A cluster of interesting dino news has hit the internet over the past week or so, so I thought it’d be a good time to gather things up in one place for comparison’s sake.
T. Rex’s Snout
It turns out that sometimes it pays to be a bone head (and no, I’m not talking about your boss). In particular, a team from the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta put the skulls of a number of carnivorous dinosaurs through a computed tomography (CT) scanner. They found that tyrannosaurids were unique in having nasal bones that were fused to the rest of their skulls.
Having a completely fused skull gave the T. Rex family dramatically greater bite strength compared to other carnivorous dinosaurs — they could chomp down on prey with enough force to lift a semi-trailer. Just the ticket if you want to crush your dinner’s bones without damaging your own skull.
The press release is here; LiveScience also has a good writeup here.
Researchers announced the discovery of a 15m (50ft) long trackway at La Virgen del Campo in the Cameros Basin of northern Spain. The trackway was laid down 125 million years ago (in the Early Cretaceous), when this basin was a vast lake. As you may recall from way back in episode 3, a trackway is a form of trace fossil — essentially, a line of footprints made by some long-dead creature. The Cameros Basin is known as a treasure trove of theropod (walking) trackways.
This new discovery is particularly odd, in that the trackway is made up of 12 prints, each consisting of two or three s-shaped scratch marks, grouped in asymmetrical pairs. Each track measures some 50 centimetres (20 inches) in length and 15 cms (six inches) wide. Since the tracks were made as scratches rather than footprints, the animal that made them was apparently swimming (rather than just wading), in 3.2 meters (10.4 ft) of water. Based on ripple marks surrounding the scratch marks, it appears the dinosaur was working its way upstream.
This is the first evidence found to date that at least some land-bound dinosaurs could swim. It’s obviously hard to tell exactly what type of dinosaur made the tracks, but the discoverers think the best bet is a theropod of some sort, possibly an allosaur (a not-too-distant relative of T. Rex). The article is online if you’re a GSA member. For the rest of us, there’s more to be read at Seed, the BBC, LiveScience, and New Scientist.
The Mark of a Stegosaurus Hatchling?
Still on the subject of dinosaur tracks, some extremely small tracks were discovered in the foothills west of Denver. Again, since the critter that left the track didn’t exactly sign his name to it, some guesswork is involved at figuring out just what kind of dinosaur left the footprint. Based on its size and shape, though, a number of researchers feel that a baby stegosaurus is the best fit.