Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been privileged with no less than four fossil finds that came out just in time! To see the significance, we’ll have to go back 20 years. You see, in 1993, the film Jurassic Park came out. Michael Crichton’s book featured Velociraptor, and he based his depiction on Deinonychus. Spielberg, wanting something even more intimidating, increased the size of his raptors. The scientific community scoffed at this obvious error, but found themselves dumbfounded when, as the film came out, Utah Paleontologist James Kirkland found a dromaeosaur of that impressive size! Utahraptor brought Hollywood’s Raptor come to life!
So, it is with great joy that I reveal that similar things have happened this year, coinciding with this summer’s release of Jurassic World! Yes, once again, life has imitated art! Turns out that the writers of this film were prescient, thanks to their rigorous dedication to scientific accuracy. The papers are not published yet, so I can’t say the discoverers, but I can describe the names and bones found!
First is the discovery of a gigantic mosasaur. Mosasaur experts were disgusted by the sheer size of the mosasaur seen in the trailer, with size estimates ranging from 80 to 600 feet. Well, a group of Canadian scientists working in Denmark have found something very interesting. The specimen is poorly preserved, but very revealing. The first parts to be found were a pair of foot long teeth and a fibula the size of a Shetland Pony. More skull remains have been found, indicating a skull more than 17 feet long, possibly more! That’s more than three times bigger than the original, famous skull found by Dr. Johann Hoffman back in 1766. A new genus has been erected in their upcoming paper-Jörmungandrsaurus erythrothanas. The team suggests it must has fed regularly on full-sized Mosasaurus hoffmani and Goniosaurus binskhorsti, decimating entire schools as it went by.
The second discovery was closer to home, living in what is today Wyoming. Unlike most pterosaur remains, it was found far inland in a streambed environment. This suggests that it was not a fish eater. So far the mandible, thorax, pelvis, and lower limbs have been uncovered. The mandible is extraordinary-while the morphology of the mandible resembles that of a Pteranodon, it possesses large, pointed teeth! Even stranger are the claws; at first they were considered dissociated theropod material, but they proved even stranger as they proved to be connected with the rest of the skeleton. These claws are extraordinary-a picture with a human hand and upper arm shows a length of over a foot, tipped with 2-inch talons. The most shocking thing of all is that, unlike all known pterosaurs, these claws were huge and opposable! The structure of the claws was not like the small lizardlike paws of a pterosaur, but the giant feet of an eagle! Yes, one of the digits opposes the others, much like the pterosaurs that Hollywood has depicted since 1925 despite no evidence until now! The animal, named Manosmoros smaug, must have been a raptorial predator plucking dinosaurs off the ground with its talons and devouring them with its toothy beak.
Next is a new dromaeosaur, found in Cornwall of all places. This dromaeosaur, the size of a Deinonychus, comes from early Cretaceous rock, making it a probable predator of young Iguanodon and Hypsilophodon. However, it is a unique anatomical feature and a surprising artifact from preservation that mark out the discovery. The skull is not known, but the hands show an interesting feature-all other dinosaurs have fixed wrists, a reptilian trait that locks the radius and ulna and prevents them from swiveling around each other like a mammal. However, this animal’s perfectly preserved hands have joints that would have allowed the hands to pronate (palm facing the ground), and move the wrist in a manner like a primate. Yes, this raptor could open doors! The cherry on this sundae, named Buforaptor thuranoigos, is that it has preserved scales. All over the known material is a covering of perfectly preserved, small, lizardlike scales, completely contradicting known feathered dromaeosaur fossils! The 90s are back, it seems, for the Dromaeosaurs.
Finally, there is a spectacular new theropod from the Ocozocoautla formation from Veracruz. Only the tail and legs are missing from this stunning new specimen. Wu et al will later this year release the paper, but they have leaked out crucial new information. First is the presence of preserved skin impressions on the torso, showing scaly skin and huge osteoderms. Taxonomically, there is a great deal of confusion-despite its completeness, Wu et al classify it as Neotheropoda incertae sedis, meaning they can’t narrow down to even an infraorder or suborder. The morphology shows a combination of abeliosaur, carnosaur, dromaeosaur, megalosaur and tyrannosaur characteristics, a sort of a platypus kind of dinosaur. The large, allosaur-like hands, on dromaeosaur like arms, have opposable thumbs, a feature previously unknown in diapsids, joining Dracoraptor and Manosmoros in forelimb oddity. The most amazing thing about it is that in its 4-foot skull, it has a very large brain. The braincase measures 2,000 cubic centimeters, larger than a human brain and 10 times the size of a Tyrannosaurus brain. This must have been an evil genius among the dinosaurs, plotting ,strategizing, perhaps even using rudimentary weapons. It must have been an agressive predator, as well, as stomach contents reveal definitive tyrannosaur and dromeosaur bones, probable victims of this ruthless murderer. All these characteristics are identical to the main villain of Jurassic World, Indominus rex. Science fiction has become scientific through this discovery, and paleontologists over the world have been baffled. This new theropod, dubbed Koprodianoia quisquilianus, will soon be on the public stage and will be a perfect publicity piece for the upcoming movie!
I for one am very excited about these new discoveries, and equally thrilled about the new, upcoming Jurassic World! See you in the theaters and HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!