Category Archives: Dinosaur of the Week

Dino Day #9

image: Royal Ontario Museum

image: Royal Ontario Museum

I was going to change from dinosaurs to interesting science things – and I probably will next week. Mondays will still be something science related but not necessarily only dinosaurs. Saturday the family and I watched Jurassic Park and I remembered how much I love dinosaurs and I decided that this week I’d write about the little spitter who took out Nedry, which might be the only deserved death in the whole movie. That particular dino was supposed to be a Dilophosaurus. The dinosaur that appeared on the screen was more an idea of the Dilophosaurus as there is no evidence of a frill or venom in the fossil record. It made for great on screen impact and for Jurassic Park, that was enough.

The Dilophosaurus did have crests on its head but either the one appearing in the movie was a juvenile or the wrong size, more or less. They averaged about 20 feet long and likely weighed in at about 1000 pounds. There is some disagreement over whether these particular animals were carrion eaters or fish eaters and, unless we go the Hammond route, we’ll likely never actually know for certain. They were, however, from the Jurassic era. Though they have found fossils of them in North America, their footprints have been found in Sweden too. It may have been a herd animal or pack animal  given the proximity of the specimens found in Arizona.

There is a very interesting narration on the Dilophosaurus by Sam Welles HERE.

Next week I’m probably going to be moving away from dinosaurs for a bit. There are a million interesting things to learn about!

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Dino Day # 8

image: Gabriel Lio

image: Gabriel Lio

I’ve chosen another relatively new dinosaur this week, the Chilesaurus. It’s been called a ‘platypus’ dinosaur because of the combination of characteristics that comprise it. It is the T-Rex’s smaller, vegetarian cousin. Discovered in Chile in 2004, the Chilesaurus is a therapod like the T-Rex and Raptors. It had the characteristic short arms but it lacked the wicked claws, instead bearing two stumpy fingers on each hand.

The Chilesaurus lived in the late Jurassic period about 145 million years ago in South America. It likely measured around 10 1/2 feet from nose to the tip of the tail which is smaller than you would think as that tail likely took up a great deal of that length. To me, I think that would basically be like a bipedal Komodo Dragon who happened to go vegetarian. In dinosaur terms, it was pretty small but in modern terms, that small is still pretty large.

The Chilesaurus is considered an excellent example of convergent evolution which is an incredibly interesting topic all on it’s own.

Convergent Evolution: when particular traits evolve in more than one species or in more than one place in response to external conditions. For example, the three species of freshwater dolphin in India, China, and the Amazon, who are not related by DNA. They all evolved into freshwater dolphins independently of one another. In the reptile world, we have Tegus and Monitor lizards who are not related but resemble each other in a multitude of ways, diet, habitat, overall structure.

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Dino Day #7

This week’s dinosaur is the Compsognathus which is ridiculously hard to spell. Because this week is my husband’s birthday (Happy birthday, Rob!), he got to pick the dinosaur. Why he picked this one, I’m not exactly sure but it sure is fun to say. Most dinosaurs names are though. In any case, the Compsognathus was named in 1859 by Johann Wagner. The Compsognathus was a small dinosaur from the late Jurassic period weighing in at a measly 6.5 pounds but it is not the smallest dinosaur on record. There’s no fossil evidence for feathers for this animal so it could well have looked a bit more like a bipedal monitor lizard.

There isn’t actually much in the way of fossil record for the Compsognathus but there’s enough to figure out that these dinosaurs ate lizards, lived in what was, at the time, a tropical paradise but is now Europe. The first discovered Compsognathus fossil was a very interesting and rare example of predation as it had a lizard in its belly in the fossil.

As far as famous Compsognathus, there aren’t many. The Jurassic Park movies had them, Dino Dan had them, the Minecraft archeology mod has them but I can’t think of a compy character and Google didn’t help me there.

 

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Dino Day #6

suzhousaurusThis week’s dinosaur is a relatively recent addition to the rank and file. The Suzhousaurus was discovered in 2007 and looks a bit like a vulture, a rat, and a raptor had a baby. Active during the early Cretaceous period, it’s a member of the therizinosaurs family. It is an herbivore with small rounded teeth and was likely a feathered animal. It roamed Gansu, China.

From head to tail it’s been measured at about 7 yards and estimated to weigh just over a ton. It’s a big, cumbersome beast that hasn’t been in the public eye enough to have any famous characters or the like but it’s only a matter of time, especially given some of the other concept art for this particular specimen – see HERE.  Those massive claws they have were apparently not for attacking but for grabbing tree limbs and defending themselves.

