buddhist inspiration of the dinosaur's name, but instead, we can see here how others are envisioning the dinosaur as a video game character. It does have a rather dodo-esque bill here, but it is an interesting interpretation.

07 June 2017

Continuing From Last Week

©Edyta Felcyn (Apsaravis)
Continuing where I left off last week, we can see that Citipati continues to be an animal that is often illustrated and has been studied not only for its interesting anatomy but also its peculiar behaviors. As with many of its kin the oviraptors, Citipati was an apt nest-tender and has been discovered many on separate and independent times on, in, or around its nests. Its eggs have, likewise, been recovered on numerous occasions and have even revealed whole embryos as well as hatchlings. These embryos and newly hatched oviraptors began life little taller than the average human knee (assume your own knee is within an acceptable range and attribute height differences to variation; how unscientific of me!). The adults would have been approximately 3m long and, in natural pose, approximately 1.8m tall. Assuming that the growth of these young Citipati was somewhat quick, perhaps even rapid, the combination of quick growth and the known brooding habits of Citipati says an awful lot, as we saw in papers last week, about inferences made into the history of avian style brooding as it relates to and is evolved from this maniraptoran style of brooding. The nesting position is often depicted in a singular manner, and for those not aware, this looks very much like this first image. The second image is a slight alternative, but the difference in the two images is most likely a question of heating or ventilating the nest to maintain proper brooding temperature.
©Edyta Felcyn (Apsaravis)


30 May 2017

Citipati's Anatomy

The skull of Citipati is among the most iconic skulls of all theropods, if not all dinosaurs. This skull has brought about much interest and description. The original description of the material, of course, is online and is worth reading. The paper includes detailed photographs of the skull Citipati and a second description of another oviraptorid, Khaan mckennai. One of the original descriptions was published less than a year after the description of the original material as a re-description of the cranium by Clark, Norell, and Rowe with comments on another specimen, Oviraptor philoceratops. This paper contains a detailed description of the cranial material and multiple angle, well labeled, photographs of the holotype cranial material, skull and mandible, that are very helpful for understanding the overall anatomy of the skull. The publication also includes CT scans of the material. Beyond the anatomy, Citipati has been used as a basis for parental care in dinosaurs and to explain the origins of avian parental care. Their nesting and parental care has also served as the base for growth studies in nesting dinosaurs. The reason that there are so many studies of Citipati eggs, nesting, and growth is because there have been many finds of Citipati on their nests as well as eggs containing Citipati embryo without the parents found nearby.
Photo by Jordi Payà from Barcelona, Catalonia

29 May 2017

Forget Everything but the Short

There are a few mentions of Citipati in different documentaries and news stories, but rather than posting any of those today I think that the only video we need to really watch is a beautiful short showing Citipati. Unfortunately the entire short does not appear online. However, the trailer to the short (and the fact that it won an award) make me really want to find the entire film to share with everyone here. The film shows Citipati in an everyday-life situation that then gets turned upside down and shows Citipati in an environment that really evokes the namesake of the dinosaur; the Buddhist protector deity and "Lord of the Crematorium" Citipati. Please find the trailer, posted by the creator Andreas Feix, below, and take a moment to enjoy the film that you can see. I hope to hear from Andreas to be able to share the full short with everyone soon.
Citipati (2015) - Trailer from Andreas Feix on Vimeo.

28 May 2017

Podcast Win

Despite the well-known nature of Citipati it is probably important to note that the dinosaur is still relatively new in terms of dinosaurs and their presence on the internet. There are news stories floating around and a number of other assorted websites that specifically mention Citipati. These include sites like Prehistoric Wildlife, the Natural History Museum in London, and the I Know Dino website. However, to get right at the crux of the Sunday theme, we can turn to the I Know Dino Podcast, rather than just using their website as a source, to summarize the majority of websites.

27 May 2017

Another Missed Dinosaur

I truly love finding that I have somehow overlooked a dinosaur that I am and have been aware of for quite some time. This week that dinosaur that I suddenly remembered existed is Citipati osmolskae. Citipati is one of the better known oviraptorids and one of the most iconic members of its family. Possessing a crest on its forehead and a beak characteristic of other oviraptorids. Probably covered completely in feathers, Citipati was a large dinosaur at approximately 3m (10ft) long and were the largest members of their family known between 2001 and 2007. Clark, Norell, and Barsbold named Citipati (Hindi for funeral pyre) after the highly successful paleontologist Halszka Osmólska of Poland. Osmólska was a prolific discoverer and describer of oviraptorids and theropods of Mongolia where Citipati was also discovered.
Display from "Dinosaurs. Treasures of Gobi Desert" in CosmoCaixa, Barcelona.
Photo by Eduard Solà

26 May 2017

Polacanthus Presents Itself

©Rodrigo Vega
There are a number of different interpretations of Polacanthus in a number of different views. There are also a number of different actions being undertaken by these interpretations of Polacanthus ranging from sleeping to evading and actively engaging predatory dinosaurs or intraspecific rivals. The type of action in which the Polacanthus in any given interpretation does not necessarily relate how intriguing or impressive the individual piece is; a sleeping Polacanthus has exactly as much potential as a running animal. I would actually go so far as to say that the sleeping Polacanthus image shared here today is almost more dynamic than the second image.Rodrigo Vega's sleeping Polacanthus is the centerpiece of a rather dark image. Two small Hypsilophodon occupy the cliff protecting the large sleeping ankylosaur from above. The Polacanthus itself is quiet and almost appears to be somewhat contemplative. Though I have described it as asleep, it almost appears awake but with its eyes closed which is a very real possibility of course. This, like many ankylosaur illustrations, is a solitary animal living a lonely life. The Hypsiolophodons above the animal may have acted as a portion of a surrogate herd, as animals like Polacanthus are hypothesized to have lived solitary lives except at points where they needed to be around their own kind (i.e. during mating seasons). There is the possibility that this kind of behavior would be related to poor eyesight  on the part of the ankylosaur; essentially it would have used its non-conspecific herd members as its eyes to be aware of predatory dinosaurs.

©Will Brennan
This could be the exact circumstance of the second illustration of a much more awake Polacanthus. This Will Brennan image might be portraying a similar herding behavior in which Polacanthus has adopted a group of Iguanadon as surrogate herd members in the place of other Polacanthus (and smaller animals like Hypsilophodon). The Polacanthus in this image is actually a part of the foreground and is a secondary character of the image. The illustration itself draws the eye to the center with the light in the distant forest and the central Iguanodon braying or calling the herd together. Assuming that the herd is being called together and Polacanthus is a member of the herd that understands this call, that would mean that are smaller ankylosaur was willing to separate itself from the herd in deeper woods, allowing the safety of numbers to be minimized in this situation.

All of these interpretations are, of course, my personal speculation based on the speculation of artist interpretation of events that may or may not have occurred and may or may not have some kind of scientific evidence underlying them. The most important thing to do with these illustrations is to enjoy them, appreciate them, and create your own ideas about what is happening in them.