Weird Around the World: Weird Courtships!

Introducing Colonel Heironymous and his adventures around our big, odd world.:) Oh, and Happy Valentines Day!

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Dinosaurs: Fernbank Science Center!

Not long ago, Steve and I traveled to the Fernbank Science Center (not to be confused with Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which is just down the road) in Atlanta. I was especially insistent to go since I haven’t been since I was in grade school and our classes would often take field trips there. They have a wonderful planetarium, and some really cool space rocks of all shapes and sizes, but the draw, for me, of course, was always the dinosaurs.
It’s a dinky museum, and old, but it packs a punch where it counts.:)

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This cast of a Tyrannosaurus skull is pretty much the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. Years of fondling by schoolkids has smoothed over some of its surfaces.

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Almost Dinosaurs: Pteranodon vs Pterodactyl

Pterosaurs,© 2015 Liz Vitale

“Pterodactyl” is the common term for the winged prehistoric creatures properly called pterosaurs, especially in the film industry. They swoop down menacingly and carry away the screaming heroines, while, in truth, most were not large enough to carry away something as large as a human.

Most of them.:) More on that later.

Pterosaurs lived among the dinosaurs and became extinct around the same time, but they were not dinosaurs.; actually, pterosaurs were flying reptiles.

Pteranodon and Pterodactylus weren’t all that closely related–but they were each interesting enough in their own right to merit the use of their proper names. There are many species of Pterodactyus and Pteranodon, and one of the most distinguishing characteristics of pterosaurs was the crest on their heads. Though no one is quite certain of their function,crests were widespread across pterosaur genera and came in various forms, with almost as much variation as in our birds of today. Also, modern birds are not descended from pterosaurs like Pterodactylus and Pteranodon, but from the small, two-legged predatory dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

A major difference between the two: Pterodactylus had teeth; Pteranodon did not.

Dinosaurs: Raptor Hands!

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Alas, what movies must do with dinosaurs to make them “wow” the public more. Such is the case with the Velociraptor from the Jurassic Park franchise. Along with the size of the animals being far too large (true Velociraptors were little knee-high fellows), the iconic position of their hands–oh-so-creep-inducing when they open doors–is certainly in question. In films, toys and artwork, “raptor” hands have the palms facing downward with the fingers curving down in a vicious arc.
We now  have evidence from two different sources that theropods(the predatory dinosaur group to which Velociraptors belong) could not put their hands in this position.
Using actual skeletons, scientists can articulate the bones to see what their natural position was,and, as a result,see how well the animals could pronate their arms (rotate the lower arm at the elbow, thereby turning the palm downward). Recent studies on the arm bones reveal that Velociraptor’s musculature would not have allowed them to do this.
Secondly, footprints of theropod dinosaurs in a resting, all-fours position show the hands resting on their sides.
So the next time you play “Raptor Hunt” with your kids, and you’re the raptor, hold your hands down in almost in a clapping position instead of the usual iconic curling down of your claws. It may be less scary but it’s more correct!