Shringasaurus illustration by Liam Edward: detail of the head

This Mesozoic Month: February 2019

This Mesozoic Month

Moving further into 2019, here’s our second This Mesozoic Month roundup. Only two months in, and already we’ve received an incredible bounty of new publications. New stuff isn’t the only research to celebrate, as we had an auspicious occasion happen this week. A whole half century has passed since Ostrom’s publication of Deinonychus antirrhopus! Everyone here at LITC wishes this true icon of the dinosaur renaissance the happiest of name days.

In the News

  • Dicraeosauridae welcomed a freaky new member, Bajadasaurus prouspinax, in a new paper in Nature. Read more from Riley Black at Laelaps.
  • In a cool new publication from a team including Dr. Yara Haridy, 240 million-year-old pathology identified as a kind of cancer has been described in the stem-turtle Pappochelys. It’s the earliest known cancer to appear in the fossil record. Read more from Asher Elbein in the NYT, Matt Wedel at SV-POW, and Gemma Tarlach at Dead Things. Marc also covered it for us a couple weeks back.
  • Research published in PLoS One describes a new oviraptorosaur, described from a juvenile specimen at that: Gobiraptor minutus. Read more from Riley Black at Laelaps.
  • There’s a big new paper about the evolutionary ancestry of birds, taking advantage of all the new fossils around the base of the avialan clade to consider the relationships of birdy dinosaurs anew. “We reject the postulated troodontid affinities of anchiornithines, and the dromaeosaurid affinities of microraptorians and unenlagiids, and instead place these groups as successive sister taxa to Avialae.” Lots to chew on: read the paper here.
  • You never know where you might find a stinkin’ mammal, and now we’ve got the northernmost fossil of the major mammal clade metatheria. Unnuakomys hutchisoni is thus far the only mammal in the Prince Creek formation, suggesting that among its pediomyid kin, it was uniquely suited to life such a high latitude. Read the paper here.
  • CONFLICTO! What a genus name. It belongs to a new, beautifully preserved paleogene stem-waterfowl. Read more from Albert at Raptormaniacs.
  • Old and cold: a new paper in the JVP describes an Antarctic archosauriform, Antartanax shackletoni. Read the paper here.
  • Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia is a brand new Tanzanian titanosaur, a mid-Cretaceous rarity in the African part of Gondwana. Read more from Gemma Tarlach at Dead Things, Chelsea Ritschel at the Independent, and Mike Walley at Everything Dinosaur.
  • Pareisactus evrostos is a new rhabdodontid iguanodontian from Spain, dating to the Maastrichtian. Check out the abstract here.
  • Unearthed in Brazil, we have the oldest known member of the theropod lineage: Nhandumirim waldsangae. Read more from Andrea Cau at Theropoda. Read the paper here.
  • The foot of a juvenile enantiornithe, preserved in amber: Riley Black writes about another priceless, resinous fossil at Laelaps.
  • Emerging from the mid-Cretaceous amber of Myanmar is Chimerarachne, a bizarre arachnid that looks like part-spider, part-whip scorpion. Read more from Elizabeth Pennisi at Science News; full paper here.
  • Rawr-ing into the literature in the back half of the month, we had two new tyrannosaur papers. First, meet Moros intrepidus is a diminutive tyrant dating back to 96 million years ago, helping fill in a gap in the tyrannosaur fossil record. Read Michael Greshko’s article at NatGeo. In a biomechanical paper, a team of prominent scientists found that tyrannosaurs were able to take quicker turns than other large theropods; check out the paper in PeerJ.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

