All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
19 02, 2017

A Review of “Giants of the Lost World”

By | February 19th, 2017|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

“Giants of the Lost World” Reviewed

The fauna and flora of South America has always fascinated scientists and academics.  Animals that are around today, such as the giant otter, the bizarre peccary, anacondas and the jaguar, which pound for pound has the strongest bite of any living big cat, are mere shadows of what was once an astonishing menagerie, the likes of which were found nowhere else on Earth.  The public’s imagination has been fuelled by tales of the monsters that once roamed this continent.  American palaeontologist and author Donald Ross Prothero builds on this legacy in his new book “Giants of the Lost World” which documents and describes the incredible prehistoric animals that once dominated South America, many of which truly deserve the mantle of “monsters”!

The Front Cover of “Giants of the Lost World”

"Giants of the Lost World" front cover.

“Giants of the Lost World” by Donald R. Prothero.

Picture Credit: Smithsonian Books

A Window into a Lost World

Professor Prothero gently guides the reader through the history of research and study of the many extinct prehistoric animals of South America, but first he sets the scene.  He discusses the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the adventure story “The Lost World” in 1912.  In Conan Doyle’s tale, plucky Professor Challenger leads a party of explorers to the top of a remote and isolated plateau discovering that dinosaurs and flying reptiles had survived into the 20th Century.  This influential novel has been the basis of many films, radio programmes and television series.  Sir Arthur was very probably inspired by the accounts of his good friend Percy Harrison Fawcett, who led an expedition to the Huanchaca Plateau (Bolivia) and encountered many strange animals that live atop the rocky plateau which rises upwards of nine hundred metres above sea level.

In truth, the non-avian Dinosauria and their kin are long gone, but the fossil assemblage left behind documents a remarkable prehistoric fauna, that once helped shape the thinking of Charles Darwin.  The largest land animals known to science (Titanosaurs) and some of the huge carnivores that preyed upon them, are discussed and the author skilfully updates readers on the fascinating debate about which was the biggest land carnivore of all – look out for the section comparing mega-sized carcharodontosaurids with the equally impressive Spinosaurs.

South America was home to a whole host of unusual meat-eating dinosaurs from the stumpy-limbed Alvarezsauridae with their reduced digits, to the “raptors”, ferocious Deinonychosaurs and the truly odd, apex predators, the abelisaurids.  This book is crammed full of fascinating facts and information that will delight both dinosaur fans and the general reader.

One of South America’s Unusual Giant Theropods – Carnotaurus (C. sastrei)

The South American abelisaurid Carnotaurus (C. sastrei).

A spectacular photograph of the bizarre South American abelisaurid Carnotaurus (C. sastrei).

Picture Credit: Smithsonian Books

Beautiful Illustrations, Photographs and Full Colour Plates

“Giants of the Lost World” is jam-packed with photographs, colour plates and beautiful illustrations.  Look out in particular for the detailed images included in this most informative text by the very talented Nobumichi Tamura.  We congratulate the author, for his provision of helpful notes and explanations that accompany the images and the very straight-forward and matter-of-fact manner in which he tackles quite complex and challenging areas of current palaeontological research, such as unravelling the family tree of the Sloths and their relatives (Xenarthra).  After all, who can’t help but be intrigued with chapter titles such as “Killer Opossums”, “The Slow Folk” and “Pseudo-Elephants”!

To purchase this very well written and highly informative volume: Smithsonian Books

As a specialist in mammalian evolution, Professor Prothero is an ideal candidate to document and explain the evolutionary history of the marsupials and placentals that once thrived in South America.  Some of these strange creatures migrated northwards, when South America’s isolation ended around three million years ago.  You might be familiar with the Smilodon fossils of the La Brea tar pits of Los Angeles, but the largest of the Smilodon species was a resident of the southern portion of the Americas (S. populator), it would have dwarfed the Sabre-Toothed Cats of the United States and was one of the largest felids to have ever lived.

A Colour Plate from the Book Illustrating the Skull and Huge Canines of Smilodon

Smilodon skull fossil.

A view of the skull of a Smilodon.

Picture Credit: Smithsonian Books

The Land of Reptilian Monsters 

The dinosaurs did not hold the monopoly when it came to giant reptiles.  After the demise of the “terrible lizards”, new reptilian monsters evolved.  The immense fossilised shell of a super-sized turtle (Stupendemys), is proof that monstrous reptiles lived in South America as recently as five million years ago.  The bus-sized Titanoboa is discussed in detail and for fans of crocodiles, this book has plenty to sink your teeth into too.  You might be familiar with apex predators such as the fourteen-metre-long “super caiman” Purussaurus, known from Colombia, Brazil and Peru, but “Giants of the Lost World” contains one or two crocodilian surprises as well.  Check out the curious Mourasuchus, which matched Purussaurus in terms of size, but it may have fed in a similar way to a giant duck!

