First Tyrannosaurus rex going to European museum


This video says about itself:

Why we bring the first T-Rex to Europe: Anne Schulp at TEDxLeiden

25 January 2014

We are increasingly confronted with the consequences of global warming and the loss of bio-diversity. The more we understand and appreciate the wonder of nature, the better we are able to sustain our life on this planet. This is where the T-Rex comes in. Can you imagine another creature that has been able to better capture the imagination of kids? This is why we decided to go on an epic journey to find a real T-Rex and bring it to Europe. We believe that through telling the story of this T-Rex and its excavation we can get more kids to experience the wonder of life on this planet.

Paleontologist Anne Schulp is a researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. The natural history collection of Naturalis is extensive, but one kind of dinosaur was conspicuously absent: a large carnivore. This changed recently, when Anne helped excavating a Tyrannosaurus fossil in Montana, USA.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

About one and a half years from now, for the first time ever a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex will move to outside the United States, namely to the Netherlands. Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden has received 5 million to buy a skeleton of the dinosaur. It was excavated in 2013 in the US state Montana.

Last year, scientists at the research institute and natural history museum excavated large parts of the Tyrannosaurus rex in Montana. It is a well-preserved skeleton of a then probably 30 years old female. …

Naturalis has received a part of the money through crowdfunding.

See also here. And here.

New dinosaur species discovery in Canadian museum


This video from Canada is called New dinosaur species found in museum collection.

Haaretz daily in Israel writes about this:

New dinosaur discovered – in Ottowa museum

Pentaceratops aquilonius, five-horned cousin to Triceratops, was rather small and may have been endemic to the Alberta region in Canada.

By Ruth Schuster and Jim Drury

Nov. 30, 2014 | 12:09 PM

A new dinosaur species has been discovered – in Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature, where the fossil remains had been moldering for three quarters of a century. Pentaceratops aquilonius is a rather small species of Pentaceratops, a cousin of the better known Triceratops.

The difference between the two is that triceratops had three horns on its bony face while Pentaceratops has five.

The discovery of Pentaceratops aquilonius was made by University of Bath palaentologist Dr Nick Longrich. While studying fossils in the museum storage, he noticed that a certain one resembled other Pentaceratops remains found from the American Southwest – but was different.

In a paper published in Science Direct this month, Longrich postulates that the newly-recognized titchy Pentaceratops may have been endemic to the region now known as Alberta. Since there are other dinosaur species that were widespread in North America, he writes, dinosaur distribution was evidently not constrained by geographic barriers, climate, or flora: therefore, dinosaur endemism may have been due to competitive exclusion of immigrants by established populations, that had adapted to local environmental conditions.

Longrich expects his findings to be the tip of the palaeontological iceberg.

“In recent years the pace of dinosaur discoveries has actually increased and the implication there is that we’re not even close to the total number of dinosaur species that we could potentially discover,” Longrich told Reuters. “My guess is that as we go back into the museum collection and revise things, and go out into the field, we’re going to find hundreds of new dinosaur species in coming years.”

There could be thousands of unknown species of dinosaurs to be found, he postulates – many lurking in dusty museum storage rooms.

Pentaceratops aquilonius was around the size of a buffalo and like its triceratops cousin, was a herbivore. It lived 75 million years ago close to an area now known as the Canadian province of Alberta. The first to be found was Pentaceratops sternbergii, found in 1921.

Some pentaceratopses were a lot bigger than the presently-found one (or perhaps it just wasn’t fully-grown).

One massive skeleton in particular led paleontologists to squabble over whether it was a distinct species or just a particularly beefy individual. In any case, in 2011 it was classified as a different species, named Titanoceratops: just its skull was buffalo-sized, at 2.65 meters, which warranted it an entry for “longest skull” in the Guinness Book of World Records The whole Titanoceratops measured some 9 meters in length, roughly as long as a city bus.

Dinosaurs on stage


This video says about itself:

13 November 2014

A behind-the-scenes look at how the cast and crew of Walking – The Arena Spectacular with Dinosaurs brings life-size dinosaurs to life in an theatrical setting.

From Science Friday:

Nov. 13, 2014

How to Build a Dinosaur

by Julie Leibach

The Brachiosaurus lowers its long neck, creased with wrinkles, and briefly surveys the human crowd staring back at it.

“That thing looks so realistic,” says a young voice from the audience.

The dinosaur settles back on its massive haunches and lets out a low bellow, as if saying, “I sure do.”

This dino is a high-tech puppet and one of the stars of Walking With Dinosaurs, a live production that grew out of a BBC television series by the same name and that’s currently on a six-month North American tour.

