Sunday, December 29, 2013

Giraffatitan: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

It's the last Prehistoric Animal of the Week of the year!  Lets go out BIG!  Enter Giraffatitan brancaiGiraffatitan was a sauropod dinosaur that lived in what is now Tanzania, Africa during the late Jurassic about 150 million years ago.  This plant-eater was huge, amongst the largest land animals of all time.  The largest known specimen of Giraffatitan would have been about eighty five feet long!  The name, Giraffatitan, translates to "Giraffe Titan/Giant".  This is in reference to its long neck and front limbs which are similar to those of the comparably puny and unrelated modern giraffe.

Giraffatitan brancai life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.

This dinosaur's long neck and legs would have been used to help it gain access to more vegetation high in the trees, which it would have eaten using its chisel-shaped teeth lining the front of it's mouth.  Since it didn't have any teeth designed for chewing in the back of its mouth, Giraffatitan, like many sauropods, would have swallowed mouth-fulls of foliage whole.  Unlike other kinds of sauropods like Apatosaurus or Barosaurus, Giraffatitan wouldn't have been able to rear up on its hind legs because it's center of gravity was near its chest and shoulders, not its hips.  This anatomical characteristic is common to all members of Giraffatitan's family, called Brachiosauridae.

Giraffatitan skull.  See the nostril holes?

Another interesting characteristic of Giraffatitan's anatomy is it skull, which possesses nostril holes on its forehead that form a crest.  Scientists used to believe that Giraffatitan, along with all other sauropods, lived a semi-aquatic lifestyle and that the nostril placement was for snorkeling.  We now know this is false since the water pressure would likely prevent the dinosaur who's chest was that far beneath the surface from breathing.  Another idea suggested that Giraffatitan would have had a trunk since modern mammals with high nostril placement, such as tapirs and elephants, have trunks.  This hypothesis is likely false as well because a sauropod's teeth were designed for grasping food and some fossilized specimens even show wear from it.  Why would it need a trunk?  Both elephants and tapirs have chewing teeth in the backs of their mouths.  According to the most recent studies, it is most likely that Giraffatitan would have had fleshy nostrils near the tip of its snout when it was alive.

Giraffatitan skeletal mount on display in Germany.

Giraffatitan used to be called Brachiosaurus and was one of two known species within its genus.  In fact, most reconstructions labelled as "Brachiosaurus" are based on Giraffatitan remains.  It was realized that the animal now referred to as Giraffatitan and the other animal that used to share a genus with it, Brachiosaurus altithorax, had enough morphological differences so the genus was split.  Giraffatitan was named and Brachiosaurus is now only a single species. 

That's all for this week!  As always comment below or on our facebook page.  See you inn 2014!

References

Russell, D., Béland, P. and McIntosh, J.S. (1980). "Paleoecology of the dinosaurs of Tendaguru (Tanzania)." Mémoires de la Societé géologique de la France, 59: 169-175.

Taylor, M.P. (2009). "A Re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1903 (Dinosauria, Sauropod) and its generic separation from Giraffatitan brancai (Janensh 1914)." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 29(3): 787-806.

Witmer, L.M. (2001). "Nostril position in dinosaurs and other vertebrates and its significance for nasal function". Science 293 (5531): 850–853. doi:10.1126/science.1062681. PMID 11486085.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pachyrhinosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week belongs to a unique ceratopsid dinosaur, PachyrhinosaurusPachrhinosaurus was a very successful plant-eater that lived in what is now Canada and Alaska during the Late Cretaceous.  There are actually three species within this genus that range in age from 73 million to about 69 million years old.  Pachyrhinosaurus was amongst the largest of ceratopsids, the biggest specimen measuring over twenty feet long.  The name, Pachyrhinosaurus, translates to "Thick Nose Dinosaur" because of its head ornamentation.  While many other ceratopsids had horns growing from their noses and brows, Pachyrhinosaurus had a wide, flat structure called a boss.  It did have horns on its frill, however.

Pachyrhinosaurus lakusai adult and young by Christopher DiPiazza.

