The sweaty summers of the mid 1970s give way to cooler climes indoors, as a block of sandstone pulled from the red-and-orange rocks of the Djadokhta Formation in Mongolia’s southern Gobi Desert finds itself in Ulaanbator, the nation’s capital. Initially discovered during one of the joint Russian-Mongolian expeditions into the Gobi Desert, by a team including such notables as paleontologists Ivan Efremov, Rinchen Barsbold, the discovery was but one of the first of oviraptorosaurs in Mongolia, after a long gap since the recovery of the type specimen of Oviraptor philoceratops in 1923.
In the halls of the Geological Institute, the specimen would be extricated carefully, and then over the course of the next few years, painstakingly prepared. It would become the best preserved and freely-prepared oviraptorid skeleton (including skull) known. There are better oviraptorid skeletons now, and more complete. But none of them are mounted, or those that are mounted composed for multiple specimens, or are artificial. Originally labelled GIN (SPS) 100/42, the specimen was first attributed in late 1970s publication as Oviraptor philoceratops, but Barsbold would later express concerns over this assignment. Still, the label stuck and remained so until the mid-1990s, when new fossils recovered from the Djadokhta, at Ukhaa Tolgod, suggested that oviraptorid diversity had been staggeringly underestimated. And so that diversity increases with new finds from Mongolia and China. The specimen would be considered related to Citipati osmolskae, although not a member of that species, and thus earns the provisional name of “Citipati sp.” The specimen’s label has also received a facelift, when the Geological Institute of Mongolia changed its name, and thus its abbreviation, to the Mongolian Paleontological Center, or MPC. The specimen would become MPC-D (“d” for “dinosaur”) 100/42. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Biology, Biomechanics, Paleobiology, Paleontology, Reconstruction, Science Reporting, Taphonomy
Tagged Citipati, Oviraptoridae, Oviraptorosauria, Theropods, Tongues
There is much we still do not know about the ancient origins of birds and near-bird animals, dromaeosaurs and troodontids. As we find more specimens of archaeopterygid or scansoriopterygid-like animals, of Anchiornises and what not, the tree becomes more of a bush, chaotic, involuted, interesting.
The Maastrichtian of Romania reveals a series of islands in what is now eastern Europe, the last remnants of the epicontinental sea that covers Europe diminishing as Africa looms closer to the south, rotating upwards and lifting the Alps of southern Europe. These islands formed intriguing biotas, comprised of small herbivorous ankylosaurs, hadrosaurs, pro-iguanodonts, and sauropods; and large birds and pterosaurs. The largest predators of these islands were probably azhdarchid pterosaurs. But amongst them, the small cat-sized Balaur bondoc is also known.
As I wrote waaaay back in February of 2012 (damn!), my previous versions of the skeleton of the oviraptorid known as Citipati sp., or GIN 100/42 (or, simply “100/42”) were improperly scaled, improperly drawn, etc. Lots of errors, little means of fixing without redoing. I started the work on it, but this languished for years. In prep for a larger discussion of this specimen, I re-prepared the skeletal diagram, and present this here now as a lead-in:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
As with other skeletal illustrations I’ve produced, this illustration is released under a Creative Commons license. Please be kind.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, a revolution in the way dinosaurs were conceived to have evolved occurred, in which a basal stock of croc-ish animals (this was during the “thecodont origin of … everything (?)” phase of archosaur relationship hypotheses) developed into the dinosaurs we know today, basically divided into three groups:
Theropod dinosaurs, including potentially birds; sauropods and their kin, the “prosauropods”; and ornithischians. While the latter group were considered herbivorous almost exclusively, with some omnivorous basal forms (like “fabrosaurs”), and the first group was almost exclusively considered carnivorous with some omnivorous forms, the herbivory/carnivory aspects never crossed over. In Sauropodomorpha, the group containing sauropods and “prosauropods,” basal forms were considered mostly herbivores, with some carnivorous trends (some of it based on confused fossils of giant croc-like rauisuchids or postosuchids). But this meant that theropods were nested within a group that trended, at its base, towards herbivory.
All dinosaurs, then, would have had a little plant-eater in their near-ancestry. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Biological Comparison, Paleoecology, Paleontology, Reconstruction, Science Reporting
Tagged Chilesaurus, Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, Dinosaurs, Eshanosaurus, Herbivory, Oviraptorosaurs, Teeth, Therizinosauroids
The new small theropod Yi qi was described 29 April, 2015, far too late to be a practical joke for All Fools’ Day (by 4 weeks, precisely). Why would it be? The animal, described by Xu Xing and a number of colleagues, is based on a single specimen of a mostly crappy slab. Continue reading
Art is, perhaps, one of the most expensive things I’ve ever done. And yet the process from setting pen or pencil to paper and producing something coherent seems effortless, flawless, quick, and easy. We make it easy, because we’ve had years of training. Patient family, if exasperated, and careful teachers, studious research, and years upon years of not-so-easy toil, practicing, grinding, suffering to be able to draw out leviathan from the page — all this goes into producing something so simple as a line drawing Continue reading