“Dragon king”
Late Cretaceous, 66 million years ago

Once considered its own genus, many scientists now believe Dracorex to be a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus. It is known from only one specimen – named “Dracorex hogwartsia” in reference to the Harry Potter series of novels and films. This intersection of Potter fans and paleontologists is not surprising, as both share a penchant for fabulous beasts, social exile, and haphazard use of Latin.


Carnegie Museum - Part 2

The Jurassic hall is the oldest part of CMNH’s dinosaur display, the huge Diplodocus carnegii being the museum’s first dinosaur. This part of the hall has been updated with newer fossils since then, offering an impressive collection of Morrison fauna (and others). Across from the Diplodocus is its smaller cousin Apatosaurus, plus a juvenile underneath. Nipping at its tail is a possibly unwise Allosaurus.

Around the edge with the mural one finds the ornithischians represented as well, with Stegosaurus and Uteodon. Above the latter is a small mounted pterosaur, probably Pterodactylus by the looks of it.

Speaking of whom, there is a cast of the original Pterodactylus antiquus specimen nearby, along with that of the first full Archaeopteryx from Solnhofen.

Around the corner, one crosses over into the Cretaceous and, conveniently, a separate post.

Jurassic Park: Animal Bios #20 - Maiasaura

The hadrosaurid that taught us that dinosaurs could be good parents, it’s Maiasaura peeblesorum.

Maiasaura was a fairly generic hadrosaurid dinosaur, but it is much, much more significant in the world of paleontology. In 1979, a woman named Laurie Trexler discovered the first Maiasaura fossil in Montana, in what would later be known as “Egg Mountain”. It was named this because of the numerous fossil Maiasaura eggs that have been found there, along with even baby Maiasaura fossils. Over 200 Maiasaura fossils have been found there, and it renewed interest in the nurturing and parental habits of dinosaurs, and answered many questions that had been asked about dinosaur nesting habits. Although this dinosaur is most recognized because of its maternal connotations, its discovery showed us that this is probably how many hadrosaurids behaved when it came to rearing their young.

NAME MEANING: Caring Mother Lizard
DIET: Herbivorous
TEMPORAL RANGE: Late Cretaceous Period
LOCATION: USA, North America
HEIGHT: 8ft (2.5m)
LENGTH: 30ft (9m)
WEIGHT: 1t (2000lbs)

Within the Jurassic Park universe

In the novels

Like all other animals created by InGen, Maiasaura was cloned originally on Isla Sorna, and then specimens were transported to Isla Nublar for Jurassic Park. After the park failed, all remaining Maiasaura on Nublar were killed in the resultant napalm bombings. The remaining specimens on Sorna were abandoned by the staff, and were forced to learn to live on their own.

*Note: The above image is fan speculation and should not be considered canon. Crichton never explains the appearance of Hadrosaurus in his novels.

BEHAVIOR: Seemingly docile, easily frightened. Herd-dwelling animals; can be seen in large groups of 30 individuals or more. Coexist well with other herbivores, regardless of relation. Although they have a calm demeanor, parent Maiasaura will violently attack any threats to their offspring.

Jurassic Park (1990)

At the beginning of the events of Jurassic Park, 22 Maiasaura were living on Isla Nublar. They lived in a paddock known as the Sauropod Swamp along with Hadrosaurus, Apatosaurus, and “Microceratops” (sic). Maiasaura was one of the few dinosaurs in the park that could breed (due to frog DNA used in their genetic code). This causes confusion early on, because 22 animals are detected in the park even though the expected population was 21. Breeding behavior is later observed by Dr. Grant. At some point, a mother Maiasaura and her infant awaken Grant and the Murphy children while they are sleeping in a tree. Grant observes the animals closely, and notice that their vision is based on movement. When Lex moves to get down from the tree, the two animals are frightened away. 20 Maiasaura remain in the park by the end of the novel, and the remaining are killed when the island is napalmed.

The Lost World (1995)

The Maiasaura in The Lost World nest on the east side of Isla Sorna. Dr. Lewis Dodgson and co. steal two Maiasaura eggs from their nests at some point, by scaring the adults away with loudspeakers. However, back at the InGen Village, the humans are (uncharacteristically) viciously attacked by the parent Maiasauras, whom gently retrieve their eggs. 

“Sharp point lizard”
Late Cretaceous, 76.5-75.5 million years ago

This ceratopsian sported one long horn on its nose that could curve backward or forward depending on the individual. However, the nose horn was unknown when it was first discovered, and it was named “sharp point lizard” for the small hornlets that ring its frill. The name comes from the same Greek root as Kentrosaurus, an unrelated stegosaur – Centrosaurus’s parents thought the spelling was hip, but it mostly just made middle school hard.

