CLOSE
istock
istock

The 10 Coolest Dinosaur Discoveries of 2014

istock
istock

It’s been a great year for dinosaur buffs, and not just because the latest Jurassic Park movie unleashed an exhilarating new trailer. As January draws near, we’re taking a look back and counting down 2014’s ten awesomest dinosaur stories.

10. Long-Faced T. rex Cousin Unearthed

Dubbed “Pinocchio rex” by the media, China’s Qianzhousaurus sinensis was a tyrannosaurid with a noticeably elongated snout. The animal stalked its prey roughly 66 million years ago and would have been about 29 feet (9 meters) long.

9. Awesomely-Named Dino Giant Discovered in Patagonia

Back in the Cretaceous period (145.5-66 M.Y.A.), South America had more than its fair share of humongous dinosaurs stomping around. But the fossil record hasn’t been kind to these behemoths; most varieties are only known from scrappy fragments and isolated bones. Dreadnoughtus schrani—a new super-sized herbivore—bucks this trend. Two specimens were announced this past September, including one in which nearly half (43 percent) of the skeleton was preserved, making Dreadnoughtus a dream come true for the scientific community. And, better still, this earth-shaking, 85-foot (25.9-meter) creature was given an epic genus name that literally means “fears nothing.”

8. Saudi Arabia Finally Gets some Dinosaur Material

Though rich in oil, the Arabian Peninsula has yielded few dino fossils. “To say that finds are rare is an understatement,” says paleontologist Benjamin Kear. “What’s been discovered you could almost fit inside a shoebox.” That changed in January, when a team led by Kear located multiple bones—including several vertebrae from some long-necked herbivore and the serrated teeth of a predator—near the Red Sea. Previously, no dinosaur remains had ever been documented within this region’s largest country.

7. X-Rayed Bird Legs Reveal Secrets of Dino Tracks

In a way, dinosaur footprints are more amazing than their skeletons: Unlike old, dead bones, they record prehistoric behavior. In order to better understand these fascinating fossils, a group of British scientists filmed a small, chicken-like critter called a guineafowl frolicking inside an x-ray machine. The avian was recorded leaving fresh tracks in soft sediment, granting biologists critical perspective on the motions its dinosaurian ancestors went through with every step. This study also explains some mysterious ridges left alongside several specimens, which bear a striking resemblance to the “exit” traces made when the test guineafowl lifted up its feet. 

6. “Duck-Billed” Dinos Were Apparently Built for Long-Distance Chases

When predators came prowling, hadrosaurs (a.k.a. “duck-billed” dinos) might have seemed like easy targets—after all, these plant-eating reptiles lacked horns, spikes, or any other weapons capable of making a hungry carnivore think twice. But they may have had one critical edge over their would-be attackers: endurance. Though theropods (“meat-eating” dinos) doubtlessly had higher top speeds, a computerized comparison of their limb proportions suggests that hadrosaurs could have kept running across much greater distances before getting worn out.

5. Spinosaurus Gets a Makeover

Spinosaurus just keeps getting weirder. Man-sized bony spines sprouted from the beast’s back and, despite being close to T. rex in size, its conical teeth imply a fish-based diet. Stranger still, this autumn a new paper announced some remarkable new remains and concluded (albeit controversially) that Spinosaurus preferred walking on all fours. The authors also revealed that, unlike most carnivorous dinos, this animal had solid limb bones and strange, potentially-webbed feet—perfect adaptations for an aquatic, crocodile-esque lifestyle. 

4. North America’s Oldest “Horned Dino” Comes to Light

Wikimedia Commons

Aquilops americanus was a crow-sized creature whose skull first turned up all the way back in 1997—but it received neither a name nor any significant scientific description until last week. A primitive ceratopsian (“horned dinosaur”), Aquilops hails from the same group as the beloved multi-ton Triceratops and currently represents North America’s earliest-known member of this gang.

3. Stegosaurus Hit Below the Belt, As Shown by Tell-Tale Fossil

Stegosaurus shared its range with a large carnivorous dinosaur called Allosaurus. Evidently, when the two clashed, things could get ugly. One recently inspected Allosaurus pubic bone displays a deep, cone-shaped wound which perfectly matches the dimensions of a Stegosaurus tail spike. To make matters worse, the surrounding area seems to have gotten infected, implying that after this predator was struck between the legs, its subsequent wound proved fatal.

2. Feathered Dinosaurs May Have Been Way More Common Than We Thought

If Kulindadromeus is any indication, the ever-growing list of fluffy dinosaurs is due to get a whole lot longer. Theropods gave rise to modern birds and, unsurprisingly, once held a monopoly on feathered dino specimens. However, this newfound Siberian species also rocked plumage despite belonging to the ornithischia: a group which split from theropods and their ilk at a very early stage in dinosaurian evolution. According to Belgian paleontologist Pascal Godefroit, this probably means that “the common ancestor of all dinosaurs had feathers … Feathers are not a characteristic of [just] birds, but of all dinosaurs.”

1. Mystery Dino’s Body Finally Surfaces

In 1965, a pair of gigantic, three-clawed arms were excavated in the Mongolian desert. Each was over eight feet long and therefore imposing enough to earn their owner the name Deinocheirus, or “terrible hand.” But astonishing as these were, the rest of the animal remained unknown.

Now, scientists can finally piece this whole puzzle back together. And the results are bizarre: Pot-bellied, hump-backed, and complete with a broad-muzzled, horse-like skull, Deinocheirus’ long-lost body has defied all reasonable expectations. Such are the joys of studying fossils. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
LEGO
arrow
fun
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
CHLOE EFFRON / DINOSAURS: ISTOCK
arrow
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!    


SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios