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10 Things You Might Not Know About Spinosaurus

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Spinosaurus is one mysterious critter. Why don’t we know more about it? Blame the Nazis (seriously). Here are 10 remarkable factoids about this incredible dino.

1. It Was One of the Largest Carnivorous Dinosaurs of All Time.

Spinosaurus was big. Just how big, exactly? That’s difficult to ascertain, since, to date, no complete skeletons have been unearthed. Some estimate that a large adult could be almost 50 feet long, but the general consensus holds that a maximum length nearer to 41 to 43 feet is far more likely.

2. Spinosaurus was Chosen as the Villain in Jurassic Park III Because of Its Weird Profile.

“A lot of dinosaurs have a very similar silhouette to the T. rex,” said director Joe Johnston, who’d been looking for a new reptilian antagonist to replace Tyrannosaurus in the third film, “and we wanted the audience to instantly recognize this as something else.”

3. Some of the Creature’s Dramatic Spines Were Over Five Feet Tall.

Wikimedia Commons

When you’ve got accessories like these things—known scientifically as “neural spines”—sticking out of your vertebrae, nobody tells you to “show some backbone.”

4. Spinosaurus Wasn’t the Only Sail-Backed Dino.

Wikimedia Commons

Ouranosaurus (pictured above) was a majestic African herbivore complete with a series of similar-looking spines. Additionally, one enigmatic beast by the name of Deinocheirus appears to have had some too.

5. Paleo-Artists Mis-Drew Its Head For Almost Eighty Years.

Babble Trish

Dinosaur drawings have fairly short shelf-lives (at least in the accuracy department). Until some groundbreaking new discoveries were made in the 1990s and 2000s, paleontologists lacked any good Spinosaurus skull material. Some decently-preserved Spino remains had been found nearly eight decades earlier, but they didn’t include a head. Artists, therefore, gave an educated guess and largely portrayed it with a Tyrannosaurus-like skull for most of the 20th century. It was an honest mistake. We now know that Spinosaurus had, instead, a long, narrow snout—making these pictures (like the one you can see here) obsolete.

6. Frustrated Paleontologists Named One of Its Close Relatives Irritator challengeri Out of Spite.

Wikimedia Commons

When dealing with fossils, some assembly is usually required. However, things got a bit extreme in 1995, when a team of scientists purchased the skull of an unknown dinosaur from a Brazilian fossil-poacher. The man had (most disingenuously) smothered the poor thing in a thick layer of car body filler to make his find look bigger than it actually was. As one can imagine, removing this substance proved highly “irritating” for the buyers, hence that strange scientific name.

7. Spinosaurus Has Been Featured on an Array of International Postage Stamps.

It may be extinct, but Spinosaurus’ likeness sure does make for a great stamp—at least the governments of such countries as Liberia and Guyana seem to think so.

8. Spinosaurus Had Plenty of Menu Options.

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Like an overgrown heron, Spinosaurus is generally thought to have snagged fishy treats from the North African mangroves it stalked some 97 million years ago. Having a mouth full of long, crocodile-like teeth certainly would’ve helped. But a 2013 paper argues that its diet would have allowed for a lot more variety. Since the animal’s jaws were imperfectly-designed for grappling with fish (at least compared to a modern alligator’s), Spinosaurus probably sought out other entrees as well.

9. Spinosaurus Had Some Really Big Competition.

Deltadromeus, via Wikimedia Commons

No one knows exactly why Spinosaurus had that trademark sail on its back. However, with flesh-eating neighbors like the 26-foot Deltadromeus and the T. rex-sized Carcharodontosaurus sharing its habitat, this apparatus might’ve helped Spinosaurus scare off rival killers by making the creature look bigger or more intimidating than it actually was.

10. The Best Spinosaurus Fossils Ever Found Were Destroyed in World War II.

Wikimedia Commons

In 1944, the most complete collection of Spinosaurus remains science has so far unearthed were obliterated by the British Royal Air Force. Thirty-two years earlier, they’d been sent to German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, who resided in Munich. Unfortunately, Stromer’s outspoken anti-Nazi sentiments doomed the fossils he cherished. In an act of retribution, Third Reich officials refused to let him move his collection to safer ground during the Second World War, and the museum that housed them was later bombed amidst an RAF raid.

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Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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