This Week in Dinosaur News: Chicken Embryos, Dinosaur Discoveries in Washington State, Jurassic World, and More

Here’s what came out this week in dinosaur news:

  • Scientists created chicken embryos with dinosaur snouts in a lab, according to BBC and Live Science
  • The Washington Post (and Everything Dinosaur) reported that the state of Washington found its first ever dinosaur fossil, and may be the last state to discover its first dinosaur (See more on why at Everything Dinosaur)
  • Professor Daniel Thomas gave a talk about dinosaur feathers at Bruce Museum in New Zealand, according to CTPost
  • The New York Times answered the question of whether or not dinosaurs shed
  • ARK, a new dinosaur video game, is releasing early access on June 2, according to GeekWire and Polygon
  • Milwaukee County Zoo has animatronic dinosaurs, according to Metro Parent Magazine
  • Science World reported on Ultimate Dinosaurs, an exhibit showcasing dinosaurs bigger than T-rex
  • Idealist listed a volunteer opportunity at Dinosaur Ridge to be a tour guide
  • Bored Panda shared a Triceratops costume for dogs
  • Jurassic World released an explanation of why their dinosaurs are bigger and badder than Jurassic Park. According to CinemaBlend, it’s because they found DNA in soft tissue
  • Everything Dinosaur figured out how fast Jurassic World‘s Indominus Rex would grow compared to T-rex

I Know Dino Podcast: Dysalotosaurus (Episode 20)

Episode 22 is all about Dysalotosaurus, an herbivore with one of the earliest known viral infections.

You can listen to our free podcast, with all our episodes, on iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-know-dino/id960976813?mt=2

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The dinosaur of the day: Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki, which means “uncatchable lizard”
  • It’s a dryosaurid iguanodontian (herbivore)
  • It lived in the late Jurassic
  • Dysalotosaurus fossils have been discovered in the Tendaguru Formation in Tanzania
  • The Berlin Museum of Natural History discovered and excavated Dysalotosaurus fossils, when it was still German East Africa
  • Rudolf Virchow named Dysalotosaurus in 1919
  • All Dsyalotosaurus fossils were found in one quarry, and between 1910-1913 they found 14,000 bones. Also in the area they discovered other dinosaurs, including the sauropods Giraffatitan and Dicraesosaurus, the stegosaur Kentrosaurus, and the theropod Elaphrosaurus
  • The name lettowvorbecki came from German national hero, General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. He fought in WWI. in East Africa, and was known for his guerrilla warfare tactics. He commanded 3,000 Germans and 14,000 Africans (local soldiers known as Askaris), and though at the time black soldiers were often discriminated against, von Lettow-Vorbeck treated all his soldiers the same. He was fluent in Swahili, and according to one historian, “It is probably that no white commander of the era had so keen an appreciation of the African’s worth not only as a fighting man but as a man.”
  • von Lettow-Vorbeck was never defeated, but he surrendered after he heard about the Armistice, in November 1918. His German soldiers were repatriated, but the Askaris were put in camps. Lettow-Vorbeck worked hard to have the Askaris be treated decently
  • Back in Germany, Lettow-Vorbeck opposed the Nazis, and when Hitler offered him a position in 1935, he declined. He was often harassed by the Nazis, and the reason he survived the Nazi years is because he was so popular as a WWI German hero
  • Unfortunately many Dysalotosaurus fossils were destroyed in WWII during bombing raids (so know some of the best records of it are via drawings
  • Of the fossils that survived, only one still has about 50% of the skeleton
  • It used to be considered to be a species of the genus Dryosaurus, but now it’s in its own genus (Dysalotosaurus)
  • Dysalotosaurus was medium sized and ran on two legs
  • Dysalotosaurus was precocial, meaning it was born in an advanced state and able to take care of itself at a young age, and became sexually mature after only ten years
  • It’s unclear how quickly it grew, but it could reach the size of a large kangaroo
  • In 2011, two paleontologists Florian Witzmann and Oliver Hampe and their colleagues found that some of the Dysalotosaurus bones with deformations were probably caused by a viral infection, making it the “oldest evidence of viral infection known to science”
  • It is similar to Paget’s disease of bone, which has abnormal bone destruction and regrowth (may be why it’s hard to determine how it grew)
  • First evidence of viral infection, ever
  • Scientists have found thousands of Dysalotosaurus bones at varying stages of maturity, possibly from one herd
  • Both juvenile and adult fossils of Dysalotosaurus have been found, which allowes Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager and Dr. Tom Hubner to study the species’ brain, at two different growth stages
  • The smallest Dysalotusaurus specimen was 0.7 meters long and the largest was 5 meters long
  • They used CT scanning and 3D imaging to reconstruct the brain and inner ear of a 3 year old and a 12 year old Dysalotosaurus
  • They published their findings in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology
  • They learned that juveniles had strong hearing and cognitive processes but a lot changed as they grew older, to help adapt to their environment
  • Younger Dysalotosaurus had shorter snouts and larger eye sockets (probably cuter), also only 20 teeth versus 26 teeth as adults. The teeth became wider in older dinosaurs, and juveniles had three upper teeth that were slimmer than the rest (adults did not have this), which may mean juveniles were monivores and adults were purely herbivores
  • The study helps show how parts of the brain developed in dinosaurs, but more research is needed to establish a pattern of brain development
  • Dryosaurids lived during the Mid-Jurassic and early Cretaceous period, in Africa, Europe and North America
  • They were primitive iguanodonts
  • They were medium-sized, with long legs, small forelimbs, and small, short snouts
  • They had soft-tissue above their eyes, which made them look like they were frowning (as seen in modern birds of prey)
  • Dryosaurids were bipedal, with three toes on each foot (but only representing digits II, III, and IV, not the first toe, or “hallux”)
  • They look somewhat similar to ornithopods, such as Hypsilophodon, so they used to be considered “hypsilophodonts.” Now they are classified as part of the Iguanodontia group, which is not close to Hypsilophodon (Dryosaurids did not have premaxillary teeth, which means they only used their beak to bite off plants
  • The first dryosaurids were found in the 1870s in North America, and then later more were found in Africa in the early 1900s, then in Europe in the 1970s (the dryosaurid fossils were found earlier in Europe but had been misclassified)
  • Fun fact: The first dinosaur was found in North America in 1854, by Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden while he was exploring the upper Missouri River. He found some teeth, that Joseph Leidy classified as part of Trachodon, Troodon, and Deinodon, in 1856

