April 8th

Why Tyrannosaurus is still the king

Field Museum

The contenders rise and fall, but there’s something about the tyrant lizard king (or queen). T. rex just can’t be dethroned. Spinosaurus is longer. Giganotosaurus is similarly-sized to Tyrannosaurus. There are plenty of carnivores that are just slightly smaller than the beast Barnum Brown brought home (twice). So what’s the deal? Why is T. rex the most famous?

  1. Tyrannosaurus is famous for being famous. No other dinosaur is as widely known or beloved so by that merit alone, the king stays in its place of prominence.
  2. It’s scary as anything. Whatever its dietary habits, the skeletal remains of Tyrannosaurus are terrifying. Whether we first encounter the giant as children or adults, the effect is the same. It’s an awesome and terrifying animal.
  3. Tyrannosaurus was the first Cretaceous mega-predator to be found. Allosaurus is savage in its own right, but it’s not as big. And while some dinophiles may argue about which is scarier, T. rex is a much more massive animal. Its notoriety has never quelled.
  4. Body image. Something about that gigantic head, the most ferocious bite force of all time, and those tiny arms does it for us humans. It’s awkward and scary all at the same time. And feathers? Some of us think it would be even scarier with feathers.

We want to hear your thoughts on Tyrannosaurus and why it’s the most popular dinosaur of all time. Share your photos and comments with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 7th

On this day in dinosaurs, it’s a T. rex rampage:

2015 – T. Rex Autopsy Airs on National Geographic

Dinosaur documentaries are usually predictable affairs, but in 2015, the National Geographic Channel came up with a new way to talk about everyone’s favorite Mesozoic megastar. By creating a fictional storyline that a Tyrannosaurus rex corpse had been delivered to a secret government facility, the show’s scientist were able to discuss paleontology as a living science–by dissection.

Daily Mail

The program was made possible by an absolutely astonishing model with life-like features inside and out. Chainsaw-wielding veterinarian Luke Gamble joined paleontologists Matt Mossbrucker, Victoria Herridge, and Steve Brusatte to dissect the model, sending blood, guts, and bones everywhere. In the midst of all the fun, some science was brought to a larger audience and the show’s memorable presentation is one that remains in the memory years later.

1946 – Stan Winston Born

The man responsible for bringing some of Jurassic Park‘s most fearsome dinosaurs to the big screen was also born on this day in 1946. Audiences will be roaring about Winston’s life-size animatronic dinosaurs for generations to come.

It’s a day dedicated to T. rex and we want to see your photos with the king of the dinosaurs. Share yours with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 6th

1992 – Barney and Friends Arrives on Television

On this day in dinosaurs, PBS transmitted the first episode of Barney and Friends. As generations of kids will remember “Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination” who is actually a  person dressed in a purple dinosaur suit.

PBS Hawaii

Although not scientifically accurate, Barney and his dinosaur friends show how versatile humanity’s perception of dinosaurs can be. The series was a major success, with new episodes continuing production until 2009.

While many purist dinophiles might scoff at Barney as a glorified cartoon, his presence on television may have sparked the very first time that many children heard the word “dinosaur.”

Share your memories of Barney and Friends with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 5th

2012 – Yutyrannus described

On this day in dinosaurs, Xu Xing, Wang Kebai, Zhang Ke, Ma Qingju, Xing Lida, Corwin Sullivan, Hu Dongyu, Cheng Shuqing and Wang Shuo revealed the “feathered tyrant” for the first time.

Yutyrannus / American Museum of Natural History

At 30 feet and more than 3,000 pounds, Yutyrannus was a large predator–and was the first dinosaur of its size to be found with fossilized plumage. Each of its feathery filaments is up to 20 centimeters long. The feathers were probably used for keeping the predator warm in its chilly climate.

If only we could see what these creatures were like when they were strutting their feathery stuff, 125 million years ago. For now, we want to see your favorite feathered dinosaurs! Share your photos with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 4th

Dinosaurs in Popular Culture

Yesterday we talked about how museums have shaped the public’s fascination with dinosaurs, but our cultural representations of dinosaurs are even more powerful than museum displays. More people were made aware of the dinosaur renaissance watching Jurassic Park in 1993 than in the preceding decade. Two hours in a movie theater was more potent than a decade of papers, lectures, documentaries, and exhibits.

ExtremeTech.com

This is because dinosaurs are not simply animals. They are constructs of our imagination, both cultural and personal. We have emotional ties to dinosaurs. They form part of the structure of our internal time scale for the Earth. Whatever dinosaurs were, whatever their truth was, it has passed and given way to a world that is shaped by humanity’s truths. They are remote and yet part of the framework that gives us time and consequence.

Our dinosaur toys, our films, our animated television specials, our animatronic robots are all just as important as bones at the natural history museum. Because dinosaurs are a part of us and our world, not just relics from the distant past.

Share your thoughts on dinosaurs in science and popular culture with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 3rd

The Role of Museum Dinosaurs

They began as curiosities–strange relics of a bygone age. They were strange, obsolete beings born before the deeds of history were counted. People visited museums to see these hulking skeletons, imagining what kind of primeval brutes once strode across a planet that was unquestionably in the hands of their species. How unfortunate were the dinosaurs, reduced to old bones. Their time had ended.

Children looking at the AMNH Brontosaurus, early 1900s / Cracking the Collections

But as dinosaurs took center stage in the public’s picture of prehistory, the museums that exhibited the bones looked at the dinosaurs differently. They weren’t of particular scientific interest. They were trophies from a big game hunt that spanned not thousands of miles, but millions of years. The museum with the biggest and best dinosaur displays won the bragging rights, and especially in the United States, this contest was waged with much fervor.

But as the decades passed, dinosaurs came out of the shadows of the jungles and swamps we imagined. Their world was not what we initially dreamed it to be. The bones became sources of information first, and objects of wonder in a secondary fashion. As the science of paleontology improved and new technologies were integrated into the study of the past, dinosaurs became more intriguing. The suggestion that these animals were not doomed to extinction from their origin enlivened dinosaur paleontology. The suggestion that they might have had warm-blooded metabolisms and complex social structures made scientists, and later the public at large, view these Mesozoic megastars in a new light.

Now, dinosaurs are more than clues to the past–they are part of a story. The history of life on earth has a giant chapter for dinosaurs and their world and that story continues into the present day, where our species contemplates their long reign and sudden disappearance (all except the birds, of course).

Undoubtedly, dinosaurs will be regarded in new and unexpected ways in the future as our understanding of their nature continues to improve. But however we perceive them, however many layers of mystery our fascinations unlock, dinosaurs will always stir us. Our imaginations will never get enough.

Share your favorite museum dinosaur displays with us on on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.

April 2nd

1896 – Barnum Brown hired as field assistant

On this day in dinosaurs, a young Barnum Brown left Lawrence, Kansas to rendezvous with the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Vertebrate Paleontology crew in southern Colorado.

Young Barnum Brown / Wikimedia Commons

Samuel Wendell Williston, one of Brown’s mentors, had recommended him for the position, writing:

Brown has been with me on two expeditions, and is the best man in the field that I ever had. He is very energetic, has great powers of endurance, walking thirty miles a day without fatigue, is very methodical in all his habits, and thoroughly honest. He has good ability as a student and also has been a student with me in anatomy, geology, and paleontology. He practically relieved me of all care in my last expedition, looking after team, provisions, outfit, etc. I can not say enough in his praise.

With this emphatic endorsement, Brown landed his spot with the DVP and would go on to become the great dinosaur hunter of them all.

Share your favorite stories about ‘Mr. Bones’ and your photos with his beloved fossil skeletons with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.