Researchers discover Moabosaurus in Utah’s ‘gold mine’
Move over, honeybee and seagull: it’s time to meet Moabosaurus utahensis, Utah’s newly discovered dinosaur, whose past reveals even more about the state’s long-term history.
The Moabosaurus discovery was published this week by the University of Michigan’s Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology. The paper, authored by three Brigham Young University researchers and a BYU graduate at Auburn University, profiles Moabosaurus, a 125-million-year-old dinosaur whose skeleton was assembled using bones extracted from the Dalton Wells Quarry, near Arches National Park.
BYU geology professor and lead author Brooks Britt explained that in analyzing dinosaur bones, he and colleagues rely on constant comparisons with other related specimens. If there are enough distinguishing features to make it unique, it’s new.
“It’s like looking at a piece of a car,” Britt said. “You can look at it and say it belongs to a Ford sedan, but it’s not exactly a Focus or a Fusion or a Fiesta. We do the same with dinosaurs.”
Moabosaurus belongs to a group of herbivorous dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes giants such as Brontosaurus and Brachiosaurus, who had long necks and pillar-like legs. Moabosaurus is most closely related to species found in Spain and Tanzania, which tells researchers that during its time, there were still intermittent physical connections between Europe, Africa and North America.
Moabosaurus lived in Utah before it resembled the desert we know – when it was filled with large trees, plentiful streams, lakes and dinosaurs.
“We always think of Moab in terms of tourism and outdoor activities, but a paleontologist thinks of Moab as a gold mine for dinosaur bones,” Britt said.
In naming the species, Britt and his team, which included BYU Museum of Paleontology curator Rod Scheetz and biology professor Michael Whiting, decided to pay tribute to that gold mine. “We’re honoring the city of Moab and the State of Utah because they were so supportive of our excavation efforts over the decades it’s taken us to pull the animal out of the ground,” Britt said, referencing the digs that began when he was a BYU geology student in the late '70s.
A previous study indicates that a large number of Moabosaurus and other dinosaurs died in a severe drought. Survivors trampled their fallen companions’ bodies, crushing their bones. After the drought ended, streams eroded the land, and transported the bones a short distance, where they were again trampled. Meanwhile, insects in the soils fed on the bones, leaving behind tell-tale burrow marks.
“We’re lucky to get anything out of this site,” Britt said. “Most bones we find are fragmentary, so only a small percentage of them are usable. And that’s why it took so long to get this animal put together: we had to collect huge numbers of bones in order to get enough that were complete.”
BYU has a legacy of collecting dinosaurs that started in the early 1960s, and Britt and colleagues are continuing their excavation efforts in eastern Utah. Moabosaurus now joins a range of other findings currently on display at BYU’s Museum of Paleontology – though, until its placard is updated, it’s identified as “Not yet named” (pronunciation: NOT-yet-NAIM-ed).
“Sure, we could find bones at other places in the world, but we find so many right here in Utah,” Britt said. “You don’t have to travel the world to discover new animals.”
New research led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History reveals that the unique way that birds breathe likely first appeared in their dinosaur ancestors. The findings, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, build upon mountains of recent work exploring the origin of “bird-like” traits such as feathers, wishbones, and flight.
Birds have a highly efficient respiratory system powered by four sets of air sacs that pump air throughout their body. This adaptation allows the air to flow in one direction (as opposed to mammals, like us, who breathe in and out through the same tube) and is vital to birds’ ability to fly high over long distances.
During bird development, finger-like projections from these air sacs invade bone to create networks of internal chambers, a condition called pneumaticity. However, how and why this unique feature evolved in dinosaur ancestors is largely unknown. To directly see these pneumatic chambers in fossils, the researchers used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning, for the first time, on the backbone of a dinosaur closely related to birds, 70-million-year-old Archaeornithomimus.The specimen used in the study was collected on the Museum’s Central Asiatic Expedition to Mongolia in 1923.
