Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The New Dinosaurs of 2015

I can't believe it, but we're already approaching the end of 2015, which I think has been my best year of life so far. Not all of 2015 was easy, but this year made for a great life experience for me. So much great stuff happened over the course of this year. 2016 will soon be upon us, and we'll have new adventures to partake in. I can't wait to see what they are!

Once again, it's time to look at the past year's dinosaur discoveries!
Days Till:
It is: 2 days till New Year's
It is: 6 days till My Birthday
It is: 19 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the Spotlight:
The Ark Encounter, opening July 7th, 2016. (Property of Answers in Genesis)

In addition to the many other things we have to look forward to next year, I'd like to draw your attention to a new “theme park” opening on July 7th, 2016 called “Ark Encounter”. In case you're one of the individuals who's unaware, the Ark Encounter is a subdivision of the creationist company Answers in Genesis (I'm a BIG fan of their case you somehow haven't noticed); not too long ago they opened the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Now, not far from the Creation Museum, AiG is constructing a life-size wooden ark, modeled after the one Noah built in Genesis 6-7. It's going to be 510 feet long, 51 feet tall and 84 feet wide when complete! While the real Noah's ark was technically a floating zoo, perfectly designed to stay afloat on the high global seas, the Ark Encounter vessel will be so much more. The best I can describe it is as a museum inside of an ark, it's going to feature many different kinds of animals depicted as they might have looked on Noah's ark, and several dioramas and exhibits talking about how we know the global Flood of Noah's time happened, the Ice Age, the wickedness of the pre-Flood world and so on. But don't take my word for it, check out a video they recently released talking about what kinds of exhibits they'll have inside the ark:

When you're finished with that video, please go to their newly-designed website talking all about the Ark Encounter, and even a little bit about what kinds of animals they'll feature and so much more:

Topic of the Week
by Christian Ryan2015 has been a great year for dinosaur lovers. We've had more dinosaur movies/documentaries than you can shake a stick at (e.g. T. rex Autopsy, Dino Death Match, Dinosaur Britain, The Good Dinosaur and, the biggest of them all, Jurassic World). But not only have there been a multitude of dinosaur documentaries/movies, we've also had a great year for dinosaur discoveries. Below is a list of just a few of the newest species of dinosaurs discovered and new research on dinosaurs discovered in previous years.

New Dinosaur Species of 2015


Carnufex could swim after you in the water, and run after you on land! (Image Credits)
 OK, so Carnufex carolinensis is by no means a dinosaur, it's discovery is still quite fascinating. It was a species of crocodile-like reptile (a crocodylomorph to be more specific) that was discovered in North Carolina. Carnufex was about nine feet long from snout to tail. What makes it unique is that it probably could walk on its hind legs, like a theropod dinosaur. It inhabited the Triassic ecosystem of the pre-Flood world until 4,350 years ago when it and countless other animals were wiped out in the global Flood of Noah's time. Armored reptiles and so-called "mammal-like reptiles" would have likely served as prey for this creature.

Chilesaurus was an herbivorous theropod. (Image Credit: Gabriel Lio)
Theropod – the word often conjures up images of large predators like Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus, or perhaps fast and deadly smaller predators like Velociraptor and Coelophysis. So imagine paleontologists' surprise when seven-year old Diego Su├írez discovered Chilesaurus, a theropod from Chile, in 2004. However, it wasn't scientifically described until 2015. It had an overall body shape of a theropod, but it had a small head with a beak and leaf-shaped teeth akin to stegosaurs, a hip structure like an ornithopod, hind feet like a prosauropod and two-fingered hands like a T. rex! It's no wonder scientists nicknamed it the “platypus dinosaur”. Despite being a theropod, 10-foot long Chilesaurus' leaf-shaped teeth, beak and large gut tell us that it was an herbivore.


Dakotaraptor was one of the most dangerous dinosaurs ever to walk the earth. (Image Credit: Emily Willoughby)
Up until 2015, the only apex carnivores known from the Hell Creek Formation (which spans Montana and the Dakotas) were the turkey-sized, Velociraptor-like Acheroraptor, and of course, Tyrannosaurus rex. This all changed this year, when scientists studied and described fossils of a large raptor uncovered in South Dakota in 2005. Meet Dakotaraptor! This dromaeosaur was 18 feet long, six to nine feet tall, weighed over 500 pounds and could run at speeds of 30-40 mph. As if this weren't dangerous enough, Dakotaraptor may have hunted in packs like its cousins, like Deinonychus and Utahraptor. In addition to blade-like teeth and incredibly strong arms, it had a nine-inch sickle-shaped claw on each foot for dismembering prey. If you're ever exploring the pre-Flood ecosystem of Hell Creek, beware of this dinosaur!

To read more about Dakotaraptor, please see my full article.

Hualianceratops was a smaller relative of Triceratops. (Image Credits:PortiaSloanRollings)

Triceratops is the most popular member of the ceratopsian baramin (“created kind”), but cousins of this 10-ton herbivore come in all shapes and sizes, from another 2015 discovery, the extra-frilled Regaliceratops which grew over 15 feet long, to the spaniel-sized Hualianceratops. This ceratopsian made its home in what is now China's Gobi Desert; at the time, the area was certainly much more forested than it is today. This Jurassic ecosystem boasted a wide range of dinosaurs, from long-necked sauropods, to the predatory Guanlong, a small raptor-like tyrannosaur described in 2006. Unlike its larger relatives, Hualianceratops lacked horns and an elaborate frill and it walked on two legs rather than four.

Kunbarrasaurus was thought to belong to the genus Minmi until very recently. (Image Credits: Australian Geographic)

Ankylosaurs are a group of dinosaurs known for being covered in tough armor plates. These plates cover the entire upper half of the animal – even the eyelids are hardened! Some ankylosaurs even had clubs on the ends of their tails. Kunbarrasaurus is a newly discovered ankylosaur from Queensland, Australia. Actually, Kunbarrasaurus was officially dug out of the ground in 1989, but it was thought to be a genus of ankylosaur already discovered, called Minmi (a previous record-holder for the shortest dinosaur name). But recently, scientists found that Kunbarrasaurus' fossils have enough distinctions to make it a different genus.

