These Baby Dinosaurs Were Born With Adult-Like Proportions

UA 9998 and friends. Image credit: D. Vital

Newly recovered fossils from a baby titanosaur suggest that the dinosaur would stay the same shape throughout its life, even as it grew to the size of a bus. These findings are reported in the journal Science.

Titanosaurs like Rapetosaurus krausei were the biggest land animals to ever walk the Earth. Multiple fossils from the 50-foot-long adults have been recovered and studied, but until recently we knew very little about hatchlings and juveniles. Then, paleontologists recovered the remains of an itsy-bitsy R. krausei from a rock formation in Madagascar. They found bones from the dinosaur’s hips, front legs, back legs, spine, and tail—all tiny. Of course, tiny is relative. The baby, which the researchers named UA 9998, appears to have been just a few weeks old, 88 pounds, and just over a foot tall when it died—and yet it was a mere speck compared with its mother.

Mom and baby, with shadowy human for scale. Image credit: Raul Martin and Kristina Curry Rogers

And the researchers did compare UA 9998 with adults like its mother. They cut slices from one of the baby dinosaur’s leg bones and examined them under the microscope. They also scanned all the bones using X-ray computed tomography.

Image credit: K. Curry Rogers, M. Whitney, M. D'Emic, and B. Bagley

The researchers found that aside from their diminutive scale, the baby’s bones were astonishingly like those of full-grown adults. Young though it was, the baby had sturdy bones and would have been independent enough to run around on its own. UA 9998 was proportioned and built exactly like an adult. Had it lived, it would have expanded. Compare that to, say, baby birds, or even human infants—floppy, dependent creatures that bear only a passing resemblance to their parents.

You might not guess it to look at them, but other dinosaurs like theropods and ornithischians had parent-offspring relationship more like ours. The sturdy little remains of UA 9998 suggest to paleontologists that titanosaur parents might have been a little less involved. 

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.


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