A new sauropod discovered in Utah: Abydosaurus

Yes, it's official. A team of paleontologists and students from BYU has just dug up and described a new sauropod species at Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, and this one includes gorgeous complete skulls from four individuals!


Species: Abydosaurus mcintoshi
Taxonomy: Saurischia; Sauropoda; Macronaria; Brachiosauridae; ?Giraffatitanae? 
Time: Early Cretaceous (Albian epoch, 104.46 ± 0.95 million years ago)
Location: the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
Known material: holotype DINO 16488, a nearly complete skull and lower jaws with the first four neck vertebrae. Abundant skull and postcranial bones were found at the same site, including partial skulls from three additional individuals, a partial hip and associated tail vertebrae, a scapula, a humerus, and several metacarpals.
Unique features: narrow teeth relative to earlier brachiosaurs, very large eye sockets, unusually wide struts of bone separating the nares from the antorbital fenestrae, nares are unusually small for a brachiosaur (even smaller than the eye sockets), though this may be a temporary immature trait, as all the skull material is from juvenile specimens.

Abydosaurus mcintoshi is a brachiosaur which grew to about 80 feet long, though the skulls and most of the other remains found at the site are from juveniles that were only about 35 feet long at their time of death. It's a Cretaceous brachiosaur, one of many which evolved rapidly to steal the spotlight from the already extinct diplodocids and camarasaurs that didn't survive the end of the Jurassic. Cedarosaurus, Sonorasaurus, Astrodon, Pleurocoelus, and the gigantic Sauroposeidon round out the cretaceous brachiosaur A-list. And now for the first time, one of their own contemporaries has been found with perfectly preserved skull material!

Initial photo released upon discovery of the then-unnamed skull

More detailed photo of the same skull from both sides. Notice the hyoid bones in the throat.

The Abydosaurus skulls include, as you can see here, even the fragile hyoid bones of the throat which anchored the tongue muscles. These skulls also pack a decent set of teeth, nearly all of which are in place, and quite sharp. The teeth of Abydosaurus were narrower than those of earlier brachiosaurs, and show a marked trend toward thinner and more rod-shaped teeth, which is typical of the evolution patterns of cretaceous macronarian sauropods. This trend culminated in late-stage titanosaurs like Antarctosaurus and Nemegtosaurus, whose thin peg-like teeth, limited to only the front of the mouth, converged strongly with the dentition of then long-dead diplodocids.

Abydosaurus likely did not evolve into titanosaurs - they were already present - but it did manifest a tooth design that was convergent to many of the basal ones. This may reflect a change in cretaceous conifers as well, leading to a change in herbivore adaptations.

Here is a youtube video of the discovery, with a great high-nostriled restoration of the beast by Michael Skrepnick.


The FACTS about the "Clash of the Dinosaurs" Train Wreck

A lot of people have been asking heated questions about the Discovery Channel's new program "Clash of the Dinosaurs". And there have been a lot of complaints from paleontologists (including those interviewed for the series) that despite having cutting-edge computer graphics, it is plagued by outdated myths and disproven theories, and that its portrayal of dinosaurs and their lives was anything but realistic.


So what are the FACTS about the dinosaurs, and what did the producers get totally WRONG?

Here listed in brief, are the documented errors, inaccuracies, bogus claims and flat-out LIES which tarnished this sadly disgraceful series despite its top-notch computer animation:

1. Regurgitating the outdated theory that T.rex was so slow, it needed to scavenge to survive (in total violation of every known fact about tyrannosaur leg biomechanics).

2. Claiming that T. rex could see fine details exactly four miles away, and presenting this figure as fact; when in reality, it's impossible to measure the vision of a creature whose eyes rotted away 65 million years ago...

3. Showing T. rex attacking Triceratops head-on, attempting to bite its horns off, and losing an eye in the process: stupid, needlessly self-endangering behavior that no real predator would ever risk committing. Predators always go after the prey's WEAK spots, not horns.

4. Implying that baby T. rex's were in danger of being eaten by Deinonychus, whereas in fact Deinonychus had already become extinct millions of years before T.rex evolved!

5. Over-exaggerating the smallness of Sauroposeidon's brain and cerebrum in particular, based on an UNSCALED braincase scan of Camarasaurus, a much smaller animal that was only distantly related.

6. Claiming that Sauroposeidon was "as dumb as a fencepost" despite the fact that even its smaller cousin Brachiosaurus had a braincase larger than that of a cat. Sauroposeidon could have had twice the brains.

7. Portraying Sauroposeidon as an egg-abandoning dimwit both verbally and in 3D animation, where they showed it leaving behind an open, uncovered nest, out of which adult-sized babies miraculously hatched! This is total nonsense; even reptiles at least cover their eggs.

8. Showing an animation of a huge house-sized teenage Sauroposeidon getting killed by a few shallow cuts from two little dog-sized Deinonychus and not even fighting back, despite having over 300 times the mass of those little raptors.

9. Simultaneously, they ran paleontologist Matt Wedel's commentary about a large PACK of Deinonychus killing Sauroposeidon babies - not a lone pair taking on gigantic house-sized teenagers. Deliberate contradiction of scientist testimony!

10. Those same animated Deinonychus appear able to jump more then 30 feet (10m) in the air! In reality, their anatomy only allowed a maximum sustained jump height of 10 feet (3m). So NO, they could not hop onto the back of a teenage Sauroposeidon, let alone injure it.

11. Claiming that Sauroposeidon needed stomach acid strong enough to dissolve iron to digest tough plants - highly improbable, and a totally baseless claim. Stomach acid doesn't actually digest food, pepsin and other enzymes do! The acid merely activates them.

12. Misspelling Sauroposeidon in the show's "dinosaur quiz" segment and mispronouncing Parasaurolophus as "Para-sa-ROFL-us", not once but MULTIPLE TIMES! The correct pronunciation puts the "l" before the "ph": "Para-sauro-LOAF-us".

13. Stupid skull mistakes: in one segment they show an Acrocanthosaurus skull while the narrator is talking about T. rex, and in another they claim a Camarasaurus skull is actually from Sauroposeidon! Couldn't they at least use a Brachiosaurus skull instead?

14. Stupid make-believe mistakes: the show claims, with no proof, that Quetzalcoatlus had infrared vision and was attracted to dinosaur urine, and also that "Para-sa-ROFL-us" could produce sonic booms in its hollow crest. The crest was actually a harmless mating-call device.

15. Stupid anatomical errors: they show T. rex with huge droopy crocodile jowls under its lower jaw and virtually ignore its cervical S-curve. They also made Sauroposeidon's neck far too short. In a nutshell, they IGNORED all the evidence and current research! Is this science?

16. The WORST problem of all: the production company SPIN-DOCTORED paleontologist Matt Wedel's words to make it look like he accepted the discredited notion of sauropods having two brains, whereas he had actually been refuting it in the original recording - thereby tarnishing his reputation and putting his professional career as a respectable published researcher in serious jeopardy. Legal action is now pending.

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