Qijanglong had a neck half as long as its entire body! (Image Credits: Lida Xing)
Dinosaurs like Guanlong and  Hualianceratops roamed in the shadows of giants, like the newly discovered Qijanglong, emphasis on “looong”! This dinosaur was a member of the sauropod group, a group of dinosaurs known for having long necks. However, Qijanglong and its closest kin, members of the mamenchisaurid family, had necks long even for sauropods. The necks of most sauropods are a third the length of their bodies, but in the 45-50-foot Qijanglong, its neck was almost half the length of its body! How did sauropods carry such long necks without toppling over? Well, the ultimate Designer (the God of the Bible) made sauropods with neck vertebrae that were filled with pockets of air, making them both strong and lightweight. Interestingly, Qijanglong's skull was discovered attached to its neck; usually sauropod skeletons lack skulls because they easily become detached after the animal dies.

Morelladon was a sail-backed relative of Iguanodon. (Image Credits: Carlos de Miguel Chaves)

Dinosaurs just get weirder and weirder, don't they? (And we're not even to the weirdest one on the list yet!) Morelladon was an iguanodont dinosaur with a sail on its back. Scientists aren't sure why this Spanish herbivore had this feature; it's likely however that the sail was used for display purposes. Morelladon wasn't the only dinosaur to possess a sail: the fish-eating spinosaurs and another iguanodont called Ouranosaurus also had sails. However, perhaps the most elaborate sail of all the dinosaurs belonged to Spinosaurus – its sail stood over six feet tall!

Phosphorosaurus is not a dinosaur, but a marine lizard of the mosasaur family. (Image Credits: Tatsuya Shinmuru)

Mosasaurs were marine lizards that were very similar to modern monitor lizards. They got a burst of popularity when Mosasaurus (the type species of the mosasaur family) ate Jaws for lunch in the Mosasaurus Feeding Show. Unlike the monster, 60-foot long Mosasaurus, the newly-discovered Phosphorosaurus was not an apex predator of the pre-Flood seas. It was only 10 feet long and fed on fish and squid-like animals. Paleontologists believe Phosphorosaurus may have hunted at night because it had large, forward-facing eyes, unlike other mosasaurs. This means it probably would have been capable of night-vision. Phosphorosaurus was discovered in Japan.

Ugrunaaluk was misidentified as Edmontosaurus for decades. (Image Credits: James Havens)

Diplodocus. Stegosaurus. Parasaurolophus. You thought those names were hard to pronounce! But you haven't seen a hard-to-pronounce dinosaur name until you've tried to say Ugrunaaluk (Ug-ru-naa-luk). It took me forever to learn how to pronounce this one! This dinosaur was a member of the hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) family and if its name sounds rather unusual for a dinosaur, that's because it isn't derived from the Greek or Latin like most dinosaur names are, but the Inupiat language reflecting where the dinosaur was found – northern Alaska; Ugrunaaluk means “ancient grazer”. Pretty much since the 1980's, scientists have unearthed over six thousand hadrosaur fossils from Alaska. At first, they were believed to belong to a type of lambeosaurine hadrosaur (a hadrosaur with a bony crest). But after more examination, the fossils were classified as Edmontosaurus fossils. However, in 2014 scientists continued to study the fossils and found out something shocking – they weren't Edmontosaurus fossils, or the fossils from any other known hadrosaur, but a new species! As if this weren't surprising enough, many of Ungrunaaluk bones aren't actually fossilized – these are “fresh” dinosaur bones! You would think that this would be a revolutionary discovery, but alas it has been ignored by most of the media or “shoved under the rug”. This is likely because it would further jeopardize the idea that the dinosaur bones are millions of years old and make the biblical view that these dinosaurs were buried in the waters of the Genesis Flood the only logical explanation.

Yi qi and similar weirdos are from the strange family scansoriopterygidae. (Image Credits: Dinostar)

Dinosaur names are known to be long, tongue-twisty and hard to pronounce, especially names like Ugrunaaluk. So try this one for size: Yi. Yes, that's actually the name of a dinosaur, and it was almost as weird as its name. Its full name (genus and species name) is Yi qi (pronounced “ee-chee”) and it means “strange wing”. So what makes Yi qi stand out? Firstly, this Chinese dinosaur is small, about the size of a pigeon. It also boasts the smallest name of any dinosaur (beating previous record-holders, Mei and Minmi). The most amazing thing about Yi qi though is that it possessed a special membrane supported by a bony rod protruding from its wrist. It was the first, and so far only, dinosaur discovered with bat-like wings! Now it couldn't fly like bats or pterosaurs (flying reptiles with similar wing membranes); instead it was probably a glider, moving from tree to tree, using its “wings” to glide long distances between them. Evolutionists call an instance where a creature has similar features to another unrelated creature “convergent evolution” (strangely, when the same finds occur in creatures they claim are related, it is presented as evidence that the creatures evolved). Instead, Yi qi's bat-like wings point to a Designer who created both Yi qi's baramin and bats. Another interesting thing about Yi qi's discovery is that scientists found melanosomes, which contain pigment cells. By looking at these, scientists were able to tell that Yi qi glided through the forest in a shade of black, with yellow-brown coloration on its head and wing membranes.

Zhenyuanlong is from the same ecosystem as many other well-known so-called "feathered dinosaurs", including Microraptor, Sinosauropteryx and Sinornithosaurus.

