The stegosaurus is one of the more well-known dinosaurs out there, appearing in more forms of media than almost any of its lizardy brethren with the exception of the T-Rex and possible that dinosaur with wings on its legs.
Interestingly, it’s also one of the dumbest.
We say this not because we have anything against the stegosaurus, because that couldn’t be further from the truth, we love the stegosaurus because how could we not love a dinosaur with an in-built Mohawk?
No, the reason we’re saying that the stegosaurus is probably one of the dumbest dinosaurs to have existed is because it literally had one of the smallest brains we’re aware of.
As noted here, the stegosaurus had a brain no bigger than a lime, although this is bigger than people initially thought, since it used to be believed that the stegosaurus’ brain was no bigger than a walnut, it still means that the dinosaur had statistically, the smallest brain of any dinosaur we’re currently aware of.
We should make it clear that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a stegosaurus didn’t need to contemplate philosophy or do long division in its head because it’s life was, overall, pretty good.
However, in the early days of palaeontology, people examining the skulls of stegosaurus remains couldn’t accept that a creature of such immense size and girth could survive with such a tiny brain, so it was theorised that the creature must have had a second brain, in its arse.
The actual reasoning behind the theory isn’t as stupid as that, but it is is painfully close.
To explain, palaeontologists back in the day noticed that the stegosaurus had a weird cavity in the booty area of its spine.
This cavity was larger than the cranial cavity that housed the dinosaur’s brain so it was simply assumed that it must have contained a second brain of some sort.
That was literally it.
This theory persisted for decades because what else could that cavity be for? As it so happens, no one really knows what the cavity is for.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, the important thing to remember here is that at one point in time, it was literally believed that stegosaurus’ had a second brain in it’s arse.
New tyrannosaurus species named ‘Reaper of Death’ found by farming couple.
by Tracey Shelton,
An illustration shows the head of a dinosaur with ridges around it’s mouth and long sharp teeth. The dinosaur lived in the late Cretaceous Period, making it the oldest known tyrannosaur from North America. (Illustration Supplied: Julius Csotonyi)
The new species stood roughly 2.4m high with teeth longer than 70mm. Ridges along its jaw were probably covered in colourful scales
Alberta, Canada, is one of the top five places in the world for dinosaur discoveries.
Thanatotheristes degrootorum stalked what is now North America more than 79 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous Period, making it the region’s oldest-known tyrannosaur.
The first part of the apex predator’s name, Thanatotheristes, means “reaper of death”, while the second part, degrootorum, honours John and Sandra De Groot, the couple who made the fossil discovery.
Researchers said the new find gave them more insights into the evolution of tyrannosaurs — a group of large predatory dinosaurs that includes the famous Tyrannosaurus rex.
Laelaps were a genus of huge,carnivorous,dinosaurianreptilesfromtheCretaceousformation of theUnitedStates.Theyhadverylargehindlegsandtail,andaresupposed to havebeenbipedal.Some of thespecieswereabouteighteenfeethigh.
Knight was one of the foremost American paleoartists, and Laelaps was profoundly influential for its remarkably credible depiction of anatomy and movement.
Note: Some believe that these predators represent the savagely competitive palaeontologists Othniel C Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, both of whom would blow up dig sites with dynamite to obstruct the other’s discoveries.
The fossilised remains of a bizarre, bird-like dinosaur, nicknamed the “chicken from hell” by scientists, have been unearthed in the United States.
The 66-million-year-old feathered beast would have resembled a beefed-up emu with a long neck, a metre-long tail and a tall crest on its head. At the end of its forelimbs were long, sharp claws.
The creature stood 1.5 metres high at the hip and reached more than three metres from beak to tail. Researchers believe it lived on ancient floodplains and fed on plants, small animals and possibly eggs. An adult weighed up to 300kg.
Researchers dug the remains from mudstone in the Hell Creek formation in North and South Dakota, where fossil hunters have previously excavated bones from Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops.
Over the past decade they have recovered three partial s
keletons of the animal but until now had not recognised it as a new genus and species of a mysterious family of dinosaurs called Caenagnathidae. The fossils are being kept at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
Scientists working on the remains coined the “chicken from hell” monicker, which later influenced their choice of its more formal name, Anzu wyliei. Anzu is the name of a giant bird-like demon from ancient mythology. Wyliei comes from Wylie J Tuttle, the son of a donor who helps to fund research at the museum.
The animal belongs to a group called the oviraptorosaurs, which are mostly known from fossils found in central and east Asia but the remains provide the first detailed picture of the North American oviraptorosaurs.
Dubbed Kryptodrakon progenitor, the beast had a wingspan of 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) as it flew the Jurassic skies about 163 million years ago.
The new species gets its first name from the Latin krypto (hidden) and drakon (serpent), a nod to the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was filmed in the desert where the species was discovered. Progenitor refers to its status as the oldest known pterodactyl.
