Archive for August, 2011

Rhamphorhynchus & Pterodactylus

This pair have made regular appearances on the Musings over the years and it’s not surprising – they’re simply known from so many specimens and are so fundamental to what we mean by rhamphorhynchoid and pterodactyloid pterosaurs. Here’s something a little different though – undescribed material.

Both of these are currently on display in Toyko and have never been described or mentioned in the literature before to my knowledge. I was given permission to work on them and fix this little issue, though as neither could be dismounted from the display while I was there I could do little more than take a few photos through the glass and under the rather uneven spotlights. It’ll have to wait for another time, but here they are at least.

Crouching dragon

One truly unusual and entertaining exhibit at the Tokyo Dino Expo 2011 was the mount of a Tyrannosaurs in a sitting position. And here it is:

Not only did this look great, and was something nice and novel, but for me it was nice to be able to access some bones rather more effectively than normal. My access to tyrannosaurs is generally limited to mounted casts, and while there’s the inevitable problems of things like the metatarsals overlying each other, and the ribs obscuring the dorsals, it’s made much worse when the skull and most of the vertebrae are several feet above you. Bringing the whole animal down to ground level made it much more accessible, and also helped demonstrate how certain things change with changing postures – just look at the flexion of the knee joint for example.


Although I have seen this specimen before (and indeed others) this is the first time it’s been ‘out’ and available. Like many things published in Nature and Science and similar journals, the specimens might be very interesting and important, but the restrictions of space means you may only get a small photo of the material and a couple of close-ups: no lavish 10 colour plates or multiple views of important elements for you (though the supplementary data increasingly helps out).

Not that I can do much more here as the damned thing was quite some way from the glass and at an odd angle, but hey, at least it’s a couple of new images of this interesting and potentially profoundly important specimen.

Anchiornis & Microraptor

As noted on here before, an increasing number of dinosaur species from China are known from multiple good specimens, but have yet to enter the literature. When there is a mountain of new species to describe, new material of well (and not so well) established taxa tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list.

It was then pleasing to see a new specimen each of Microraptor (above) and Anchiornis (well, the two were labelled as such) on display at the Dino Expo. Both species are apparently very well represented in collections but only when they start being described and catalogued and their identities confirmed can we start to work on major areas of their biology that are limited to taxa with large pools of specimens – sexual dimorphism, ontogeny, intraspecific variation. Still, at least I have some photos….

Sign of the times – dinosaur anatomy

While we’re on the subject of signs and notices, this one especially caught my eye. While it’s obviously in Japanese, it’s clear than it labels all the major bones of the skeletons. This is great for several reasons. First off it shows people are interested in anatomy and that using technical terms is not going to put people off. Moreover it shows and helps people to grasp that for all the differences between these species they are at a fundamental level built to the same plan, obviously with four legs and a neck and ribs and tail etc. but with things like lacrimals and frontals too – there is a lot of things in common and the pattern of bones is effectively identical. You can really appreciate the similarities and differences and follow that while they must have much in common (a common ancestor in fact) they have also diverged from that. Finally, it does provide a frame of reference for people as a whole – I’m sure many of the people reading this sign had been told by a doctor they’d broken a humerus, or their child fractured a tibia, had a malformed metatarsal or needed to see a maxillary surgeon or whatever. These were uncommon terms to them in a hospital, but I bet they remember those words and will see the link to the signs on the wall and thus the beasts in front of them. It’s an excellent little reminder and display of how all vertebrates are linked together.


Unlike some of my fellow bloggers, I’m not buried in dinosaur toys and models, though I do have a few cluttering up my desk and office. To be honest I don’t know many people who don’t have at least a few going around. I generally take a look at the selections going in a museum gift shop or the occasional toy store, especially when I’m abroad and might see something new or different.

When in Japan, this can rapidly become very time consuming. Models of various kinds are very popular there and dinosaurs are major sellers. Even small stores can have a huge range of things from the very small and cheap to massive skull replicas and high-quality 1/10th scale tyrannosaur life reconstructions. Here’s just one side of a display in a Tokyo toy store – it’s got more models of more kinds and different brands than anywhere I’d seen before and this wasn’t the only place with this kind of selection. I can think of a couple of people who might go broke if allowed more than 10 minutes in a few of these places.

Dino Expo 2011

Obviously now I’m back from the field all those promised posts on my Japan trip will be coming though. As a kind of appetiser though, I thought I should talk about the 2011 Dino Expo. Every year the basement of the superb National Museum of Science and Nature in Tokyo plays host to a special exhibit. Dinosaurs feature regularly and this was no exception with an incredible collection of specimens and casts being on display.

While some of it was more than familiar to me (the holotypes of Linheraptor, Haplocheirus, Limusaurus and others were there) large chunks were both new and exciting including things like most of the Raptorex holotype and a superb cast of Nigersaurus. As this was a fully public display with no limits on photography then I have no problem putting up some images of the things there. With so much lined up, that does lead to this rather unusual post of an exhibit with no photos of the show itself, but all will be revealed (eventually). I have nearly 30 posts in prep (or all ready to go) based on the Expo and the Museum as a whole so this might take some time to get through.

The expo as a whole was great. Not just the dinosaurs, but the accompanying descriptive material, signs, guides, videos, and the rest. The mounts were beautiful and often novel and dramatic in style, and uniformly superbly lit. There was great variety with most groups covered one way or another and all manner of interesting little bits and pieces like sectioned bones and braincases.

Even for someone like me who has, inevitably, seen an awful lot of mounts, and skeletons, and signs, and exhibits etc. etc. etc., it was genuinely exciting and interesting and that shows just what a great job had been done. I really enjoyed it and having gained a fair amount of useful research information too made it even better. More, so much more, to come.

I’m back

After a longer than intended journey I’m back out of the field and in Beijing for a couple of days before winging my way back towards Europe. As promised, there will be posts aplenty coming and personally I had a very good field session in Xinjiang (illnesses aside). All that will be revealed (the fieldwork, not the details of my illness) shortly.

In the meantime, those keeping track will spot that the recent Hayashibara posts are now rather lacking in images. This makes the posts themselves a bit meaningless sadly but I didn’t want to delete them and the comments. This has come about through the ongoing saga of the ownership of the museum and I was asked to take them down and obviously have done so. Apologies for any problems.

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