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.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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…  

Scientists Capture the First Footage of an Anglerfish’s Parasitic Mating Ritual

The deep sea is full of alien-looking creatures, and the fanfin anglerfish is no exception. The toothy Caulophryne jordani, with its expandable stomach and glowing lure and fin rays, is notable not just for its weird looks, but also its odd mating method, which has been captured in the wild on video for the first time, as CNET and Science report.

If you saw a male anglerfish and a female anglerfish together, you would probably not recognize them as the same species. In fact, in the video below, you might not be able to find the male at all. The male anglerfish is lure-less and teeny-tiny (as much as 60 times smaller in length) compared to his lady love.

And he's kind of a deadbeat boyfriend. The male anglerfish attaches to the female's belly in a parasitic mating ritual that involves biting into her and latching on, fusing with her so that he can get his nutrients straight from her blood. He stays there for the rest of his fishy life, fertilizing her eggs and eventually becoming part of her body completely.

Observing an anglerfish in action, or really at all, is extremely difficult. There are only 14 dead specimens from this particular anglerfish species held at natural history museums throughout the world, and they are all female. Since anglerfish can't live in the lab, seeing them in their natural habitat is the only way to observe them. This video, shot in 2016 off the coast of Portugal by researchers with the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, is only the third time we've been able to record deep-sea anglerfish behavior.

Take a look for yourself, and be grateful that your own relationship isn't quite so codependent.

[h/t CNET]

Cockroach DNA Shows Why They're Basically Indestructible

Most people are all too aware that cockroaches are horrifyingly resilient beings. Yes, they can and have survived nuclear blasts, and surely stand to inherit the Earth after we all succumb to the apocalypse. Why is this creature able to thrive in the face of pesticides, the loss of limbs, disgusting conditions, a range of climates, and even nuclear fallout, in urban kitchens across the world? As Inside Science reports, a new study on the genome of the American cockroach shows that certain genes are key to its wild evolutionary success.

In an article published in Nature Communications, researchers from South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China report that they sequenced and analyzed the genome of Periplaneta americana, and in the process they discovered just how indestructible this scourge is. They found that the cockroach (native to Africa, despite its American moniker) has more DNA than any other insect whose DNA has been sequenced except the migratory locust. The size of its genome—3.3 billion base pairs—is comparable to that of humans.

They have a huge number of gene families (several times the number other insects have) related to sensory reception, with 154 smell receptors and 522 taste receptors, including 329 taste receptors specifically related to bitter tastes. These extra smell and taste receptors may help cockroaches avoid toxic food (say, your household pesticide) and give them the ability to adapt to a multitude of different diets in different environments.

They also have killer immune systems able to withstand pathogens they might pick up from the rotting food they eat and the filth they like to live in. They have many more genes related to immunity compared to other insects.

The genome analysis might give us more than just a newfound respect for this revolting pest. The researchers hope to find a way to harness this new knowledge of cockroach immunity to control vermin populations—and create an eradication method slightly more effective than just stomping on them.

[h/t Inside Science]


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