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!


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!


Bell, Fanti, Currie & Arbour. 2013. A Mummified Duck-Billed Dinosaur with a Soft-Tissue Cock’s Comb. Current Biology

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!


 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.


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

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 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.


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!


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.

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!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gargoyleosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Halloween is just a few days away so how about we look at a dinosaur with a particularly spooky name?  Do you know what a gargoyle is?  I bet you don't!  Were you thinking of something like this?

famous gargoyles from Notre Dam.
The term, "gargoyle", is more specific than a stone monster on a building (which are officially called grotesques).  True gargoyles, however, are the statues that act as water spouts like this.

And when the water freezes they look hilarious.

lol butt

They were also the subject of the most bad-ass franchise Disney has ever made.

This show was my life when I was seven.

Gargoyles are interesting because there are really no rules or guidelines for what they are supposed to look like, unlike a lot of other popular monsters.  Well, our dinosaur this week must have inspired something spooky in paleontologists because it is named after these fantastic stone guardians of the night...that also barf rain.  Check out Gargoyleosaurus parkpinorum!

Gargoyleosaurus parkpinorum life reconstruction by Christo[pher DiPiazza.

Gargoyleosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic period about 150 million years ago in what is now Wyoming, USA.  It measured about ten feet long from snout to tail and was an ankylosaur, which means it had heavy bone armor all over its body like its relative, Ankylosaurus.  What is interesting about Gargoyleosaurus, however, is the fact that it lived during the Late Jurassic period (typically ankylosaurs lived during the Cretaceous, millions of years later). 

Gargoyleosaurus skeleton.

Gargoyleosaurus had a long, narrow snout, it's body was adorned with triangular spikes running down its sides, and had almost flat armor plates on its back.  The tail had some small spikes running down the sides as well but it had no bony club.  Later on during the Cretaceous, we can see two distinct kinds of armored dinosaurs, the ankylosaurids, which had short snouts, horns on the backs of their robust skulls and bony tail clubs, and the nodosaurids, which had small heads but commonly had sharp spiky plates running down their sides with no club.  Gargoyleosaurus has physical characteristics from both of these families.  It looks as if an ankylosaurid head was placed on a nodosaurid body.  Gargoyleosaurus may be the common ancestor that would later branch out into these two distinct families millions of years later.

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


Carpenter, K., Miles, C. and Cloward, K. (1998). "Skull of a Jurassic ankylosaur (Dinosauria)." Nature 393: 782-783.

Killbourne, B. and Carpenter, K. (2005). "Redescription of Gargoyleosaurus parkpinorum, a polacanthid ankylosaur from the Upper Jurassic of Albany County, Wyoming". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, 237, 111-160.

Foster, J. (2007). "Appendix." Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press. pp. 327-329.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chris Kastner's Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park

Halloween is just around the corner so for today I thought it would be cool to share with you the work of my friend, Chris Kastner, who has experience building props and models for Halloween attractions. Chris has also put together something else that is truly extraordinary and it's right in his own backyard!  It is a walk-through dinosaur park with life-sized models of many impressive dinosaurs (which he makes all himself).  What I like the most about his park is the fact that Chris actually does the right homework and ends up making models that are really accurate to science (which is more than I can say about so many other, more famous dinosaur attractions out there!).   

 Chris and his park have even been on the news!

Chris and one of his louder creations, a Parasaurolophus.

My name is Chris Kastner.  I think I've always been into art of some form. I believe I started drawing from a desire to capture what I saw on tv, movies and other places. I felt a need to make them mine and possess them perhaps ? Probably a part of why I collect things come to think of it. 

I'm not sure exactly when Dinosaurs became a main staple of my art but I believe my first one was a plush toy of some sort my mom gave me. Then it was models, t-shirts, Halloween costumes..a genral interest in the past also developed in me.  I was an average student in school, things like math didn't interest me. It was science, art and reading I enjoyed..though I found a way to draw in every class much to my teacher's ire. My mom's passing had a profound effect on me in 98' . She was my ever constant supporter of whatever I chose to do. After being taken in by my grandparents there was of course a sense of loss and depression I still feel to this day. So  I dove head first into my art, books, and anything I could express myself in.

