Friday, December 30, 2016

Beast Files: Giant Armadillo

Common name: Giant Armadillo
Scientific name: Priodontes maximus
Pronounced: Pry-Oh-Dont-Ees Maximus

The giant armadillo, as you can guess based on its name, is the largest armadillo still in existence (We shall say nothing of their ancient spheroid relatives). They can weigh around 40-180 pounds when fully grown and have up to one hundred teeth, which surprisingly, is the largest amount of teeth of any terrestrial mammal. Instead of rolling up into balls, they burrow to protect themselves. Although they eat other creepy crawlies, like spiders, they prefer to munch on ants and termites.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Paleo File: Hadrosaurus

(Author: Benjamin Chandler of Antediluvian Echoes)

Although fossils are normally found in rocky sediments layered together for millions of years from geologic processes, plenty of exceptions are made. Fossils can also be found in rather loose substrates, like clay pits. One such discovery, the first of American Dinosaur origin, was made in a marl pit on a small tributary of the Cooper River in Haddonfield, New Jersey, which eventually came to be known as the Woodbury Formation.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

The specific marl pit to brandish fossils was on the property of farmer, John Estaugh Hopkins. Hopkins was first to find something in the marl pit in 1838. Embedded in the clay were a number of large, fossilized bones. Hopkins was not exactly looking for them, as he wanted nutrient-rich marl clay to fertilize his farm; however, the fossils were curious enough to keep, and he displayed them in his home for a time. Fossils make great conversation pieces, so no doubt visitors saw the bones and interpreted any number of things.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Twenty years passed before the bones inspired someone to go to the same mud-pit and find the rest of the skeleton. William Parker Foulke, a Quaker, philanthropist, abolitionist, and geologist, was just that person. Curious about the fossils, he asked Hopkins if he could see them, but the farmer apparently had grown bored of the bones and disposed of them without ceremony or thought. Perhaps more lay in the marl, thought Foulke, and was granted permission to search the clay and silt.

And so the black bones, newly excavated, were wrapped in cloth, covered in hay, and hauled to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to be studied by Foulke and the academy’s paleontologist Joseph Leidy.

(Image credit: T. Jordan Wompierski and Jersey Man Magazine)

It was not an entire skeleton, just the left half without a skull, either. The find did include; limbs, half a pelvis, twenty-eight vertebrae, and a few teeth—35 bones in total. Leidy’s imagination fired and interpreted not bison or mammoth or world-flood casualty, but a dinosaur—a member of a newly named branch on the tree of life. This dinosaur was unique. It was no lumbering, quadrupedal hulk like those recently described in England. No, this animal had grace and was able to stand on its hind legs, holding its head aloft among Cretaceous conifers. Leidy named it Hadrosaurus foulkii, “Foulke’s bulky lizard,” to honor the man who’d finally given the bones the attention they deserved.

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

An artist was dispatched—Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. An English artist with an eye for detail and drama, he took Foulke’s bones and Leidy’s ideas and constructed a skeleton lanky and pensive, like a dancer paused in thought. Hawkins sculpted a blunt head, iguana-like, but bearing the battery of unique grinding teeth found in the marl. The mount was a sensation.

(Original Skeletal Mount; Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Those same bones from the mud remained the only Hadrosaurus fossils known. No additional specimens have been uncovered from the original site or any other. The 1868 mount was disassembled, but the fossils remain at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Casts of them can now be seen there on display. The originals are too precious for public viewing and remain in the Academy’s vaults, some still in wooden boxes Leidy crafted just for the bones.

(Life Restoration by Andre Sorj)

In the 150-plus years since the discovery of Hadrosaurus foulkii, other species have been assigned to the genus: H. mirabilis and H. cavatus. These have since been found to belong to other genera. The fossils were also referred to Ornithotarsus immanis for a time, even being considered a nomen dubium due to the fragmentary status of the original fossils, but Hadrosaurus foulkii remains a valid taxa leaving its name remaining as the type specimen of the entire family, the Hadrosauridae, a legion of mallard-faced saurians sporting various crests and knobs.
(Image Credit: Jack Wood)

Due to evolutionary association, it can be reasonably assured Hadrosaurus was duck-billed with jaws that chewed in four directions to grind vegetation into pulp. It likely had thick, pebbly skin. It could stand on two legs as Leidy once hypothesized; skeletons of young hadrosaurids suggest bipedalism was the norm until adulthood, when the animal would spend most of its time on all fours. It may have been gregarious, nesting in colonies, and feeding its hatchlings before they could walk. Radiometric dating of the marl pit reveal Hadrosaurus foulkii lived during the Cretaceous Period, between 80.5 and 78.5 million years ago.

