Friday, January 22, 2016

Paleo File: Appalachiosaurus

Appalachiosaurus Reconstruction (Art and Copyright belongs to Todd Marshall)

     Appalachiosaurus, whose name means “Lizard of Appalachia”, is a theropod dinosaur from the east coast of North America during the Campanian stage of the Cretaceous period, approximately 77 Million years ago. It is not one of the most well known species because only a few remains have been found. 

Appalachiosaurus Skeleton, Note: the arms are incorrectly reconstructed here

        Originally uncovered in 1982 by Geologist, David King, in the Demopolis Chalk Formation of central Alabama the animal had yet to receive a name. However, in 2005 Paleontologists Thomas Carr, Thomas Williamson, and David Schwimmer coined the name, Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis. The remains of Appalachiosaurus were found in Alabama, U.S. and was named Appalachiosaurus in lieu of the Appalachian mountains that are found in the state. Specifically the remains were uncovered in Montgomery County, which accounts for the species name. The remains found, belong to a juvenile animal with a length of 23 feet long and weight of over 1300 pounds. The material consists of parts of the skull, parts of the lower jaw, several vertebrae, parts of the pelvis, and most of both hindlimbs.

Juvenile Appalachiosaurus Reconstruction (Art and Copyright belongs to Fafnirx; On DeviantArt)

         The remains indicate that the animal was a primitive Tyrannosaur, whose family includes animals like Tyrannosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and Albertosaurus. However, the remains show characteristics usually found in more advanced tyrannosaurs placing Appalachiosaurus closer to Tyrannosauridae than other primitive tyrannosaurs like Alectrosaurus and Dryptosaurus. The arm material is not well known, only a few bones have been found. Originally, the skeleton of the animal was reconstructed with long arms ending in three fingered hands. This has since been revoked for the more widely accepted theory of shorter arms with two-fingered hands like that of later tyrannosaurs. Appalachiosaurus lived in an area that housed many other animals including; Lophorothon, Ornithomimus, Parasaurolophus, Hypsibema, and many more.

Relatives of Appalachiosaurus
Appalachiosaurus Scale (Art and Copyright belongs to PrehistoricWildlife)

Works Cited:

T.R. Holtz, Jr. (2004) "Tyrannosauroidea" in "The Dinosauria: Second Edition". /uk. 

T.D. Carr, T.E. Williamson & D.R. Schwimmer (2005) "A new genus and species of tyrannosauroid from the Late Cretaceous Demopolis Formation of Alabama".

"APPALACHIOSAURUS : From DinoChecker's Dinosaur Archive." Dinochecker RSS. Dinochecker, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

"APPALACHIOSAURUS and The Dinosauria of Alabama." The Dinosauria of Alabama. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Appalachiosaurus." Appalachiosaurus. Prehisoricwildlife, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Appalachiosaurus Montgomeriensis." - Triebold Paleontology. Triebold Paleontology, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

"Appalachiosaurus." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

King, David T., Jr. "Appalachiosaurus Montgomeriensis." Encyclopedia of Alabama. Encyclopedia of Alabama, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. <>.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Paleo File: Deinocheirus

  • Name means: “Wonderfully Terrible Hand”
  • Height: 3-6 meters
  • Weight: 9 tons
  • Length: 13 meters
  • Region: Gobi Desert, Mongolia

(Copyright: Andrey Atuchin)

         One of arguably the oddest dinosaur discoveries to date, Deinocheirus, has been an enigma for over 50 years. Ever since its discovery Deinocheirus, which translates from Latin to “Terrible Hand”, has captured the imagination of those with the right resources to know about it. Despite its enigmatic nature in the fossil record, Paleontologists were finally able to put the mystery of how the animal looked to rest in 2014.

