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10 Speedy Facts About Gallimimus

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Why do we love dinosaurs? Obviously, people have their own personal reasons, but Gallimimus may represent the key to understanding how these long-dead animals have become so overwhelmingly popular. Gallimimus—like many fossilized beasts—is a mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the alien. Read on to find out why.

1. It Belongs to a Large Group of Ostrich Copycats.

Called “ornithomimids” by specialists, these long-armed, long-necked, long-legged critters inhabited Asia and North America during the late Cretaceous period (100-65 million years BCE). Gallimimus was among the largest, although some species—as we’ll see—were probably taller than T. rex.

2. Gallimimus Had “Paper-Thin” Jaws.

Thanks to research executed by Norwegian paleontologist Jørn Hurum, we now know that several of the bones in Gallimimus’ beak and lower jaw were only a few millimeters in total thickness.  

3. Its Hands Were Relatively Short.

Ornithomimids are famous for—among other things—their lanky, elongated forelimbs. Yet Gallimimus’ arms, claws, and hands were proportionately short. This possibly means that the animal wasn’t as dexterous as its relatives, some of which likely grabbed tasty tree branches while feeding.

4. Some Ornithomimids Deliberately Swallowed Rocks.

Take 37 seconds out of your busy day and watch this video:

You’ll see a predatory avian busying itself by eating pebbles. What’s going on? Unlike us spoiled mammals, birds can’t chew. Naturally, this makes digestion somewhat difficult. So some feathered foodies help process their meals by swallowing tiny stones, which help mash up chow internally. Fossilized stomach contents indicate that at least a few ornithomimids used this same technique.

5. Gallimimus Posed its Arms Very Differently than We Do.

Can you touch the side of your arm with the side of your pinky finger? Probably not (and if you can, it might be time to seek medical attention). Dinosaurs like Gallimimus had wrists which would have allowed them to ace that little challenge. Like birds, their hands were built for flexing in this awkward direction. However, there’s a trade-off. Go outside and dribble a basketball. Now smirk with the knowledge that Gallimimus could never do this because its wrists were incapable of moving its palms to parallel the ground. Fellow humans, this calls for some gloating!

6. Jurassic Park Animators Got Up and Ran Around Like a Herd of Gallimimus Behind the Scenes.

Over two dozen Gallimimus come racing towards Spielberg’s camera in this thrilling scene from the 1993 mega-blockbuster. To help visualize the sequence, Jurassic Park’s animation team members filmed themselves imitating these frenzied dinos while prancing through a studio parking lot. 

7. Most Ornithomimid Names Aren’t Particularly Imaginative.

Despite looking somewhat emu-like, Gallimimus’ genus name means “chicken mimic.” Its similarly-built cousins Pelicanimimus, Struthiomimus, and Ornithomimus have names which translate to “pelican mimic,” “ostrich mimic,” and “bird mimic,” respectively. 

8. Some Scientists Have Argued that Gallimimus Ate Like A Duck.

Soft tissue isn’t often preserved in fossilized skeletons, but a choice Gallimimus specimen found during the early 2000s gave us a nice look at this dinosaur’s mouth, and comb-like ridges were spotted near its beak. At first, these looked suspiciously similar to the straining mechanisms today’s ducks use while gobbling up small organisms in bodies of water. Gallimimus, it seemed, behaved likewise. However, the structures can also be seen in some herbivorous turtles, creatures which simply bite through foliage instead. 

9. At Least Some Ornithomimids Had Primitive Wings.

The feathered dino club just keeps getting bigger. Ornithomimid skeletons complete with what appear to be enlarged arm feathers have been found in Canada.

10. One of Gallimimus’ (Possible) Relatives Had Terrifyingly-Huge Arms.

Deinocheirus was utterly humongous. A probable ornithomimid, two bodiless arms belonging to this dino were unearthed in Mongolia back in the 1960s. But here’s the scary part: Each one was over 8 feet long! Dinosaur buffs would have to hold out until 2013 before any reasonably-complete skeletons turned up. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait: We now know that the mysterious Deinocheirus had a sail on its back and could reach over 16 feet in height. Universal Pictures seriously needs to consider putting three or four in their upcoming Jurassic Park sequel… 

Creative Beasts
These Scientifically Accurate Dinosaur Toys Are Ready to Rule Your Desk
Creative Beasts
Creative Beasts

In May 2016, we told you about Beasts of the Mesozoic, a line of Kickstarter-backed dinosaur toys that would reflect the feathery truth about the mighty beasts and provide an alternative to the Hollywood-enhanced glamour of the Jurassic Park franchise.