When I graduated I didn't really feel drawn to any particular area..I had always considered being a paleontologist, but my weak ankles and flat feet pretty much prohibited the field work I would have preffered.  So I continued to draw, and sculpt a little doing odd jobs.  Me and some family members put togehter a haunted yard event each Halloween which continued to get more elaborate each year. Finally we were asked to assist a local pro-haunt and created things for them til I actually took over the event for 5 years. When the time came and that was over I knew I still wanted to create things that were big and impressive. We went out and joined up with another haunt and created our own branded show, The FUNHOUSE Haunted Attraction. I also decided to go into business for myself and thus Backyard Terrors was born. We're still starting out but we can create or put together anything one might want.  This also leads me to the Dinosaur Park. I created our first life size dinosaur in 2007. I had always wanted a 1:1 dinosaur of some size for my own and finally got up the nerve to try it. Of course being a HUGE Jurassic Park fan I picked a JP Raptor.  He took 6 months to build and finish. Then I made a couple pteranodons and a dilophosaur. 

The first dinosaur Chris ever made, a Jurassic Park III male Velociraptor.  Here you can see it terrorizing the local boys.  Pretty normal.

It wasn't long after that I noticed a decay in my I had to find a new way to make them.  With a new material  almost literally stumbled across I now had free reign to make more dinosaurs without the worry of their quick decline outdoors.  My next dinosaur was the Brachiosaur juvenile and then the styracosaurus and so on..this past year we have added 7 new species to our Park, including a small  giftshop.  The really cool thing I've been told is that the Dinosaur Park is totally free admission. We do accept donations if offered but it's not required.  The choice to do this came from my experience as part of a low income family. I didn't want to charge 8.00 and have a family of four not be able to enjoy this place because they only had 25.00 on them.  I think every kid of any age should be able to see a big impressive exhbit regardless of how much they earn. So this Park is always available for afternoon stops after school, weekend trips combined with other local attractions birthdays parties for small donations and even school field trips who are always hard pressed to find something affordable to do.  We plan to keep adding to the Park and even do events like a Trick or Treat with the dinosaurs, easter egg hunt, Christmas lights, even a Dino Park in the Dark event next summer.  We've had so many people thank us for providing something of this nature for everyone and it's been our pleasure to do it. My desire to keep growing and building for as long as I can and share my creations with everyone.

How long on average does it take to complete a dinosaur ?
CK: It depends on the size of dinosaur and complexity of course..our first one took 6 months. But I have the process now down to about a month, month and a half.

A very colorful juvenile Spinosaurus

 What is the biggest one you have ever done?
CK: Most of our dinos average 20' or so...many in the sub-adult or juvenile range.   I think the largest would either our Allosaurus, Big Al or our cannibal Carnotaurus.  Certainly the biggest will be our upcoming 1:1 T-Rex .

A Cannibalistic Carnotaurus is one of the more aggressive residents of the Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park.

Which is your favorite one you have ever done?
CK: That would have to be our mascot, Big Al..I've been partial to Allosaurus since I was a kid. He was like T-Rex but had boney bumps on his head and three figures instead of two...clearly superior to this kid. lol

"Big Al", the Allosaurus and jewel/mscot of the park.
What are they made of?

CK: We start with a treated wood frame, sometimes using metal or fiberglass to strengthen it.  Then we used heavy gauge steel fencing to get the rough shapes. That's covered with poultry fencing aka chicken wire to round out the forms and give us larger scale patterns.  Finally the skin itself is a type of heavy duty vinyl material that has to be super heated to piece together and shrunk to the framing. 
Nothing says relaxation like manual labor in the snow.  It's dinosaur manual labor though, so its worth it.

So if you are ever in Tennessee be sure to swing by Chris' place and check out his Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park!  Also be sure to check them out on facebook

Tune in Sunday for a Halloween-related dinosaur of the week.  (nobody guessed it yet by the way)