While being touted as positive proof that it's supposed cousin Velociraptor was a feathery feign, Zhenyuanlong is hardly the proof dino-to-bird theorists are looking for. What was actually discovered in China's Liaoning Province? Well, scientists recently described a five-foot-long, nearly complete skeleton complete with fossilized feathers. Contrary to popular opinion, aside from the tremendous evidence against the idea that theropod dinosaurs evolved into birds, Zhenyuanlong cannot act as an aid to the theory, as it has several features that identify this creature as a bird, and not a dinosaur; certainly no cousin to Velociraptor. To see why, please see this article by Answers in Genesis. So what of Zhenyuanlong's clawed wings, long bony tail and sharp dinosaur-like teeth? Well, like many other now-extinct birds, like Alexornis, Archaeopteryx, Microraptor, Hesperornis and Ichthyornis, Zhenyuanlong was a species of predatory bird, unique to the pre-Flood world. Zhenyuanlong must have been a terror to smaller creatures in the forest it lived in.

To read more about why dinosaurs could not evolve into birds, please see this article.

New Research of 2015

Brontosaurus, once considered synonymous to Apatosaurus, might make a comeback! (Photo Credits: Davide Bonadonna)

Since the early 20th century, scientists have thought that sauropod Brontosaurus was the same species as the closely related Apatosaurus. Therefore, the name invented first – Apatosaurus – was kept and Brontosaurus was dropped, until a 2014-2015 study, that is. A group of scientists was able to conclude that after reevaluating the fossils of both dinosaurs, that Brontosaurus was distinct enough to return as its own species. See an article about the discovery here.

Cave Lion
This cave lion cub is one of the best preserved extinct cats ever found. (Image Credits: Academy of Sciences in Yakutia)

While clearly not a dinosaur discovery, I thought this was worthy to bring up. A few months ago, scientists reported on the discovery of two cave lion cubs that were found frozen in Russian permafrost. Cave lions were a subspecies of the modern lion that lived throughout Europe and Asia during the Ice Age. This discovery is rather amazing because the cubs are the best preserved extinct cats ever found. Until now, we have only had cave lion skeletons and paintings of these cats by Ice Age people to know what they looked like.

For more on this discovery, go here.

Well, that wraps up my blogging until next year. To everyone out there:
See you in 2016!

Disclaimer: The images above are not my own unless otherwise indicated. If you own one of the above images and want it removed, please notify me via my email.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Around the World

It's officially Christmas Eve. I hope that all of my readers are at home with their families during this special time of year when we celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday. So we all know how we in the USA celebrate Christmas, but people in celebrate this holiday different all over the world. So, today I thought it would be nice to see what people in other regions do when the Christmas season rolls around.

Days Till
It is: 1 days till Christmas
It is: 8 days till New Year's
It is: 12 days till My Birthday
It is: 25 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the Spotlight:
Before the Christmas season comes to an end, I wanted to bring to your attention some of my favorite Christmas songs that I've been listening to countless times this year. Take a look:

Pentatonx is an acapella music group, and let me just say that they sound awesome, especially singing this song, called "Mary, Did You Know?"

This next song, "Christmas the Whole Year Round", is sung by young singer/songwriter/actress Sabrina Carpenter. I first learned about her from the Girl Meets World TV series on Disney Channel. Check it out:

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Christmas is almost here and all of us in the United States are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (at least, that's what we should be doing...hint, hint!), decorating trees, singing Christmas carols, waiting for Santa Claus, gift-giving, “giving Christmas away” (again, hint, hint!) by helping and giving to those who are unfortunate and singing about figgy pudding (actually, I don't know anyone who actually knows what figgy pudding is.). But those are things we do here in America. What do people do in other parts of the world when they celebrate Christmas? Well, let's take a journey around the world to see what other cultures do when the festive season comes around.

Because Canada sits directly above the United States, it makes sense that many traditions there are similar to ours. People sing Christmas carols, they decorate trees and their children wait eagerly for Santa Claus to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. However, Canada also is home to a tradition known as “mummering”. People participate in this tradition by dressing up in costumes and going up to someone's door in a disguised voice ask, “Are there any Mummers in the night?” The person inside the house must guess who the person (or people) who at the door is. If they guess successfully, the host accepts the mummerers into the house where they make merry and eat sweet treats. But if they fail, the host must join in the mummering fun!

While technically a part of the United States, Hawaii also technically is not (I mean, we're separated by almost 3,000 miles of Ocean). Hawaii often takes on a culture of its own. Before missionaries from the mainland introduced native Hawaiians to Christianity, native Hawaiian people had their own celebration around Christmastime called Makahiki, and it continued for an entire four month period! They would worship the earth, have feasts and games and would not have war with each other. Today, Christmas is celebrated in a more tropical fashion – poinsettias grow wild and free on the island while people get together and have picnics on the beach. They have Hawaiian versions of Christmas carols, such “The 12 Days of Christmas”, and even some of their own, like “Here Comes Santa in a Red Canoe”. By the way, if you're looking for Santa in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, don't look to the sky, but to the sea – Hawaiian children believe that Santa comes in a red canoe pulled by dolphins!

Now we head just south of the American border to Mexico, where people say “Feliz Navidad”, which is Merry Christmas in Spanish. Though some people celebrate Christmas on the 25th like we do, many celebrate from December 12th to January 6th! Between the first day of “Christmas” and the 24th, children partake in Posada, which is the Spanish word of “inn”. Children will go to nine such “inns”, where they are given a candle and a board with clay figurines of Mary riding a donkey and Joseph. They also stop by the houses of friends and neighbors to sing special song about Mary and Joseph being unable to find a suitable place to stay. After being told there is no room for them to stay at many of the houses they visit, they arrive at the house where they are welcomed in. There, they pray, give thanks and have parties with food, games and fireworks.

Instead of calling him Santa Claus, he is referred to as Papai Noel (meaning “Good Old Man”) in Brazil. Brazilian children leave socks on their windows so that “Papai Noel” may leave goodies inside them. During this time of year, Catholic Brazilians attend the Missa do Galo, or Midnight Mass Service, which finishes at 1:00 in the morning! People in Brazil also often attend on Christmas Day.