I Know Dino Podcast: Qianzhousaurus (Episode 19)

Episode 19 is all about Qianzhousaurus, a tyrannosaur nicknamed “Pinocchio Rex” because of its long snout.

You can listen to our free podcast, with all our episodes, on iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-know-dino/id960976813?mt=2

In this episode, we discuss:

    • The dinosaur of the day: Qianzhousaurus sinensis, which is nicknamed “Pinocchio Rex” (because of its long snout)
    • Scientists found a nearly complete Qianzhousaurus skeleton at a construction site in Ganzhou, a city in China known for its fossils (first name comes from Qianzhou, the ancient name for Ganzhou)
    • The reason the skeleton was so complete was because right after it died, dirt buried it, which protected it from water and air eroding it, according to the study’s leader Junchang Lu, from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing
    • The skeleton found has a well-preserved skull, neck, backbone and tail
    • Qianzhousaurus demonstrates that there were long-snouted tyrannosaurs
    • Before, only two tyrannosaurs with long snouts have been discovered (both in Mongolia)
    • But these were juvenile skeletons, so scientists were unsure if it was a new type of dinosaur, or just juvenile tyrannosaurs that would later grow into their long snouts
    • Qianzhousaurus is twice the size of the other long-snouted skeletons, which means it’s an adult; also, its skull is totally fused and resembles an adult T-rex (there are hundreds of tyrannosaur skulls so scientists know how the bones join together and at what age)
    • Thomas R. Holtz Jr., a paleontologist at the University of Maryland (not affiliated with the study), said Qianzhousaurus was definitely an adult
    • Qianzhousaurus had a nose 35% longer than other dinosaurs of its size
    • It had a thin, long nose with rows of tiny horns on the nose (very different from the short, muscular nose on T-Rex)
    • Unclear what it used the nose for, but scientists plan on using computer models to see how Qianzhousaurus used its snout. Modern animals with long snouts, like crocodiles, use them to catch fish
    • Qianzhousaurus was 29 feet long, and weighed 1800 pounds
    • Part of the same family as T-rex, Tyrannosauridae
    • Quianzhousaurus and T-rex lived at the same time in the late Cretaceous
    • Qianzhousaurus had a weaker jaw than T-rex, so it had a weaker bit. It probably ate smaller, easier to catch prey than T-rex (which was a “heavy bruiser”)
    • Because Qianzhousaurus and T-rex ate different foods, they would have lived in harmony with each other
    • No long-snouted tyrannosaurs have been found in the Americas
    • Different tyrannosaurs may have lived and hunted alongside each other in Asia in the late Cretaceous
    • Because of Qianzhousaurus, scientists have named a new branch of the tyrannosaur family, a clade called Alioramini
    • This clade includes Qianzhousaurus and the two other long-snouted species (the ones found in Mongolia), called Alioramus
    • Fun fact: The dinosaur with the longest name was also found in China, in 1978 by the paleontologist Dong Zhiming. Zhiming named the dinosaur Micropachycephalosaurus, an ornithischian, which means “tiny thick-headed lizard”

