Our 84th episode kicks off with an interview featuring Dr. Scott Persons, who has a PhD in evolution and systematics from the University of Alberta, and still works there researching dinosaur biomechanics and evolution. He works for Dr. Philip J. Currie, who we interviewed back in episode 4. Dr. Persons has been on many dinosaur digs and he currently studies dinosaur locomotion. But the way that we found out about his work is that he presents all of the University of Alberta Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on Coursera.org that came out this year, and he did a really amazing job.
You can reach Dr. Persons on Twitter @WScottPersons. And you can see the introduction to his Paleo 101 course on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jX4_mWAlUg as well as an awesome short video of the University of Alberta using a helicopter to lift a dinosaur skull out of the ground at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJmHONyeLZ8&feature=youtu.be.
Episode 84 is also about Xixiasaurus, a troodontid with sickle claws and keen senses.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Xixiasaurus
- Name means “Henan Xixia lizard“
- Not to be confused with Xixianykus, an alvarezsaur from the same formation (Majiacun Formation in China, Henan Province, Xixia County)
- Type species is Xixiasaurus henanensis
- Species name is in honor of the Henanon Province, where it was found
- Troodontid that lived in the late Cretaceous in what is now China
- Described in 2010
- Chinese scientists from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing and the Henan Geological Museum in Henan described the fossil
- “From Lü, J.−C., Xu, L., Liu, Y.−Q., Zhang, X.−L., Jia, S.H., and Ji, Q. 2010. A new troodontid theropod from the Late Cretaceous
of central China, and the radiation of Asian troodontids. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”
- Fossils found at the Xixia Basin
- Found a mostly complete skull, which resembles Bryonosaurus, a troodontid from the late Cretaceous in what is now Mongolia (both have no serrations on teeth)
- Bird like
- Estimated to be 3.9 ft (1.2m) long
- Had good hearing and a good sense of smell
- Very smart, one of the highest encephalization quotients of nonavian dinosaurs
- Skull is nearly complete, except for its posterior portion (part of braincase also missing)
- Skull is long and similar to Byronosaurus
- Had 22 maxillary teeth
- Xixiasaurus had fewer maxillary teeth than Byronosaurus, which had at least 30 (but still had more teeth than most other theropods)
- Troodontids were probably carnivores, based on their teeth. Though in 1998, Holtz et al. suggested they may have been herbivores because the size of the serrations on their teeth were more similar to other herbivores than carnivores (but not widely accepted)
- Lack of serrations on Xixiasaurus and Byronosaurus show their food sources may have changed (they could no longer slice meat with their teeth)
- So maybe Xixiasaurus was an herbivore or omnivore?
- Troodontidae is a group of bird-like theropods
- Troodontids have been found in the Northern Hemisphere only (North America, Europe, Asia)
- Largest one was Troodon, and the smallest was Anchiornis (known)
- They have closely spaced teeth in the lower jaw, sickle-like claws, and were pretty advanced
- Had long legs
- Had large brains and large eyes, and good hearing
- Had asymmetrical ears (one higher on the skull, like owls), which means they may have hunted similar to owls, using hearing to find prey
- Fun fact: It’s likely that Enantiornitheans lived in colonial nesting sites and unlike many modern birds they may have buried their eggs.
For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with Dr. Scott Persons:Continue Reading …