STL Science Center

STL Science Center

28 February 2015


©Nobu Tamura
When placed alongside similarly small wide-bodied sauropods Dicraeosaurus is actually a rather large dinosaur. Size is always relative, of course, but Dicraeosaurus is a smaller sauropod as far as sauropods are concerned despite appearing to be significantly larger than the other small sauropods pictured with it here. Even considered a small dinosaur it is still enormous compared to a human being. Regardless of body size, as with all sauropods the head of Dicraeosaurus is fairly small relative to the body and neck of the dinosaur.

27 February 2015

Bifurcated Heads

©Dmitry Bogdanov
Dicraeosaurus hansemanni was named as the type of the genus in 1914 by Werner Janensch. The small diplodocid comes from Tanzania, like many other German sauropods from the early 20th century. The short wide body of the Late Jurassic was unique in a number of ways. The most obvious, looking at its head, is the feature that gave the dinosaur its name. Janensch and others, even us, could clearly see the bifurcated nasal passage that is shown here arching down the front of the face. The skull itself possessed two large fenestrae at the apex of the skull where the nares allowed air to enter the cranium. The soft tissue, represented here as tubular nostrils, is unknown, but this is an interesting interpretation. As for other interesting features, the tall neural spines of the vertebrae, the peg-like teeth (that are shown in this image in a wonderful looking overbite), and its short and wide neck and body are all very interesting aspects of the anatomy that can be seen in the skeletal remains that have been recovered.

26 February 2015

Writing A Book

Gasosaurus does not have any wonderful toys or fantastic movies featuring it. However, it is mentioned in a small book or two and has appeared as an animatronic dinosaur in the Dinosaurs Alive exhibits that travel around not and again. Mentions of the dinosaur appear in many short books or at least in many short paragraphs in longer books. The hatching hoax probably acquainted even more people with Gasosaurus that would not have otherwise known about the dinosaur, which is also important of course.

25 February 2015

Basal Trees

Gasosaurus has been defined as many things since its initial description. The carnosaur has been considered a basal coelurosausian by some. In fact, it has been mentioned as being potentially the basal most of all coelurosaurians. All of the changes concerning the position of Gasosaurus has even claimed the same authors as they changed their proposed nodes on the trees. As an example, Holtz 2000 and Holtz et al. 2004 changed its position from basal coelurosaurian to basal carnosaur (respectively). As a basal member of either defined tree Gasosaurus rests at the base of the tetanuran lineage as well. Despite being a basal dinosaur, Gasosaurus was still an effective mid-sized predator, as we can see as it chases down an Agilisaurus in the Zigong Museum in China.

Holtz, 2000. A new phylogeny of the carnivorous dinosaurs. Gaia. 15, 5-61.
Holtz TR Jr, Molnar RE, Currie PJ. 2004. Basal Tetanurae. In: Weishampel DB, Dodson P, Osmólska H, eds. The dinosauria, 2nd edn. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 71–110.

24 February 2015

Company Naming Policies

Dong and Tang 1985 named Gasosaurus. The name (Gasosaurus constructus) referred to the fact that a gasoline company discovered the quarry. The paper that named and described Gasosaurus was published in a Chinese journal in 1985 and finding the name of the actual gasoline company is apparently near impossible because of this. After much searching, though, the original paper can be found. I was fairly excited about actually finding it. Until, after I opened the English site, I was greeted with an article that is entirely Chinese (my Chinese is not good enough to translate). That is until I scrolled down and was exhilarated to see that the abstract at least is translated! Regardless of how mundane a description article may be, reading the original description of any animal, especially a fairly exciting mid-size carnosaur, is something I enjoy. I hope it is a good read, short as it is, for everyone else as well. If any of our Chinese readers are feeling a bit crazy, they could translate the article and gain our greatest appreciation.

23 February 2015

Two Movies

I do not want to say much of anything today. I am just going to let Dinosaurs Alive and the hatching hoax do the talking.

