Friday, July 31, 2009

Yay Stimulus Package!

National Parks Traveler is reporting that Dinosaur National Monument is closer to being back on track, as artist's renderings of a new visitor center and quarry exhibit hall have been released and bidding on construction contracts will begin this autumn. In April it was announced that ARRA funds secured for the NPS will be used to rebuild the Quarry visitor center, which has been shut down because of structural concerns since 2006, or as I refer to it, "The Year The Allosaurs Cried." The buildings will be green, too, which though being an obvious necessity still seems like a relief. I look forward to the day when it isn't a relief.

Barack should claim dibs on the next new species found on the property. Stegosaurus obamae, maybe? Ceratosaurus baracki? He's got a lichen already, but you know the man ain't satisfied.

Anatotattin'

I am not a tattoo dude. There are plenty of reasons that people like marking their skin. While I understand the desire, none of the reasons are worth the procedure or its permanence of its results. But I suppose that if I was of the tattooing persuasion, I would do something like this:

proto

A pachycephalosaur and (Flickr Image since removed by user) a Protoceratops couple. Admirable in that they're not the classic five or six dinos. The only problem with this approach is that as paleontologists make further discoveries, I might be stuck with an obsolete piece of paleoart on my skin. Not attractive. It might be best to play it safe, like these folks:

GEDC0573

t-rex

I think my ideal dinosaur tattoo would be something like a Troodon on my tummy, and my chest hair would be a cute little hairdo. I would also need to solve the problem of growing hair on my chest.

Also: Face to face with dinosaurs, via virtual reality - Video from Scientific American. It looks like a big ViewMaster toy. Speaking of which...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Therizinosaur's Lesson

Therizinosaurs, which until earlier this decade were not known to have lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave, are a delightfully strange clan of dinosaurs. Their hands sported some of the largest claws in all of dinosauria, but we know from their small, beaked heads and massive guts that they were largely herbivorous. Here's a nice side view of Beipiaosaurus inexpectatus, that illustrates just how odd the therizinosaurs looked:
B. inexpectatus via Dinosaur World

Therizinosaurs, including the recently named species Nothronychus graffami from Utah, were maniraptors, a group of theropods which also includes the dromaeosaurs, or raptors. A study led by The Field Museum's Lindsay Zanno has found that among their maniraptoran kin, the therizinosaurs were the earliest branch, pointing to the possibility that they and the dromaeosaurs may have shared an omnivorous or herbivorous ancestor, and hypercarnivory (or the exclusive eating of meat) was not necessarily the norm. It's always nice to have more detailed shading of the frequently cartoonified dinosaurs, which are usually depicted strictly as belonging to two teams: meat-eaters and veggiesauruses. Dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems for hundreds of millions of years, so it makes sense that their diverse forms evolved to fill niches in all kinds of neat ways. The therizinosaurs are striking in the way they subvert pop culture's roster of standby dinos.

20090715__newdino_0716~1_GALLERY
Nothronychus by Victor Leshyk for the Museum of Northern Arizona

Adding a bit of maritime intrigue to the N. grafammi specimen: it was discovered in sediment that would have been 60 to 100 miles from shore, among the remains of ammonites (which with their spiral shells superficially resemble the nautilus but are closer kin to squids). I love when a fossil gives such vivid fuel to the imagination.

Demerit to the Salt Lake City Tribune for this little gaffe:
The discovery adds to science's understanding of therizinosaur, a dinosaur belonging to the therapod (sic) family, whose members include Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor. The study suggests these famous predators may have evolved from plant-eating ancestors.
T. rex and the other tyrannosauroids are distant cousins to the maniraptors. The study only deals with maniraptors and doesn't suggest that T. rex had a vegetarian ancestor. This seems to be a pretty common mistake: reporters throwing out the names of one of the classic dinosaurs as a sort of shorthand.

A traveling exhibit on recent discoveries of therizinosaurs in the United States, THERIZINOSAUR—Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur, will be at the Museum of Northern Arizona until August 30, 2009.

More N. grafammi: Live Science, Dinosaur Tracking, and nice personal observations at Chinleana.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Your De-Evolution Will Be a Living Nightmare

Dinosaur Tracking has posted a list of the five worst dinosaur movies ever made. Of course, such a thing is open to endless debate, and as I haven't seen any of the movies on the list, I'm not prepared to argue with them.
I would add one to the list, or at least offer it for consideration: Super Mario Brothers. The makers of SMB had the fine idea to take an inherently stupid idea for a movie (stereotypical Italian plumber jumps on turtles, saves princess) and inject some extremely sketchy pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo into it. They cook up an "evolution ray" to explain why there are fungus-people and lizard-people. I mean, I can accept that Hollywood needs to depart from the strict facts of existence to make a viable piece of entertainment. It's nice when it can at least be a little clever. Exchanges like the following don't quite measure up: "What single-celled organism did you evolve from?" "Tyannosaurus rex. The lizard king!" For a story like Jurassic Park, we need some cooked up explanation that at least sounds reasonable on the surface. For Super Mario, I think it's overthinking it a wee bit.

