Archive for October, 2011

A baby rex – well a bit of one anyway

This skull look superb, but in reality it’s a lot of very good sculpting work bolted onto a case of a partial maxilla and anterior dentary. That’s as much as I could see and it looks like that’s all there is of the cranium. I know the original forms part of the display at the revised LACM exhibit in Los Angeles and I think this is the specimen called ‘Jane’, but not much more than that. Although much of this is reconstructed it’s not only well done but looks about right for such a young juvenile (it’s a fraction of the size of an adult skull) and has been put together with large orbits and a proportionally long and narrow skull – basically an extension / exaggeration of the changes we can already see from non-adult (if still large) tyrannosasurs.

Gular armour

Stegosaurs are, understandably, famous for their combination of spike and bony plates that give them a distinctive profile even when compared to other dinosaurs. However in addition to these more obvious bits of armour (and let’s face it, some of them are really obvious) is the gular armour. For those not familiar, the former word refers to the throat (most often used by me at least when talking about the gular pouches of various pterosaurs) and as you can see here this armour is a series of tiny bony ossicles that lie almost like chainmail around the throat and base of the neck (here in Stegosaurus). To my knowledge these are pretty rare in stegosaurs and I can easily imagine that they fall away or simply don’t preserve given their small size.

A juvenile Camarasaurus

A couple of weeks ago I showed the skull of this young animal but there’s rather more of it than that. It’s hard to see, even close up, what is bone and what is sculpted, but there is a fair bit of real material in this mount. It’s a lovely piece and very well put together.

Oh so pretty

At least a few readers should have seen this by now. It’s a new theropod fossil from the Solnhofen of Germany and inevitably features some champion UV work by Helmut Tischlinger (who provided these photos). It’s odd to be putting this up when the paper describing this critter is not even out yet, but these photos are on a number of blogs and all over the German press so I don’t feel that I’m really doing the authors a disservice (and indeed I have permission to post them). So enjoy the beauty of this animal and keep a look out for the publication.

Crystal Palace mammals

My final Crystal Palace post and this time covering the various extinct mammals on display. To be honest, I simply didn’t know these were represented so they were a rather pleasant surprise. Above we see the rather tapir-like Palaeothrium and below we have successively a rather trunk-snouted Megatherium, a group of Anoplotherium, and finally the ‘Irish Elk’ Megaloceros. All except the Megatherium were represented by multiple models which was nice and gave the impression of real groups of animals where the others were rather just laid out on the island. I should also add that the mammals are rather off to the side in their own little section which helps to provide some metaphorical distance from the dinosaurs as well as some real separation.

Crystal Palace assorted critters

Having covered the dinosaurs and pterosaurs and with the mammals to come, it’s time to break out the ‘left overs’. Perhaps a harsh term, but I don’t want this series running into double digits of posts so I had to fit them in somewhere, so sit back for some marine reptiles, crocs, and a few more distant relatives. It also makes a little sense as with the exception of the mosasaur, these are all grouped together on one side of the main island that houses the models. I don’t have much commentary here so I’ll simply stick up the photos I have and the identities of the various models, starting with the early amphibian Labyrinthodon above.






A second, smooth, Labyrinthodon

The head of Hylaeosaurus

Following the comments of the dinosaurs post, an explanation was forthcoming about this. It’s obviously a head but was just sitting on the ground a few dozen meters from the other models but it was not entirely clear what it was and there was no sign to indicate it’s origins. It is however, the original head of the Hylaeosaurus now displaced. Given how little of the model was visible in my photos and the fact that I do have this image knocking around it seemed worth spending a few minutes to get this up online, so here it s.

Crystal Palace pterosaurs

Today it’s the turn of the two pterosaurs, or more specifically, Pterodactylus. As noted before, all early pterosaurs went by this name, but it’s clear that these really are based on that genus. There are obviously some bird-like influences in the necks and heads – anyone working from an actual skeleton would realise the head should be as big as neck and the body, but instead is much smaller and overall these are swan-like proportions. Still, the wings are nice and broad and ‘membraneous’ with no extra fingers to support it or anything. More intriguingly, one at least is in a nicely quadrupedal posture and really very close to how we envisage them walking today.
In this case there was sadly quite a lot of overgrowth on the tree and so the second model was not very well exposed, though I was able to at least get decent shots of the open wings (if not the head). These must have been tricky to sculpt in concrete, though I recall Darren Naish talking about them having been damaged by vandals before and perhaps the hew ones are of a different material. They still require some repair as you will note that one is lacking a lower jaw sadly. Still, these were great to see and generally nicely done.

