I Know Dino Podcast Present Notes: Xixiasaurus (Episode 84)

Our 84th episode kicks off with an interview that includes Dr. Scott Individuals, who has a PhD in evolution and systematics from the College of Alberta, and nonetheless works there researching dinosaur biomechanics and evolution. He works for Dr. Philip J. Currie, who we interviewed again in episode 4. Dr. Individuals has been on many dinosaur digs and he at the moment research dinosaur locomotion. However the way in which that we came upon about his work is that he presents the entire College of Alberta Huge Open On-line Programs (MOOCs) on Coursera.org that got here out this 12 months, and he did a very wonderful job.

You’ll be able to attain Dr. Individuals on Twitter @WScottPersons. And you’ll see the introduction to his Paleo 101 course on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jX4_mWAlUg in addition to an superior quick video of the College of Alberta utilizing a helicopter to carry a dinosaur cranium out of the bottom at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJmHONyeLZ8&function=youtu.be.

Episode 84 can also be about Xixiasaurus, a troodontid with sickle claws and eager senses.

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On this episode, we focus on:

  • The dinosaur of the day: Xixiasaurus
  • Identify means “Henan Xixia lizard
  • To not be confused with Xixianykus, an alvarezsaur from the identical formation (Majiacun Formation in China,‭ ‬Henan Province,‭ ‬Xixia County)
  • Sort species is Xixiasaurus henanensis
  • Species identify is in honor of the Henanon Province, the place it was discovered
  • Troodontid that lived within the late Cretaceous in what’s now China
  • Described in 2010
  • Chinese language scientists from the Chinese language Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing and the Henan Geological Museum in Henan described the fossil
  • “From Lü, J.−C., Xu, L., Liu, Y.−Q., Zhang, X.−L., Jia, S.H., and Ji, Q. 2010. A brand new troodontid theropod from the Late Cretaceous
    of central China, and the radiation of Asian troodontids. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica”
  • Fossils discovered on the Xixia Basin
  • Discovered a largely full cranium, which resembles Bryonosaurus, a troodontid from the late Cretaceous in what’s now Mongolia (each don’t have any serrations on tooth)
  • Chicken like
  • Estimated to be 3.9 ft (1.2m) lengthy
  • Had good listening to and a very good sense of scent
  • Very sensible, one of many highest encephalization quotients of nonavian dinosaurs
  • Cranium is sort of full, aside from its posterior portion (a part of braincase additionally lacking)
  • Cranium is lengthy and much like Byronosaurus
  • Had 22 maxillary tooth
  • Xixiasaurus had fewer maxillary tooth than Byronosaurus, which had not less than 30 (however nonetheless had extra tooth than most different theropods)
  • Troodontids have been most likely carnivores, primarily based on their tooth. Although in 1998, Holtz et al. advised they could have been herbivores as a result of the scale of the serrations on their tooth have been extra much like different herbivores than carnivores (however not broadly accepted)
  • Lack of serrations on Xixiasaurus and Byronosaurus present their meals sources could have modified (they may not slice meat with their tooth)
  • So possibly Xixiasaurus was an herbivore or omnivore?
  • Troodontidae is a gaggle of bird-like theropods
  • Troodontids have been discovered within the Northern Hemisphere solely (North America, Europe, Asia)
  • Largest one was Troodon, and the smallest was Anchiornis (identified)
  • They’ve intently spaced tooth within the decrease jaw, sickle-like claws, and have been fairly superior
  • Had lengthy legs
  • Had giant brains and enormous eyes, and good listening to
  • Had asymmetrical ears (one increased on the cranium, like owls), which suggests they could have hunted much like owls, utilizing listening to to search out prey
  • Enjoyable reality: It’s probably that Enantiornitheans lived in colonial nesting websites and in contrast to many trendy birds they could have buried their eggs.

For individuals who could want studying, see beneath for the total transcript of our interview with Dr. Scott Individuals:

Garret: Dr. Scott Individuals has a PhD in Evolution and Systematics from the College of Alberta and he nonetheless works there researching dinosaur biomechanics and evolution. He works for Dr. Philip J. Currie, who we interviewed again in episode 4. He has been on many dinosaur digs and he at the moment research dinosaur locomotion.       

The best way I came upon about his work is that he presents the entire College of Alberta huge open on-line programs that got here out this 12 months, not less than within the Paleontology division and he did a very wonderful job, so I needed to speak to him.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Properly thanks very a lot!

