Utahraptor (meaning "Robber from Utah") fossils have been found in the Cedar Mountain Formation of central Utah. Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. A pack of aucasaurs, predators of Argentina's Auca Mahuevo badlands, attacks a group of startled titanosaurs in this artist's depiction. National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series. Volunteers risk their lives to vaccinate children in Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria.
This is the ultimate construction kit 65 million years in the making…the mega 24 in 1 National Geographic Dinosaurs kit from Laser Pegs®! A thick rain of volcanic ash sends a rat-size mammal, Gobiconodon zofiae, and three Dilong paradoxus dinosaurs fleeing for their lives in this artist's depiction.
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To remove the photo permanently from the desktop, locate the photo on the hard drive and drag it to the trash. Scientists believe Aucasaurus probably attacked in packs, pushed past adult titanosaurs guarding nests, and picked off baby titanosaurs as they hatched. Go back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the world and build your all time favorites like the Brachiosaur, Stegosaur, T-Rex, Velociraptor, and many more. Based on the features of a 125-million-year-old fossil preserved by such ashfalls, these tyrannosaurs exhibit a downy covering of protofeathers, the first found among their family. The evolutionary precursors of true feathers, protofeathers were hairlike and probably developed for insulation. Big, with his mouth taped shut and a towel over his eyes, was completely docile, as inert as luggage. He behaved like a gator basking in the sun rather than one in the middle of a science experiment.Gregory Erickson, the scientist, stood a few paces away, grimly holding a plastic pole tipped with a little square plate called a force transducer. Erickson also intended to retain all his body parts, which explained his serious countenance.A man on the gator's back removed the towel and the tape. Erickson presented the force transducer to the largest tooth at the back of the right upper jaw—and the jaws snapped shut."Trouble, we got trouble!" Erickson said as the gator, pole firmly clamped, began to lurch in his direction.
Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University, is an expert in the feeding behavior of tyrannosaurs, including the bite marks left on bones. That research spurred him to find out more about bites in general, which is why he's out here moonlighting with crocodilians.We loaded Mr. Big on an airboat to be towed overland back home to Lake Griffin, about an hour to the south. We spent the night lakeside, testing ten more gators that had been freshly yanked from the water.
Instead of scraping away the sandstone overburden on a nicely articulated ceratopsian, they might point and click on a computer screen, pivoting digital bones.These paleontologists tend to be on the young and idealistic side, determined to intensify the scientific rigor of their profession.
Their goal is to hunt not just for dinosaurs but for something even harder to reconstruct—how dinosaurs functioned and behaved.They are tackling difficult questions:Were dinosaurs fleet of foot or ponderous? And how old did they get?Did they use horns and frills and spikes in battle, like they do in the movies?
Were these unusual anatomical structures part of the business of attracting mates?How did one group of these creatures develop the ability to fly?These new scientists are a diverse bunch, emerging from evolutionary biology, biomechanics, botany, physiology. In recent years the field has produced feathered dinosaurs from China, egg-laying dinosaurs from Patagonia, and a host of new dinosaur species, such as the scale-breaking Argentinosaurus and the fearsome Giganotosaurus.
In the field we find direct evidence of a lost world ruled by titanic creatures, thriving all over the globe from 230 to 65 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era.And the field has charms that the laboratory can't match. The field is the staging ground for that whole Indiana Jones thing, for the type of charismatic, rock-star scientists who hang out in dinosaur graveyards with shovels, picks, plaster, graduate students, and personal documentary film crews.But perhaps the very glamour of dinosaurs has spawned the backlash, the willful retreat to scientific basics by Greg Erickson and researchers like him.
If you study fossil mollusks, for example, you aren't likely to be asked to become a scientific adviser for a Hollywood blockbuster. The new generation of scientists wants to put constraints on all the hypotheses flying around, and they think that the truth about dinosaurs—and dinosaur behavior—won't be uncovered with bones alone."For 20 years we've done what we call arm-waving," says Jack Horner, a legendary bone collector.
Now we're sitting down, we're saying, We've got all these ideas, are they real?"'Horner can arm-wave like a champ, as he will admit.
Since 1991 he's been arguing, for example, that Tyrannosaurus rex, the very emblem of predation, the killer of killers, was actually just a scavenger, an eater of the dead.
