As several of my colleagues have gleefully remarked this week, I’ve officially turned to the dark side and published some research on theropods, and theropod FEEDING at that, thus making me a Real Palaeontologist™ after more than a decade at this. Anyway, read on for some non-ankylosaury research, if you dare! Continue reading
Readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that I find ankylosaur tail clubs quite interesting. I’ve been lucky to get to study their biomechanics and whether or not they were plausible weapons, how their morphological variation helps us identify different species, and how they evolved in a stepwise manner, with the stiff handle evolving before the enlargement of the osteoderms at the tip of the tail. Occassionally it’s good to step back and just think about how *weird* it is that ankylosaurs modified their tails in this fashion, and how weird it is to have a weapon on the tail. Continue reading
It’s a New Paper Day today! Go check it out at the new open access journal FACETS!
An alternate title I kicked around for this paper was “Victoria thinks about Ankylosaurus for a while: What does she know? Does she know things?? Let’s find out!”, because in the end this represents lots of little odds and ends about the most famous of ankylosaurs accumulated since about 2008 until they felt like they gelled enough to make a proper paper out of. In this paper, Jordan Mallon and I tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of Ankylosaurus: what does this animal really look like, what’s up with its weird giant skull, and how did it live?
Here’s a copy of the World’s Fair Ankylosaurus at the Royal Alberta Museum before the museum’s move to the new building – I know it’s partner the Corythosaurus has moved to Jurassic Forest, but I’m not sure where this guy is winding up! Maybe he’ll be at the new RAM?
Pseudoplocephalus has a new home! WELCOME!
Over the many years I’ve spent thinking about ankylosaurs, I’ve amassed a not insubstantial collection of ankylosaur stuff. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that when ankylosaurids are shown wielding their tail clubs as weapons, they are almost always fighting some kind of tyrannosaur (but usually Tyrannosaurus, of course). Are there any illustrations that show ankylosaurids fighting anything different?
Back in January I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to look in their homes for ankylosaurs fighting things and to let me know what they found, and now, blog readers, I am asking the same of you! Find some ankylosaurs fighting something and either tweet it to me (@VictoriaArbour) or leave a comment below!
Here’s what the preliminary results from my January request look like! (And yes, there was one example of an ankylosaurid tail clubbing a human.) The data I get from all of you will help me develop hypotheses for better understanding the selective pressures that led to the evolution of tail weaponry in ankylosaurs. Have at it!
Ankylosaurs, like probably most other dinosaurs, were landlubbing, terrestrial animals without obvious aquatic adaptations. And yet, surprisingly, their fossils are found in marine sedimentary environments more often than most other dinosaurs (except hadrosaurs). Some, like Aletopelta, wound up in shallow or lagoonal environments – Aletopelta’s carcass became a reef! – but some, like the Suncor nodosaurid, wound up far away from shore.
Aletopelta! See if you can spot the oyster marks, invertebrates, and shark teeth around the pelvis and legs.
In my continued quest to betray my dinosaurian research roots, I went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York to look at turtles! And what turtles they were – this is the skull of Ninjemys (the ninja turtle!), a giant meiolaniid turtle from Australia. Meiolaniids are the best turtles you’ve never heard of and it’s a crying shame that they don’t feature more prominently in prehistoric popular media.
I’ve been traipsing around North America a lot lately for a fresh burst of museum visits, which got me to thinking about the things I need to do in order to do research in museum collections. I thought I’d share some advice about visiting museum collections – consider this a mix of tips for beginners and experienced collections researchers alike. Obviously this advice is geared towards palaeontological research, but I bet it’s applicable to many other fields as well, and it would be interesting to hear about differences! Also beware, this post is more text-heavy than usual for me!
After the SVP meeting in Dallas, I spent a couple of days working on Texan ankylosaurs at the Ft Worth Museum of Science and History, and at the collections at Southern Methodist University. It was nice to see a bit of Texas outside of downtown Dallas, so here’s a few shots from my visit to Ft Worth!
Sydney Mohr is a friend and colleague of mine whose art you will have seen in the news lately, if you are inclined to read about ankylosaurs. She’s done amazing reconstructions of two ankylosaurs for me in the last year – Ziapelta and Gobisaurus – and so I asked her to take a few minutes and tell us about her process for creating her palaeoart. Also this way I get to show off more of her drawings, so yay!
Sydney decided that this Gobisaurus was named Burger, and that seemed fine with me. Continue reading
Ankylosaur tail clubs are odd structures, odder than they are usually given credit for. They represent substantial modifications to two different skeletal systems – the endoskeleton, in the form of the caudal vertebrae, and the dermal skeleton, in the form of the caudal osteoderms. The centra of the caudal vertebrae lengthen but stay robust, and the neural arches undergo huge changes, such that the prezygapophyses, postzygapophyses, and neural spine become a robust, V-shaped structure on the top of the centrum, and which creates a tightly interlocking vertebral series with almost no flexibility. We call this the handle of the tail club. The osteoderms at the tip of the tail smush together and two of them become huge: although the tail club knob is small in some species, there are colossal knobs exceeding 60 cm in width. The ankylosaur tail club represents one of the most extreme modifications to the tail in terrestrial tetrapods.
Look at that thing. That is a weird thing.
(This is UALVP 47273, a really nice club that I studied for my MSc work on tail club biomechanics.)