Dinosaur National Monument (Celebrating 100 Years)

October 4, 2015 marked the 100 year anniversary of Dinosaur National Monument.

Though it was founded on October 4, 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, dinosaur bone beds were first discovered there in 1909 by Earl Douglass.

Originally Dinosaur National Monument only had 80 acres and included area in Northeast Utah to protect “an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains of the Jurassic period,” according to the National Park Service.

In 1938 the area was expanded to 210,000 acres to include a lot more of Utah and also quite a bit of Colorado. The area is mostly in Colorado, although the visitor center with most of the dinosaur goodness is in Utah (where all of the visible dinosaur fossils are on display).

According to NPS, “The Canyon Visitor Center, which is open from late spring through early fall, is located just off U.S. Highway 40, two miles east of Dinosaur, CO,” but it is not the main visitor center. The main visitor center is located in Utah and up from the visitor center is the dinosaur quarry which has over 1,500 fossils in a cliff face which is enclosed by the exhibit hall (kind of like a building, except one of the walls is a cliff full of fossils).

You can make the 0.5 mile trip up there either by shuttle in the summer or guided “car caravan” the rest of the year (or you can walk), which is what we did, and recommend doing. The address for the museum is 11625 E 1500 S, Jensen, UT 84035. It’s about a five hour drive from Denver or a three hour drive from Salt Lake City, and you’re going to have to drive to get there because there aren’t really any other major cities nearby. Since it’s up in the mountains the elevation of most of the park is about one mile up.

The park has two rivers running through it: the Green River and the Yampa River, which are both beautiful. If you enjoy camping, there are six campgrounds and about 120 sites (half on the Utah side and half on the Colorado side), located in all corners of the park.

The monument itself is open 24/7, but the visitor center is open from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In 1923, Earl Douglass, the paleontologist who established the dinosaur quarry, suggested that the government “leave the bones and skeletons in relief and house them.” Douglass believed that doing so would create “one of the most astounding and instructive sights imaginable.” It took more than 30 years for his vision to become a reality, but Douglass’ assertion was correct.

The quarry exhibit hall was built in 1957 and is 150 feet long, to match the quarry face. In 2006 the building was deemed unsafe due to damage suffered from being built on soil, which expands while absorbing moisture. In October 2011 it reopened after adding large columns to anchor the building to bedrock much deeper in the ground than the problematic surface clay. It contains the wall of partially excavated fossils, touchbones, and dinosaur replicas, and it also has some nice touchscreens that explains the fossils in the walls.

There was a bit of a controversy when the Colorado River Storage Project planned to put a dam at Echo Park in the Middle of the Monument. The Sierra Club and Wilderness Society led a national campaign to preserve the rivers arguing that since it was a National Monument it should not be allowed. Eventually Congress agreed and they left the rivers in the Monument in tact.

We stayed in the nearby town of Vernal, UT which has a few dinosaur attractions of its own, but nothing compared to the national monument.

  • Here’s the driving route that we did with the hike:
    From the Canyon visitor center in Colorado up Harper’s Corner Rd about 30 miles (takes about one and a half to two hours one way, depending on how many scenic stops you take)
    At the end of the road there is a trail to “Harper’s Corner” (three miles total, out and back, and has an amazing view of the Green River)
  • There are also picnic areas all along the road which are a great place to stop.

In the summer you can look around for fossils, and the Harper’s Corner Trail has clam-like shells and crinoids (an ancient relative of starfish), since it was under an ancient sea, and other areas have rock carvings from prehistoric people. You can also go fishing or river rafting/boating. In the winter cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are allowed in some areas as well, although some of the roads close.

Additional information:

  • Parking costs $10 (good for a week)
  • An annual pass is $20
  • And an Interagency pass is $80 (good at most federal parks)

I Know Dino Podcast Show Notes: Ceratosaurus (Episode 45)