(Image Credit: Nobu Tamura)

Hadrosaurus was the first dinosaur find of the United States and the first mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world. In 1991, it was named the official state dinosaur of New Jersey. It was also to be a star of the Paleozoic Museum, a proposed paleontology-focused glass and iron palace in New York’s newly created Central Park. Here Hadrosaurus would cavort with Laelaps and plesiosaurs, glyptodonts and Irish elks, all carefully crafted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Hawkins’s plans show more than one life-sized model of the creatures in the exhibit—one standing tall, almost defiant against a crouching theropod, another at rest, like a great, reptilian house cat, legs folded, tail wrapped around its scaly body. Sadly, Hawkins inserted himself into local civics by speaking against “Boss” Tweed, a corrupt local politician, and Tweed’s hoodlums destroyed the artist’s studio, smashing every sculpture and mold, burying the fragments and dust under the park. 

However, Hawkins was not done with Hadrosaurus. He submitted sketches for a proposed exhibit at for the Smithsonian Institution where a sculpture of the duck-bill would stand as the centerpiece. He sculpted another skeleton for exhibitions in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. on the occasion of the Declaration of Independence’s centenary. And he painted a herd of the beasts in a Romantic landscape, alive, rearing against predators and cavorting beside a plesiosaur-choked beach under a bright blue Cretaceous sky.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Paleo File: Timurlengia

        In Tyrannosaur evolution, there is a 20 million year gap in the early-mid Cretaceous that excludes evidence of how this group of animals achieved its large dominating size. When new organisms are uncovered that shed light on these kinds of ‘dark gaps’, they help to shed new light on the way a group of animals develops over time.

Material referred to Timurlengia

Art and Copyright belongs to Todd Marshall            
              Timurlengia, coined in reference to the emperor Timurleng, became known in 1944. The original material, found in Uzbekistan, consisted of fragmentary bones and would remain in storage until a group of researchers uncovered a braincase in 2004; All of the fossils were again put into storage. Steve Brusatte analyzed the remains in 2014 and determined that the fossils suggested a unique genus. It was not until 2016 that Brusatte et al. coined the type specues Timurlengia euotica, euotica translating to “Well-eared”. In total, the material collected consist of; the right half of a braincase, right maxilla, left frontal bone, left quadrate, piece of a right dentary, a right articular with angular, front neck vertebra, rear neck vertebra, the neural arch of the front back vertebra, middle back vertebra, front tail vertebra, middle tail vertebra, rear tail vertebra, and a toe claw. All of these fossils were uncovered in the Bissekty Formation of the Kyzylkum Desert and date to the Turonian age of the early late Cretaceous period, approximately 90 million years ago.

Art and Copyright belongs to Fabrizio De Rossi
          Timurlengia shows characteristics of both early and later Tyrannosaurs; it had very well-developed sight, smell, hearing, and cognition reminiscent of the later Tyrannosaurs. The evidence of heightened senses but small size and slender snout suggest that Tyrannosaurs evolved their enormous size in a quick period of time. Timurlengia was an animal of around 9 to 12 feet in length with teeth designed for the rendering of flesh and senses developed for pursuit of fast-moving prey, like hadrosaurs. 

Art and Copyright belongs to James Kuether 


Lazaro, Enrico De. "Timurlengia Euotica: New Species of Tyrannosaur Discovered in Uzbekistan." Timurlengia Euotica: New Species of Tyrannosaur Discovered in Uzbekistan. Sic-news, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

Brusatte, Stephen L., Alexander Averianov, Hans-Dieter Sues, Amy Muir, and Ian B. Butler. "New Tyrannosaur from the Mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan Clarifies Evolution of Giant Body Sizes and Advanced Senses in Tyrant Dinosaurs." New Tyrannosaur from the Mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan Clarifies Evolution of Giant Body Sizes and Advanced Senses in Tyrant Dinosaurs. PNAS, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Paleo File: Bagaraatan

         Bagaraatan, which is mongolian for “little hunter”, was a small carnivorous theropod dinosaur. Polish Paleontologist, Halszka Osmólska discovered the remains of the animal in the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia 1996. Although the name might seem odd, it is the phylogenetic categorization that makes this organism an oddity.

Art and Copyright belongs to Robinson Kunz
          Halska Osmólska never pursued her findings to the phylogenetic level and left it to other scientists to decide on the fragmentary remains; A Lower Mandible, the upper legs, pelvis, and caudal vertebrae. Scientists have found three possible groups the animal may belong to; Holtz suggested a Tyrannosauroid, Coria a Troodontid, and Rauhut a Maniraptoran. However, despite the differing opinions and confounding evidence, the phylogenetic grouping so far agreed upon is Tyrannosauroidea. More fossils are needed before a concrete classification can be reached, or an appropriate reconstruction of the animal in life.