Scientists first discovered fragments of Kryptodrakon’s delicate fossils in 2001 in northwestern China’s remote Shishiugou Formation. That geologic formation has been called a “dinosaur death pit” because ancient quicksand entombed so many prehistoric creatures there.
At first, Kryptodrakon’s bones were misidentified as belonging to a type of two-legged dinosaur called a theropod, said James Clark.
It wasn’t until another scientist assembled the fossil parts into a skeleton several years later that “I looked at it and said, ‘That’s not a theropod, that’s a pterosaur.’ And the rest is history,” said Clark, a biologist at George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Pterodactyls are a type of pterosaur, a wider group of flying reptiles that went extinct 66 million years ago.
Because pterodactyl bones are so fragile, little is known about the origins of the ancient dinosaur relative, which eventually evolved into the biggest creature ever to take wing.
Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that belonged to the same family as Tyrannosaurus rex.
The remains of the long-snouted tyrannosaur, formally named Qianzhousaurus sinensis and nicknamed Pinocchio rex, were found near the city of Ganzhou in southern China. Researchers believe the animal was a fearsome carnivore that lived more than 66 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.
The bones were discovered on a construction site by workmen who took them to a local museum.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the University of Edinburgh then became involved in examining the remains.
With an elongated skull and long, narrow teeth, the predator would have looked very different from a T rex, which had thick teeth and more powerful jaws.
Palaeontologists had been uncertain about the existence of long-snouted tyrannosaurs.
Previously, just two fossilised tyrannosaurs with elongated heads had been found, and since they were juveniles it was unclear whether they were from a new class of dinosaur or simply at an early growth stage.
It is thought that Qianzhousaurus sinensis lived alongside other tyrannosaurs but would not have been in direct competition with them, since they probably hunted different prey.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh said the new specimen was of an animal nearing adulthood. It was found largely intact and “remarkably well preserved”.
Wendiceratops roamed southern Alberta around 79 million years ago, when the area was a lush lowland on the western edge of a seaway covering the middle of North America.
Parts of at least four Wendiceratops were found together, including a mix of younger and older animals. None are complete, but enough is preserved to allow a fairly detailed reconstruction of the overall anatomy.
Wendiceratops is unique among horned dinosaurs in the configuration of the forward-hooked bones studding the back of the frill. Each species has its own “fingerprint” of frill bones, so it’s pretty easy to pick out Wendiceratops from the crowd of its close relatives.
To me, it’s quite interesting that the frill of Wendiceratops is similar (but not identical) to an animal called Sinoceratops, which lived a few million years later in China. This suggests a close evolutionary relationship between the two animals.
Does it mean that Wendiceratops or one of its descendents wandered over to China from North America?
That’s certainly possible, and warrants additional study. Horned dinosaur skulls are developmentally plastic, so it’s also possible that the anatomy in Sinoceratops was independently evolved. We’ll need more fossils to figure this out!
Introducing Wendiceratops, a Spectacular New Horned Dinosaur
Skeletal reconstruction of Wendiceratops, with known bones shown in blue.
Like many of its close relatives, Wendiceratops had a big nose horn.
This in itself is not unusual, but within geological time Wendiceratops is the oldest horned dinosaur to have the feature. Paleontologists have suspected for awhile that enlarged nose horns evolved at least twice in horned dinosaurs (once in the line leading to Triceratops and once in the line leading to Wendiceratops and its relatives…and maybe a third time in the “primitive” Protoceratops).
Now we know a little more about the timing! Fossils like Wendiceratops add critical details to the broad-brush evolutionary picture.
Wendiceratops (named in honor of its discoverer, Wendy Sloboda.
This article originally appeared at PLOS Blogs and is republished here under a creative commons license. Image credits: Danielle Dufault via Evans and Ryan, 2015.
Birds and feathers are synonymous now, but what prompted their evolution?
Photograph: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images
by Dr Dave Hone
A common creationist canard is the supposedly unanswerable “what use is half a wing?”.
Apparently there to confound biologists, what it generally does is demonstrate the ignorance of the asker with respect to evolutionary theory. However, the actual broader question that is inferred – what use is a feather to a non-flying bird? – is both relevant and interesting.
The earliest filamentous feathers appeared in dinosaurs well before birds ever did, and were present in plenty of species that had no hope of taking to the air (though I for one would love to see a flying tyrannosaur).
So then, what might their original function have been, and what prompted them to be maintained, grow larger and change over time?
The exact answer is sadly unknown. It is likely a number of factors in concert, or different ones having greater importance over others at various times, and piecing those fragments together is very tricky.
However, there are some strong leads and ideas, and for some feather types in some groups the answer is rather convincing.
To deal with the central issue though, there are in fact various things that feathers may offer animals aside from flight alone.
A quick look at living birds reveals plenty of possibilities, and almost all of them may be applied to various (or even all) dinosaurs that preceded true, powered flight.
There really are quite a few, so I’ll try to be brief, but it shows just how many selective pressures may have acted on feathers and led to their spread and development across the various dinosaurs that had them.