Everything Dinosaur’s Well-Thumbed Copy of “Giants of the Lost World”

Book cover "Giants of the Lost World"

Everything Dinosaur’s copy of “Giants of the Lost World”.

Picture Credit: Smithsonian Books

This highly informative and well-written book draws to a close with an epilogue that takes a sanguine tone, reflecting on the threats to the existing wildlife of South America, much of which is critically endangered.  Professor Prothero concludes that the extant animals and plants of this enigmatic continent may only be a shadow of a once mighty and monstrous assemblage, but there is still time to reverse the habitat destruction and climate change that threatens to erase the remnants of an amazing biological legacy.

This excellent book does much to raise awareness concerning the diverse and eclectic cast of prehistoric characters that once roamed South America.  Highly recommended.

The book can be purchased here: Smithsonian Books

Book Details:

Title: “Giants of the Lost World: Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Monsters of South America” by Donald R. Prothero.

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Pages: 174 with 16 colour plates

ISBN: 9781588345738

19 02, 2017

Yehuecauhceratops – A New Dinosaur from Mexico

By | February 19th, 2017|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Yehuecauhceratops mudei – Mexican Relative of Nasutoceratops

Last week, a new species of North American horned dinosaur was announced.  Named Yehuecauhceratops (Y. mudei), at three metres long, it was little more than a third the size of Triceratops, but its discovery, after a ten-year-long exploration of Upper Cretaceous strata of the State of Coahuila (northern Mexico), is still significant, as it once again demonstrates that towards the end of the Age of Dinosaurs much of the ancient land known as Laramidia was home to very distinct populations of prehistoric animals.

A Model of the Reconstructed Skull of Yehuecauhceratops

A replica of the skull of Yehuecauhceratops.

A model of the skull of Yehuecauhceratops.

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto, Mexico (The Coahuila Desert Museum)

Scraps of Bone but a Significant Bump

Fossils found in the Coahuila Desert in 2007 and in 2011 were very fragmentary and the field team from the Coahuila Desert Museum in collaboration with scientists from Germany who had joined them on the expedition, were not sure quite what they had found.  It was assumed it was a horned dinosaur, after all, the first horned dinosaur known from Mexico, Coahuilaceratops (named in 2010), had been found in the same area.  However, a piece of the head shield showed a small, but significant bump that distinguished the fossils from the Chasmosaurine Coahuilaceratops, the frill had a definite look of a Centrosaurine.

Pieces of the Head Shield Revealed Unique Morphology – The Fossils Represented a New Species

Fragment fossils representing Yehuecauhceratops.

A small but significant bump on part of the head shield identified this dinosaur as a Centrosaurine.

Picture Credit: The Journal of South American Earth Sciences

In total, Yehuecauhceratops mudei has been described from a partial and very fragmented skull, a thigh bone, elements of the hips, a few ribs and an array of fossil bone fragments.  We at Everything Dinosaur, estimate that only about 3% of the entire skeleton is known.  However, the morphological characteristics were enough for the scientists and their lead author Héctor Rivera-Sylva (The Coahuila Desert Museum), to propose that the fossils represented a new species of dinosaur.

Yehuecauhceratops is a combination of the local Nahuatl word for “ancient” and the Greek for “horned face”, while the species epithet “mudei” honours the Museo del Desierto in Coahuila, as this museum is referred to as the MUDE.

A Model of the Newly Described Horned Dinosaur – Yehuecauhceratops mudei

Yehuecauhceratops Museum Replica

Scientists have constructed a model of the Mexican dinosaur called Yehuecauhceratops.

Picture Credit: Museo del Desierto, Mexico (The Coahuila Desert Museum)

CPC 274

Until the publication of the scientific paper describing this new type of horned dinosaur from the Campanian-aged Aguja Formation of northern Mexico, the fossil material had been referred to by their catalogue number, CPC 274.  A model of the skull has been created plus a miniature figure of the dinosaur and the researchers at the Coahuila Desert Museum hope, that one day, the fossils will be able to go on public display.

Over the last decade or so, several new kinds of horned dinosaur from North America have been described.  Yehuecauhceratops was closely related to Nasutoceratops, fossils of which were found in slightly older deposits in southern Utah.  Writing in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences, the team conclude that Mexican Ceratopsia (currently represented by a total of three species), also experienced regional diversification.

It is likely that more horned dinosaur fossils representing new species await discovery in northern Mexico.  There are probably several more Ceratopsians going to be added to the list of Mexican dinosaurs and we look forward to writing about these scientific discoveries.

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