Pachyrhinosaurus is a well-studied dinosaur, known from many specimens.  In fact, there were over a dozen skeletons of this dinosaur all discovered together in the same area in Alberta, Canada, called Pipestone Creek.  It is possible that the poor dinosaurs died trying to swim across a river that had flooded.  Amongst these specimens there were small juveniles all the way up to large adult animals.  This tells us that Pachyrhinosaurus was a dinosaur that, at least sometimes, lived in groups and most likely looked out for its young.

Pachyrhinosaurus lakusai skeletal mount

When alive, Pachyrhinosaurus would have co-existed with many other dinosaurs including Edmontosaurus regalis and the tyrannosaurid, Albertasaurus to name just a few.  Pachyrhinosaurus belongs to a group, or subfamily, called centrosaurinae within ceratopsidae.  Centrosaurine ceratopsids tended to have taller, thicker snouts, longer tails, and shorter frills than other large ceratopsids.  They also typically (not always) were devoid of long brow horns and instead sported large, bony structures on their snouts.  Other examples of centrosaurine ceratopids are Styracosaurus and Nasutoceratops.

Pachyrhinosaurus character from the new Walking With Dinosaurs 3D movie.

Pachyrhinosaurus is the star of the new movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D which came out in theaters just this past Friday!  The dinosaurs in this movie are amongst the most scientifically accurate to date since many paleontologists were consultants.  I haven't seen it yet but I definitely am planning to go within the next few weeks.  Pachyrhinosaurus is no newcomer when it comes to pop culture, however.  A few years back it was featured on a Canadian Coin that glows in the dark!

Shiny and glowy oohhh ahhhh!  The artwork on this coin was done by paleo-artist, Julius Csotonyi.

That's all for this week!   Join us next week for the last prehistoric animal review of 2013!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page! 

References

Anthony R. Fiorillo and Ronald S. Tykoski (2012). "A new species of the centrosaurine ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus from the North Slope (Prince Creek Formation: Maastrichtian) of Alaska". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57 (3): 561–573. doi:10.4202/app.2011.0033.

C. M. Sternberg. 1947. New dinosaur from southern Alberta, representing a new family of the Ceratopsia. Geological Society America Bulletin 58:1230

Currie, P.J., Langston, W., and Tanke, D.H. (2008). "A new species of Pachyrhinosaurus (Dinosauria, Ceratopsidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada." pp. 1-108. In: Currie, P.J., Langston, W., and Tanke, D.H. 2008. A New Horned Dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous Bone Bed in Alberta. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 144 pp. ISBN 978-0-660-19819-4

E. B. Koppelhus. 2008. Palynology of the Wapiti Formation in the northwestern part of Alberta with special emphasis on a new Pachyrhinosaur bonebed. International Dinosaur Symposium in Fukui 2008: Recent Progress of the Study on Asian Dinosaurs and Paleoenvironments. Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, Fukui 65-66.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Time at the Zoo 2013

This will probably be my last post before Christmas! This year my gift to you is a video of an Andean Condor (a dinosaur) getting a box stuck on his head.  Every December at the zoo I work at we give out wrapped presents to the animals (in this case some dead mice).  Enjoy.


Nothing spreads Christmas cheer like a giant flesh-eating bird getting a flamboyantly wrapped box stuck on his noggin.  Am I right or am I right?  Happy Holidays from Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Europelta: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week goes to yet another new species, Europelta carbonensis!  First described only a few weeks ago, Europelta was an ankylosaur, a kind of plant-eating dinosaur with thick, bony armor on its body, like Ankylosaurus or Gargoyleosaurus.  It lived in what is now Spain during the Early Cretaceous, 112 million years ago.  The name, Europelta carbonensis, translates to "European Shield from the Coal" since it was discovered in a coal mine.  Europelta is considered a medium-sized dinosaur, measuring fifteen feet long from snout to tail. 

