April 23rd

2014 – Cetiosaurus installed as holotype

In 1869, Thomas Henry Huxley added Cetiosaurus to the list of dinosauria. It was the first sauropod ever described. But since its discovery, a whole mess of taxonomic and skeletal disputes have made it a difficult animal to pin down.

Cetiosaurus / DinosaurPictures.org

On this day in dinosaurs in 2014, Cetiosaurus oxoniensis was officially named the holotype species of the animal and the Mesozoic muddle was cleared up. The English “whale lizard” now has relatives and a place in the sauropod family tree.

Share your favorite sauropod photos with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

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April 22nd

On this day in dinosaurs, it’s about beginnings…

1964 – New York World’s Fair opens

The New York World’s Fair featured a celebration of the prehistoric world. Both Sinclair’s Dinoland exhibit and Ford’s Magic Skyway featured dinosaurs. The Magic Skyway dinosaurs were Disney animatronics (still on display today) while Sinclair’s models have almost all found new homes around the country.

Take a look at some archival footage to see just how grand the event was:

Start at 9:20 if you want to skip straight to the dinosaurs:

And here’s Walt Disney talking about his dinosaur contributions:

 

1961 – Scott Sampson born

We also want to wish Scott Sampson a happy birthday today. May your research–and your work on the Dinosaur Train–long continue!

 

We want to hear about your favorite World’s Fair and Dinosaur Train moments today. Share your stories with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 21st

Where Dinosaurs Are Found

Isn’t it curious that dinosaurs are found on all seven continents, in all climates, in a variety of different geologic formations? What’s even more intriguing is that these areas were completely different than they were today. Areas of the Arctic and Antarctic were forests. Mountain ranges and deserts were floodplains and river deltas.

Map of Major Dinosaur Fossil Sites / Britannica

We dam rivers to find dinosaur footprints and excavate hillsides to find their ancient burial grounds. We find them in all corners of the globe–their world frozen in time by the Earth’s embrace of their sedimentary stone. Their preservation in such varied locales tells us fantastic tales about their dominion over the planet.

The distribution and variety of dinosaur discoveries tells us that dinosaurs inhabited most of the terrestrial niches throughout their 140 million year reign. While dynasties rose and fell with changing climatic conditions and ecological changes, dinosaurs as a whole survived whatever nature hurled at them. They lived in a variety of habitats and had a range of lifestyles to match their homes. Like modern animals, some cared for their young, fought for mates and territory, and migrated great distances. They were dedicated to survival.

Wherever we look–at least where the rocks are of the right age–we find the dinosaurs. Not just for a short period–but for most of the time vertebrates have lived on land. Will humans be as universal over the same length of time?

We want to hear your views on the success and distribution of dinosaurs! Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 20th

How Feuds Fuel Discovery

Human endeavors are often fueled by rivalries. Or downright animosity. Paleontology is no different and many of the most significant discoveries about dinosaurs and their world have been borne out of professional and personal quarrels between scientists. On this day in dinosaurs, let’s remember a few of the most significant quarrels.

Owen vs. Mantell

Gideon Mantell was the first dinosaur obsessive. After describing the Iguanodon, Mantell became increasingly fixated on the prehistoric world and ignored his own, causing friction with his wife and children (who ultimately left him). Meanwhile, the brilliant Richard Owen classified the “dinosauria” and sought to undermine much of Mantell’s success. Though these two were clearly rivals during their lives, the science that they helped to found became much more than their feud.

Cope vs. Marsh

This is the grand-daddy of all dinosaur debacles. Books have been filled with the details and generations of scientists and the general public have reaped the rewards of the tussle between Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. The American dinosaurs that are famous and beloved around the globe are largely the legacy of these two great, and stubbornly antagonistic, men.

