Archive for the ‘Dinosaur’ Category

New Cousin to the Velociraptor Discovered in China

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Liaoning Province in China is known for the substantial amount of dinosaur fossils that’ve turned up in the dirt there. Over the years everything from insects to fish to plants have been discovered in such detail that even skin textures have been left behind in the rock.

Now it appears that a new feathered dinosaur that is cousin to the Velociraptor can be added to the long list of discoveries there.

The new dinosaur with a ridiculous name to try and pronounce, Zhenyuanlong suni, stood at about 5 feet tall, had wings too short to allow them to fly and some of the most complex feathers seen on a dinosaur up to this point. The feathers’ complexity is clearly visible on the rock that the near-complete skeleton has been found in and resemble the feathers of today’s eagles.

Professor Junchang Lü from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences’ Institute of Geology:

“The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong suni indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It’s amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found.”

It’s also hugely terrifying to think of these semi-flying, feathered 5 foot dinosaurs tracking you down to feed their young.


Nightmare Shark Caught Off Coast of Australia – Has Been Terrifying World for 80 Million Years

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

That nightmarish thing in the photo above isn’t a screen-used graboid prop from Tremors.


That’s an actual creature that lives in our oceans…you know…that giant mass of water that you swim in when you vacation?

Caught off the coast of Australia by a fishing trawler, that thing is a six-foot long monster known as a frilled shark.

Frilled sharks haven’t evolved in almost 80 million years simply because a nightmare is always going to be a nightmare. On very rare occasions frilled sharks are found close to the surface because they’re dying. “Close to the surface” is around 4,000 feet below the surface.

Simon Boag of the trawling company that caught the creature:

“It does look 80 million years old. It looks prehistoric. It looks like it’s from another time! It has 300 teeth over 25 rows, so once you’re in that mouth, you’re not coming out.”

According to a marine conservation society in California there is a report of a frilled shark from 1880 measuring in at 25 feet.

Next time you go splashing around in the ocean for fun just remember…

These live there.


Who Needs DNA to Bring Back the T-Rex?

Friday, October 12th, 2012

New research from scientists presenting in Proceedings of the Royal Society has put a damper on getting viable DNA from samples older than 8.5 million years. In studying fossilized moa bones, they discovered a half-life for DNA of about 521 years, meaning that getting even fragments of DNA older than 8.5 million years would be unlikely. While mother nature has a habit of throwing us curveballs, and that up until recently, the fact that DNA would last this long was considered an impossibility, would-be dinosaur breeders need not despair. There’s no reason a simple thing like lacking DNA should stop us from bringing back giant chomping things with tiny little arms. Recreating a T-Rex was always going to involve some genetic tampering.

We’d never use the original recipe to begin with
Let’s assume for a moment that we did have an intact strand of DNA from a T-Rex and a viable way to get it to replicate inside a cell and make a baby dino. We’d have to tamper with the DNA anyways for a variety of reasons.

1. First is that the world has changed since these giant scavengers roved the plains looking for food. In their era, 65 million years ago, the air had 150% more oxygen. To get your T-Rex in your dino zoo to do anything other than limp around and wheeze, you’d need to change its blood cells and lungs into something that could deal with our much thinner oxygen. This kind of re-engineering would have a dramatic effect on the whole creature from behavior to life-span. A T-Rex in 2012 wouldn’t behave the same way as she would have back in her day. Imagine watching an NBA basketball game played at 20,000 feet altitude. They’d be off their game, so would a T-Rex in our atmosphere. While our modified creature may look like a T-Rex, it’d be a very different animal. We’d have to give her a new designation, T-Rex+.

2. Not all the information is in the DNA. It’s not just our DNA that makes us who we are. Other epigenetic factors outside of DNA also help build organisms. A complete strand of DNA won’t likely have the DNA methylation or histone modifications needed to build an accurate dinosaur. These instructions can be critical. Early attempts at cloning that resulted in over-muscular cattle or sheep that died prematurely were due to missing vital instructions contained outside the DNA. To clone a dinosaur we’d have to make educated guesses about these instructions based on modern birds and reptiles.

3. A T-Rex isn’t just one animal. A human being isn’t just all the genetic and epigenetic information that make us. If we cloned you but left out all of the bacteria living in your stomach and intestines, you’d probably starve to death in weeks. A human being is a symbiote of about 50 million organisms. We’re the ones that get to call the shots (mostly). A carrion eating creature like a T-Rex is going to need a lot of critters, many long extinct, to help it digest its food. Making our T-Rex+ will mean creating a new pack of digestive bacteria, possibly borrowed from buzzards and komodo dragons. The end result would be a creature that behaves differently than a T-Rex. Did eating a bunch of hadrosaur meat give the T-Rex a tryptophan buzz that sent it into a mating frenzy because that’s when the bacterium like to spread? We may never know. We’d only be able to make an approximation.