Garret: So, on Coursera the place you introduced these MOOCS it lists you as a dino maniac for the reason that age of two and a half. So what first acquired you curious about dinosaurs?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Okay, so I’m informed I’ve been fascinated about dinosaurs since I used to be two and a half. I don’t truly keep in mind that far again, however the story goes that all of it started in Las Vegas the place my dad was on a enterprise journey—legit enterprise journey and he needed to convey me again one thing. And there weren’t a number of child-friendly venues in Vegas on the time, however the place there was a spot known as the Desert Museum and he went there whereas he was in Vegas and like all good museums he was compelled to exit via the reward store. And there within the reward store he discovered a really small paperback e-book entitled The Massive Little Dinosaur. It’s a narrative a few child sauropod, a child longneck. And he introduced that e-book house and I had him learn it to me, and skim it to me once more, repeatedly and apparently I used to be simply hooked from there. It’s a fantastic story—it’s acquired a complete Jurassic solid of characters. There’s form of a smart-alecky pterosaur, there’s a really heroic stegosaur, after which the massive villain is purple Allosaurus.

Garret: Oh cool. That’s fascinating, they choose and Allosaurus reasonably than the standard T-rex.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yeah they stored it Jurassic.

Garret: Yeah, that’s uncommon, truly. That individuals notice that dinosaurs didn’t all co-exist in a single huge loopy hodgepodge.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Proper.

Garret: So, do you have got a favourite dinosaur? Is it one of many ones from that e-book?

Dr. Scott Individuals: No—so I’d wish to say that my favourite dinosaur would be the one which I uncover. However proper now my favourite dinosaur, if I needed to choose only one, is a person we name Hannah.

Garret: Okay. That identify is acquainted—is {that a} Styracosaurus?

Dr. Scott Individuals: So—Hannah is a specific particular person, it’s a skeleton that I discovered final summer season within the Dinosaur Park Formation, and once we first discovered her, we discovered the nostril first. So the horn was simply poking up out of the sediment—we acquired the entire cranium, and we first thought it was going to be truly a Centrosaurus. So one other form of horned dinosaur due to the form of among the ornaments on the frill simply as you get to the very again of it. So simply as you attain the defend. it appeared very very similar to a Centrosaurus however then as we continued to work across the cranium we discovered these nice huge spikes—the basic Styracosaurus horn dew sticking on the market on the again. Then it as a result of very, very clear that it was a wierd critter that largely appears like a Styracosaurus, however it’s acquired these few horn ornamentations that appear extra according to Centrosaurus.

So proper now we’re pondering it’s most likely Styracosaurus, possibly presumably it’s a distinct species of Styracosaurus—who is aware of. It’s ceratopsians, you may attempt to cut up that up even so far as genus degree. Perhaps it seems this can be a critter that helps to bridge an evolutionary hole between Centrosaurus and Styracosaurus. However we actually don’t know but and we’re persevering with to excavate Hannah.

Garret: Gotcha. Final week we have been speaking to Dr. David Hone.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh yeah.

Garret: Oh, okay so you recognize about his zoology background I suppose?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yep.

Garret: And I requested him “How come there are so few dinosaur genus even predicted?” And he identified once you’re doing paleontology, it’s loads more durable to interrupt down the nuance between species, so it makes me assume possibly that one that you just discovered will ultimately be categorised as one thing we have already got by some individuals, and different individuals may say “Properly it’s truly a bridge specimen, in between them.” I preserve seeing that debate again and again.

Dr. Scott Individuals: The lumpers and the splitters, yeah.

Garret: Yeah precisely. I like that, lumpers and splitters. So one other space you probably did some analysis was close to Glenrock, Wyoming.

Dr. Scott Individuals: That’s proper. Sure, sure Glenrock, Wyoming that’s with the Paleon Museum in Glen Rock which is a very cool place.

Garret: Cool, there are some T-rex tracks there that you just checked out and also you, form of, labored on figuring out its velocity. Are you able to speak slightly bit about how that labored?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Positive, positive. So I didn’t discover these tracks. These tracks have been discovered by the Glen Rock Paleon Museum’s head paleontologist, Sean Smith and they’re a brief collection of tracks. They’re within the land’s formation, so that they’re newest Cretaceous. They’re huge, so that they’re… they most likely are tyrannosaur. They usually’re slightly bit too small to be an grownup T-rex so they could be a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, or—talking of lumpers and splitters—possibly they belong to a critter known as Nanotyrannus which lots of people assume is only a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. However yeah so we’ve acquired a complete collection of tracks there.

