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The third title in National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series, this book is for kids 4- to 8-years-old who LOVE dinos!
Xiphactinus was a fast, strong swimmer and may have leapt from waters to dislodge parasites from its skin. Whatever your interest, you'll be entertained and educated with our collection of best-selling DVDs. The link between dinosaur and bird was cemented in the last two decades, when palaeontologists unearthed hundreds of beautifully preserved fossils in the Liaoning province of China. One of these species, Microraptor, stood out among the rest, for it had winged legs as well as arms. For a start, no bird or dinosaur has shown the ability to splay its legs out sideways and doing so would probably have dislocated the hip. It could be that Microraptor‘s biplane design was just a failed evolutionary experiment. When wounded, poisonous nightshade can be sweet, a revelation that has scientists reconsidering the evolution of nectar. Top picks You can sign up for The Ed’s Up—a weekly newsletter of my writing plus some of the best stuff from around the Internet. Who We ArePhenomena is a gathering of spirited science writers who take delight in the new, the strange, the beautiful and awe-inspiring details of our world. Erika Engelhaupt is the online science editor at National Geographic and manages the Phenomena blog network. Maryn McKenna is an award-winning journalist and the author of Superbug and Beating Back the Devil.
DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society.
A few weeks ago, as we chatted over dinner, some paleo-minded friends and I debated when the safest time to take a dip in the prehistoric oceans might have been. Paleontologist Nadia Frobisch and colleagues have named the predator Thalattoarchon saurophagis – the “lizard-eating ruler of the seas” – in today’s issue of PNAS. Look into the petrified mouth of almost any ichthyosaur and you’ll find lots of simple, pointed, conical teeth. Unfortunately, the front portion of the sole Thalattoarchon skull eroded away before the animal was collected. Other animals found in the same strata may help explain why Thalattoarchon was so well-armed. REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: Any and all image uses must (1) bear the copyright notice and (2) be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata. DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving this image to pay a fee determined by National Geographic. This is what the jaws of Thalattoarchon looked like when they were discovered by Field Museum preparator Jim Holstein on July 24, 1998.
The new study does not present any direct evidence of ichthyosaur-on-ichthyosaur predation, but, based on the anatomy of the newly-described predator and the local richness of other marine reptiles, Thalattoarchon may have been a top predator that was especially adapted to hunting other ichthyosaurs.
But the fact that Thalattoarchon existed at all tells us something important about life 245 million years ago.
Thalattoarchon lived only about five million years after the worst mass extinction the world has ever seen.
I think I recognize the second photo in the article from a small National Geographic magazine article back maybe between 2008-2010. Leptoceratops gracilis likely survived for about 50 million years before going extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. A bizarre gallery of Mesozoic monsters prompts John Updike to ask: What has evolution wrought? The few times Nessie has supposedly been caught on film or by sonar soundings, it most closely resembles a plesiosaur, a long-necked, seagoing reptile that went extinct along with the terrestrial dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. The couple eye him intently; they look worriedly hopeful, like children about to ask their elders if Santa Claus exists. Feltham believes that a large fish—perhaps a catfish—is most likely the cause of many sightings (although he doesn't tell this to the couple). In those days people most likely imagined the Loch Ness monster as a sea serpent or a water kelpie, a diabolical beast with a horse's head—creatures said to lurk in the lakes and coastal waters of Scandinavia and Scotland. By the early 1800s fossil hunters had unearthed more plesiosaur skeletons as well as those of other ancient marine reptiles, including big-eyed, dolphin-shaped ichthyosaurs and the shorter necked pliosaurs with their massive jaws and huge, crushing teeth. Nessie got a boost in 1933 with the film King Kong, set in a land where dinosaurs roam and a long-necked creature surfaces from a lake not unlike Loch Ness. In a small auditorium at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Kevin Locke, a Lakota Sioux storyteller from Standing Rock Reservation, gently strokes a braided strand of sweetgrass.
The words rise and fall to the sound of Locke's rattle, and he gives it an extra flourish at the end, signaling the close. Indeed, long before paleontologists arrived to excavate the fossils of marine reptiles, Native American peoples were carrying away enormous bones that lay exposed on the surface.
