Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just How Big Was Brachiosaurus?

How Big Was Brachiosaurus?

A question frequently asked by young dinosaur fans is just how big were some dinosaurs. Brachiosaurus represents a genus of large, long-necked dinosaur that was a member of the Sauropoda. Many young children ask "just how big was Brachiosaurus?"
Limited Evidence from the Fossil Bones
Scientists have only the fossil bones of Brachiosaurus to study, since no one has ever seen a living Brachiosaur the size ranges given for this huge Sauropod do vary. Indeed, there is considerable variation in the fossil bones of those Brachiosaurs found in Africa to those found in North America. So much so, that some palaeontologists have stated that the fossils from Africa may represent a completely different animal they have named Giraffatitan.
Named and Described in 1903
Brachiosaurus was named and described from two partial skeletons from the famous Morrison Formation in the western United States. It was formerly named by the American palaeontologist Elmer Riggs in 1903. Although, it is one of the best known of all the Sauropods, its fossils are actually very rare, much rarer than its relative (another Macronarian Sauropod), Camarasaurus. The Macronarian Sauropods are those long-necked dinosaurs with box-like skulls. The holes in the skull representing the nasal passages are much bigger than the hole in the skull where the eye was located.
Say Hello to "Arm Lizard"
Brachiosaurus means "arm lizard" as the forelimbs were longer than the back limbs, giving this dinosaur a giraffe-like appearance. About half the height of Brachiosaurus is due to the neck, although there is debate whether the specimen displayed in the Humboldt museum (Berlin) is actually a Brachiosaurus the head height of this mounted skeleton is around 13 metres, making this museum exhibit the largest mounted dinosaur exhibit in a European museum.
Books can Cause Confusion with Dinosaur Sizes
The reason for the different sizes given in books could be because one book was published earlier than the other. This would mean that the editor and writers would not have known about latest size estimates given for this dinosaur. Different sizes could also be due to the fact that the researchers compiling the book chose to use different cited authors and palaeontologists so they published findings from different sets of data.
The statistics for weight, length and height for this creature are open to interpretation. However, most scientists estimate that Brachiosaurus (Brachiosaurus altithorax) as an adult animal would have ranged in size from 17 - 22 metres in length, would have stood approximately 13 metres tall and weighed perhaps as much as 70 tonnes.
Ultrasauros - Bigger Still!
Fossil bones of an even bigger animal called Ultrasauros may actually turn out to be just a very big specimen of a Brachiosaurus so the dimensions and measurements given here will most likely end up being reviewed as more fossils are discovered and more research carried out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Indian Scientist Gets Dinosaur Named After Him

New Type of Ankylosaur Named After Indian Scientist

Having a species named after you is a real honour for any scientist. Such an accolade is usually bestowed upon you by your peers and fellow researchers. Having a dinosaur species named after you is a particular honour, this is just what has happened to Indian scientist V. S. Ramachandran who permitted a fossil skull in his possession be studied.
A previously unknown species of Ankylosaur (an armoured dinosaur), discovered in early Cretaceous strata in the Gobi desert has been studied and named in Ramachandran's honour by two American palaeontologists Clifford and Clark Miles. The skull is perhaps the most important element of the skeleton to examine, it often permits scientists to identify a new species based on the skull morphology alone.
The Ankylosaur skull had been purchased by V. S. Ramachandran from a Japanese fossil collector and put on display at the Victor Valley Museum in California. The American team (based at the Western Palaeontological Laboratories in Utah), were granted permission to study the skull and from the skulls triangular appearance and distinctive nasal (a bone at the front of the skull), they determined that this specimen represented a new genus of Ankylosaur.
Minotaurasaurus - "Man-Bull Reptile"
This new dinosaur has been named Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani. The name means in Latin "Ramachandrans Man-Bull Reptile" a reference to the skull with its extended nasal and flared naris that reminded the researchers of the skull of a bull. Borrowing from Greek legend it seemed apt to name this particular armoured dinosaur after the Minotaur of Greek mythology.
The American team's research paper has been published in the Indian research periodical "Current Science", a popular academic journal on the Indian sub-continent.
Ankylosaurs - Armoured Members of the Dinosauria
The Ankylosaurs were armoured plated, herbivorous quadrupeds, often referred to as "living tanks". The fossils of these animals are most closely associated with the Cretaceous and this group can be split into two distinctive sub-orders, the true Ankylosaurs characterised by their broad bodies and club-like tails and the Nodosaurids, which are regarded by some scientists as being more primitive, and lacking (in most cases), a tail-club.
Models of a number of Ankylosaurs have been produced, animals such as Edmontonia (Nodosaur) and Saichania (Ankylosaur) have been created. By far the best known dinosaur of this type, commonly referred to as shield-bearers, is the Ankylosaurus. Ankylosaurus was one of the largest and one of the last to evolve, living right at the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage). It is often depicted defending itself against a Tyrannosaurus rex, with which this dinosaur shared its North American habitat.
New Species of Dinosaur Described
In this new species, the skull is approximately 30 cms long and using comparisons from more complete fossil skeletons the scientists have estimated that this particular example of Minotaurasaurus was probably not fully grown. It is estimated that this particular animal was over 4 metres in length. There may be larger specimens out in the Gobi desert awaiting discovery.
The teeth of Minotaurasaurus are typically robust for an Ankylosaur. They are leaf-shaped with a highly developed coronate surface to maximise chewing and the grinding of plant matter. Each tooth has a series of vertical striations or ridges that divide the grinding surface into 8 separate cusps.
Once this research has been validated by subject to peer review V. S. Ramachandran can join an elite band of Indian citizens who have had a prehistoric animal named after them. He is unlikely to be the last Indian scientist recognised in this way, India is slowly but surely giving up its ancient secrets and many new species of dinosaur will come to light in the future.