Those banana-size teeth weren't for ripping live flesh, says Horner, they were for crushing the bones of a carcass.

This is vintage contrarianism, and Horner so far has failed to persuade many of his peers, who point out that T. Hyenas, for example, are scavengers one day, predators the next.But in any case this is precisely the kind of argument that can't be won by speaking louder than one's opponents. And paleontology—if the new generation has its way—will be seen as a no-nonsense field, a hard science, in addition to being a thrilling subject built around the bones of large, scary animals."This is where we have the rhino heads and the manatee heads," Lawrence Witmer is saying. Here's a bag of alligator parts."We're in the deep freeze of his laboratory at Ohio University in Athens. They belonged to creatures that died, or were killed for some other reason, and were then obtained by Witmer for research.
I keep thinking Witmer is about to produce the horse head from The Godfather.Witmer reconstructs the soft tissues in dinosaur heads. It turns out that a dinosaur of the Triassic period, 248 to 206 million years ago, had anatomical features remarkably similar to those of a contemporary alligator or seagull.Witmer recently caused a stir when he said that artists had long put the nostrils of dinosaurs too high on the head. He wanted to see if there is a correlation—whether the bone of the nose reveals the location of the fleshy nostril. He found that as a rule there is such a correlation.Witmer then examined fossils and discovered that in modern renditions of dinosaurs the nostrils had always been misplaced. Nostrils in that location would heighten the animal's ability to nuzzle a potential food item and decide whether it was biteworthy.Witmer investigated another paleontological presumption, the notion that Triceratops and other plant-eating dinosaurs had cheeks, like cows or horses or humans. Conventional wisdom said these cheeks were like feed bags, helping the animal chew and re-chew vegetation. Witmer, to his surprise, discovered that animals with cheeks have bone structures that are lacking in Triceratops and other herbivorous dinosaurs. Triceratops, he thinks, had something more like a bill or a beak.The plant-eating dinosaurs may have clipped vegetation off plants with these beaks and then swallowed the material pretty much intact. He explained how he dissects them to examine soft tissues and how he uses his findings to flesh out model dinosaur heads.
Think of how dinosaur paleontology has been dominated by "the whole animal," by spectacular specimens, huge skeletons that can fill the entrance hall of a museum. Thrown into the mix is the stunning fact that some dinosaurs lifted off the ground entirely.How did flight develop?Did the first airborne dinosaurs merely glide, or did they flap?Did the flight stroke evolve from other types of motion, such as grabbing prey or trying to elude a predator? There's recent research at the University of Montana showing that baby birds, for example, start flapping when ascending an incline.
Birds have hollow bones, feathers, wings, reduced tails, and wishbones, each characteristic designed for flight.
And yet each of these traits or something like it appears in the fossil record before birds flew.The dinosaur fossil record is actually rather poor. In some bone beds there are so many tiny skeletal fragments you'd think the creatures had been dropped from a plane.That's why dinosaur behavior is so difficult to fathom from just bones—why the task of understanding dinosaurs is truly like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. Some would argue that dinosaur behavior is a topic all too similar to extraterrestrial life—long on speculation and short on data.Gatesy and other paleobiologists are struggling to ascend what Witmer calls the Inverted Pyramid of Inference.
Imagine an upside-down pyramid with, at the pointed bottom, the word "bones." Bones are the known commodity, the solid evidence. But you can at least hold them in your hand.Above bones on the inverted pyramid are soft tissues. In 1853 paleontologist Richard Owen (who had given dinosaurs their name a little more than a decade earlier) staged a celebrated sit-down dinner in London.
An engraving of the scene created a national sensation in Great Britain.Bone hunters scrambled to find ever more spectacular specimens.
By the early 20th century the preeminent ambition in the field was to mount a skeleton dramatic enough to scare the bejabbers out of a schoolchild.Roy Chapman Andrews's journeys to Mongolia's Gobi in the 1920s were worthy of a Cecil B.
DeMille movie—great caravans of camels stretching into the wasteland, with Andrews packing a pistol and posing on bluffs with jaw thrust forward.But just two decades later the heroic age of dinosaur collecting was over. Bakker, building on the work of his mentor, Yale's John Ostrom, said that dinosaurs were not cold-blooded, but rather warm-blooded, active, quick. Birds, Bakker said (again, echoing Ostrom), are themselves the direct descendants of dinosaurs.The new image carried the day.
