Spinosaurus is without a doubt one of the most iconic and badass dinosaurs that ever roamed the planet. It’s research history, however, has been complicated to see the least. Some of the original material of this species was lost or destroyed during World War II, and newer specimens discovered since come from questionable sources without detailed information regarding where they were collected from. This makes it one of the more heavily debated dinosaur species, which is not helped by its fearsome public image!
Fantastic new artwork of Spinosaurus by Sergey Krasovskiy
Happy New Year everyone! It’s that time of year when all the summaries of an amazing year of research are coming out, and goodness, what a year it’s been! The folk over at Altmetric have been kind enough to summarise the top 100 articles of 2015, measured by their altmetrics scores – a measure of the social media chatter around articles. All the data are available on Figshare, and here I just wanted to highlight the palaeontology stories that stood out in the media this year according to the list.
For those who haven’t seen, recently a new ‘giant raptor from Hell’ was discovered! As a cousin to the infamous Velociraptor, it represents one of the largest members of the group known as Dromaeosauridae, which were the close relatives of early birds. The new giant raptor lived alongside other beasties like T. rex and comes from the latest Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, where it would have been a mid-tier ambush predator. It comes fully equipped with the largest ‘sickle’ claws currently known from these guys, making it one helluva lethal killing machine. Perhaps most importantly, the new species, named Dakotaraptor is the largest known ‘raptor’ that possesses unequivocal evidence of a ‘true’ wing formed from feathers. Anyway, being a greedy little grad student, I wrote about the story for Discover Magazine and also for EarthTouch, so take your pick!
Beautiful reconstruction of Dakotaraptor by Emily Willoughby
It rises from the dark waters like some behemoth from the deep, and lets out a blood-curdling roar. It’s feeding time. One of the most iconic scenes from Jurassic Park III is where the long-snouted, sail-backed giant theropod dinosaur Spinosaurus emerges from underwater to try, yet again, to eat our beleaguered rabble of misfortunates. It’s always been the way these dinosaurs have been portrayed, including one of Spinosaurus’ close cousins Baryonyx from the UK. With their long snouts, bulbous tips, and pointy teeth, it’s often been thought that spinosaurid dinosaurs were quite a lot like modern crocodiles. But how much of this is true?
For some time now, there has been much debate about whether our beloved dinosaur, Triceratops, is a distinct species, or a younger version of a bigger ceratopsian, Torosaurus – the great Toroceratops’ debate. Proponents of both sides of the argument have made detailed quantitative and qualitative points, and there doesn’t really seem to have been any resolution. Check out the video below for a great discussion of the issues, or this link or this link.