Episode 45 is all about Ceratosaurus, a carnivore with a nasal horn.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • The dinosaur of the day: Ceratosaurus, whose name means “horned lizard”
  • Lived in the Late Jurassic
  • Found in North America and Portugal and Tanzania
  • Charles Marsh described the type species in 1884, and Gilmore redescribed the species in 1920
  • Type species is Ceratosaurus nasicornis
  • Other species include C. magnicornis (named in 2000) and C. dentisculcatus (also 2000)
  • C. magnicornis has a rounder horn, but is very similar to C. nasicornis
  • C. dentisulcatus is larger (more than 7 m) with an unknown horn shape
  • C. dentisculatus may have been twice as big as C. nasicornis
  • Fossils found in Portugal have been attributed to C. dentisulcatus
  • Paleontologists debate over the validity of both species, saying the differences may be just individuals or differences that come with age
  • Type specimen was 18 ft (5.5 m) long, though may not have been fully grown; max length may have been 20 ft (6.1m) long, based on a specimen found in the mid 1960s based on proportions of the holotype
  • Type specimen had two left metatarsals fused together, which may mean it had a healed fracture
  • Ceratosaurus was very bird like
  • 15-20 ft (4.5 to 6m) long and weighed about 0.5 to 1 ton (500 kg to 1 ton)
  • Weighed up to 2,160 lb (980 kg)
  • Had large jaws, blade like teeth, a blade like horn on its snout and hornlets over its eyes (like Allosaurus)
  • Had a row of osteoderms on the middle of its back
  • Not sure why it had osteoderms on its back (could be defense against larger predators or against rivals)
  • Short, powerful forelimbs
  • Short arms with four-fingered hands and sharp claws
  • Had a large skull in proportion to body
  • Bipedal, s-shaped neck, large tail, heavy bones
  • Good eyesight
  • Ceratosaurus‘ nasal horn is an extension of the nasal bones on its snout, a fusion of two growths from separate bones (juveniles have beginnings of horn from two bones not fused, so the fusion may indicate reproductive maturity)
  • Marsh thought Ceratosaurus‘ nasal horn was a powerful weapon (so did Gilmore), but nowadays scientists think the horn was used for combat among male ceratosaurs (instead of an offensive and defensive weapon) for breeding rights, though other scientists think it was used just for display and may have been brightly colored
  • Lived alongside Allosaurus, Torvosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus and Camarasaurus
  • Smaller than Allosaurus and Torvosaurus, and probably ate different foods from them, different niche
  • Had longer, flexible body, with a tail shaped like a crocodile’s (probably a better swimmer than Allosaurus)
  • Marsh theorized Ceratosaurus was a good swimmer, based on its long, thin tail
  • Robert Bakker suggested Ceratosaurus went after aquatic prey (fish and crocodiles), though may have also eaten large dinosaurs (scavenged); also found in his study that adults and juveniles sometimes ate together
  • May have hunted in groups, may have competed with Allosaurus for stegosaurs, sauropods, iguanodonts
  • Had long teeth (when mouth was closed, the teeth could extend below the lower jaw)
  • Had a jaw that could slice (instead of crush bone)
  • Less common fossils than Allosaurus, though doesn’t necessarily mean it was more rare
  • Ceratosaurus fossils were rare (in one quarry there are bones belonging to at least 44 individuals, but only one belonged to a Ceratosaurus)
  • Ceratosaurus has been in a few films (D.W. Griffith’s Brute Force from 1914, the first live action film featuring dinosaurs), the Rite of Spring segment of Fantasia, 1940, The Animal World 1956, where a Ceratosaurus fights and kills a Stegosaurus, but then another Ceratosaurus attacks to steal the meal, and both end up falling off a cliff
  • Also in the remake One Million Years B.C., a Ceratosaurus fights a Triceratops
  • Also seen in The Land that Time Forgot, 1975, and the sequel The People that Time Forgot, 1977
  • Also in Jurassic Park III, the TV documentary When Dinosaurs Roamed America and in episodes of Jurassic Fight Club (as a rival to Allosaurus)
  • Can see Ceratosaurus at the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and Dinosaur National Monument
  • Ceratosaurus is related to abelisaur (like Carnotaurus), and previously Ceratosaurus and abelisaurs and primitive coelophysoids were grouped together as Ceratosauria (theropods closer to Ceratosaurus than to Aves), but more recent evidence shows large distinctions between later ceratosaurs and earlier forms
  • Ceratosaurus is the type genus of the family Ceratosauridae
  • Ceratosaurids lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous
  • Marsh named the family Ceratosauridae in 1884
  • Ceratosaurs competed with other, larger predators
  • Two types of Ceratosaurus teeth: one with longitudinal ridges and one with smooth enamel
  • Another ceratosaur is Genyodectes serus (not much known about this dinosaur though–no skull found, so unclear if it had a nasal horn)
  • Fun Fact:

This Week in Dinosaur News: New Duckbill from Alaska Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, Dinosaur Nesting Sites, Good Dinosaur, and More

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

  • A new duckbill dinosaur, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, has been discovered in Alaska, according to The Washington Post and ADN
  • Scientists have found two new dinosaur nesting sites in Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, according to Focus News
  • Pixar released a second The Good Dinosaur trailer, this time with dialogue. Watch it on Slashfilm and EW
  • This year’s Ig Nobel Biology prize went to Chicken + toilet plunger = dinosaur, based on a paper published in PLOS One, according to CNET
  • A team will drill 5,000 feet into the “peak ring” of the Chicxulub crater in Mexico to learn more about the crater’s impact and whether or not new life forms were triggered from it, according to Express
  • Update on The Cube, Queensland University of Technology’s interactive learning display: The team will bring 5 Australian dinosaurs to life, including ‘Banjo’ the Australovenator and the herbivore Muttaburrasaurus, according to EurekaAlert!
  • The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is getting a new permanent exhibit, a 122-foot long cast of Titanosaurus, according to Wired and Washington Post
  • Brian Switek wrote a piece on the Guardian speaking out against the upcoming auction of the juvenile Allosaurus skeleton
  • The New Albany Class, an invitational Grand Prix and family day in New Albany, Ohio, featured a collection of animatronic dinosaurs that were part of the first three Jurassic Park movies, according to Dispatch

I Know Dino Podcast Show Notes: Pachyrhinosaurus (Episode 44)

In our 44th episode of I Know Dino, we had the pleasure of speaking with Christopher Lowman, a fourth year graduate student at UC Berkeley, studying archaeology, who took part in a Royal Tyrell Museum public program and saw a Pachyrhinosaurus being excavated.

