Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vintageish Dinosaur Art: An Alphabet of Dinosaurs - Part 1

Yes, it's the first Vintageish Dinosaur Art post - because I've stretched David's name for this series quite far enough. Wayne Barlowe's paintings in An Alphabet of Dinosaurs are copyrighted 1995, while this UK edition of the book was published in 1997; perhaps a little too recent, even by my standards. Nevertheless, it's remarkable how much even books from the mid-to-late '90s have become dated from a scientific perspective, even if the artwork remains stunning - as it does here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs - The Real Monsters

Another entry in the Dinosaur Dynasty book series from 1993, The Real Monsters focuses on a select few dinosaurs that embody the largest, and often toothiest, that said archosaurian lineage had to offer at various points in the Mesozoic. As such, a scary-looking tyrannosaur with yellowing teeth and a tiny, beady eye leers out from the cover, for maximum child-enticing appeal. For as every kid knows, the coolest dinosaurs are those that look like they would happily chew, slice, gore, stamp, or otherwise pulverise you to death without so much as blinking a nictitating membrane. This is a book dedicated to them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs - Giants of the Earth

Published as part of the five-book Dinosaur Dynasty series back in 1993, Giants of the Earth was my childhood introduction to pop-palaeo stalwart Dougal Dixon. Each book in the series dealt with a different aspect of dinosaur science, with this one looking at, as the cover implies, their evolutionary history. The artwork is of a surprisingly high standard for the time, even if the obligatory early '90s Sibbick rip-offs are present and correct. The cover art, by Steve Kirk, is exemplary - a couple of very small tweaks, and it would pass muster even today. And the colour scheme is quite lovely. You can't go far wrong with stripy Styracosaurus horns.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Leonardo is Coming to Indianapolis

Robert Bakker with a model of Leonardo from the Dinosaur Mummy CSI exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History. Photo by Ed Schipul, via Flickr.

When I was younger, dumber, and less awestruck by my home state's natural heritage, I bemoaned the fact that Indiana had no dinosaur fossils to offer. I've gotten over that, of course, but I'm still proud that one of the finest dinosaur exhibits in the country, The Dinosphere, is housed at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis. The museum has announced that it's going to be getting a serious injection of star power next year, as Leonardo, the famous "mummy" Brachylophosaurus, is revealed to the public.

From the museum's announcement:
Leonardo is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as having the best preserved dinosaur remains in the world. For now, visitors will be able to follow the dinosaur’s tale via his tail until the rest of his body is on display in March of 2014. At that time, Leonardo’s Lab will open for children and families to learn everything from what he had for his last meal to how he spent the last few hours of his life.

When this fossilized mummy was carefully unearthed from his grave in Malta, Montana in 2001, researchers had one of the first real looks at the skin, scales, foot pads, and even the stomach contents of the behemoths that roamed the planet 77 million years ago.
Dinosphere manager Mookie Harris - who recently returned to the museum after a stint at a Florida museum - has written about the fossil on the Children's Museum blog, so be sure to check that post out.

If you haven't read my previous posts about the Children's Museum, sit a spell and read about how awesome it is.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

SVP Dispatches: The Body of Deinocheirus

It's been a rumor online for years. Hang around the Dinosaur Mailing List or a paleontology forum for long enough, and you'd hear it. Rumors that an old mystery might soon be solved. Rumors that expeditions to the remote Gobi have found a body. Rumors that one of the most enduring riddles of dinosaur paleontology might soon be made clear.

I'm speaking, of course, of Dienocheirus. To a dinosaur enthusiast of a certain age, that name crystallizes the mystery and frustrations of paleontology. "The Terrible Hand" was terrible for its size, terrible for its claws, and terrible because--beyond its long arms and fingers--nothing else remained. 

Copyright Luis Rey
Researchers suspected it to be an ornithomimid, albeit an uncommonly massive one. There were certain diagnostic signs to the hands, the shape of the claws, the structure of the arms, all of which pointed to a kinship with those legendarily fleet-footed animals. But what shape was Dienocheirus? Was it a massive, lumbering browser? A giant, elegant runner? Perhaps even a predator? In the absence of a body, there was no way to be sure. 