The "raptors" are so savvy they seem on the verge of inventing spaceflight."I'm a method paleontologist," Bakker said one day in Boulder, Colorado.
I want to smell what the megalosaur smells, I want to see what he sees."From a cigar box on the table he pulled a T.
He thinks he's found evidence in the teeth of allosaurs, meat-eaters of the Jurassic, that those dinosaurs dragged huge prey to their nests to feed to their babies.
It can't possibly turn into a laboratory science."People who don't understand paleontology try to make it physics," he said.

Did it have the leg muscles to sprint 45 miles an hour (72 kilometers an hour) as some paleontologists contend?Hutchinson doesn't think T. Chickens run well, but a 13,000-pound (5,900-kilogram) chicken, Hutchinson has calculated, would need to have 62 percent of its mass in each leg.Hutchinson also studies elephants and has made several trips to Thailand to analyze their locomotion.
Then he chases the elephants, shouting "Bai, Bail" which means "Go, Go!" In videotapes he captures the movement of the white dots.What Hutchinson sees in the tapes doesn't look like running. At least not exactly."The best definition of walking is that the body swings over the leg like a stiff, inverted pendulum. They keep at least one leg on the ground at all times—like a walker—but the white dots move down then up, indicating a bouncing gait.Hutchinson showed me how to use his computer program to move muscles around, to attach them at different places on the bones, altering the leverage.
By playing around, I'm pretty sure I created a dinosaur that couldn't do much of anything but fall over backwards."I could spend all my life on this, analyzing every little data point," he said. Dinosaurs left tracks.One summer day I checked out some dinosaur tracks at an abandoned mine in the Rocky Mountain foothills near Grand Cache, Alberta, Canada. I was with Rich McCrea, a 33-year-old doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta, who has scrambled over almost every square inch of exposed rock.McCrea likes tracks. When he presented his master's thesis, he jokingly told the professors he'd love to find a six-footed trackway. One of McCrea's associates jokes that, to judge by most dinosaur tracks, these creatures couldn't turn.The mine is at the end of a dusty road that until recently was heavily used by coal trucks. The miners sliced off a chunk of a mountain, and there's a wall of stone more than two miles (three kilometers) long.
The rock face is covered with footprints—"totally polluted," McCrea says admiringly.Some go this way, some go that way. Some tracks strongly suggest herding behavior, and McCrea thinks there's evidence that meat-eaters stayed clear of the deep muck of coal-producing marshes.
On some of the dark rock surfaces, remnants of swampy terrain, there are only plant-eater tracks.
The mine, after all, was a fairly recent operation, and the rock faces sheer off regularly, meaning there are always new exposures.
He'd gone with some colleagues to Greenland—yes, even the most dedicated digital bone manipulators spend time in the field—and found thousands of tracks. Some tracks had an odd, bulbous structure at the end of the third digit, like a miniature volcano had erupted. He and a student at Brown bought one from a nearby farm and coaxed it to walk across a variety of hard and soft surfaces, including thick mud. The turkey didn't much care for this, but the tracks it created offered a revelation: All those different dinosaur footprints could have been made by the same species.
What varied was not the type of animal but the type of surface.And that odd, volcanic shape at the end of the third digit?
And the mystery of that event has hardly been solved.So even before dinosaurs became extinct, they were disappearing in this part of the world. That is why it's so important for the discipline to go beyond the bones and truly understand these creatures and their environment. The big impact may have been merely the final blow.The end of the Cretaceous was a time when the global climate was changing and the sea level dropping.
New species arrived, perhaps carrying deadly microbes.No wonder it's such a haunting scenario.
Our world today is undergoing a climate change, a period of emerging pathogens, a rapid mixing of Earth's biota, a loss of biodiversity, and a virtual shrinking of the entire planet.Currie and I passed the afternoon in a remote part of the park, looking for new bone beds. We came upon a hillside covered with fragments, including some preserved inside unusually large nodules of ironstone. Or it might yield nothing but shoulder bones—the kind you look at for a second, then toss over your shoulder. But it was still exciting, because what we don't know about dinosaurs is far more than what we know. No matter how you practice it—with shovels or computer programs, with fossils or rhino heads from a freezer—this is still a new and evolving science.

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