Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

10 Bony Facts About Amargasaurus

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Many long-necked dinosaurs, or sauropods, had pretty bizarre features: The armor-plating on Saltasaurus, the club-tail on Shunosaurus, and the weird, vacuum-like mouth on Africa’s Nigersaurus. And then you’ve got Amagarasaurus, whose neck has been baffling scientists for decades.

1. Amargasaurus’ Neck Spines Might Have Supported a Pair of Sails.  

Strange, rod-like structures projected upwards from its vertebrae, with the tallest being nearly 2 feet. One formerly-popular idea posited that they were covered by a thin layer of skin, forming two parallel fans. However, if such accessories existed, they would probably have stiffened Amargasaurus’ neck.

2. … Or, Maybe They Were Used for Protection.

It’s also possible that, in lieu of webbing, each spine boasted a long, horny sheath with a pointed tip. By bending its head downward, some theorize, Amargasaurus could aim them at oncoming predators and hope that the display proved sufficiently scary-looking.

3. Another Idea is that Amargasaurus Banged Them Together Like a Percussion Instrument.  

Paleo-artist Gregory S. Paul speculates that when Amargasaurus shook its neck, those spikes smacked into each other, producing a loud, threatening noise.  

4. It Was Denied an Appearance in Disney’s Dinosaur (2000).

To this movie’s credit, it cast some rather obscure animals—instead of, say, T. rex, the villain was a devil-horned meat-eater named Carnotaurus. But a number of other dinosaurs were cut during pre-production. Concept artist Ricardo Delgado submitted an Amargasaurus design complete with giraffe-style spots, but the sauropod never made it on screen.

5. Amargasaurus is Named After Argentina’s La Amarga Rock Formation.

Located in the oil-rich Neuquen Basin, the outcropping is approximately 120 million years old. Amargasaurus was first unearthed there (near La Amarga, a namesake town) in 1991 by accomplished paleontologist José Bonaparte.

6. By Sauropod Standards, its Neck Was Pretty Short.

Some, like Mamenchisaurus, had huge necks that were about as long as the rest of their bodies. Amargasaurus wasn’t nearly so well-endowed. This South American critter belonged to the dicraeosauridae family, whose members were noted for their comparatively-diminutive necks.

7. It’s Related to Some of the World’s Most Famous Dinosaurs.

Dicraeosaurids are classified as diplodocoids, a large group that also includes Diplodocus (whose replicated bones are on display in museums all over the world) and the ever-popular Brontosaurus.

8. Amargasaurus Had Unusual Backbones.

Its neck gets all the attention, but Amargasaurus also rocked tall, paddle-shaped spines on its back vertebrae. Again, nobody knows what these did (or if, indeed, they served any function at all).

9. The Melbourne Museum has an Amargasaurus Replica Named Margie.

This full-sized skeletal cast used to spend her free time “writing” for the museum’s official blog (check out this adorable post about Margie’s Christmas attire).

10. According to a Recent Skull Analysis, Amargasaurus Was Well-Suited for Browsing.

Last year, paleontologists Ariana Carabajal, José Carballido, and Philip J. Currie published a report on Amargasaurus’ brain cavity. Their study concluded that, in general, this sauropod mostly pointed its muzzle towards the ground. Given this habit and its modest neck, Amargasaurus was seemingly built for nibbling on mid-level vegetation like tall shrubs. 

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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