Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Transylvanian meat-eating dragon

My morning has been hijacked a little with a call from work to come in on a pinch, so I had to spend my morning with them making sure everything was up to par, and now it is. BUT this puts me behind in a series of other things I was planning to do - including posting all this dinosaurs stuff!

I will being by arguing that the title of this post is more intriguing than what the NPR decided to title their story on the same subject with:

Stocky dinosaur with menacing toes
I've edited this a bit - someone lost focus while they were writing this and veered heavily into the "Island Effect" which would be tremendously more fitting in an article about Charles Darwin, not a new dinosaur. While this link goes to the NPR website, I actually pulled this article from a different site, and I don't recall which one - my apologies.
Balaur bondoc ("stocky dragon")

That's the name scientists have given a new meat-eating dinosaur unearthed in southern Transylvania.

The team reporting the results says Balaur ... provides fresh evidence for the so-called "island effect," in which geographic isolation spawns unique body forms. In some cases creatures shrink, in others they grow much larger than their continental cousins, and they can evolve to display some truly unique body forms.

Balaur "is really highly specialized and unusual," says Mark Norell, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a member of the team reporting the results. The research effort was led by Zoltan Csiki, a paleontologist at the University of Bucharest. Matyas Vremir, a prehistoric tortoise expert at the Transylvania Museum Society in Cluj-napoca, Romania, made the find.

Balaur inhabited Hateg Island, now part of a geological formation in Romania. Some 70 million years ago, however, Hateg Island was a patch of terra firma in the Tethys Sea, forerunner to the modern Mediterranean.

"Some people had even argued that the top of the food chain on this island wasn't dinosaurs at all, but crocodillians," Norell says. "Now we've found a carnivore."

If Balaur represents the island effect, it's more for the creature's highly specialized features than a puny or gigantic size, the researchers say.

[seriously? It takes until NOW to get to the part where we finally describe the dinosaur? Isn't this article about the dinosaur, not the f-ing "Island Effect?"]

Balaur stretched some 6 to 7 feet from nose to tail tip, comparable to its nearest contemporary continental relative, Velociraptor. Both shared a common ancestor more than 112 million years ago. The dwarf plant eaters, by contrast, had no close relatives living at the time, suggesting they had been isolated much longer.

Yet Balaur is beefier than its movie-star cousin. Among Balaur's unique features: two sets of readily extended sickle-like claws on each of its hind feet [this is not a unique feature - these sickle-like claws are in fact the prototypical feature on an entire species of dromaeosaurs - someone has to learn what "unique" means], and hands that host three fingers, only two of which function, instead of all three.

Dinosaur bones found in Edmonton sewer
Ninja Turtles kicked their ass and left them to die 75 million years ago:

EDMONTON—Workers digging a sewer tunnel in Edmonton have unearthed the bones of two species of dinosaurs, including one similar to the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The city drainage workers were hand-tunneling last week when they found the fossils.

Experts from the Royal Tyrell Museum and the University of Alberta believe the bones are from the Albertosaurus and the Edmontosaurus.

Albertosaurus was a smaller cousin of the carnivorous T. Rex that roamed the Earth about 75 million years ago.

An adult would measure about 10 metres from head to toe and its large head would be filled with sharp teeth.

The Edmontosaurus was a large, plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur from the same time period that used to be preyed on by the T. Rex.

What on earth they were doing fighting in a sewer, we may never know ;)

Giant Terror-Birds used their heads like hatchets

Phorusrhacids have been extinct for millions of years, yet the so-called terror birds just got a bit more frightening.

The flightless birds stood up to ten feet (three meters) tall and had hook-beaked heads the size of horse heads. Now a new study has apparently deciphered how the birds used those fearsome skulls—employing a fighting style like that of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

Researchers used CT scans of terror-bird skulls and biomechanical computer models to conclude that the birds likely used a speedy, graceful, strike-and-retreat style, killing their prey with a succession of punishing, hatchet-like blows.

Cool - they need to make a horror movie with this kind of monster in it. These things are pretty scary. Or even if it were just a twisted cassowary - those things are tough and scary. Just as scary as snakes, spiders or wolves, I would argue. They're bad-ass. Plus, if they used their face as a hatchet, that's even better. That's begging to be made into a slasher-flick.

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