Material referred to Bagaraatan

"BAGARAATAN : From DinoChecker's Dinosaur Archive." Dinochecker RSS. Dinochecker, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

"Bagaratan." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

Osmolska, H. (1996). "An unusual theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Nemegt Formation of Mongolia". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 41; 1-38

"Bagaraatan." Bagaraatan. Prehistoric Wildlife, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Paleo File: Aviatyrannis

        Although small organisms tend to fossilize more complete than larger organisms, due to the increase of deterioration by environmental conditions on larger surface areas quicker, there are plenty of fragmentary organisms of a small stature. Take for instance; the theropod dinosaur, Aviatyrannis (Av-Eye-Ah-Tie-Ran-Is).

Material attributed to Aviatyrannis
           Uncovered exclusively, so far as science knows, in Portugal, the material was initially found in a lignitic coal seam within the Alcobaca Formation at Guimarota, which is near Leiria in Central Portugal. The Holotype, for which the specific name, jurassica, was attributed by Paleontologist, Oliver Rauhut, and subsisted of a right ilium. The ilium dated to the early Kimmeridgian stage of the Late Jurassic, about 155 million years ago. In 2003, Rauhut assigned a few more pieces to the genus including, a partial right ilium and right ischium.

Approximate Size
          The name, Aviatyrannis jurassica, translates to, “Tyrant Grandmother of the Jurassic” referring to the animal’s phylogenetic placement. Aviatyrannis is a very basal Tyrannosauroid, with the exception of Proceratosaurus, it is the most primitive and likely did not grow very large, with an estimated length of approximately 3-4 feet. Like with the majority of prehistoric flora and fauna, more material is needed before proper identification and visualization of the living organism can be appropriately realized.

Art and Copyright belongs to Frederik Spindler
Works Cited:

Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 100

"Aviatyrannis." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

"Aviatyrannis." Aviatyrannis. Prehistoric Wildlife, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

"AVIATYRANNIS : From DinoChecker's Dinosaur Archive." Dinochecker RSS. DinoChecker, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

"Fossilworks: Aviatyrannis Jurassica." Fossilworks: Aviatyrannis Jurassica. Fossilworks, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Paleo File: Alectrosaurus

         The fossil record, although expansive and bursting-from-the-seams with material, is rather fragmentary. This can be observed time and time again with discoveries so fragmentary proper names are impossible to be attributed. The tomb that is Mongolia is a great reservoir of fossils, many quite well-preserved; however, along with the well-preserved specimens comes the fragmentary ones. Alectrosaurus is one of those fragmentary finds that struggles to shed light on the ecosystems of the prehistoric world, and of course Mongolia as well.

Only the right hindlimb was found on April 25th, 1925, by the Third Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. This find was not the first nor the last and a week later assistant Paleontologist, George Olsen, (the discoverer of the first specimen) found more material on the fourth of May. Nearly one hundred feet away from the initial specimen, he discovered a right humerus, two incomplete manual digits, and four fragmentary caudal vertebrae. These finds were sent back to the museum and prepared; however, more material was uncovered some time later. Fossils were then found in Outer Mongolia which included skull and shoulder fragments. Enough material to suggest how the animal may have appeared in life (Thanks to the laws of symmetry), still more material is needed to get a better picture of this animal.

Art and Copyright belongs to Sergey Krasovskiy
                 The material that was found suggests a Tyrannosauroid theropod of medium size and moderate build. Alectrosaurus may have reached lengths of up to twenty feet. Unlike other Tyrannosauroids, the superfamily leading to more advanced groups like Tyrannosauridae, the lengths of the tibia and femur are rather similar. The formation in which Alectrosaurus was found, called the Iren Dabasu Formation, suggests it may have lived in an area that also housed animals like Gigantoraptor, Bactrosaurus, and Gilmoreosaurus.

Art and Copyright belongs to Prehistoric Wildlife

Copyright belongs to BBC

Works Cited:

Holtz, Thomas R. Jr. (2011) Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages, Winter 2010 Appendix.

Loewen, M.A.; Irmis, R.B.; Sertich, J.J.W.; Currie, P. J.; Sampson, S. D. (2013). Evans, David C, ed. "Tyrant Dinosaur Evolution Tracks the Rise and Fall of Late Cretaceous Oceans". PLoS ONE 8 (11): e79420. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079420

Rothschild, B., Tanke, D. H., and Ford, T. L., 2001, Theropod stress fractures and tendon avulsions as a clue to activity: In: Mesozoic Vertebrate Life, edited by Tanke, D. H., and Carpenter, K., Indiana University Press, p. 331-336.

