At Jurassic World size matters (and so do feathers)

Everyone it seems
is excited by the prospect of a new Jurassic Park 4/Jurassic World movie coming this summer, June 12. While most will be wowed by the special effects (yours truly among them), there will be a few who will roll their eyes so far back inside their skull that they will actually see their brain.

Two issues to the forefront: size and feathers (Figs. 1-5).

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The giant sea monster (not sure if this is a pliosaur or a mosasaur) is feeding on a great white shark.  Actual size comparisons below.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The Jurassic Park 4 giant sea monster (not sure if this is a pliosaur or a mosasaur) is feeding on a great white shark. Actual size comparisons below, from Giants and A Gallery of Dinosaurs by yours truly, 1986, 1989. Even the largest prehistoric sea monsters could not swallow an average great white shark whole. If the great white in JW is a typical 15 foot length, the skull of the monster is 2x or 30 feet in length. Based on the skull/neck ratio of the monster it appears to be a mosasaur possibly 250 feet long.

Bigger is better.
And let’s face it, we go to the movies to be thrilled. We go to the library to learn something. Here (Fig. 1) The JW sea monster (pliosaur? or mosasaur?) is a wee bit too large for our great white shark former supervillain, now relegated to being a prehistoric dog biscuit or sardine. Based on the skull/neck ratio of the monster it appears to be a mosasaur possibly 250 feet long.

Figure 2. Jurassic Park 4 giant Apatosaurus/Diplodocus-like sauropod. Inset, Diplodocus to scale.

Figure 2. Jurassic Park 4 giant Apatosaurus/Diplodocus-like sauropod. Inset, Diplodocus to scale.

Sauropods (Fig. 2), the largest of all land animals, are made twice their original size in Jurassic World.

Figure 3. Jurrasic Park 4 giant Stegosaurus (above, highlighted by Photoshop) and to scale with President Obama (below).

Figure 3. Jurrasic Park 4 giant Stegosaurus (above, highlighted by Photoshop) and to scale with President Obama (below).

Jurassic World Stegosaurus (Fig. 3) might be on the large side as well.

Figure 4. Here they got the scale right, but not the scales. Jurassic Park 4 scaly velociraptors (presumeably Deinonychus, above) and below feathered Deinonychyus (below) from A Gallery of Dinosaurs by David Peters, from 1989.  JP4 is at least 24 years behind in its depiction because I saw feathered 'raptors' in various books a few years before that.

Figure 4. Here they got the scale right, but not the scales. Jurassic Park 4 scaly velociraptors (presumeably Deinonychus, above) and (below) feathered Deinonychyus from A Gallery of Dinosaurs by yours truly from 1989. That means JP4 is at least 24 years behind in its depiction because I saw feathered ‘raptors’ in various books a few years before that.

The movie villains are here turned heroes as the scaly 2015 velociraptors are trained by the dude in the Paul Sereno vest (Fig. 4). Below a 1989 feathered Deinonychus. So the scale is right. The scales are wrong…

And finally, 
Look, out of the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No its a flock of pterosaurs (Fig. 5). At first they seem like Dimorphodon. And hey, look! They have a narrow chord wing membrane attached to the front of the femur. But wait! The shadow is gigantic and has no tail. Then the lightweight pterosaur grabs a much more massive primate on holiday and without even an umphhh takes its prey aloft using its feet, like an eagle does with a salmon. Let me say that again, “with a salmon.” Then the metacarpals are revealed to be elongate. Perhaps not as exciting as all that, a few to scale images of pterosaurs are also shown below.

Figure 5. Jurassic Park 4's giant Dimorphodon(?) (probably weighing 36 lbs) picking up a tourist (probably weighing 120 pounds) in a tribute to Raquel Welch and Faye Wray who were taken aloft by Pteranodon.  Below the rather feeble feet of several Pteranodon specimens, none of which had trenchant claws and mighty toe tendon anchors. These feet, some flat-footed others not, were made for walking. The foot of Dimorphodon with trenchant claws, but look how small it is to scale! Below that the even more feeble feet of the ornithocheirid Anhanguera.

Figure 5. Jurassic Park 4’s giant Dimorphodon(?) (probably weighing 36 lbs) picking up a tourist (probably weighing 120 pounds) in a tribute to Raquel Welch and Faye Wray who were taken aloft by Pteranodon. Below the rather feeble feet of several Pteranodon specimens, none of which had trenchant claws and mighty toe tendon anchors. These feet, some flat-footed others not, were made for walking. The foot of Dimorphodon with trenchant claws, but look how small it is to scale! Below that the even more feeble feet of the ornithocheirid Anhanguera.