I can't quite figure out the studio's thought process here. The easiest, fastest, cheapest way would be to make a nice, simple, silly Super Mario movie. It's based on a video game, so get it out as fast as possible to put the kids and their parents into the theaters. Instead, they created an effects-laden, confusingly-plotted monstrosity with actual actors like Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper. Were they trying to create something more than a stupid, silly Super Mario movie? I just don't get it.
Jump to the four-minute mark for a nice instance of science being fed through the ol' salad shooter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Heart Dinosaurs

I tried to explain why I like dinosaurs so much yesterday. It's hard, because it's essentially an exercise in complicating something pretty simple. I suppose my reasons, and most of ours, can be pretty well expressed by this compilation of Google results. Most of which, I'd guess, are from children.

I like dinosaurs because...
...they are humongous!
...I live with them!
...they go rahrrrr!!
... they give you a real sense of the vastness of time.
...it fascinates me that millions of years
ago these big creatures lived on our planet Earth and that
they would still be alive if it hadn’t been for the disastrous
comet.
...they're so interesting.
...Triceratops eats plants.
...they are fun to read about.
...they are so fierce and they ruled the earth many times.
...they are fierce.
...they were big, fierce, and extinct.
...they tell me about distant times and lands and they are visually striking.
...they beat each other up and they have stinky breath.
... they lived log ago and I read lots of books about them and I know lot of them kinds I want to visit natural museum.
...they are special to me.
...they are purdy.
...they are my best animal.
...they are big and they have very sharp teeth like no other animal.
...they're really awesome, and I like the Tyrannosaurus Rex's teeth because they're really sharp.
...they are so different from anything today.
...I was excited when I think of them.
...they are good.

dinosaur!
Mitikusa via Flickr

But we also have our favorites from within the ranks of the dinosaurs. So to get more specific...

I like velociraptor because...
...he is smart,fast,neat and COOL!!
...it's fast, has sharp claws and it's real cool!!
...they are swift and sneeky and you would never know there was one behind you until your flesh is getting torn off your bones.
...they hunt in packs and eat meat like me.
...it has a big claw.
...it could take down almost any dinosaur!

I like stegosaurus because...
...of those cool fans on its back.
...it had bony plates on its back.
...they have many ways to protect themselves.
...THEY HIT OTHER DINOSAURS WITH THEIR SPIKED TAILS.
...it has spikes on it and I spikes.
...he has four spikes on his tail for protection and I think thats really neat!
...I like my meat to be grass-fed and free range.
...its plates could turn red.
...they always appear to me as the "intelligent noble" dinosaur.
...he looks good.
...of those cool fans on its back.

I like triceratops because...
...it has three horn.
...he's the bestest herbivore fighter!
...they are cleaver and tuff.
...he is smart and he is cute.
...I'm in a band called the dinosaur project and we all have stage names, and mines the best because it's tri-sarah-tops.
...he has horns and fights T-Rex.
...THEY HAVE 3 HORNS.
...it was not afraid to stand up to any other dinosaur.
...of what it's name means - 3 horned face.
...it is a plant eater.
...it has a cool head with the sticky-uppy crown thing and three horns.
...it is big.
...he has big horns.
...it had three horns to protect it'sself from danger.
...of its three horns.
...they have my name in them.
...it is a cool name.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beginning

This is the first post on Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, a dinosaur blog. It's taken me a year of blogging at Gentleman's Choice to figure out that the secret to building any kind of readership is to focus on a topic. And for me, a dinosaur blog is the right way to go.
Like plenty of adults, I somehow never managed to outgrow dinosaurs. I suppose it's for all of the usual reasons cited: the titanic proportions, the array of anatomical weaponry, defenses, and more obscure adornments, the mystery of their disappearance, the fact that they were really real monsters. Dinosaurs are just such a joy.

They were my entrance ramp to science, really. Everything I've learned about natural history, evolution, geology, the latin language... it all started with the old mount of an albertosaur standing over a fallen lambeosaur in the entrance hall of the Field Museum (pre-Sue, of course).

Most of the great dinosaur blogs are by paleontologists, either of the professional or armchair persuasion. I can't even claim to be a footstool paleontologist, so while I definitely plan on writing about new developments in our understanding of dinosaurs, I'll be writing about fluffier, pop cultural stuff. Dinosaurs are one of those places where science and pop culture intersect loudly, which is endlessly entertaining to me.

Ultimately, I hope I can write a blog that's informs those who don't know as much as I do while entertaining those who do. And if I do attract a paleontologist or two, I absolutely invite clarifications and criticisms. Seriously, take me to the woodshed when I'm talking above my pay grade.

I'll close with a nice piece of paleoart. I'm going to feature plenty of paleoart. Paleoart is one of the awesome things we can rely on. Until next time, happy trails.

Oviraptor
Oviraptor by Patrick Redman, via Flickr