(This is a brief post. I am still working on other projects, and new stuff that interests me keeps coming out!)
Eventually, a review topic will have to be done to work on these guys. There are now quite a lot of them. The southern Chinese deposits of the Late Cretaceous are turning out a diverse fauna including many small oviraptorids. Asia is getting crowded:
Geographic distribution of oviraptorosaurs throughout Asia. Colored dots refer to general time bins for taxa. Labels for sites are general, not specific for each taxon, so that (e.g.) “Beipiao” refers to the collection of localities of the Yixian Formation in Beipiao and surrounding counties, Liaoning Province. Map is from a screen capture from the Google.
Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus [n1] is infamously known as the “unicorn” of hadrosaurs, a lambeosaurine (tsintaosaurin, from Tsintaosaurini) hadrosaurid with a single elongated, solid bony spike protruding from its forehead. The skull was never complete, but it wouldn’t matter, as the diversity of hadorsaur crests implied that such a spike was “plausible,” and artists ran with it. Here’s a sampling, from Google’s image search:
First page of results from Google’s image search function for “Tsingtaosaurus” reveals that virtually all reconstructions of the dinosaur were with a single, natural spike on its head.
Birds can have resplendent tails. Wonderful arrangements and bizarre shapes. We may all be familiar with the lyrebird, whose male’s lateral tail feathers (retrices) have been modified from their typical planar vaned structure into a pair of curly feathers bracing an array of plumes whose vanes are sparsely ornamented but colored. The peafowl male’s “tail” isn’t; there are a long array of beautiful feathers, but these are actually modified from contour feathers of the back and base of the tail, whereas the normal retrices are a stiffened array. The “tail” drapes over the real tail, and when the latter is lifted, the “tail” is also, and thus spread out. Birds preen their retrices, plucking the vanes to created the lyrebird-look, or have developed unusual shapes, such as Wilson’s bird-of-paradise in which the retrices have become dense and curled. Quetzals have enormously long retrices in shimmering pearlescent hues. The racket-tailed hummingbirds have two long retrices to accompany their normal irridescent — but normally-shaped — tail feathers but are nothing but long raches terminating in a fan-like array: the eponymous “racket.”
But a recent paper has suggested that this diversity in tail shape is far older than even modern birds.
Thecodontosaurus antiquus, a sauropodomorphan from the Durdham Down region of Bristol, England, is a rather ordinary sauropodomorphan. It’s not that there’s not anything special about it — for there are quite a few — but that it seems so … ordinary. It didn’t have some peculiar nose like the “plateosaurids,” it didn’t have particularly curved teeth, nor did it seem to have special feet or hands. It was just … ordinary. Continue reading