The University of California Museum of Paleontology

For people visiting or living in the Bay Area of California, the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) has some great fossils, but most of the rooms are only open to the public one day of the year, on Cal Day (this year April 18). In addition to more of the museum being open, Cal offers a number of free archeology (and other) lectures.

But there are still some cool exhibits to see:

20150124_163808 20150124_163823 20150124_163842

Below is a cast of a T-rex found in eastern Montana in 1983. According to UCMP, it’s named after Kathy Wankel, who discovered the fossil. In April 2014, the real bones of the Wankel T-rex were delivered to the Smithsonian in D.C., to be the new main display in the dinosaur and fossil hall.

20150124_164429

UCMP also has a couple Triceratops skulls on display. The big skull was also discovered in Montana, in the Hell Creek Formation, but by John Ruben in 1970, who was a Berkeley grad student at the time.

The small skull is a cast of a baby Triceratops, and the smallest Triceratops skull found. At 38 cm long, it had developing horns and was probably not even a year old when it died. The skull also comes from the Hell Creek Formation, but it was disovered by Harley Garbani in 1997.

20150124_163432

Guest Post: Taylor McCoy, Everything Dinosaurs

At I Know Dino, we welcome anyone with a passion for dinosaurs. In keeping with that spirit, we’ve asked Taylor McCoy, founder of the website Everything Dinosaurs to share some of his thoughts on dinosaurs. Taylor also kindly gave us an interview for the I Know Dino podcast (Juratyrant – Episode 8). You can find the episode here.

image01My name is Taylor McCoy. Though I’m not a professional, I’ve been personally studying dinosaurs and paleontology for years. In that time I’ve come up with a number of theories and ideas of my own. Many of my theories revolve around large theropods, especially Tyrannosaurus rex. I’ve also visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh a number of times.

My personal fossil collection numbers over 40 fossils and a few replica fossils. My specimens include dinosaur fossils, trilobites, fish, shark teeth (including Megalodon teeth), and many others. Some of these I have purchased, others I found. Many of the ones I found was by simply by keeping an eye out for the right thing in the right place. On a hike in central Pennsylvania once for example, I spotted a small trilobite. While on vacation in New Jersey, I found the lower jaw to a prehistoric angler-fish relative called a goosefish.

As with nearly every dinosaur lover, I’m quite excited to see Jurassic World when it comes out. I’ve been following the film’s development for a few years now and the news on it just keeps getting better and better in my opinion.

My Website

In June of 2013, I decided to make a website in order to get my knowledge out there to share with the public called Everything Dinosaurs. Since it’s creation, my site has received over 30,000 visitors. A comment and question box, along with a “Favorite Dinosaur” poll is also featured on the home page. Dozens of people have also used these features. The most common entry in the poll so far is Tyrannosaurus.

While many “dinosaur sites” feature animals that lived before and after dinosaurs like Megalodon, the Wooly Mammoth, and Dimetrodon, Everything Dinosaurs focuses entirely on dinosaurs and their contemporaries. In fact, the most recent addition (the 151th featured species) was a dinosaur contemporary called Desmatosuchus.

Some of the information on the site will be similar to that of other sites and sources whenever it’s information I agree with. However, it’s clear that my personal theories and opinions have worked their way into much of it. Good examples of this can be seen on the Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus pages.

I don’t really have a specific strategy when choosing new additions to the site. I’ll often be influenced by new discoveries, suggestions, or simply thinking of one I hadn’t added yet. Once I choose a new species to add, I’ll start doing some “refresher research” to try and make sure the page is as accurate as possible. This information is added to my previous knowledge and incorporated into the page. I’ll then go and find a good picture and size comparison to use for it. If there isn’t a good picture or size comparison, I may not add the animal, as those are very important in my opinion.

Probably the most frequently visited page on the site, besides the home page of course, is the T-rex page. The reason for this is probably simply because T-rex is the most famous dinosaur. That said, my site has allowed many to learn about lesser known species like Alamosaurus and Ceratosaurus as well.

