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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: dinosaurs (4)

Dino Might

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
24 September 2013
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In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I was absolutely mad for dinosaurs. Many hours were spent poring over my small stash of dinosaur books - I used to lie on our worn lounge room carpet, gawping at fantastical images of a vengeful Triceratops skewering a clearly outraged Tyrannosaurus in the thigh. To my young eyes, the image was evocative and powerful, albeit a little coy in the lack of blood.

By today’s standards, the picture is quite out-dated in the postures of the protagonists, but it was enough to get me hooked on these intriguing (and like me, clearly ill-tempered) animals. My chief interests wavered over the following teenage years – at times Dinosaur Jr. were more interesting than dinosaurs - but dinos were always there in one way or another, bubbling away as a topic of interest in the back of my mind.

Qantassaurus Melbourne Museum's animatronic reconstructions of the Victorian dinosaur Qantassaurus
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fast forward to today, and much has changed – my son sees CGI footage of dinosaurs that are so plausible that there’s genuine confusion over what is actually real. To his generation, it will likely seem ludicrous that our generation thought of Velociraptor as anything other than fully feathered, but to those of us of the “Jurassic Park” generation, the leathery-skinned versions will be long remembered. Disappointingly, it seems that despite scientific consensus on their feathers, the upcoming Jurassic Park film will feature the old-school, oversized, nude ‘raptors. But I digress...

Velociraptor skull A model of the skull of Velociraptor - feathers not shown....just like in Jurassic Park (I might need to get over this)
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Unlike Hollywood, the scientific world’s understanding of dinosaur behaviour, posture and lifestyles has changed over the years. There are numerous examples of dinosaur displays in Museums that required modification to keep them up-to-date with current research. One of the quirks of palaeontology - the active study of long-since-inactive animals - is that we can never really ‘get it right...finally’; the most we can hope for is to ‘get it right...for now’. New discoveries drive new interpretations, leading to new theories; forever edging us closer to the truth, but the goalposts are constantly moving.  With dinosaurs, you can never ‘know’ everything - and I find that quite reassuring.

Southern carnivorous dinosaur diversity

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
17 May 2012
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MV palaeontologist Tom Rich, along with colleagues Roger Benson, Patricia Vickers-Rich, and Mike Hall, today published a review of all the theropod dinosaurs known from early Cretaceous period deposits in southern Australia. In doing so, they present the first complete snapshot of local theropod diversity around 120-105 million years ago.

Theropods are a group of mostly carnivorous dinosaurs that walked on two legs and had three-toed feet. Included among the theropods are the infamous T.rex, the small and agile Deinonychus, the feathered Archaeopteryx and modern birds. Tom and his colleagues have been pulling theropod fossils out of Victoria's coastline deposits since the 1970s and in this review, they considered 37 bones and over 90 individual teeth. They conclude that the local Cretaceous theropod fauna comprised nine major groups (or taxa), including allosauroids, tyrannosauroids, spinosauroids and the recently-discovered ceratosaur.

fossils of therapod forelimbs Some of the fossils reviewed in this examination of southern therapod diversity. These are large theropod manual phalanges, or bones from the 'hands' of these dinosaurs.
Source: Benson et al.
 

evolutionary tree of therapod dinosaurs A summary cladogram (evolutionary tree) of the therapod dinosaurs, showing the relationships between the major groups within the suborder Therapoda.
Source: Benson et al.
 

Like the unique fauna of Australia living today, our prehistoric fauna was distinctive too, with some groups dominating the fossil record and others seemingly absent. In the past, palaeontologists have considered several explanations why the types of dinosaurs that lived in Australia were so different to the types found in other continents, even our nearby Gondwanan neighbours. Did certain groups evolve in other continents after Gondwana had split up, so those groups never dispersed to Australia? Or were there patterns of regional extinctions reflecting the differences in climate between the continents as they drifted apart?

As more fossils are uncovered and studied, the picture gets a little clearer. It now appears that many high-level dinosaur taxa, such as the tyrannosauroids and allosauroids, emereged earlier than previously estimated and were distributed all over the world during the Jurassic. This suggests they've been missing from Australian records simply because our dinosaur fauna is poorly known. The Australian fossil record is patchy – whether it's because the fossils have not been preserved or simply not discovered or properly interpreted yet – and often only one or two bones represent an entire group of animals.

However the isolation of Gondwana and Australia from the rest of the world, and the unique conditions here, did help shape a unique assemblage at the species level. During the early Cretaceous, Australia was still attached to Antarctica and was much closer to the South Pole than it is now. Earth's climate was much warmer, the poles were free of icecaps and Victoria and Antarctica were covered in lush, ferny temperate forests. Long periods of winter darkness and extended summer daylight influenced the evolution of endemic dinosaurs whereas in other parts of the world, their distant relatives were contending with quite different environments.

Australia's position near the South Pole 120 million years ago Approximate position of Australia 120 million years ago during the Cretaceous era.
Image: Ron Blakey. Altered by Cally Bennet and Fons VandenBerg
Source: Colorado Plateau Geosystems
 

The possibility remains that some dinosaurs, such as the long-necked quadrupedal sauropods, which were present in Queensland but have not been found in Victoria, could not survive in cool, dark Cretaceous southern Australia and and so they did not enter this area.

Links:

Benson RBJ, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P, Hall M (2012) Theropod Fauna from Southern Australia Indicates High Polar Diversity and Climate-Driven Dinosaur Provinciality. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37122.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037122

Monash University: The killer dinosaurs of south-eastern Australia

600 Million Years: Victoria evolves

Dinosaur Walk

MV News: Victorian tyrannosauroid found

They are coming...

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
13 May 2011
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Comments (1)

It's not every day that motorists share a freeway with prehistoric flying reptiles! Two huge models of pteranodons - with wingspans of six metres - crossed Melbourne by truck yesterday, ahead of their display in the upcoming Scienceworks exhibition Explore-a-saurus.

Pteranodon on a truck Pteranodon on a tuck arriving at Scienceworks.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Pteranodon arrives at Scienceworks Moving crew wheel a Pteranodon model into the Scienceworks building.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Did you see this unusual cargo make its trip from Coburg to Spotswood?

Explore-a-saurus will open to the public on June 1. You can pre-purchase tickets online now.

Links:

Explore-a-saurus

MV Blog: Developing a dino exhibit

Open wide!

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
12 January 2011
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Comments (1)

Dave Pickering and T. rex Dave Pickering checking out the teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The crew at Scienceworks have just unpacked a shipment of animatronic dinosaurs from Questacon. They will be refurbished in our workshops before going on display in the exhibition Explore-a-saurus, which opens at Scienceworks on 1 June 2011. Palaeontology collection manager, David Pickering, was caught hamming it up in a photo shoot with the mighty models, but I don't think he'll get that close once they're switched on and come to life!

Among the dinosaurs are some of the superstars of the dino world - T. rex, Stegasaurus, Triceratops and others. They will be overhauled with some new animatronic technology and their appearance updated to reflect recent discoveries in palaeontology.

Triceratops in the Scienceworks collection store Eye to eye with Triceratops in the Scienceworks collection store.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Explore-a-saurus will have moving, roaring models on a grand scale. The exhibition will also show how paleontologists reconstruct dinosaurs - what they looked like, how they behaved and where they lived - from fossil evidence.

Links:

What's On listing for Explore-a-saurus 

Dinosaur Walk

MV News: How old was that dinosaur?

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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