Did you know that people couldn't even celebrate Christmas in Scotland until the 1950's? It was banned 400 years before because it was deemed to support Romanism. It became an official Scottish holiday in 1958, but it is still generally treated as low-key today in this country. Even still, many a Scottishman (and woman) know how to keep Christmas in their own special way. One such tradition is performed on Christmas Eve is the burning of branches from rowan trees. They burn the branches to represent ill feelings toward friends and loved ones that have been tossed out for this special time of year. Some children in Scotland leave pillowcases out for Santa Claus to fill with goodies instead of stockings.

While Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas in these parts, is a big part of Christmas in Germany, some German children write letters, asking for presents, to “Das Christkind”, or “The Christ Child”. Though the names are similar, Jesus Christ and the German's Christ Child are not the same, as Christ Child is often described as a young girl, and Jesus was definitely male. The Christ Child is said to deliver presents on December 6th, which is also known as Saint Nicholas Day; it is on this day when St. Nicholas is said to visit the homes of children and leave presents behind for them. Father Christmas delivers presents on the 24th of December, just like he does in America.

Everyone knows that Jesus, the true reason for this season, was born in Bethlehem, but have you stopped and wondered how Christmas is celebrated here today? Bethlehem is a busy place to be during the Christmas season because many different denominations and religions – Armenians, Catholics, Ethiopians, Greek Orthodoxes and etc. – celebrate this holiday in different ways throughout the month of December. It makes sense that Bethlehem would have a longer Christmas celebration than most – the festivities begin on the December 25 and ends around the 18th for some denominations. During Christmastime, cities and decorated with lights and other adornment and parades are conducted through the streets; many of these concessions pass by the place where Jesus is believed to have been born.

South Africa
When the word “Christmas” is said, snow, pine trees and winter weather come to mind. But Christmas in South Africa is anything but. Since South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmastime comes around in the summer, where the climate is warm and flowers and other flora is plentiful. As you'll find out if you go to South Africa during Christmastime, many of their Christmas traditions resemble those from the UK because of the historical affiliations between the two countries. In this region of the world, it is common to enjoy the summer weather by camping during the holidays. Instead of Santa Claus, many from South Africa refer to the jolly old man as 'Sinterklaas', like the Dutch do. A favorite Christmas meal consists of either duck, roast beef, turkey, mince pies or suckling pigs with a side of yellow rice, raisins and vegetables.

In Russia, the holidays (Christmas and the New Year) are usually considered to be the time between December 31st and January 10th. On Christmas Eve, Russians like to have a special meal where Sauerkraut is the primary dish. On the side, onion rings, shredded carrots, cumin and cranberries are often served. While Christmas is commonly celebrated in Russia (though on January 7th by most people in this region), it was not always this way. During the time of the Soviet Union, New Years celebrations were more common.

In a place like China, which makes so many of our Christmas products (in addition to just about everything else sold in America), you might be surprised how few people here are familiar with Christmas themes and traditions, especially Christian themes. In fact, Christmas is usually only celebrated in larger cities. One Chinese Christmas tradition that's becoming increasingly well-received is giving apples on Christmas Eve. This is because Christmas Eve is called “Ping An Ye” in the Chinese language, which means “silent night”. “Ping An Ye” sounds similar to the Chinese word for apple, “Ping Guo”.

Did you look forward to escaping school during Christmas break as a kid? Well, Japanese children don't get that privilege – Christmas is not a national holiday here! So businesses and schools are still in operation on the 25th of December. It isn't even usually celebrated to remember Christ's birth here, because most people in this region are not Christian. Instead, Japanese usually see Christmas as a time to spread happiness. A favorite Christmas dessert of the Japanese is a type of Christmas cake – usually a sponge cake that is covered in strawberries and whip cream. During Christmastime, it is common to see young couples strolling through Christmas-decorated cities and towns and exchanging gifts with each other, making it almost like more festive version of Valentine's Day.

Finally, we reach Australia, where Christmas comes during the summertime and just like those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, families cherish being together and home on this day. They also enjoy decorating trees and their yards and gardens with Christmas lights. Each State capital city holds a large Candles by Candlelight services where famous Australian singers are invited to help everyone sing Christmas carols. These services are widely broadcast so that even those who can't be at the services can still enjoy them. As can be expected, having Christmas in the summer doesn't make people want to drink hot chocolate or hot dinner meals. Instead, Aussies prefer to have either a cold Christmas dinner or barbecue a meal. Common favorites are prawns and lobsters, as well as many customary English dishes.

We have traveled around the world to see what people are doing for the most wonderful time of the year. With that said, how do YOU celebrate Christmas?


Disclaimer: The images above are not my own unless otherwise indicated. If you own one of the above images and want it removed, please notify me via my email.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dakotaraptor: Terror of the Hell Creek Forest

Can you believe it? We've only got just over a week till Christmas! I've been busying myself with trying to get all the Christmas movies on my “watch-list” watched and decorating around the house. Have you guys started decorating yet? Or do you prefer to start decorating later in the two nights before Christmas? Let me know in the comments below.

As you might have noticed (if you're a dinosaur nut-case like me, anyway), that 2015 has been a great year for dinosaur-lovers! We've had more fascinating discoveries than you can shake a stick at, lots of dinosaur documentaries were aired, The Good Dinosaur is in theaters now AND last but not least, Jurassic World finally came out in theaters this past summer! I'll cover all the details of our dinosaur-filled 2015 in an upcoming article, but for now, I'd like to highlight one recent discovery that was released to us this past November. But first...