And what’s neat about it’s you’ve acquired a left proper left proper sample of tracks you are able to do a tough calculation of how briskly the animal is transferring. And this isn’t a dinosaur that’s racing—it doesn’t document a working tyrannosaur by any means. However it’s cool to present a form of baseline for the way the animal is strolling. And one neat factor that appears to indicate is that for his or her dimension, tyrannosaurs are taking, as most meat-eating dinosaurs have been, comparatively longer steps than equivalently sized ornithopods. So the Glen Rock trackway exhibits that these tyrannosaurs are not less than strolling quicker than the duck billed dinosaurs that they have been searching have been strolling.

Garret: Yeah, so I believe I learn someplace that we’ve discovered a number of tracks of tyrannosaurs strolling, however prints of working don’t actually fossilize nicely, or possibly simply aren’t frequent sufficient.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yeah they’re simply not quite common. So there are a selection of things that play into that. And actually right here we are able to speak not nearly tyrannosaurs however we are able to discuss dinosaurs normally. We simply don’t have very many convincing working tracks for dinosaurs. There are a pair causes for that. One is strictly a chance argument, proper? Take into consideration the period of time you spend or an animal spends strolling vs. the period of time that they spend working, proper? You’re working for under very quick intervals of time—so simply the percentages are that in the event you’re going to search out an animal’s monitor, it’s going to be doing what it’s usually doing which is strolling. After which added on prime of that, is the truth that so as so that you can get tracks preserved, you could be strolling on sediments floor that’s conducive to preserving footprints. So normally which means strolling of very smooth, squishy sediments.

Garret: Yeah.

Dr. Scott Individuals: And once you’re transferring on smooth squishy stuff, you recognize, usually you’re not, you’re not making an attempt to run, proper? You could even be strolling slower than you usually would since you’re being cautious to not slip or to get caught.

Garret: Is sensible. So are you aware if there have been any working fossilized footprints?

Dr. Scott Individuals: There had been some controversial ones. So the prime instance of which might be some tracks which were discovered down in Australia which might be imagined to protect presumably some dinosaurs working—presumably even a chase between a carnivorous dinosaur and its prey. However there was so current controversy about that.

Garret: Controversy at all times appears to pop up with new and thrilling, so…

Dr. Scott Individuals: Completely.

Garret: So that you additionally describe Carnotaurus as having an exceptionally lengthy, or giant—I suppose possibly lengthy caudofemoralis muscle which can have helped it dash however it might not have been in a position to flip very nicely. So what do you assume it might need hunted? Or—how do you assume it might need hunted?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yeah, so Carnotaurus is a very bizarre, actually cool critter and it’s acquired the one most weird dinosaur tail I believe I’ve ever seen. That’s together with issues like Ankylosaurus and stegosaurs. So Carnotaurus’ tail is so weird due to what we are able to name the transverse processes or caudal ribs. And so the tail in fact is an extension of the spine, so it’s composed of a collection of vertebrae and the caudal ribs are bones that stand out from the vertebra normally to the perimeters. So on any respectable meat-eating dinosaur’s tail you’ve acquired a pleasant lengthy collection of those ribs on both facet. However on Carnotaurus, they get freaky. They level means the heck upwards, so not a lot out as up. And on the ends of those ribs, they’ve acquired these bizarre hooks to them so it appears just like the dinosaur’s nearly acquired a row of query marks working down it’s backbone. And the way in which that these hooks, once you articulate the tail skeleton, they line up one immediately behind the opposite and so they form of overlap and make contact with those in entrance of and behind them.

So that you’ve acquired this tight interlocking collection and we additionally see some proof on the lateral floor of these caudal ribs giving us—we expect—some indication of the place the totally different muscle mass hooked up. And primarily based on my analysis taking a look at dissections of modern-day reptiles, we expect that the muscle that’s most moderately filling that area on the perimeters of the tail is the muscle known as the caudofemoralis which is definitely a muscle that’s tied to the leg. So it’s an enormous muscle within the tail that’s hooked up to the femur—the higher leg bone—by the tendons. When the muscle contracts it pulls the leg backwards or in the event you’re planting your foot and your contracting that huge caudofemoralis muscle it’s was pulling your physique ahead, is what’s providing you with your energy stroke. By angling the caudal ribs upwards in Carnotaurus you’re increasing the scale for this muscle, which means Carnotaurus has an elevated locomotive oomph. It’s simply acquired extra energy in it’s trunk, which like a Volkswagen beetle is the engine and in order that presumably would give it extra energy, let it to run quicker.