To read Giants and A Gallery of Dinosaurs free online, click here.

Click here to see the Jurassic Park 4 trailer on YouTube.
Click here to see the Jurassic Park 4 SuperBowl trailer on YouTube.
See you at Jurassic World this summer!

 

ReptileEvolution.com update

It’s been awhile since I last updated ReptileEvolution.com.
Just sent off the third of three papers. So, I’ve been busy and it has been interesting discovering things along the way. The family trees for the Pterosauria and the Reptilia will not be updated until the publication of these works. Sorry about that.

Only a few poorly preserved taxa moved.
The tree topology remains the same. The navigation bars have been updated. Should make it easier to get around, especially if you know what you’re looking for.

While we’re on the subject,
It’s been two years since Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology took a swipe at ReptileEvolution.com. I don’t think he’ll notice or appreciate the changes, but I have been checking, double checking and getting new data. Not all of it is up yet (see above for the reason). As you know, I have been criticized, but I’m not married to any of this. I do put out what I’ve learned because Science, in all of its forms, needs to be tested. Are my tests correct? Maybe not. I’ve been wrong thousands of times. Getting it right in the end is my only goal here. At present things seem better than they were. More parsimonious. Sister taxa show gradual evolutionary changes, etc.

My posts have not been produced daily lately, like they were for the first 1000 or so. Whether I’m running out of steam, finding fewer things to talk about in this realm, or there has been a reduced flow of fun new paleo-discoveries, I don’t know.

For those who are interested…
Publication doesn’t guarantee acceptance or even discussion of novel discoveries. It’s been 14 years since Cosesaurus and kin were introduced as more parsimonious ancestors than any known archosaur/archosauromorph. Yet, pterosaur workers are still putting Euparkeria into their matrices when Parasuchus comes out closer on their tree. Very odd. Almost funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Along the same lines, if you google “Pterosaur pteroid” you’ll find a listing for an Ask the Biologist answer on this subject that is surprising given that the origins of the pterosaur pteroid were published in 2002 and 2009. Experts Mark Witton and Dave Unwin in their books on pterosaurs likewise ignore published literature and report that the origin of the pteroid remains an unsolved mystery.

While I’ve gotcha…
I would like to turn you all on to a pretty sharp dinosaur YouTube video I saw recently that I’m probably the last one on the block to hear about. Surprisingly the theropods all have what seems to be an appropriate amount of feathers. Even the big ones!

It’s about an hour and eleven minutes. Not too hokey, either. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VkfyB_bGYo

Figure 1. March of the Dinosaurs on YouTube. Click to Watch. 1:11:00

Figure 1. March of the Dinosaurs on YouTube. Click to Watch. 1:11:00

Walking with Dinosaurs – The Movie

Well, it’s getting bad reviews, mostly and only for the sound track. Otherwise it looks spectacular, except for the disfigured pterosaurs. Here’s the poster with editorial comments added, followed by a selection of reviewer comments from rottentomatoes.com

Figure 1. Walking with Dinosaurs poster.

Figure 1. Walking with Dinosaurs poster. Again, disfigured pterosaurs.

RottenTomatoes.com Reviews:
“The photo-realistic look is striking, but the dialogue is occasionally wince-inducing. Think a sub-par Flintstones episode.”

“The beauty and majesty of the great creatures is marred a bit by too much focus on poop and barf jokes, silly winks at the audience,” and distracting anthropomorphism.”

“If you’re a fan of the 1999 BBC documentary series Walking with Dinosaurs and are hoping for more of the same, get ready for an Apatosaurus-sized level of disappointment from Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.”

“Features animation stunning and accurate enough to make up for its simple story and unnecessary voice-over dialogue.”

“Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie boasts some impressive special effects but is ultimately let down by a terrible script, a dull story and a poorly conceived American voice dub that is extremely grating.”

YouTube previews London Gala Screening here and here.

Standard trailer here.

“Attacked by a swarm of pterosaurs!!!”

Taking a Breather with a Dash of Fun
Ran across this YouTube Video of swarming and attacking anurognathid pterosaurs. It runs 9 minutes from a British series called Primeval, first aired in 2007. And wadayano they’ve picked up on the vampire pterosaur theme!