One of the things I love about science, especially paleontology is that the people who work in the field and the field itself changes every time new information comes to light. Therizinosaurs were once thought to be related to ancient turtles and then the sauropods, none of which was the case, so far as we know. When it comes to light that the assumptions that were made using the evidence at hand were wrong, paleontology is pretty quick to adjust to the new information without a lot of bellyaching. That’s not to say there are no emotions in science, there are and some of the personal relationships can be fraught with scandal and rivalries but science has always owed a great deal to rivalries. Competition makes for some great innovations.

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Dino Day #5

Today, I’m posting about the Stygimoloch  mostly chosen because it is great fun to say. Not as fun as plecostomus but fun. When my youngest child was smaller, we watched a lot of Dino Dan – a great show if you have kids that like dinosaurs – and he loved to talk about the Stygimoloch.

They’re a really interesting animal that likely exhibited behaviors we see all the time in the animal kingdom – the butting of heads. It is likely one of the reasons you can find plenty of Stygimolochs represented in the toy aisle. A great lizard with horns and a domed skull that beats said skull off of other dinosaur skulls is pretty much the ideal fighting dinosaur to play with.

Another North American dinosaur, the Stygimoloch is a type of pachycephalosaur and only the eponomous Pachycephalosaurus was larger, though there is some who theorize that the Stygimoloch is actually only a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus. the Stygimoloch was about 10 feet long and about 200 pounds (which actually seems really small for a dinosaur when you picture dinosaurs as giants). It lived during the late cretaceous period and was only named in 1983. It was an herbivore.

Random Science Facts:

Today, since I started these posts in response to stupid, I must absolutely acknowledge the current rambling stupid that has come out of the “famous” people. So, there’s a rapper who believes (or portends to believe) that the world is flat. Such a headache these people give me! My feeling is that there is actually an upside to the media giving a loudspeaker to all of this stupid – it allows the smart to come forward in a brilliant splashy way and maybe some kid sitting on the intellectual fence may discover how awesome knowledge is.

 

 

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Dino Day #4

This week I’m going to be writing about the Megalosaurus. Initially, the bone that was found was thought to be part of a Roman elephant and then a giant before it was finally accurately identified as a dinosaur bone. The Megalosaurus is in fact the first scientifically named non-avian dinosaur and credited with being the first dinosaur skeleton discovered but, logically, I tend to disagree with that, just given the prevalence of dragons in mythology.

Earl Sinclair from Dinosaurs

Earl Sinclair from Dinosaurs

It was bipedal with short arms tipped with hooked claws and weighed in at between 1.5 and 2 tons. It was portrayed for a very long time as being quadrupedal and looking more like a monitor lizard type animal.

A complete specimen has never been found and some of the bones that have been found have been lost to history, leaving only drawings of their existence. Some of the evidence that has been found suggests that the Megalosaurus’ head was overly large for it’s body but there is not enough fossil evidence to say anything for certain.

Famous Megalosaurus:  Earl Sinclair from the TV show Dinosaurs was supposed to be a Megalosaurus.

 

 

 

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Dino Day #3

Triceratops (image: dinowiki)

Triceratops (image: dinowiki)

It seems fitting for the third Dino Day to be the Triceratops given that the name means three-horned face. Easily one of the most identifiable families of dinosaurs, their horns are unmistakable. First discovered in 1888 in Denver, this North American herbivore was likely a favorite meal for the T Rex. The most complete fossil to date is really recent, 2013, and hails from Wyoming.

Due to the Wyoming find, scientists are assuming that Triceratops remained in family units, at least for a time as the fossils appear to be a mated pair with a juvenile. Triceratops was very large (but only classified as a medium dinosaur) with a length of roughly 30 feet and a weight between 11,000 and 25,000 pounds. Their feet were multi-hoofed with three hooves on their front feet and four hooves on their back feet. The head of a Triceratops was as much of 1/3rd it’s entire body length. Their brow horns grew to about 3 feet in length. They likely were charging animals like the rhinoceros.

There is evidence that a Triceratops survived an attack by a Tyrannosaurus Rex as their was substantial remodeling of the bone.  Other fossils show T Rex tooth marks and other signs of predation so they were possibly a staple of the King’s diet.

I liked the Triceratops as a kid in part because the one I knew the best shared my name (at least in pronunciation).

 

BP Richfield

BP Richfield

Famous Triceratops:

Cera from Land Before Time

BP Richfield from Dinosaurs (the tv show) Even if they did give him too many horns and not enough frill.

Slag the Dinobot Transformer

Also in The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Night at the Museum, the Jurassic Park franchise of films, and Barney.

 

 

 

All in the family:  There is a legend in Africa about the Ngoubou which is said to be a living specimen of a ceratopsia, which is the same family of dinosaurs that the Triceratops belongs to.

Random Dinosaur Information:

For a very long time, it was posited that dinosaurs were all cold-blooded like modern reptiles. There is now some discension among the ranks of palentologists because of their growth pattern, their size, and their physiology. The debate will rage on for some time to come and we may never know for absolutely certain but, yay science!

