Tag Archives: dinosaurs

DinoNews: First Fossils from Saudi Arabia

Near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Baptiste Marcel, via Wikimedia Commons).
Near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Baptiste Marcel, via Wikimedia Commons).
Most people think of desert sand when they envision Saudi Arabia. The country’s geography is dominated by the Arabian Desert. There are virtually no rivers or lakes, and daytime temperatures can reach 129 degrees. Dinosaur fossils are rare there. Only a handful a fossilized bones have ever been found.

This isolated tooth evidences the first identifiable carnivorous theropod dinosaur from the Arabian Peninsula. Abelisaurids like this specimen have been found in the ancient Gondwanan landmasses of North Africa, Madagascar and South America. (Maxim Leonov -- Palaeontological Institute, Moscow).
This isolated tooth evidences the first identifiable carnivorous theropod dinosaur from the Arabian Peninsula. Abelisaurids like this specimen have been found in the ancient Gondwanan landmasses of North Africa, Madagascar and South America. (Maxim Leonov — Palaeontological Institute, Moscow).
But an international team of scientists has just announced the first formally identified dinosaur fossils from Saudi Arabia. Several bones from the tail of a huge Brontosaurus-like sauropod dinosaur have been identified. Judging from the size of the bones, the animal may have been up to 20 meters in length.

The paleontologists (the scientists who study prehistoric life) have also identified a tooth from a meat-eating theropod dinosaur. Although distantly related to big Tyrannosaurus Rex, the tooth probably came from a type of dinosaur only about six meters long. The team found the bones in the northwestern part of the country along the coast of the Red Sea.

The teeth and bones are approximately 72 million years old. Now that paleontologists know where to look, future discoveries are more more likely. “The hardest fossil to find is the first one,” said Dr. Tom Rich, of Australia’s Museum Victoria.

One of the exceptionally rare tail vertebrae from Saudi Arabia’s first described giant titanosaurid sauropod. This dinosaur was probably in excess of 20 meters long when alive. (Tim Holland -- Kronosaurus Korner, Richmond).
One of the exceptionally rare tail vertebrae from Saudi Arabia’s first described giant titanosaurid sauropod. This dinosaur was probably in excess of 20 meters long when alive. (Tim Holland — Kronosaurus Korner, Richmond).
It’s All in the Lingo
Understanding the classification of different dinosaurs can be confusing, but for budding paleontologists who want to “dig in” a little bit, the fossils finds discussed in this article are a great place to start.

To get a handle on where the extinct animals discussed above fit in, envision a dinosaur family tree that develops two main divisions.

One of the two main divisions is termed Saurischian. All the dinosaurs in the saurischian line developed from a common ancestor and share the same kind of hip structure. In fact, the word “saurischian” actually means “lizard-hipped.”

Within the Saurischian line, there are two major groups.

One of these groups is called the Theropods and includes predators such as the famous T-Rex.

The other group is called the Sauropods and includes plant-eaters like Brontosaurus.

So, when scientists say they have found a tooth from a theropod, or tail bones from a sauropod, they are being specific. They could have said the tooth came from a saurischian or simply from a dinosaur and still have been correct. But those terms are less specific.


Source: Press Release, Uppsala University, Sweden

Heavy Load: Simulating the Movement of Argentinosaurus

Argentinosaurus huinculensis reconstruction at Museo Municipal Carmen Funes, Plaza Huincul, Neuquén, Argentina. (Credit: Dr Bill Sellers, The University of Manchester.)
Argentinosaurus huinculensis reconstruction at Museo Municipal Carmen Funes, Plaza Huincul, Neuquén, Argentina. (Credit: Dr. Bill Sellers, The University of Manchester.)
How big is too big when it comes to walking? That is exactly the question asked by a team of scientists studying the skeleton of the biggest animal to ever walk the surface of the earth. The Argentinosaurus — a dinosaur named after the country of Argentina, where it was found – was so big some people have questioned whether it could have even been able to walk.

The dinosaur skeleton studied by paleontologists at the Carmen Funes museum in Neuquén, Argentina, suggests an animal that would have measured more than 40 meters and weighed around 80 tons. The Argentinosaurus lived around 94 million years ago.

A team from the University of Manchester in England worked with researchers in Argentina to try to discover once and for all whether Argentinosaurus would have been too big to walk. If not, then scientists would have to conclude that the skeleton – which was recreated from a partial set of fossilized bones – was somehow wrong in scale or design.

The scientists scanned the skeleton to build a computer model. Then, using an advanced computer modeling technique they recreated its walking and running movements and tested its locomotion ability.

“If you want to work out how dinosaurs walked, the best approach is computer simulation. This is the only way of bringing together all the different strands of information we have on this dinosaur, so we can reconstruct how it once moved,” Dr. Bill Sellers, lead researcher on the project, said.

The verdict? Houston, we have liftoff! Or, at least, locomotion. The simulation shows that Argentinosaurus would have reached speeds just over 5 miles per hour. You can watch it yourself in the video below.

Dr. Sellers said the research is important for understanding more about muscle-skeleton systems. “All vertebrates from humans to fish share the same basic muscles, bones and joints,” he said. “Argentinosaurus is the biggest animal that ever walked on the surface of the earth and understanding how it did this will tell us a lot about the maximum performance of the vertebrate musculoskeletal system.”

Stay tuned, because The University of Manchester team now plans to use the method to recreate the steps of other dinosaurs including Triceratops, Brachiosaurus and T. rex.


SOURCES:

University of Manchester Public Affairs

Museo Carmen Funes

Argentinosaurus on Wikipedia

YouTube Video