How to make a T-Rex+
Now that we’ve accepted the fact that even a cloned T-Rex was never going to be an authentic, original article, we can get on with making a T-Rex that does everything we wanted it to do in the first place; Terrify and eat things.

Right now biologists are assembling genetic tool kits that allow you to custom design organisms. These are computer programs that tell a DNA replicator in what order to place the base sugars of ATGC, that then go onto to form the instruction set place into a cell. We’ve already created single-cell organisms from instructions that were sent via email. A next step is to move onto more complex forms of life. Along the way we’ll be able to add features like kinds of photosynthesis, proteins that perform special functions, instructions to manufacture vaccines, etc. One day you’ll be able to code for a specific kind of mouse or chicken and then make enhancements. If we took the chicken genome and tinkered around a bit, we could probably make something like a dinosaur, but suited for today’s environment. Paleontologist Jack Horner has already begun working with researchers to reverse-engineer ostriches into something like a dinosaur by switching off all of the later-evolved functions that made dinosaurs into birds.

The blueprint for this creature will be everything we know about the T-Rex. We can design bone structure, ligature and a thousand other tiny details we’ve learned from the fossil records. Although we may never find DNA, we have found cells inside T-Rex fossils, resembling the same kind in ovulating birds. Cells, protein and other kinds of information can help us build a replica that’s perhaps 95% accurate. Which really means more from a marketing point of view. A chimpanzee is arguably 96% of a human (or vice versa). We also share 40% of our genes with a carrot…

What is a T-Rex anyway?
To the purists, our T-Rex+ wouldn’t be the same. Even a full clone would still make some compromises that would leave them unhappy. But our T-Rex+ would fulfill our idea of what the creature is supposed to be. And even that’s an evolving concept. If Jurassic Park were filmed today, the animators would probably have to add a lot of feathers to the theropods like T-Rex. T-Rex DNA can only tell us part of the story about these creatures. While intact DNA could tell us a lot, maybe the best thing we can do is to make a bunch of creatures that look like them and set them loose in some place and see how they interact.

The T-Rex’s reign lasted for several million years. The animals that lived at the end of that period were different genetically than the ones at the beginning. Even individual T-Rex’s probably varied in temperament just as much as kittens from the same litter. There is no ideal T-Rex because they were all different.

These T-Rex+’s won’t be the same as what once walked the earth. But placed into a Cretaceous-like environment, we could understand how it filled out its ecological niche. These creatures would undoubtedly surprise us and have just as much to teach us as the animals we based them.

For a final thought, here’s a photograph of two sets of bones. Although they look almost identical, they’re separated by about 100 million years of evolution. The one on the right is a wolf. The one on the left is a Tasmanian Tiger. Sadly, the Tasmanian Tiger is now extinct (hopefully only temporarily).

Although they have 100 million years of evolution between them (we diverged from chimpanzees only about 10 million years ago and share more common relatives with a wolf than the the Tasmanian Tiger does) they evolved to fill very similar niches. Yet, for some reason, man was able to hunt the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction, possibly due to some other environmental factor that made it threatened, while the wolf still thrives.

The T-Rex was a hardy species whose reign was ended by an asteroid impact that shut down the photosynthesis process that fed the plant eaters they preyed upon. Without that cataclysm, who knows how long they could have lasted? Maybe part of their survival mechanism is their innate badassness that causes a monkey species to bring them back 65 million years later.

50 Prius-Sized Wombat Fossils Discovered in Australia

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Wombats are like the koala’s derpy ground-dwelling brother. They’re harmless, adorable and just keep their noses to the ground without being a bother to anyone. They’re about the size of a small, fat, over-inflated dog/gopher hybrid that like to build extensive burrows and tunnels.

Almost 200,000 years ago they were still cute and adorable and liked to create burrows with one small difference…

Wombats used to be about the size of a Prius.

In a remote part of the outback in Australia, almost 50 prehistoric mega-wombats called Diprotodons have been discovered in what’s being called a ‘graveyard’ for these giant animals.

As researchers uncover more of the site, the conditions of what brought the animals together in one place is becoming clearer…and creepier.

Also found at the site? The bony back-plates of a massive ancient crocodile and the teeth of an 18-foot-long venomous lizard called megalania.