Life reconstruction of Europelta carbonensis by Christopher DiPiazza

Europelta is the most complete ankylosaur ever to be discovered in Europe and is known from two partial skeletons.  Between the two specimens, most of the bones are known.  Europelta is a member of the family called nodosauridae.  Nodosaurids were ankylosaurs that typically had sharp, flattened protruding pieces of armor running down their flanks and no club weapon on the tip of the tail.  Europelta, like other nodosaurids, also had a broad plate of bony armor covering the top of its pelvis called a sacral shieldEuropelta is the oldest known member of the Nodosaurid family.

Skull pieces of Europelta

Europelta possessed some unique physical characteristics.  Two of its pelvis bones, the pubis and ischium, were fused together to form one bone, called an ischiopubis.  Also, Europelta had proportionally longer front limbs than what is typically seen in other ankylosaurs. Its teeth were small and possessed tiny leaf-shaped serrations for cutting plant material, similar to those of other ankylosaurs. 

Some of the pieces of armor, called osteoderms, from Europelta.

That's all for this week!  Join us next week as we check out a dinosaur we will all be able to see on the silver screen soon!

References

Kirkland, J. I.; Alcalá, L.; Loewen, M. A.; Espílez, E.; Mampel, L.; Wiersma, J. P. (2013). "The Basal Nodosaurid Ankylosaur Europelta carbonensis n. gen., n. sp. From the Lower Cretaceous (Lower Albian) Escucha Formation of Northeastern Spain". In Butler, Richard J. PLoS ONE 8 (12): e80405. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080405.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fleshy Crest: Edmontosaurus Had One

The dinosaurs referred to as the "duck-billed", the hadrosaurs, are amongst the most extensively studied of all the extinct dinosaurs.  Thanks to so many of their remains that have been found, we know how they nested, that they cared for their young, how fast they grew, what some of their organs were like, what they ate, and what their skin and scales looked like.  That is a LOT more than what we can say about any other kind of prehistoric dinosaur! 

Recently, yet another wonderfully preserved hadrosaur specimen has been uncovered in Alberta, Canada that preserved a lot of soft tissue around the neck and head.  This hadrosaur was Edmontosaurus regalis, a close, earlier relative to Edmontosaurus annectens.  Since it's original discovery, Edmontosaurus was considered sort of a typical, basic hadrosaur.  It had the wide, flat bill but unlike some of its relatives, it sported no fancy crest on its head...except it actually did.

Image from the new paper showing where the crest is on the specimen by the white arrows.


You see, the crest of Edmontosaurus was kept a mystery for so long because it wasn't made of bone like the crests of so many of its relatives such as Parasaurolophus or Tsintaosaurus.  The crest of Edmontosaurus regalis was made of just skin so it would have rotted away rather quickly before the fossilization process could have happened.   Luckily this particular specimen retained it!  It was probably full of blood vessels and would have been soft, maybe even floppy, in life.  This sort of thing isn't unheard of in living relatives, either.  Just look at birds like chickens and turkeys for instance.  Some lizards, like Green Iguanas and certain agamids have soft crests as well.

My quick sketch-and-paint of Edmontosaurus ragalis' new look.

So why would a dinosaur evolve such a thing?  Well, the easy answer could always be display.  (When in doubt just say display.)  It's why a lot of extant animals have them.  It could be possible that only the males had them, or possibly had larger ones which would go along with what you would find in chickens and iguanas.  A soft crest like that could also help regulate the animal's body temperature.  Within the crest, blood would be closer to the outside air, and cool off more easily.  Then this blood would be circulated back into the body, thus helping to cool the whole animal off.  Chickens do this with their crests, called crowns, and many mammals also do this with their ears.  This is why a lot of desert mammals have large ears.

All of these animals use body parts made of soft tissue for either display and/or thermoregulation.  It is possible Edmontosaurus evolved its soft crest for similar purposes.

Although this is pretty exciting, this doesn't in any way make up for the fact that Tsintaosaurus lost its hilarious penis-shaped crest.  Nice try, science, but I'm still mad at you!

References

Bell, Fanti, Currie & Arbour. 2013. A Mummified Duck-Billed Dinosaur with a Soft-Tissue Cock’s Comb. Current Biology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.008

Monday, December 9, 2013

Siats: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Allow me to apologize for the delay.  Yesterday I had been on a plane and when I arrived home I sat at my computer to complete this post...and fell asleep at the keyboard.  Normally I sleep on planes but that time I had not for some reason.  Again I apologize.

