Posts Tagged 'ornithischians'

Yixian ornithischians

The ornithischians don’t often get much of a look in here on the Musings, however I did see several nice specimens while in Liaoning so this seemed like a good opportunity to mention them and give this huge clade (a good 2/5ths of the known dinosaurs though you wouldn’t know it from here or most other dinosaur blogs) a bit more coverage.

Continue reading ‘Yixian ornithischians’

Blah blah feathered ornithischians yawn

Base of tail of Tianyulong (modified from Zheng et al., 2009).

Base of tail of Tianyulong (modified from Zheng et al., 2009).

Ok, I am actually really rather excited by this development but as ever I don’t want to go down the route of simply reviewing the paper as that is what I suspect every other blogger and news outlet is doing right now. For those who are already lost, today in Nature a new paper came out showing an ornithischian dinosaur – Tianyulong – with large integumentary structures (protofeathers is definitely pushing it at this point and is a term I’ll be avoiding with respect to this taxon at least for a long time to come) which superficially at least look very similar to those of theropod dinosaurs that certainly are precursors to feathers in birds. The big deal of course is that now we have these kinds of structures in both ornithischian dinosaurs and saurischian dinosaurs (the really fundamental split at the base of Dinosauria) and not just in saurischians. This opens up the possibility that these kinds of structures were ancestral to dinosaurs and thus inherited by both clades and did not just evolve in the derived theropods. However there is much more to this than meets the eye, most notably the fact that this is manifestly not the first ornithischian to have been suggested to have such structures. Continue reading ‘Blah blah feathered ornithischians yawn’

Gigantspinosaurus – the ‘lost’ Chinese stegosaur

As promised a second guest post, this time by Susie Maidment and on the incredibly elusive Giganspinosaurus. So few people know about this stegosaur that despite being described in 1992 it didn’t even make it into that dinosaur encyclopedia that is ‘The Dinosauria‘ in 2003:

Studying dinosaurs inevitably involves a great deal of travel. During my four years studying stegosaurs, I visited 32 institutions on three continents, adding up to a total of about five months in dark basements looking at bones. I visited China for a month in 2004 in search of a number of illusive stegosaurian specimens with names that proved almost impossible to pronounce correctly, along with a fellow PhD student. Half way through our month-long trip, we arrived in Zigong, a small (by Chinese standards) city in Sichuan Province. Zigong achieved worldwide fame, at least in palaeontology circles, in the 1970s and 80s due to the discovery of a vast collection of dinosaurian fossils from the Shaximiao Formations, dating from the lowermost Middle Jurassic to the Late Jurassic. The area was at the time a lush flood plain, but periodic floods, droughts and other natural disasters led to the accumulation of large numbers of extremely well-preserved dinosaurian fossils. The discovery of a bone bed just outside Zigong led the authorities to build the imaginatively named Zigong Dinosaur Museum over the site, and today tourists can view a large collection of dinosaurian remains still in the ground, with additional specimens on display.


I was in Zigong to study one of the most interesting ornithischian dinosaurs ever discovered: the basal stegosaur Huayangosaurus. Although clearly a stegosaur because of the parallel rows of dermal plates extending vertically from the back, it bears a number of features that link it with much more primitive armoured dinosaurs, and it has helped to elucidate the order of acquisition of certain features in the evolutionary history of these ornithischians. At Zigong, they found at least one almost entirely complete specimen of Huayangosaurus, including a complete, articulated skull. Only one other complete stegosaurian skull is known from anywhere in the world: they are incredibly rare.

The road out to the Zigong Dinosaur Museum (ZDM) is a narrow strip of tarmac with a lane of dirt either side. Enormous trucks with wheels the size of your average Toyota thunder down the road and taxis weave in and out, onto the dirt and back onto the tarmac again, gambling with your life at every corner. Car travel throughout Asia is the same: there is one simple rule – don’t look out the front. Having mystifyingly defied certain death on multiple occasions, we arrived at the ZDM and were introduced to the curator, who claimed to have no knowledge of our visit and of many of the specimens we were interested in seeing. However, a few calls back to Beijing and all was sorted out: we were assigned an English-speaking guide and taken to the collections.

Continue reading ‘Gigantspinosaurus – the ‘lost’ Chinese stegosaur’

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