Although Locke had learned about the Unktehila from his elders and had sung the prayers of the Thunder Feast many times, he'd never seen the kinds of fossils that likely inspired the stories. And, Locke added, mosasaur-like creatures with toothy jaws and horns were often painted on the tepee covers of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Blackfeet. Do the Lakota, like the people who wait for Nessie to surface, regard the Unktehila as still existing? But, he went on, the power of the Unktehila lies more in what they symbolize than in any hard reality. In a shallow pit along the hillside several workers are busy excavating more of those little dragon fossils: 12- to 14-inch-long (30- to 36-centimeter-long) marine reptiles called Keichousaurus hui.
No one knows when the Chinese belief in dragons began, but it extends back thousands of years. Some Chinese dragons are considered evil, such as the Chien Tang River monster and the seagoing, red-maned Shan, but overall they're benevolent, embodying fecundity and good fortune. More than a hundred years would pass before scientists recognized what the farmers already knew: This mountain was worth saving.
With such a stunning exhibit in place, local people dream that the government will declare Lurking Dragon Hill a national geological park. The Age of Fishes spawned a remarkable variety of sea creatures, from early lobefish to ferocious, fish-slicing monsters. Step aside, bone diggers and fossil hunters, a new generation is using computer modeling and a better understanding of living animals to bring dinosaurs back to life—virtually.

The prehistoric world comes alive with dinosaurs small, big, giant, and gigantic, with stunning illustrations by Franco Tempesta—who illustrated National Geographic Kids The Ultimate Dinopedia.
It is also possible that there were lots of little fish that swarmed around it, nibbling on parasites, much the same as they do today for larger fish.
All the world’s birds, from the pigeons of our cities to the gulls of our seasides, are descended from dinosaurs, and modern science now classifies the birds with their long-dead kin.
Many of the newcomers were small predators, belonging to the same group as the famous Velociraptor (and indeed, most scientists believe that this Hollywood star was also covered in primitive feathers).
They range from Sinosauropteryx with its primitive, downy, proto-feathers to Caudipteryx, a dinosaur with proper flight-capable feathers, to Confuciusornis, a true bird.
Microraptor must have tucked its legs vertically beneath its body, like modern birds of prey do when they pounce. Some scientists believe that bird flight evolved when ground-dwelling dinosaurs began to take to the skies. It lacked the muscles for a ground take-off and couldn’t get a running start for fear of damaging its leg feathers.
Certainly, its body plan shows many features that would make its avian descendants such great aeronauts. Phenomena is hosted by National Geographic magazine, which invites you to join the conversation.
No Place Like Home is her space to talk about space—from other worlds to the fabric of the universe.
Laelaps is his writing laboratory, dedicated to sifting through natural history for tales of evolution, extinction, and survival.
Not Exactly Rocket Science is his hub for talking about the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science to as many people as possible.
Fossil preparator Jim Holstein found the animal while searching the Middle Triassic rock of Nevada’s Augusta Mountains in 1997. This is the dental arrangement of a grabber – a predator that catches small, slippery prey such as fish and squid.
Yet, from the back of the cranium, Frobisch and collaborators were able to determine that Thalattoarchon had large eyes – the animal’s orbit is about a foot across – and a head that was almost twice as large for its body size compared to contemporary ichthyosaurs.
The quarry where the creature was discovered has yielded multiple specimens of other ichthyosaurs – mostly the similarly-sized Cymbospondylus, and the much smaller Phalarodon. A macropredaceous ichthyosaur could not have evolved unless lower levels of the trophic scale – the producers, first order consumers, and so on – were already in place. During this catastrophic event – likely triggered by massive volcanic outpourings that dramatically altered the atmosphere, the climate, and the oceans – as much as 95% of known marine species perished. Of course Thalattoarchon is not just a tetrapod but an amniote – was there ever anything like a marine super-hynerpeton and if not why not? With cutting-edge 3-D filming technology and CGI, Flying Monsters 3D recreates spectacular pterosaurs and brings these giant flying creatures to life. Learn how millions of creatures can disappear in a geological blink of an eye—and see what might be next.