We also talk about Pachyrhinosaurus, a “horned” dinosaur that actually had bosses, not horns.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • The dinosaur of the day: Pachyrhinosaurus, whose name means “thick nosed lizard”
  • Lived in Cretaceous in North America
  • Discovered by Charles M. Sternberg in Alberta Canada in 1946, named the species in 1950
  • Charles M. Sternberg also named Edmontonia, he was a Reverend’s son and his sons George, Charles, and Levi also hunted for fossils
  • First Pachyrhinosaurus fossils may have been discovered in 1880, but the ones found in 1946 were the ones leading to it being named in 1950
  • Partial skulls and other fossils have been found in Alberta and Alaska (different species), but not many fossils available to be studied until the 1980s
  • Technically Pachyrhinosaurus is a “horned” dinosaur, but it didn’t have that many horns
  • Skulls had flattened bosses (instead of horns), with a large one over the nose and a smaller one over the eyes
  • Bosses are big, flattened bulges
  • Adult Pachyrhinosaurus had thick sheaths and padding to cover their nasal bosses
  • Also had a pair of horns from the frill that grew upwards, and small ornamental horns on the skull (varied between species and individuals)
  • In the 70s, some paleontologists thought that the bosses on Pachyrhinosaurus‘ face were just the base for giant horns that may have broken off after they died, but no giant horns have been found so far
  • In 2013, PLOS One study called “An Immature Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum (Dinosauria: Ceratopsidae) Nasal Reveals Unexpected Complexity of Craniofacial Ontogeny and Integument in Pachyrhinosaurus” found a new juvenile specimen of P. perotorum in Alaska that showed the changing stages of the nasal boss “reveals a more complicated craniofacial ontogeny in Pachyrhinosaurus than previously thought”
  • At one point the two nasal bones were fully fused together and the nasal posterior may have quickly elongated to accomodate the nasal boss formation
  • Pachyrhinosaurus had bones on its heads, possibly used for head butting (find mates or fight)
  • Specimens have been found with broken ribs and partially healed ribs, so they may have flanked each other
  • May have charged predators like a modern rhinosaurus
  • Three species found: P. lakustai from Wapiti Formation (73.5-72.5 million years ago), P. canadensis from lower Horsehose Canyon Formations (71.5-71 million years ago), P. perotorum from the Prince Creek Formation in Alaska (70-69 million years ago)
  • P. canadensis was named in 1950, P. lakustai in 2008, P. perotorum in 2012
  • Type species is P. canadensis
  • 2008: Philip Currie, Wann Langston Jr. and Darren Tanke made a detailed monograph of the skull of a Pachyrhinosaurus and classified it as a second species, P. lakustai, named after the person who discovered it
  • A Pachyrhinosaurus bonebed was found in Alberta in the late 1980s, where paleontologists found 3500 bones and 14 skulls (possibly the group tried and failed to cross a river during a flood); fossils were from juveniles and adults, so they may have taken care of their young
  • Al Lakusta found the bonebed in 1973
  • Pachyrhinosaurus bones found in the bonebed in the 1980s had convex (curved outward) and concave (curved inward) bosses, possibly due to erosion. P. lakustai named after Al Lakusta (science teacher from Alberta)
  • P. perotorum is named after Ross Perot
  • Species named after Perot because he funded scientific expeditions
  • P. canadensis had eye and snout bosses nearly together, with curved backwards pointing horns on the frill, two flattened horns that point forwards and down from the top of the frill, and a flat round nasal boss
  • P. lakustai sometimes has been found with two curved backwards pointing horns on the frill, and had a jagged comb extension on the tip of the nasal boss, a pommel on the front of the nasal boss, and a comb like horn rising from the middle of the frill behind the eyes
  • P. perotorum had eye and snout bosses almost together, a jagged comb extension on the tip of the nasal boss, and a narrow dome in the center of the upper portion of the nasal boss
  • The boss on the nose was different for each species. P. lakustai and P. perotorum had a jagged, comb-like extension at the tip, P. perotorum had a narrow dome in the middle of the boss, P. lakustai had a structure coming out of the front, P. canadensis had a flat, rounded boss, P. perotorum had two flattened horns from the top of the frill and P. lakustai had a comb-like horn
  • P. canadensis and P. perotorum, bosses grew together, separated by a narrow groove (bosses over the nose and eyes)
  • P. lakustai, two bosses had a large gap
  • P. canadensis and P. lakustai had two small, curved horns that pointed backwards and came from the frill (P. perotorum did not have this, and not all P. lakustai had them, so may have changed based on age or gender)
  • P. canadensis had a flat, round nasal boss, P. perotorum had a domed top, some P. lakustai‘s frills had “unicorn horns” but may be the way the fossils were preserved (from the ones in the bonebed)
  • In 2014, Darla Zelenitsky from University of Calgary announced the find of a well-preserved Pachyrhinosaurus skull (75-80% complete), found in Alberta’s Badlands
  • Skull is an adult’s and is large (possibly the biggest Pachyrhinosaurus skull discovered)
  • Found the skull in October 2013, but it took a few months to remove the 5 tons of rock to get the skull out
  • May be a new species or may be part of the 3 existing ones
  • Skull is 6.5 to 8 ft (2-2.5 m) long, and animal was 6 m long, so was very top heavy
  • Largest Pachyrhinosaurus species was 26 ft (8 m) long and weighed about 4 tons
  • Lived near other dinosaurs including ceratopsians Anchiceratops and Montanoceratops, hadrosaur Edmontosaurus regalis, theropods including Saurornithoides, Saurornitholestes and Troodon, possibly the ornithopod Thescelosaurus and tyrannosaurid Albertosaurus
  • Mostly hadrosaurs in the area
  • Pachyrhinosaurus had a short tail
  • 18-23 ft (5.5-7m) long
  • May have been fast, running up to 20 mph
  • Had small, primitive hearing apparatus, so probably not very good hearing
  • Also reduced olfactory centres, so probably had a poor sense of smell
  • Had poor vision too, based on a study of its brain cavity finding a not well developed optic center
  • Herbivores, with strong cheek teeth (ate fibrous plants)
  • Replaced teeth regularly
  • Beak at front of snout, probably cropped vegetation; had rows of teeth
  • Probably ate cycads, palms
  • May have eaten newly evolved flowering plants
  • May have migrated to warmer climates
  • May have migrated, following coastal plains, or stayed in the same area. Not sure why they’re found in Alberta and Alaska
  • Fossils often found near Edmontosaurus (may have traveled together?)
  • May have reached maturity at around 9 years old, based on Gregory Erickson’s and Patrick Druckenmiller’s study of Pachyrhinosaurus femurs (probably only lived to about 19 or 20 years old)
  • Pachyrhinosaurus was the official mascot of 2010 Arctic Winter Games because a bonebed was near Grand Prairie Alberta (competition for athletes in the north)
  • Pachyrhinosaurus was the star of Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie in 2013 (featured Patchi and his brother Scowler and their herd
  • Pachyrhinosaurus was also in Disney’s Dinosaur in 2000 (awful lot like Land Before Time)
  • Pachyrhinosaurus also in the History Channel TV show Jurassic Fight Club
  • The Phillip J. Currie Museum opened up in the beginning of September, and in addition to watching documentaries and looking at lifelike skeletons, visitors can build a pachyrhinosaurus with magnets on the wall
  • Pachyrhinosaurus is part of the clade Pachyrostra, which is part of the tribe Pachyrhinosaurini, which is part of the family Ceratopsidae, which is part of the clade Marginocephalia
  • Marginocephalia means “fringed heads” and includes pachycephalosaurids and horned ceratopsians (all herbivores, with bony ridge or frill at back of the skull)
  • Lived in Jurassic and Cretaceous
  • Ceratopsidae were quadrupedal herbivores from the Cretaceous, with most living in North America (some in Asia)
  • Had beaks, rows of shearing teeth, and horns and grills
  • Subfamilies are Chasmosaurinae of Centrosaurinae
  • Pachyrhinosaurini was a subfamily of Centrosaurinae
  • Fun Fact: The Prince Creek Formation (PCF) of northern Alaska preserves one of the most diverse and prolific assemblages of polar dinosaurs known anywhere in the world. To date, evidence for at least 13 different dinosaurian taxa are known from early Maastrichtian horizons of the unit, including five ornithischians, seven non-avian theropods, and an avialan theropod

