In 2004, a dinosaur nest was discovered in China. This nest contained the skeletons of thirty baby Psittacosaurus, along with a single skeleton of a much larger individual, long assumed to be an adult. Psittacosaurus, meaning “parrot lizard”, lived in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and northern China during the middle Cretaceous Period. It was a dog-sized herbivore, a primitive member of the group called the ceratopsians – the same group that contains Triceratops, Styracosaurus, and Centrosaurus, among others. It was discovered during the Gobi Desert expeditions of Roy Chapman Andrews during the early 1920s and was officially named and described by Henry Fairfield Osbourn in 1923. The name was given to the parrot-like appearance of its head.
Psittacosaurus is nothing new, nor is the nest of individuals mentioned above, but what is new is an idea about who that larger individual is, and what role that individual was playing. Brandon Hendrick, a paleontology researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, saw a photo of the nest, and was a bit intrigued by the not-quite-fully-grown size of the large specimen. Paleontologists have found a lot of Psittacosaurus fossils over the years, so they have a pretty good grasp on the growth rate of this creature. Based upon the size of the babies’ bones and their development, these creatures had recently hatched. However, the larger specimen doesn’t seem to be an adult. Based upon the size of its skull, this creature was about four to five years old, but Psittacosaurus did not reach full-grown size until eight or nine years old. So, this creature was a juvenile. What would a juvenile be doing amidst a nest of babies?
It was here that Hendrick and his colleagues proposed something – could this be an example of “babysitting”? Many paleontologists had long assumed that one parent or the other was responsible for guarding the nest at any given time. However, this new discovery adds some more facets to that belief. Perhaps the entire family, not just the parents was responsible in raising and caring for the young. Furthermore, having juveniles guard the nest would serve as good training for when they became adults and had nests of their own, thereby making their offspring more likely to survive. Babysitting is also seen in some species of modern birds, and this adds further evidence to the argument that dinosaurs evolved into birds since they have some shared behaviors.
Brandon Hendrick and his colleagues have recently published their findings in the journal Cretaceous Research; their article is entitled “The osteology and taphonomy of a Psittacosaurus bonebed assemblage of the Yixian Formation (Lower Cretaceous), Liaoning, China”.
A series of dinosaur tracks were found by a hiker in Moab, Utah. These footprints were discovered in 2009, but it had been kept secret until recently. These tracks are dated to 125 million years ago, the early Cretaceous Period, when creatures like Iguanodon dominated much of the Northern Hemisphere. Among the 200 or so footprints found here might be those of a large raptor, which is very exciting. Trackways include not only dinosaurs, but also a mudslide from a crocodile.
Volunteers and workers from various government divisions are working on the site to get it ready for public display. The Bureau of Land Management wants to have the site ready by October 2014.
- Nature World News. “125-Million-Year-Old Dino Tracks Discovered in Utah”, by Jenna Iacurci (August 21, 2014)
Two days ago, I visited the Museum of the Moving Image, located in Astoria, Queens, New York, to see the temporary exhibit that they have on the cartoonist Chuck Jones, one of the leading figures behind Looney Tunes. The exhibit is on the third floor of the building, and it is constructed more or less in a square, so you can start at one end and work your way around until you get back to where you started.
Unfortunately, they did not allow photography in the exhibit at all, not even flash-free, so I was not able to take any pictures of what was on diplay. However, I had a roaringly good time. They have displays on Jones’ life and early career, as well as screens showing exerpts of his various works (not just Looney Tunes, but other animated works as well) and montages of cartoon clips centered around certain themes, and also played his masterpiece “What’s Opera, Doc?” on a continuous loop – in fact, they had a whole section of the exhibit specifically devoted to this one cartoon. The greatest thing about the exhibit was that they had original drawings, sketches, notes, and background layouts from the cartoons. I learned a lot about animation and about the “physics” of workign with cartoon characters.
This exhibit is an absolute must for anyone who loves Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes characters, or even loves animation in general. I guarantee you that you are going to leave the place happy – I certainly did. As I said before, the exhibit is only temporary, so you have to catch it now before it closes.
This is a drawing of Lonchidion, a hybodont shark from the Mesozoic Era. There were at least eleven different species, one of which was found in the Hell Creek Formation. I won’t get into all of the particulars regarding this genus or the Hell Creek species in particular (L. selachos). Their size depended upon the species, some being very small. Lonchidion selachos may have been three feet long, judging by the size of its dorsal spines. The drawing is based upon the preserved remains of other hybodont sharks, because specimens from the Hell Creek Formation consist mostly of teeth, well-preserved specimens of any Lonchidion species are very rare, and as far as I am aware, they looked more or less like other well-known hybodonts.
Hybodont sharks are identified by their large dorsal fin spines as well as the four large spines atop their heads, which are really overly-enlarged denticle scales found all over the rest of the body. Hybodonts first appeared during the Carboniferous Period, but it was during the Jurassic that they came into their own. However, by the Cretaceous Period, they were being replaced by so-called “modern” sharks very similar to the ones we see today. Lonchidion was one of the last surviving members of its kind before the whole hybodont group (the few species that remained, anyway) was completely wiped out at the end of the Mesozoic Era 65 million years ago.
In December 2013, scientists announced the discovery of a new raptor dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, which they named Acheroraptor. When news first came out about it, I wrote a post, which you can read here. Ever since I put it up, it has remained one of my most-viewed posts on this website. Accompanying the article, I included a drawing, which you can see below:
I very quickly hashed this drawing out, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t at all pleased with it, despite the fact that the post got a heck of a lot of hits. It was an improvement (though not by much) of an earlier feathered raptor drawing that I had done: Troodon. Due to the rushed need to get a drawing out as quickly as possible, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time coming up with a unique color scheme. So, the color pattern on the above drawing and the Troodon drawing are almost identical. One feature that I included right away was a fluffy feathery ridge running down its back. The head is rather scary and menacing looking, and somewhat boxy – very Jurassic Park-ish. In retrospect, since Acheroraptor was a close relative of Velociraptor, its head probably didn’t look like this.
Today, I finished a revised and probably more accurate drawing of what Acheroraptor would have looked like. I kept the overall shape, but I changed the shape of the head and I put some more detail in the arm feathers. The most obvious change is the striking black-white color scheme, which I based upon the coloration of the Northern Goshawk. If this drawing was in color, I would have given my creature transparent glassy red eyes.
Making this drawing was a real pleasure, and I’m surprised that doing it didn’t take as long as I had expected – only five days. Please comment on my work and on the “before-after” transition. Keep your pencils sharp!
Ornitholestes hermanni was a small 6-foot coelurosaur dinosaur which lived in the western United States during the late Jurassic Period – yet another dinosaur from the famous Morrison Formation.
As a coelurosaurid, Ornitholestes was a bird-like dinosaur, a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus. Therefore, it might have been covered in feathers. However for this drawing, I decided to show it in the traditional non-feathered appearance.