Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: January 2017

In the News

Living on an island devoid of giant theropods, Hatzegopteryx was an azhdarchid pterosaur that acheived a status few of its brethren could hope for: top terrestrial predator. Read more about this "shoebill-hornbill-terminator" from Mark Witton and Brian Switek.

This year's edition of PaleoFest, held at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL is coming up in one month. Head to the museum's site to download the registration form. LITC's own Victoria Arbour will be speaking there! And I *miiiiiight* be able to go.

Illustration by Danielle Dufault/© Royal Ontario Museum
One of the more obscure casualties of the Permian-Triassic "Great Dying" was the mysterious hyolith. Now, it's been given a place on the great tree of life: as a member of Lophophora, along with the relatively more famous brachiopods. Read more about the "tentacled ice cream cone" from Everything Dinosaur and NPR, Live Science, and the NYT. Danielle Dufault's illustration, above, is another wonderful example of how a good piece of paleoart makes the alien approachable.

It got pretty darned cold after the Chicxulub impact. Fernanda Castano writes about new research modeling the post-KT global climate.

The US state of Arkansas is one step closer to naming its own state dinosaur, the undescribed coeleruosaur foot known as "Arkansaurus." For her part, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, who initially examined the fossils in the early 2000's, is working on getting the critter described. Check out that link to see loveable rouser of rabble Brian Engh's illustration, too.

How long did non-avian dinosaurs incubate? New research looks into the question by studying growth lines in the teeth of Protoceratops and Hypacrosaurus embryos, among other methods. Their conclusion is that it's likely that the rapid incubation we see in living dinosaurs is a later development, and most Mesozoic dinosaurs developed slowly. Read more from Carolyn Gramling for Science and NPR.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

At Aeon, Alex Riley writes about recent efforts to understand what prehistoric worlds sounded like, touching on Vegavis, Parasaurolophus, and the bush cricket Archaboilus musicus.

At SV-POW, Mike Taylor cautions us not to rely on a photo to interpret a fossil.

Rebor has released three Deinonychus replicas as part of a larger Acrocanthosaurus and Tenontosaurus diorama, and they are quite lovely. Check out Everything Dinosaur's post on the set. Now, I look forward to the alternate universe version, in which a Tenontosaurus triumphantly bellows a victory song atop a heap of fallen theropods it has bested.

Lisa Buckley, inspired by some proselytizing door-knockers, decided to start making science-oriented pamphlets to hand out when the need arises, starting her "Science Tracks" series with OMFG Birds are Great!

How does one keep up with the ever-increasing amount of paleontological research? At the SVP blog, Dr. Darin Croft has some advice.

At Quartz India, Pranay Lal writes about the dinosaurs of Cretaceous greater India.

At Paleo-King, Nima brings our attention to an article from 2015 that reports the results of a paleoart survey of 115 paleontologists (of whom 100 responded). The article, published in Current Trends in Paleontology and Evolution, had the goal of creating a working definition of paleoart. One question was for respondents to identify paleoartists whose work they recognized, with interesting results (Doug Henderson and Greg Paul each had only 5 mentions apiece). It would be interesting to see this performed with a larger sample size and with more international participation: Spain accounted for 70% of the respondents. Direct PDF link here.

Sometimes a fossil in prep confounds one's expectations: so writes Anthony Maltese about a spectacular, unexpected Ichthyornis fossil he's currently working on.

If you're into turtles and you're into latitudinal diversity gradients, Jon Tennant has you covered, sweetheart.

Susie Maidment ran through hypotheses about the function of stegosaurian plates and spikes for the website Know it Wall.

Duane Nash wades into the great feathers vs. scales fracas at Antediluvian Salad.

We'll end with a little field trip to Mongolia, starting at Extinct, where Leonard Finkelman writes a metaphysical musing on the "ownership" of fossils, stemming from the debate over repatriating fossils from the American Museum of Natural History back to Mongolia. Also read the statment from Bolortsetseg Minjin, president of the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs, on the complicated matter. She also spoke to Palaeocast about it last year. While we're on the topic, head over to Prehistoric Beast of the Week and check out Chris DiPiazza's recent post featuring great illustrations of Mongolian dinosaurs..

Crowdfunding Spotlight

Plenty going on this month! If you're not able to donate to these campaigns, help spread the word. It really does help, and folks running campaigns do appreciate every share. A couple of campaigns are closing soon at Experiment, a science crowdfunding site.

First is The end of an Era: Resolving the dinosaur extinction and the beginning of the 'age of mammals' in northwest Argentina. Ending in less than a week, a University College London team led by Anjali Goswami and Agustin Scanferla "will intensively explore new fossil sites in Northwest Argentina, where we have recently discovered dinosaur, crocodile, and other fossils from this period."

Next up is Geology of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of central Montana. A team from the University of Oklahoma led by Dean R. Richmond hopes to "describe the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and depositional facies of the Morrison Formation in central Montana." The crowdfunding effort will help cover the costs of analyzing a wealth of material that was collected in quarries last summer, including sauropod fossils, petrified wood, and freshwater and marine organisms.

Moment of Paleoart Zen

Artists Raven Amos and Scott Elyard, who run the excellent art and design firm Cubelight Graphics, are holding their ninth art show soon, taking place at Espresso Cafe in Wasilla, AK. They've held a successful Indiegogo campaign to fund printing of their art for the show, but it's still worth chipping in to help meet stretch goals - as well as to get some great perks, natch. So, I'll be sharing one of Raven's featured pieces, the wonderful Styracosarus Jungle. I'm not alone in my love for Raven's work, which often hearkens back to pop art and art deco.

Illustration of the ceratopsian dinosaur Styracosaurus by Raven Amos
Styracosaurus Jungle, © Raven Amos. Shared with the artist's permission.

Also check out the promotional video for the show shared below. Congratulations on the successful campaign and best of luck at the show, Raven and Scott!


  1. I guess the news about Saccorhytus was to close to this article to make it in, then. Oldest and most basal deuterostome yet, hailing from the very beginning of the Cambrian.

  2. Thank you, David for your kind words and your mention of our show!


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