Friday, December 26, 2014

The New Dinosaurs of 2014

Well hello, everyone! I hope you all had a great Christmas. I most certainly did. I went to a wonderful Christmas Eve service with my family at a nearby church (our home church didn't have Christmas Eve service this year). This is my last blog post till after New Year's, so I hope you all enjoy it as you sit back and remember the amazing year we had in 2014.

Days till:
It is: 6 days till New Year's
It is: 10 days till my birthday

In the Spotlight:
No news on upcoming movies this week, but I recently finished my next episode of Animal Face-Off called: Carnotaurus vs. Cryolophosaurus. Please enjoy:

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
As a dinosaur enthusiast, I am commonly searching the internet for the latest dinosaur discoveries. Man, was it worth is! 2014 has been a terrific year for paleontology. Whether in barren deserts and scrub lands across the world, or discovered in dusty museum fossil storerooms, scientists discovered a myriad of new dinosaur species, as well as fossils of dinosaurs that we previously knew very little about. Just like last year, and the year before that, this article will feature some of the many dinosaurs discovered in 2014, but also couple of dinosaurs that we knew existed for decades, but we had so little fossil material, that we could not learn much about them until now. Let's recap dinosaur discoveries of 2014!

New Discoveries Concerning Already-known Species

For decades, Deinocheirus was only known from a pair of arm bones; now that more fossils have been found, we know it was a large, hump-backed creature.
Deinocheirus (meaning “terrible hand”) is one of the most popular dinosaurs among dinosaur enthusiasts, but until recently there was a dinosaur shrouded in mystery. This was due to the fact that the only known fossils of this dinosaur consisted of its giant arms that ended in sharp claws. Originally, scientists believed Deinocheirus used its claws to rip into the guts of giant herbivorous dinosaurs. But in 2013, two specimens of Deinocheirus were discovered: one in Asia's Gobi Desert and the other in a museum storeroom (as Deinocheirus' arms had only been discovered, scientists didn't know that the museum's specimen – which lacked arms – was a Deinocheirus). The specimens were scientifically described in 2014. We now know that Deinocheirus is actually the largest known member of the ornithomimosaur, or “ostrich dinosaur”, classification group. It was 12-15 feet tall, 36 feet long and weighed about seven tons. It was also very unlike most other ornithomimosaurs, which were ostrich-like in body shape and were swift and agile runners. Deinocheirus was a stocky, humpbacked and omnivorous creature. Preserved with its fossil remains are gastroliths (rounded stones used to grind up plant matter and animal material), suggesting it ate vegetation and used its claws for bringing vegetation toward its mouth. It also ate fish, because fish scales and bones have also been discovered in this dinosaur's stomach content.

Instead of being a terrestrial, two-legged predator, Spinosaurus was semi-aquatic, hunting mainly aquatic creatures like fish and crocodiles.
Spinosaurus is another popular dinosaur that we have only recently learned much about. When first discovered by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1912, Spinosaurus was thought to be a large species of carnosaur that walked about on two legs. In fact, it wasn't very different from the dinosaur known as Allosaurus when initially described other than the fact that it had a sail on its back. (Click here to readmore about Spinosaurus' history) However, new fossil specimens were dug out of the Egyptian soil of northern Africa in 2013 and the results from a study of the remains was scientifically published in 2014. The new fossils (and several other less complete fragments discovered between 1912 and 2013) revealed that this dinosaur was very different from the initial depictions. Instead of being a two-legged terrestrial carnosaur that preyed upon herbivorous dinosaurs, Spinosaurus seems to have been a four-legged, semi-aquatic carnivore not related to carnosaurs like Allosaurus. It was in a family all its own: the spinosaurs. Spinosaurus spent much of its life in the water, mainly hunting fish, crocodiles. However it is doubtful that Spinosaurus would not have snacked on other dinosaurs on occasion.