In the show, the only human character—based on the British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley—time travels through prehistory, starting with the Triassic period. Over the course of two hours, or the theatrical equivalent of 165 million years of evolution, 10 types of dinosaurs make appearances, from the herbivorous Plateosaurus, to the armored Ankylosaurus, to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. (See them in action in the SciFri video.)

“We wanted to find some emblematical, representative creatures in each of the three major periods of dinosaur evolution,” says Sonny Tilders, creative director of The Creature Technology Company, which designed and constructed the puppets.

Totaling 20 dinosaurs in all, the creatures are approximately life-size. While the larger ones are motorized, such as the Allosaurus, suit performers embody the smaller ones, including Utahraptors.

Admittedly, this writer’s mouth dropped a little when a curious Liliensternus stepped out on stage early during a show at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. Granted, no one’s seen a live dinosaur (unless you count birds), but these puppets evoke a convincing “dino-ness.”

“I’ve worked with gators, crocodiles—all manner of beasties,” says Phil Manning, a professor of natural history at the University of Manchester who was invited to see the show in Northern Ireland about a year ago, where he got up close and personal with one of the T-rexes, “and [the puppet] installed the same fear as an 800-pound gator did in me in Florida a few years ago.”

For inspiration, The Creature Technology Company team pored through scientific and popular science literature to understand, generally, what various dinosaurs might have looked like. They also observed the way large, living animals, such as elephants and giraffes, move.

Constructing the puppets required working “from the inside out,” as Tilders puts it. Autopsy one of the behemoths, and you’ll find architecture somewhat similar to a real animal’s. For starters, the larger puppets have a skeleton made of steel, complete with points of articulation that allow their bodies to move in a way that seems natural.

The dino’s bulk consists of a system of custom-made muscle bags, constructed from netting and filled with styrene beads. “They stretch and contract like real muscles would,” says Tilders, “so you get all this subtle movement that transfers through the creature.”

On top of their bulging muscles, the puppets wear a special skin made of lycra, “but with a trick that I can’t tell you about,” adds Tilders. Hand painting lends a prehistoric veneer.

But for these dinosaurs to really convince audiences, they’ve got to walk like they’re flesh and blood. Indeed, the puppets’ lifelike natures are based largely on the success of a critical illusion: a sense of hefty mass. Many of the dinosaurs we know and love weighed tons, so “every puppet has to look balanced and grounded,” says Tilders, otherwise “we would lose that sense of mass.”

In fact, while the dinosaurs appear to plod, their limbs don’t actually bear weight. Rather, in the case of the larger puppets, a sturdy rod anchors each body to a motorized chassis, shaped like a ship’s anchor and painted to match the floor, and a driver inside steers the creature around the stage. The puppets’ steps are preprogrammed to coincide with the speed and direction of the vehicles’ speed and direction.

The drivers communicate via radio with so-called “voodoo puppeteers,” who stand out of sight in a balcony, using several devices to control multiple aspects of dino dynamism (see the video above). For instance, a puppeteer wearing a robotic arm-like instrument can operate up to 25 axes of mobility, while a colleague manipulating a joystick controls finer movements, such as eye blinking or teeth gnashing, as well as sounds. (Meanwhile, the suit performers control their puppets’ movements and sounds and provide the legwork.)

A system of passive hydraulics lends fluidity to the larger puppets’ movements. “You can actually go up to one of our creatures and grab his nose and push [it] out of the way, and [it’ll] slowly come back to position,” says Tilders. In other words, these aren’t your typical amusement park animatronics that shudder and shake. “That’s probably one of the things that I’m proudest of,” says Tilders.

Paleontological nitpickers might quibble with certain dino details. For instance, the puppets roar, growl, and grunt. But scientists can’t definitively say what sounds real dinosaurs made—if they uttered any at all, according to Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences who was hired by the show to promote its educational merits. Birds—which Zanno refers to as living dinosaurs—have a “really sophisticated vocalization system,” she says, “but we don’t know how far down the tree that goes.” But, she adds, “how could they not [make sounds] in a show?”

“You will be able to find a pile of paleontologists who I am sure will give you a list as long as your arm on what is ‘wrong’ with the [puppet] reconstructions,” wrote Manning in a separate email. “However, they would generate equally long lists when comparing their very own ‘scientific’ reconstructions with each other.”

Consensus in the paleontological community did inspire an updated look for some of the puppets for their North American tour—feathers. A combination of real and manmade flair, plumes adorn the T-rexes (there are two), the Liliensternus, and the Utahraptors.

While the new ’dos may look a bit kitschy, they’re a nod to our ever-evolving picture of dinosaurs, based on more than 150 years of research.

Perhaps a few audience members will grow up to add their own discoveries. “I always say dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science,” says Manning. “We need more shows out there that inspire kids about science, evolution, and life on earth.”