This week belongs to yet another recently discovered dinosaur!  Only described last month, check out Siats meekerorumSiats was a large, meat-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Utah, USA, and lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 98 million years ago.  The individual found would have been about thirty feet long from snout to tail.  Experts believe this specimen was only a juvenile, however, and that Siats could have pushed forty feet as a fully grown adult!  Its genus name is after a man-eating monster from the local Native American mythology, called a siats. 

How a living Siats meekerorum may have looked.  Illustration by Christopher DiPiazza.

Unfortunately the known remains of Siats are only fragmentary but enough bones were salvaged for experts to identify it as a member of the the allosauroid family.  It would have been closely related to dinosaurs such as Acrocanthosaurus, and to a lesser extent, Allosaurus and Saurophaganax.  These predatory dinosaurs typically had three fingers on each hand tipped with long hook-shaped claws.  They also had serrated blade-like teeth adapted for slicing chunks of meat off carcasses...or still living victims.

Some of the bones unearthed belonging to Siats.

Siats was an important find because of its allosauroid status.  All the known large predatory dinosaurs from later times in North America were Tyrannosauroids like Teratophoneus, Lythronax and eventually at the very end of the Cretaceous, Tyrannosaurus rex to name just a few.  All the large predators known before it, however, were other allosauroids.  Before the discovery of Siats, the middle Cretaceous of North America was sort of a mystery ecosystem which paleontologists had not found many fossils from at all.  Siats brings us one step closer to knowing what it was really like back then by telling us that allosauroids were going strong and were as big as ever at least until 98 million years ago. 

That's all for this week!  Join us next Sunday for another prehistoric animal of the week!  Hopefully it will be yet another newly discovered species!  (if I can paint it fast enough)  As always comment below or on our facebook page!

References

 Zanno, L. E.; Makovicky, P. J. (2013). "Neovenatorid theropods are apex predators in the Late Cretaceous of North America". Nature Communications 4. doi:10.1038/ncomms3827.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Concept Sketches: Reveal

Two weeks ago I shared with you some of my concept sketches that would later give rise to actual paintings.  Then I said I would reveal which paintings specifically they were in the following week...which I did not because it was Thanksgiving and I was busy with family stuff.  Sorry. 

Lets check out the results!

The first sketch I showed you actually included three now completed paintings.



 This sheet included...









Here they are all next to their original sketches!



Then I showed you this page which had a bit more going on.




It included...





Protoceratops (humping)...



 

Again, here they are with their sketches as well.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tsintaosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Today, we are looking at Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus!   Tsintaosaurus lived in what is now China during the Late Cretaceous, about 70 million years ago.  Its name translates to "Tsintao (city in China where it was discovered, now called Qingdao) Lizard Spike Nose".  It was a hadrosaur, or "duck-billed dinosaur", sporting the typical broad bill in the front of its skull and hundreds of small teeth in the back of its mouth to help it eat plants.  Tsintaosaurus measured about thirty feet long from snout to tail and could have walked on all fours or just its hind legs if it needed to. 

Tsintaosaurus skeletal mount.

There were many interesting hadrosaurs sporting fancy crests atop their skulls.  The function of these crests has been explained on here before.  When the remains of Tsintaosaurus were first discovered back in the nineteen fifties the skull had a long, skinny, rod-shaped piece of bone jutting out from the front.  It sort of looked like a unicorn's horn...or an erect penis.  Then paleo-artists from across the globe got together and had a big, fancy, official paleo-artist meeting where they agreed to ALWAYS depict Tsintaosaurus having two round, inflatable air sacs under its crest so that the whole thing looked like an erect penis and testicles dangling atop the poor creature's face.  They also all agreed to make Tsintaosaurus green...ALWAYS green.  Seriously, google search images of Tsintaosaurus.  All you will get is green dinosaurs with bright orange or yellow dongs on their heads.  (I am also guilty of having colored this animal green in a reconstruction from 2010 but I was pretty reserved on the testicle sacs trend I am proud to say.)