The Metabolic Conflicts

One of the most controversial tenets of the dinosaur renaissance in the latter stages of the 20th century was assertion that dinosaurs might have been warm-blooded. This debate was not waged by two people but by two factions. The old guard resisted while the younger scientists came to the battle armed with an arsenal of new weapons–cladistic analyses, collaborations with other scientific fields, and a host of new discoveries. There were associated battles as well–a heated one about the dinosaurian origin of flight and a battle largely inflated by the media about whether T. rex was a hunter or scavenger. The dinosaur enlightenment is now progressing to further these ideas and bring us closer to the truth of the mysterious Mesozoic.

Dinosaurs have always stoked our primal passions, but these arguments and scientific jousts are all necessary to create stronger arguments. While the rivalries seem to be a bit more civil since Cope and Marsh’s time, there are still some highly debated topics, including whether or not Nanotyrannus is a new species or merely a juvenile T. rex, whether Spinosaurus is as wildly different as some researchers believe, and even the new dinosaur classification system–which may supplant Seeley’s long-standing saurischian and ornithiscian groupings. Time will tell.

Until then, we want to hear from you! Share your favorite dinosaur feuds (including ones we didn’t address) with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 19th

2009 – Hadrosaurus exhibit closes

On this day in dinosaurs the Academy of Natural Sciences closed its commemorative exhibit on America’s first dinosaur discovery. Hadrosaurus foulkii: The Dinosaur That Changed the World focused on the sensational discovery of a semi-complete dinosaur skeleton in Haddonfield, New Jersey–several miles from the Academy’s home in Philadelphia.

In 1868, ten years after the bones were scientifically described, the Academy mounted the skeleton for the public, the first time this had been done anywhere in the world. Hadrosaurus became a sensation throughout the United States. It was mounted in several other locations and turned the Academy into the birthplace of American dinosaur paleontology.

Learn more about the exhibit:

Love Haddy? Share your favorite photos of Hadrosaurus with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 18th

Speaking Ancient Greek

Dinosaur names seem odd. They’re polysyllabic, with weird and wonderful combinations of sounds that aren’t always recognizable to modern ears. This is because traditional dinosaur names are derived from ancient Greek, as was the nomenclatural custom of 19th century naturalists. Today, words from popular culture or native peoples around the world are used to spice up and personalize the names of the new dinosaurs we find.

But you don’t have to be so confused when trying to read or understand the names of dinosaurs. Many are constructed with common elements. Here’s a handy list of some of the most popular words you’ll find in Mesozoic monikers:

saurus – lizard (the ancient Greeks had no word for ‘reptile’ or what we call ‘archosaurs’ today)

dino/deino – terrible

don – tooth

mega – giant

bronto – thunder

mimus – mimic

ornitho – bird

ovi – egg

raptor – thief

ceratops – horned

 

Those should be a good guide to get you started if you’re new to dinosaurs. If you’re an old pro, we want to hear your favorite dinosaur names and what they mean. Share yours with us us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 17th

On this day in dinosaurs, a double feature with great expeditions and zany films.

1922 – First Asiatic Expedition Leaves Peking

Roy Chapman Andrews of the American Museum of Natural History led the First Central Asiatic Expedition out of what was then known as Peking on this day in 1922. The caravan was bound for Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, where Andrews would lead several outrageously expensive and well publicized trips in subsequent years.

Roy Chapman Andrews / AMNH & Roy Chapman Andrews Society

Andrews wrote his memoirs of these adventures in several books and the Central Asiatic Expeditions are most fondly remembered for the discovery of the Flaming Cliffs, Velociraptor, Oviraptor, and Protoceratops skeletons, and the first dinosaur eggs ever discovered.

 

1981 – Caveman hits theaters

Set in “One Zillion B.C.”, this madcap movie features dinosaurs, cave-people, and a tagline that says it all: “They didn’t call it the ‘Stone Age’ for nothing.”

 

Share your favorite moments from Caveman and your most dramatic imagery from the Central Asiatic Expeditions with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.