In our 90th episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. John Scannella, interim curator at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.
To learn more about the museum, check out our video in part 4 of our #EpicDinosaurRoadTrip.
Episode 90 is also all about Byronosaurus, a troodontid that lived in what is now Mongolia.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Byronosaurus
- Troodontid dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous in what is now Mongolia
- Michael Novacek found the bones in 1993 as part of an American Museum of Natural History expedition to the Gobi Desert
- In 1996, a second specimen (skull) was found about 5 mi (8 km) away from the first specimen
- Mark Norell, Peter Makovicky, and James Clark described Byrononsaurus in 2000
- Types species is Byronosaurus jaffei
- Species name honors Byron Jaffe (his family supported the Mongolian Academy of Sciences-American Museum of Natural History Paleontological Expeditions)
- Holotype was a partial skeleton with a partial skull
- Holotype skull was 9 in (23 cm) long
- Two skulls of young, possibly newly hatched individuals were found in 2009 and referred to as Byronosaurus (originally thought to be Velociraptor)
- The two young hatchlings (or embryos close to hatching) were found in a nest of oviraptorid eggs (an oviraptorid embryo was found in one of the eggs). Could be there as prey of the adult oviraptorid or be a nest parasite, where Byrononsaurus adult laid eggs in the Citipati nest
- Very bird-like
- Troodontids have unqiue skulls, with closely spaced teeth, and a lot of teeth. Also sickle-claws, and very smart, with keen senses
- Byronosaurus did not have serrations on its teeth (most troodontids do have serrations on their teeth), and is most similar to Xixiasaurus (also did not have serrations on teeth, discussed in episode 84)
- Teeth were needle-like, good for catching small birds, lizards, and mammals (and similar to Archaeopteryx)
- Had a highly developed sense of smell (helpful in hunting)
- Byrononsaurus showed there was diversity in Asian troodontids
- Troodontidae is a small group of maniraptorans
- Small and very bird-like (one Troodontid, called Sinovenator, is very similar to Archaeopteryx)
- Some scientists have suggested Troodontidae were ancestors of birds, but most believe it was dromaeosaurs
- Troodontid genuses include Saurornithoides (Mongolia), Troodon (North America), and Sinornithoids
- Other troodontids include Borogovia (named after Lewis Carroll poem) and Zanabazar (named after Mongolian spiritual figure), and Mei
- They have lots of teeth and closely spaced teeth in lower jaw
- Long legs, large curved claw on second toes that retracts when it runs (similar to dromaeosaurids, but smaller)
- Troodontids have sickle-claws and high EQs (very smart)
- Good hearing
- Ears were asymmetrical (one higher than the other, similar to owls), so may have hunted like owls, using hearing to locate prey
- Some may have been omnivorous though most were probably carnivorous
- Some troodont fossils show they roosted like birds (Mei), and supports theory that they probably had feathers
- Fun fact: One of the biggest problems that fossils can have after they are excavated is called pyrite disease. Pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, is a mineral made of iron and sulfur and if a fossil forms in the presence of those elements pyrite crystals can actually form inside the fossils. At first this isn’t a problem, since replacing bone with minerals is what fossilization is all about. But if it’s exposed to water and oxygen it can oxidize (basically rust) and when it oxidizes it expands and can basically shatter the fossil it’s in. This started happening to the Triceratops at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC so they took it down to better conserve the fossil. According to the AMNH the solution to prevent the problem is to keep humidity below 45% (you may notice hygrometers in museum displays for this reason. And once damage starts bringing the humidity below 30% can help.
For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with Dr. John Scannella:Continue Reading …