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10 Pebbly Facts About Scelidosaurus

Scelidosaurus’ appeal is two-fold. Back in the 19th century, its discovery helped us understand just how strange dinosaurs really were. And, to boot, the primitive critter offers some much-needed perspective on an underexplored chapter in dinosaurian evolution. So what’s not to like?

1. It Was an Early Forerunner of Heavily-Armed Herbivores like Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus.

Wanna be a paleontologist? One of the toughest parts of the gig is untangling an extinct animal’s family tree. Scelidosaurus, which evolved around 190 million years ago, is clearly a primitive thyreophoran, or armored dinosaur. At some point, this group split into two major branches: the tank-like ankylosaurs and the spiky-tailed stegosaurs. Scientists differ on exactly where Scelidosaurus fits within the thyreophora tapestry; some claim it’s more closely aligned with the ankylosaur camp while others feel it preceded the divide and, hence, may be ancestral to both factions.

2. Scelidosaurus Was Named by the Same Dude who Coined the Word “Dinosaur.”

Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892) invented the latter term during the spring of 1842. A year after Scelidosaurusdiscovery in 1858, this gifted naturalist scientifically described the creature and, due to its well-preserved hindquarters, gave it a name that means “limb lizard.”

3. Its Scales Were Small and Bumpy.

Associated skin impressions reveal that Scelidosaurus’ hide (at least the bits which weren’t covered in armored plating) featured tiny, rounded scales which created a pebbly, Gila monster-esque texture. 

4. Thanks to Nine Dino-Loving Grandkids, You Can See a Terrific Scelidosaurus Cast in Utah.


London looks, Flickr

Scelidosaurus displays are an uncommon sight in North America, but in 2011, Virginius Dabney of St. George, Utah, helped bring a top quality skeletal cast to this picturesque little city. When the locally-based Dinosaur Discovery Site museum expressed an interest in obtaining this item, Dabney, at his grandchildren’s urging, donated almost all of the necessary dough. “Now the grandkids can see grandpa’s dinosaur,” he said.

5. We’ve Found Some Pleasantly Intact Scelidosaurus Armor.

Scutes (bony armor plates nestled in an animal’s skin) usually scatter during fossilization. Fortunately, however, one beautiful Scelidosaurus specimen opted to leave most of its scutes intact and in the same bodily places they occupied during life. Now that’s courtesy!

6. It’s Classified as a “Bird-Hipped” Dinosaur.

Such fan favorites as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and Iguanodon are technically known as ornithischian—or “bird-hipped”—dinos due to (among other things) the superficially avian-like position of their pubic bones. Long-necked dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus and carnivorous species such as T. rex belong to the “lizard-hipped” saurischian order. Confusingly, actual birds also belong to this second bunch. Hey, titles can be deceiving...

7. Scelidosaurus Can Claim an Important Historical Distinction.

This British critter was the first dinosaur to be academically described on the basis of a well-preserved, articulated, and (mostly) complete skeleton. Prior to its discovery, the scientific community had little more than isolated bones and fragmented dino bits to work with.

8. The Animal Was a Jurassic Island Dweller.

During its day, higher sea levels converted much of Western Europe (including the UK) into a series of clustered islands.

9. Scelidosaurus Fossils Hail From a Very Narrow Geographic Range.

Thus far, they’ve exclusively turned up in the greater Charmouth/Lyme Regis area of Dorset, England. To explain this, some scientists posit that, like today’s komodo dragon, Scelidosaurus may have only inhabited a single island, which would have been somewhere near these present-day villages.

10. But It Was Briefly Thought to Have Also Inhabited Arizona.

In 1989, a handful of isolated scutes which had been found in this southwestern state were cited as Scelidosaurus remains. However, several paleontologists have since rejected the claim, pointing out that these plates don’t look sufficiently Scelidosaurus-like to warrant a precise identification.

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LEGO
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New LEGO Set Recreates Jurassic Park's Iconic Velociraptor Chase Scenes
LEGO
LEGO

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, is skulking into theaters on June 22. That makes now the perfect time to revisit the original film in LEGO form.

This LEGO set, spotted by Nerdist, depicts some of the most suspenseful scenes from the 1993 movie. There's the main computer room where Ariana Richards's Lex shows off her hacker skills while Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) struggle to keep a hungry dinosaur from barging in. Just like in the film, the door features a deadbolt lock that's velociraptor-proof (though, unfortunately for the characters, the detachable window is not). Other Easter eggs hidden in this part include a map of Isla Nublar and a screener saver of LEGO Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight).

In the neighboring room, you'll find the cold storage unit where the dinosaur embryos are kept, along with the fake shaving cream can Nedry uses to steal them. The final section is the kitchen, where Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex are stalked by the velociraptor. There's less room for them to hide in the LEGO version compared to the movie set, but there is at least one functioning cabinet for Lex to tuck herself into. Closer inspection reveals even more details from the film, like the lime-green Jello Lex is eating when the raptors first arrive and the step ladder the gang uses to escape into the air ducts during the final chase.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

LEGO Jurassic Park set.

The Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase set is currently available from the LEGO shop for $40.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of LEGO.

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CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
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science
Why Are There No More Dinosaurs?
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Actually, there are still dinosaurs: Birds! But let’s talk about that a little later. Scientists have found clues in rocks and fossils that tell us that by 65 million years ago, the climate (CLY-met), or usual weather, of the Earth had changed a lot, becoming cooler and drier. That was hard on the heat-loving dinosaurs. But that’s not why almost all of the dinosaurs became extinct, or disappeared forever. Scientists think a terrible event occurred that killed them off.

In 1991, scientists discovered a huge 110-mile-long crater, or hole, in the Gulf of Mexico. They think this crater was made by a giant, fiery, 6-mile-wide asteroid (AST-er-oyd) from space that smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact was more powerful than any bomb we have ever known. Scientists believe this event killed most plant and animal life—including the dinosaurs. The asteroid probably caused shockwaves, earthquakes, fireballs, wildfires, and tidal, or really big, waves. It also sent huge amounts of dust and gas into the atmosphere, which is like a big blanket of air that surrounds the Earth. That was really bad for the planet.

The dust blocked sunlight, making the planet very cold and dark. Then, over time, the gases trapped heat, causing the Earth to get even hotter than it was before the asteroid hit. This change was deadly for most dinosaurs, and they became extinct. But birds survived. Many millions of years earlier, they had evolved (ee-VOL-ved), or changed slowly over time, from one group of dinosaurs. And when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals diversified (die-VERSE-uh-fide), or changed, into many different kinds of animals—including us, many millions of years later. So the next time you see a bird swoop by, wave hello to the little flying dinosaur!    


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