Days Till:
It is: 9 days till Christmas
It is: 16 days till New Year's
It is: 20 days till My Birthday
It is: 33 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the Spotlight:
As I'm sure many of you know, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is coming out this Friday. Unlike Jurassic World, we haven't had to wait 13 years for a sequel, but it should still be a pretty cool movie. I look forward to watching. When you see it, be sure to leave a comment down below and express how you liked the movie. In the meantime, here's the trailer:

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
The newly discovered Dakotaraptor (seen here as a skeleton) is truly an impressive find! (Wikimedia Commons)

The Hell Creek Formation, located in the badlands of Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming, represents a once-thriving ecosystem of the world before the Genesis Flood around 4,350 years ago, when the entire environment was inundated by floodwaters that swept away and buried countless animals and plants and preserved them. Today, the Hell Creek Formation yields a number of the more popular dinosaurs that lived in this environment, such as Triceratops, Ornithomimus and Edmontosaurus. And of course, these dinosaurs were hunted by the most famous dinosaur of all, Tyrannosaurus rex! For almost a century, T. rex was the sole apex predator that dominated the Hell Creek ecosystem, but this soon changed upon the discovery of an all-new dinosaur: a raptor, called Dakotaraptor steini.
The Hell Creek ecosystem would have been a lush, floodplain-like environment. (Wikimedia Commons)

Uncovered in northwestern South Dakota in 2005, Dakotaraptor's discovery is a unique one. Before, the 40-foot long, 7-9 ton T. rex was the only other apex predator found in the region. This seemed strange to paleontologists, because in both modern ecosystems and ecosystems of the pre-Flood world, there are always large, medium and small-sized predators. While T. rex fossils have been found in Hell Creek since the late 1800's (though the dinosaur wasn't officially named until 1905) in relatively great abundance, all scientists knew of other Hell Creek predators came from scattered and broken teeth. No bones, claws or skulls. Just the teeth. It was only in 2013 that these teeth were found to belong to a turkey-sized, recently discovered dromaeosaur called Acheroraptor. Why were there no medium-sized predators in this ecosystem? This all changed in 2015 when paleontologist Robert Depalma, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History, and his research team, and several other paleontologists including Dr. Peter Larson, Dr. Larry Dean Martin, and Dr. Robert Bakker, finished and published their study on October 30th on the raptor leg and arm bones, tail vertebrae, teeth and wishbone unearthed in 2005. They realized they had found a new species of raptor.

Dakotaraptor steini was 16-18 feet long, stood up to nine feet tall and weighed about 500 pounds. (Wikimedia Commons)
 They named the new species of raptor Dakotaraptor steini; the genus name means “Dakotan Plunderer”, in reference to South Dakota, while the species name is a reference to paleontologist Walter W. Stein.

Dakotaraptor was about the size of the raptors in Jurassic World. ("Dakota raptor scale mmartyniuk" by Matthew Martyniuk - Own work)
The word “raptor” is properly used to refer to all members of the dromaeosauridae family. Dromaeosaurs were a family of relatively small predatory dinosaurs found throughout Cretaceous Flood deposits. They come in a wide range of sizes and lived in a vast array of habitats. While most raptors are smaller than a domestic turkey, Utahraptor is by far the largest, weighing up to 1,100 lbs and reaching 23 feet long; however the most famous is undoubtedly the turkey-sized Velociraptor, the intelligent pack-hunting assassin from the Jurassic Park franchise. Dakotaraptor measures in at about six to nine feet tall (depending on body posture) and 16-17 feet from nose to tail, making it about the size of the genetically-engineered, man-sized versions of Velociraptor seen in Jurassic World. This means it was almost the size of its cousin Utahraptor, making it the second-largest raptor we have discovered so far. According to Dr. Thomas Hotlz, “That is what is important about this find. In fact, it was rather bigger than most of us expected, almost the size of the largest known dromaeosaurid, the...Utahraptor.” Like other members of the dromaeosaur family, Dakotaraptor would have possessed dozens of needle-sharp teeth, forward-facing eyes, a long, stiff tail for balance and sharp claws on its hand and feet, things that were essential for an agile predator. Like modern birds, Dakotaraptor (as did other raptors, like Velociraptor) had a wishbone that gave extra strength to its arms. Raptors are famous for having large, sickle-shaped claws on the second toe of each foot, and Dakotaraptor was certainly no exception! Its claw was 9 ½-inches long and unusually large, even for a dromaeosaur. Dr. DePalma described Dakotaraptor as “the most lethal thing you can possibly throw into the Hell Creek ecosystem.”

Dakotaraptor had a huge, sickle-shaped claw on each foot for making devastating wounds in its prey. (Wikimedia Commons)

Evolutionary scientists are especially excited by the discovery of Dakotaraptor because they found tiny bumps that they interpreted to be quill knobs on one of the creature's forearms. In birds, quill knobs are the attachment points for flight feathers. A similar claim was made in 2007 when scientists allegedly identified quill knobs on a Velociraptor forearm. Evolutionists are eager to use evidence like this to try and prove the theory that dinosaurs evolved into bird. There are several problems with this idea, however, many of which we have covered before. In addition to these problems, these bumps are not necessarily quill knobs and may in fact be attachment points, not for feathers, but connective tissues, as evolutionary paleontologist Darren Naish pointed out in his 2010 blog post regarding another theropod called Concavenator. In his blog article, he also brought up the fact that quill knob-like bumps have been found on the bones of mammals too, and mammals clearly do not sprout feathers. This of course doe not mean Dakotaraptor and other dinosaurs like it weren't feathered; the concept of feathered dinosaurs is not unbiblical, though it is unscientific until actual dinosaurs, with actual feathers are discovered. They would merely be dinosaurs that God created with feathers, like He created all the other land animals on Day 6 as described in Genesis chapter 1.

Was Dakotaraptor a feathered dinosaur? While feathered dinosaurs aren't unbiblical, there is not enough evidence to support this claim. (Wikimedia Commons)
As I mentioned earlier, ecosystems, both modern and extinct, generally have predators that come in small, medium and large sizes. Dakotaraptor helps paleontologists fill in the ecological gap between smaller predators from Hell Creek (e.g. recall Acheroraptor, known only from isolated teeth and pieces of the skull) and the monstrous Tyrannosaurus. Did Dakotaraptor fight with T. rex for food? Perhaps on occasion, but they probably more often gave each other their space and specialized in eating certain species of herbivorous dinosaurs. This is the case in modern ecosystems. What would have been on the menu? Well, Dakotaraptor had many species to choose from, such as the duck-billed Edmontosaurus and the three-horned Triceratops. They could have also hunted down faster dinosaurs, such as Ornithomimus and Struthiomimus, creatures adult T. rex were too slow to catch.

