Welcome to a blog now shared by one, two, um... four people. Wipe your shoes off on the mat and delve into the posts featuring rants, museum pictures, and some cool facts. Nerds of all kinds welcome.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A New Crocodile - The Size of a Killer Whale

Croc restorations by Dmitry Bogdanov.

That's right, we have another new crocodile. Well, technically, it's been known for a while, but has been assigned to its own genus, as has another. Plesiosuchus manselii, previously thought to be a species of Steneosaurus and then Dakosaurus (the "Godzillacroc"), was nearly 7m in length, the size of a small killer whale. Torvoneustes carpenteri, the size of a large dolphin, also got its own name recently, considered to be Metriorhynchus, Dakosaurus, and then Geosaurus too. Each one would have been a fierce seagoing predator from Late Jurassic Europe (a popular place for metriorhynchids apparently).

Metriorhynchids weren't the only crocodiles to take to sea. Saltwater crocodiles are aptly named for their ability to tolerate saltwater, and broad-snouted caimans (which really look like Purussaurus) can be found in brackish water. There were also the extinct teleosaurids, which formed the suborder Thalattosuchia with metriorhynchids. The aforementioned Steneosaurus was a teleosaurid that ranged from 8-16ft in length. Teleosaurids are also known from the Early-Mid Jurassic, and a particular monster lived as late as the Early Cretaceous. Known as Machimosaurus, this giant teleosaurid measured more than 30ft in length, bigger than Plesiosuchus and as long as a bus. Adapted to seizing and crushing hard prey such as turtles, bitemarks have also been found on sauropods that match this behemoth. Whether this was just a carcass washed to sea or an island-hopping sauropod attacked by the crocodile, we'll never know. Gavialids also took to sea, such as the Peruvian Piscogavialis.

Piscogavialis by Raymond Sabb and DeviantART user Austroraptor.

Well, that's it for now. Go home. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Display Structures and Others in Prehistoric Creatures

Long time, no update. Starting off this post, Tyler Keillor has raised more than twice his goal for his project - looking forward to the final result as Dryptosaurus is such an underrated beast.

Now time to get down to business. Take a look below at the tragopan, which uses it wattles and calls to attract mates.

Now, who's to say that dinosaurs or prehistoric reptiles, birds, etc, didn't possess any fanciful wattles, feathers, scales, throat pouches, or any other form of display structure like this? Some people say there's no evidence of it, but once it gets down to it, you can't find skeletal evidence of a chicken's wattle, or a peafowl's train. There might be some tidbits of skeletal evidence (for example, the pygostyle in Nomingia gobiensis), but not much. Tragopans do not have preserved wattles in their skeletons, either. And take a look at the common peafowl or the argus pheasant. Non-avian dinosaurs and prehistoric birds alike could attract mates like this, using the eyespots to draw attention to their brightly coloured heads.

Above is a tawny frogmouth. Not only could prehistoric creatures have brightly coloured appendages, they could have some pretty effective camouflage. The frogmouth perches on a branch, with neck outstretched and eyes closed to resemble a tree branch. A pterosaur with fuzzy pygostyles, or a small dinosaur could have adopted this posture to hide from predators. Leaf-tailed geckos, nightjars, several types of frogs, and some chameleons can almost be trodden upon without knowing because their camouflage is so effective.

The classic blue-tongued skink. We also don't know what animals could have done to defend themselves from predators from just their skeletons. Anyone finding a skeleton of a skink probably won't assume it shows its blue tongue to warn predators. A skunk's skeleton wouldn't show it does a handstand and sprays its opponent with smelly musk; a possum's skeleton won't show it plays dead.

Now, I'm not trying to say we need to make all prehistoric creatures colourful and vibrant and always full of life. Some animals are drab. Elephants, rhinos, many birds, many reptiles, etc. Animals are lazy. Cats, sloths, the like. Some animals just run from predators, like gazelles. But that doesn't mean every piece has to be drab (though some lazy dinosaurs would be nice) and it doesn't mean every piece has to be colourful. An equal balance is nice.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tyler Keillor's Dryptosaurus

Tyler Keillor is hoping to digitally create the most accurate, up-to-date, full body reconstruction of Dryptosaurus. Found on Kickstarter at the moment, it will be backed by the research of world-famous palaeontologists Steve Brusatte and Thomas Carr. Funding only 30$ means you receive a cast of his Herrerasaurus bust! Other funds mean some other cool stuff to bribe ya with.