House Full o’ Fossils: Man Loves Dinosaurs More Than You

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Dinosaur archaeologist. Those words conjure up a lot of school and a highly-educated lab-coat-wearing stereotype for most of us, right? Or at the least monologue-spouting dinosaur-loving cast of Jurassic Park, right?

Then there’s 78 year-old Ray Stanford, Maryland’s ‘Dinoman’ who skipped all that.

While all the dinosaur science people and some of the best dinosaur fossil hunters in the country proclaimed that Maryland wasn’t worth their time and has yielded only minimal finds like a few teeth and a couple of footprints, Ray, a self-taught naturalist, has a house FULL of evidence that somehow everyone missed!

Ray’s home, appropriately called the Stanford Museum, houses one of the most significant collections of fossils on the east coast. Even professionals peruse Standford’s collection in awe.

While most of the collection is fairly typical, if you can forget you’re actually in someone’s house, containing footprints and teeth, there are some incredible finds like a footprint that doesn’t even have a matching fossil record at this point as well as the complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur called a Nodosaur (which has been moved to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum).

Somebody call John Hammond and let him know about Ray so we can get things started on our new theme park.

[The Washington Post]

Is this the Reason We Believed in Dragons?

Monday, April 16th, 2012


His name is Dracorex and he looks like a dragon.

Seriously, compare the skull you see above to the massive dragon skulls found in the subterranean pathways of King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones.


While it is inconclusive that Dracorex ever consorted with the House Targaryen or reduced cities and armies alike to smoldering ash, what is clear is how much the shape this herbivore bares a resemblance to our common understanding of a fictional dragon. The skull was first donated for study in 2004 and was formally described first in 2006.

Meanwhile, the beast has a more permanent connection to yet another popular fantasy franchise. The official name for Dracorex is Dracorex hogwartsia. This was inspired by young visitors to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where it was official donated, who kept referring to it as the dragon from the book and subsequent 2005 film adaptation Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

This thrilled author J.K. Rowling…

“I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs. I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three. My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker’s paper describing ‘my’ dinosaur, which I can’t help visualising as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”


But the question remains, is Dracorex really even its own species?

All around dinosaur badass authority and HPIC (Head Paleontologist In Charge) of our hearts Jack Horner says the beast is probably just a juvenile version of the well documented dino Pachycephalosaurus which looks decidedly less dragon-esqe.

In fact, he has an awesome TEDx talk going into the phenomenon of misclassification and our misunderstanding of “shape shifting” dinosaurs.

So what came first? Our modern dragon myth that looks like Dracorex? Or did Dracorex shape the myth? Is Dracorex even really Dracorex?

No matter what, we now know something that Daenerys Targaryen, Jack Horner and Harry Potter have in common. Which is pretty awesome.

Scientist: Super Genius Space Dinosaurs Could Rule Other Planets!

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

super genius space dinosaur.jpg

We aren’t quite sure how this was the conclusion he reached but Ronald Breslow, Ph.D has a theory. In a new report he tries to shed light on the age-old mystery of why terrestrial amino acids (the very building blocks of life) exist in only one shape.

He posits that the kind of protein brought to earth millions of years ago could be evidence that another forms exists on other planets. The kind of proteins that create…


Quote Doctor Breslow:

An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D-amino acids and L-sugars. Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth. We would be better off not meeting them.

That is, unless you’re really in the mood to get devoured by a SUPER GENIUS SPACE DINOSAUR. In that case, meet away.

[Science Daily]

How to Make a Dino-Chicken

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
Can science turn back the clock on evolution to make a chicken into a dinosaur? Find out in this incredible LiveScience infographic.

Although we are pretty sure he’s been talking about this concept for far longer than a year, Jack Horner’s idea to create dinosaurs from chickens is listed among the most “wacky but serious” ideas of 2011 by Live Science. We’d like to think of it as more “awesome but deadly” or “foreboding but the coolest thing ever” but to each their own.

One point of correction however, the Live Science story makes mention that Horner served as a technical advisor to the Jurassic Park film. While that is true it’s also way understating the point. The legendarily curious, adventurous paleontologist was the partial inspiration for our curious, adventurous paleontologist hero Dr. Alan Grant in Michael Crichton’s source material.

Either way, Horner is awesome and we are closer to dinosaurs today than we were yesterday thanks to him. And as always… hold on to your butts.

[Live Science]

Fossils Indicate Awesome Battle Between Awesome Prehistoric Sea Monsters

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Skitched 20110510 114636

An era before time. An era before aquatic decency. An era of totally bitching ichthyosaur fights!

New fossil finds indicate a very violent encounter (most likely) between two ichthyosaurs which left one scarred by deep gouges in the snout. Little is known for sure about the 20-foot-long creatures, since it has no living relatives. Since the bite pattern on the recovered fossil matches that of another ichthyosaur, it is telling that they fought amongst themselves for land and territory.