Triceratops horridus 

Everyone knows Triceratops—discovered by the crews of Othniel Marsh in 1889, it was instant American sweetheart. Since then, Triceratops has shown up just about everywhere— its bones in museum displays, its likeness in toys, its mug on mugs, and a Demille-style closeup of its crusty snot 1993′s hit Jurassic Park. With dozens and dozens of specimens found, you would think by now we would know just about everything about Triceratops. However, new discoveries continue to reveal secrets about our favorite three-horned ornithischian. Recent evidence suggests Triceratops may have sported an array of quills on its tail. If true, this would be a trait inherited from its ancestors, the bipedal, parrot-faced psittacosaurs.

“Edmonton lizard”
Late Cretaceous, 73-66 million years ago

Edmontosaurus was a large, duck-billed hadrosaur. It grazed in herds, and could walk on two legs or four. Thanks to a very rare fossil of a mummified specimen, scientists know that it had scaly, reptilian skin, and that the digits on its forelimbs were enclosed in a “mitten” of flesh. This has helped inform reconstructions of other hadrosaurids, such as Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus. The term “flesh-mitten” is now widely accepted in the scientific community to be “[…] really gross if you think about it long enough.” [citation needed]

First of all, I’m back. Second of all, you probably recognize this picture. It’s of Nasutoceratops titusi, a ceratopsid that wasn’t formally described the last time(s?) that I talked about it. Fans of ceratopsids will be pleasantly surprised to know that Nasutoceratops has been formally described, so I can talk about it with more certainty. Yay.

Nasutoceratops comes from the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous, and is from the Kaiparowits Formation of Utah. Looking at this dinosaur, one might assume that it’s related to Triceratops or Chasmosaurus, but it isn’t. Incidentally, its skeletal elements looked something like this:

From these skeletal elements, it’s been concluded that Nasutoceratops is a centrosaurine ceratopsid, and is most closely related to Avaceratops lammersi, another primitive centrosaurine with brow horns. However, Nasutoceratops is unique because its horns have an arrangement remarkably similar to that of modern bovines. These horns may have played a role in display or interspecies combat.

Near Nasutoceratops’s left shoulder, skin impressions were found. One of these impressions shows large hexagonal scales surrounded by small, triangular scales. This is reminiscent of the scale arrangement in other ceratopsians, which have similar geometric patterns.

The fact that Nasutoceratops exists is proof of the separation between the Northern and Southern fauna of Larimidia (what is now western North America). It retained long brow horns and a short (nearly unnoticeable in Nasutoceratops's case) nose horn, contrary to the ornamentation of its northern kin. It may be a representative of a previously unknown clade of centrosaurines whose remains aren’t yet known.

Lastly, the origin of Nasutoceratops's name is a bit convoluted. Devout fans of new dinosaur discoveries have probably heard the name Nasutuceratops, and are probably very confused thanks to my use of Nasutoceratops. The generic name of this dinosaur is derived from ‘nasutus,' the Latin word for 'big-nosed,’ as well as 'ceratops,' which is Ancient Greek for 'horned face.’ The specific name, titusi, honors Alan Titus, the man who recovered fossils of Nasutoceratops.

Well, this was an interesting post. I do enjoy going back to old topics and revisiting them. This time, the post was tied in with the series I’ve been doing on new 2013 discoveries. 

Remember to send requests for posts.

Recognize this Fossil Friday?

Pictured is a Stegosaurus, a dinosaur that lived about 150 million years ago, ate plants, and weighed roughly 2 tons.

The family of dinosaurs known as stegosaurs are well known for the two rows of bony plates along their backs. Researchers once thought these plates helped protect the animal from attack. But the numerous grooves visible on some Stegosaurus plates provide evidence that blood vessels once crisscrossed the surface of the bone. Any wound to the plate would have bled considerably, making it unlikely that such plates were used to protect the animals. Instead, the plates, which were covered in skin, may have helped to regulate body temperature, or may have been brightly colored and used in dramatic courtship displays.

See this fossil in the Museum’s Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park: Animal Bios #17 - Hadrosaurus

The animal after which the hadrosaurids are named, meet Hadrosaurus foulkii.

