10 things you’ll be surprised to learn about dinosaurs

Steve Brusatte is a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and a specialist on the evolution of dinosaurs. He has a new book out called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. Here's a list of surprising facts about dinosaurs he wrote for Boing Boing. Enjoy -- Mark

Cat-sized ancestors

The first dinosaurs were not brutish monsters like T. rex or earth-shakers like Brontosaurus. Dinosaurs evolved from skinny, long-limbed, cat-sized ancestors called dinosauromorphs, which lived about 250 million years ago. They were sprinters who ran around on four legs, and lived in the shadows of giant amphibians, reptiles, and mammal ancestors who dominated the food chain at the time.

Overshadowed by crocs

After they originated, dinosaurs diversified during the Triassic Period (252-201 million years ago). Many new species evolved, but they lived in only the more humid parts of the Earth, and none of them got very big. During this time they were being eclipsed by their close cousins, the crocodile group of reptiles. There were more crocs, they lived in more places, and they were at the top of the food chain.

Saved by a mass extinction

As the Triassic Period drew to a close, the world was plunged into chaos. All of the land had been joined together into a supercontinent called Pangea. But now, Pangea began to break apart and as it did so, huge volcanoes erupted in between the fragmenting bits of crust. These eruptions caused a mass extinction—the sudden, simultaneous death of more than half of all species. Read the rest

Life-size animatronic T-Rex bursts into flames at dinosaur theme park

A life-size animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex at a Colorado dinosaur theme park went down in flames yesterday. Zach Reynolds, co-owner of Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, says it was probably caused by an electrical malfunction.

Although the 24-foot-tall T-Rex is a big loss to the park, Reynold's had a sense of humor about it when he joked, “We knew he had a temper, but today he blew his top.” He added, "it made for some spectacular imagery along the way."

The good sport hopes a new dinosaur will take its place by this summer.

Via AP Read the rest

The century-long fight over how turtles evolved to have shells

Turtles were at the center of a hundred-year evolutionary controversy since the 1887 discovery of a Proganochelys fossil in Germany. AS PBS Eons explains, the question of how turtles got their shells led scientists "to rethink the entire history of reptile evolution." Read the rest

A 5-year-old boy teaches us about dinosaurs in an animation he drew, wrote and narrated

Fair warning: This might just be the cutest, and simultaneously educational, thing you'll see all week.

Using the drawings and story provided by his young son Nathan, Allen Mezquida created a wonderful "animated dinosaur drama" they've simply titled, Dinosaur.

Allen writes that his dino-obsessed five-year-old spends hours drawing ("mostly dinosaurs") every day and that he was "so inspired" by his work that he offered to animate them:

He also loves watching BBC documentaries about dinosaurs. Next thing I knew, we were working on this short film together. Nathan was very clear about the story he wanted to tell and how he wanted it to look. He said he wanted it to be very real, "never cartoony." I did my best to stay true to his vision...

Yes, proud father aside, it came out great. The Museum of Natural History in LA even posted it.

Parent/child collabs ftw! Read the rest

Are pitch-lowered bird calls what dinosaurs sounded like?

Something nice, perhaps even wonderful, is going viral! Are birdcalls "slowed down", or lowered several octaves, examples of what the dinosaurs would have sounded like?

A reddit user debunks the speculation, but substitutes an experimental effort to recreate dino song, by sound artist Courtney Brown.

Actually, though birds are descendants of dinosaurs, their voiceboxes (the syrinx) have no evolutionary precursor organ. The syrinx also didn't evolve until after the KT extinction, so this video really has no relation at all to what dinosaurs may have sounded like. Going even further, there is no evidence that dinosaurs actually had voiceboxes, as it is a soft tissue organ, which don't fossilise well. The sound dinosaurs made probably came from resonating air in nasal/skull cavities...

Anyone with an ounce of scientific credibility knows that dinosaurs sounded like Norm McDonald standing on a British plug.

UPDATE:

Read the rest

Dinosaur art mostly bullshit

Within a Millennial's lifetime, depictions of dinosaurs have gone from leathery lizards to feathered floofbeasts as our understanding of ancient biology grew. But it's still speculation, reports Atlas Obscura's Eric Grundhauser, and shaky at that. Check out The Bad Hair, Incorrect Feathering, and Missing Skin Flaps of Dinosaur Art. Pictured above is what a swan would look like if a dino artist drew one based upon its skeletal remains, as brilliantly rendered by C. M. Kosemen. I am pretty sure that's how swans see themselves, so I'm cool with it (but not with swans closer to me than, say, 70 feet.) Read the rest

Pictures of dinosaurs, by a flower-drawing algorithm

Chris Rodley fed some pictures of dinosaurs to a "style transfer" machine-learning system that had been trained to draw flowers, and this was the gorgeous result. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Massive T-rex made from balloons

World champion balloon artist Mark Verge twisted up this huge Tyrannosaurus rex from 700 balloons. He calls it the "the coolest thing I’ve ever made.”