Dinosaurs Alive Gasosaurus:

Hatching hoax from Germany's Natural History Museum. The video is mostly the story of the hoax, but you can see a still from the hoax:

22 February 2015

Pages of Facts

Gasosaurus, being one of those interesting mid-sized Chinese dinosaurs, has a middling amount of popularity amongst the general masses. The normal sources of easily found information apply for Gasosaurus, as we would expect. These include About and the NHM of London. The information has been circulating since the naming of Gasosaurus constructus in 1985, so there are also smaller and more dinosaur-specific sites in existence that  can be read online. These extra sites include the Dinosaur Wiki and Raresource. Raresource this week is less informative than it was for Aegyptosaurus.

21 February 2015

Running on A Full Tank

©Mineo Shiraishi
Mineo Shiraishi's Gasosurus is an agile beast. The viewpoint of the skull creates an angle of depth that makes the face of the active carnivore appear to quite smug, perhaps even happy, that it is running. We know, and it was stated previously yesterday, that Gasosaurus was a smaller carnosaur that many of the later predators of China could have towered over. Running around with the hardware in its mouth Gasosaurus could have easily chased down and eaten the silhouetted man that it just ran past. Appreciation of the mid-sized predators of the mid-Jurassic like Gasosaurus is not difficult when you can see its beauty in action like this.

20 February 2015

Gas Lizards

Chinese dinosaurs are very popular these days. The larger predators are usually well known, but one has escaped the public fascination for the majority of its known existence. That dinosaur is a small carnosaur known as Gasosaurus constructus. Recovered in the Sichuan province, Gasosaurus was a small mid-Jurassic carnivore similar to Ceratosaurus in its placement in the food chain and general environment. Like its North American cousins Gasosaurus hunted thyreophorans (Stegosaurs) of China. Despite its serious weaponry, Gasosaurus, or maybe more the humans studying it, was the subject of a hoax in 2014 that we will most definitely discuss in this coming week.

19 February 2015


Someone edited the Wikipedia entry for Aegyptosaurus in a way that Spinosaurus is listed as a probably predator of the estimated 11 tonne sauropod. It may be better noted that Spinosaurus may have scavenged from the dinosaur's carcass, but killing a healthy Aegyptosaurus was most likely not within the anatomical abilities of Spinosaurus, despite its rather large size. Regardless, we know that a highly probable predator of Aegyptosaurus was Carcharodontosaurus. The size of Aegyptosaurus was most likely a defense, but not a perfect defense.

18 February 2015

Typing Searches

Typing in searches is sometimes a very fun and rewarding time on the internet. Due to the fact that I altered this week's entries a little bit earlier this week I ended up with a lot of rather empty moments in which to look for information and images to share about Aegyptosaurus. It could take a seriously long time to run down all of the links, images, short videos, and other bits that people will title or call a given dinosaur. I found homemade claymation videos, April Fool's Day articles and a lot of other things that one would not expect when I typed in Aegyptosaurus. Just for fun though, I encourage everyone to look at the artwork that depicts, or at least is titled, Aegyptosaurus on DeviantArt. Sometimes the artwork on there can be a little iffy, but I promise at least the first page of the search I ran tonite is pretty darn good. There's a really neat swimming Aegyptosaurus and a spotted cow-like variant. It's all good fun and taking a moment to appreciate art is always worth our time!

17 February 2015

What The Fossils Looked Like

©Henken Fossils
A company called Henken fossils touts the cast pictured here as an Aegyptosaurus vertebra. As stated previously, there is not, to my knowledge, known remains of the specimens that Ernst Stromer recovered from the rock formations of Egypt and northern Africa. I have to additionally state that I have not seen any images of Aegyptosaurus fossils in all of my searches this week while looking for information on the dinosaur. The idea that the vertebra pictured here might be from Aegyptosaurus may indeed be a little unrealistic given the lack of information and images that are archived online, but that is not to say that it is not similar to what we would expect for sauropod vertebrae. The size may be similar to what would be expected for a sauropod of that size as well, though we could possibly say that it may not be the full size adult titanosaur, there may well not be any knowing for sure, lest more fossils of Aegyptosaurus are discovered, recovered, and studied against the descriptions of Stromer. Assuming, or perhaps hoping against hope, that some day there are some new fossils discovered, we may be able to answer that question for certain and to put to rest the story of Stromer and open a new history of the titanosaur and our understanding of its habitat, life history, and morphology. We may learn a lot about it, but we will definitely have to wait until a new series of fossils is discovered, and we do not know when that will happen!

16 February 2015

Losing the Paper

Stromer's fossils were lost during World War II. His papers describing the fossils are not lost, but are conspicuously absent from the internet as a whole (as far as I can tell). The descriptions have been evoked many times over, including descriptions of species discovered in Mangrove swamps in northern Africa. The species in particular in the above link is an earlier described dinosaur here, Paralititan. Morphometrics have also used Aegyptosaurus to describe titanosaurs in general. It makes for a very technical, but interesting paper. I'm sharing this today because there is no video for movie Monday. Tomorrow I will make up for moving things ahead a day!

15 February 2015

Let Me Know Next Time

Apparently, for some reason, I decided to do today's normal topic of entry yesterday. I think it has honestly just been a very long weekend. I read a lot yesterday and apparently thought it was Sunday a day early. Therefore, let us talk about this image today where we should have yesterday:
The typical description of Aegyptosaurus is that of "a close relative of Argentinosaurus." This is not very descriptive except that there is a somewhat understood identity revealed in that statement that identifies Aegyptosaurus as a large sauropod. Argentinosaurus is, of course, a rather gigantic titanosaur and Aegyptosaurus is also considered to be a titanosaurid, though somewhat smaller than Argentinosaurus. No exact size estimate is reliably available to us these days, but as a titanosaur it Aegyptosaurus was most likely very large. This image of this rather large dinosaur allows us to infer that very few predators probably hunted these animals. The only likely dinosaur in northern Africa at the time of Aegytposaurus' reign was most likely the enormous predator Carcharodontosaurus. Hopefully that will help in giving a size estimate to the adult Aegyptosaurus.

14 February 2015

Kids in Egypt

Typically when educational materials or sites with facts are shared about Egypt the topic has a lot more mummies and pyramids involved. The fact that today's educational links are about an Egyptian dinosaur make learning about Egypt no less worthy of being included in an education of ancient Egypt, it just makes Egyptian history that much older and more interesting. Despite having very little, almost none really, surviving fossils of Aegyptosaurus, the dinosaur is fairly well known still and has garnered attention from About and Enchanted Learning in short but sweet fact websites. It has also been discussed by a Raresource site that mentions a book that discusses all of the lost dinosaurs of Egypt (called The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt) that is available as an electronic book. This would be a good source for information not only about Aegyptosaurus but also Spinosaurus and others.

13 February 2015

Back to the Mangroves

A long time ago I discussed some dinosaurs that lived in the mangrove swamps of northern Africa in the late Cretaceous. As with many of these northern African dinosaurs, this animal was collected and described in the early 20th Century by the German paleontologist Ernst Stromer. In 1932 the bones attributed to Aegyptosaurus baharijensis were brought back to Europe from its namesake country (Egypt) and Niger and the Sahara as well. The specific name refers to the well known Bahariya Oasis area of Egypt . Ernst Stromer collected these fossils at the same time that he collected a number of other dinosaurs including Spinosaurus. Aegyptosaurus was fated to be stored in the same museum collections as Spinosaurus and unfortunately had the same fate. The fossils of Aegyptosaurus, despite being lost during World War II, revealed before their loss a rather large sauropod related to Argentinosaurus. Many of the illustrations we have of Argentinosaurus are based on the illustrations of Stromer that have been extrapolated and fleshed out.

