A Body for Terrible Hands

It was a whirlwind year for dinosaur palaeontology, yet again. This week I’m writing about what I consider the most important news in my science field for 2014, for the Science Borealis blog carnival. There are so many great stories to choose from! Kulindadromeus and feather-like structures in ornithischians? The bizarro new reconstruction of a short-legged Spinosaurus? Both of those stories were pretty interesting, but my choice has to be the description of multiple skeletons of the Mongolian ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus. Continue reading

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Know Your Ankylosaurs: Mongolia Edition!

After a whirlwind couple of weeks with a bunch of international travel, I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and write about my most recent paper on the ankylosaurs of the Baruungoyot and Nemegt formations of Mongolia. I’ve been interested in these ankylosaurs for a long time now, both because of their interesting cranial anatomy and their relationships to the ankylosaurs of North America (especially Alberta). So, here’s a plain-language summary of some complicated taxonomy! Hooray! Continue reading

Scaling Up

Let’s turn our attention from hadrosaur skin to ankylosaur skin, a topic which has received surprisingly less attention in the published literature than I would have thought. I should qualify that statement, however, by saying that by ‘ankylosaur skin’ I mean ankylosaur skin impressions, because ankylosaur dermal elements are well known and the focus of many a paper – I refer of course to osteoderms, which form within the dermis of the skin and which give ankylosaurs their spiky and armoured appearance.

For a couple of years now I’ve been keeping notes about occurrences of skin impressions in ankylosaurs, which eventually lead to a paper by myself, Mike Burns, Phil Bell, and Phil Currie. We reviewed the morphology of scale patterns in the few specimens that preserve skin, and found that there were some intriguing differences in scalation between different ankylosaurs.

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Thoughts on Tarbosaurus, part 4

Well, a lot has happened since the auction of a nearly complete Tarbosaurus was halted last May. At the end of December, Eric Prokopi surrendered his claim to the Tarbosaurus and other Mongolian and Chinese dinosaur fossils in his possession, and pleaded guilty to several charges surrounding the Tarbosaurus case. The Mongolian government is renewing its commitment to preserving its outstanding natural history heritage by creating a new dinosaur museum in capital city Ulaanbaatar, and several museums elsewhere in the countryside.

I hope the awesome leather Tarbosaurus makes the trip to the new digs.

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Thoughts on Tarbosaurus, Part 2

In my last post I talked about the role of museums in conserving fossil resources, with regards to the recent news about the Tarbosaurus auction. I wanted to address some of the other frequent comments I have seen on blogs and news articles. So, we’re now on to:

Comment 2: How do we know the tyrannosaur came from Mongolia? (and the related question, which I’ve decided to lump with this one: Why does the auction company, and subsequent news stories, refer to the specimen as Tyrannosaurus bataar while palaeontologists call it Tarbosaurus? Continue reading

Thoughts on Tarbosaurus, Part 1.

Last time I promised photos of our fieldwork here in Edmonton, but then over the weekend the palaeoverse kind of erupted (in a good way) over the auction of a Tarbosaurus skeleton. Go read Brian Switek’s articlefirst if you’re not acquainted with the story.

Because I am insane, I often read the comments sections on news articles about palaeontology. There are a lot of weird and misguided statements in the comments sections of some of the Tarbosaurus auction news articles (e.g. at CNN, USAToday, Wired). Some of these comments make me frustrated, so I figured I’d try to write down my thoughts on some of the most common recurring themes: 1) Paleontologists are just as bad as fossil poachers and/or private collectors because we hoard the dinosaurs all to ourselves and lock them away in cabinets where the public can’t see them; 2) How do we know the tyrannosaur came from Mongolia?; 3) Why does the auction company call it Tyrannosaurus bataar while palaeontologists call it Tarbosaurus?; and 4) Why is fossil poaching such a big deal, anyway? I’m going to address these over a couple of blog posts because for some reason on these topics I am unusually longwinded and the answer to the first question was getting kind of gigantic. Continue reading

5 Questions for Phil Bell

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s interview with Caleb, here’s an interview with Phil Bell of the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative. Phil is a former Currie Lab member who completed his PhD last spring, focusing on the Mongolian and North American hadrosaur Saurolophus. He recently published a paper on skin impressions in Saurolophus. Thanks to David Lloyd of the Tyrrell Museum for the great photos of work at the Dragon’s Tomb in 2010! Continue reading