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7 Jurassic Park Dinosaurs: Then and Now

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Nearly 20 years after it first stomped onto the screen in 1993, Stephen Spielberg’s special and visual effects masterpiece Jurassic Park is being re-released in 3D this week. However, not unlike earth’s ecosystem itself, the fascinating world of dinosaur paleontology is an ever-changing place. Over the last two decades, some truly astonishing new discoveries have been made, spanning just about every conceivable topic in the biology, behavior, and evolution of these animals. So, to honor this grand cinematic occasion, let’s take a look back at the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and how recent discoveries have since changed our view of the magnificent creatures in its cast.  

1. Triceratops

A series of recent studies has proposed that the distinctive horns above Triceratops’ eyes would grow thicker and curve downward with age. For an account of a 2009 experiment that may help scientists understand how these dreaded weapons were put into practice, go here.

2. Parasaurolophus

We never hear a peep out of them in the movie, but in 1998, Tom Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science worked with a team of computer scientists to digitally simulate what Parasaurolophus may have actually sounded like some 75 million years ago. Check it out:

3. Dilophosaurus

Though absolutely no evidence exists to suggest that Dilophosaurus was actually venomous as seen in Jurassic Park, one of the animal’s original discoverers, the late Sam Welles of the University of California Museum of Paleontology, quickly became a fan of the film. In the mid-90s, he dedicated a delightfully-informative web page to the biology, unearthing, and cinematic debut of his beloved dinosaur. “I thoroughly enjoyed the movie”, said Welles, “and was very happy to find Dilophosaurus an internationally-known actor.”

4. Brachiosaurus

Could such a massive dinosaur really stand on two limbs without toppling over, as shown in the breathtaking clip above? Given the fact that the beast’s front legs were significantly longer than its back ones (and, hence, the name Brachiosaurus literally means “arm lizard”), paleontologist Heinrich Mallison argued in 2011 that, in Brachiosaurus’ case, rearing would include “a high risk of serious injury should the animal become unbalanced,” though he argued that some other species of sauropods (“long-necked” dinos) would’ve been able to do so.

5. Tyrannosaurus

“I think the hero of this movie is the T. rex,” Spielberg once said. He certainly isn’t the only one to have fallen in love with the “Tyrant Lizard King”: Tyrannosaurus is easily the most exhaustively-studied dinosaur of all time. One of Jurassic Park’s most famous sequences—in which a hungry “rex” hits speeds of 45 miles per hour while charging after a jeep—has come under fire in recent years. A 2002 analysis argued that, for this to occur, 86 percent of its muscle mass would have had to have been concentrated in its legs, a ludicrously implausible notion.

6. Gallimimus

A flock of these ostrich-like dinosaurs are seen stampeding away from a hungry T. rex in the third act of the film. Were the sequence shot today, the creatures’ arms would’ve been positioned differently: notice that the terrified Gallimimus hold their palms downward in this scene.

However, recent findings have confirmed that, in life, the hands of this sinuous dino and its kin would’ve faced each other instead, a position also favored by present-day birds.

7. Velociraptor

Over a decade after its last installment, a fourth film will finally be added to the Jurassic Park franchise next summer. The new movie may still be over a year away, but it’s already managed to stir up some scientific controversy. Director Colin Trevorrow recently tweeted that, in order to preserve series continuity, the “raptors” involved will not be given feathers, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that these swift predators were at least partially covered with them. A series of bumps known as “quill knobs,” which anchor large feathers in modern birds, were found on the forearms of a Mongolian specimen in 2007. As for the original Jurassic Park, a great deal has been written about the accuracy of its Velociraptors—here's a basic summary

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Big Questions
Should You Keep Your Pets Indoors During the Solar Eclipse?
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By now, you probably know what you’ll be doing on August 21, when a total solar eclipse makes its way across the continental United States. You’ve had your safety glasses ready since January (and have confirmed that they’ll actually protect your retinas), you’ve picked out the perfect vantage point in your area for the best view, and you’ve memorized Nikon’s tips for how to take pictures of this rare celestial phenomenon. Still, it feels like you’re forgetting something … and it’s probably the thing that's been right under your nose, and sitting on your lap, the whole time: your pets.

Even if you’ve never witnessed a solar eclipse, you undoubtedly know that you’re never supposed to look directly at the sun during one. But what about your four-legged family members? Shouldn’t Fido be fitted with a pair of eclipse glasses before he heads out for his daily walk? Could Princess Kitty be in danger of having her peepers singed if she’s lounging on her favorite windowsill? While, like humans, looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse does pose the potential of doing harm to a pet’s eyes, it’s unlikely that the thought would even occur to the little ball of fluff.

“It’s no different than any other day,” Angela Speck, co-chair of the AAS National Solar Eclipse Task Force, explained during a NASA briefing in June. “On a normal day, your pets don’t try to look at the sun and therefore don’t damage their eyes, so on this day they’re not going to do it either. It is not a concern, letting them outside. All that’s happened is we’ve blocked out the sun, it’s not more dangerous. So I think that people who have pets want to think about that. I’m not going to worry about my cat.”

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a veterinarian, author, and founder of pawcurious, echoed Speck’s statement, but allowed that there’s no such thing as being too cautious. “It’s hard for me to criticize such a well-meaning warning, because there’s really no harm in following the advice to keep pets inside during the eclipse,” Vogelsang told Snopes. “It’s better to be too cautious than not cautious enough. But in the interest of offering a realistic risk assessment, the likelihood of a pet ruining their eyes the same way a human would during an eclipse is much lower—not because the damage would be any less were they to stare at the sun, but because, from a behavior standpoint, dogs and cats just don’t have any interest in doing so. We tend to extrapolate a lot of things from people to pets that just doesn’t bear out, and this is one of them.

“I’ve seen lots of warnings from the astronomy community and the human medical community about the theoretical dangers of pets and eclipses, but I’m not sure if any of them really know animal behavior all that well," Vogelsang continued. "It’s not like there’s a big outcry from the wildlife community to go chase down coyotes and hawks and bears and give them goggles either. While we in the veterinary community absolutely appreciate people being concerned about their pets’ wellbeing, this is a non-issue for us.”

The bigger issue, according to several experts, would be with pets who are already sensitive to Mother Nature. "If you have the sort of pet that's normally sensitive to shifts in the weather, they might be disturbed by just the whole vibe because the temperature will drop and the sky will get dark,” Melanie Monteiro, a pet safety expert and author of The Safe-Dog Handbook: A Complete Guide to Protecting Your Pooch, Indoors and Out, told TODAY.

“If [your pets] have learned some association with it getting darker, they will show that behavior or at a minimum they get confused because the timeframe does not correspond,” Dr. Carlo Siracusa of Penn Vet Hospital told CBS Philly. “You might put the blinds down, but not exactly when the dark is coming but when it is still light.” 

While Monteiro again reasserts that, "Dogs and cats don't normally look up into the sun, so you don't need to get any special eye protection for your pets,” she says that it’s never a bad idea to take some extra precautions. So if you’re headed out to an eclipse viewing party, why not do your pets a favor and leave them at home. They won’t even know what they’re missing.

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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