Despite being the namesake for the taxonomic groups hadrosauriformes, hadrosauroidea, hadrosauridae, hadrosaurinae, etc, Hadrosaurus is not the best known hadrosaurid, nor was it necessarily the most visually impressive or unique. It was visibly similar to the Edmontosaurus, though was not as large. However, Hadrosaurus is one of, if not the first discovered hadrosaurid, uncovered by John Estaugh Hopkins in 1838, and described by William Parker Foulke in 1858. Hadrosaurus, like most other hadrosaurids, were probably herd-dwelling animals, relying on their sheer numbers for protection against predators. Hadrosaurus is only known from fragmentary remains, so its appearance is speculative.

NAME MEANING: Sturdy Lizard
DIET: Herbivorous
TEMPORAL RANGE: Late Cretaceous Period
HEIGHT: 15ft (4.6m)
LENGTH: 28ft (8.5m)
WEIGHT: 3t (6000lbs)

Within the Jurassic Park universe

In the novels

Along with every other prehistoric animal created by InGen, Hadrosaurus was synthesized on Isla Sorna for Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Once transported to the park, they were placed in a paddock with their close relative, Maiasaura, along with other herbivores such as Apatosaurus and “Microceratops”. After the Jurassic Park incident, all surviving Hadrosaurus remaining on Isla Nublar were killed by the following napalm bombing. InGen staff subsequently abandoned Isla Sorna as well, leaving the Hadrosaurus there to roam free.

*Note: The above artwork is fan speculation and should not be considered canon. Crichton never explains the appearance of Hadrosaurus in his novels.

BEHAVIOR: Hadrosaurus are herd-dwelling animals, and have been known to coexist well with many other herbivorous dinosaurs, even ones that are not closely related to it. Hadrosaurus are known to stampede when frightened.

Jurassic Park (1990)

Early on in the novel, the Jurassic Park endorsement team is shown that 11 Hadrosaurus individuals exist on Isla Nublar. After the park fails, Dr. Grant and the Murphy children witness a Tyrannosaurus ambush a herd of Hadrosaurus, killing one individual. The ambush causes a stampede of the animals, nearly killing the thee humans. This scene is mirrored in the Jurassic Park film in the form of the Gallimimus scene, and in Jurassic Park III in the hadrosaurid stampede. Later in the novel, one Hadrosaurus is killed by a pack of Velociraptors. By the end of the incident, only 4 Hadrosaurus remain on the island. These 4 individuals are killed in the subsequent bombings.

In the films


It is hinted that Masrani Global is in posession of Hadrosaurus DNA by the events of Jurassic World. It is not confirmed, however, and this information should be taken with a grain of salt.

Jurassic World (2015)

A profile for Hadrosaurus can be seen on the Holoscape in the Innovation Center at Jurassic World. It is unknown whether this means that Hadrosaurus actually exists in the park, or if it is simply dinosaur information to educate the park’s guests.

“Horned roof”
Late Cretaceous, 77.5-74 million years ago

Stegoceras was a pachycephalosaur – a type of two-legged, plant-eating dinosaur with a thick skull. Contrary to popular thought, however, many experts now think Stegoceras’s neck was unable to align with its spine to deliver a straight headbutt (like a modern ram). Instead, its flexible neck allowed it to turn around expectantly every time someone was actually saying “Stegosaurus.” Every. Time.


Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus: Feathers Everywhere!

For a long time, it’s been accepted by most paleontologists that many dinosaurs were covered in some sort of feathery integument, but that acceptance was once restricted to the more birdlike dinosaur species. The discovery of feathery ornithischian dinosaurs like Tianyulong has upended the idea that feathers evolved with the ancestors of modern birds alone, and a new discovery (that has been mentioned before on this blog) has cemented that idea.

This new discovery is Kulindadromeus, a basal ornithischian from the Middle Jurassic Period of Russia’s Ukureyskaya Formation. The species is known from hundreds of disarticulated skeletons found in two separate bone beds, giving scientists plenty of specimens to analyze. Kulindadromeus was covered in feathers, but the feathers were not homogeneous; there were several different kinds of feather, all different in their appearance and (presumably) function.

This further supports the hypothesis that feathers are ingrained in the genome of the Archosauria, and that the common ancestor of all dinosaur species had some kind of feathery integument. Though this doesn’t mean that all dinosaurs had feathers, it does mean that many did, and this consensus may change the way the public thinks about and looks at dinosaurs forever.

Whatever the case, this discovery has been enormously important to paleontology thus far, and there have been many other important finds recently that I haven’t yet covered on this blog. I’m trying to bring this blog back like an ill-fated Jurassic Park scientist, so bear with me.