For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with Christopher: Continue reading I Know Dino Podcast Show Notes: Pachyrhinosaurus (Episode 44)

This Week in Dinosaur News: New Developments in Paleontology, Dinosaur Exhibits, Ava the New Ceratopsian, and More

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

  • David Button, a paleontologist from the University of Bristol, gave a talk at the British Science Festival about new developments in paleontology, according to the Irish Times
  • A new traveling dinosaur exhibit, Jurassic Quest, is open, featuring over 50 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, rides, mazes, and more
  • There’s also Discover the Dinosaurs, another traveling exhibit with 60 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, plus rides and mini-golf, according to Michigan Live
  • International Business Times speculated on the future of Jurassic World 2, which will premiere in the U.S. on June 22, 2018 and in the U.K. on June 7, 2018. Animals that may be introduced include
    Plesiosaur and Ichthyosaur
  • The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado, paleontologists unveiled the replica of a potentially new dinosaur, nicknamed Ava (no official name yet) via a livestream on Youtube, according to 9News and CBS
  • A rare juvenile Allosaurus skeleton is going up for auction in the U.K., and is expected to sell for up to $750,000, according to Time and 11 Alive
  • Disney/Pixar unveiled some new footage of The Good Dinosaur at the Toronto International Film Festival, which should some of the T-rex group, voiced by A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin and Sam Elliott, according to Entertain This!
  • A new dinosaur app, The Ultimate Dinopedia: Complete Dinosaur Reference, came out on iPad, according to PC Mag
  • Working Title: A Podcast posted an episode where they interviewed James Gurney, the creator of Dinotopia. They cover James’ inspirations (which include Escher), whether or not Dinotopia is set on another planet and more. Listen to the episode here

Allosaurus Drawing by Josh Cotton

Allosaurus, in ink, by Josh Cotton
Allosaurus, in ink, by Josh Cotton

Paleo-artist Josh Cotton (who we had the pleasure of interviewing in Ultrasaurus/Ultrosaurus – Episode 21) has drawn us this magnificent Allosaurus!

Josh told us he’s doing an ink and watercolor version, emulating William Stout, one of his paleo-art heroes. This ink piece will be  featured in an exhibit that opens today at the Treehouse Children’s Museum in Ogden, Utah alongside “Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice.” Josh is co-exhibiting with Michael Goodwin, a paleo-artist who has done some excellent work with airbrushing.

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