(Copyright: Public Domain Wikipedia)

         The first fossils of Deinocheirus consisted of the massive forearms (only missing the claws on the right hand), the complete shoulder girdle, three dorsal vertebrae, five ribs, and the gastralia (commonly referred to as belly ribs). Polish Paleontologist, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, found these remains in the Nemegt Formation of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia on July ninth 1965. Zofia, along with Paleontologist Rinchen Barsbold, were part of the 1963–1965 Polish-Mongolian paleontological expeditions when they found the remains. The arms were classified as a Theropod dinosaur, and considering the lack of extraneous material, the scientists had no idea as to what the animal looked like until the year 2012. In 2012, Phil R. Bell, Philip J. Currie, and Yuong-Nam Lee issued their findings of new Deinocheirus material. These scientists found more gastralia fossils in the same dig site of the prior team. What they found explained the scarcity of material from the dig site. They found bite marks on the gastralia that matched the teeth of the Tyrannosauid, Tarbosaurus, with which Deinocheirus shared its ecosystem. Then in 2013, Lee, Barsbold, Currie, and colleagues announced the discovery of two new Deinocheirus specimens at the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference. This find gave great insight into what the animal looked like and where the animal fit in, phylogenetically. Due to fossil poachers, much of the identifiable parts of the skeletons were gone; the heads, feet, and hands were all stolen. A short time later, word of the skull and hands making their way to the fossil black market helped the European museum acquire them. This skull solidified not only the identity of this bizarre dinosaur, but also nailed the final nail in the coffin to the secret of Deinocheirus.

(Copyright: Public Domain: Wikipedia)
(Copyright: Public Domain Wikipedia)

            Deinocheirus is known by only one species, coined Mirificus, which translates to ‘wonderful’. It is now known that Deinocheirus was a giant amongst Ornithomimids. It towered at a height of 3.5 to 6 meters and measured a length of 11 meters, and could have weighed as much as 6 tons; Deinocheirus is the largest example of Ornithomimosauria that currently exists. The fossils of Deinocheirus suggest omnivory, due to evidence of piscivory and herbivory found in its stomach. Gastroliths (stones swallowed to aid in digestion) and fish scales were found in the stomach cavity of the skeleton and points to a varied diet of plants, fish, and probably other types of vegetation like fruit. Deinocheirus lived during the Late Campanian/Early Maastrichtian of the Cretaceous Period of what is now Mongolia.

(Copyright: Public Domain Wikipedia)

       Deinocheirus’ relatives are Garudimimus and Beishanlong. All three of these animals make up their own family within Ornithomimosauria and share the characteristics of a slower mode of life and a bulkier build than most other Ornithomimids. Deinocheirus, being an omnivore, would have had little competition from its contemporaries with the only exception being Therizinosaurus; both shared similar characteristics and were likely omnivorous. 

      Deinocheirus shared its ecosystem with a wide range of animals like Tarbosaurus, Pinacosaurus, Saichania, Protoceratops, Oviraptor, Velociraptor, and more. Evidence strongly suggests that the first specimen met its end from a Tarbosaurus (a Mongolian relative of Tyrannosaurus) and, as such, must have been a predator of Deinocheirus. Alioramus, another relative to Tyrannosaurus, may have preyed on Deinocheirus as well. Deinocheirus lived in a place that, at the time, was home to vast swamps and river ways, which would have provided it a niche that most other herbivores and even most carnivores had yet to adapt to; Omnivory.

(Copyright: Art belongs to Geocities)

     The Paleontologists that found Deinocheirus quickly determined it to be a Theropod; however, what kind was impossible to know. At the time, 1965, the scientists thought the arms belonged to a massive carnivorous carnosaur-like animal. At this point in history, most carnivorous theropods were thrown together into one phylogenetic ‘unnatural’ grouping called Carnosauria (This has since been revoked due to further variation amongst the Theropoda family tree). Deinocheirus became identified as something other than a carnivorous Theropod only after the gastralia material had been found. The discovery of Therizinosaurid dinosaurs, like Nothronychus and Segnosaurus, made the possibility of herbivorous theropods a reality. Paleontologists had been debating whether Deinocheirus was an Ornithomimid or a Therizinosaurid until the latest skeletal discovery made the decision. Even though science knows more about Deinocheirus than ever before, aspects of its paleobiology and habits are still unknown and only more material will unearth the secret of Mongolia.

(Copyright: Art belongs to Geocities)

(Copyright: Scale belongs to PrehistoricWildlife)
Works Cited

"Deinocheirus." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.