Scene from YouTube short wherein a large swarm of anurognathid pterosaurs are attacking an English country estate, that includes an infirmary filled with BLOOD!!! (Shades of Jeholopterus the vampire pterosaur here. Glad to see this concept made it to the little screen.

Figure 1. Click to view video. Scene from YouTube short wherein a large swarm of anurognathid pterosaurs are attacking an English country estate, that includes an infirmary filled with BLOOD!!! (Shades of Jeholopterus the vampire pterosaur here. Glad to see this concept made it to the little screen.

The animation is quite good (much better than Attenborough’s epic) and only minor quibbles on the morphology (the usual rant list, plus no fur). Primeval pterosaurs use their hind limbs during take off with wings producing thrust, which is appropriate.

In this clip you’ll be jumping into the middle of whatever the story line is, one chase scene after another. Shades of Hitchcock’s 1963 film, ‘The Birds.’

Here’s Wiki’s take on Primeval:Primeval is a British science fiction Thriller Drama television programme produced for ITV by Impossible Pictures. Created by Adrian Hodges and Tim Haines, who previously created the Walking with… documentary series. Primeval follows a team of scientists tasked with investigating the appearance of temporal anomalies across Great Britain through which prehistoric and futuristic creatures enter the present, as well as trying to prevent end-of-the-world scenarios from occurring.”

As for the vampire pterosaurs, one at a time, no problem (gun, bat, blow torch, slamming door, etc.) All at once in a swarm, like bees, quite daunting.

But wait… there’s more! Primeval has several episodes. Here are two:

T-rex downtown in daylight

Pteranodon over a sunny golf course (rock music score)

There’s also a Primeval-New World that takes place around Vancouver. Here’s a selection  of short scenes all rolled up into one 4-minute video.

Sky Monsters – National Geographic Video Review

All pterosaur videos are eagerly awaited and never fail to disappoint.

Sky Monsters DVD  carrying case featuring Pteranodon on the cover.

Figure 1. Sky Monsters DVD carrying case featuring Pteranodon on the cover. It doesn’t make an appearance inside, but a short-winged version of Nyctosaurus does. Click to go to National Geographic Store webpage.

And this one is no exception. I just became aware of this National Geographic video on pterosaurs called “Sky Monsters.” This DVD was available after Sept 27, 2012.

A little hyperbole, please!
Quotes from the narrator and others, “Their bodies were so bizarre, it’s hard to imagine how they got into the air.” My comments follow: That’s because they were inaccurately modeled and animated.

“The closest thing to living dragons the world has ever seen.” Dragons used to be based on partially exposed plesiosaur fossils, I think. They are known for their great size, wicked teeth, long necks and wing-like flippers, but if you focus on the flying aspect of pterosaurs, well, maybe. But all European pterosaurs were medium to tiny.

‘They’re not birds and they’re not bats, so what in God’s name are they?” Really, do we have to call on The Almighty when Cuvier settled this issue (pterosaurs are flying lizards) two centuries ago?

“Pterosaurs appear abruptly in the fossil record. We don’t have a clue how they evolved.” [buzzer sound] Wrong. No expert wants to admit that pterosaurs were really lizards derived from fenestrasaurs as all the evidence demonstrates. This is problem that continues to fester.

So, you can see, the producers spare no subtlety here in their approach.
Unfortunately, these are the worst 3D animated dinos and pterosaurs I have ever seen, not even counting the various morphological problems: 1) deep wing chords; 2) knees bent down, legs hanging back, not even employing the uropatagia,which are present;  3) free wing finger problems. Here you can see all the classic paradigm problems still employed. Fortunately we see no forward-pointing pteroids and no fore-limb leaping take-offs. Unfortunately the velociraptors have no feathers and no ulnar adduction, only those creepy Nosferatu hands. Also unfortunately, Henodus is identified as a prehistoric turtle.

Scene from Sky Monsters. This ornithocheirid has several "issues" including a deep chord wing membrane attached to the backward-extending hind limb.

Figure 2. Scene from Sky Monsters. This ornithocheirid has several “issues” including a deep chord wing membrane attached to the backward-extending hind limb. The knees are bent like human, not a lizard, which would have produced a sprawl that would have invoked the uropatagia and rotated the fee dorsal side laterally, like horizontal stabilizers. Imagine holding your own legs up  like this without aerial support. That’s what the thighs and uropatagia are for: lift!

