Friday, November 20, 2009

Dinosaur Roud-Up 2

Jurassic Park IV - new trilogy?

Jurassic Park IV continues to gain attention as the supposed director of the supposed new installment of the franchise is still puttering about with the idea of having Dino-Rider style dinosaurs toting military weapons. It sounds awful in terms of Jurassic Park, cool in terms of Hasbro and what they've done with Transformers in the last few years.

But the most terrifying part of it all isn't the bastardization of what Jurassic Park was all about (having dinosaurs attack people in a science-fact sort of way) but rather branching this out into a direction that would leave Michael Crichton turning in his grave. If zombies were ever to really rise up and attack people, it would likely start with Michael Crichton attack Joe Johnston.

From The Guardian's film blog:
Then there's the fact that the best idea for Jurassic Park IV has already been dismissed. At first it was rumoured that Jurassic Park would revolve around a killer virus that threatened to wipe the dinosaurs out, but when producers realised that a sniffly stegosaurus probably wasn't going to hold anyone's attention for very long, someone came up with gold – a script about the US government training the dinosaurs to use guns. Read that last bit again. Dinosaurs with guns. Johnston has hinted that this new Jurassic Park will take the series off in a brand new direction [my emphasis] but if that direction doesn't feature at least one wise-talking raptor in a fedora brandishing a tommy gun, then you can jolly well count me out.
It sounded like this would lead to a new trilogy using the Jurassic Park premise. Frankly, if they'd like to do this movie, take Jurassic Park out of it and let it be. Start up the Dino-Riders franchise and go nuts with it- there's no need to cheapen what this franchise has already been able to achieve.

Then again, speaking of cheap, they already own all the creative rights and licensed for "Jurassic Park" and purchasing new licenses and rights would cost Hollywood money - so they're not likely to do that. Bummer.

Missing link dinosaur discovered

So a new early-Jurassic dinosaur has been unearthed in South Africa, and it has scientists saying:
"What we have is a big, short-footed, barrel-chested, long-necked, small-headed dinosaur," explained Adam Yates, the scientist from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who led the research.

"The earliest ancestral dinosaur - the great grand-daddy of all dinosaurs - walked on two legs. This [one] is intermediate between those bipedal forms and the true gigantic sauropods."

This is NOT saying that dinosaurs evolved from this holotype into all the different species that have been discovered, but rather that the sauropod lineage began with this species. There are many, many dinosaurs that are from an earlier period, (all dinosaurs from the Triassic, for example) that did NOT descend from this species.

This is stated with more clarity later on in the article:

Dr Paul Barrett - a palaeontologist from the Natural History Museum in London said that the discovery of Aardonyx helped "fill a marked gap in our knowledge of sauropod evolution".

"[It shows] how a primarily two-legged animal could start to acquire the specific features necessary for a life spent on all fours.

"Evolution of this quadrapedal gait was key in allowing the late sauropods to adopt their enormous body sizes."

Ah, the BBC is always so good to us about reporting on dinosaur discoveries. They must have a real fan out there keeping an eye on these discoveries. What I hadn't noticed until Tuesday was that Aardonyx means "Earth Claw." So now you can tell your friends.

Dinosaurs were probably warm-blooded, incredibly athletic, and always hungry

How can someone conclude that dinosaurs were most likely warm-blooded?
By measuring the length of their legs, apparently.

Just one more reason to fear Jurassic Park: a new study has found that, unlike modern-day reptiles, dinosaurs were likely warm-blooded. It's a trait that suggests dinosaurs were far from lumbering reptiles, and were actually quite the prehistoric athletes.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, looks at whether dinosaurs were ectothermic (cold-blooded), like modern-day reptiles, or endothermic (warm-blooded) like birds and mammals. Endothermic animals are more athletic than ectotherms, and are better able to survive in colder climates. But the payoff is that endotherms must consume more food than ectotherms because of their higher metabolisms.

Thus, the study authors examined the physiology of dinosaurs to determine whether the energy they would have expended exceeded what an ectothermic system could supply. Herman Pontzer of Washington University in St Louis has studied the relationship between the cost of locomotion and the length of an animal's leg. He has found that length of leg predicts the cost of locomotion with 98 percent accuracy in various land mammals, and estimated the length of various dinosaur legs based on fossil records. He and his colleagues looked at anatomical models of 14 species of dinosaur and compared the estimated cost of locomotion with those of modern-day endotherms and ectotherms. They found that the cost of locomotion was similar to that endotherms experience, and that walking and running would have consumed too much energy for dinosaurs to be cold-blooded.

Simply put, given a dinosaur's size and the length of its leg - it wouldn't be able to move around if it were cold-blooded. This isn't too startling, because the idea has been tossed around for twenty years - BUT this is a new angle to reach this conclusion with. Other studies have suggested that if birds are warm-blooded, then dinosaurs were, while others have sawed bones in half to view the blood vessels (which indicated warm-bloodedness in some hadrosaurs - I think?).

This study has NOT clarified which, if any, dinosaurs were cold-blooded, which many believe would be the case.

This is REALLY cool
Popular Mechanics has listed their TOP 8 Dinosaur Discoveries of 2009! Here are some highlights.

1. Tiny T-rex, Raptorex kriegsteini: The 10-foot-long dinosaur used the same hunting techniques as T. rex and supports the notion that tyrannosaurs had short arms for a large part of their evolutionary history. Raptorex roamed the Earth at least 50 million years before the T. rex, though scientists think there are plenty of medium-size versions in between. In this case, evolution decided bigger was better since the slight raptorex had descendants 90 times its original mass.

6. Horned tyrannosaur,
Alioramus altai: With its slender teeth, long snout and eight 5-inch-long horns, shows that tyrannosaur species varied more than previously thought. These distinctive skull characteristics, never before seen in tyrannosaurs, reveal A. altai to be an entirely novel variety of dinosaur, shocking scientists who thought they knew the T. rex genre well.

7. Feathered herbivore, Tianyulong confuciusi: Was an herbivore with a slight build, signaling that the very first dinosaur had had skin protrusions akin to feathers. This means that all dinosaurs may have evolved from a common ancestor. To find out, scientists need to know whether T. confuciusi's feathers grew from the skin's surface or from the tissue below the skin.

Dino D-Day - Half-Life dino-mod
Too many hyphens, I know.

But, it looks so cool. The premise, install a patch to your existing Half-Life game and see
"What would have been the result of Hitler and the dinosaurs working together?"

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