12 February 2015

Skull of the Oviraptor

AMNH cast of Khaan mckennai skull
As has been noted all week, Khaan is very similar to other members of its family. That may seem like a common sense notion, but in the family of oviraptorids that is more the norm than an exception. The skulls of oviraptorids are all very similar, possibly the most similar aspect of all of their anatomy, and Khaan is no exception. This may explain, in part, the public knowledge of Khaan. in no way is Khaan popular because it is so regularly seen on television or even in books or other typical outlets for popular dinosaurs. There are exceptions to this rule of course, such as Martyniuk's A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Long's Feathered Dinosaurs. The illustrated versions of the dinosaur in these two books is extravagantly different, but they both have their merits. Regardless, these are two of the only solid mentions of Khaan in popular literature. We saw earlier in the week that a few models have made their way into Spore but no other video games have, as yet, possessed a Khaan model. That fact is a little bit disheartening. Toys are also absent in the realm of popularity of Khaan. For a dinosaur that mainly turns up historical and science fiction websites when its name is searched, however, it is a rather interesting and exciting dinosaur to add to the parade of species. There may be a time when the species is consolidated, or more differences may be discovered that further solidify the validation of Khaan, but until that time this will just have to continue being a rather neat oviraptorid that is under appreciated by the public at large.

11 February 2015

Same and Different

Khaan is a dinosaur that was initially mistaken, as many have been in the past, and was originally assigned to an occupied genus (Ingenia). In many ways Khaan is like every other oviraptorid dinosaur, and in enough ways, it is not. The remains are well enough preserved that the differences between Khaan and other oviraptorids were able to be seen by the describing authors and subsequent researchers as well. The manus is the main source of difference in Khaan as it lacks a character found in other members of the family. The difference is small, and probably cannot be easily seen in photographs of the holotype, but it does exist, and that is enough.

10 February 2015

Those AMNH Folks

Khaan has been given the twice over many different times. The American Museum of Natural History's researchers have been over Khaan mckennai more often than any other group of researchers. This has led to a number of papers, two of which tell prominent stories about Khaan and its life. The original description comes to us not only from the AMNH but also from the team that recovered the remains based with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and AMNH's joint field expeditions. The first author on the paper was actually not affiliated specifically with either institution; James Clark is a professor and researcher at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The description is not the only visit, however, as I stated beforehand. The osteology of the rather well preserved holotype has been studied also. This study is of great importance to understanding the life and phylogeny of Khaan. A great deal of the paper actually discusses phylogeny, which is sometimes confusing and sometimes enlightening. Every reader's reaction to the arguments in that study are their own, so I will not push my opinion of it on anyone, read it for yourself and come to a decision!

09 February 2015

Settle for Spore

Oviraptorids have been pretty prominent for a long while. They have a tendency, therefore, to show up in many different kinds of videos including documentaries and videos of some kind or another online. The only videos online, though, are amateur models of Khaan. The best one is probably this video of a Spore model.

08 February 2015

Mixture of Links

© Berislav Krzic
There are really only two viable links that I thought were worth sharing today. They are links to sites that we share basically every week. The first is the NHM of London which has a short fact file and the image shown here associated with it. The second is the page hosted by About. Other pages could possibly be found out on the internet somewhere with some diligent searching. However, Khaan is a strangely enigmatic dinosaur. It appears to be popular enough to have more links dedicated to it somewhere, but the links that come up when searching for Khaan are typically either Star Trek or Mongolian history related. If there are any other very high quality sites that anyone wishes to share please feel free to do so below.

