Friday, November 16, 2018

Thanos Deserves Better

Thanos, the Mad Titan, disappointed with his namesake.
A new dinosaur was published today in Historical Biology: Thanos simonattoi, named after Sergio Simonatto, who discovered the specimen, but more visibly Thanos, the Marvel villain. It might not shock you to known that Rafael Delcourt's name is on this paper. A few months ago, he gave us the Etrigansauria, an unnecessary name that has designs on replacing the perfectly-good Neoceratosauria. Delcourt & Vidoi lori (2018) identify Thanos as an abelisaurid close to Brachyrostra. This all seems fine until you see the holotype:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

They Might Be Giants

Ingentia prima by Jorge Gonzalez
Two recent news stories perked my interest recently—the descriptions of two new non-sauropod sauropodomorphs: Ingentia prima from the Late Triassic of Argentina and Ledumahadi mafube from the Early Jurassic of South Africa. Together, these animals (and two others which I’ll get to) form a clade of non-sauropod sauropodomorphs that achieved gigantism independently from true, blue sauropods, which is intriguing for a number of reasons.

Friday, September 7, 2018

An Update on Stem Turtles

The beaky noggin of Eorhynchochelys by...IVPP?

Couple things I need to talk about. First, it's been a very long time since I've blogged, which was not my intention (it never is). I hit a rough patch of writer's block, which was followed up by a 9-day stint at the hospital where I got a CF-related tune-up. Taxonomy Tuesday is not proving to be the rich well of inspiration I was hoping for, so while I still intend to write up Taxonomy Tuesdays, they almost certainly won't be weekly. Now then, right before I was admitted, I wrote this short post about a new stem turtle. I wrote about turtle origins way back in 2015 and I'm always excited when a new one pops up. Thankfully, in addition to this post, I'm halfway through essays about mesosaurs and tanystropheids, so regular blogging will commence soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Taxonomy Tuesday: Hyenas Are Not Dogs

The spotted,  or "laughing" hyena
Yes, I know it's Thursday. I got busy mid-week. Today's #TaxonomyTuesday is about hyenas, which, contrary to popular belief, are not related to dogs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Taxonomy Tuesday: Snakes are lizards

I'm trying something new in an effort to post more often then once a month.

Once a week, on "Taxonomy Tuesday," I'll write a short post about some taxonomic weirdness that people might not think about. On this maiden voyage of "Taxonomy Tuesday," we'll talk about snakes...which are lizards.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We Can't Have Nice Things

Sinoceratops vs. Carnotaurus
Against all better judgement, I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom last night. It was terrible. Until last night, I’d never seen a movie that didn’t have a single original idea—Jurassic World 2 is a mish-mash of previous Jurassic Park/World concepts thrown into a blender and pureed. While there will be massive spoilers in this review, I kind of agree with John Conway that Jurassic World 2 is almost incapable of spoilers because you’ve seen this movie before. In fact, if you’ve seen the trailers, you know everything that happens; there are no surprises.

And away we go...

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.