About 250 million years ago Earth's continents were gathered into one landmass, Pangaea. That a plesiosaur would be alive today, plying the fresh waters of once glaciated Loch Ness, defies scientific reasoning.
The first written account of the monster was in a seventh-century book on the life of the Irish saint Columba.
Nessie only morphed into a plesiosaur many years after the first fossil of a strange marine reptile was discovered in 1719 in a quarry in Nottinghamshire, England. Dinosaurs had yet to be scientifically recognized, and the huge sea monsters of the past—none of them dinosaurs—gripped the public's imagination, especially after artists began painting scenes of ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and giant crocodiles writhing in combat. For the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa (as well as many other tribes), the bones held special powers and could be used for healing or other rituals. So we went to the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, where skeletons of a plesiosaur and mosasaur are on display. Some Native Americans had carved images of such creatures into the rocks above the Missouri River, and others had made one out of stones along the river's banks.
Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist, suggests that pterosaur and mosasaur remains may indeed have triggered the stories of the Thunder Birds and their battle with the water monsters. The Guizhou dragons, as they're popularly known, with their pear-shaped bodies and sinuous necks, look like miniature Nessies. With serpentlike scaly bodies, horses' heads, and blazing rabbit eyes, the dragons inhabited ponds and rivers and could fly on bat wings to the heavens in spiraling waterspouts. In the distant past some dragons were transformed into Sea Dragon Kings, Hai Long Wang, who lived in the oceans and protected seafarers. The Lurking Dragon Hill fossils, the first such fossils found in China, were so abundant and well preserved that they promised to answer many puzzling questions about these long-extinct reptiles. One team of researchers studying Keichousaurus fossils has discovered that those small creatures did not come ashore to lay eggs, as sea turtles do, but gave birth in the water to living young—a necessary first step to becoming a seagoing plesiosaur.
Then more tour buses will stop here, and people from all over the world will pay to see the dragons the farmers found and protected. Like benevolent Chinese dragons, they're passing their good fortune on to their finders. Bursting with fun facts and age appropriate information, each spread features a different dinosaur, along with simple text in big type that is perfect for little kids. The gulf between dinosaurs and modern birds may seem huge, but the discovery of several feathered dinosaurs are seriously blurring the line between the two. Together, these species provide a tantalising snapshot of how small prehistoric predators transformed into the familiar fliers of today’s skies. Their shape is clearly designed to produce lift during flight, but how Microraptor used its four wings has puzzled scientists. Its leg flight feathers would only produce lift if the leading edge faced forward, against the flow of air. But a computer simulation showed that Microraptor could successfully fly between treetops, covering over forty metres in an undulating glide. It had a large sternum for attaching powerful flight muscles and strengthened ribs to withstand the heavy pressures of a flight stroke.
He believes that the biplane model was a stepping stone to the two-wing flight of modern birds. From the Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, the marine realm was dominated by successive arrays of big, toothy, apex predators that crunched prey just as large, if not larger, than they were.

After the specimen was finally collected in 2008, the fossil proved to comprise the back of the skull, much of the vertebral column, parts of the hips, and elements of the rear fins from a single animal with an estimated length of 28 feet. All of these animals were descendants of land-dwelling reptiles that slipped into the water and rapidly became adapted to lives spent entirely at sea, part of a great reptilian invasion of the oceans that started early in the Triassic. Specialized apex carnivores only appear when communities hit a particular level of productivity and richness, otherwise there simply isn’t enough for them to consume. Macropredatory ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic and the origin of modern trophic networks. It’s tempting to think the niche was locked up by large carnivorous fish until they were wiped out by the end-Permian extinction, but generally fish came through that better than most, didn’t they?
Shallow seas and the lack of significant marine predators created new niches for many reptiles that had developed on land. So far, more than a thousand eyewitnesses claim to have seen the Loch Ness monster—or at least the waves it leaves behind when diving into its dark-water lair.
The next year the London Daily Mail published a photograph depicting a creature whose small, snaky head rides above the loch on a long neck: Nessie was now a certified plesiosaur. Then he grips his ceremonial rattle, closes his eyes, and, as an attentive audience of Lakota Sioux children and visiting Boy Scouts listens, he sings a Lakota prayer used at the springtime Thunder Feast. That's right, Wakinyan are the Thunder Beings, forces with power, like the Thunder Birds.