Once we say I don’t assume it may flip notably nicely, it’s simply because by having that tight interlocking collection of tail vertebrae, it means your tail is much less versatile and also you most likely have to show the entire thing extra as a unit, which can improve your rotational inertia, making it more durable so that you can pivot shortly. Now by way of what Carnotaurus was truly searching, that’s a difficult query. We don’t have any good direct proof of that. However one little bit of hypothesis that we put forth in our paper describing Carnotaurus is that, as with all bazaar dinosaur variations, this one didn’t simply pop into existence in a single day. We see in a few of Carnotaurus’ different South American family members, we expect is a reasonably gradual development main as much as this weird tail kind. And through that point, not less than when these ancestors of Carnotaurus have been round, you recognize, a few of them have been coexisting with among the nice huge predators of South America. So issues like Mapusaurus and Giganotosaurus—the actually huge guys. And have been pondering nicely possibly this represents slightly little bit of area of interest partitioning.

So that’s Carnotaurus and its ancestors is perhaps changing into extra specialised to run actually quick and in flip each keep away from being eaten by these different huge tremendous predators however possibly they’re additionally higher at catching among the smaller quicker critters. So possibly going after among the plentiful South American ornithopods and presumably could also be leaving the massive sauropods there for Giganotosaurus and its crew to sort out. Now that being mentioned, we don’t have direct proof of Carnotaurus itself coexisting with a few of these different huge predators. However which will very nicely be only a operate of pattern dimension. As a result of we actually don’t know loads in regards to the different animals that share the actual atmosphere, the actual cut-off date with Carnotaurus.

Garret: So it makes Carnotaurus look extra like a cheetah and a few of these different guys look extra like lions or one thing.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yeah, possibly that’s a very good comparability.

Garret: Okay. Cool, yeah. I’m additionally form of stunned, such as you talked about the e-book that you just had as a child, that the Carnotaurus doesn’t pop up extra as an enormous villain—as a result of it’s even acquired the horns and all the things.

Dr. Scott Individuals: It does, it does. Properly Carnotaurus has been the villain in popular culture slightly bit, proper? When you assume again to Disney’s Dinosaur, with the iguanodons and the massive migration story, Carnotaurus is the massive unhealthy.

Garret: You’re proper.

Dr. Scott Individuals: In that movie, actually they make them larger and badder than the animal was. Proper? They blow it as much as the scale of a tyrannosaur. So it has gotten to be villainous in that means. Carnotaurus makes a cameo within the second Jurassic Park novel, the place it’s a scary critter trying at the hours of darkness and it’s acquired camouflage powers, I believe.

Garret: I’ll must re-read that. It’s been a very long time since I’ve learn the Jurassic Park books. Do you assume that it might need been the quickest giant carnivore? Or do you consider one thing extra like a Dakotaraptor or one thing would have been faster?

Dr. Scott Individuals: OK, so truly I might argue to you that though the raptors, the dromaeosaurs not less than, get a number of publicity for being quick, thanks largely to Jurassic Park. Really once you take a look at their limb proportions, most of them, say once you take a look at the size of the decrease leg, the size of the shin, and the size of the metatarsal—so among the foot bones which rely successfully as leg bones in these guys due to course they’re standing on their toes so the foot is raised up and contributing to the size of the leg. They’re truly not that elongate—they don’t actually have the legs of a sprinter.

I have a tendency to consider a basic raptor dinosaurs or the dromaeosaurs as possibly being extra like wolves and coyotes by way of their athleticism than like cheetahs or different huge cats which might be actually, actually good sprinters. Now if I needed to wager, you recognize, I most likely wouldn’t say that Carnotauruses, even among the many huge theropods was essentially the quickest. We don’t have a whole decrease leg of the Carnotaurus, so it’s slightly laborious to say that. Perhaps it does. Perhaps once we discover the total leg it should shock all of us. However you may want—you’d must exit to the Dino Derby and place a wager, you may go for a small to medium sized tyrannosaur truly…

Garret: Okay.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Of the massive predators as a result of it acquired actually, actually lengthy legs. Tyrannosaurus are tremendous leggy—form of the Radio Metropolis Rockettes of the dinosaur world.

Garret: Have you ever talked all of it to the group that’s making the sport Saurian in any respect?

Dr. Scott Individuals: No I haven’t.

Garret: They describe T-rex in nearly the very same means. It’s simply—they are saying Sue has legs for days, she will simply run so quick tremendous simply. Cool—so apart from working capacity, or maybe how shortly they’ll change course, what else can we study dinosaur locomotion from fossils?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Okay, in order I mentioned an enormous a part of my work focuses on taking a look at dinosaur muscle mass and making an attempt to determine from the skeletons the place they’re hooked up. And so far as we talked about taking a look at simply the proportions of the limbs as they relate to hurry and likewise trying on the dimension of the tail muscle. One different factor that I take a look at, which is form of a mix of these two, is making an attempt to assume slightly bit in regards to the leverage concerned within the muscle and skeletal system.