Nothing but green dinosaurs with dick-and-balls crests all around.  Big photo is of the hilarious plastic model by the company, CollectA.  It's pretty much the crowned jewel of my plastic dinosaur collection.

Tsintaousaurus proudly rocked this phallic crest until the early nineties when a few paleontologists proposed that this rod-shaped piece of bone was actually supposed to be attached to the snout and had just gotten bent and warped during the fossilization process.  For a few years after that poor Tsintaosaurus had no interesting crest at all until more specimens were discovered, all sporting the same pointy unicorn crests.  This proved that it was not just a part of the snout after all.  Yay!

Diagram of a more complete Tsintaosaurus skull from the 2013 paper.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago in 2013 that information was released about some new Tsintaosaurus fossils that were found.  As it turns out, there were actually a lot of missing pieces that would have attached to the original rod-shaped bone which was only one part of a bigger, more complex structure.  Tsintaosaurus in reality would have had a more broad, curvy crest that started at the snout and went all around behind the head.  It looks like the pope's hat.  If the term "pope dinosaur" catches on to describe Tsintaosaurus remember, you heard it here first!

I illustrated a little timeline.

This most recent discovery tells us more about Tsintaosaurus than just how it looked.  The new crest bones suggest that Tsintaosaurus would have had hollow chambers within for making loud noises much like the mechanics of a brass musical instrument.  Previously it was believed that Tsintaosaurus may have been related to hadrosaurs with solid crests devoid of hollow chambers and tubes or no crests at all.  We now think it was closer to hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus which did possess hollow tubes within a large crest.

All that being said I decided to paint an updated reconstruction of Tsintaosaurus with the new crest and no hint of green whatsoever!  Behold!

Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus by Christopher DiPiazza.

That's all for this week!  As always please comment below or on our facebook page.

References

Prieto-Márquez, A.; Wagner J.R. (2013). "The ‘Unicorn’ Dinosaur That Wasn’t: A New Reconstruction of the Crest of Tsintaosaurus and the Early Evolution of the Lambeosaurine Crest and Rostrum.". PLoS ONE 8 (11): e82268. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082268. Retrieved 23 November 2013.

Young, C.-C., 1958, "The dinosaurian remains of Laiyang, Shantung", Palaeontologia Sinica, New Series C, Whole Number 42(16): 1-138

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tylosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week we shall be checking out a true prehistoric sea monster, Tylosaurus!  This is in honor of Nathan Van Vrankan's birthday, who is one of our writers and also works with Tylosaurus

Tylosaurus lived during the Late Cretaceaous about 80 million years ago in a warm, shallow sea that once existed down the middle of North America called the Western Interior Seaway.  There are a few known species belonging to the genus, Tylosaurus.  The biggest, called Tylosaurus proriger, would have been almost fifty feet long as an adult!

Tylosaurus proriger makes a meal out of the prehistoric shark, Cretoxyrhina mantelli A.K.A. the "Ginsu Shark".  That shark would have been about twenty feet long.

Tylosaurus belongs to a family of reptiles called mosasauridae, which are actually a kind of marine lizard, closely related to extant monitor lizards.  Mosasaurs are known in the fossil record only in the Cretaceous period, at the end of the Mesozoic, and likely evolved from terrestrial lizard ancestors.  Despite their late appearance in the oceans, they quickly became extremely successful and some, like in the case of Tylosaurus, would become top predators! 

Tylosaurus skeleton on display at the National Museum in Washington D.C.

Tylosaurus was indeed one heck of a predator.  Many fossils have been uncovered that show evidence of it having preyed on virtually every other animal it shared its habitat with, including plesiosaurs, ammonites, sharks, bony fish, birds and even smaller Tylosaurus.  These fossils include bones with Tylosaurus teeth marks in them to actual remains of other animals found inside the stomach cavity of Tylosaurus skeletons!  To be such a predator, Tylosaurus had more than just size on its side.  Inside this animal's mouth were many sharp, cone-shaped teeth, including two extra rows on the roof of the mouth.  These teeth were backed up by tremendous jaws that no doubt could crush or at least hold on tightly to whatever they got hold of.  Tylosaurus wouldn't have relied on its flippers to propel it through the water.  Instead, Tylosaurus had a long, powerful tail, tipped with a fluke to do this.  Its flippers, which were modified walking limbs from its ancestors, were probably more useful for turning.