*This article was updated on November 13, 2014, to reflect the following corrections: An earlier version stated that the human character in the show depicts an Australian archaeologist. The character is actually based on the British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley. The article also stated that the live show covers 180 million years of evolution. It actually covers 165 million years if birds, which make an appearance at the end, aren’t counted. If they are, then it covers 230 million years, according to paleontologist Lindsay Zanno.

Birds, dinosaurs, eggs and evolution


This video is called Hundreds of Dinosaur Egg Fossils Found in Spain.

From Wildlife Extra:

Egg shapes could be key to explaining evolution of birds

Research by scientists suggests that bird egg shape could be key in explaining their evolution

Next time you sit down to your breakfast of hard-boiled egg, you might want to take a moment to stop to consider why it is so perfectly ‘egg-shaped’. Evolutionary biologists have been studied [sic] the difference in the eggs of modern day birds compared to those of their extinct relatives, Theropod dinosaurs. The difference in their shape could be the key to explaining why some birds were able to survive the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Researchers from University of Lincoln examined eggshells looking at the transition of Theropods into birds based on fossil records and studies of modern birds.

Their findings suggest that the early birds from 252 to 66 million years ago laid eggs that had different shapes to those of modern birds. This might suggest that embryonic development was different in the earliest birds, so could have implications for how some birds survived while the dinosaurs perished.

The author of the study was Dr Charles Deeming of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences. He explains, “These results indicate that egg shape can be used to distinguish between different types of egg-laying vertebrates. More importantly they suggest Mesozoic bird eggs differ significantly from modern day bird eggs, but more recently extinct Cenozoic birds do not. This suggests that the range of egg shapes in modern birds had already been attained in the Cenozoic.”

The origin of the amniotic egg, which is an egg that can survive out of water, is one of the key adaptions underpinning the vertebrates’ transition from sea to land over 300 million years ago.

Dr Deeming suggests that the different egg shape of birds both past and present could be associated with different nesting behaviours or incubation methods, but points out that not much research has been carried out into this due to insufficient fossil data. “We hope that future discoveries of associated fossil eggs and skeletons will help refine the general conclusions of this work,” he says.

Weird dinosaur discovery in Mongolia


This video says about itself:

22 October 2014

This computer animation shows Deinocheirus mirificus walking. Deinocheirus had unusually large forearms and several features that seem cobbled together from a variety of other dinosaurs.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Fossils reveal very awkward dinosaur once roamed the Earth

Christopher Hooton

Thursday 23 October 2014

Palaeontologists in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert have discovered new fossils that allow them to create a picture of what one of the most unusually-shaped dinosaurs looked like.

Deinocheirus mirificus, which means “unusual horrible hand” in Latin, was a bipedal dinosaur with a hump-back and a big belly that stood almost as tall as the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The fossils were described in a study in the journal Nature, with vertebrate palaeontologist Thomas Holtz, Jr commenting: “This is definitely an unusual animal.

“It had more of a ‘beer belly’ than your typical ornithomimosaur.”

Palaeontologists recovered fossils from three individuals from the species in the Gobi Desert, and were able to combine them with some previously stolen by poachers to create a 95% complete skeleton of the dinosaur.

Its unusual combination of features has scientists puzzled.

“This creature wasn’t built for speed,” said Stephen Brusatte a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s pretty obvious.”

Deinocheirus had wide hips and large toes, which made for an awkward gait as seen in the animation above.

Stegosaurus killed allosaurus, 147 million years ago


This video says about itself:

The Smell of Prey – Walking With Dinosaurs – BBC

An insight into the hunting habits of one of the most successful breeds of Dinosaur, the Allosaurus.

From Science News:

Stegosaurus landed a low blow in dino brawl

Fossil shows that allosaurus was maimed by tail spike attack

Thomas Sumner

3:19pm, October 22, 2014

VANCOUVER — In a story worthy of CSI: Jurassic Period, researchers have solved the mystery of what killed a predatory allosaurus dinosaur 147 million years ago.

The allosaurus fossil contains a circular hole in its pelvis flanked by a well-preserved, fist-sized abscess where the infected wound spread. The only murder weapon around that time that would create the circular hole is a tail spike on a stegosaurus.

The plant-eating dinosaur used its flexible body to whip its barbed tail into the allosaurus’s crotch during a fight, proposed paleontologist Robert Bakker of the Houston Museum of Natural Science on October 21 at the Geological Society of America‘s annual meeting. The allosaurus didn’t die right away, probably limping for weeks expelling pus, Bakker said.

The research could help scientists learn the fighting styles of the two dinos and reconstruct how the two species might have interacted.