a bonobo humanity?

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

who fought who in the upper cretaceous?

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So here I am at lovely Victor Harbour on Encounter Bay where England’s Matt Flinders and co encountered France’s Nick Baudin and co most unexpectedly over 200 years ago as each expedition was sailing round this great south land in opposite directions, mapping and exploring and discovering, but I’m not going to tell that story, I’m going to explore a much earlier era, as we spent a little over an hour in the heat of the day in the local cinema, watching a thing called Walking with dinosaurs – the movie. I think this was a companion-piece to Walking with dinosaurs – the real thing, or something like that. Anyway, it was aimed largely at kids, with a horribly anthropomorphised storyline replete with Yank cliches, in Yank accents, in spite of its being a BBC production. The animation was fine though, and hey it was dinosaurs, so more or less bearable.


But what about historical accuracy? Wouldn’t want to be leading kids up the garden path. The story, we’re told, takes place 70mya, in what’s now Alaska. Our hero starts life as the runt of the litter, and of course ends up as the leader of a herd of hundreds if not thousands. He’s a pachyrhino or something, and they headbutt for control of the females, and other males, and have to fight off their natural predators, the omnivorous gorgosauri. He also at one stage gets adopted by a wandering herd of gigantic edmontosauri, a herbivorous bunch. I’m no dinosaur expert but I’ve never heard of any of these beasties, whose names are presented to us with an air of scientific authenticity.


Well, as it turns out they’re all quite real (what was I thinking, BBC and all). Gorgosaurus (‘fierce lizard’) is known to have roamed about the region of modern Alberta, Canada some 75mya (the late or upper Cretaceous). Weighing in at more than 2 tonnes, it was an apex predator, a genus of tyrannosaurid therapod dinosaur, and is one of the best-represented tyrannosaurid therapods, with dozens of specimens found, so shame on me for my ignorance. Smaller than Tyrannosaurus, to which it’s distantly related, it’s often confused with Albertosaurus, and they may simply be variants. As with all tyrannosaurids, its massive head is crammed with teeth, though not so many, and not so blade-like, as T rex. The Wikipedia article on gorgosaurus is incredible detailed and overwhelmingly rich for dilettantes comme moi, but it’s well worth a visit.


Gorgosaurus libratus

Gorgosaurus libratus

The protagonist of the movie was a Pachyrhinosaurus. They inhabited the Alberta and Alaska regions from 79 t0 66mya. They’re a genus (of which 3 separate species have been recognised) of centrosaurine ceratopsid dinosaurs. They were gentle giants (when they weren’t headbutting), weighing up to 4 tonnes, and their presentation in the film as herd animals is backed up by the most important find of pachyrhinosaurus fossils, a bone-bedalong Pipestone Creek in Alberta, where some 3500 bones and 14 skulls have been found, apparently the site of a mass mortality, possibly a failed river crossing.


Pachyrhinosaurus has become a popular dino since being relatively recently discovered, in the forties. I’ve mentioned it’s a centrosaurine ceratopsid, the centrosaurinae being a subfamily of ceratopsid dinosaurs (which doesn’t include Triceratops, the most well-known ceratopsid). The centrosaurines are divided into two tribes, the centrosaurins and the pachyrhinosaurins. Ceratopsids all have these fearsome-looking great horny heads, like elephantine frill-necked lizards, but they’re all quadrupedal herbivores, so not only are we safe from being eaten by them, we might be able to eat them ourselves if we could bring them back to life. And I’m sure their horns would have aphrodisiac qualities.


edmontosaurus-regalisThe other dinosaur type featured, Edmontosaurus, was a hadrosaurid or duck-billed dinosaur, some 12 metres long and 4 tonnes in weight. There are two known species, one of which is known to have lived right up to the Cretaceous-Paloegene extinction event (the one that killed off all non-avian dinosaurs). They were coastal-dwelling herbivores, from North America (so-named because first found near modern Edmonton), and if the general rule is – and I’m largely guessing here – that the herbivorous dinos roamed about in herds, like modern-day bison, antelopes and kangaroos, then the scenario in Walking with dinosaurs, in which our young pachyrhino and his bro hook up with a herd of edmontosauri for a while, and were savaged by scavenging is almost plausible for the time and place.


So, with the help of Wikipedia mainly – it’s very comprehensive on this stuff – I managed to get quite a lot out of Walking with dinosaurs, though I have to say, some of it was strictly for the birds.



Written by stewart henderson

January 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

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  1. […] will have to wait. I learned about Argentinosaurus earlier this year while researching dinosaurs for another post, but this recent discovery is of what’s believed to be a new species of titanosaur or giant […]

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