Tylosaurus skin impression.  Check out those keeled scales!  Very snake-like.

We know thanks to a wonderfully preserved specimen that Tylosaurus would have had diamond-shaped scales on its body, similar to some modern snakes and lizards.  These scales were even keeled which probably would have helped the animal swim faster by cutting the water around it as it moved.  We also think, thanks to another nicely preserved mosasaur fossil, that Tylosaurus would have had a shallow fluke on the top of its tail.

That's all for this week!  In the weeks to come we will be checking out some newly discovered dinosaurs and one old dinosaur with a new look!   As always comment below or on our facebook page

References

Cope ED. 1869. [Remarks on Macrosaurus proriger.] Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 11(81): 123.

Everhart MJ. 2005. Oceans of Kansas - A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea. Indiana University Press, 322 pp.

Snow, F. H. (1878). "On the dermal covering of a mosasauroid reptile". Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6: 54–58.

Lindgren, J.; Caldwell, M.W.; Konishi, T.; and Chiappe, L.M. (2010). "Convergent Evolution in Aquatic Tetrapods: Insights from an Exceptional Fossil Mosasaur". In Farke, Andrew Allen. PLoS ONE 5 (8): e11998. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011998. PMC 2918493. PMID 20711249.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Concept Sketches

Hello!  Today I would like to share with you all some concept sketches.  Concept Art is a form of art meant to visually represent an intended finished product.  When it comes to me illustrating dinosaurs it is a chance for me to play around with different ideas like possible color schemes and poses to see what looks best.  An idea may seem really good in my head but after sketching it on paper I sometimes realize it isn't really that awesome.  This is important since watercolor paper is really expensive and I want to be confident when I make the first marks on a new soon-to-be painting! 

I have two pages from my sketchpad to share.  Each one has multiple concepts on them.  (I am a messy sketcher.)  Many of these sketches have since been turned into full paintings which you may recognize from this blog.  Some I haven't gotten around to going forward with.  Others are scrapped ideas.

Here is the first one...


Recognize anybody?  Take a gander at our list of prehistoric animals to be sure!

Ready for sketch number two?  Here ya go...


This one is a lot more crowded.  There are some interesting poses in there as well!

Between these two pages there are six images that have since become full paintings.  Instead of just telling you how about you guys comment below which ones you recognize.  Then next thursday I can be the big reveal...um well re-reveal since these paintings are totally already on the internet.  Good luck!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lythronax: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

As promised last week it is now time to finally take a look at that newly described tyrannosaur from Utah.  Enter Lythronax argestes!  Like its relatives within the tyrannosaurid family, Lythronax was a meat-eater and would have lived during the late Cretaceous about 80 million years ago.  From snout to tail it would have measured roughly twenty six feet long.  The full name translates to "Gore King of the South".  Seriously, between this guy and the "Murderous Monster", Teratophoneus, one would think a slasher movie fan has been naming all the recent tyrannosaurs from Utah! 

Life reconstruction of Lythronax argestes by Christopher DiPiazza.

There have been many kinds of tyrannosaurids discovered from North America over the years.  Lythronax is one of the oldest, however.  Keeping this in mind, Lythronax is also physically the most similar to Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, both of which were each from about ten to fifteen million years later in time.  The similarity is mostly in the skulls.  All three of these tyrannosaurids exhibit fantastic binocular vision, which means that the eyes face forward and allow for greater depth perception.  Lythronax also had a very robust jaw, especially towards the back of the skull.  In fact, its skull was almost half as wide as it was long!  This, combined with its teeth, which were thick, suggests that Lythronax may have inflicted damage to its prey by crushing rather than slicing, unlike many of its relatives.  Again, these are traits also seen in the much younger and larger Tyrannosaurus and Tarbosaurus.

