STL Science Center

STL Science Center

24 June 2017

Before Horned Dinosaurs Got Ugly

Ceratopsians are interesting in their own right and some might even say that they look rather interesting. Prior to the evolutionary shift that leads to ceratopsians proper, a small ornithischian ancestor with a skull that shows some characteristics of basal ceratopsians without fitting into that family due to other, more differential, characters, was running about in the undergrowth and under the feet of giants. Chaoyangsaurus youngi Zhao, Cheng, and Xu, 1999 was named for the Chaoyang area and specifically after the Chinese paleontologist C. C. Young (Yang Zhongjian). Measuring in at approximately 1.1m (a little over 3ft), Chaoyangsaurus inhabited the Late Jurassic of China and is often depicted as a bipedal herbivore with (hypothetical) quills along the tail and caudal portion of the back. The speculative nature of this illustration is one of the first things that the artist acknowledges about the work but it also poses some interesting questions for us this week.
©Nobu Tamura

23 June 2017

Illustrated or Not

As usual this week, this entry is a little shorter than our typical entries for any given subject. As interesting as illustrations about Triassic subjects can be, especially considering the majority of these animals that are illustrated are early dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that do not look much like what people expect dinosaurs to be are intriguing and sometimes confusing to many people; this is a conversation I have had many times over with random people. One of the more interesting illustrations that does exist of Efraasia is slightly older and depicts Efraasia walking almost quadrupedally, but with its hindlimbs in a position that suggests bipedal locomotion. This illustration, like all the other illustrations of Efraasia simply depicts the animal as is by itself and without any kind of background. This version of the sauropodomorph is simple, but does have odd fingers, and is somewhat salamander like in its general appearance.

22 June 2017

Size of the Dinosaur

Efraasia was originally considered to be a small animal, based on fragmentary remains that could not be assembled extremely well, but it was later realized that the animal was much larger than believed. The estimated larger size is approximately 6.5m (21 ft). The dinosaur was still small for its size, but by small we mean gracile and lightly built rather than short or thin. The gracile hands and feet of the animal could be used to imply facultative quadrupedalism, though this is also implied by the fact that may other very early sauropodomorphs were known to be capable of moving bipedally and quadrupedally equally well. Poor pronation of the forearm, as some have hypothesized, may have limited Efraasia as an entirely bipedal dinosaur. Its gracile hands and digits were probably quite capable of grasping food items (and predatory animals and intraspecific competitors) which could then enable it to better survive its environment by adapting its diet (and defending itself more capably).

20 June 2017

Writing in Efraasia

We mentioned a number of articles, descriptions, and re-descriptions of Efraasia and thankfully there are a lot of examples of this writing hosted online in many different places. Only one of these writings is entirely about Efraasia and that is the Galton 1973 article that was previously described here. The paper (hosted on Springer's site), as many may remember, re-described a number of specimens collected by Eberhard Fraas and reassigned these specimens to a new genus named after a contraction of the collector's name; Eberhard Fraas was turned into the name Efraasia minor in this dinosaur.

19 June 2017

Efraasia in Motion?

Unfortunately Efraasia never made it, yet at least, into any documentaries, cartoons, or movies. There really are not too many movies that use Triassic animals though, so the fact that it has not been in any movies is a little less surprising than the idea that it has not been in any documentaries. Cartoon dinosaurs are typically the more famous of the dinosaurs, so its exclusion from cartoons is equally anti-climactic. The only other video online, actually, is from a young man reading about and discussing Efraasia from Stephen Brusatte's published dinosaur field guide. Barring any other videos, which I would gladly post, here is the single video that is out there:

18 June 2017

A Known Dinosaur

Efraasia is a well known dinosaur and has some of our typical webpages (e.g. Prehistoric Wildlife and Dinosaur Facts) to share facts about this sauropodomorph. These facts are read over a great set of images in the following WizScience video.

17 June 2017

Lesser Sauropodomorphs

Efraasia minor (von Huene, 1907–1908) was a gracile middle-sized sauropodomorph of the Late Triassic of Germany. The name was not actually coined by von Huene, despite the fact that he originally described the fossil remains. The name von Huene gave the remains was Teratosaurus minor; this genus is a group of rauisuchians, which Efraasia was deemed to not be a member of. The name we use was coined by Peter Galton in 1973 when he reassigned a number of specimens to the new genus named after the collector of the specimens, Eberhard Fraas. Estimated at approximately 6 to 7m (20 to 23ft), Efraasia is a respectable size for its time and place, but, as we can see, it appears to have been a rather generic looking early dinosaur; however, it is a generic dinosaur that stands out for a number of reasons that we will discuss this week.