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Dino Day #2

Today is the second Dino Day and this week’s dinosaur is the Ankylosaurus.

(image from National Geographic)

(image from National Geographic)

The Ankylosaurus is really interesting. All those bony plates and the spiked protuberance on the end of the tail. Excellent defensive and offensive measures.

These animals were once found in Western North America munching on giant ferns and other leafy greens. They grew about 30 feet long and 6 feet tall. Pieces of the first specimen were discovered in 1906 in Montana. The teeth of the Ankylosaurus were incredibly small for such a large animal.

 

Famous Ankylosaurus:

The Ankylosaurus we saw in Jurassic World were very cute. Ankylo

Ankylo from Dinosaucers was much less cute. And a bad guy.

Ankylomon, a champion dinosaur digimon who is very yellow.

Power Rangers Dinosaurs even had one named Zyudenryu Ankydon which, while not cute, is still cuter than Ankylo.

Dino Dan did an Ankylosaurus as well.

And this post would not be complete without Anguirus of Godzilla fame.

I always figured an Ankylosaurus would be a neat one to actually meet. So long as they didn’t see me as a threat and crush me beneath the weight of that tail.

 

How can we tell what dinosaurs ate? First, teeth are excellent indicators. We can see what kind of animals have what kind of teeth – deer teeth vs lion teeth for instance. Teeth made for eating plants are very different than teeth made for ripping flesh. It’s not so different with animals who are extinct now. Unfortunately, we don’t always find the right teeth with the right dinosaur or we find no teeth at all. Fortunately, teeth aren’t the only way we can figure things out though. Some dinosaurs have been fossilized with their stomach contents in tact for scientists to examine. Another telling way to establish an animal’s diet however is by examining coprolites (fossilized dinosaur excrement) provided you can figure out which dinosaur made it. In short, some we know, some we don’t. If we knew everything, doing these posts would be much more boring.

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Dino Day #1

BabyEvery now and again, I’ll see an article that irks me. A week ago I saw an article about someone who doesn’t believe in dinosaurs. He honestly believes that crazy paleontologists salt their digs with pretend bones? I don’t get it. I don’t understand how that works. How sad for him because dinosaurs are awesome creatures. I spent many hours at the Carnegie museum as a little girl, staring up at the giant bones and wishing I could have seen these animals in life (before I fully understood the havoc they would cause). I was fortunate enough to go to a dig and see an enormous Tyrannosaur almost whole embedded in the rock face. I loved dinosaurs almost as much as I loved rocks (I’m pretty sure rocks only squeezed ahead because some of them are purple and silver and most of them I can wear).

My first favorite dinosaur is week 1’s dinosaur. I know it has a different name and has had many names but now they’re waffling again about how my dinosaur might actually be my dinosaur and not any of the other names. I am a brontosaurus girl at heart – not an Apatosaurus, but a Brontosaurus. The Brontosaurus was discovered in 1874, undiscovered in 1903 and officially unnamed in the early 70’s. Except that no one told the post office, the movies, or all the books I was reading in the early 80’s that.

Brontosaurus was a sauropod and a quadruped with a comparatively slender tail (to other sauropods). What’s really interesting though is that technically a Brontosaurus skull has never been found, only extrapolated from other sauropods (like the Apatosaurus) or extrapolated from completely the wrong animal. I was very upset when the people smarter than me decided that the brontosaurus wasn’t really its own animal but instead just a kind of Apatosaurus. I’m not sure I ever really forgave them (all those smart people) for that.

One of my favorite childhood movies was Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (if you’ve never seen it, you should. but it hasn’t aged as well as I thought it might).

 

Famous Brontosauruses:Little Foot

Littlefoot (Land Before Time)

Baby (Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend)

 

Interesting paleontology factoid: (this particular one works also for archaeologists and other ancient artifact searching kind of scientists) How do scientists date artifacts? There are several fairly accurate methods generally used in conjunction with one another to more accurately pinpoint the date of origin. We can be fairly certain in round figures about when dinosaurs roamed the earth with radiometric dating, dating the rock around the bones, and where in the evolutionary journey of a plant or animal that particular fossil sits. Read more about it on the Smithsonian website (as regards to human culture) and Science (as regards to radiometric dating) both of those sources explain it much better than I can.

I’m planning on doing a dinosaur a week for 2016. As a girl, I loved dinosaurs (I still do). I was fortunate enough to see an active dig and it left a lasting impression even though I was very very young, probably younger than 5 and precocious enough to get very upset that the people who were working the dig were doing it all wrong (they probably weren’t and I can only hope they were more amused by my little girl self than annoyed). Hopefully you’ll come back next Monday for Dino Day #2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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