“Our work shows that at least part of the avian respiratory system was already in place in Archaeornithomimus, and therefore likely evolved in the common ancestor of birds and Archaeornithomimus over 150 million years ago,” said Aki Watanabe, the paper’s lead author and a student in the comparative biology doctoral program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School. What they found was a remarkable network of pneumatic chambers in the vertebrae of the neck and chest, a detail never seen previously.
What advice might you give someone trying to write dinosaurs as sentient characters?
Sentient actually means able to feel and perceive things - so I assume you mean sapient, which means highly intelligent (the ability to act with wisdom, I guess) :)
A lot of advice kind of hinges on what exactly you’re writing and where you would want to go with it, but I can give general advice
1) Do your research on dinosaurs. Understand that their intelligence, while higher than what was supposed back in the early 1900s and such, is still not as high as things like corvids and parrots. So do something to make them sapient - have their intelligence be messed with during genetic experiments, or have them be evolved forms of non-avian dinosaurs living today that evolved intelligence, or have them be hypothetical dinosaurs from the Mesozoic that were sapient, or change dinosaurs that did exist to make them sapient- but that really depends on what kind of story you’re writing and what you want to accomplish with it. If your story is serious, you have to make those sorts of changes - if you’re writing something silly, like Land Before Time, you really don’t have to make any changes at all. Also, if you’re being serious, try to figure which sorts of dinosaurs would be sapient - birds are most likely, but Eumaniraptorans in general were pretty smart, etc.
2) Change their morphology to correspond with this. Birds have larger brains than dinosaurs and cannot move their eyes in their sockets - they have to tilt their heads to see what they want to see. While this inability to move the eyes may have evolved before larger brains (re: in dinosaurs,) what is certain is that it was necessary for larger brains in birds, as it removed the muscles necessary for eye movement and gave it more space in the head (note: we don’t know if this evolved in dinosaurs; it could have co-evolved with greater intelligence in birds after the Cretaceous extinction.) You could bloat the head in other ways to allow for the musculature necessary for movable eyes, but it would look horrible. Also, keeping the eyes stationary makes the head move like a bird head - the neck moving constantly to give the eyes better vision, which is very distinctive, and drives home that these animals aren’t really like mammals or humans - providing more distinctive features.
Dinosaur skulls are not big enough for larger brains; you gotta change their head shape even if you’re just making extinct dino species smarter. You don’t HAVE to, of course, but this would make it more accurate. You could hollow out the dome of a Pachycephalosaur… but this has been done have you seen Dinosapien cause that show was amazing I don’t care if it was cheesy
3) High intelligence does not always correspond to similar behaviors; nor does low intelligence. Things like tool behavior and communication is not always consistent. Recognize that your sapient dinosaurs probably wouldn’t act exactly like humans - they’ll have different measures and expressions of intelligence and different ways of perceiving the world, as well as different ways of changing that world. You gotta think outside the box a little bit in terms of how they relate to others in their social groups - do they have social groups? Since they’re related to birds, probably - and how they organize those groups. Do they have civilizations? Economies? Systems of power? Do they conduct agriculture? Are they expansionists? Have they reached human levels of disregard for the ecological community or are they more in tune with their surroundings? How do they make decisions? Do they have a sense of right and wrong, and do they punish people for doing things wrong? Do they have religions? Philosophies? Are they curious about their surrounding world? Do they conduct something similar to science? Are they creative? It’s unlikely that they would perceive and think about the world like humans do - make them their own unique organism.
4) Try to not make your dinosaurs, if you’re making evolved-dinos, anthropomorphic. There is no reason why a sapient dinosaur needs to be shaped like a human. In fact, it’s very unlikely that they would be, since they’re already bipedal (well, a lot of them are,) and wouldn’t need to straighten their spines to become bipedal like we did. Keep in mind dinosaurs couldn’t pronate their hands - meaning they couldn’t have their palms facing their body (bunny hands). Keep that in mind when you discuss tool use in dinosaurs - you are constricted to how they were physically. True, dinosaurs could evolve pronation - but this gives you a unique opportunity to have different reactions to the challenges of sapience. For example, birds are very intelligent - corvids (crows and ravens) are the second smartest types of animals after humans. They use simple tools - with their beaks. Animals can respond to different challenges in life with different solutions. If you’re going to use extinct, described dinosaurs and just make them smarter, you really have to work within these confines.
I hope this helps! A lot of this depends on the kind of story you’re writing - but I am completely happy to help in any way you need!
(Not a prompt, just need to unload this from my mind)(Part 1) Oh god okay so I read the precious headcanons of dino-obessed bb Peter, coupled it with all the daddy issues of The Judge (which I just watched for the first time and pretty much cried my way through the second half of it), and came up with Howard somehow time travelling to a Super Family future and Tony of course having to collaborate with him to get him back to where he’s supposed to be. And bb Peter coming into the lab periodically
to spout dino facts to his daddy and lovingdad!Tony being completely happy to hear them and absolutely doting because his son comes first dammit and he side-eyes Howard the entire time because he can tell he’s getting annoyed. And Howard is just so confused and irritated because why in the world is Tony letting himself be distracted by the useless ramblings of the kid and why is he even allowed in the lab in the first place they don’t have time for this, but he keeps silent at Tony's protective warning glances. It’s the same way he’s bewildered by the subtle glaring looks and formal tone Steve and the rest of the family give him, how can they not see how counterproductive all this sentiment is? And after a couple weeks he’s sent on his way back to the past with the knowledge that his son has succeeded him with even greater accomplishments and with a completely different approach from his. He doesn’t really know how to feel about it. Somewhat bitter certainly.
Basically rather than the hc’s of Howard being a complete abusive bastard, I usually tend to lean more toward seeing him as neglectful and emotionally oblivious and I love it when I find fics that just rub in his face how amazing Tony turned out without his continued influence. SO THERE HOWARD. Yeah.
AN: I agree with you. I don’t think Howard was physically abusive, because I don’t think he needed to be. A boy like Tony, so smart and enthusiastic, would have been broken much more quickly by being ignored completely.
Tony couldn’t help but keep glancing across the room. To his credit, Howard had kept very quiet and to himself, adapting to Tony’s holoscreens with relative ease as an aid in helping them try to get him back to his own time. Even still, Tony had never felt so ill at ease in his own space like he suddenly found himself before now.
The quicker they found a way to get Howard back to his own time, the better, basically.
They had been at it a good couple of hours, trying to unlock the secrets of the multiverse, when there came a hiss at the other side of the room that told Tony the doors had just been opened, and he looked up. Finding himself immediately feeling better when he spotted five year old Peter padding across the room, he smiled and pushed himself away from his desk so he could scoop the little guy up to sit on his lap.
“What’re you doing here, little man?” he asked, tucking them both back under the desk.
“Bored,” Peter replied, producing a little dinosaur from one of his pockets to run across the surface of the desk. “Papa sez dinner’s gonna be ready soon.”
“Good to know,” Tony nodded, glancing across at Howard before he could stop himself. He let his gaze drop as soon as he realised he was staring right back at them, looking perplexed. “What dinosaur are you playing with today?”
Peter seemed to produce a new dinosaur every day. Tony didn’t know where they kept coming from (the kids had that many toys that it was hard to keep track), but they kept the little guy busy and happy, and that was all that mattered.
“Stegosaurus,” Peter replied enthusiastically, holding the little toy up for Tony to see. “Dey were herb - herbivores, so dey only eated plants an’ veggies.”
“So the opposite of you, then,” Tony hummed, and then chuckled when Peter let out a little squawk of indignation. “Don’t give me that, kiddo. The day you eat a carrot will be the day pigs fly.”
“Stegosaurus couldn’t fly,” Peter told him seriously. “Not like Ptero - Pterodactyls. But dey had deez points on dere backs t’help protect ‘em. I… I dunno what dere made of.”
“Neither do I,” Tony agreed, pulling up a new window on his computer. “Shall we Google it and find out -?”
“Is there not a more pressing matter at hand than researching dinosaurs?” came Howard’s voice from the other side of the room, and Tony felt his hackles immediately raise in defence.
