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The Stegosaurus

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Scientists seek to solve mystery of Stegosaurus plates

Sophie: The most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world

Researchers hope to learn how much it weighed, how it moved and what it used its iconic back plates for.

A UK team has scanned each of its 360 bones into a computer and has digitally reconstructed the dinosaur. The specimen, nicknamed “Sophie”, has been acquired by the Natural History Museum in London. Although Stegosauruses are one of the most well known dinosaurs, they are among those that scientists know the least about. There are only six partial skeletons of the creature, which lived around 150 million years ago. It could grow to the size of a minibus and the gigantic plates which ran along its back were its most distinctive feature.

Stegosaurus: the outstanding questions

  • How did it use its back plates and tail spikes?
  • How effective were its muscles?
  • How did such a small skull manage to chew enough food for such a large body?
  • How much did it weigh?
 

Surprisingly, it was 100 years ago that the dinosaur’s skeleton was properly assessed and scientifically described. Now, using medical imaging techniques and 3D modelling, researchers at the Natural History Museum hope to learn much more about this iconic creature.

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Dreadnoughtus schrani

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Battleship beast: colossal dinosaur skeleton found in southern Patagonia

Dreadnoughtus schrani unearthed in Argentina is most complete skeleton of plant-eating titanosaur recovered anywhere in world

Artist’s impression of the enormous newly discovered dreadnoughtus schrani. A complete skeleton has been unearthed in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Photograph: Mark A. Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The spectacular remains of one of the largest beasts ever to walk the planet have been unearthed by fossil hunters in southern Patagonia.

The unique haul of bones includes a metre-wide neck vertebra, a thigh bone that stands as tall as a man, and ribs the size of planks, representing the most complete skeleton of a colossal plant-eating titanosaur recovered anywhere in the world.

The new species was so enormous that researchers named it Dreadnoughtus schrani after the dreadnought battleships of the early 20th century on the grounds that it would fear nothing that crossed its path.

From measurements of the bones, scientists worked out that Dreadnoughtus weighed nearly 60 tonnes and reached 26 metres from snout to tail, making it the largest land animal for which an accurate body mass can be calculated.

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The colossal dreadnoughts lived around 77m years ago in a temperate forest at the southern tip of South America. Its bodyweight equates to as many as a dozen African elephants or more than seven of the Tyrannosaurs rex species, according to Kenneth Lacorvara, a paleontologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Details of the find are published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

Another giant prehistoric animal, Argentinosaurus, was probably of comparable size but its dimensions are known only from a clutch of backbone vertebrae, a shinbone and a handful of other bone fragments. The diplodocus, which lived 80m years earlier than dreadnoughtus, weighed in at a comparatively measly 16 tonnes.

Lacorvara caught a first glimpse of the remains during a field trip to the stunning but barren scrubland of southern Patagonia in 2005. What appeared to be a small collection of bones soon became an extensive haul of more than 100 bone fragments, exquisitely well preserved when the animal apparently drowned in quicksand.

Kenneth Lacovara with the right tibia of dreadnoughtus schrani Kenneth Lacovara Photograph: Kenneth Lacovara

Though staggering in its dimensions, close inspection of the bones revealed that the animal was not fully grown when it died. “That was a real shock to us,” Lacorvara told the Guardian. “When you look at the bones of dreadnoughtus, it’s clear this individual was still growing fast. There are no indications of a cessation of growth.”

It took Lacorvara’s team, working with Argentinian experts, four successive years to excavate the entire skeleton which amounts to more than 45% of the animal’s bones. Only a single tooth and a small fragment of the dinosaur’s jaw were found from the head. The loss of much of the skull is common in fossils of giant plant-eaters, because the skull bones are relatively small and light to enable the dinosaur to lift its head. During the excavation the team unearthed the remnants of a second, smaller titanosaur.

Source: TheGuardian Read and see video and more photos

The Chicken from Hell

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Dinosaur dubbed ‘chicken from hell’ was armed and dangerous

Feathered beast, Anzu wyliei, was built for speed, measured three metres from beak to tail and had long, sharp claws

The dinosaur Anzu wyliei ‘looks like something that was placed in the Cretaceous by a Hollywood monster movie director’. Illustration: Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The fossilised remains of a bizarre, bird-like dinosaur, nicknamed the “chicken from hell” by scientists, have been unearthed in the US.

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 skeletons 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.

“For almost a hundred years, the presence of oviraptorosaurs in North America was only known from a few bits of skeleton, and the details of their appearance and biology remained a mystery,” said Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “With the discovery of A. wyliei, we finally have the fossil evidence to show what this species looked like and how it is related to other dinosaurs.”

Anzu had the build of a fast runner and with substantial claws at the tips of its forelimbs was well-equipped to fight. A close inspection of the fossils revealed that two showed signs of skirmishes. One had a healed broken rib. Another had an arthritic toe that was probably caused by a tendon being ripped off the bone. The fossils are described in the journal Plos One.

Artist's impression of the new oviraptorosaurian dinosaur species Anzu wyliei An artist’s impression of A. wyliei. Illustration: Bob Walters

“Whether these injuries were the result of combat between two individuals or an attack by a larger predator remains a mystery,” said Emma Schachner, a palaeontologist at the University of Utah.