Awkward?
Throughout the video we’re often reminded that pterosaurs were awkward on the ground. And of course they are when they are improperly reconstructed with those very wrong and completely imagined deep-chord wing membranes that refuse to fold away (as demonstrated in fossil specimens with narrow chord membranes, like Pterodactylus). Tsk. Tsk. Someone, somewhere should know better by now. I mean, all you have to do is look! WYSIWYG.

Cast of Experts
Wendy Sloboda points out a previously unknown (to me at least) example of a dinosaur tooth lodged in a mid-sized pterosaur shinbone (tibia) in western North America. I’d like to learn more about this.

Dino Frey makes the briefest of appearances.

Phillippe Tacquet replays the moment when Georges Cuvier realized pterosaurs were reptiles.

Kevin Padian and an uncredited Eric Buffetaut examine the Toulouse landing tracks by night.

Archival footage of Paul MacCready, inventor of the Gossamer Albatross, includes a young Kevin Padian as they successfully fly a model Quetzalcoatlus in the 1980s. The model is described as an airplane in pteroaur’s clothing, which sets up the modern model…

Margot Garritsen is a Dutch engineer and Stanford professor who leads a team intent on building a flying pterosaur based on Paul Sereno’s ornithocheirid from the Sahara. They are counting on greater success with lighter materials and a more accurate wing movement with not one, but five wing joints for flight control.

In the new model the shoulders rotate, and sweep forward and back; the wrists rotate and sweep forward and back; and the elbow bends. Funny they didn’t mention the wing finger, the most movable bone in the entire wing. Perhaps five was already too many (see below for successful ptero ornithopters) as there was no successful flight during the filming of this video. If you like crashes, you’ll see two.

David Unwin describes an azhdarchid as a scavenger of dead dinosaurs. He also weighs in on the issue of  ptero babies: born live? or hatched from eggs? (Answer: eggs, as we all have known since 2003.) Then David takes this to the next level asking, “Were they able to fly right after hatching?” Dr. Unwin confirms “yes” because in Solnhofen limestones they find tiny pterosaurs in rocks that were laid down miles out to sea. He demonstrates an ontogenetic sequence (growth series) with three fossils, purportedly and very doubtfully from the same species at three different ages, small, medium and large. Unwin notes that the wing bone proportions don’t change at all from one to another, but the length of the beak does change.

Unfortunately, Dr. Unwin is promoting a false paradigm that refuses to go away.
We looked at this false reasoning earlier and cross-tested it with phylogenetic analysis. Unwin doesn’t use data from actual embryos, the only pterosaurs for which it is possible to find an exact age: zero. Unwin did not discover a phylogenetic series because baby pterosaurs were isometric (virtual exact copies only smaller) of their parents. They did not change beak length, as demonstrated by every one of the embryo pterosaurs, especially the Pterodaustro embryo. Furthermore, tiny Solnhofen pterosaurs with beaks of many lengths are known, but this data evidently continues to evade general acceptance.

Someday someone somewhere
will produce a pterosaur video in which the pterosaurs have the grace and beauty of birds, the aerial agility of bats and the incredible speed and terrestrial locomotion capabilities of bipedal lizards. Until then, pterosaurs remain firmly in control of the experts and producers, who want them slow and ungainly on the ground and slow and ugly/scary in the air.

Here’s another review of the NG pterosaur DVD.

Successful Ptero-Ornithopters
Other than the MacReady Quetzalcoatlus, some good videos of pterosaur-shaped ornithopters (flapping flying machines) can be found here, here and here. They are not anatomically accurate. Nevertheless, they all depend on a horizontal stabilizer, generally pitched up, which keeps the nose up, something lacking in the Gerrittsen model.

There’s also a David Attenborough pterosaur video, which we’ll take a look at sometime in the future.

Sereno on Stage: Must See YouTube Video

Sorry for the short post today.

Dr. Paul Sereno discusses paleontology and extreme dinosaurs for National Geographic

Dr. Paul Sereno discusses paleontology and extreme dinosaurs for National Geographic. Click to see video.

Dr. Paul Sereno discusses Nigersaurus and other Sahara “Extreme Dinosaurs” in this engrossing, extremely well done 45 minute video. See it here. Great details and he’s a great speaker.

Dr. Sereno discusses paleontology here.