I Know Dino Podcast: Dilophosaurus (Episode 18)

Episode 18 is all about Dilophosaurus, (as requested by Facebook fan Luke) a dinosaur famous for being inaccurately depicted in Jurassic Park.

You can listen to our free podcast, with all our episodes, on iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-know-dino/id960976813?mt=2

In this episode, we discuss:

    • The dinosaur of the day: Dilophosaurus, which means “double crested”
    • Dilophosaurus had paired crests on top of its head, though what is was used for is unknown (may have been to attract females or help packs recognize each other, if Dilophosaurus traveled in packs)
    • Dilophosaurus lived in the early Jurassic (200 to 190 million years ago)
    • The crests were probably too delicate for anything but display
    • Dilophosaurus is famous for being the spitting, venomous dinosaur in Jurassic Park, but this is inaccurate
    • Dilophosaurus was not poisonous, and there’s no evidence of any dinosaur having venom
    • Dilophosaurus also did not have a “fluttering neck crest” and no evidence of any dinosaurs having that frill
    • In Jurassic Park, Dilophosaurus was a small dog-sized dinosaur, but in reality it was about 20 feet long and weighed 1,000 pounds
    • Dilophosaurus was similar to most theropod, meat eaters in the Jurassic in North America (aside from the head crest), so it’s not clear why Dilophosaurus was portrayed the way it was in Jurassic Park
    • Jurassic Park explanation: inclusion of the frog DNA or a splicing error gave it the abnormal traits
    • Dilophosaurus was originally grouped as a Megalosaur (the “wastebasket taxon”) for theropods, when it was discovered in 1942 in Arizona, but the crest gave it its own genus
    • Dilophosaurus was a primitive predator, so it did not have forward facing eyes (stereo vision)
    • It probably used scent to hunt, had a dewclaw, hollow bones, and s-shaped curved neck, and had a long tail it could use as a whip in a fight
    • Dilophosaurus could probably run at 30 mph, and it may have hunted in packs
    • Dilophosaurus had needle-like puncturing teeth, may have eaten fish; had a crocodile-like appearance, with a notch behind the first row of teeth
    • Dilophosaurus skeletons are now housed at the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley, CA
    • Dilophosaurus is part of the family Dilophosauridae, which were early carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in many areas
    • They were 13-23 feet long and weighed 660 to 1100 pounds, and known for their head crests (used for attracting a mate or to scare off rivals)
    • Dilophosauridae also have a notch between a row of teeth, which makes them look like crocodiles; however, they probably had a weak bite and were scavengers
    • Though Dilophosauridae is part of the superfamily Coelophysoidea, dilophosaurids may be closer to the Tenaurae group (which has advanced megalosaurs, carnosaurs and coelurosaurs)
    • Fun fact: The fastest dinosaurs were ornithomids (ostrich like dinosaurs such as Dromiceiomimus), and they could run up to 37 mph

This Week in Dinosaur News: Chilesaurus, Yi Qi, Dinosaur Tracks, and More

Here’s what came out this week in dinosaur news:

  • A new study found that it’s possible to tell the gender of a Stegosaurus based on its plates, according to PLOS ONE and NBC News
  • A new dinosaur called Chilesaurus Diegosuarezi was found in Chile, according to The Guardian,  Nature, and Tico Times. Chilesaurus is related to T-rex, but was an herbivore
  • Another new dinosaur called Yi Qi was discovered in China. Yi had bat-like wings, according to Nature, National Geographic,  and Smithsonian
  • Paleontologist Rich McCrea is looking to raise $190,000 to help research and promote a large dinosaur track site in British Columbia, according to CBC News
  • A new site in Bolivia has the most dinosaur footprints in the world, and it’s on a limestone wall, according to Fox and MSN (see MSN for great pictures)
  • For $2 million, you can own your own Triceratops skull, according to 10tv
  • Want to know the difference between T-rex in real life versus the movies? Check out InfoBarrel
  • Most of Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are played by people, as puppets, according to GEEK
  • The astroid that killed dinosaurs may have triggered the volcanic activity that also killed them, according to CBS News
  • Secaucus Field Station in NJ is closing down at the end of this year, to make way for a new school, according to NJ 101.5
  • A new movie called Cowboys v. Dinosaurs came out May 19, straight to HD, according to Huffington Post

I Know Dino Podcast: Anzu wyliei (Episode 17)

Episode 17 is all about Anzu wyliei, nicknamed “the chicken from hell.”

