Sticking plungers to chickens’ butts… you know, for science!
Chickens and other birds are modern relatives of non-avian theropods, a large order of dinosaurs that contains Tyrannosaurus rex, raptors (like Deinonychus), and other primarily bipedal reptilian beasts. They stood mostly on their two rear legs and used massive muscular tails for balance:
They weren’t all big monsters, though. There were also cute little theropods like these guys:
If you need help keeping your dino-groups straight, contrast theropods with sauropods, which include these large, long-necked, four-on-the-floor herbivores:
There’s many more sub-orders of dinosaurs, find out where more of your favorites fall on this Wikipedia page.
Seeing as chickens and their relative are the closest living thing to theropod dinosaurs, a group of biologists thought they’d be a great model to study how T. rex and friends walked. The only problem is that chickens don’t have the long tails that their dino ancestors carried around.
Solution? Stick one on and film ‘em!
The addition of a plunger-butt tail affected the bird’s center of mass and its gait, as well as where it held its bones during standing and walking. You can read more about the research at io9, or check out the original paper (open access) at PLOS One.
Previously: Check out a great TED-Ed video about the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs, narrated by Carl Zimmer.
IT’S CIRCLING MY CAR
THIS IS BY FAR MY NEW FAVORITE VIDEO.
That made me remember this which is one of my NEW FAVORITE VIDEOs once.
This is the most effective reminder EVER that birds are dinosaurs. You ate one for Thanksgiving. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!
(comic via xkcd)
We’ve still got the ferns, dinosaurs. We’ll always have the ferns.
I voraciously adore this, in all its adorable dino-glory: Dinosaur Song by Lori Henriques.
The Dinos And The Bees
How did the “terrible lizards” make the beast with two backs?
Robert Krulwich takes an entertaining look at the current theories of dinosaur reproduction at his blog, with help from Brian Switek’s great new book My Beloved Brontosaurus and some hilarious illustrations by Robert himself (one borrowed above). Do check out his write-up.
From the smallest, chickenesque raptors to the largest, long-necked sauropods to the armored, spiny stegosaurs to the violent and fearsome tyrannosaurs, one things for sure: It took a mommy and daddy dinosaur to make a baby dinosaur.
What is less clear is precisely how that worked. Modern birds descended from dinosaurs, and they provide some hints. For instance, most birds don’t have external baby-making accessories. Instead they have “everything holes” called cloacas (like these amorous penguins) that house their reproductive machinery inside. Dino reproduction would have involved a lot of careful alignment and what could only be described as “frisky friction”.
But not all birds are limited to the cloacal kiss. Ducks have famously corkscrewed screwcorks (which evolved to help females be more selective about mates). Crocodiles are also quipped with a snake of sorts, as are the older lineages of lizards and birds. So when it came down to doing the deed, it’s likely that some sort of external equipment would have been involved. Sadly, that’s a “bone” that doesn’t fossilize.
And that doesn’t even begin to address how a sauropod the size of a house or a spiky stegosaur could have gotten within docking range without risking life and limb.
It’s an amazing set of questions. And you thought your love life was complicated …
3D-REX: A 3D Printed Tyrannosaurus rex Sculpture
Move your wall hangings into storage, namisu from Madrid and Edinburgh has created something a bit different for your wall. Their Kickstarter project for 3D printed Tyrannosaurus rex Sculptures aims to bring together the tradition of fossil collecting and displaying with new technologies. In doing so this design team has played with nature’s creations to influence some of their own. The sculptures they have designed are wire frame fossils created with Selective Laser Sintering, which the team states “feels and looks more like something between wood and stone, rather than plastic. It actually feels like a fossil!” The project comes in two designs, one for walls, and one for tables. You can check out the rest of their Kickstarter project, and their video discussion, here.
Finally, 3D printers do the thing they were made to do!
Among the many odd theories that were bounced around regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs in past decades, perhaps none was as silly as this one. Robert Krulwich, in typically fun form, tells us about an idea pulled from a dark corner of the science closet, channeling a scene from Brian Switek’s great new book My Beloved Brontosaurus, which is on my list of recommended books.
(via Krulwich Wonders…)
Yes, unfortunately the Velociraptor mongoliensis is more like a very aggressive roadrunner than a man-eating murder machine. But those aren’t the ‘raptors from the movies.
The “velociraptors” of Jurassic Park fame are actually Deinonychus, a (slightly) taller, equally roadrunnerish combination of tail and sickle-shaped toe claw. D-nikes (I made that name up) were not huge, but that claw could easily split you open like a bag of spaghetti.
There’s no real confirmation that they were “clever girls” or hunted in packs, and the insistence of JP’s directors on not adding feathers to these almost-certainly feathered death-chickens is kind of like a claw-toed slap in the face to paleontology.
Just like the great T. rex (which we talked about last week), our image of these dinos changes with new science, and will continue to change. Our fiction needs to change with them.
Edit: Several people have noted that Utahraptor is a close match in size to the movie ‘raptors (a death-ostrich, if you will), but that’s a lucky coincidence since it wasn’t discovered until after Jurassic Park was released (or at least close enough that they weren’t willing to change the movie).
(Dino images via Colin Douglas Howell on Wikipedia)