Thursday, Mar 5, 2015Thursday, Mar 5, 2015

Dinosaurs rule our imagination

Published on May 18, 2014 7:22 PM
Paleontologists Jose Luis Carballido (left) and Ruben Cuneo pose next to the bones of a dinosaur at a farm in La Flecha, west of the Argentina's Patagonian city of Trelew, May 16, 2014. Ever since the first dinosaur fossil was found in 1676, mankind has been mesmerised by these “terrible lizards” whose teeth and bones were distinct from any living creatures. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Ever since the first dinosaur fossil was found in 1676, mankind has been mesmerised by these “terrible lizards” whose teeth and bones were distinct from any living creatures.

On Saturday, the fascination reached epic proportions when the fossil of the largest ever animal to have walked the earth was discovered in Argentina.

Here’s a look at some other interesting dinosaur finds in recent times:

1. Ousted but still grand 

Until a few days ago, the Argentinosaurus held the record for being the world's biggest dinosaur, which stood as tall as a three-storey building, stretched up to 38m in length and weighed about 70,000kg. The plant-eater's fossils were first uncovered in Patagonia by South American rancher Guillermo Heredia when he found a vertebra in 1987. Because of its massive size, he mistook it to be a piece of petrified wood. It was only several years later, in 1993, that the most famous paleontologist in South America, Jose F. Bonaparte, identified the 'wood' to be dinosaur bones.

2. Nesting in pieces

In 2011, scientists presented findings of a nest containing the fossilised remains of 15 juvenile Protoceratops dinosaurs in a 70-million-year-old nest in Mongolia. At least 10 of the finds were complete specimens, and all were believed to be from a single mother, indicating that the young dinosaurs remained in the nest through the early stages of post-natal development and were cared for by their parents.

3. The mummified baby 

A baby dinosaur skeleton was discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. It was so extremely well-preserved that scientists said it was the closest one could get to a dinosaur mummy. The rare fossil of the Chasmosaurus belli had its skeleton intact, measured 1.5m in length and was about three years old at the time of discovery in 2010. Because it had no bite marks or trace of injury, researchers think it wandered into a stream, drowned and lay covered in sediment, undisturbed for about 70 million years.

4. Little Joe 

Discovered by an eagle-eyed high-school student in 2009, this Parasaurolophus fossil turned out to be the smallest, youngest and most complete duck-billed dinosaur of its kind ever found in Utah. This Cretaceous-era herbivore walked the Earth some 75 million years ago. The dinosaurs in this genus are best known for their impressive tube-shaped head crests, which may have been used for display or perhaps to amplify the animals' calls. The little specimen, dubbed “Joe”, was such a young 'un that its crest was a mere bump on its head.

5. What's in a name? 

In 2006, scientists found the world’s oldest dinosaur burrows in Australia dating back 106 million years. Three separate burrows were found in all, the biggest being 2m long, each built to a similar design and just big enough to hold the body of a small dinosaur. Two of the burrows formed a semi-helix, twisting down into the rock that was once soil. The largest and best-preserved turned twice before ending in a larger chamber. They were the first to be found outside North America, adding weight to the theory that dinosaurs living in cold, harsh climates burrowed underground to survive. The species is still unknown.

6. Fuzz, fluff and feathers 

Astonishing fossils were pulled out of the ground in the remote hills of China’s Liaoning province in the 1990s, which refuelled debate about the origin of birds. The fossils ranged from a primitive toothed bird to strange dinosaurs with birdlike feathers to dinosaurs that could actually fly. One of the dinosaur remains was trapped between two layers of fine paper shale, preserving the feathers that covered its entire body. Some others were spectacularly preserved examples of bipedal, long-legged, long-necked, usually toothless animals that resembled modern ostriches.