You can listen to our free podcast, with all our episodes, on iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-know-dino/id960976813?mt=2

In this episode, we discuss:

    • The dinosaur of the day: Anzu wyliei, which is the name of a feathered Mesopotamian demon
    • The wyliei name comes from a boy named Wylie, a dinosaur enthusiast and grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee
    • Dr. Matthew Lamanna from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues and Dr. Tyler Lyson from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Emma Schachner from the University of Utah all studied Anzu
    • Dr. Tyler Lyson first found the bones of the third Anzu skeleton when he was a teenager (on his uncle’s ranch in North Dakota)
    • Scientists found partial fossils of three skeletons in North and South Dakota, in the Hell Creek formation (formed at the end of the Cretaceous, and known for its T-rex and Triceratops fossils)
    • Anzu lived on a wet floodplain
    • Anzu was bird-like, with a bony crest on top of head and a long tail
    • Anzu had a tall, thin crest; big beak, sliding jaw joint (could have been used to eat plants and meat)
    • Anzu was about the size of a small car, with claws and feathers on its upper arms (a cross between an emu and a modern reptile)
    • Anzu was 11 feet long, 5 feet tall at the hip, and weighed 440 to 660 pounds
    • It had a toothless beak, and the crest on its head is similar to a cassowary
    • Probably had feathers
    • Because of Anzu, paleontologists now know for sure that Anzu, Caenagnathus, and Chriostenotes are their own group in Oviraptorosauria, and that Gigantoraptor (the largest oviraptorosaur known, weighing 1.5 tons) also belongs to the Caenagnathidae group (some in this group are small, turkey-sized, but they are very diverse group)
    • Even though Anzu’s head is strange looking, its body is similar to Velociraptor, which lived a few million years earlier
    • Anzu seems to have gotten a lot of injuries. Two of the three Anzu specimens have injuries, one with a broken and healed rib, the other with an arthritic toe bone caused by a fracture where a tendon ripped off a piece of bone). It’s unclear whether Anzu fought among themselves or against larger predators, like T-rex
    • According to Dr. Sues and his team, though climate change may have contributed to dinosaurs going extinct, Anzu proves that dinosaurs were still evolving and were diverse even at the end. This helps prove it was the aestroid that killed dinosaurs
    • The three Anzu skeletons are in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (they helped identify Anzu)
    • Anzu is an Oviraptorosaur, whose name comes from the first skeleton found in 1924 that was on top a dinosaur egg nest, and scientists thought it was stealing the eggs. But in the 1990s, a baby oviraptorid egg was found inside a nest, which showed Oviraptorosaur was a good parent just protecting its eggs
    • Caenagnathids, oviraptorids, and other species from China are closely related, so paleontologists grouped them in the theropod group Oviraptorosauria
    • The name Caenagnathus means “recent jaws.” The first caenagnathids found were thought to be close relatives of birds like ostriches because they had similar lower jaws. But now scientists think this similarity evolved convergently with modern birds
    • The Caenagnathidae family, along with the family Oviraptoridae, is part of the superfamily Caenagnathoidea
    • Caenagnathids are very similar to Oviraptoridae, but they have distinct jaws (long and shallow, not as powerful a bite). The lower jaws also had ridges and shelf-like structures (crushing surface), and they were hollow and air filled as part of an air sac system. Caenagnathids are also lighter than Oviraptorids, with slender arms and long legs
    • Another difference between caenagnathids and oviraptorids is that caenagnathids tended to live in humid floodplains, and oviraptorids lived in arid areas
    • There are about 12 named caenagnathid species, but not all may be valid (some named from fragments of skeletons)
    • Fun fact: Dinosaur eggs are found in many different shapes and sizes. Most are spherical, and some can be almost 1 foot long, though the smallest found so far is only about 1 inch long. Fossilized eggs are hard like rocks, but they retain their structures.

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