  • Walk in the foot steps of a juvenile brontosaur as Ted Rechlin’s Jurassic gets a look over at Dino Dad Reviews.
  • All the way down in the nutrient-deprived world of the abyssal ecosystem, sunken plant and animal matter are an important resource. It was likely the same in the ancient seas ruled by pliosaurs, mosasaurs, and other marine reptiles. At Deep Sea News, Craig McClain talks about current experiments with alligators that may provide some insight into the opportunities offered the denizens of the deep when reptile is on the menu.
  • Loo-heads or not? Bryan Gee writes about the popular misconception that temnospondyls opened their jaws like toilet seats.
  • Knowing the story of Mary Anning is something every kid deserves, and Dr. Eugenia Gold’s She Found Fossils is a book aiming to do just that. Check out Meaghan and Amy of Mary Anning’s Revenge interview with Dr. Gold.
  • If you’re into infinite running games, and if you’re into Dino Run, and if you’re ALSO into the idea of a more sciency version of Dino Run without the hats and anachronisms and whatnot, Check out Samantha Turner’s THE BIG DIE. Or, if you’re into something less nerve-wracking, play around with her create-your-own-Cambrian-critter game, SnabLab.
  • Never let anyone tell you that paleontology is a frivolous science. It’s a key to understanding the planet’s present and future climate, as spelled out in stark terms in this Quanta article by Natalie Wolchover. “Ancient warming episodes like the [Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum] were always far more extreme than theoretical models of the climate suggest they should have been.” So what does that say about our future models? It’s not great.
  • Late to this one, because I did not notice that Prehistoric Pulp moved to a new site in 2017! Last year, they wrote a post about the first time a feathered non-avian dinosaur appeared in fiction.
  • In a great post at the Paleontological Society blog, Bryce Koester writes about the vital importance of public lands to preserve our fossil heritage.
  • No, you’re not bad at science. At Time Scavengers, Sarah Sheffield tells you why.”Many of us (myself included) automatically assume that what we’re good at and what comes easily to us is one in the same. On the flip side, we assume that we’re bad at things we’re not automatically good at, especially in the world of academics. This simply isn’t true.”
  • Empower yourself to dig your own Triceratops! Anthony Maltese teaches you how to dig up a pile of bones and restore them to their former glory at the RMDRC blog.

Dispatches from Himmapaanland

For a moment this week, we all held our breath as Natee tweeted that an irreparable mistake had marred the Anchiornis we’d watched them share throughout the month. Breathe easy! Looks like the work has been salvaged. Click any of the embedded tweets to follow Natee on Twitter.

The LITC AV Club

Pterosaurs are (sigh) not dinosaurs

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

Aki Watanabe on Finding Fossils

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Utahraptor Project

Those Utahraptor specimens still need some assistance in their quest to come out of that big chunk of sandstone! I’ve shared it a bunch of times here but it’s still a going concern. So pitch in if you can spare some cash, or help spread the word by sharing links on social media!

The Empty Wallets Club

  • Book cover for "Sorry We Missed You" by Joe FelicianoI happened to be tabling right next to Joe Feliciano at a conference last weekend, and was blown away that he’s a fellow paleo-geek – and one who’s written an illustrated a completely awesome children’s book called Sorry We Missed You, featuring an assortment of famous and less famous extinct animals. Pick yours up here.
  • Assorted Dinosaur skull pendants by Sarah WittigIf you’re in the market for some distinctive dinosaur accessories, Sarah Wittig’s wooden pendants might fit the bill nicely. Pick one out for yourself here.

Your Moment of Paleoart Zen

Recently on Twitter I tweeted about all the different kinds of paleoart I enjoy, making the point that since paleoart seeks to portray specific scientific ideas, different approaches are equally valid. Whether a grand, all-encompassing scene of drama in a prehistoric environment or a simpler presentation to allow basic anatomical comparison, what matters is the intent. So I thought I might take a back-to-basics tack this time around, featuring one of the fine lateral view allokotosaur illustrations Liam Elward has been creating lately – his eye-opening Shringasaurus, based on Ashley Patch’s skeletal.

Shringasaurus illustration by Liam ElwardShringasaurus indicus illustration by Liam Elward, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. Shared here with the artist’s permission.

Beautiful work, with such great attention to integument. Check out more of Liam’s work at DeviantArt, purchase merch from him at Redbubble, and give him a follow at Twitter.

One Last Thing…

The #Sciart Tweetstorm is coming back! Dash over to Symbiartic on March 1 to get all of the details.

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  • Reply
    Zachary Miller
    February 28, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I’m not sure why the Chimerarachne news was popping back up on social media this month–it’s a story from last year and no new material has been published.

    • Reply
      David Orr
      February 28, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Yeah, and then since it was published in February of 2018, I totally missed it on the paper. Hey, at least I hadn’t included it a year ago and totally forgotten…

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