A close-up detail of the head of Sean Closson's Zuul crurivastator illustration

This Mesozoic Month: June 2020

This Mesozoic Month

Halfway through 2020, and it’s time for another This Mesozoic Month roundup of news, writing, art, and merch.

I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of the museum workers who have been so hard hit as this pandemic and its attendant financial crisis continue. Museums are basically a house of worship for me, and the work you all do matters so much. My deepest hope is that the pandemic will be brought to an end soon and your work will continue – equitably and sustainably.

In the News

  • The Dino Nerds for BLM Twitch stream was a great success this month, raising over $4,500 for various charities supporting Black Lives Matter protestors. That’s truly remarkable, especially when you consider that they planned what amounted to a 52-hour on-line paleontology conference in short time! Read more at A Dinosaur A Day and Dino Dad Reviews. You can also follow Dino Nerds for BLM on Twitter to be informed of future events.
  • “You can come through the door, but we probably won’t listen to you.” New research analyzing four decades worth of PhD theses by students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups finds that while they often put forth novel ideas, “their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions.” Read more from Korina Di Roma Howley at Smithsonian.
  • Prehistoric Roadtrip, starring Emily Graslie of the Field Museum, premiered this month and has been pretty fully embraced by the paleontology community, judging by reactions on social media. Check out this post on the Prehistoric Roadtrip website discussing the biology of big fermentation tanks (er, sauropods) with Cary Woodruff, accompanied by a clip from the series.
  • There’s also this other new program: The Dino Hunter, airing on the Discovery Channel, shines a spotlight on commercial fossil hunters in a way that has been roundly criticized by the paleontology community online. Read the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s letter to the Discovery Channel, which takes the network and production to task on two fronts. First, their failure to reflect the diversity of paleontology. I particularly appreciated that they pointed to hypocrisy on the network’s part, writing that rectifying the systemic bias against BIPOC scientists “…is even more pressing in light of the recent events across the world that starkly demonstrate the bias that Black people face in their everyday lives, and which your network is trying to address with a special featuring Oprah Winfrey.” Second, the letter criticizes Discovery for glorifying the commercial fossil trade (going so far as to feature a convicted fossil thief in the promotional material for the show).
  • Mongolian paleontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin is the subject of Andrew Buncombe’s article in the Independent detailing repatriation efforts that are seeing Mongolian fossils returned to their home country.
  • Eggs! Big, soft eggs! A couple of big eggs were published on the 17th of this month in Nature. First, a really big one, the biggest ever discovered. It’s hypothesized in the paper to have come from a mosasaur, a claim that has been met with much skepticism. More studies will hopefully clear this up. Read more from Nell Greenfieldboyce at NPR. Second, a research team analyzing fossilized Protoceratops and Mussaurus eggs and comparing their structure with a wide variety of fossil and extant eggs finds that the ancestral state for dinosaur eggs was soft, with hard shells evolving three separate times over the course of the clade’s evolution. Johan Lindgren and Benjamin Kear discuss both discoveries in Nature News and Views
  • Eggs! Little eggs! Lots of little eggs! Researchers in Japan unearthed more than 1300 non-avian theropod egg fossils in early Cretaceous mudstone, likely a flooded nesting site. Read more at Science Daily.
  • The Rhaetian transgression was a geological event that saw terrestrial environments in Europe change over to marine environments over a period of 100 million years, spanning much of the Mesozoic. New research describes the geological evidence for the event, as recorded in the eastern edge of the Mendip Hills in England. Read more from lead author James Ronan at Jurassic Finds and the University of Bristol.
  • Meet Rugarhynchos sixmilensis a doswelliid proterochampsian from the Chinle Formation of New Mexico.
  • We have a new member of the genus Cymbospondylus from Nevada: C. duelferi.
  • The spinosaur with the best-known skull anatomy is the Brazilian taxon Irritator challengeri, and this month a big new paper examining that noggin was published. The authors find that Irritator’s skull anatomy allowed for quick downward swipes, consistent with a piscivorous diet.
  • The abelisaur with the best-known skull anatomy is the Argentinian taxon Skorpiovenator bustingorry, and this month a big new paper examing that noggin was published. In particular, foramina on the top of the skull connect to an internal opening that probably housed nerves and blood vessels. It could have played a role in temperature regulation or supported display structures.
  • A new paper reassesses the chasmosaurine clade and names two new taxa: Navajoceratops and Terminocavus, identified as part of an evolutionary progression of chasmosaurs. Read more from Enrico de Lazaro at Sci-News.
  • What did Borealopelta eat? New research of the exquisite type specimen finds that its guts were mostly filled with ferns, and their charcoal content may indicate browsing in an early-succession post-fire environment. Read more from Laura Geggel at Live Science and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
  • A new paper reveals evidence for widespread wildfires in northeast China during the Jurassic, likely responsible for significant global warming.
  • Coelacanths are popular examples of “living fossils,” now restricted to a single saltwater genus. New research identifies the youngest known specimens of freshwater coelacanths, assigned to Axelrodichthys megadromos.
  • The osteology of Rahonavis was the subject of a comprehensive new study. As the authors write, “Rahonavis ostromi remains one of the best-represented Gondwanan paravians and therefore serves an important role in addressing questions pertaining to the group.”

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Dispatches from Himmapaanland

Follow Natee on Twitter and Instagram for much more, and buy your own piece of Himmapaanland at Redbubble.

The LITC AV Club

Dave Hone is Terrible

There, now that I’ve got your attention, please check out Dr. Hone’s new podcast with Iszi Lawrence, Terrible Lizards! Here are the first two episodes, embedded for your enjoyment.

What in the Frick?

Chilly Dinosaurs

The Empty Wallets Club

  • Woman modeling a Microraptor t-shirtSam, AKA artisticthingem, has a sweet Microraptor design available on all kinds of merchandise. Check it out at Redbubble.
  • Tiktaalik "evolve" enamel pinMy newest paleo-inspired enamel pins are available now at my Orogenic Industries shop! The “Prehistoric Motivations” are available in Tiktaalik and Lystrosaurus flavors.

Your Moment of Paleoart Zen

While I have featured Sean Closson’s work here a few times, I’ve never actually included him in a This Mesozoic Month. Sean recently completed a beautiful rendering of one of our recent celebrity ankylosaurs, the ankle-crusher herself, Zuul crurivastator. Tying in nicely with the above-mentioned Borealopelta research, ferns feature prominently. I’m always impressed with Sean’s use of color and strong compositional sense, and an ankylosaur like this beast is a great showcase for his shading work, which makes me want to reach out and grab a spike or osteoderm.

Illustration of Zuul crurivastator in frontal view, walking through a fern-carpeted woodland
Zuul illustration Β© Sean Closson. Shared here with the artist’s permission.

Visit Sean’s website for more of his work, and be sure to spend lavishly and without restraint at his Redbubble shop. Follow Sean at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.


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