New Dinosaurs Described in 2014

Anzu is one of the largest species of oviraptorosaurs. It had a crest on its head, probably for display purposes. PHOTO CREDITS
Montana's Hell Creek Formation has yielded several relatively large skeletons of an oviraptorosaur (dinosaurs related to Oviraptor; once believed to be egg-thieves) over the years. Scientists thought this oviraptorosaur remains belonged to the genus Chirostenotes, a species of oviraptorosaur who's remains are normally found further north, in Canada and Alaska. However, recent research has proven that instead of belonging to this genus, paleontologists had a different species altogether! They named it Anzu wyliei, after a mythological Mesopotamian feathered demon. It was rather large for an oviraptorosaur – 9-11 feet long, 5-7 feet tall and weighing 660 pounds. Most oviraptorosaurs were no larger than a turkey. Anzu had a toothless beak, a large bony crest on its head and long arms ending in clawed hands. It made its home in what is now the northern United States, where it lived alongside Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus. The scientists that discovered the creature believe it would have probably eaten vegetation, small animals and possibly eggs.

Changyuraptor was a large relative of Microraptor, complete with two sets of wings, one on each limb.
Dinosaurs weren't the only creatures roaming the planet in the days before the Genesis Flood described in the Bible. Many birds living at the time, like the recently discovered the Cretaceous Changyuraptor of China, were unique among the fliers God created. Like its smaller relative, Microraptor, Changyuraptor had four wings (one on each limb) but it did not use them for powered flight. It was a glider, launching itself from trees and gliding through its forest home. At four feet long and nine pounds in weight, it is the largest four-winged bird yet discovered.

Dreadnoughtus was the largest dinosaur known from a relatively complete skeleton, weighing 65 tons! No predator would attack a fully-grown adult! PHOTO CREDITS
Argentinosaurus is the largest dinosaur known from relatively good fossil remains and is estimated as weighing at least 75 tons (with some estimates of over 100 tons). Unfortunately, this dinosaur's remains are very incomplete, so there is some debate on how much the animal weighed. The largest terrestrial vertebrate possessing the greatest mass of any land animal that can be calculated with reasonable certainty is the intimidatingly-named Dreadnoughtus schrani. Dreadnoughtus (which was named after a warship and means “fearing nothing) was a colossal sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur, from Cretaceous Argentina. This dinosaur was big, even by sauropod standards. In life this beast stretched 85 feet long from nose to tail and weighed an astounding 65.4 tons in weight! It stood about as tall a two-story building when its neck was held in its normal posture, horizontal with the rest of its body. This enormous herbivore surely struck fear into nearby predators! The name “Dreadnoughtus” fits this animal well.


Laquintasaura was a fox-sized dinosaur that might have lived in herds. PHOTO CREDITS
Straight from the lower Jurassic bone beds of Venezuela came Laquintasaura venezuelae (meaning “La Quinta's Lizard from Venezuela”). It was a rather small dinosaur, only standing three feet long and a little less than a foot tall. The bipedal Laquintasaura is a special dinosaur to paleontologists because it is the first dinosaur known from this region of Venezuela. It was mainly an herbivore, but it also likely ate large insects and other small animals. Because several specimens were found in the same place, scientists believe this dinosaur lived in herds. Living in herds would have been a good survival strategy for Laquintasaura, as scientists also recently discovered a species of carnivorous theropod living in the same habitat called Tachiraptor, which we will get to in just a minute!

 Mercuriceratops was a close relative of the larger Triceratops. PHOTO CREDITS 
Mercuriceratops is a large ceratopsid (or horned) dinosaur from Alberta, Canada's Dinosaur Park Formation. As its appearance might suggest, it is a relative of the larger and much more famous Triceratops. Ceratopsids are renowned for their horned heads and neck frills that vary in shape and size depending on the species. Triceratops has three horns and an average-sized neck frill; Styracosaurus has long spikes sticking out of the sides of its frill; Pachyrhinosaurus lacks a nose horn, instead possessing a bony lump. The shape of Mercuriceratops' frill is unique, as it is shaped rather like a butterfly's wing and possesses wing-like protrusions sticking out of the sides of its frill. Why ceratopsids had such varied frill shapes is unknown by scientists, but there is evidence to suggest that they were used to help protect the animal's neck from predators and/or for display purposes, such as attracting mates and intimidating rivals or predators. Maybe they were even used for species recognition. Mercuriceratops is named after Mercury from Greek mythology, who had wings on his head and feet.