Lythronax skeletal mount at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Even though other tyrannosaurids like Teratophoneus, which had more blade-like teeth and a more laterally-streamlined skull, are much closer in time and from the same geographical area as Lythronax, it is likely that they were from different branches on the tyrannosaur family tree.  It could be possible that Lythronax was actually the ancestor of Tyrannosaurus and Tarbosaurus

That's all for this week!  As always please comment below or on our facebook page.  Want to see a particular animal featured on JBHD?  Just let me know and I'll make it happen.

References

Loewen, M. A.; Irmis, R. B.; Sertich, J. J. W.; Currie, P. J.; Sampson, S. D. (2013). "Tyrant Dinosaur Evolution Tracks the Rise and Fall of Late Cretaceous Oceans". In Evans, David C. PLoS ONE 8 (11): e79420.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Drinks with a Paleontologist: Heinrich Mallison

Last month Gary and I had the pleasure of meeting up with paleontologist and friend of the site, Dr. Heinrich Mallison!  Dr. Mallison has allowed us to interview him and he has also provided his expert input on our Plateosaurus and Kentrosaurus Dinosaur of the Week posts.  Luckily for us he was in the USA all the way from Germany to meet with colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History.  He asked us if we would like to meet up in New York City for some drinks and we promptly cleared our schedules!

From left to right: Heinrich Mallison, Gary Vecchiarelli, Christopher DiPiazza

We had a wonderful time talking about all things paleo as well as some extant animal conversations.  You know it's a good outing when everyone at the table says "Well its getting late.  Better get going." and then ends up staying for an extra few hours having been caught up in conversation again.  He also commented on the fact that we talked with our hands a lot...must be a Jersey thing. 

Who knows?  We may show up for next year's SVP meeting in Germany and have drinks on his turf next time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Obdurodon: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

The past few weeks have revealed a lot of new information in the field of paleontology!  First, the worlds largest known species of platypus was discovered in Australia and then a new tyrannosaur was found in Utah!  It seems my facebook newsfeed has been blowing up with posts about this new tyrannosaur named Lythronax.  I, however, would like to check out this giant prehistoric platypus first!  Enter Obdurodon tharalkooschild!

I'm proud of this meme I made.

Obdurodon lived in what is now Queensland, Australia between 5 and 15 million years ago during the Miocene era.  Despite the fact that it is known from only a fossilized tooth, scientists estimate (based on the size of the tooth) that the whole animal would have been about three feet long.  This is more than double the size of a modern platypus. 

Obdurodon tharalkooschild by Christopher DiPiazza

Now you may be thinking "Wait...just one tooth?  How the heck do we know what it was if all we have is a tooth!  I thought platypuses didn't have teeth!"  Well, this tooth is what makes Obdurodon special; it had teeth!  Scientists could tell that this single tooth was from a large platypus because it looks like the teeth of modern platypuses, which are very distinct.  Yes, modern platypuses do have teeth as well, they just loose them before they reach adulthood (like the opposite of us!).  This is also the reason for its genus name, which translates to "permanent tooth".  The species name, ,tharalkooschild, is in reference to a duck from ancient Australian mythology, named Tharalkoos.  Tharalkoos got it on with a rat and then gave birth to the first platypus.  Mythology is weird.

Tooth found from Obdurodon tharalkooschild.

Obdurodon would have been one of the largest animals in it's ecosystem.  Like its modern-day relatives, it was likely a predator, using its unique ability to sense electric fields generated by muscle movements in other animals thanks to tiny structures located at the base of its bill.  It also may have been venomous, like modern platypuses, which posses venomous barbs on each of their back feet.  These weapons are only present in male platypuses.  Also, just to clarify, platypuses are indeed mammals, despite the fact that they lay eggs.  They produce milk with mammary glands which oozes through the mother's skin from the inside to be lapped up by the babies (since platypuses don't  have nipples).

Perry might be an Obdurodon!  Look at the teeth!
 