Yong, Ed. "Deinocheirus Exposed: Meet The Body Behind the Terrible Hand." Phenomena Deinocheirus Exposed Meet The Body Behind the Terrible Hand Comments. National Geographic, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.

"Deinocheirus." Deinocheirus. PrehistoricWildlife, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.

Perkins, Sid. "Fossils Reveal 'beer-bellied' Dinosaur." Nature Publishing Group, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fossil Showcase: The London Specimen

        Watch our fossil showcase episode regarding the history of the fossil of Archaeopteryx known as, The London Specimen. Like if you like it, dislike it if you do not, subscribe to our Youtube channel if you want to see more, and comment to tell us what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we should do in the future!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Media Showcase: Jurassic Park (Dinosaurs Pt3)

Number five: Compsognathus

                Compsognathus, an animal presented in the second film, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, as a small and tenacious carnivore that would swarm together to take down much larger prey. This behavior is unknown and could not possibly be known from fossil material so, why not? Compsognathus would most likely have been covered in a coat of feathers in life, for Compsognathus it would likely have been more like proto-feathers (Ancient predecessors to flight feathers, similar to the feathers seen on emus).

Different kinds of feathers: (Figure I: primitive bristle, Figure II: Primitive Proto-Feather "Dino-Fuzz", Figure III A: Advanced branched feather, Figure III B: Advanced feather seen in flight-capable animals) Figure I and Figure II would likely have been the feathers seen on Compsognathus.

          The real Compsognathus would have had this covering because it belonged to the family known as Coleurosauria. Most, if not all, Coelurosaurians had feathers. Jurassic Park: The Lost World was released in 1997, and the fossil finds that had preserved feathers (which provided evidence that many others likely had feathers as well) had not yet been found, so we will give them a break on this one. However, the arm and hand placement is incorrect for this animal and the hands would have faced inwards as previously stated and there is no excuse for this.

Number six: Corythosaurus

           Corythosaurus, seen in Jurassic Park 3 when the pack of Velociraptors runs into a herd of Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus in pursue of the human main characters. Corythosaurus is rather accurate, in fact, one of the most correct animals in the franchise. Nothing can be said negatively on its anatomy.

Number seven: Dilophosaurus

             This animal has been one of the most changed from its real-life counterpart. Dilophosaurus appears in the original Jurassic Park film in the scene in which Dennis Nedry is in the process of stealing dinosaur embryos ending with him being the main course for a remarkably flamboyant Dilophosaurus. The Dilophosaurus, as it appears in Jurassic Park, suffers from many anatomical issues. The head is way off; In reality, Dilophosaurus had a large and elongate skull with a unique notch near the end of its snout which made the tip bend downwards. 

Dilophosaurus Skull Note: the notch in the snout and the thinness of the head

          The Dilophosaurus in the film has a head shaped like that of a Tyrannosaur. Another inaccuracy is the size of the animal. The film’s Dilophosaurus is very small, about the size of a medium dog. This was done to differentiate the animal from the Velociraptors in the film. The real Dilophosaurus was a rather large theropod that could reach lengths of 20ft. 

The true size of Dilophosaurus (Art and Copyright belongs to PrehistoricKingdom)
         However, the contention of which I must concede is the addition of the frill. The animal in the film sports a large fleshy frill around its neck in the same vain as a Frilled Lizard; it uses this frill to display (in the film, it does this to its prey). This integument (outside characteristics to an animal’s body) is unknown in fossil material, but seeing as this would not fossilize it is possible for this structure to exist. However, evidence for spitting venom, which is a characteristic of the film’s Dilophosaurus, is able to be fossilized and has no evidence behind it. As with the other theropods, the Dilophosaurus should carry its arms facing inwards.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Media Showcase: Jurassic Park (Dinosaurs Pt2)

Number two: Apatosaurus

             This animal took a while to make it into a film. Apatosaurus was the animal first seen by the group of people that visit the island in the book. However the animal was changed to Brachiosaurus for the film. It was suppose to be in the second film, Jurassic Park; The Lost World, but was again changed to a different species this time being Mamenchisaurus. It was not until 2015 in the film Jurassic World that the animal finally made it to film. The animal can be seen roaming the prairies, in the petting zoo, and in the scene in which the main characters, Owen and Claire uncover the swath of damage left by the genetically mutated dinosaur. The Apatosaurus featured in Jurassic World is rather accurate suffering only from ultra saggy skin, which could not be proven either way, and shrink-wrapping (the act of stretching the skin of an extinct animal, in fleshed out reconstructions, over the skeleton to tightly).

