It’s a book by Greg Bear. About dinosaurs. Need I say more?
Posts Tagged ‘dinosaurs’
For those of you who never had a childhood dinosaur obsession, or a dinosaur-obsessed child, Pachycephalosaurus was a “dome-headed” dinosaur: it and its relatives had extremely thick (like, ten inches) skulls, often dome-shaped and fringed with an array of spikes and other protrusions. It is thought—but the idea is controversial—that these dinosaurs engaged in head-butting fights like male goats and sheep do today with their horns. (An alternative is that they head-butted their opponent’s sides, rather than engaging in extremely risky head-on fights.)
A new analysis of a Pachycephalosaurus skull has found evidence of a healed injury or injuries from such a battle. The top of the animal’s cranial dome has two large depressions—and by large, I mean 5 cm across and up to 1.6 cm deep—in addition to a scattering of smaller pits concentrated towards the front end of the skull. The shape of these scars led the authors to rule out postmortem damage by erosion or scavengers as causes. Instead, they believe the dinosaur sustained a skull fracture—and survived, but with a nasty infection. A CT scan showed evidence that the wound had at least partly healed before the animal died.
While there are no modern analogues for skull-bashing dinosaurs, the authors compared the fracture to those sustained by birds flying into windows. They were able to find skeletons of some birds that had survived such a trauma long enough to heal, and they did indeed have large, round depressions on their skulls (though, from the figure, there don’t seem to be any smaller pits—perhaps the bird’s wound wasn’t infected, or perhaps the pits could be attributed to the spikes and nobs also found on Pachycephalosaurus‘s skull).
The authors note that many instances of apparent damage on pachycephalosaur skull fossils have been dismissed as erosion, and that a closer look at many specimens could show similar examples of healed wounds. While such injuries wouldn’t prove whether these dinosaurs were head-butting each other, or just hitting head-to-flank, or for that matter running into things, they would suggest that those thick skulls weren’t just for show.
I note with interest the names of two other pachycephalosaurs mentioned in this study (which may actually be juvenile Pachycephalosaurus, and thus not validly named, unfortunately): Stygimoloch spinifer (the horned devil from the Styx) and Dracorex hogwartsia (the dragon king of Hogwarts).
Peterson, J., & Vittore, C. (2012). Cranial Pathologies in a Specimen of Pachycephalosaurus PLoS ONE, 7 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036227
Have I accumulated enough taxonomy-related links for another roundup? Am I too exhausted/lazy from field work to do any proper blogging? Yes and yes.
First, and most importantly, the NCSU Insect Museum has announced the winners of its awesome annual Hexapod Haiku contest. My favourite among the runners-up:
all the insects
in the other world
A short collection of goofy scientific names. I don’t understand why so few people want to do taxonomy. Think of the power you’d have, naming tiny primitive insects after Tolkien characters!
Random, related thought: describing a new species is like developing a DnD character. Except that you’ve lost your set of dice and your Player’s Handbook. (Actually, I think someone’s already indirectly made this parallel, viz. the Phylo, formerly Phylomon, card game.)
I’ve saved the best for last. This list of dinosaurs that “aren’t what they were” is frakking great. When I was just starting to be obsessed with dinosaurs, the idea that they were warm-blooded and related to birds was just becoming widely accepted. My childhood collection of dinosaur books was thus a mixture of those with illustrations of plodding stupid heavy-tailed brutes and those with lean and nimble, even graceful, beasts. But by the time I was in high school, things had changed even more: people had found fossil feathers. A lot of them. Now virtually every theropod (the predatory dinosaurs from which birds evolved), and even many non-theropods, is illustrated with at least a proto-feathery covering. The quill-like things on Psittacosaurus and Triceratops are pretty wicked. (A funny thing to note is that the Jurassic Park movies have always tended to be ahead of the mainstream idea of dinosaurs, first with the warm-bloodedness, then with the feathers and badass Spinosaurus.)
Okay, one more link, because the last one reminded me of it: T. rex trying, my favourite thing on the internet these days.
For those of you who didn’t spend your entire childhoods alternately wanting to be a palaeontologist and wishing you were a dinosaur, ceratopsians are large, typically quadrupedal herbivores with bony frills extending from the backs of their skulls and, often, various spikes, bumps, or horns on their heads (“ceratops”, a traditional part of many names in this taxon, means, roughly, horned-face in Greek). Think Triceratops. Their elaborate headgear could be defensive or a sexual ornament; probably a bit of both.
I was looking through this list of dinosaurs described in 2010 and noticed that many of the new ceratopsians had wickedly badass names. Hence this post, which will feature genera both new and old. (more…)
I spent a few hours today working on a post about dinosaur—specifically, ceratopsian—names that amuse me. The process was making me contemplate writing another, more general, post about naming dinosaurs. (There’s all sorts of interesting patterns, like “unofficial” suffixes and the recent emergence of latinized Chinese names.) Then I checked BoingBoing and found a link to this blog post which literally does exactly what I was thinking of doing but better than I ever could! So go read it! (Except don’t read the part about ceratopsians. Read mine instead when I post it next week or so. :P)