Perhaps Dakotaraptor fought with juvenile T. rex for food. (Wikimedia Commons)
Even though Dakotaraptor looked an awful lot like its cousin Utahraptor, there were plenty of differences between the two which would have affected how the dinosaurs hunted prey. At around 1,000 pounds, Utahraptor was more heavily-built; it probably had a top speed of about 20-30 mph. While no doubt quick and agile, it didn't need to be especially fast because it was more specialized for taking down larger animals. It would probably lie in ambush until it was close enough to the prey to strike and take down the prey relatively quickly. Dakotaraptor was different; it was a much more lightly-built animal, weighing about 500 pounds, akin to its smaller relatives like Deinonychus and Dromaeosaurus. It was likely an attack-and-dash kind of hunter and was probably capable of running after prey at 30-40 mph, making it more of a long-distance runner; this would come in handy if it chose to chase down an ornithomimid. Many paleontologists believe that Dakotaraptor would have hunted in packs, enabling them to bring down animals far larger than themselves. Evidence for this idea comes from fossil sites holding several individual dromaeosaur skeletons near an herbivorous ornithopod that bears the bite marks and broken teeth in and around the herbivore's bones, and fossil trackways that were made all at the same time by a small group of dromaeosaurs. Then, when Dakotaraptor reached its prey, it would attack with its claws and teeth. That nine-inch sickle-claw on each foot could slice deadly lacerations into the sides of Dakotaraptor's prey. “It had one of the strongest killing strokes in that slashing claw of any raptor known,” DePalma boasted. I don't know if I'd like to be present when a pack of these raptors attacked and mercilessly brought down a hapless hadrosaur!

Dakotaraptor was a lethal predator! (Wikimedia Commons)
Fast. Agile. Aggressive. Relatively intelligent. Lethal. Pack-hunting. Dakotaraptor – the new kid in T. rex's neighborhood – was one of the most deadly predators to roam the Hell Creek forests and floodplains more than 4,350 years ago.

Dakotaraptor was one of the most deadly predators ever to roam the Hell Creek ecosystem. (Wikimedia Commons)

Disclaimer: The images above are not my own unless otherwise indicated. If you own one of the above images and want it removed, please notify me via my email.

Jurassic Fight Club: ep. 8 Raptor's Last Stand

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rerun Article: What is YOUR Focus This Christmas?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Christmas time is my favorite time of year, no doubt! I love everything from the lights, to the candles, caroling and music, festive-ness (is that even a word?) and, most of all, I love celebrating the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ! What more could you ask for at such a time of year as this?

Days till:
It is: 13 days till Winter Solstice
It is: 16 days till Christmas
It is: 23 days till 2016
It is: 27 days till My Birthday
It is: 40 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the Spotlight:
You guys must have known this is coming! Today, I have decided to share some of my favorite Christmas music. Have you heard of the new band The Girl and the Dreamcatcher? The band consists of actress Dove Cameron and her boyfriend Ryan Mccarten. I'm telling ya, these two are such a cute couple! I mean...if you don't believe me, see for yourself:

Dove Cameron and Ryan Mccarten are the bomb! (Credit)
Anyway, so The Girl and the Dreamcatcher recently released two songs, which can be seen below. My favorite of the two is the latter, but they are both awesome:

See what I mean? Cute couple, aren't they?

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Christmas came last year, and it’s already coming back! You know what’s interesting? When you ask a lot of people what Christmas is all about, many people including non-Christians could say something like: “Jesus Christ is the reason for the season!” And this is very, very true, as Christmas is Jesus’ birthday (at least, that's when it's celebrated). But that leads us to a very personal question: “What do we do for Jesus’ birthday?” If we were honest, most of us would probably say that we’re either visiting family members and/or giving gifts. But what do we do for Jesus HIMSELF for His birthday?

Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but if we were honest, many of us would say that we don’t really do much for Jesus on His birthday. Now technically, we don’t know the exact date Jesus was born on, but we celebrate it on December 25th. So why don’t we really do anything special for His birthday? Perhaps it’s because we’re too focused on ourselves and each other!

While the giving of gifts to each other is not bad in and of itself, we really should be focused on the One who’s birthday it is. This may seem weird to some, but let’s make this a little more applicable – say your birthday falls on May 1st, the same as celebrity Jamie Brinton. Now, let’s just say that instead of celebrating your birthday, you celebrate Jamie’s birthday and yet you hardly know the guy (and that’s saying something because a celebrity by the name of Jamie Brinton doesn’t exist, but you get the picture, right?)! That wouldn’t feel very good for you, would it? Well, this is sort of what we do with Jesus. We do things for each other, when it's not even our birthday.

Granted, gift-giving, Santa Claus and other things we typically associate with Christmas aren't bad, but we should be primarily focusing on Jesus Christ this time of year.
This year, I'd like to challenge everyone to do something different. That's why my family and I recently produced a Christmas play entitled, "Meet the Cheatham's". The goal of the production was to get people to stop and think what or who they were focusing on this time of year, whether it be presents, decorating, Santa Claus or Jesus Christ. In the play, my family portrays a wealthy family known as the Cheatham's; their only concern is to use the Christmas season to make more and more money . . . until they decide to go to church, intending to make a profit. I don't want to give the ending away, so I won't describe anymore of the plot.

Now don't get me wrong, I totally enjoy Christmas decorating, giving and receiving gifts, Santa Claus and many other Christmas traditions; these aren't bad. They just shouldn't be the focus of the Christmas season.

So I'd like to encourage you readers, this Christmas and the Christmases to follow, to use Christmas to actually put Jesus as the center of attention at His birthday! The changes you make, whether big or small, still make a difference - for some it might be gift-giving on another day instead of December 25 (like my family is doing), or doing a Bible devotion on the true-meaning of Christmas before opening presents. Instead of focusing on ourselves this Christmas, let's focus on Jesus and also give Him what He wants for His birthday. What does He want? All He wants is us; He wants our time and attention given to Him on Christmas, since it is His birthday and all.