These and other marine reptiles had lived in the ocean that covered much of North America about 75 million years ago. But for centuries the local people regarded them as dragons whose spirits could travel between heaven and earth. If times were hard and drought stalked the land, people gave them offerings, asking them to breathe out mists and clouds and their heavenly rain. Not surprisingly, early Chinese rulers embraced the dragon as a symbol of imperial power, putting its image on everything from their thrones and royal robes to the country's flag. He took the fossils to Young Chung-chien, one of China's first paleontologists, at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.
Most important, Jiang says, was to find out how they had left their terrestrial homes to find a new life in the ocean. I'd seen full-fledged ichthyosaurs before, but this creature looked like something assembled from a Dr.
This and other discoveries from around the world have sparked a renaissance in the study of the still little-understood marine reptiles.
Young dino fans will love the interactivity included in every chapter, and parents will appreciate tips to help carry readers’ experience beyond the page. And now, new research on the feathered dinosaur Microraptor reveals that birds may have evolved from dinosaur ancestors that flew not on two wings, but on four.
The species’ discoverers believed that by splaying its legs out sideways from its body, it held its wings in tandem like a dragonfly.
Its long, feathered tail acted a stabiliser and rudder and its tibia (shin bone) was covered in smaller, backwards-facing feathers. As the front pair of wings grew larger and produced more lift, they eventually took over the responsibilities formerly shared with the hind pair. Pliosaurs, marine crocodiles, and mosasaurs thrived in ancient seas, each radiation stranger and scarier than what had come before. What’s left of the carnivore’s head is what makes Thalattoarchon so fearsome and so noteworthy. Measuring about four inches tall, with a two inch crown, the largest Thalattoarchon tooth is blade-like, compressed from side-to-side and bearing two cutting surfaces. Nothing like them had ever existed before, and today’s whales continue the marine tetrapod legacy that ichthyosaurs and other marine reptiles pioneered. Species that were resilient enough to survive the end-Permian devastation set the stage for the next 250 million years of evolution, including the origin of toothy oceanic terrors. It did not sport the dramatic horns and large neck frills that are common in its more advanced and better-known relatives, such as Triceratops.As an individual, Leptoceratops, a smallish herbivore, may have been quite vulnerable to the formidable predators of the Cretaceous period. They wriggled into the water, swam, reproduced, and died, becoming the fossils on which the computer-generated art in this article is based. I was sure it must be Nessie swimming past," says Steve Feltham, a self-appointed one-man Nessie-watcher in his 40s. They struck the water monsters with lightning bolts and boiled their lakes and streams until they dried up.
Chatterjee’s revised pose makes Microraptor look like a feathered biplane, with the leg wings sitting below and just behind the main pair. And, so far as we know, the long tradition of macropredatory marine reptiles started with a roughly 245 million year old ichthyosaur that bore a vicious grin double-edged teeth. The sharp surfaces are not serrated, but, in overall form, the dental armaments resemble the teeth of mosasaurs, large pliosaurs, some marine crocodiles, and one later ichthyosaur called Himalayasaurus tibetensis. Through the ages, serious mariners have returned to port with accounts of huge, snaky beasts baring teeth and trailing feathery manes, undulating through the waves or rearing like a horse. From the misty coasts of Scandinavia to the thick forests of the Congo to the plains of North America, nearly every culture seems to have its Nessie. The Wakinyan bring the rain, hail, thunder, and lightning—all the things that renew life after the winter.
After that most of the Unktehila died or were very diminished in size, so that all we have left today are some small snakes and lizards.
Because there are still negative forces—many that are even more powerful than water monsters—in the world today. When the Wright brothers unveiled their new plane in 1903, little did they no that dinosaurs had got there first 125 million years ago.
And in many instances, the legendary monsters are linked to actual fossils of marine reptiles that ruled the seas from about 250 million to 65 million years ago.
But in the long ago days, before humans, the Wakinyan also used these things in a big battle. Its snout was narrow, like the long beak of a heron, and it had a heron's large eye sockets too. It was as curiously wonderful a beast—and as monstrous—as anything Seuss had ever concocted.

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