Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'd opt for extinction if I had a name like that. . .

Looking up strange dinosaur names today... similar to poor Megalosaurus' "Scrotum humanum" and the little Pachycephalosaur "Dracorex hogwartsia". I think I might have found the single most depressed dinosaur in their entire existence...

Erectopus superbus

This pathetically named Allosaur probably wished death upon himself. I would have surely conjured up an asteroid just for the occasion. The poor buggar appeared to have several -near- name changes over the past 100 years, but still managed to maintain his pornstar name. Essentially, Erectopus means "upright foot", add the superbus in and you get "proud upright foot". I highly doubt it would have felt superior and terrifying in the face of laughing herbivores.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I love you, Spike

Stegosaurus Week (13th Sept to 19th Sept) is coming to a close, and I haven't made a single mention about the Stegosaurus.

For those who don't know, Stegosaurus was a herbivour which first appeared in the Jurassic (and probably had epic battles of survival against Allosaurus). The most commonly identified of the Stegosauridae family is most likely Stegosaurus stenops, since nearly everywhere I look (if you're searching for dinosaurs as much as I am), S. stenops is almost like the posterchild for what a Stegosaurus species is characterised for. It was short and stocky, but with large plates and typical 4 spikes on the end of the tail. Although, it wasn't the largest stegosaurid, it does seem to be the most common species.

So why is Stegosaurus so awesome??
Besides the clearly lethal set of tail-spikes Steg sported, and the pretty cool looking fashion statement they made during the Jurassic with their plate(-like Mohawks), there is one really awesome thing about Stegosaurus:

It had a "second brain"; near the base of its tail used for controlling reflexes in the rear part of its body. The "brain" in the hip region was not made of brain tissue, but instead, a complex nerve centre; the "sacral plexus." It was a secondary control center for the spinal cord. So despite the obvious tiny size of Stegosaurus' brain, and the possibility that it may have lacked intelligence, didn't mean it wasn't cleverly designed for its time in an evolutionary time-frame.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feathery upset

I had this journal article in Nature brought to my attention; and low and behold! It has my favourite palaeoartist, Raul Martin's interpretation of this amazing predator, Concavenator corcovatus...

Interesting features of this 130 million year old predatory dinosaur:
(1) a strange hump on its back; and
(2) unusual calcareous lumps on its forearms (believed to bear quills - a possible evidence of feathers).

The eleventh and twelfth vertebrae are more prominent, being double the height of the rest of the vertebrae. This pyramidal crest may have been used in territorial disputes and/or attracting a mate, or even similarly used in a manner resembling Stegosaurus' plates. (To me, it looks like an ideal, gentle slope where a male Concavenator could rest his chest while romancing the lady... but that's my outlandish observation).
At this point, all we can gather is Concavenator is a rather strange specimen.

Now the bumps on the forearms is even more controversial than the odd triangular hump. So the problem here is this... C. corcovatus provides evidence that feathers began to appear earlier than previously thought. Which now puts a little twist in the Therapod family tree, as Concavenator is more closely related to "Big Al" (MOR 693) which, up until now, have never had a feathery relative. The sister lineage which has the feather-featuring dinosaurs (T. rex) and finally leading to modern-day birds has now been thrown into shambles over the rights to bear plumage.