So as an illustration, one cool subject that my advisor Dr. Phil Currie and I attempt to sort out is the thriller of the profitable duck-billed dinosaurs. So if we think about a online game, proper the place we get to journey again to the Hell Creek, the commonest dinosaur, […] I might think about, that they’d have you ever encounter might be going to be, not less than of the massive ones, goes to be a duck-bill. As a result of duck-bills are like in all places. In North America not less than they simply outnumber all the opposite sorts of huge dinosaurs—they’re actually, actually profitable. Which can also be actually, actually bizarre as a result of, I imply, as a online game character goes it could seem to be the duck-bill dinosaurs can be just like the most secure factor you might attempt to assault, proper? That’s like degree one. It’s only a duck-bill. It doesn’t have horns, it doesn’t have armour, and for giant animals that’s one thing that’s actually bizarre.

So there’s this concept in trendy ecology and enthusiastic about the evolution of ecosystems that claims, you recognize, as an animal will get bigger, because it will increase in physique dimension, it’s atmosphere turns into progressively extra two-dimensional. Okay, as a result of in the event you’re a very, actually huge animal there are fewer objects within the atmosphere which might be, primary, an impediment for you, proper? All the things will get progressively flatter—there are only a few issues which you could not cross. They you cannot easy step over in the event you’re the scale of an enormous dinosaur. Okay, and that has implications for predator avoidance methods, proper? In case you are slightly critter, then your world is crammed with rocks and bushes and grass and issues which you could disguise behind. You’ve acquired the choice—you possibly can burrow and make your personal hidey gap, you climb up timber and issues like that. When you have been an enormous dinosaur, these actually weren’t choices for you and so methods primarily based on crypsis and concealment—so hiding out of your predators most likely doesn’t work as a result of they’ll see you. There’s no place to cover.

And so that you want extra direct strategies for coping with your predators and we see that right now in the event you take a look at huge megafauna like in Africa, for instance. You see a pair totally different methods. You are able to do what elephants do, you possibly can simply get to be so huge {that a} predator can’t sort out you—definitely not one on one. You could be a warrior, like a cape buffalo or rhinoceros—you possibly can develop a weapon that makes it harmful for a predator to attempt to muck with you. You could be a fortress, like a crested porcupine, or a large floor pangolin—so that you’re so nicely armoured and pointy that you just’ve acquired no susceptible spots. Otherwise you could be a speedster like a gazelle or antelope. You’ll be able to match your predator step for step and make it in order that they’ll’t catch you. If we glance again on dinosaurs, we see a number of parallels, proper? We’ve acquired enormous sauropods, they’re giants, we’ve acquired ceratopsians, which definitely appears to take the warrior technique, you’ve acquired some fortresses within the case of the massive Ankylosaurus, clearly you’ve acquired speedsters with among the small ornithopods or the Ornithomimus and naturally the massive predators in that state of affairs can be the tyrannosaurs. However duck-billed dinosaurs—they don’t appear to suit into any of these, proper?

They’re not tremendous huge, most of them not less than. They overlap with the scale of their predators. They don’t have very huge horns, they don’t have armour, they’re definitely not fortresses. The query is—nicely, okay, are they speedsters? Can they be as quick as their predators? Properly, once we take a look at the size of a duck-billed dinosaur’s leg, seems, no, it’s a lot shorter. The identical sized Edmontosaurus has acquired a a lot shorter than the identical sized tyrannosaur’s. It doesn’t seem like they may outrun them, however one factor my analysis means that the attachment facet for the caudalfemoralis is admittedly, actually excessive up on the femur. It attaches very excessive up on the femur—it attaches very excessive up on the tyrannosaur. That’s nice for top velocity working, proper?

You will have it hooked up excessive up so a really quick contraction of the muscle is sufficient to swing the leg forwards and backwards via one total energy stroke. So in a short time, contact, contract, contract. Your tyrannosaur can swing its leg very, in a short time—nice for sprinting—cool. In a duck-billed dinosaur although, it’s hooked up actually, actually far down. So that you’ve acquired a gradual contraction, or else very quick steps. Once more, that parallels with what we see within the dinosaur footprint document—duck-billed dinosaurs taking shorter steps. That makes you slower. However by positioning it decrease down, proper, you’re extending the second arm. You’re giving your self much more leverage for that muscle, proper? It’s like—think about a door. You place your door deal with distant from the hinge, it makes it good and simple to open. When you put it actually, actually near the hinge, you bought to essentially work so as to swing the door open. Similar factor can be true for these dinosaurs and their legs.

