This year has provided several great discoveries of feathered dinosaurs. Shown to the right is Yutyrannus huali. There's an ongoing debate on its identity; some say it is a tyrannosauroid while others retaliate with the possibility of it being a carnosaur. Whether it be T. rex's granddaddy or some Chinese flesh-grazer, it weighs in at 3000lbs and is nearly 30ft long, making it the biggest dinosaur with known evidence of feathers. It proves that size doesn't necessarily correlate with the presence of feathers, being an Allosaurus-sized dinosaur. Next up on the chopping block is Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, an adorable little puffball with an almost impossible to remember specific name. Known from a juvenile originally called "Xaveropterus", Sciurumimus gave us a plot twist when it turned out not to be another compsognathid or even a coelurosaur, but actually a megalosauroid, showing that feathers weren't restricted to coelurosaurian theropods. Finally, the last outstanding feathered discovery was discovered in North America AND it was a known genus...
Ornithomimus, portrayed at the left, has long been thought to have feathers, as well as its comrades. Only now do we have proof. A new study described this year showed that several fossils of different ages had plumaceous feathers, and that only the adults had wings, perhaps for display.
South America has been a treasure trove for unusual species in the past. The largest known dinosaur Puertasaurus reuili was discovered there, as well as many other sauropod giants such as Argentinosaurus huinculensis, Futalognkosaurus dukei and"Antarctosaurus" giganteus. Theropod giants weren't excluded either, including massive carcharodontosaurs like Giganotosaurus carolinii, Mapusaurus roseae, and Tyrannotitan chubutensis, as well as the industrial-sized abelisaur Ekrixinatosaurus novasi. However, not much seems to have been uncovered in the way of non-dinosaurian giants. Sure, we know giant crocodiles, phorusrhacids, and mammals ruled the land after the non-avian dinosaurs died out, but what about during their reign? The new Aerotitan sudamericanus clears some way for (somewhat) terrestrial giants. An azhdarchid, this new pterosaur had a wingspan of at least five meters, comparable to the more aerial sea-feeding pterosaurs found in Brazil. Now you can jsut picture it invading a titanosaur's nest site, swallowing eggs and snapping up juveniles.
Another European native has also shocked us this year, but not by size, appearance, or biological weaponry (such as the disproven venomous Sinornithosaurus), but by its choice of habitat. The recently discovered mosasaur Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus is aptly named because nobody expected it to live in not saltwater, but freshwater. While other mosasaurs, such as Goronyosaurus, could have inhabited brackish water and one specimen of Plioplatecarpus (if I recall correctly) seems to have stranded into freshwater, Pannoniasaurus is the only one currently known to have lived its entire life in rivers and lakes. Some have suggested it as a sort of reptilian river dolphin, but I picture it more as a crocodile. And speaking of crocodiles...
Also joining the trend of large African crocodilians is Aegisuchus witmeri, the so-called "shieldcroc" shown to the above right. So far, no one has really come to a conclusion with estimates from the skull size sporadically ranging from a total length of 30-70ft. Though it appears similar to the aforementioned stomatosuchids, it is actually a member of the small family Aegyptosuchidae. No matter what estimate you go by, this was clearly a huge crocodile, possibly one of the largest in history.
There are many, many, many more new discoveries we could cover, but I think it's fitting to draw it to an end here. Happy New Year! Credits for artwork below.
Yutyrannus - ©DeviantART user pilsator
Ornithomimus - © Julius Csotonyi
Carbonemys - © Liz Bradford
Pliosaurus - © Raul Martin
Aegisuchus - © Henry Tsai
Sinocalliopteryx - © Julio Lacerda