Either way, it’s a tragedy of epic proportions that these two beasts were fighting and killing each other before YouTube was invented.


Ready For The Feathered T-Rex?

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

“Illustrator Sammy Hall made this incredible version of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Scientists have started to believe that just like many other biped dinosaurs, T-Rex had also been covered with feathers.”

All of these magpie attacks are suddenly starting to make a lot more sense. Full size image here.

[BuzzFeed via Geekologie]

2 New Dinosaurs Found In “Lost Continent” (A.K.A. Utah)

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010


You may in your lifetime have thought Utah a bit odd, it’s okay, I’m writing this from Florida we all have our quirks. But if you thought the Beehive State was weird before, imagine when these two were farting around:

Two remarkable new species of horned dinosaurs have been found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the “lost continent” of Laramidia, formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating the eastern and western portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period.

One of the two featured 15 (count ’em, 15!) horns. That’s hardcore.

[Science Daily]

Intelligently Created Dinosaurs [Weirdest Places]

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Everyday this week…Brett Rounsaville brings us the Weirdest Places to Visit in America.

What’s the weirdest movie you can think of from your childhood?

That’s right, Peewee’s Big Adventure.

Now what’s the weirdest scene you can recall from that movie?

Yep, Peewee talking about Simone’s “big but” while sitting inside a giant dinosaur. (Shut up about Large Marge already.)

That giant dinosaur is one of two built by, Claude Bell, a caricature artist at Knott’s Berry Farm who also owned the Inn across from them on I-10 near Cabazon, CA. It took him eleven years to finish the giant Apatosaurus and he died before he finished the Tyrannosaurus. (Their names are Dinny and Rex BTW.)

Now, here’s the weird part. (Because it’s not weird that a caricature artist spent a quarter of his life building a 150-foot long concrete dinosaur on a lark. Or that it has found its way into popular culture via a faux children’s entertainment film directed by a crazy haired genius. No. The weird part is…)

After the guy that sunk his entire life into two dinosaurs (complete with frescos explaining evolution in their bellies) died, the two guys that bought the property, Benjamin S. Carson, M.D. and Dr. Michael Egnor, turned it into…wait for it…a creationist museum!

(Because nothing says intelligent design like two giant lizards that were apparently so poorly designed that they couldn’t survive the 6000 years since the world has been created.)

You can now pay five dollars to visit the creationist museum in Dinny’s belly and purchase toy dinosaurs with labels that say, “Don’t swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution.”


Want to discuss creationism versus evolution? Roadside attractions vs theme parks?  How about Peewee’s Big Adventure versus Big Top Peewee? Well then, that’s why god invented the comments section!

Oh Behave! Mojoceratops Unveiled As Swinginest Dino

Monday, July 12th, 2010


You’ve found the physical remains of a dinosaur who a gaudy heart-shaped skull which by all probability was used to capture the attention of the opposite sex. What do you call it?

Over a few beers with fellow paleontologists one night, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind: Mojoceratops.

“It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, ‘Wait — that actually sounds cool,’ ” said Longrich, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. “I tried to come up with serious names after that, but Mojoceratops just sort of stuck.”

With the publication of Longrich’s paper describing his find in the Journal of Paleontology, the name is now official.

Imagining the above clip a heart-headed dinosaur in the Austin Powers role has made my morning, please do the same! Hat tip to Dan Wheeler for sending this along.

[Science Daily]

Jaw Of Likely Awesome New Winged Dinosaur Found

Thursday, April 29th, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the best lede ever written for a news story.

An ancient reptile with a 9-foot wingspan was soaring over the sea in what is now North Texas some 95 million years ago when – plop – it fell into the water and died.

A full story of life and death. A dinosaur. The use of the word “plop.” A masterpiece.


Analysis of the jaw now suggests it belongs to a new-to-science genus and species of flying reptile or pterosaur, now called Aetodactylus halli after its discoverer Lance Hall, a member of the Dallas Paleontological Society who hunts fossils for a hobby.

“I was scanning the exposure and noticed what at first I thought was a piece of oyster shell spanning across a small erosion valley,” Hall said. “Only about an inch or two was exposed. I almost passed it up thinking it was oyster, but realized it was more tan-colored like bone. I started uncovering it and realized it was the jaw to something – but I had no idea what. It was upside down and when I turned over the snout portion it was nothing but a long row of teeth sockets, which was very exciting.”

Also, Aetodactylus means “eagle finder”.

[Live Science]