So the concept is nicely, whether or not or not a tyrannosaur can catch a duck-billed dinosaur may actually rely upon what sort of a race you’re working. In a brief dash, positive. The tyrannosaur can overtake it straightforward, but when it’s a protracted race, if the duck-billed dinosaur sees you coming from a distance, nicely then it may run and run and also you’ll achieve on it for the primary few minutes, however then your caudofemoralis goes to be aching and burning and the duck-billed dinosaur, with it’s superior leverage you recognize, it’s gradual however regular would win that race.

And certainly, in the event you then apply that again to our African analogue, you see that, nicely, what’s the primary, cheap sized herbivore that you just typically encounter on the plains of the Serengeti? Properly, it’s issues like zebra, and wildebeest. And the zebra is a quick critter, can transfer 30-35 miles per hour. However the lion can do 50, cheetahs which do assault zebras can do 60 and up. So these huge cats are quicker, however the zebra has acquired superior endurance such that the cat can solely overtake them in the event that they get into a really slim hanging distance.

Now think about you’re a duck-billed dinosaur. You’re not having to be looking out for a stealthy cat transferring via the tallgrass. As an alternative you’re looking out for a predator that’s actually the scale of a billboard signal and also you’re a herding animal, so that you’ve acquired a number of eyes and ears and noses—all on the alert. For a predator with the power to warn you in the event that they’re noticed. So we’d argue that an endurance primarily based technique is perhaps very viable for duck-billed dinosaurs. And possibly that was not less than partially key to their success and definitely for his or her continued survival alongside tyrannosaurs.

Garret: Yeah, that makes a number of sense.

Dr. Scott Individuals: You realize possibly, possibly within the online game the duck-billed dinosaurs aren’t even an animal you get to work together with. Perhaps they’re simply form of a background critter that runs away as quickly as you get shut and also you by no means made any progress.

Garret: Yeah, as a result of sneaking up as a T-rex goes to be slightly tough.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yep.

Garret: So that you have been concerned within the discovery of the “Romeo and Juliet” discover which is believed to be a mating pair of Oviraptors. Are you able to inform us slightly about what you probably did there?

Dr. Scott Individuals: So I ought to make clear—first off I used to be positively not concerned within the discovery of these specimens. I used to be not even on the identical continent—they have been present in Mongolia. What my function has been is that after a bunch of laborious working of us discovered the specimens, cleaned them up, and introduced them for examine on the American Museum of Pure Historical past, I used to be one among many researchers that was allowed to return in and take a look at them and examine them. In order background goes, yeah—Romeo and Juliet are a pair of Oviraptors. They have been discovered very, very shut collectively, they’re superbly preserved. It appears like they could have died in the identical occasion. Perhaps they acquired buried as an enormous sand dune got here down over prime of them. So it appears like they died nearly in one another’s arms and in order that gave them the nickname Romeo and Juliet. It was one among a few nicknames they acquired. They have been additionally nicknamed Sid and Nancy, and likewise Batman and Robin.

Romeo and Juliet was the identify that actually caught as a result of it conjures up the picture of “Oh, what a tragic dying for these dinosaurs, possibly they have been in love.” Okay, so what I did was, I used to be fascinated about tails, and though these two critters are principally similar in each regard, the one which’s named Romeo is barely bigger. However they’re principally similar besides once you go to take a look at their tails. So the tail vertebrae are very totally different as are the chevrons, and chevrons are the little tailbones that stick down beneath.

And within the specimen that’s nicknamed Juliet she’s acquired a reasonably normal collection of chevrons—Oviraptors didn’t have many versatile tails, they have been truly fairly beefy tails too. However she’s principally a par for the course, wasn’t an enormous shock. However then once you take a look at Romeo, he’s acquired these chevrons that actually begin to change form very radically as you progress previous the bottom of the tail. And it develops this nearly spearhead like form to it which I took as indication of, “Wow, what a robust attachment level for some muscle mass that you just’ve acquired occurring there.” These caudal ribs are proportionately longer in Romeo as nicely.

And the rationale that we are able to take into consideration relating tales to romance in oviraptorosaurs is that lots of them have gotten what we name pygostyles—so a collection of fused vertebrae proper there on the tip of the tail which is one thing you additionally see in birds. And we expect that these pygostyles have been there to assist a fan of feathers. So slightly bit just like the followers of feathers you see in modern-day birds. And we all know from a critter known as Caudipteryx truly preserved in China one of many specimen’s stunning asphalt specimens the place you truly bodily see a fan of tail feathers. So we all know that these critters have gotten this construction.