My family has decided to dedicate this day to the Lord. Now let me leave you today with the following question: what's YOUR focus this Christmas season?

Jesus Christ should be the main focus of Christmas for us, because only HE is what Christmas is all about!

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 my email address.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Catch Up To Media

Hi, guys! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! It's December, and while I have successfully reached 50,000 words for my Nanowrimo novel so far, the novel itself is not complete. So while I work on that, I obviously cannot write new blog articles like I normally do if I want to finish it before January, which is my goal. So today, I decided to focus on the media, because some cool stuff has actually come to my attention over the past week or two that's really interesting. So let's start with:

Days till:
It is: 20 days till Winter Solstice
It is: 23 days till Christmas
It is: 30 days till 2016
It is: 34 days till My Birthday
It is: 47 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the Spotlight:
So, first off, we were at the theater buying tickets for The Good Dinosaur, when we saw this trailer playing:

It's awesome! Am I right? I love the original Jungle Book film (I have yet to read the book), so it is nice to see a proper remake. If you spotted the giant ape King Louis in this trailer, you might think that it is an over-sized orangutan. Nope! It is actually Gigantopithecus, a now-extinct species of ape larger than the modern gorilla. It was the biggest ape that ever existed, and if it were to stand on two legs, it would stand ten feet tall! Needless to say, I love when movies slip in little-known extinct species like this. The only other time I have seen Gigantopithecus in a movie was in Ice Age: Continental Drift; Captain Gutt belonged to the Gigantopithecus genus. Also, I can't help but say that I love the special effects for this film. I cannot wait for it to come out!

Dakotaraptor was a walking nightmare!
Also, during the month of November, the discovery of a brand new species of dromaeosaur (raptor) was announced. Hailing from South Dakota's Hell Creek Formation, the creature has been aptly-named Dakotaraptor. This raptor's discovery is really awesome because it is only the second raptor to have been found in the Hell Creek Formation, and it is huge compared to most of its kin. Dakotaraptor was approximately 16 feet long, six feet tall and weighed 500 lbs, making it about the size of the genetically-altered Velociraptors of Jurassic Park/World fame. It also was endowed with a nine-inch sickle-shaped claw that was perfect for disemboweling prey! Expect an article on this raptor very soon!

That's all for now, folks! Enjoy this Christmas season that has just begun!

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 my email address.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rerun Article: The Gobbling Turkey - More than a Thanksgiving Food

Well, November is almost over and I am still trying hard to finish my 50,000-word novel on time. So far, I have reached about 36,468 words. Yet, I am only about halfway through the story! It will likely be much longer than 50,000 words. Lord willing, I will at least get 50,000 done on time!

What do you know, Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Don't you just love this time of year? If not, you should. So let's get started with:

Days till:
It is: 2 days till The Good Dinosaur's theatrical release!
It is: 3 days till Thanksgiving
It is: 31 days till Christmas

In the Spotlight:
Pixar has been at it for years - rumors of this company making a dinosaur movie have been around since Up. The Good Dinosaur is that movie and it is finally coming to life! So naturally, since it is coming out in theaters in a measly two days, here is a new TV spot for the film!

And in addition to that, I have also found some fossilized clips from the movie itself:

Remind me never to mess with Butch! That guy's tough! Those raptors are pretty nasty too, I can't wait to see them in the movie.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Thanksgiving is normally a time of giving thanks and eating. There's one meal item that just about everyone eats; I'm talking about, a bird loved by millions – Meleagris gallopavo, otherwise known as the turkey. This bird is a common species that is found all over the United States. When my family was living in North Carolina, Vermont and New York (yeah, my family's lived a lot of places in my time), we often saw flocks of these birds on their search for food, often just outside out house. Despite the popularity of the turkey, many myths have been made up about these birds and a lot of people don't know much about these birds except the fact that it tastes really good. So let's learn more about America's favorite bird! (Next to the bald eagle, perhaps).

The is often thought of as just Thanksgiving dinner. But there's so much about the turkey that most people don't know. Read on to learn more about the turkey!
The turkey (also known as the wild turkey) is in the Phasianid family, which also contains chickens, pheasants, partridges, junglefowls, quails and peacocks. All these birds are probably in same baramin, also called a “created kind” – one of the original created kinds of animals God made. Being a bird, God created the first member of the Phasianid family on Day 5 of the Creation week recorded in Genesis chapter one (remember that it says “every winged fowl”). It might also be handy to know that the domestic turkey is a descendant of their wild ancestors. However, we're mainly going to talk about the wild turkey today. There's a lot more to these simple-looking birds than what meets the eye. (For instance, did you know that it's a myth that turkeys hold their heads up when its raining so that they drown?) So what makes a turkey a turkey?

Turkeys are known for their characteristic red and/or bluish heads and the fleshy growth on their beaks, known as a "snood".
Well, to start it off, the turkey has a long legs, a feathery body, a relatively small head and beak and, on males, one of the most noticeable features – that fleshy growth on a male turkey's (or tom's) beak. That “fleshy growth” is called a snood. A tom gets up to 49 inches long and weighs 11-24 pounds. A female turkey, also called a hen, stretches 30-37 inches long and weighs 5.5-12 pounds. Toms and hens have quite a few differences between each other. As you might have guessed based on the size and weight estimates mentioned above, toms are larger than hens. Toms are also the only ones to have a snood. The turkey also has the second heaviest weight of any North American bird. Did you know that turkeys also have the amazing ability to change the color of their skin according to their mood? For instance, if the head and neck are rather white, that means that the turkey is excited. The color of a turkey's skin can range from brilliant shades of red, blue and white.