The discovery of this species is important because it tells us that the evolution of the platypus was not linear.  This is because there are other species of fossil platypus known from the same time period as Obdurodon tharalkooschild.  There are a total of five fossil platypus known, all of were found in either Australia or South America.

That's it for this week!  Join us next week as we take a look at (spoiler) that new Tyrannosaur from Utah!  As always feel leave a comment below or on our facebook page

Works Cited

Pascual, et al. "First discovery of monotremes in South America". Nature 356 (1992), Pages 704-706 (Monotrematum).

Pian R et al. 2013. A new, giant platypus, Obdurodon tharalkooschild, sp. nov. (Monotremata, Ornithorhynchidae), from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33 (6)

 Proske, Uwe; Gregory, J. E.; Iggo, A. (1998). "Sensory receptors in monotremes". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 353 (1372): 1187–98. doi:10.1098/rstb.1998.0275. PMC 1692308.

Australian Fauna". Australian Fauna. Retrieved 14-05-2010.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Paintings by Larry Felder: Up Close and Personal

A few months ago I shared with you all Gary and I's outing with paleo-artist, Larry Felder.  One of the many highlights of that outing was when Larry generously gave Gary and I each an original oil painting of a dinosaur that was used for an exhibit currently on display at the Boston Museum of Science.  Although I included photos of us holding our beloved gifts, I received a few requests afterwards to show close-up photos of the paintings themselves without us holding them.  (I get it.  Sometimes my face is just too sexy it can be overwhelming.  No worries.)  So on request here they are close up!

Gary's Compsognathus
Christopher's (my) Pachycephalosaurus

Thanks again, Larry! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gojirasaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

November 3rd is the birthday of possibly the most influential fictional dinosaur of all time, Godzilla!  So in honor of the "King of the Monsters", we shall be looking at a real dinosaur that was named after it.  Check out Gojirasaurus quayi!

Happy Birthday!

Gojirasaurus lived during the late Triassic period about 200 million years ago in what is now the New Mexico, United States.  It was a theropod, very similar to Coelophysis or Liliensternus, and would have measured about twenty feet long from snout to tail.  Gojirasaurus was most likely a meat-eater.

Life reconstruction of...Coelophysis from a larger painting I made earlier this year.  It works for Gojirasaurus too though.

The term "Gojira" is the Japanese name for Godzilla so this dinosaur's name literally translates to "Godzilla Dinosaur".  Wait a minute though...Gojirasaurus was by far not the largest dinosaur at only twenty feet.  So why such a big name?  The reason for this is actually less complicated than you would think.  The paleontologist who discovered it during the late 1990s, Ken Carpenter, is a big Godzilla fan so he jumped at the opportunity to name a real dinosaur after his "hero".  Fair enough!  In its defense, however, Gojirasaurus was amongst the largest theropods from its time.  Some paleontologists believe that the bones belonging to Gojirasaurus were those of an animal that wasn't yet fully grown, making it an even larger kind of animal, and definitely the largest known theropod from the Triassic.

Gojirasaurus model on display at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in New Mexico.  Not the prettiest guy.

Some paleontologists believe that Gojirasaurus is undeserving of its own genus and was in reality, just a large Coelophysis.  This idea is highly debatable since the skeleton of Gojirasaurus is so fragmentary and there isn't enough to make solid comparisons other than the fact that Gojirasaurus bones are bigger and more robust than those of Coelophysis.  Hopefully more of the skeleton will be unearthed in the future! 

That's all for this week!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page!

References

K. Carpenter, 1997, "A giant coelophysoid (Ceratosauria) theropod from the Upper Triassic of New Mexico, USA", Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 205(2): 189-208

Nesbitt, Irmis and Parker (2007). "A critical re-evaluation of the Late Triassic dinosaur taxa of North America." Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 5(2): 209–243.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dinosaur Pumpkins

Its Halloween!  Unfortunately I didn't get to decorate a prehistoric-themed pumpkin this year.  I did a few years ago, however.

Ceratosaurus
Hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday!  Also, never forget who the original "monsters" were!  Dinosaurs! 

Have a prehistoric pumpkin or costume you would like to share?  Post it up on our facebook page.  We would love to see!