And if you concentrate on modern-day birds with huge followers of feathers do with them once they’re not utilizing them to assist them fly—and certainly these oviraptors are flightless—one operate is that you just use them as a sexual show construction, proper? You flaunt them, you flash them in mating dances. You employ them to draw the alternative gender. And naturally, as is usually the case, these sexual signalling gadgets are typically sexually dimorphic which means they’re larger, they’re extra exaggerated in a single intercourse than within the different. And naturally as a result of it’s normally the males that must do the promoting, it’s to the males that the onus of doing the mating dance, of doing the convincing, that accountability falls to. It tends to be the males that have gotten the extra elaborate show construction.

So once we noticed that these two dinosaurs appeared to indicate what is perhaps sexual dimorphism of their tails, we determine more than likely the one which’s acquired the butcher tail, the one which appears higher tailored to swing and flaunt and wave its tail about is extra probably the male. Because it occurs, that’s the one which did get the nickname of Romeo. So we advised, “Yeah, you recognize Romeo and Juliet could actually be a male-female pair. Perhaps this actually is the tragic dinosaur love story that the press initially made it out to be.”

Garret: Cool, yeah. That’s generally not the case that the press jumps on a cool title.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh, yeah.

Garret: Particularly every time tyrannosaurs get entangled, however… So one different paper that I discovered actually fascinating is on Sinocalliopteryx.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh, sure.

Garret: And the paper describes it as probably a stealth hunter.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Mhmm?

Garret: Are you able to speak slightly bit about what clues there have been for that conclusion?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Positive, positive. Okay so Sinocalliopteryx is a really cool critter for China. It’s associated to a really small […] (00:28:18) dinosaur though it’s truly pretty giant for its group, so it’s pushing wolf dimension. And the rationale there was dialogue about it being a stealth hunter is as a result of contained in the preserved ribcage of some Sinocalliopteryx specimens we discover the stays of some early primitive birds. Contained in the specimen of one other one we truly discovered the leg of a raptor—slightly raptor. So like a relative of, like Microraptor. And these are critters that have gotten wings within the case of birds. They’re definitely not less than critters that have been able to flight. And in order that’s form of an uncommon prey selection for a land sure predator to be going after. Apparently, with some regularity, proper?

A number of cases present these sorts of prey preserved. Based mostly on that, we are able to counsel, nicely possibly we are able to examine Sinocalliopteryx to some modern-day predators which might be good at catching prey that may fly. In order that’s one thing that, say, foxes can do. Clearly that’s one thing that a number of cats do and so they wa… that do… that’s, they’re actually, actually good at sneaking up stealthily after which pouncing on their prey earlier than they appear them and so they’re in a position to take off. And so Sinocalliopteryx appear to have an irregular desire for flighty prey. We recommend that possibly it was notably good at that.

Garret: Okay, so simply trying on the abdomen contents alone you possibly can draw the conclusion, you didn’t must look an excessive amount of at… I suppose it helps that it’s small, most likely.

Dr. Scott Individuals: It helps that it’s comparatively small, once we take into consideration the limb proportions of Sinocalliopteryx. Really it’s acquired a very, actually lengthy decrease leg—it was additionally a reasonably quick critter. So you possibly can positively think about it discovering its feathery prey after which sprinting in an enormous lunge, or huge pounce to nab it.

Garret: Okay, very cool. One different dinosaur examine query that I’ve for you is you have got talked slightly bit a few non avian theropod swimming in China and we noticed the same monitor that got here out of the UK just lately.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Mhmm?

Garret: What do you assume would make a dinosaur need to swim? Or the place would they be swimming?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh, so I’ll let you know—after I was rising up, on of the massive films earlier than Jurassic Park was in fact the Land Earlier than Time.

Garret: Mhmm, that’s most likely our favourite.

Dr. Scott Individuals: All proper, cool. Properly you bear in mind the massive climax within the Land Earlier than Time is when Littlefoot and his posse make the massive stand towards Sharptooth the tyrannosaur. And the way in which they defeat him is they only form of knock him right into a puddle. They usually say it’s so deep down there that he received’t have the ability to swim with these scrawny little arms. And for a very long time there was this form of concept that, you recognize, until a dinosaur had clear variations or what we thought have been clear variations for having the ability to swim, you recognize, they have been land sure critters. They didn’t go into the water and possibly Tyrannosaurus rex and what not couldn’t even swim. It’s truly a reasonably foolish factor to assume, I might argue.

When you take a look at modern-day critters—even animals that largely hang around on land, in the event you put them in water, they float—they’re completely able to swimming. Some could actively attempt to keep away from the water however there are additionally loads of huge mammals right now which might be completely glad to go for a swim. And there are lots of the explanation why they may select to try this. Could possibly be so simple as, “Ah, we have to cross this river, this physique of water to get to the opposite facet.” It might be, “It’s good to take a pleasant refreshing dip.” Perhaps it’s good for eliminating parasites, possibly it’s simply a great way to chill off.