Nanuqsaurus' name means "polar bear lizard". PHOTO CREDITS
Tyrannosaurus had a much smaller cousin who's fossils were recently uncovered in the Price Creek Formation in the North Slope of Alaska called Nanuqsaurus hoglundi. Nanuqsaurus (which means “polar bear lizard”) was a member of the tyrannosaur family. Despite being a relative of T. rex, it was less than half as large and only about 20 feet long. However, its smaller size would have enabled this tyrannosaur to run very swiftly after prey.

Despite its name, Rhinorex was not a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, but a hadrosaur. PHOTO CREDITS
Rhinorex was a species of hadrosaur discovered in central Utah's Cretaceous Neslen Formation. Hadrosaurs are famous by their duck-like mouths and were very widespread throughout the pre-Flood world. What made Rhinorex unique was its large nose. Like other hadrosaurs, paleontologists do not believe Rhinorex had a wonderful sense of smell, so perhaps its large nose was used for display. If so, it would have been very colorful. Many birds and reptiles living today have colorful head features that are used to impress females. Rhinorex's nose might have also been used for species recognition. In addition to a large nose, scientists also discovered that their Rhinorex specimen had wonderfully preserved skin impressions.

Tachiraptor probably hunted Laquintasaura, as their fossils have been found near each other. PHOTO CREDITS

Laquintasaura was a small and swift dinosaur. The discovery of another dinosaur living in the same place as Laquintasaura made it easy to see why being fast was a good thing. Scientists realized the fossil teeth and bones they found along with the smaller dinosaur were a new species, and upon describing the fossils, they named the animal Tachiraptor, meaning “thief of Táchira”. Tachiraptor was about five feet long and lived in the lower Jurassic pre-Flood environment. Its long legs helped it to run swiftly after its swift prey.

Zaraapelta was a large armored dinosaur built like a tank. It would have been a difficult animal to kill, even by a tyrannosaur! PHOTO CREDITS
Straight from Mongolia's Gobi Desert, a new species of ankylosaur was described. They named it Zaraapelta, meaning “hedgehog shield”. Ankylosaurs are famous for the horny knobs and spikes covering their bodies and the club at the end of their tails used for protection and defense from predators. However, Zaraapelta had unusually elaborate spikes on its skull, making scientists theorize that they were used for display purposes.

Zby, one of the largest dinosaurs, also has one of the shortest names of any dinosaur. PHOTO CREDITS
Another sauropod was described this year, called Zby (Zb-ee), named after Georges Zbyszewski. Ironically, despite its extremely tiny name, it was quite a large dinosaur, though its exact size is still unknown to date due to the lack of fossil remains. It was discovered in Portugal's Lourinhã Formation. To learn about Zby, scientists used a related species that has had more fossils attributed to it, called Turiasaurus. Turiasaurus dinosaur is from Spain and at over 90 feet long, it might be the largest dinosaur known from Europe.

I hope you liked this recap of some of the most amazing and interesting dinosaur discoveries of 2014. In fact, I hope you have enjoyed all the articles I have written over the year 2014. Next year should be just as exciting! There will undoubtedly be lots of new dinosaur discoveries coming up, plus two awesome dinosaur movies coming out: Universal Studios' Jurassic World and Pixar's The Good Dinosaur!

I hope everyone really enjoyed 2014 and may God bless all of my faithful readers! Have a happy New Year everyone! See you in 2015!


Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.

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