I think everyone that wants to have their voice heard when it comes to paleontology should make a site (a legit one, not some troll site). It’s fast, easy, and in many cases, free. It’s also fun and very satisfying. Getting to see so many people enjoying my site and getting information from it is great. In my opinion, it’s important not to follow the crowd. It’s good to read what others think and take it into account. However, it’s important to draw your own conclusions and the like. Making a site is a good way to do that.

A link for the site can be found at the bottom of the post, along with a link for Weebly, the site I used for making Everything Dinosaurs.

I Know Dino Podcast: Oryctodromeus (Episode 2)

The I Know Dino podcast is going strong. We have multiple episodes up already, and are working on getting them all transcribed.

You can find our free podcast, with both episodes, on iTunes at:

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

In our second episode, our featured guest is Dr. Anthony J. Martin, a paleontologist who specializes in ichnology, which according to his website, is “the study of modern and ancient traces caused by animal behavior, such as tracks, trails, burrows, and nests.”

Dr. Martin is also the author of several books, including his most recent one, Dinosaurs Without Bones. You can also find him on Twitter, @Ichnologist. and I recommend reading his post that dissects the ichnology in the Jurassic Park movies.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The dinosaur of the day: Oryctodromeus. The name is Greek for “Burrowing Runner.”
  • Oryctodromeus was the first known burrowing dinosaur, and Dr. Martin and his colleagues found an adult and two juveniles in a fossilized chamber, in 2007. They had died and decayed in the burrow, which looked similar to those made by hyenas and puffins.
  • Having juveniles with the adults suggests Oryctodromeus provided parental care for an extended period of time.
  • Oryctodromeus lived during the Middle Cretaceous, about 95 million years ago, in southwestern Montana and southwestern Idaho.
  • Oryctodromeus was up to 6.8 long, and weighed 70 pounds (it was small, but quick)
  • Oryctodromeus did not have long arms and legs, like modern burrowing animals. But it did have more specialized adaptations, such as a flexible tail it could curl up underground. This makes it similar to rabbits, aardvarks, and hyenas.
  • Dr. Martin recommends visiting Dinosaur State Park in CT to see dinosaur tracks.
  • Fun Fact: The largest dinosaur eggs were as big as basketballs. Bigger eggs had thicker shells, so if the eggs had been larger than basketballs, dinosaur babies probably would not have been able to hatch.

For those who may prefer reading, see below for the transcript of the episode, including our interview with Dr. Martin: Continue reading I Know Dino Podcast: Oryctodromeus (Episode 2)

Our Big Dinosaur Podcast Giveaway!

We’re celebrating the launch of the I Know Dino podcast! From now until midnight, Sunday, March 15, you can enter to win:

  • A $50 iTunes giftcard
  • A FREE copy of Anthony J. Martin’s book, Dinosaurs Without Bones
  • A FREE copy of the documentary Dinosaur 13, featuring Pete Larson and Sue the T-rex

Enter the big dinosaur podcast giveaway here! (If you can’t see the giveaway widget, click here to enter the giveaway).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I Know Dino Podcast: Tyrannosaurus Rex (Episode 1)

After months of researching, interviewing, and polishing, we have finally launched our long-awaited I Know Dino podcast!

You can find our new, free podcast on iTunes at:

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

Our first episode features Pete Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. Pete is a T-rex expert, and one of the main people in the documentary Dinosaur 13:

When Paleontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institute made the world’s greatest dinosaur discovery in 1990, they knew it was the find of a lifetime; the largest, most complete T. rex ever found. But during a ten-year battle with the U.S. government, powerful museums, Native American tribes, and competing paleontologists they found themselves not only fighting to keep their dinosaur but fighting for their freedom as well.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Pete Larson, paleontologist and president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota. He led the excavation of the T-rex “Sue,” the largest and most complete T-rex found.
  • The documentary, Dinosaur 13, came out recently about the excavation, detailing the federal government’s seizure of Sue, the 10-year long legal battle, how Black Hills came together to fight for Sue, and Larson’s 18 months in prison.
  • The dinosaur of the day is Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is ancient Greek for “Tyrant Lizard.”
  • T-rex lived during the late Cretaceous period, in western North America (at the time an island continent called Laramidia)
  • T-rexwas one of the largest known land predators; up to 40 feet in length, 13 feet tall at the hips, and 6.8 metric tons
  • T-rex was probably a predator and a scavenger, and was estimated to have one of the largest bite forces among all terrestrial animals
  • Scientists used to think T-rex walked upright and dragged its tail (a “living tripod”) but now they think the tail as off the ground, as seen in Jurassic Park.
  • Henry Fairfield Osborn, the former president of the American Museum of Natural History, was convinced T-rex stood upright and unveiled the first complete T-rex skeleton this way in 1915. It stood in this upright pose for 77 years, until 1992.
  • T-rex probably had feathers, at least on parts of its body.
  • T-rex had enhanced eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell (comparable to modern vultures), and could track prey movements from long distances.
  • T-rex may have had pack behavior.
  • Fun Fact:  The time between when Stegosaurus lived and when T-rex lived is longer than the time between when T-rex lived and now.

For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our first episode (including the interview with Pete Larson): Continue reading I Know Dino Podcast: Tyrannosaurus Rex (Episode 1)

The Best and Worst Animatronic Dinosaurs

As far as large animatronic dinosaurs go, there are not a lot of options around.  Back in 2007 the three-time Emmy Award winning BBC miniseries “Walking with Dinosaurs” launched an “Arena Spectacular” to bring dinosaurs to life.  And more recently, in 2012, “Field Station: Dinosaurs” was opened as a theme park near Manhattan by a dinosaur enthusiast.  But other than dinosaurs, the two have very little in common.

The Field Station is set up to resemble just that, a large field with lots of dinosaurs and dinosaur activities around for kids to enjoy.  It’s typically categorized as a theme park, and it seemed effective at entertaining small children.  But as an adult there is very little to do, the activities certainly don’t have much to offer, and the only other thing to do is to walk around and look at the dinosaurs.  Which would be fine, but the dinosaurs leave a lot to be desired.

Most of the dinosaurs do appear well modelled and are laid out in a way where one never knows what to expect.  But the Devil is in the detail.  Possibly because the entire exhibit is outside, the dinosaurs move very little.  Most of the movements can be described as head bobbing, tail wagging, or a jaw opening and closing but only ever one animation per dinosaur.  But what really eliminates the sense of wonder is the terrible sound.  There are many motion activated speakers around to bring the dinosaurs to life, but every speaker I heard was full of static.  So at the end of the day there is a stationary dinosaur with one actuator moving back and forth to the soundtrack of static.

Walking with Dinosaurs, on the other hand, has fully articulated dinosaurs.  They walk, eat, nuzzle, battle, and chase each other around an arena.  And because it is staged in an arena the sounds are excellent.  The dinosaurs come with a full narration pulled largely (sometimes verbatim) from the documentary, which brings the viewer deeper into the world.  The mechanical achievement of the show is nothing short of amazing.

With kids, the Field Station could probably be an afternoon affair, but skipping the side-shows, you’ll be through in about 30 minutes.  Walking with Dinosaurs is 80 minutes with a break in the middle.  A ticket to the Field Station runs about $20 while Walking with Dinosaurs is about $60.  So if you’re on a very tight budget the Field Station is a better choice, but you definitely get what you pay for.

The Field Station isn’t all bad, it’s comprised of 32 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, while Walking with Dinosaurs was closer to half that number.  And being able to walk much closer to them, especially when some are so large does give a certain sense of awe, but it is constantly limited by the poor animation and sound.  If you have the opportunity, Walking with Dinosaurs is a must see.  Field Station: Dinosaurs is a good choice if you’re in the NYC area and you have a young dinosaur enthusiast to entertain, but expect to be babysitting, not enjoying yourself.

Walking With Dinosaurs Field Station Dinosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: Stegosaurus Field Station Dinosaurs: Ankylosaurus
Walking With Dinosaurs: Brachiosaurus Field Station Dinosaurs: Hadrosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: Raptors Field Station Dinosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: T-Rex Field Station Dinosaurs: T-Rex

A site about dinosaurs