So I truly think about that a number of dinosaurs had many causes, many alternatives to get their toes moist, to go for a pleasant little swim. And though Tyrannosaurus rex has acquired these tiny little arms, it’s acquired enormous lungs. It could be very, very buoyant. It could be laborious to sink a Tyrannosaurus. Plus, it’s acquired big toes and actually highly effective legs. The animal might definitely swim, it might do that form of duck paddle, which is a few of what we expect these tracks present—the dinosaur simply touching backside and scratching alongside because it strikes. And naturally, it’s additionally acquired the nice huge tail that it might definitely transfer backward and forward to assist propel it via the water. So I don’t assume you might kill a tyrannosaur by dropping it within the water.

Garret: So are most of those swimming tracks actually that transitional, the place they go from strolling to clawing slightly bit at surfaces as a result of they’re beginning to float?

Dr. Scott Individuals: Yeah, so I imply—and that’s not stunning, proper? As a result of the one place that you might get a swimming monitor is when the dinosaur is simply starting to begin to swim, as a result of after that it’s simply padding via the water. And the water received’t fossilize it to present you a monitor. So the place you are inclined to get it’s proper the place you’re transferring into the deep finish.

Garret: That’s wonderful to me, particularly it’s so laborious to search out working tracks, however we are able to discover these swimming tracks periodically.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Positive, positive. And that once more pertains to the form of atmosphere, proper? You could have considerably moist moist sediment so that you can get a monitor that will get to be preserved, and naturally you have got these round watery environments. And watery environments are additionally the place you’re going for a swim. So that actually will increase the chance of it.

Garret: Cool. Do you have got any plans for making some other paleontology MOOCS? Or possibly now that you just’re an official physician, someone else is taking that over?

Dr. Scott Individuals: We do even have plans to do some fast revisions, possibly add in a couple of issues, contact on some stuff we both didn’t get an opportunity to do, or didn’t get an opportunity to do justice to. So there are some revisions, some replace additions to the Paleo MOOCS which might be scheduled. At the moment although, there aren’t any huge plans that I’m concerned with for the second. However you recognize, they’ve simply come out, there’s going to be a time period of ready to see how they’re acquired.

Garret: They’re nice. Most likely the most effective MOOCs I’ve taken, so—wonderful work.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Okay, thanks! That’s nice to listen to.

Garret: Yeah, I typically suggest it on the course for everyone to take the Dino 101 and the Early Theropod.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Theropods and the Origins of Birds, yeah.

Garret: Sure. I additionally took the opposite ones, though they’re not about dinosaurs. Simply since you did such a very good job.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Thanks!

Garret: So, one remaining query.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Okay?

Garret: We’re going to be visiting the Philip J. Currie Museum and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in a few weeks on a street journey.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh, cool. Now you’ve been earlier than, proper. To the Royal Tyrrell, I imply?

Garret: We haven’t been in any respect, which is…

Dr. Scott Individuals: Oh, you haven’t! Oh my gosh—nicely you’re in for a deal with.

Garret: Is there something specifically that we should always learn about or something?

Dr. Scott Individuals: I let you know what, once you undergo the very first gallery on the Royal Tyrrell Museum, when you come out of the attractive room that’s acquired these life-sized albertosaurs you’ll enter into what appears like an artwork gallery nearly. The skeletons are behind little portraits within the wall, and also you’ll come to 2 stunning dying posed skeletons. One in every of them is a juvenile Gorgosaurus, the opposite one is a ornithomimid—and so they’re attractive and also you’ll be blown away with the Gorgosaurus’ tooth and its claws. Take note of the again finish. Take a look on the tail and take a look on the chevrons, once more these little bones that stick down on the underside. And see in the event you can spot the purpose the place these chevrons start to vary their form.

So that they’ll go from trying like elongate finger-like projections as much as extra form of a ship form to them. And proper once you see that transition, you’ll have the ability to see slightly collection of scars, of little ridges working down the floor of these chevrons. And that, as I’ve argued within the literature earlier than could very nicely symbolize the purpose the place that caudal femoralis muscle, that huge muscle that was powering that juvenile Gorgosaurus and that ornithomimid as they have been working and sprinting via the Cretaceous panorama. You’ll be able to see the purpose the place it begins to taper out and among the muscle strikes in to take over it’s place. So search for that.

Garret: I’ll! Now that you just’re a health care provider I’m positive you have got a really shiny future, and an excited to see the primary dinosaur that you just get to call.

Dr. Scott Individuals: Okay, nicely thanks very a lot and thanks for having me on the podcast!


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