“There is nothing more pressing than my son’s happiness,” he found himself snapping, and watched as Howard gave him another bemused expression. Grumbling under his breath as he turned back to his screen, he muttered, “And the Stegosaurus isn’t the only dinosaur in this room, old man.”
The bones of the new species, which lived in the Cretaceous some 70 million years ago, were found about a decade ago near a river in southeastern Alberta, Canada. But, it wasn’t until the specimen was being prepared that its “comically small” eye horns were noticed, says Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta.
"Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory,” he says.
New research based on high-resolution x-ray movies show that young birds use their underdeveloped muscles and wings to help them move on land, acquiring a mature flight stroke long before they’re ready for takeoff.
The new study, published April 21 in the journal PLOS ONE, is important for understanding the development of flight in modern birds and reconstructing its origins in extinct dinosaurs.
“The transition from ground-living dinosaurs to flight-capable birds is one of the major evolutionary transitions in vertebrate history, because flight is the most physically demanding form of locomotion,” said lead author Ashley Heers, a postdoctoral researcher in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Paleontology and one of numerous Museum scientists whose work is featured in the special exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, open now. “The kind of flight that we normally think of in living birds involved a huge evolutionary overhaul of the animal’s basic body plan over time. And although scientists have been studying flight for more a century, there’s actually a surprising amount that we don’t know about how birds fly.”
Fossil Reveals Ostrich Relatives Once Lived in North America
New research reveals that 50-million-year-old bird fossil specimens, some of which are on display in the Museum’s special exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, are from a previously unknown relative of the modern-day ostrich.
The study, published recently in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, is co-authored by Sterling Nesbitt of Virginia Tech and Julia Clarke of the University of Texas at Austin, both of whom are also research associates at the Museum.
“This is one of the earliest well-represented bird species after the age of large dinosaurs,” said Nesbitt of the specimen, which was found more than a decade ago—with bones, feathers, and even soft tissues intact—in a former lakebed in Wyoming.
Likely top surreal moment of 2015: being advised, nay, implored by a senior member of academic staff at a prestigious university to research into dinosaur erotica for part of my undergraduate dissertation.
New Research: The Surprising Path of Bird Evolution
New research led by the American Museum of Natural History reveals that the evolution of modern birds was greatly shaped by the history of our planet’s geography and climate.
Published today in the journal Science Advances, the study finds that birds arose in what is now South America around 90 million years ago, and moved around the world near the time of the extinction that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. This new research suggests that birds in South America survived this event, moving to other parts of the world via multiple land bridges and becoming more diverse during periods of global cooling.
“Modern birds are the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrates in terms of species richness and global distribution, but we still don’t fully understand their large-scale evolutionary history,” said Joel Cracraft, a curator in the Museum’sDepartment of Ornithology and co-author of the paper. “It’s a difficult problem to solve because we have very large gaps in the fossil record. This is the first quantitative analysis estimating where birds might have arisen, based on the best phylogenetic hypothesis that we have today.”
Cracraft and lead author Santiago Claramunt, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Ornithology, combined DNA sequences for most modern bird families with those of 130 fossil birds to generate a new evolutionary time tree.
“With very few exceptions, fossils of modern birds have been found only after the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction,” said Claramunt. “This has led some researchers to suggest that birds didn’t start to diversify until after this event, when major competitors were gone. But our new work, which agrees with previous DNA-based studies, suggests that birds began to radiate before this massive extinction.”
my spirit dinosaur is an archaeopteryx because when i was in seven years old in 2nd grade my teacher has a “no coloring unrealistically” rule becuase we were “too old fo rthat”. essentially we had to use realistic colors for everythign we drew in projects and every colorign page me colored in. no magical or fantasticla creature.
teacher had us do a dinosaur research project and said we had draw pictures of them but only with “realistic” colors
having disliked this new coloring policy for months now, i decided it was my time to shine. so, having loads of dinosaur books, i found the most colorful dinosaur i could. i found it and brought in this book
in to class to show her it was legit
and so i got to color a big bright beautiful bird monster in a bunch of extraordinary colors because FUCK YOU MRS WEAVER