Thursday, June 7, 2018

Faux Theropods

The skeleton of Effigia
Bit of a shorter post this month, as I'm prepping a photo-heavy review of the Creative Beast raptor toys that I just received. This month I’ve decided to tackle one of my absolute favorite groups of Triassic weirdos: shuvosaurids! They are a fairly obscure clade outside of paleo circles, consisting of only three (used to be four) named genera but shuvosaurids should be poster children for the concept of convergent evolution. These things are pseudosuchian theropod mimics, and not just theropods but ornithomimosaurs. Ostrich dinosaurs in the Triassic...but suchians!

Monday, May 14, 2018

One More Strange Reptile


Remember my post from last year about azendohsaurs and trilophosaurs? Well just the other day, paleoartist extraordinaire Gabriel Ugueto posted a sketch of something called Teraterpeton. I had no idea what this zany-looking reptile was, so I looked it up and was flabbergasted to find that it's a trilophosaur that is quite unlike Trilophosaurus. You'll notice that I did mention Teraterpeton in passing in that post, which must mean I didn't think it was a trilophosaur or at least was not unambiguously a trilophosaur. Turns out I'm incorrect--Teraterpeton is a perfectly good trilophosaur, and therefore an allokotosaur!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Adorable Triassic Pseudosuchians

Erpetosuchus sp. from North America
Erpetosuchids are one of those groups that I saw reference to somewhere, filed it away in the recesses of my brain, and didn’t remember again until I read the new paper by Nesbitt et al. (2018) about the brain and endocast of Parringtonia gracilis. There’s a gorgeous skeletal restoration on page 124 and that skull looked awfully familiar to me. Oh yes, it looks a whole lot like the skull of Erpetosuchus grandi, a taxon I first read about thanks to Benton & Walker (2002) probably a decade ago. With a little more digging, I found that the Erpetosuchidae is a small but charismatic family of mid-sized pseudosuchians with unusual dentition and surprisingly croc-like armor. This is one of those small, obscure groups of Triassic hellasaurs that I like to put in the spotlight, if even briefly.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Camptosaurus Challenge


Camptosaurus dispar skeletal by Scott Hartman
If any of you dear readers follow me on Twitter (@zmiller1902) or any of my blogger colleagues (there’s a handy list at the bottom of this post) you’ve probably seen at least a few entries in the hashtag Camptosaurus challenge. For the deets, check out David Orr’s two posts on this very topic and the deluge of paleoart that it inspired. You’ll see that I have two rather terrible entries—both were rush jobs—but I was determined to put something respectable together last night and I’m pretty happy with the result:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lesser-Known Running Lizards (minor update at the end)


by Jaime Headden, from Wikipedia
In the last post, I briefly mentioned a group of dromaeosaurs called unenlagiines. This is still a rather obscure group, especially to the general public, so I wanted to give these South American dromaeosaurs some much-deserved time in the spotlight.

This is a small group—only three (but possibly four or five) genera have been named. They are atypical dromaeosaurs for a number of reasons, foremost among them the elongate, narrow snout packed with minute teeth which lack serrations. While most appear to have been small, one of them was one of the largest dromaeosaurs, approaching Achillobater and Utahraptor in terms of overall size.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nearly Birds

Adorable Serikornis sungei by Emily Willoughby
Something I really enjoy about paleontology is how quickly things can change. For example, when I was growing up, Dromaeosauridae was confined to half a dozen genera from two continents. If you wanted a complete list, you could check out Raptors: The Nastiest Dinosaurs from your local library. Now, though, Dromaeosauridae is more like Dromaeosauriformes because there are something like five distinct groups now: Halszkaraptorinae, Unenlaginae, Microraptorinae, Dromaeosaurinae and Velociraptorinae (those last two are usually stuck together in a monophyletic Eudromaeosauria). It used to be that dromaeosaurs came in two flavors: large and small. Now you’ve got swan-necked, duck-billed dromaeosaurs; piscivorous, leggy dromaeosaurs; tiny, potentially volant dromaeosaurs; and larger “classic” predatory dromaeosaurs.

All this has happened in the last twenty years. Heck, nobody knew about Halszkaraptor until a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Chilesaurus and Avian Arm Folding

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi by the impeccable Jaime Headden
Ever since the publication of supreme oddball Chilesaurus (eat your heart out, Halszkaraptor), I’ve been dying for somebody out there to do a full description of the critter’s unusual skeleton. As Chilesaurus may hold the key to our understanding of early ornithischians (or not), this is an animal in dire need of detailed study. This past Sunday, a paper was published in a journal that I can’t pronounce—Ameghiniana—and it is not that description. However, it is very interesting, and since I imagine many of you don’t have access to, uh, Ameg-HEE-ana (?), I thought I might summarize the juicy parts here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An Aelurodon of My Own

Aelurodon ferox chasing Neohipparion, by Mauricio Anton
You know, I never blogged about my SVP 2017 experience, more out of sloth than anything else. I can wrap up my thoughts with this sentence: it was fun but very lonely. For me, perhaps the most enjoyable part of the conference was the silent auction. I should have stayed for the following “real” auction because photos posted to social media afterward made it look insane, but I had a bunch of meds to do and an early start the next morning. I bid on several items in the silent auction, most of them 3D prints of interesting fossils, but I was quickly outbid past my own point of comfort for most of them. However, I was able to secure this nifty specimen:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Peg Teeth


I’m in the midst of drafting (for the third time) an upcoming post about Drepanosaurus and Avicranium but I doubt they’ll be done by the end of the month. However, I wanted to get something up on this darn blog because I'd like to maintain the illusion of being loyal to my seven or eight readers. So I’m going to briefly discuss something strange about ceratopsians that nobody ever seems to comment on: the weird peg teeth of basal neoceratopsians.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Very Specific Strange Reptiles

Azendohsaurus madagaskarensis by Matt Celeskey.
The term "strange reptiles" could apply to just about every animal I've ever written about on this blog, so you'll forgive me for not loving the name Allokotosauria, an up-and-coming group that was formalized in 2015. The name really says nothing about its members, the similarly newly-minted Azendohsauridae and the longstanding Trilophosauridae. These are archosauromorphs that sit well outside of the Ornithodira-Crurotarsi divide, and are instead related to such eclectic animals as rhynchosaurs and protorosaurs. As I suspect my readers have at least heard of Trilophosaurus, I'll start this essay by discussing Azendohsaurus.