Anzu is not the largest of the oviraptorosaurs found to date. The aptly named Gigantoraptor discovered in Inner Mongolia in 2005 grew to around eight metres long and weighed more than a tonne. “We’re finding that the caenagnathids were an amazingly diverse bunch of dinosaurs,” said Matthew Lamanna at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

“Whereas some were turkey-sized, others like Anzu and Gigantoraptor, were the kind of thing you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.”

 

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The Oldest Living Dinosaur

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The tuatara lizard (Sphenodon punctatus), endemic to New Zealand and not strictly a lizard, is recognised as being the oldest living dinosaur.

tuatara1

Sphenodon punctatus

 

 

Did the Dinosaurs Shit in the Woods?

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Giant prehistoric toilet unearthed

Each poo is a time capsule to the dawn of the dinosaurs

A gigantic “communal latrine” created at the dawn of the dinosaurs has been unearthed in Argentina.

Thousands of fossilised poos left by rhino-like megaherbivores were found clustered together, scientists say.

The 240-million-year-old site is the “world’s oldest public toilet” and the first evidence that ancient reptiles shared collective dumping grounds.

The dung contains clues to prehistoric diet, disease and vegetation says a study in Scientific Reports.

Elephants, antelopes and horses are among modern animals who defecate in socially agreed hotspots – to mark territory and reduce the spread of parasites.

But their best efforts are dwarfed by the enormous scale of this latrine – which breaks the previous record “oldest toilet” by 220 million years.

Fossil “coprolites” as wide as 40cm and weighing several kilograms were found in seven massive patches across the Chanares Formation in La Rioja province.

Some were sausage-like, others pristine ovals, in colours ranging from whitish grey to dark brown-violet.

“There is no doubt who the culprit was,” said Dr Lucas Fiorelli, of Crilar-Conicet, who discovered the dung heaps.

“Only one species could produce such big lumps – and we found their bones littered everywhere at the site.”

The culprits were dicynodonts – ancient megaherbivores

The perpetrator was Dinodontosaurus, an eight-foot-long megaherbivore similar to modern rhinos.

These animals were dicynodonts – large, mammal-like reptiles common in the Triassic period when the first dinosaurs began to emerge.

The fact they shared latrines suggests they were gregarious, herd animals, who had good reasons to poo strategically, said Dr Fiorelli.

“Firstly, it was important to avoid parasites – ‘you don’t poo where you eat’, as the saying goes.

“But it’s also a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile, you are saying: ‘Hey! We are a big herd. Watch out!”

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Beautiful baby dinosaur delights palaeontologists

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A new baby Parasaurolophus dinosaur sheds light on their growth and ecology

Life reconstruction of the new baby dinosaur by Lukas Panzarin. Photograph: /Andy Farke

Despite the fact that they were likely very numerous indeed, baby dinosaurs are actually extremely rare to find as a fossil and so any new discovery is to be welcomed. There are some inherent biases in the fossil record such that some things tend to preserve more often than you would expect by chance and others are much more rare. One of the major biases is against young vertebrate animals since being small they are harder to find, and as they are still growing their bones contain more cartilage and so are less likely to preserve well.

The new baby dinosaur described today belongs to the genus Parasaurolophus a member of the group called the hadrosaurs (often known as duck-billed dinosaurs) and is in beautiful condition and in particular has a very well preserved skull. The kinds of details that such specimens can bring to questions of growth and development are most important for understanding dinosaur ecology and this baby, which clocks in at less than 6 feet (around 1.8 m) in total length, has a lot to tell us.

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Nasutoceratops

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‘Big-nose, horn-face’ dinosaur described

The dinosaur roamed the Earth about 75 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period

An unusual new species of dinosaur, unearthed from the deserts of Utah, has been described by scientists.

The 5m-long (15ft) beast is a member of the triceratops family, but with a huge nose and exceptionally long horns, palaeontologists say it is unlike anything they have seen before.

It has been named accordingly as Nasutoceratops titusi, which means big-nose, horn-face.

Dr Mark Loewen, from the University of Utah and Natural History Museum of Utah, told BBC News: “This dinosaur just completely blew us away.

“We would never have predicted it would look like this – it is just so outside of the norm for this group of dinosaurs.”

Fearsome vegetarian?

The creature was first discovered in 2006 the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument area of Utah.

However, it has taken several years to prepare and then study the fossil in detail.

The rocks it was found in date to about 75-million-years old, so the beast would have roamed the Earth during the Late Cretaceous period.

“The horns are by far the absolute largest of any member of its group of dinosaurs – they curve sideways and forwards,” explained Dr Loewen.

“In addition it has the biggest nose of its group too.”

He added that it also had a scalloped frill at the back of its head.

Nasutoceratops was also hefty, weighing about 2.5 tonnes, and with its unusual looks it would have cut a fearsome figure.

However this species, like all members of the triceratops family is a herbivore. It would have been more concerned with feasting on plants in its tropical, swampy surrounds than terrorising other dinosaurs.

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