Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous

Took the chance last week to visit the temporary Spinosaurus exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.

The first part of the exhibit showcased the history of Spinosaurus discoveries, accompanied by explanatory clips that I assume are part of the upcoming Nova episode on the new Spinosaurus find.

The exhibit is well illustrated by Davide Bonadonna. His various depictions of the Kem Kem ecosystem can be seen, not only as part of the signage as this one is, but also as backdrops for the displays.

The centerpiece of the exhibit, naturally, is the reconstructed skeleton of Spinosaurus, based on newly-described material and mounted in a swimming pose, menacing a model of the sawfish Onchopristis.

The short legs in the new reconstruction of Spinosaurus that have been the source of much controversy.

The reconstructed forelimb of Spinosaurus.

A close-up of the skull.

The distinctive sail.

The foot of Spinosaurus with a cormorant skeleton for comparison. No, Spinosaurus is not the only semi-aquatic dinosaur.

Part of the jaw with a gharial skull. Something of a shame that they didn't have any Suchomimus material for contrast, however.

Surrounding the mount were displays featuring certain contemporaries of Spinosaurus, highlighting the ubiquity of predators in this unusual ecosystem. Here are the crocodyliforms Laganosuchus (back) and Elosuchus (front).

A model of the giant coelacanth Mawsonia.

A model of the pterosaur Alanqa was suspended from the ceiling. The lighting made it difficult to get a satisfactory photo.

The head and skull of Rugops. Its portrayal as a scavenger was somewhat bothersome, especially as one of the lines of reasoning given for that interpretation were its small arms. I am aware that evidence for a predominantly scavenging lifestyle in Rugops has been suggested, but there is little reason to assume obligate scavenging in any terrestrial animal, which should have been made more clear.

A skeletal mount of Deltadromeus, with a speculative skull.

The head and skull of Carcharodontosaurus with a maxillary fragment below.

In the guestbook tucked in a corner of the display area, a comment lamenting the lack of Aegisuchus indicated that Nick Gardner had visited the exhibit not long before me. Alas, I did not end up running into him.

As the exhibit closed down for the end of the day, I headed toward the other reason I had been at the museum that night: a talk by Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno was being given there. Ibrahim started off with a history of Ernst Stromer's research on Spinosaurus and his own experiences discovering the new material. Sereno then followed up with a presentation about the semi-aquatic adaptations seen in Spinosaurus. Audience members already familiar with the paper and news reports on the new Spinosaurus were probably unlikely to have gained much new information from the talk, but both Ibrahim and Sereno were entertaining speakers and it was nice to hear their take on the findings in person.

Upon leaving the building, I passed by the life restoration of Spinosaurus that is just outside the museum.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Turn to Stone Page IX


Thus concludes this storyline.

The shorebirds were based on purported Triassic bird footprints. Solid evidence of Triassic birds would have been big news indeed, and internet chatter occasionally speculated that they were misidentified heterodontosaurid tracks. It was eventually shown that the footprints actually dated to the Eocene.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Turn to Stone Page VIII


The new pterosaur model was brought in to replace this one, which had an old-school short, pointy crest. Even in this universe, pterosaur restorations are updated more slowly than those of dinosaurs.

(Yes, the answer to that ask was specifically a set up for this scene.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Turn to Stone Page VII


Several events conspired to prevent me from finishing this page as early as I'd have liked, besides the fact that it's the longest page in this story arc. At least it's up now!

The song is a parody of This Day Aria. If setting Savape on Fuzzlehead appears too harsh, keep in mind that Tianyulong is one of the reasons the Speculative Dinosaur Project ground to a halt (though there have supposedly been myriad developments behind the scenes). That, and Skull can be quite vengeful when he feels like it.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Turn to Stone Page V


Please don't try this stunt if you ever find yourself in a situation in which you need to face a villain who is armed with an instant-fossilizing ray, unless you have no other choice. Real fossils are fragile.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Turn to Stone Page IV


Kulindadromeus is a cool find. Check it out.

Incidentally, if there's anything remarkable about basal ornithischians, it's that they probably have the best permanent expressions of any dinosaur. One can't help but think that they are angry all the time, but we can't all enjoy playing the part of running popcorn in media depictions.