10 Fun Facts About Corythosaurus

Daderot via Wikimedia Commons // CC0

You might not have known this week’s dino by name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen it before. From Philly to Ontario to western Kansas, Corythosaurus appears in dozens of museums across North America. Does your hometown have one on display? Let us know in the comments section.

1. Corythosaurus Had a Twiggy Diet.   

Corythosaurus is known exclusively from Alberta, where excellent skeletons have cropped up in droves over the past hundred-plus years. An especially awesome individual even has a gut filled with pulverized plant fossils, which reveal that the herbivore gobbled up prehistoric twigs.

2. Scientists Used to Think That Its Feet Were Webbed.

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Impressions of fleshy pads can be seen around some Corythosaurus feet. Today, we now know that these helped support its massive weight on dry land, but back in the 1910s, they were believed to serve an aquatic function. At first, paleontologists mistook them for membranous webs situated between the toes and fingers. Hence, early drawings (like the one above) wrongly cast Corythosaurus as a duck-like, river-going doggie paddler.   

3. There’s a Link Between Corythosaurus and Ancient Greek Battle Gear.

When fossil hunter Barnum Brown (who also discovered T. rex) named this dinosaur in 1914, he felt that its circular head crest looked a lot like the curved helmets worn 2700 years ago by soldiers of Corinth—so he dubbed it Corythosaurus, meaning “Corinthian helmet lizard.”

4. It May Have Liked Dawn and Dusk.

If you’re a mammal and you know it, roll your eyes. Like all members of this particular class, your sight organs don’t contain buried bony circles called “sclerotic rings.” These can, however, be found in many reptiles, birds, and—yes—dinosaurs. So what’s their function? Though experts aren’t 100 percent sure, they probably play a role in supporting the pupil. But not all pupils are created equal: Nocturnal creatures tend to have proportionally larger ones than diurnal animals.

By comparing the sclerotic rings of prehistoric and modern creatures, paleontologists Lars Schmitz and Ryosuke Motani hope to learn when certain dinosaurs might have been active. The pair’s research suggests that Velociraptor was a night owl, Archaeopteryx enjoyed broad daylight, and Corythosaurus preferred going about its business at sunrise and sunset.

5. NYC’s American Museum of Natural History has Two Skeletons Preserved in Their “Death Poses.”

Mounted skeletons are great, but sometimes it’s best to present your fossils as you found them. At this Manhattan landmark, visitors can gaze upon two complete Corythosaurus specimens, both in the same position they held while still in the ground. Neat, huh?

6. Those Crests Started to Form During Adolescence.

By comparing multiple juvenile and fully grown Corythosaurus, a 2013 survey found that an individual’s crest didn’t begin development until the dinosaur’s skull had reached fifty percent of its final length.

7. We Know a Lot About What its Hide Looked Like.  

Certain Corythosaurus skeletons—including one of those AMNH guys we mentioned earlier—came with extensive skin impressions. This tells us that the scales on this animal’s inner thighs were smaller than the ones spread over its sides, which were in turn dwarfed by those coating the tail tip. Shape-wise, most Corythosaurus scales were polygon-esque.

8. Dinos Like Corythosaurus Were Real Endurance Runners.

When some hungry tyrannosaur comes charging, what’s a poor, “duck-billed” dinosaur to do? Last year, Scott Persons of the University of Alberta took a good whack at this question. His conclusions lend a bit of credence to Aesop’s whole “slow-and-steady-wins-the-race” bit.

It turns out that Corythosaurus and its kin (collectively called hadrosaurs) took much shorter strides than did tyrannosaurids like T. rex. This means that, in a brief chase, the predators would have easily caught their hapless victims. But here’s the trade-off: They would also have gotten tired sooner. So what would happen if the pursuit raged on over a vast distance? In this situation, since hadrosaurs expended less energy per step, the plant-eaters could keep going and going like giant Energizer Bunnies long after their attackers got pooped.     

9. It Was Quite Adept at Hearing Deep Noises.

According to a 2008 CT scan performed by Ohio University, Corythosaurus had a "delicate inner ear" that allowed it to “hear low-frequency” sounds. This correlates with the leading hypothesis about what the animal did with its headgear: Hollow chambers that connected directly to the nasal passages are present inside the crests of Corythosaurus and its closest cousins. Perhaps these apparatuses acted like giant resonating chambers, emitting plangent cries to each other that might travel for miles.

10. One Corythosaurus Species Was Named After an Incredibly Dangerous Bird.

Do yourself a favor: Never mess with cassowaries. Though they’re usually on the passive side, these 130-pound avians can leap almost seven feet off the ground, hit a dizzying top speed of 31 mph, slash through their enemies with blade-like, 4-inch toe claws, and—unsurprisingly—kill people.

Because it rocks a similar-looking bulge atop its noggin, the best-known Corythosaurus species was christened Corythosaurus casuarius in honor of the southern cassowary’s scientific name, Casuarius casuarius. Apart from nomenclature, these two creatures might also have something else in common. Give a listen to this incredible clip:

That otherworldly bellow is just the tip of the iceberg: Cassowaries emit earth’s lowest documented bird call. A few biologists think their odd-looking crests help generate these booming, long-range vocalizations. Talk about déjà vu…  

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Authorities Want This Roadside Bear Statue in Wales Removed Before It Causes More Accidents
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There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

Wooden bear statue.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
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The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.
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If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
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While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

Woman doing yoga with her dog.
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Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

Person running in field with a dog.
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While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

Woman cuddling her dog.
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Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

Large bulldog licking a laughing man.
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Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

Man high-fiving his dog.
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Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
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The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

Man running in surf with dog.
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The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
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Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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