There is no Dana, only Zuul

Friends, there’s a new ankylosaur today! Meet Zuul crurivastator, the Destroyer of Shins, an ankylosaurine dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Montana, published today at Royal Society Open Science. Zuul is known from an amazingly complete skeleton with preserved soft tissues and an absolutely killer tail club. Head on over to the official ROM Zuul site for photographs, illustrations, videos and more, and follow #DinoZuul on Twitter for updates from me, David Evans, and the Royal Ontario Museum.

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Your Project is Good Enough for a Talk

I’m back from yet another whirlwind week of conferencing, since the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting (this year in scenic Salt Lake City) just wrapped up last weekend. I’ll share some photos of the conference and welcome reception at the Utah Museum of Natural History soon, but today I’d like to talk a bit about who is giving talks at SVP and how we can increase speaker diversity. I hope you will share this with your colleagues and students! Continue reading

Save Mongolia’s Dinosaurs!

Hello blog friends! Today I’d like to highlight an important funding campaign that needs your help: Save Mongolia’s Dinosaurs! This campaign is organized by Bolortsetseg Minjin and Thea Boodhoo through the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs; you may have encountered Bolor’s name during the episode involving the Tarbosaurus auction in New York a few years ago, as she was the palaeontologist who initiated the investigation around the provenance of that specimen. Her actions helped lead to the repatriation of that specimen back to Mongolia. She does important work and is a palaeontologist you should know and support!

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Ankylosaur Fight Club

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!

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Ankylosaurs by the sea

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.

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Burgers and Hot Dogs

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

How the ankylosaur got its tail club

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.)

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