"Alectrosaurus." Alectrosaurus. Prehistoric Wildlife, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

"Alectrosaurus Olseni - Palaeocritti - a Guide to Prehistoric Animals." Alectrosaurus Olseni - Palaeocritti - a Guide to Prehistoric Animals. Palaeocritti, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

"Alectrosaurus Olseni - Palaeocritti - a Guide to Prehistoric Animals." Alectrosaurus Olseni - Palaeocritti - a Guide to Prehistoric Animals. Palaeocritti, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

"Fossilworks: Alectrosaurus Olseni." Fossilworks: Alectrosaurus Olseni. Fossil Works, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Museums: Let's take a trip through RMDRC's Catalogue!


                        If any of you do not know what the RMDRC is, it is an acronym that stands for; the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. This is a museum and casting company that operates in Woodland Park, Colorado. The company, Triebold Paleontology provides skeletal casts for a majority of the museums in the world. They create skeletal casts and life-replicas for educational and private purposes and have done so since 1989. Here I will go through their catalogue of available mounts through a gallery-like format! Enjoy!

Skeletal Mount of Chelosphargis. advena (22 in long)

Albertosaurus. sarcophagus 
Apatosaurus. excelsius

As yet, unnamed, Avaceratops-like centrosaurian

Brachiosaurus. altithorax

Tylosaurus. proriger

Carolinochelys. wilsoni

Champsosaurus. laramiensis

Chelosphargis. advena

Chelosphargis. advena

Cimolichthys. nepaholica
Denversaurus. schlessmani
Clidastes. liodontus 

Latimeria. chalumnae life-Model
Coelodonta. antiquitatis

Mammuthus. columbi
Desmatosuchus. spurensis

Didelphodon. vorax

Dimorphodon. macronyx

Dimorphodon. macronyx

Dolichorhynchops. bonneri Adult skeletal

Dolichorhynchops. bonneri juvenile skeletal
Dorygnathus. banthensis
Dorygnathus. banthensis

Dromaeosaurus. albertensis
Dsungaripterus. weii

Dunkleosteus. terrelli
Edmontosaurus. annectens
Elasmosaurus. platyurus

Enchodus. petrosus

Enchodus. petrosus
Trilophodont Gomphothere, unknown genus and species.

Mammuthus. primigenius

An, as yet, unnamed pterosaur from the Hell Creek Formation

Holmesina. floridanus

Holmesina. floridanus

Appalachiosaurus. montgomeriensis 
Ichthyodectes. ctenodon

Ichthyodectes. ctenodon

Ichthyornis. dispar

Istiodactylus. latidens

Istiodactylus. latidens

Jeholopterus. ninchengensis

An, as yet, unnamed pliosaur from Manitoba, Canada.

Mammut. americanum

Megacephalosaurus. eulerti

Megalocoelacanthus. dobiei

Carcharocles. megalodon

Megalonyx. jeffersonii

Metaxytherium. floridanum

Balanoptera. acutorostrata, Minke Whale

Nanotyrannus. lancensis

Nanotyrannus. lancensis

Nyctosaurus. gracilis (Likely a male)

Nyctosaurus. gracilis (Likely a male)

Orcinus orca, Killer Whale

Anzu. wyliei

Pteranodon. longiceps

Pachyrhizodus. caninus

Pezosiren. portelli

Placerias. hesternus

Platecarpus. tympaniticus

Plesioplatecarpus. planifrons

Plioplatecarpus sp. Skull

Postosuchus. kirkpatricki

Prionochelys. nauta

Protostega. gigas

Pteranodon. longiceps Life-Model

Geosternbergia. sternbergi (Likely a male)

Geosternbergia. sternbergi (Likely a female)

Pteranodon. longiceps

Pterodaustro. guinazu

Pterodaustro. guinazu

Quetzalcoatlus. northropi

Quetzalcoatlus. northropi

Rhamphorynchus. muensteri Life Model

Saurodon. leanus

Saurodon. leanus

Diplodocus, previously referred to Seismosaurus

Smilosuchus. gregorii

Stangerochampsa sp. 
Stangerochampsa sp.

Struthiomimus. altus

Thallasodromeus. sethi Skull

Thescelosaurus. neglectus

Toxochelys. latiremis Juvenile

Triceratops. prorsus

Triceratops. prorsus

Tylosaurus. kansasensis

Tyrannosaurus. rex

Mosasaurus sp.
Xiphactinus. audax
Triebold Paleontology: