Author Archive

Know Your Bones: November 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:31 pm by he_who_is_nobody

I have to say, I am surprised it took so long for anyone to take a stab at guessing this iconic fossil. By the trepidation of our winner and the following guesser, perhaps the readership of this blog finds me to be a trickster. With that said what critter once owned the skull from last month’s challenge?

 

Something tells me this is too easy to be correct.

 

Nope WarK, I was not trying to trick anyone. This critter is indeed the tyrant king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex.

 

 photo IMAG0555_zpsa92a2380.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

T. rex lived during the late Cretaceous 68 to 65 million years ago; it also happened to be one of the last non-avian dinosaurs that we know about. It ranged across western North America, with its fossils (mostly teeth) found from Alaska down to Mexico. T. rex could grow as large as ~4 meters at the hip, 43 meters long and weigh between 5.5 to 6.8 tons. This makes T. rex one of the largest predatory dinosaurs and one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth. Full-grown animals had a skull ~1.5 meters in length. The teeth of T. rex ranged from 30 cm long (including the root) to 13 cm long (including the root) in adults. The teeth would have been continuously replaced during life and were re-curved with ridges on the surface. T. rex famously has small arms (about the length of an adult human’s arm) with only two fingers. However, the arms appear very muscular, leading paleontologists to speculate that the arm could have been used for something (e.g. assisting in lifting the animal up when it sat down) instead of just a vestigial structure.

 

 photo 2013-10-04111227_zps27b761c7.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Over 30 specimens of T. rex have been discovered to date, making T. rex a very well studied dinosaur. T. rex is a theropod, but within that clade, it is closer in relation to dromaeosaurs than it is to other giant carnivores, such as Allosaurus. Because of this, and fossil finds of earlier relatives, it is possible that T. rex could have had feathers. However, a few skin impressions has only shown scales, which leads some to speculate that  T. rex could have had full body feathering as a hatchling, but later sparse to no feathering as an adult due to its large size.

 

 photo 2015-10-30 09.59.06_zpsabkivlad.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Two possible footprints have been found of T. rex, one of which was found in New Mexico. It measures 83 cm by 71 cm and possesses a “heel” print plus the print of the dewclaw-like forth digit found on the feet of T. rex. T. rex is also famous for being the first dinosaur found with soft tissue associated with it. In 2005, Dr. Mary Schweitzer published her discovery of it, since than several more finds have been made of soft tissue. Dr. Schweitzer and others have found trace soft tissues, and when they are analyzed and compared to living organisms, it shows that T. rex’s closest living relatives are birds. These findings align with the conclusions paleontologists were making for decades based on morphology.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo Dayatthemuseum015_zps0c57051f.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck to all that play.

Know Your Bones: October 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:26 am by he_who_is_nobody

There were only two guesses for last month’s challenge, both correct, but one being more correct. I have a feeling that the reason only two people guessed is because this one was such an easy specimen. So, who won, who was the more correct of the two?

 

Camarasaurus

 

It turned out to be WarK, because the other guesser gave the wrong species name. The critter from last month is Camarasaurus supremus.

 

 photo 2014-01-10111738_zps5a90e232.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Camarasaurus lived during the late Jurassic 155 to 145 million years ago. It ranged across most of North America and is an extremely common dinosaur in the Morrison Formation. Camarasaurus had an average length of 18 meters and weighed up to 18 tons. Remarkably, several complete skeletons of Camarasaurus have been discovered in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Based on their fossil abundance it is assumed that they roamed around North America in large numbers during the late Jurassic and may have had one of the largest populations of sauropods, if not dinosaurs, known thus far.

 

Camarasaurus means “chambered lizard;” it most likely got this name from the hollow bones that make up much of the vertebra or the many fenestrae found on the skull. Camarasaurus had chisels shaped teeth that were 19 cm long. The shape of the teeth and strength of the skull suggest that Camarasaurus specialized in eating coarser plant matter. This is different from other sauropods, thus Camarasaurus most likely inhabited a different environment then its cousins that also lived during this time. Camarasaurus remains are found together in a lot of sites, suggesting that they lived and died in herds.

 

Moving on to this month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-10-18105402_zps59c3c2eb.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Here we have a terrifying critter, which is appropriate for this month. Thanks for playing and good luck.

Know Your Bones: September 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Wed Sep 09, 2015 6:16 am by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge led to some great guesses early on. However, the win goes to two of the later commenters. Last month, I was not looking for a specific species, but the name of the group, which makes our first winner Dragan Glas.

 

Ammonites

 

The critters are indeed ammonites (Ammonoidea). However, a minute before Dragan Glas’s guess, red also made a correct guess:

 

Perhaps otherwise – Coilopocerus nova mexicanus

 

The specimen labeled number 3 is a Coilopoceras springeri. The species is incorrect, but being able to nail down a specimen to a genus level from just a single photo is amazing. Specimen number 1 is Romanicera mexicanum and specimen number 2 is Spathites puercoensis.

 

 photo 2015-07-24 13.42.37_zpszpxyqnxe.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Ammonites lived from the middle Devonian until the end of the Cretaceous giving them a temporal range of 400 to 66 million years ago. Ammonites are a common fossil in Paleozoic and Mesozoic marine deposits across the world. These critters would have made up a huge amount of the biodiversity of any sea during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Most species of ammonites have the spiral shape seen by the three species from last month’s challenge, a few others had spirals that resemble the modern nautilus, others had straight cone shaped shells, and still others had fancy shaped shells (heteromorphs). However, some of the spiral shape shelled ammonites could grow some fancy spikes to ornate their shells as well.

 

Ammonites make great index fossils, because they speciated quickly and distinctly. Thus, identifying a species (or group of species) of ammonite can actually pin down the date of a location. Ammonites can range in size from as small as 23 cm to ~2 meters in diameter. Although ammonite shells are very common, the soft bits of their body are not and very little is known about it. However, ammonites are believed to be carnivorous (like most swimming cephalopods), had a beak, and perhaps ten arms. Ammonites survived a few mass extinction events, including the end Permian extinction (the Great Dying), but finally went extinct during the K-Pg event that also took the non-avian dinosaurs.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-11-12150430_zps94e1d4e0.jpg
(Taken at the Dinosaur Museum and Natural Science Laboratory)

 

Thanks to everyone that is playing and I am hoping to read some more great guesses this month.

Know Your Bones: August 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:55 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge sparked a great discussion about the fenestrae found on the skull of some dinosaurs. By the end of it, we had come up with two or three different projects for Isotelus to work on. The discussion was so involved that only one person guessed on the actual challenge.

 

PS The dinosaur in this month’s challenge is Allosaurus. As you said, it was easy! :D

 

Dragan Glas is correct; this critter is Allosaurus.

 

 photo 2014-01-10111750_zps802d443e.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Allosaurus fragilis lived during the late Jurassic from 155 to 145 million years ago. The average length of an Allosaurus was 8.5 meters (however, some fragmentary remains have been interpreted as being ~12 meters) and weighed in at ~2.3 tons. Allosaurus possessed a large skull ~84 cm in length, which was lightly built, with ~20 pairs of teeth on both the top and bottom jaw. The teeth of Allosaurus were constantly being replaced throughout the life of the animal, making their teeth very common fossils. The skull also had a pair of small horns above the eye. The purpose of the horns is unknown, but could be related to display, combat against other Allosaurus, or just keeping the sun out of the eye of the animal. Allosaurus possessed short (for its size) forearms that had three fingers, which had strong, large curved claws. The forearms were very powerful and most likely used for hunting.

 

Allosaurus was one of the largest predators of the Jurassic and would have prayed upon a number of different dinosaurs. Allosaurus is one of the best-understood theropods (perhaps dinosaurs) we have ever discovered. In the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry (Utah, USA) alone there are at least 46 different individuals of Allosaurus discovered. This quarry has individuals ranging from multiple age groups, from specimens that are less than a meter in length on through full-grown adults. This has allowed paleontologists to reconstruct a wonderful life history for Allosaurus.

 

Moving on to this month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2015-07-24 13.40.46_zpsoy9kf1zp.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

I am not looking for a specific species name this week (but major props to anyone that can do that), but what are these specimens examples of? Good luck to everyone that participates.

Know Your Bones: July 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:27 pm by he_who_is_nobody

I chose last month’s challenge believing it would be a tricky one. However, I was truly impressed by the answers given, although none of them were correct, but the knowledge of prehistoric critters the readers of this blog possesses impresses me. I truly thought everyone would simply guess Triceratops and move on. As I said, this is not Triceratops, nor any of the ceratopsians given in the comments. Thus, this once again makes me the winner of this month’s challenge for stumping everyone.

 

However, the critter that owned the skull in last month’s challenge was Pentaceratops sternbergii and I will give you five guesses as to what its name means.

 

 photo Dayatthemuseum001_zps5d38b135.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Pentaceratops lived during the Cretaceous 75 to 73 million years ago. It is mostly found in New Mexico and Colorado (U.S.). It would have reached a length of ~8 meters and weighed ~5,500 kg. Pentaceratops had five horns, two large horns over the eyes, one small horn over the nose, and two small horns, which protrude sideways out of under the eyes. Pentaceratops also possessed a large frill with two large fenestrae in it. The fenestrae found on the frill were most likely away for cutting down the weight of the skull. Pentaceratops specimens include some of the largest skulls of all terrestrial animals. The frill and horns were most likely used for display, with the possibility of blood being pumped into the frill to change its color slightly. The frill and horns were also probably used in defense as well as jousting between each other.

 

Pentaceratops belongs to the ceratopsian clade. That clade also belongs to the ornithischian clade, meaning that Pentaceratops and the other ceratopsians are more closely related to hadrosaurids and thyreophorans than they are to saurischians. Pentaceratops is believed to be an herbivore and thought to have traveled in large herds similar to modern bovines. Another striking feature Pentaceratops possesses is its sharp beak, which was most likely used for ripping open large and tough vegetation or digging into the ground for tubers.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo IMAG0167_zps074c8041.jpg
(Taken at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science)

 

Here is an easy one, since last month’s challenge ended up being so difficult. I am looking for the critter on the left, since the critter on the right was already featured. Good luck to all that participate.

Know Your Bones: June 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Sun Jun 07, 2015 2:56 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge was a stumper. For most of the month, only one person dared to give a guess. Nevertheless, it was not until days before the month ended that Isotelus came in with the correct answer.

 

The Dicynodont Placerias hesternus

 

This critter is indeed Placerias hesternus.

 

 photo 2015-06-05 09.36.01_zps3si6xnjp.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Placerias lived during the late Triassic 221 to 210 million years ago. Placerias would have reached a length of ~3.5 meters and weighed in at nearly 1000 kilograms, making it one of the largest herbivores known about during this time. It was also one of the most common animals around during the late Triassic. Placerias had a beak and two tusks, which are common traits for dicynodonts. Both males and females had the same size tusks, thus they would have most likely used them in obtaining food and defense; not necessarily in finding mates. It is thought that Placerias would have had a life style similar to modern hippopotamuses, wallowing in semi-shallow rivers and lakes and spending little time outside of water.

 

 photo 2015-06-05 09.36.59_zps7guvthxk.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Even though Placerias lived during the “Age of Dinosaurs” (the Mesozoic), it was not a dinosaur, it is a synapsid. Along with being a synapsid, it is also a therapsid, meaning it is very closely related to modern mammals, but falls outside of the modern mammal clade. Fossil animals, such as Placerias, are found across the world and were key evidence to help establish that at one time in earth’s past, all the continents were of one land mass (Pangaea). Dicynodonts are the second most successful synapsid clade and are only surpassed by mammals in their diversity and longevity.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo Dayatthemuseum036_zpsb8b3d5b6.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Since last month’s was so difficult, I am hoping this one is much easier.

Know Your Bones: May 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon May 04, 2015 12:30 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge only lasted a day, because tuxbox was able to guess the correct answer with ease.

 

Dire Wolf

 

This critter is indeed a dire wolf (Canis dirus).

 

 photo 2015-01-09114449_zps2f1b6a2d.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Dire wolves lived throughout North America and parts of South America during the Pleistocene 240,000 to 10,000 years ago, most likely evolving in North America. Dire wolves would have been one of the top predators during this time and may have prayed upon a few previous challenges. Dire wolves were most likely pack hunters like their modern wolf counterparts. It was also once thought that they were bone crushers, because of their large and robust size, but lack specialized teeth for such a task.

 

 photo 2013-10-04114325_zpsedf9305f.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

The average size for dire wolves is ~1.5 meters in length and a weight of 79 kilograms. This makes it roughly the same size as a modern gray wolf (Canis lupus), but far more robust. It would have had more muscles, including larger jaw muscles, and larger canine teeth than modern gray wolves. Dire wolves also had larger skulls, but shorter legs than gray wolves. The more muscular build and larger bones on the dire wolves would have helped it take down the larger prey animals alive during the Pleistocene. However, once those large prey animals started to die out, the smaller gray wolf would have been able to outcompete the dire wolf for the smaller game left in North and South America.

 

Moving on to this month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-03-03092212_zps42400bc5.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck to all that participate.

Know Your Bones: April 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:36 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge appeared to be no challenge to League of Reason’s resident rockhound Isotelus. She gave the correct answer within a day of the blog going up.

 

Edmontosaurus annectens. They’re like the cockroaches of Alberta’s fossil megafauna. Dig a hole and you’re probably going to find at least a piece of one. :P

 

This critter is indeed Edmontosaurus annectens and it is indeed an extremely common fossil.

 

 photo 2015-02-06 11.39.14_zpsd3bsgwtu.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Edmontosaurus lived during the Cretaceous 73 to 65.5 million years ago. They ranged widely across western North America, seemingly living along the Western Interior Seaway. Edmontosaurus belong to the hadrosaurid clade, which are popularly called duck-billed dinosaurs. Edmontosaurus belongs to a crestless group of hadrosaurid, unlike a previous “Know Your Bones” challenge. The specimen used in last months blog is actually famous for having what appears to be a bite mark on its tail from a Tyrannosaurus.

 

Edmontosaurus reached a length of ~13 meters (the skull alone was ~1 meter long) and could weigh up to 4 tons, making them one of the largest hadrosaurids to have ever lived. As a means of locomotion, Edmontosaurus were likely able to walk on all fours or on just their hind limbs. Edmontosaurus is also famous for having several skin impressions, which allows us to know what most of the skin of this animal looked like in life. Edmontosaurus had teeth that grew in columns of six teeth, and had around 50 columns in each jaw. The teeth were continually replaced throughout the animal’s life. However, the beak of an Edmontosaurus was toothless and was extended by a keratinous material, much like modern birds.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2015-01-09133458_zps29f325f9.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck, as always.

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