Crystal Palace dinosaurs

So today it’s time to take a stab at the dinosaurs. All three of the ‘early’ species united by Owen into his Dinosauria are represented. A pair of squat and skulking Iguanodon with spiky noses and rather graviportal stances (i.e. they look really fat). Hiding in the background (those damned trees meant I never got a shot of the head) is an enormous and spiky Hylaeosaurus. Finally there is the humped Megalosaurus prowling around and making its way towards the unsuspecting (and apparently blind, coz it’s really not that far away) herbivores.

All three rather suffer from being enormous and ‘overstuffed’ by modern standards, but of course back then there was very little to go on, and Owen’s ideas ruled the day, and certainly where these were concerned. Even so, some of the features are a bit odd. Hylaeosaurus clearly has some plates as well as spikes on the slab, but there’s no sign of them on the models and while obviously Megalosaurus it more than a bit scaled up the known legs and pelvis material simply wasn’t big enough to warrant an animal that size. But that’s not really the point of these, so I’ll shut up and let you enjoy them.

The prehistoric creatures of Crystal Palace

It’s my strong suspicion that most readers are generally aware of the dinosaur models at the former site of London’s Crystal Palace (and for those that are not, it’s not worth me simply adding another poor rehash to the large number of good ones available – in short Richard Owen managed to get the funds to have some models of his new ‘dinosaurs’ build for public exhibition and they are still standing). Obviously these are of great historical interest as they catch a moment in time when dinosaurs first hit the public’s imagination and of course the early interpretations that went with this – waddling behemoths and giant lizards.

Despite being a Londoner (well, from the edges) and my career, I’d never actually seen these things. My parents apparently tried to take me when I was young but couldn’t find them. So having a little time and unseasonally nice weather, we went over last week to take a look. They were rather more impressive than I’d expected being in generally great condition and there being rather more animals over a bigger area than I had expected. As a result I took a ton of photos and my intended single post will now probably stretch to a whole week’s worth of posts on the subject, and I’ll keep this as a general overview.

There are some nice notices dotted around which give a guide to what the animals are (or less charitably in some cases, supposed to be) and shows their changing interpretations and the basic information about them. The original plan was rather nicely done with most of the animals being on and around a series of small islands next to a large lake (though the water was a bit shallow and some extra land bridges had formed). Some of the trees were rather overgrown too meaning some animals could not really be seen very easily which was rather a shame despite the otherwise nice landscaping and use of ‘scene-setting’ plants like cycads. Some nice details of the original plan had survived too (if in imperfect condition) such as the crafted geological sequence complete with a fault and shifted beds, a great example for the layman.

I’ll leave it here as we have a number of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, marine reptiles, and fossil mammals to get through over the next week and I don’t want to give it all away. More to come.

10 second post

I just came across this online. Apparently it’s now normal to translate “a new hypothesis on one aspect of one feature” equals the following headline….. And yet I still come across people in the media who don’t understand why we don’t trust them to get things right.

Just a bit of fun / horror

This was a book that was sitting on the shelf in the house I was staying in for SVPCA. Intrigued by the title and the obvious comedy potential of such nonsense. So I took a look inside and was delighted to see that on the the 3rd or 4th page there was a section called “Does it really work?”. Wow, they were going to cut to the core of this instantly, no need to wade through all the junk, up front they are going to tell you how it works and why. Great. So I start reading, and, even better, they say they are going to take a scientific approach to this. Well this should be good then. Right….

Hmmm, I think I need a new dictionary if that’s the scientific definition of ‘cosmos’…. And I think that it’s one think to talk new Age BS like this, but really, please don’t debase actual science with this kind of stupidity and cheap slight-of-hand misappropriation of words.

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