Friday, January 21, 2011

Mesozoic Miscellany #15

Welcome to the fifteenth installment of my (mostly) weekly digest of dinosaur news, Mesozoic Miscellany. With my attendance at ScienceOnline2011 last week, I've got a couple weeks worth of dinosaur news to round up. I'm going to try something a bit different, gathering links to major stories, then sharing posts from around the dinosaur blogosphere that deserve your attention. I'm not sure if it will work this way in slower new weeks, but this week it certainly does. Onward, then!

The Big Stories

It's always exciting to flesh out the murky beginnings of the dinosaurian dynasty, and the discovery of the small primitive theropod Eodromaeus helps out a lot. As significant as the description of Eodromaeus is, the paper made an equal splash for putting forth Eoraptor as a basal sauropodomorph. It makes sense that the earliest dinosaurs would be so easy to interpret differently, as subtle differences between them are used to try to ferret out the beginnings of the distinct branches of the dinosaur family tree we know so well. More: Video coverage from Science Friday and Discovery, Chinleana, Faster Times, Pterosauria, Dinosaur Tracking, 80 Beats.

Also exciting are new pterosaur fossils, especially when they add to the stock of specimens of existing species. The new Darwinopterus fossil described this week in Science is really special, as it is apparently a mother who was killed just at the moment she was laying an egg. The egg is similar to the soft-shelled sort laid by alligators rather than the hard-shelled kind we eat for breakfast. More: Dinosaur Tracking, 80 Beats, Discovery News.

Snaggle-toothed theropod Masiakasaurus recieved some attention this week with a monograph published in Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology [PDF]. Matthew T. Carrano, Mark A. Loewen, and Joseph J. W. Sertich's 53 page paper provides an overview of the noasaurid clade within which Masiakasaurus fits, though because the fossils known are so fragmentary, they hesitate to draw any broad conclusions about the group's evolution. Also notable is Lukas Panzarin's wonderful restoration of Masiakasaurus.

Last week, Victoria Arbour's description of the small pterosaur Gwawinopterus was released in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. It's outside of her usual focus on ankylosaurs, but a significant find in that it's the only Late Cretaceous pterosaur with teeth found thus far. More: Arbour's guest spot at Archosaur Musings, Arbour's blog Pseudoplocephalus, and my look at the unique restoration accompanying the press release.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

The "Dinosaur Wars" episode of The American Experience, which aired on Monday (my review here) is now available to watch in its entirety at PBS. If you're not familiar with the Bone Wars era of paleontology, it's a fine place to get started.

Jeff Martz, who writes the always-entertaing Paleo Errata, has made the leap to the science blog network Lab Spaces. The new blog is called House of Bones. Stop by and wish him well! We need more paleontology writers in the blog networks.

At Pterosauria, Taylor muses over whether Spinosaurus bore a sail or a bison-like hump.

Carl Zimmer's feather evolution article in the February issue of National Geographic is available at the NatGeo website, accompanied by breathtaking photographs by Robert Clark. As noted by Matt Martyniuk, the Anchiornis fossil featured is absolutely stunning. Along these same lines, PBS's Nature is airing an episode about the birds of paradise this Sunday.

Though his favored fossil hunting site Quarry 4 has been shut down, Saurian continues to chronicle the ups and downs of his time there.

Ichnotaxonomy? Get the scoop on how researchers classify trace fossils in another insightful piece by Tony Martin at the Great Cretaceous Walk.

Twit Picks
Stuff I've linked to from Twitter recently.
I Effing Love Dinosaurs featured this incredibly cool t-shirt this week.

Paleoart of the Week
With the new Masiakasaurus monograph coming out, I thought it would be cool to look at an older image from around the time it was first described by Scott Sampson. This, shared by the Madagascar Ankizy Fund at Flickr, was done by Bill Parsons. Check out the skeletal and you'll see just what I meant by the word "fragmentary" above.

Outrageously Off-Topic Indulgence
I'm thrilled to little tiny pieces that Parks and Recreation has returned, after an absence of several months. This is easily the funniest show on TV right now, by my estimation. Ron Swanson is an all-time great sitcom character.

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