07 February 2015

Big Fluffball

Seeking proper attribution
Dinosaurs with feathers, like Khaan, are often portrayed as extra fluffy. In and of itself that is not a problem and this illustration of Khaan is actually not anywhere near as fluffy as it could be. The coloration of this version is quite simple but very interesting and it even seems appropriate for the dino-bird depiction of the animal. The chicks are, as they often are in illustrations of near bird dinosaurs, very reminiscent of extant ducks. Were these dinosaurs roaming in this form today, I would definitely work at whatever zoo or sanctuary reared those fluffy looking chicks.

06 February 2015

Not James Kirk's Favorite Dinosaur

A few weeks ago I referenced a dinosaur momentarily that I thought would have been a wonderful name as a Star Trek reference. It turned out, of course, that the name comes not from Star Trek but from the legacy of the Mongolian Khanate. Khaan mckennai Clark, Norell & Barsbold, 2001 is named after the Mongolian word for ruler and the prolific American paleontologist Malcolm McKenna. More importantly, Khaan is a newer oviraptorid named within the last 20 years during a time when much was coming to light about the family. For instance, feathering schemes for an oviraptorid were never much of a debated feature for Khaan; there was some of course, but not anywhere near as much as there would have been a decade prior. Khaan is known from a holotype pair of skeletons that are both nearly complete. These skeletons are intertwined and have been nicknamed Romeo and Juliet in that way that dinosaurs often are named.
Photograph by Steve Starer of the holotype

05 February 2015

Still Working on Popularity

©Amy Martiny
Liaoceratops is the kind of dinosaur that we expect a lot of toys, children's books, and other popular culture types of paraphernalia to exist for. There is a cast of the skull for sale out there on the internet, but the picture of it on all the sites I found it for sale on are fairly awful. The image shown here and the cast belong to the Witmer lab at Ohio University. The image was taken by Amy Martiny, a former student in that lab.The lack of quality popular culture references is terrible, but the cast appears to be very nice.

04 February 2015

Potential Misnomer

Liaoceratops' name means "Liao Horned Face" but the skulls that we have seen clearly lack any and all semblance of horns. There are ridges on the parietal and squamosal bones that, in this "skin stretched tautly" illustration, are very pronounced. They probably would not be as pronounced in a more modern version of the illustration, but this version is very nice as well. As a basal neoceratopsian the body size of Liaoceratops was gracile enough that it was certainly capable of bipedality and may have even been facultatively quadrupedal rather than an obligate biped. In either modality, Liaoceratops was a very mobile and gracile member of the ceratopsians, a phrase not often used with that family of lumbering giants.

03 February 2015

Paper Trail!

Liaoceratops has a great deal of research devoted to it. A lot of the papers published on the animal are descriptions of the dinosaur's remains but these range from the initial description of mixed age specimens to specific later discoveries of what appear to be juvenile specimens. The original description paper discussing mixed age specimens is the paper from which the illustration of the younger skull that was shown yesterday was taken from. The dinosaur has been discussed in many different arenas, especially when it is used as a reference to positioning of other taxa and relationships between neoceratopsian and psittacosaurian taxa. One referencing paper is about tooth replacement in neoceratopsians and is rather interesting read. I recommend reading it if you like teeth, but you may have to save it and open it through Adobe rather than allowing the pdf to open itself; it is strangely finicky.

02 February 2015

Video Loss

There are absolutely no videos of Liaoceratops. As the oldest neoceratopsian, not the oldest ceratopsian as one website claimed. National Geographic's original coverage story still exists, which is nice, but it is still not a video. There are not even 3D models or video game references, which is very rare in this day and age. Instead of video, therefore, that new story and this image of one of the skulls is the image for the day. The image, which will be seen again tomorrow when we discuss the paper that it came from, is drawings and photographs of a younger animal's skull. How young we will find out tomorrow.
©Xu et al 2002

01 February 2015

A Pair of Sites

There are two good sites for facts Liaoceratops related information. The sites are our typical fare this time around, NHM London and About. There really, unfortunately, is not much else to see on this trip today. Let's allow the sites to do what they do and get on with the day.