Now it seems that the wait is over. According to an abstract recently released at The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Dienocheirus was indeed a type of ornithomimid, one displaying skeletal traits previously unknown in that family. The abstract notes that two new specimens were discovered, with material comprising the majority of the postcranial skeleton. Gastroliths were recovered as well, which would imply a herbivorous diet. 

So what did Deinocheirus look like? Apparently it had a heavily built pelvis and hind limbs, adaptations suggesting a slower moving life style than the one practiced by its smaller cousins. Unlike the similarly robust therizinosaurs, though, Deinocheirus was narrow bodied, with tall, straight ribs. By far the most interesting bit of anatomy, however, is the fact that Deinocheirus apparently had long neural spines in the vicinity of its pelvis. The living animal was thus graced with either a sail or a hump, a trait that comes as a complete surprise. 

There are still several mysteries about Deinocheirus, and these two skeletons only give rise to new questions--especially ones concerning its somewhat odd anatomy. But rejoice, nonetheless. Deinocheirus has a body, and it's weirder than anybody could have dreamed.  

The complete text of the abstract is below. 


LEE, Yuong-Nam, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of (South); BARSBOLD, Rinchen, Paleontological Center, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; CURRIE, Philip, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada; KOBAYASHI, Yoshitsugu, Hokkaido University Museum, Sapporo, Japan; LEE, Hang- Jae, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of (South)

The holotype of Deinocheirus mirificus was collected by the Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition at Altan Uul III in 1965. Because the holotype was known mainly on the basis of giant forelimbs with scapulocoracoids, Deinocheirus has remained one of the most mysterious dinosaurs. Two new specimens of Deinocheirus were discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Altan Uul IV in 2006 and Bugin Tsav in 2009 by members of the Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Expedition (KID). Except for the skull, middle dorsal and most of the distal caudal vertebrae, the right forelimb, left manus, and both pedes, the remaining parts of the skeleton (Mongolian Paleontological Center [MPC]-D 100/127) including a left forelimb clearly identifiable as Deinocheirus were collected. The humerus (993 mm in length) is longer than the 938 mm humerus of the holotype. The Altan Uul IV specimen (MPC-D 100/128) is a subadult Deinocheirus (approximately 72% of MPC-D 100/127), which consists of post-cervical vertebrae, ilia, ischia, and hind limbs. Both specimens provide important paleontological evidence for exact postcranial reconstruction of Deinocheirus mirificus. Cladistic analysis indicates that Deinocheirus is a basal member of Ornithomimosauria, but many new unique skeletal features appear to be quite different from other ornithomimosaurs. These include extreme pneumaticity of tall, anterodorsally oriented distal dorsal neural spines (7~8 times taller than centrum height) with basal webbing, fused sacral neural spines forming a midline plate of bone that extends dorsally up to 170% of the height of the ilium, ventrally keeled sacral centra, a well-developed iliotibialis flange, a posterodorsally projecting posterior iliac blade with a concave dorsal margin, a steeply raised anterior dorsal margin of the ilium, an anteriorly inclined brevis shelf, vertically well-separated iliac blades above the sacrum, an completely enclosed pubic obturator foramen, triangular pubic boot in distal view, vertical ridges on anterior and posterior edges of medial surface of the femoral head, and a robust femur that is longer than tibiotarsus. These features suggest that Deinocheirus (unlike other ornithomimosaurs) was not a fastrunning animal, but a bulky animal with a heavily built pelvis and hind limbs. However, the dorsal ribs are tall and relatively straight, suggesting that the animal was narrowbodied. A large number of gastroliths (>1100 ranging from 8 to 87 mm) were collected from the abdominal region of MPC-D 100/127, suggesting Deinocheirus was an herbivore.

This is the first of a few posts about discoveries announced at SVP 2013. Stick around through the rest of the coming week, because there's some cool stuff coming down the pipe. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's a great big beautiful Golden Book of Dinosaurs

While we are quite obviously rather partial to a little dinosaur-themed nostalgia here at LITC, we're nevertheless very keen to embrace the new - the latest discoveries, inventive ways of portraying our favourite beasts, and so on. How perfect, then, that Robert Bakker and Luis Rey should bring us an updated take on The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs. The original (in its various guises; see alternative title in the photo) is one of the most fondly-remembered of all popular dinosaur books, children's or no, and paying appropriate homage to Zallinger's memorable art was certainly quite a task. Could the ever-divisive Rey meet the palaeoartistic challenge?