The reddish-brown color represents where wild turkeys live.
Domestic turkey's are plump birds and can't fly. Wild turkeys, however, are agile fliers. Another interesting fact you might not have known about these birds is that they're omnivores, eating a variety of things they find on the ground. Some foods they eat are nuts, seeds, berries, roots, grasses and insects. Sometimes turkeys have been known to consume amphibians and small reptiles (e.g. lizards and snakes)! That's what I call a varied diet! If you want to watch wild turkeys feeding, the best time to be on the lookout for them would be early in the morning or in the late afternoon because these are their favorite times to feed. Turkeys sometimes can be found alone, but they are generally social birds, roaming their range in relatively small flocks.

This flock of both toms and hens is foraging.
Turkeys are one of many species of animals that are polygamous. This is a fancy term that means one male will mate with as many hens as they can. Turkey courtship starts in March and April and this is when toms like to strut their stuff . . . literally! When trying to attract hens, a male turkey will puff out their feathers, drag their wings and, much like a peacock, they'll fan out their tail feathers. This sort of behavior is also known as strutting. After mating season is over, it is time for hens to build and nest and lay the next generation of turkeys. Normally laying 10-14 eggs over a period of 10-14 days (they most often lay one egg per day) in a shallow depression in the dirt covered in woody vegetation, the eggs take at least 28 days to hatch. Soon, it's time for the eggs to hatch! Baby turkey's are called poults, and even though they can leave the nest 12-24 hours after hatching, they'll continue to follow their mother around for four to five months as they mature.

In this photo, we can see a mother turkey with her poults. Aren't they cute?
It's a plain fact – turkeys are found delectable to many different species of animals at just about every stage of life! Poults and eggs are often picked off by opposums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, birds of prey, groundhogs (unbelievable, right?), other rodents and snakes . . . and those are just predators of the young! Predators of both young and adult turkeys include coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, eagles, great horned owls, domestic dogs and (especially in the fall) humans! Humans are actually the top predators of these large birds; so much so that we've domesticated these birds to meet the demand. When faced with danger, most turkeys will run away rather than fly (though they'll fly at times for short distances), but when push comes to shove, turkeys can defend themselves. Large toms especially can be extremely aggressive toward predators; when faced with danger, they can fight with the spurs on the back of their legs, bite with their beaks and bump their large bodies against predators. Many small to mid-sized mammals are deterred by a turkey's defense methods. So long as a human doesn't have a gun, a large turkey will also occasionally fight off a human being, especially where natural habitats are rare. So if you see turkeys in the wild, it's best to give them space and let them forage, undisturbed.

The turkey really is an amazing bird!
The turkey is quite a survivor. And for good reason – they're smarter, have more complex behavior than we give them credit for and can even put up a good fight at times. So this Thanksgiving, instead of merely thinking of the main course of your Thanksgiving's Day meal as good food, but think of it as the amazing, un-dumb and beautifully designed bird God created it to be!
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.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rerun Article: The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, so I have prepared a nice little rerun article on the topic, in addition to some really cool media news.

Days till:
It is: 10 days till Thanksgiving
It is: 9 days till The Good Dinosaur's release
It is: 39 days till Christmas
It is: 46 days till 2016

In the Spotlight:
So I was on YouTube late one night and clicked on a video. Then this ad came up. Usually I hate ads, especially long ones. But this one was different. I saw the Pixar logo and thought "Oh, it must be another add for The Good Dinosaur". But then I saw a very familiar-looking anemone, and then a very familiar blue tang fish, and then an extremely familiar pair of clownfish! A trailer for the Blu-ray release of Finding Nemo? Nope! That came out ages ago! Yes, you guessed it: Finding Dory! Check it out below:

So excited! I have got to see this when it comes out. This movie has been in the works for years, so it's nice to see that Pixar is finally giving us a sequel to a movie we all loved as children (and still love even though we're definitely not children).

After being astounded by the Finding Dory trailer, I thought, "I wonder what other movie trailers are out now." So I looked up Ice Age: Collision Course and BOOM! A short! See it below:

Scrat causes the most amount of trouble, doesn't he? That just goes to show you that materialism doesn't only have bad consequences for you, but also those around you. Especially if you are a small, furry, nut-crazed saber-toothed squirrel living during the Ice Age.

By the way, speaking of Ice Age movies, did you know that Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, did not used to be a real animal? The first Ice Age film completely made up this creature. But in 2011, scientists announced finding a creature that looks almost exactly like Scrat, called Cronopio. Read more about that here: Cronopio.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Hey readers! The first thanksgiving may be a surprise to you! You've already imagined the feast with corn and turkeys because that's what really happened, right? Not! For starters, when the pilgrims invited the Indians . . . oops! My bad! The pilgrims didn't exactly invite Indians. This is a common misunderstanding made by many. In fact, Indians lived many thousands of miles away in Asia. The correct term for the "Indians" the pilgrims invited to the feast is actually Native Americans. Did you know that turkey may have not been served at the first Thanksgiving; corn on the cob and pumpkin pie weren't included on their menu either! The only foods we know were present at the First Thanksgiving were wildfowl (not specifically turkey; it is more likely they ate goose or duck), corn in the form of bread or porridge, various kinds of seafood and deer. We also know they didn't eat with forks. Why? Because forks weren't even invented yet! What other myths have we learned about Thanksgiving that are just plain incorrect? Read on to find out!

This is how the First Thanksgiving is normally depicted, but the real one was anything but! Continue reading to learn what the real First Thanksgiving was like!
Get this, the pilgrims did not even have a Thanksgiving feast the next year. The next Thanksgiving celebration was a hundred years later. It was to celebrate their victory of the Native Americans. Imagine that! They could very well have been celebrating over the feat of the very Native Americans who had attended their feast the first time! Thanksgiving is not all that we thought it was.

Turkey - a staple Thanksgiving delight - probably wasn't served at the First Thanksgiving! Neither were potatoes, pie, pears or cranberries . . . go figure!
However, after many years, it has changed into the perfect holiday for this time of year. A time where both family, friends - and even enemies - find time to gather together and remember all the things they are thankful for. This holiday is now a time of sharing and gratefulness; greed barely takes place here. So, what are you thankful for?
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 my email address.