Number three: Brachiosaurus

             Ah yes, Brachiosaurus, the first moving dinosaur to be seen in the original film, that can also be seen along the river in the third film. It was created using computer generated animation, a great feat for the time. The animators and supervisors got this guy mostly right except for the front feet, which should be U-shaped with only one claw on the first toe of each front foot, kind of like a fleshy hoof. Another possible contention with the anatomy of brachiosaurus was the nostrils; the film placed the animal’s nostrils on the top of its forehead when in life they would have been near the end of the snout. However, this is an outdated notion and was not completely well understood at the time, so this is understandable. Other than the fact of sauropod rearing is still held in contention, (The debate is still ongoing on whether or not sauropods in general could rear up on their hind legs.) they got this one correct.

Number four: Ceratosaurus

          One of the most briefly seen animals in the Jurassic Park series is Ceratosaurus. It was shown in only a very brief scene in which the group, consisting of the curbys, Billy Brennan, and Dr. Alan Grant traversing a river in a boat are frightened by the animal. The animal is then put off by the smell of another animal’s droppings and leaves. This film was made in 2001 and has no excuse for the way they made this animal look. The Ceratosaurus in the film is far thicker than the animal might have been. The real animal was small, at about 18 feet at the longest. Ceratosaurus as it appears in the film sports a single rounded horn atop its snout. The real animal did have crests atop its head usually consisting of two over the eyes and on on the snout. However, these crests were thin and wide and were probably used as a display. Another inaccuracy that not only this animal, but all theropods in the franchise suffer from are the placement of the arms. Theropods could not hold the arms curled up with their palms facing downwards due to specialized bones in their wrists. Theropods were forced to place their hands inward at all times.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Media Showcase: Jurassic Park (Dinosaurs)

            Easily one of the most recognizable film series of all time, with which it shares its title with other titles like Jaws, Star Wars, and Terminator, Jurassic Park continues to inspire the wonder that Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals brings to the minds of humans and the silver screen. Jurassic Park was originally written as a novel by well-known author, Michael Crichton, in 1990 and told the story of the foolishness in recreating animals that have been extinct for millions of years without taking the proper precautions. The original Jurassic Park was directed by the esteemed, Steven Spielberg, and was released in 1993. Just going on the title, you can probably guess what the movie is about, dinosaurs! To be more precise, the film and pretty much all of its sequels follows the folly of man in the creation of living breathing members of Dinosauria through the art and magic of genetic cloning (We will disregard the statistical impossibility of this feat, and perhaps leave it for another episode). The first film follows the disaster of a hurricane that wrecks the power of the park, letting the animals go. The main characters, Dr. Grant, Dr. Sully, Ian Malcolm, John Hammond, and his grandkids survive the incident and escape. On this episode of Palo Media Showcase we will take a look at the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the animals showcased in not just the first film, but the three sequels it has spawned: Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Jurassic Park three, and Jurassic World. We will be going down the list of dinosaurs alphabetically and then analyzing each one to clear up any misconceptions you might have!

Number one: Ankylosaurus

This should show the Ankylosaurus Scene

               Ankylosaurus was only shown in Jurassic Park 3. It can be seen moving through the forest and moving towards a watering hole both in transitional scenes. The way this animal is presented is rather accurate. However, there are still inaccuracies. One thing wrong here would likely be the thickness of the animal. The proportions are a tad off. The real animal would have been extremely wide, rather like a turtle. Another would be the animal’s armor. Throughout most of the 1900s Ankylosaurus was portrayed with spiky armor along its back like that of a porcupine, but this is incorrect. Ankylosaurus would have had very round and flat bony armor embedded in its skin.

Part 2 will come next