Tag Archives: theropods

Bavarian baby dino

I don’t mean to make this blog all about dinosaurs, but I saw this one on the news and couldn’t resist.

The image above was originally published by the german press on Der Spiegel, and later posted on the Nature News blog. It shows an almost complete fossil of a juvenile theropod (same subgroup of the T.rex but this species is still unknown) found by Oliver Rauhut  of Bavarian paleontological and ecological collections (BSPF) in Munich, Germany.

The paper describing this specimen has not been released yet, so the only information available comes from the press release above.  Apparently it was also presented as part of the conference IV Congresso Latinoamericano: Paleontologia de Vertebrados that took place in San Juan, Argentina, last month. Listed in the presentation schedule is the following talk: “Rauhut, I. & Foth, C. New information on Late Jurassic Theropod dinosaurs from Southern Germany”.

The Der Spiegle article mentions imprints of skin and protofeathers. (Curiosly, the international press divulged it as “fur”, from a german word incorrectly translated.) Many theropods are known to have had protofeathers, all belonging to the subgroup named coelurosaurs. If this specimen proves to be part of a different subgroup, it might imply the presence of feather-like structures in many other theropods. The identification of this species of theropod might prove tricky: in the past, many fossils that were named as new species turned out to be juvenile versions of previously known creatures.

Younger versions of many dinosaurs have been found, for example, a juvenile fossil of T-rex (nicknamed “Jane”) is much smaller than well known adult skeletons (such as “Sue”).

Model of T rex growth by Hutchinson et al (2011)

The image above comes from a paper by Hutchinson et al (2011),  where the authors study the muscular growth that accompanies a T. rex, based on known skeletons from Jane, Sue and others. Besides the taller stature, Sue has a much bulkier torso and thighs when compared to Jane.

Will the bavarian dinosaur prove to be a juvenile version of a known theropod – in which growth and size relationships can be speculated like the study above – or a completely new species?

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Creating dinosaurs: why is Terra Nova reinventing the wheel?

Is there a Stargate in Terra Nova? And since when is building a Stargate, setting up a colony on the other end (consider shipping costs of sending materials and supplies through the wormhole), and operating it several times to send people over, cheaper than finding solutions to environmental problems?

If I can ignore that aspect, then yes, I can have a lot of fun watching Spielberg’s new TV show for FOX, Terra Nova. I’ve been waiting for a new source of sci-fi for a while. The adventurous, utopia kind, where the heroes run around with an orchestra soundtrack… We’ve been flooded with the chaotic-montrous-mutant-creature-hiding-in-bulkheads and I was ready for a change (nothing wrong with the horror type of sci-fi, it is actually one of my favorite genres; but I missed the pretty scenarios and rambunctious characters in shows such as Star Trek or Star Wars).

Besides, there are dinosaurs.

Watching animated dinosaurs is what makes me the most excited about this show, and let’s me forgive everything else. After all, the “stargate” is simply a trick to allow Spielberg to use dinosaurs again. I love to watch them running around, full of moving muscles and articulations – quite distant from assembled bones in a museum..

(Slasher from Terra Nova)

That said, Terra Nova has Brachiosaurus and Carnotaurus, but also.. “Slashers”. It is clear there was an attempt to recreate the gang of velociraptors (which were a giant sized and smart version of a deinonychus) from Jurassic park. Even the terrorizing sequence where children hide from velociraptors in the kitchen is payed homage (copied?) in Terra Nova, where kids are rattled around inside a car surrounded by slashers. It does pain me that the creators of the show had to design a completely fictional dinosaur, where so many interesting, curious and terrifying ones already exist. The slasher is a nickname for the (also fictitious) “Acceraptor”, outfitted with a bladed tail and a head crest of feathers..

Speaking of feathers…

Deinonychus model

… I would love to see a feathered dinosaur on TV. Since the 90’s, when fossils of feathered dinosaurs were found in China, it’s been a consensus that many theropods (like T-Rex or deinonychus) had feathers. The way I see a T-Rex is a like a giant chicken, as opposed to a godzilla-type reptile! Apparently Jurassic Park had the choice of using feathered arms on their velociraptors, but refused, afraid to disappoint the audience who expected giant lizards – not chickens.

But I digress. Is Terra Nova reinventing the wheel? Stargating its world, Avataring its military , Jurassic Parking its creatures – also, didn’t the first scene look like a pop version of the first scene in Inglorious Basterds?  – and creating brand new models of dinosaurs… It might, but what is left is still enough to keep me watching, one episode (erm, dinosaur) at a time.