Read the rest

Dinosaur's feathered tail found preserved in amber

At a market in northern Myanmar (Burma), China University scientist Lida Xing found a piece of amber containing a remarkably well-preserved dinosaur tail, complete with feathers. It likely belonged to a coelurosaur, a birdlike beast that lived about 99 million years ago. National Geographic video above. Plans for future research below.

Read the rest

How to Make a Cardboard Raptor

IMGUrian Colo1 shared this wonderful series of images documenting a cardboard dinosaur creation. Read the rest

World's most accurate dinosaur model

This cartoony character is considered the most accurate model of a real dinosaur ever created. Paleoartist Bob Nicholls based his reconstruction of Psittacosaurus on an incredibly well-preserved fossil from China (image below) studied by University of Bristol paleontologist Jakob Vinther and colleagues. From The Guardian:

Psittacosaurus fossils are commonly found across most of Asia. The bipedal adults used their distinctive beaks to nibble through the vegetation of the Cretaceous, more than 100m years ago. The relatively large brain of Psittacosaurus leads scientists to suspect it may have been a relatively smart dinosaur, with complex behaviours. The large eyes hint that it had good vision....

The reconstruction is the culmination of around three months’ work, from detailed drawings to finished fibreglass model. Nicholls created a steel frame and bulked it out using polystyrene and wire mesh, before sculpting the surface in clay:.“This is where the subject finally comes to life,” he explains, “by adding all the skin details such as scales and wrinkles, and beaks and horns.” A master mould was made from this sculpture, allowing Nicholls to make fibreglass models ready to be painted.

I asked Nicholls what makes this Psittacosaurus so special? “The most surprising features include an unusually large and wide head, highly pigmented clusters of scales on the shoulders, robust limbs, patagiums (skin flaps) behind the hind limbs, and a highly pigmented cloaca.” These features make him confident this is the most accurate reconstruction ever produced: “When the anatomy surprises me – it confirms that I’ve followed the fossil evidence rather than any preconceived ideas of my own.”

Read the rest

Science Comics: Dinosaurs!

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic -- dinosaurs, coral reefs, volcanoes, the solar system, bats, flying machines, and more.

Watch Jurassic Park, the delightful nature documentary

A feel-good film for the whole family. (Mashable)

Read the rest

Sharks and Dinosaurs – Pop-up books on steroids

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

There are only five “pages” in each of these books despite their 3-inch thickness. That is because each page is stuffed with layers and layers of ingenious interacting bits of printed paper, which magically assemble themselves into an alternate reality when each page is opened. Yes, it is a pop-up book, but a pop-up raised to an exponential level. A pop-up on steroids, or acid. Pop-up as extreme sport. The engineering is astounding. As a page is opened a 3D apparition appears, often with its own narrative, first one part and then another. The resulting paper sculpture is the story made real. The textual story is minimal; all the action is in the structures. Kids love to see how they work. The only downside to these books that belong on paper is not letting children paws tear the mechanics. These two books feature all kinds of pre-historic dinosaurs, and sharks of all types. But the artist behind them, Robert Sabuda, has half a dozen other books with the same kind of extreme pop-up-ness.

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters

by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart

Candlewick

2006, 12 pages, 7.8 x 9.9 x 2.1 inches

$1 - $50 Buy a copy on Amazon

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs

by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart

Candlewick

2005, 12 pages, 8 x 10 x 2.5 inches

$24 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Dinomania: The Lost Art of Winsor McCay, The Secret Origins of King Kong, and the Urge to Destroy New York

See sample pages of Dinomania at Wink.

Cartoonist Winsor McCay was best known as the creator of the hallucinatory Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend newspaper comic strips. Fewer people know that he was also the creator of the first animated dinosaur to appear in the movies (Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914). But hardly anyone knows that when McCay died in 1934, he was at work on a new comic strip called Dino, about a dinosaur that awakens after sleeping for 65-million years and befriends a young girl and her brother in New York City.

One person who knows is McCay historian Ulrich Merkl, who has put together a massive, astounding book about McCay and his influence in depictions of rampaging dinosaurs, robots, apes, and monsters in popular culture. Every page is loaded with eye-popping art from the early 20th century, much of it never reprinted before now. People of that era were just as hungry for city-destroying cinematic behemoths as we are today, and Merkl convincingly makes the case that it was McCay who whetted our appetite for them. If you like illustrations from the 1900s, you will go ape over Dinomania.

Dinomania: The Lost Art of Winsor McCay, The Secret Origins of King Kong, and the Urge to Destroy New York

by Ulrich Merkl

Fantagraphics

2015, 304 pages, 11.9 x 15.9 x 1.2 inches

$54 Buy one on Amazon

Read the rest

Watch the 1978 trailer for Jurassic World

If Jurassic World was released in 1978, this would have been the trailer. (ChiefBrodyRules)

Read the rest

Why does Japan get a robotic dinosaur that bites your head, but the U.S. doesn't?

In the United States we get a “Raptor Encounter” at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, where the beastie is kept in a paddock and limited in its interaction with visitors. He’s playful and sometimes snorts in a mildly scary way.

In Japan, on the other hand, they get an Allosaurus stomping around onstage, terrorizing the audience, who bites a spectator’s head!

Which do you want to see?

Read the full Rocket News article. Read the rest

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