Then, absolutely nothing happened. Having being fully funded on the crowd-sourced platform, Beasts seemed to be mired in production issues. Now, nearly two years after designer David Silva announced the project, the toys are finally ready to hit shelves.

A Beasts of the Mesozoic action figure in retail packaging
Creative Beasts

The Beasts line will initially consist of 11 figures due to ship this month, with six more expected to arrive in May. Included in the first wave are Velociraptor mongoliensis, Atrociraptor marshalli, Balaur bondoc, Dromaeosaurus albertensis, Zhenyuanlong suni, Pyroraptor olympus, Linheraptor exquisitus, Velociraptor osmolskae (red), FC (Fan’s Choice) Dromaeosaurus albertensis, FC Pyroraptor olympus, and FC Zhenyuanlong suni.

In his updates, Silva said the delay was due in large part to how quickly the scope of the line grew. At the time the campaign started, he was planning on just three figures that would ship by May 2017. By the end, he had 25 items, including accessory packs.

You can pre-order the first wave ($35 to $40 each) at BackerKit.

Prehistoric Ticks Once Drank Dinosaur Blood, Fossil Evidence Shows

Ticks plagued the dinosaurs, too, as evidenced by a 99-million-year old parasite preserved inside a hunk of ancient amber. Entomologists who examined the Cretaceous period fossil noticed that the tiny arachnid was latched to a dinosaur feather—the first evidence that the bloodsuckers dined on dinos, according to The New York Times. These findings were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ticks are one of the most common blood-feeding parasites. But experts didn’t know what they ate in prehistoric times, as parasites and their hosts are rarely found together in the fossil record. Scientists assumed they chowed down on early amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, according to NPR. They didn’t have hard evidence until study co-author David Grimaldi, an entomologist at the American Museum of History, and his colleagues spotted the tick while perusing a private collection of Myanmar amber.

A 99-million-year-old tick encased in amber, grasping a dinosaur feather.
Cornupalpatum burmanicum hard tick entangled in a feather. a Photograph of the Burmese amber piece (Bu JZC-F18) showing a semicomplete pennaceous feather. Scale bar, 5 mm. b Detail of the nymphal tick in dorsal view and barbs (inset in a). Scale bar, 1 mm. c Detail of the tick’s capitulum (mouthparts), showing palpi and hypostome with teeth (arrow). Scale bar, 0.1 mm. d Detail of a barb. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. e Drawing of the tick in dorsal view indicating the point of entanglement. Scale bar, 0.2 mm. f Detached barbule pennulum showing hooklets on one of its sides (arrow in a indicates its location but in the opposite side of the amber piece). Scale bar, 0.2 mm
Peñalver et al., Nature Communications

The tick is a nymph, meaning it was in the second stage of its short three-stage life cycle when it died. The dinosaur it fed on was a “nanoraptor,” or a tiny dino that was roughly the size of a hummingbird, Grimaldi told The Times. These creatures lived in tree nests, and sometimes met a sticky end after tumbling from their perches into hunks of gooey resin. But just because the nanoraptor lived in a nest didn’t mean it was a bird: Molecular dating pinpointed the specimen as being at least 25 million years older than modern-day avians.

In addition to ticks, dinosaurs likely also had to deal with another nest pest: skin beetles. Grimaldi’s team located several additional preserved ticks, and two were covered in the insect’s fine hairs. Skin beetles—which are still around today—are scavengers that live in aerial bird homes and consume molted feathers.

“These findings shed light on early tick evolution and ecology, and provide insights into the parasitic relationship between ticks and ancient relatives of birds, which persists today for modern birds,” researchers concluded in a news release.

[h/t The New York Times]


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